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Back in my day…
I hope to never type or utter those words out loud ever in my life. I did just type them now, but it was more in a joking fashion, but you catch my drift. Video Reflections is a series I started randomly one day on my Facebook account that people tend to enjoy, so I’m bringing it to the masses on That’s Not Current. Why? Because who else will enjoy my reminiscing about the good old days of the video store?
Trust me, it’s not that I don’t love the state of things today when it comes to finding films and being able to watch them. The nostalgia trip of the VHS tape is one that, while I do enjoy putting one on in a VCR now and then, I still prefer what a film looks like today on DVD or on some streaming services (not all, because the lag is something that kills my mood when the stream is not going through). But I wonder if you’re like me and have a ton of amazing streaming services and thousands of DVD’s and Blu-rays, yet you sit on your couch or bed and keep looking through page after page after page of content and then see 2 hours has passed and you didn’t put anything on?
Or you look through your own shelves and just pick something you’ve probably seen a hundred times, because you’d rather watch something you are more familiar with than be adventurous and jump off the deep end. I don’t even swim, but I miss jumping off the deep end as much as I did when I would go to the video store and rent movies once or twice a week. And I’m talking about the good old reliable neighborhood video store, not the mega-corporations that took over and killed the mom and pop shops (which then were killed by Netflix). My store of choice, one that was right across the street from where I grew up, was called Video Reflections. A small shop, but it had a ton of choice movies and they would get new and old stuff all the time.
I would go in on my way home from school and just stare at VHS covers for a long while, looking them over like I was going to find something I missed on the box somewhere. I would especially gravitate toward the horror section, my favorite overall genre, and just think about what wonders were within these painted glories that housed a tape inside. A lot of times the box art completely lied, and you were disappointed but what could you do? It was a risk you were willing to take to find that glorious film you’d tell all your friends about the next day (or when you finished homework early on Friday, were able to rent 2 or 3 movies for the weekend at a discounted rate. Then you were in video heaven).
Another thing that always interested me and creeped me out was what was behind the cloth curtain in the back corner of the shop. Older men would look around and then push on through, staying in there and browsing like I would with the horror or action titles. One time the shop owner had to run to the deli to grab a sandwich or something, so he left me in the shop by myself, and I ventured beyond the cloth curtain. And there they were. Naked women. Naked men. Stuff that grossed me out to high heaven. I ran out of there, because I was 10 years old and this was beyond cooties. I didn’t know what the hell those huge things were and why they were connecting to other people. I think I likened it to something I had seen in a Cannon film of some sort. It was only a few years later when stuff like that would interest me.
I will always miss the grouchy guy behind the counter. The one that you’d ask him for a suggestion and he would say, “What the fuck do I look like? Siskel and Ebert? Just pick something and get out.” Not sure why he was employed there, but he must have been a brother or an uncle that fell on hard times. I also loved the coins/tokens that dangled beneath each film for rent. Oh, for all you young people out there, they didn’t actually have the tapes on the shelves. There were just the boxes with foam inside of them so they stood up. Beneath them were coins that you’d bring up to the counter and then leave with the tape. Sometimes when a film didn’t have a coin underneath, I would still go up there and ask them if the film was in stock. I’m still waiting to rent a copy of Spookies that someone must have never brought back.
So basically, this series will be my looking back and others sharing their video reflections with everyone. The dirty rugs we walked on and didn’t give a second thought. Stale chips and candy that went a few weeks past their expiration. The hard plastic cases on tapes, especially ones caked in dust due to them never renting. And the eclectic people behind the counter, myself being one for about a year, and the stories we have for an era that is almost extinct. And please, video stores who are still out there, come forward and I’d love to spread the word on people who keep the dream alive. Until the next video reflection, the video you’re looking for is rented out.