Naked City, from Kim Zussman

January 17, 2008 |

Van Nuys Drive-In, 1948 As a boy on the south side of Chicago in the early 60s, mom would take me along on her shopping trips. We lived near 87th street, which had a nice Jewel market, banks, the dry cleaners, and White Castle. There was also Gordon's dress shop.
She only took me there a few times, but at 6 or 7 I recall interest in the smartly dressed mannequins. These maids smiled jauntily beneath their tipped caps in tight short skirts, and eventually the temptation was too much. It was a shameful moment when mom pulled me from beneath the plastic woman's skirt. "What are you doing!?" I didn't have the courage to answer that I just wanted a look. (Now I wonder how many times the sales girl thought about this).

A few years later there was a show on television, "Naked City." It came on pretty late, just before bedtime. I tried to stay up to watch, because I found the hope in the title irresistible. Unfortunately, it was about droll gangster stuff, and usually I fell asleep unrequited on the couch.

In 1966 we moved to California, near Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley. Near our apartment was the grand Van Nuys Drive-In Theatre, with a mural of a cowgirl smiling down. It was great. Dad would hand the gateman a wad of bills for the carload, then we would park on a little incline next to a sound-speaker which he clipped securely to our open window. There was a snack shop at the center, which sold hot dogs, soda, and popcorn, and even at that age I noticed all the pimply teenagers out without parents. Why were they here?

Mom and dad would sit in the back seat, and my brothers and I were put in front to see better. But by then they were beginning to show nudity in films, and though we were at a family rated feature, the preview had a few glimpses of (gulp) bouncing bare breasted ladies! Mom shrieked, and reached up to cover my eyes. "Outrageous!" she cried, clawing me in the process. There was an argument with dad about her reaction, and I wasn't pleased either. The sense of it was I needed to be saved for greater things (parents can be egotists).

They are all gone many years now; mom, dad, and the drive-in. I Thought about them lately when, now and then, especially recently, I couldn't resist a look at the futures platform. The more I look, the stronger the irresistible draw to pull the trigger and… buy… sell… do something. Almost always, the wrong thing. "Outrageous!"

Sometimes I wish mom were still in the back seat.





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