In the summer of 1977, I concealed as well as I could a high fever and bronchitis from my parents so I could go to the movies.
And when I write movies, I mean movies.
Several times per summer, my father would drop me off at a multiplex on the way to work and pick me up when he was through – usually at 8 or 9 o’clock at night.
I would watch movies, one after another, all day.
That summer was the summer of Star Wars, but it had not quite become a decades-spanning worldwide phenomenon on the morning my father left me to fend for my unwell self at the Holiday 6 in Cheektowaga, N.Y.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to see it.
At that point in my life, I was primarily interested in movies that reminded me of Jaws.
An adult moviegoer saw me looking at the Star Wars poster and urged me to cancel any plans that did not involve buying a ticket as soon as possible for George Lucas’ space opera.
I saw Star Wars twice that day, once before noon and once after 6 p.m., and later had to ask my dad to stop the car so I could throw up.
That was not a commentary on the film. It was a commentary on what I was willing to go through in those days to see films.
Twenty-five years later, kids of all ages are still spending their summers taking in pyrotechnic fare at multiplexes.
Lots of folks nationwide seem as cheerfully surprised at the excellence of The Avengers as I was at the excellence of Star Wars.
That’s the best sequence of events: You go into the theater with low or no expectations and are cheerfully surprised by the outcome.
I can remember not really wanting to see Raiders of the Lost Ark.
At that point in my life, I was primarily interested in movies that reminded me of Star Wars.
Another pleasant surprise ensued, of course.
One of the things that can ruin the summer movie season for a person is the development of critical faculties.
I remember telling my dad once that I could find something nice to say about every movie I saw.
We were walking out of the theater after a screening of The Car, a film that would test anyone’s ability to remain unfailingly nice. The Car, about a demonically possessed car that chases James Brolin in a manner that was suspiciously reminiscent of the way that great white shark chased Chief Brody, was one of the many Jaws knock-offs released in 1977.
There was also Orca, The White Buffalo, Tentacles and The Deep.
I must confess I loved the latter less for the enormous moray eel than for Jacqueline Bisset’s enormous um, generosity about swimming in a white T-shirt.
Truth be told, I loved all the terrible movies that ransacked Jaws. I knew they weren’t as good as Jaws, but I didn’t really care.
They seemed to extend my love of Jaws the way maudlin TV reunion specials extend some people’s love of ancient sitcoms.
There was a giddiness to the moviegoing experience back then that was not at all diminished by bad movies.
At the moment, I no longer love all summer movies with a love that knows no confines and does not shrink from excess. In fact, I love most summer movies the way a father loves a teenage son who keeps pawning his beloved mementoes to buy more things with touch screens.
It is an exhausted sort of love.
It is a love with more regrets than rewards.
I have been burned too many times, but I remain ever hopeful.
Some day, a movie will come along that will make me feel like I did the morning I saw Star Wars.
And if it’s not too much to ask, I’d like to skip the throwing up this time.