Somewhere to Be

As featured in The Prince Charles Cinema newsletter, June 2020

 

As an outsider, it wooed me.

 

I’m from Chicago, a failed expat who spent just under three years living in London. I wouldn’t say the city welcomed me with open arms; it just sort of batted its eye when I arrived and kept doing its thing. I respected it, though. It was freeing to exist in a city far too busy with itself to pay you any mind.

 

A co-worker tipped me and my then boyfriend off to The Prince Charles Cinema. “The best cinema in London.” When he mentioned beer and pizza night, I was sold. Ferris Bueller was my first experience, way too fitting for a Chicago broad. Hooked. It felt like home.

 

As life happened - deadlines, deaths, breakups - PCC was a constant. I was lucky enough to live off the Northern line, so if I was ever feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or lonely, I hopped on the train and caught a movie in 30 minutes or less.

 

I remember discovering escapism as a kid. My dog died. My parents picked us up from school, drove us to the animal hospital, and we took turns saying goodbye. We all cried. My brother saved a tuft of her fur. She was a really fucking good dog. When we came home I went to the basement, sat on our pull out couch, and turned on the TV. Something to look at.

 

The PCC amplified that feeling. I had somewhere to go, people to be around, popcorn, M&Ms, and mustard and onion pretzels. It was my therapy. And in Chinatown, no less. I got to explore the lights and chaos, all while rushing to catch a movie, cutting past tourists like I myself wasn’t one.

 

It was also fantastic people watching. A symphony of weirdos. I remember standing in line to see Yoga Hosers with Kevin Smith. I thought I loved the guy, but listening to the bubbly girl behind me with Powerpuff barrettes gleefully recount podcasts, Q&As, and fun facts about his daughter, I realized I was in the presence of a superfan. She had come by herself. Symphony of weirdos.

 

Groundhog Day on Groundhog Day became a tradition, I rediscovered my love of stop motion (which I then pursued in my own work) during Ma vie de Courgette, saw details in the Gummo spaghetti I never would have noticed on a TV screen, caught matinees with just enough time to make my evening work shift, and I laughed - often before the jokes even landed - alongside maybe five strangers at a weekday screening of A Christmas Story.

 

I miss it. The accessibility, the passion, the weirdos. It was my somewhere to be, and I can’t wait to be back.