Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kino, Menos Grande

I felt quite an unexpected tug when I saw this old foto on an "Old Santa Fe" page I frequent. The El Paseo theater featured prominently here was one of two, large(ish), first (sorta)-run theaters smack in the heart of what could pass for "down-town Santa Fe, circa 1960. The other theater, the ornate, '30s, rococco "movie palace, the Lensic, has been maintained and restored and is now the gem-like setting for a HUGE number of high-brow/elegant, or "edgy" cultural 'events. It's a semi-bizarre space, with balconies where when I was a teen, and you didn't have a car, you went when you wanted to have a quiet place to grope your date in the smoky darkness. The balconies are still there, in regular, though perhaps less steamy or productive, use.

The "El Paseo" is long gone, with the space having undergone innumerable transformations, in the intervening 50 years. When we moved back to New Mexico in 1960, my dad managed a business on San Francisco Street, between where both the Lensic and the El Paseo stood (there was also a smaller, Spanish-language theater, also on San Francisco, on the other side of the street; como se llama? The Alley, maybe?). In real space, the Lensic would be to the left of the features in the top foto, about 60 yards, or less, in a south-westerly direction, across Burro Alley.

The Lensic had "loge" seats, on the first floor, under the balcony, with wider, better upholstered seats and ash-trays built into the arms. Everybody smoked, in 1960. The El Paseo didn't have a balcony; the seats rose in steady ranks from what would have been the "orchestra" if there had been an "orchestra." You flicked ashes and crushed out butts on the floor.

The space NEXT to the El Paseo, on the left side of the top foto, was the "NEW CANTON CAFE." Next to the New Canton stood the Candy Kitchen--which also sold cheap, paperback, crime and western novels, which I read assiduously and which I shared with my Dad, Jack, who managed Dendahl's Linen Shop from 1961-65 (or there abouts), and which stood cheek-by-jowl with the aforesaid literary/confectionary dispensary...Many days I'd buy a John D. MacDonald (or Edward S. Aarons, or Shell Scott, or Matt Helm) book, after school--they were maybe 50 cents--and go into the New Canton, and sit in a back booth with a cup of coffee and a pack of Camels, and read and smoke--or go hang out at Zook's Pharmacy--til he closed the shop, and we drove back to Nambe.

Where we'd have uneasy, family dinners, with my attitude being the usual source of the dis-ease. I was attending school, but had more or less stopped participating, except notionally--I was in a school play, the lead, actually, in spring '63. Then, said meals awkwardly concluded, I gratefully fled BACK to Santa Fe, where I "spun platters" on the only (at the time) "rock-n-roll" radio program in town, until midnight, Monday-Friday.

After which I would customarily decamp to the Senate Lounge, which seldom was too obstructionist about identification, and would drink beer and dance with the local girls--shop girls, secretaries, file clerks in State Govt; or with the hookers who were occasionally in town to service the legislators when the Lege was meeting, until closing time. Al Hurricane and the Night Rockers was effectively the House Band, along with Louis Shelton & the Shel-Tones. I was 17...Then I'd roll back OUT to Nambe for a couple of hours shut-eye, before getting up to join Pop on his way to town in the morning.

Good times...

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