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You don’t know a person really well until you’ve spent a few minutes riding around in that person’s time machine.

You might not want to know me well, but what’s the harm in peeking into the past with me for three minutes? Here, pretend I’m your guide and Uber driver. Take my hand and let me usher you to your seat inside a long-ago long-gone movie theatre in Downtown Tuscaloosa:

The Ritz Theatre: Stale and musty and smelly and run-down and ramshackle and the most exciting place to be in Tuscaloosa of a Saturday morning.

We’re talking late 1940’s, early 1950’s, my fellow traveller. We are back there now, so sit a spell with me and my buddy, Bo Riley. Bo and I just got off the bus and paid our way past the box office and into the balcony.

Now, Bo Riley looks like Huckleberry Finn-—straw hair, freckles, lean and lank, and thoroughly outdoorsy. His greatest talent is being able to spit between his two front teeth without unclinching. Me, I am more Tom Sawyerish, short, timid but conniving, and thoroughly in love with movies and cartoons. My main talent is observing and taking notes.

Back in these yesterdays, there is no television in our neighborhood, so the only
non-book visual stimulation to be had is on the big pockmarked silver screen at the Ritz-—you know, the picture show place right next door to the seedy pool hall (we are forbidden to go there) and H&W Drugs (where you can get the best chicken salad sandwich in the universe).

The Ritz is on the Wrong Side of the Street. Just across main street is the elegant Bama Theatre, a miniature facsimile of Birmingham’s Alabama
Theatre. We go to the Bama with our parents to see family movies, but our parentless Saturday morning lust for laughs and action takes us straight to the Ritz.

Every Saturday, there is a double-feature-—say a Roy Rogers western, a Lash LaRue western, a Superman serial installment, and two animated cartoon features, not to mention a live-action “short” by Pete Smith or the Three Stooges, plus lots of teasing trailers promoting upcoming movies.

All this for the price of one ticket—and back in these days you are allowed to sit through everything twice without being thrown out.

I love all these dreamlike adventures where you can pretend to be braver and stronger and wiser than you will ever be in real life. But I guess the most fun is the animated cartoons, starring Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, Mickey Mouse, Woody Woodpecker, Tom and Jerry, Tweety Pie and Sylvester, Goofy…but, mainly, Bugs Bunny.

Bugs Bunny is bigger and better and funnier than all the other cartoon stars put together.

Bugs Bunny is my hero.

You see, Bugs Bunny knows how to get out of a tough situation by using his wits and his wisecracking mouth, just like another cartoon character, Brer Rabbit. I secretly think that maybe Bugs and Brer are cousins, since nothing can defeat them.

Anyhow, I model myself after Bugs—to deflect the dense bullies who stalk kids like me, I usually say something that makes them roll over laughing, thus forgetting to beat me up. Meanwhile, I disappear before they can come to their senses.

One thing I can do well is run for my life!

My smart-mouth approach to life follows me up till now, often getting me into trouble, sometimes getting me out of trouble, at times making me misunderstood-—not everybody has a sense of humor, so I’ve learned to keep my trap shut now and then.

But my memories of the menacing Elmer Fudd, devoted to the idea of  wabbit stew, persist. Elmer is always wanting chaos. Bugs is always wanting to be let alone, left alone. And, unlike me, Bugs always wins.

Down all the years, I fondly recall the antics of Bugs and Elmer. Elmer still stalks Bugs with his dreams of wabbit stew. Bugs artfully dodges Elmer and imprints himself on the memories of all bully-dodgers like me.

And I try each and every day not to become just another elderly Elmer Fuddy-Duddy chasing windmills and wabbits


(c) Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

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