At some point or other, and as along as they’re still living, you will once again run into everyone you’ve ever met. Sometimes we can thank chance for that (as I’ve seen every time I’ve visited Las Vegas in the past few years, including last week, and come across someone I know), and we can thank the Internet, and Facebook most specifically, for that. And when running into them, you can sometimes piece together elements of your life in new and surprising ways.
My childhood friend Keith Reamer, whom I haven’t seen in the flesh in 37 years, Facebook-tagged me tonight on a post about the Little Art Theatre, a single-screen movie house of the 1980’s that was tucked away back in the woods of Bargaintown, NJ. I wrote about that cherished movie house, and how much it affected my life, in this post from October, 2007. I thought Keith was just nicely tagging me because he knew I’d been a devotee of that space (as was everyone in that time and space who wanted offbeat or obscure film offerings).
No, it turns out that this remembrance of the Little Art Theatre quotes my piece on this blog — and then the author states, “Disconcertingly, this is the only direct recollection of the theater’s existence I can find online.” Disconcertingly because it was a big part of his young life: He was the son of the owners. Which means he was the kid taking my tickets before showings.
He also mentions the Atlantic Film Society. When I was 14, Keith Reamer invited me to the premiere Atlantic Film Society event. The entry was a door in an alleyway in what I recall as a not terribly inviting area of Atlantic City; inside, in a small dark room, about 16 of us watched films screened from a portable projector (16 mm? 35 mm?), and one of the films shown was “La Jetee,” the inspiration for “12 Monkeys,” which scared the bejeebers out of me. I knew no one there but Keith… but over the years, I came to meet probably every other person who was in that room that night, including someone I later did a newspaper feature on (who, it turned out, also knew Keith), various friends, the woman who was to become my dearest college professor eight years later and, I’m now assuming due to the story linked above, the couple who later opened the Little Art Theatre.
Working backward from all this: When I was 12 or so, I started writing letters to other comics fans with New Jersey addresses. We’d find each other through the letters pages of Marvel and DC comics or through fanzines. That’s how I meet Keith. Keith and I start doing fanzines together. He’s more interested in movies than comics, and invites me to the Atlantic Film Society’s inaugural screening. There, I meet a handful of people who will later make a significant impact on my life (what Kurt Vonnegut in Cat’s Cradle called a karrass, a “group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial links are not evident”). One attendee will introduce me to Theatre of the Absurd and will get me a scholarship in exchange for writing a play — which turned me into a playwright, and which led to graduate school, which is what brought me to Los Angeles. Two of the other attendees will start the movie house that happens to be the site of my first date with the woman who turns out to be my wife.
Without these odd connections, I might have become, say, an unmarried electrician living in Mullica Township, NJ.
Maybe not a bad life — but certainly a very different one.