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Here and Now

'For My Eleven-Fifty'

August 21, 2003|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

An ode to my $11.50, titled "For My Eleven-Fifty":

For my eleven-fifty, I bought a ticket to see the 8:25 p.m. showing of "The Magdalene Sisters" at the Grove.

For my eleven-fifty, I walked into a large room filled with people. I don't like walking into a large room filled with people. Either the people are all looking at me and judging me or else they're not all looking at me and judging me.

For my eleven-fifty, I had either to ask a stranger if that empty seat next to him/her was taken or sit down front, all while wondering if the people were still looking at me and judging me, and if they weren't all still looking at me and judging me, if in fact they had never been looking at me and judging me, what this implied. About me.

For my eleven-fifty, I took a seat down front, around where you'd get drenched by Shamu if this were Sea World and not the Pacific Theaters at the Grove.

For my eleven-fifty, the movie started. Excuse me, the commercials started.

For my eleven-fifty, I saw loud commercials for the following products: Coca-Cola, the L.A. Times Calendar section, the new ABC show "Threat Matrix."

For my eleven-fifty, I was confused: Couldn't I get this on my TV at home?

For my eleven-fifty, I pretended it was an SAT analogy: "The Magdalene Sisters" is to the misguided oppressions of the Roman Catholic Church as exemplified by the Asylums in Ireland that imprisoned so-called "troubled girls" in convent schools, as "Threat Matrix" is to ... the misguided oppressions of your major media run amok as exemplified by the "Threat Matrix" promo, even though we all sat there watching in stupefied, "Take me to your leader" silence.

For my eleven-fifty, I made a note to self: Buy extra rugelach for "Threat Matrix" premiere.

For my eleven-fifty, the movie started.

For my eleven-fifty, I began to hear a murmuring in the theater. It was around the time that Sister Bridget was chopping off Bernadette's hair because the girl had tried to escape. This voice I was hearing was a man's voice, and it was not in rhythm with what was happening in the movie because this man, I came to realize, was having one of those one-way conversations people have nowadays, talking on their cellphones but appearing to be talking to themselves. I don't believe they had cellphones in Ireland, in 1964, and especially not at places like the Asylums. But they do at the Grove, you see, and I suppose since the noise appeared to be coming from beyond the green exit signs at the foot of the theater -- in a corridor, in other words -- it pays to get there early, so you don't have to sit in the Shamu seats.

For my eleven-fifty, I left the theater, humbled by what I had witnessed on screen.

For my eleven-fifty, I paid $12 in order to exit the parking lot.

For my eleven-fifty, I learned a number of valuable things that I believe extend beyond the ostensible issues of parking and the Grove. What I am saying is these things I learned can be applied to life, and thus are probably far more valuable than my eleven-fifty.

For my eleven-fifty (now my twenty-three-fifty), I learned that, when it comes to signage, black lettering of a fairly large size is easier to read than smaller red lettering, particularly at night. I learned that the words "Farmers Market Parking Only" in the aforementioned fairly large and bold black lettering tell an apparently happy story, but not the whole story. The whole story continues in that smaller, more Rothko-esque shade of red that reads: "No Grove [underline theirs] validations accepted, including Maggiano's, Wood Ranch or Theater." At this point on the sign, a kind of argument ensues between black and red. Black says: "With Farmers Market validation, first two hours free," to which red petulantly replies: "Without Farmers Market validation, each 30 mins. $2."

For my eleven-fifty (now twenty-three-fifty), I spent the weekend wondering where I went wrong. Was it that I hadn't spent enough time reading and parsing the sign? Had I read "Farmers Market" as Grove-inclusive, and was this faulty thinking? Had I bought too heartily into developer Rick Caruso's dream of a kind of Grove-Farmers Market corridor, facilitating the free-flowing exchange of goods and services, from fresh basil to Tommy Bahama shirts? Had I foolishly assumed parking would be part of this new and improved commercial superhighway?

For my eleven-fifty, I went to see the 8:25 p.m. showing of "The Magdalene Sisters" at the Grove....

Paul Brownfield can be contacted at

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