Daddy brought fish sandwiches into the movie theater. He advised against the usual theater delicacies; popcorn, an icee, maybe even a hotdog. Instead, he opted to wrap hot, fried catfish sandwiches into shiny silver foil, with a Hansen’s all natural raspberry soda on the side. We’d sneak these items in a paper bag, beneath my father’s jacket, which he’d carry in slyly. Boy, if the theater employees only knew the feast we were about to have. Fish sandwiches, Hansen sodas, and a film. What could be better? Inside the theater, Daddy opened the paper bag, removed the fish sandwiches, as the previews illuminated the screen. We clicked open our sodas and unwrapped the sandwiches, to the dismay of whoever was sitting in front of us. Catfish may’ve been a delicacy to us, but the smell didn’t seem to mix well with the steam rising from other’s people’s popcorn.

This was one of my first introductions to the movies; Grand Lake Theater on Saturday afternoons with my father and older brother and sister. We always went to the matinee because Daddy wasn’t going to pay anything over 7 dollars. Before internet was an option, I scanned the newspapers for show times, circling the names of movies we hadn’t seen. Poetic Justice. Malcolm X. Grand Lake Theater was a burlesque, Victorian landmark in the middle of a vastly urban landscape. Oakland.  It was like going to the Opera or a play, but with celluloid behind the curtain. I lived in these movies, always preferring to sit squarely in the middle of the theater, instead on the side. I never wanted the movie to end.  I stayed, stuck in the seat, longing for the next Saturday.

I remember fish sandwiches and cinema, like I remember the love scenes and my father’s loud orders to cover my eyes. My older sister pushed her skinny hands in front of my face because I wasn’t listening to him. I peeked through the gaps between my sister’s fingers and watched them anyway.

© Nijla Mumin 2008

Grand Lake... in all it's glory