Then: It was Saturday. We (Steve, Tom, myself) went to the Encore Theater. I realize now that I can't remember where it was, but I think it was on Melrose Avenue, somewhere past Western. They were showing Last Year at Marienbad, Alain Robbe-Grillet's odd bit of surrealism, and Fellini's </i>La Dolce Vita.</i> I had seen Marienbad once before, and found it both tedious and confusing. The second time was no easier. About two thirds of the way through, I felt the need of a break, and went out to sit in the lobby. The theatre manager and one of his friends were there, and I got into a conversation with them about the movie. One of them liked the movie, and the other thought it a pretentious waste of film. The fan said "Whatever you think of the structure of the film, if you like great drama, you'll like Marienbad." I considered his statement almost as bizarre as the movie itself. Then I spent some time watching the traffic pass on the street outside.
La Dolce Vita I had seen several times, and enjoyed thoroughly, as usual. After the movie we went to a coffee house called The Fifth Estate on Sunset Boulevard. This was before coffee houses all began to look like Starbuck's, and the place was dark and smokey, with candles in red jars on the small wooden tables which were arranged through several rooms of what had once been a private house. There was flamenco music playing on a hi-fi system, and various groups of people sat barely discernable in the dimness, carrying on fevered discussions or playing chess. We found an empty table in a back room and settled in.
Marienbad featured a scene in which two of the characters played a game with match sticks. One matchstick is placed at the top, then rows of two, three, four, and five are placed below it. Each player by turn then takes as many sticks form any one row as he pleases. The player left with the last matchstick is the looser. Steve became obsessed with this game, and tore fifteen matches from a book and set them up. He insisted that Tom and I play the game with him. Neither of us could win. Dozens of games ensued, and Steve always left each of us with the last match.
Finally, we gave up and left him to find another partner, and Tom and I went out into the fresh air of a small patio alongside the building and spent a long time talking. I don't remember what we talked about, but I think that the essence of it was something not in the words themselves. It was the night, and the music and voices drifting from the building and the traffic from the boulevard, and it was the experience of being young and having thoughts and finding out what they were all about. It was something important that doesn't need to be remembered. What I remember is that we laughed and were close and the city spread around us its entrancing blanket of lights, and that I thought it would never change, and we would always be there.
And I remember that I had cold apple cider at the coffee house that night, colder than the fresh November air, as fresh and sweet as anything I have ever tasted.