RICE PADDY DADDY
(A 1970s MOVIE THEATER RETRO REMEMBRANCE)
BY BRADLEY MASON HAMLIN
We picked up Mom from the
Santa Monica hospital. She was in for that alcoholism thing again,
but charmed her way out after a couple of days of good blonde
smiles. My brother Wally and I rode in the back of the big square
car as Mom dialed the stereo and tuned into José Feliciano singing
“Light My Fire.”
The World Theatre played three
movies for a dollar. Not bad if you have nothing to do all day,
Dad’s favorite place to hide. When I was about five years old we
came to this same theatre to watch the first three James Bond movies.
From Russia With Love.
I don’t think I ever felt
closer to my dad than that day watching Bond. Bond had everything we
didn’t: money, power, and the freedom to fuck, fight, and kill.
But today was Samurai!
Sitting in the dark watching
fat guys with swords and robes chase hot Oriental chicks through the
rice patties, tearing just enough clothing for the 70’s titty-shot …
Mom looked bored, eating
popcorn and probably wondering why about sobriety …
My father and Wally looked
bug-eyed and happy as someone tried to jump our Samurai hero from
behind, interrupted as he raped his leading lady. “Ha!” said
Samurai, leaping up into a fighting position. A couple dozen more
ambushers dropped out of the trees and our boy went to work—cutting
meat like an over-enthusiastic butcher.
My dad shouted: “Watch his
A black guy sitting behind
Jack joined in, “Fuck that! Watch his feet!”
I laughed. My mother
laughed. My brother laughed. But Jack didn’t hear us. He was
Samurai. He was on a road all his, all alone.
Brother Wally screamed:
“Yahoo, watch his damn feet!”
“Best goddamned Chink flick I
ever seen!” said the black man.
Someone’s head flew across the
Wally laughed. I joined him.
Funny, wasn’t it? You lived. You died. You could go out like a
coward running from the sword that follows you. You could get caught
sneaking around in the dark like a ninja and get shot. Or you could
go out with your sword held high.
But whom was I going to have
to kill to gain my freedom, my piece of mind? I ate some popcorn. I
thought about it. I had plenty of room to reflect, hours of killing
time to absorb.
-Bradley Mason Hamlin