A NIGHT OF NOSTALGIA AT THE OCALA DRIVE-IN

We enjoy going to the movies but not during this pandemic. We’re just not there yet, so we decided to take a long drive to go to the Ocala Drive-In in Ocala, Florida. It seemed like a good idea, as we could socially distance from the car or from our chairs in front of the car. There are two screens there, and three of the screens played first-run movies (“Tenet”, “Spontaneous”, and “The Last Shift”). We opted for the Halloween classic “Hocus Pocus” with Bette Middler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

The movie start times varies according to the time it gets dark, so be sure to check the movie start time seasonally. When we visited on October 3, the movie started at 7:45 PM, and the gate opened at 7:00 PM. I highly recommend getting there early, as close to opening as possible to get a good parking spot, as the drive-in appeared to be nearly sold out by the time the show started. The price is six dollars per adult and three dollars for children from six to twelve. Children under five are free.

The man at the gate entrance was very pleasant and gave us brownie “Z-Bars” with our receipt, which was a welcome surprise. I am a big fan of the “small good thing” one receives unexpectedly. When I voiced my surprise and thanked the gate keeper, he gave me a warm and genuine smile in return.

We have been to a few drive- in theaters in Florida in the last ten years or so, and a few are in less than desirable neighborhoods and looked a little worse for the wear. Ocala Drive-In, however, is in a pleasant and safe neighborhood and has been kept up well. The rest rooms have been updated a bit, very clean, and the owners take pride enough in their drive-in to place a decorative item on the vanity in the women’s rest room. I was happy to see the door to the restrooms propped open to allow adequate exchange of air during this pandemic, too.

The concession stand delivers food to your car if you want, but there are newer patio chairs and tables for those that wish to eat at the concession stand.

During the height of the pandemic, cars were parked in every other spot to allow for maximum social distancing, and at the time of our visit, only a few blocked spots remained for social distance. However, cars appeared to be parked four or five feet away, and the distance from driver of one car to passenger of the adjacent car appeared to be well over six feet.

I appreciated the proprietor’s request to stand when the National Anthem was played on the screen and had forgotten this happened before every movie I saw as a child in the drive-in. I also was pleasantly surprised to see a black and white Popeye clip play just before the movie, along with a kitschy concession advertisement like those I remember advertising the “hot buttered popcorn” at the concession stand from my childhood.

The quality of the movie, even though it was old, was great. The sound coming through the FM radio of our car was equally great. Patrons were all well-behaved, and we viewed no sketchy characters there.

All in all, it was a great outing to the Ocala Drive-In, and we will definitely go again. I highly recommend this particular Drive-In, too, as the attention to detail the owners provide for this old but in good condition theater shows.

Life is good; find a way to do something different today. Carpe diem, friends…………..

LIFE IS LIKE A PERGOLA

pergola pieces on grass

As long as I’ve lived in our present home, five years or so, I have wanted a pergola in the worst way. No, since we bought our second house about FIFTEEN years ago, I have wanted a pergola. In our current house, we have a cement patio slab in the back yard that we rarely use, which I always thought would look great with a pergola. I thought it would center the yard and give us a purpose to venture outside of our comfortable pool screen deck area into the “real world.” Another way of stepping out of our comfort zone metaphorically. The patio is on the south side of the house, which of course in central Florida makes it hot most time of the year. My husband has pointed out that it’s nicer in the screen room, as we are free of mosquitoes when we sit there. My husband has also pointed out that with only three of us living in the house, we have PLENTY of places to sit and enjoy the moment without the addition of a pergola. I, however, pointed out that I really wanted the pergola to have a place to string those wonderful industrial “Edison” light bulb outdoor string lights that I’ve seen EVERYWHERE, and it would be great from time to time to enjoy the breeze OUTSIDE the screen, especially at night while watching the sunset over the pond behind our house. The lights were a key component to my plan, something to which I really looked forward.

definitely a “before” picture of the patio in the back yard, SO ready for a pergola for SUCH a long time

Fast forward to Sunday, Mother’s Day. When I awoke, my daughter gave me a “pergola” that she had constructed from rolled paper cylinders and tape along with a beautiful card she made. I laughed and said I FINALLY got the pergola I have always wanted. Then I saw it, that wry little smile on the faces of both my daughter and my husband. They brought me out to the garage, where there was a pergola kit that my husband had purchased earlier in the morning while I was sleeping. Evidently, he wore his N99 half face mask from his garage workshop when he rented a van to drive to the store to purchase the pergola. I was speechless. It was even a GRAY pergola, the color in my head which I had recently decided I wanted. It was such a beautiful sight seeing my husband and my daughter collaborating together to make a beautiful moment. A beautiful moment for ME. It was, in the words of Raymond Carver, “a small good thing”, except this was a LARGE “good thing.”

model pergola created by my daughter, “Teen Traveler”

Shortly thereafter, my husband tirelessly laid out all the parts to the pergola on the backyard grass in the hot Florida sun and began to lovingly and patiently assemble it. We had delighted in planning all the wonderful things that we could grow in pots around the pergola to make a backyard oasis, a spot of rest, relaxation, and tranquility. I became even more excited when I saw the pergola move beyond a set of boards, nuts, and bolts to really start to take shape. I have not decided yet what I want for furniture under the pergola, as I already have two large sectional seating areas and a good sized dining table near the pool already. I want this space to be somehow different as it beguiles us to sit beneath it. We decided that we want a vine-covered pergola to allow us a bit of shade, so my husband decided on a confederate star jasmine plant after a great deal of research. This plant would give us a quickly growing scented flower which grows wild in these parts and is easy to care for. We did a “curbside” pick up of two of these plants from the local nursery to get a jump start on growing them before we really need them. We are enjoying the planning process as a whole family. This gives us a new bond together, something we can call our own and can each take part in. Each of us takes turn watering the plants we have purchased for the pergola, and there is beauty in this sense of togetherness. In a sense, it is somehow like we are all breaking bread together in some way, as this is a shared experience that brings us even closer together.

confederate star jasmine plants for the pergola

As my husband and I were going for our walk last evening, I decided to check where the electrical outlet closest to the pergola site is, as this pergola has electrical outlets built into it which can be connected to a nearby electrical outlet. We have outdoor electrical outlets all around the exterior of the house, EXCEPT adjacent to the concrete patio. I laughed at myself for thinking of almost everything EXCEPT the electricity. In retrospect, I decided I didn’t want the pergola as much as I wanted the hanging lights, truth be known. It seemed, then, that my plan had the first monkey wrench thrown at it.

After just a moment more with my own thoughts, I quickly decided that life is VERY much like that pergola. We come up with a plan, sometimes in intricate detail in our lives, looking forward to a myriad of things that unfold as part of the process along the way. The pergola, like life itself, gives us a sense of purpose that we develop and nurture. We think the sky is the limit and live our lives accordingly. After all, what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve, so it has been said. However, as life happens, sometimes there is some obstacle in our way. Something comes along that we had not planned. Something threatens to thwart our plans. We consider changing our course. We consider putting our plans aside, if even only for a short time.

construction begins slowly, but it does begin

However, the human spirit prevails, and the pergogla construction (and life) continues. My husband and I know we can come up with a new plan in which we can solve this issue. If we eliminate the improbable, as it has been said, what remains is the possible. We CAN make this work with a little thought and effort or we can change our thinking and our expectations. That is, we could always have a pergola without lights (not a possibility for me). We could always run an outdoor extension cord as the most obvious and quickest solution solution. Or, we could hire an electrician to put in another electrical outlet where we need it once the pandemic is over and we can have someone come into our house again. We could have him drill through the cement/block construction of our house in order to bring power from the INSIDE out. There are many ways to solve this problem, and we simply need to think about them and decide upon a solution. That’s life, isn’t it? Define the problem. Work the problem. Find the solution. It can be done, and it will be done. My motto always is, “Don’t tell me no, tell me HOW.” Sometimes, though, we have to wait just a little while for the plan to come to fruition.

Life is good. Work the problem. Find the solution. Life life fully and completely, finding something to look forward to and make it work. That’s life, in all its glory and in all its beauty.

Carpe diem, friends……find your own version of a “pergola.”