Thursday, April 12, 2007

Collecting My Prize

As I mentioned last week ("Pre-Easter Ramblings, 05 April, 2007"), I won two free tickets to see a special preview screening of the film, "Curse of the Golden Flower." The problem was finding someone to go with me. Gala TV presenter, Opal Bonfante, turned me down, claiming she was filming. Pauly in the Morden was up north, doing a gig. Besides, he'd seen it already. The Artist and her daughter were both out of the country, although, ironically, not in the same place. My evil ex-wife, the Black Queen, and I are not speaking to each other. Other persons, who like to remain anonymous, were unavailable. What to do? I decided to take my good friend, Tom (formerly the Injured Cyclist: ). Opal suggested that I take someone who's helped me, in the past. Tom has been a very supportive friend. He went with me to my first two stand up, open mic nights. He bought me beer when I was short of money. He let me spend the night at his flat, when I had an early audition in London. As my prize includes a free beer for each of us, it was my chance to get him a beer.
I drove to his flat straight from working at the restaurant. I arrived earlier than he was expecting, so he wasn't entirely prepared, yet. Taking up temporary residence in my usual spot, on the comfy chair, we caught up on things. I haven't seen him since early February. Tom informed me that, subsequent to him agreeing to go to the film with me, he'd heard from his German friend, Harold. Herr Harold had invited Tom to watch the second leg of the Beyer Munich v A. C. Milan, Champions League Quarterfinals, at some German pub in London. In a blunder almost as big as Hitler's in opening a second front, by attacking the USSR, Harold had mistakenly thought the match was next Wednesday. Learning of his error, he told Tom at the last minute. Showing strength of character that is rare these days, Tom told Harold he'd already agreed to go out with me, last night. Hearing about this from Tom, I worried that he'd rather be going to watch the game at the German pub. I made Tom an offer. If he would get his ex-girlfriend to go with me to the cinema, I'd be happy for him to go hang out with the Germans. Unfortunately, he said he's been having trouble getting in touch with her, lately, so he declined.
The next bump in the road was the question of whether we would go in my car, or by the Underground. This caught me by surprise, because I thought it had been settled, previously, that we were going by car. Tom liked the idea of going by car, but he was worried that we wouldn't find free parking. We were going to the Cineworld at West India Quay, in Canary Wharf. Having never been to Canary Wharf before, I was totally dependant on Tom for advice. He said there was no on the street parking in Canary Wharf, at all, but we should be able to find street parking in a nearby area...maybe. There is a car park at West India Quay, but it's not free. Tom said it wasn't expensive, but guessed it would be about £12 ($24!). For me, that is expensive. Tom waffled back and forth over the options...Tube train, or drive, Tube or drive. Being more of a risk taker than Tom, I settled the matter. We would drive.
After circumnavigating Canary Wharf, we did manage to find free, on the street parking, just outside the district. Tom estimated we were five minutes walking distance from the cinema. As he'd been to this particular cinema before, he led the way. Turning this way and that, we passed through building lobbies and alongside bars filled with well heeled patrons. I felt acutely under dressed in my work outfit, looking decidedly blue collar. As we passed through one building lobby, I saw one of the most beautiful oriental women I have ever seen, coming the other way. She gave me a timid look, like she'd just come face to face with an escaped gorilla wearing clothes. As we passed each other like two speeding express trains, I wondered where she was from. We crossed a foot bridge, passed a Marriott, then approached a bevy of bars occupying the ground floor of an old warehouse building. Tom assured me the cinema was not much further. Admiring a trio of bottoms on the three women walking in front of us, I almost stumbled. They turned right and we left, but my head followed them, longingly.
As we approached an entrance to the Warehouse building, I spied a very attractive woman facing our direction. As we got nearer, I could swear she was smiling at us. As we got closer, there almost seemed to be recognition. Could this be someone who'd seen me on TV, recently? Finally! Oh, no, it's Tom's ex. Her hair looked darker, so I hadn't recognized her. They greeted each other then she greeted me. I got to do my first ever air kiss!!! We explained to her that we were on our way to the cinema. The moment seemed awkward. She didn't answer some of Tom's questions. Suddenly, some creepy guy walked up, smirking. He looked like he earned several times what Tom and I do, put together, which isn't hard as Tom is unemployed at the moment. She introduced us, after a little hesitation. She didn't explain who this geezer was, so he must be the latest boyfriend. The little creep was actually shorter than her. He had to have more money than sense, if he was dating her. As things were now very uncomfortable, we returned to our little trek to the cinema, to see the film stars. I guess we were on a kind of "star trek."
Finally, the cinema was in sight. The winners' notification had advised us to arrive by 7:45PM. It was 7:37 when we entered. I approached the box office, with Tom guarding my flank. Presenting my winners' notification, as instructed, I was informed by the cashier that there was a slight problem. He said that there was only one ticket left. That sounds like a bloody big problem, to me. He advised us to wait in the lobby and the manager would be out, shortly. I observed several other pairs of persons, also waiting for the same thing. Speaking to a couple of women who were waiting, I suggested that we all wrestle for it. I told her I thought she could take the third couple. Meanwhile, I was thinking I could take them all. The others waiting started contemplating which other film they would see. I didn't want to see another film, I came to see "Curse of the Golden Flower." Could we about to be victims of the curse?
Finally, the manager came out and started talking to this oriental couple. I moved over to listen. He said there seemed to be some mistake and that he would make a phone call. I made sure he was aware that it wasn't just that couple waiting, but all of us. The manager went way to make his call and I discussed our situation with Tom. "This doesn't make sense," I said. "The cinema auditorium must hold a couple of hundred people, at least. It's an advanced preview on a Wednesday night and we're early. It seems highly unlikely that they've sold out, already." The manager returned and informed us of the resolution. The auditorium held 250 people We would be admitted on a first come, first served basis. So far, no one had shown up, other than the dozen of us, so he said there was no reason to worry. We old all get in and all still get our promised free beer. I want to thank the management of Cineworld for coming up with a wise and just solution.
Tom and I set off in search of the free beer. Some cinemas in the UK serve beer. When I moved from America, none of the cinemas there had yet come up with such a service. I wonder if any in the USA have yet thought of it? It's a brilliant idea. After finishing our free, Tiger beers, we left the bar and made our way to screen seven. Passing a concession stand, I asked Tom if he thought we should get some popcorn. As we had paid nothing to get in, I speculated that we might be able to afford popcorn and soft drinks. Tom left it up to me. Examining the menu and looking behind the counter, I discovered they didn't have butter for the popcorn. Most cinemas in the UK don't. They may have the US beat on the beer aspect, but American cinemas can be counted on to have butter. As their was no butter, I opted out of popcorn. We continued on to screen seven.
Inside the auditorium for screen seven, I advised Tom to pick where to sit. I prefer the front row, but a lot of people claim not to like it. Tom was no different. We settled on the third row. Once we were seated and comfortable, Tom decided he wanted popcorn. He offered me £5 toward the cost, so I went out to make the best bargain I could, with the concession stand. As Tom also wanted a Diet Coke, I opted for a deal where we got two large Diet Cokes and a large bag of popcorn. The total came to £9.10. I made it back to my seat before the film started and without spilling anything. We watched the film, then I drove Tom back to his place. He asked me to stop at Tesco, so he could buy some beer. I happily complied. It's the first time I have been out to the cinema since "Casino Royale" came out, late last year. I won't tell you anything about the film, here. If you are interested in that, read my review to follow. This was the first time I have been to the cinema with Tom. It might not be the last, as he behaved himself rather well, other than the palaver over parking.

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