Robbie’s Roadside Drive-in Movie Theater

Marvin Blitzstein accepted the probate decision with a sense of equanimity.

Millie, his wife of twenty-two years, clutching a copy of Dickens’ Bleak House, saw this as just one more infuriating example of his intolerable passivity. His lassitude. His complete and consummate complaisance.

“Marvin,” she said as they had left earshot of the lawyers suite, “your brother, Melvin, who you don’t like and who you haven’t even talked to for the last eleven years, and who has unfailingly and unflinchingly screwed you out of everything you ever wanted in life, the long list of which I need not remind you of, walks away from yet another chance to make things right by you and he leaves you holding the bag of do-do once again, and you say what?”

Marvin opens his mouth to offer a response.

“I’ll tell you what,” taking this moment of silence to say exactly what she thinks. “I’ll tell you what you say, Marvin. You say nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Nil. Nichts! That’s what you say.”

Marvin looks at her.

“What?” she asks.

“It may not be so bad.”

“It may not be so bad? It may not be so bad? Marvin, you are cursed. It’s not your fault. Let me remind you that it was your father, the man who in 1962 named you Marvin after Marv Throneberry who, in that very same year, in which the Mets lost a grand total of 120 games and in which Marv made 17 errors in only 97 games at first, he did this to you.

“Your father, the man who cashed in his life insurance policy two years before his untimely death to invest every penny of it in a nickel mine in Borneo because your brother said it was a ‘can’t miss’ ‘sure shot’ tip, and in which he, your brother, cashed in his one hundred thousand dollar profit, coincidentally, the evening before the stock fell through the parquet in a major pump-and-dump scheme of which he claimed to have no knowledge, and which left your father with nothing. Less than nothing if you count the fact that the stock is now worth 0.09 cents per share, and which he, your father, God rest his soul, bequeathed to you, as an irrevocable beneficiary, along with annual maintenance charges on the account which no one ever told you about and now including the penalties for dropping below the minimum, we owe them how much money?’’

“I don’t know but…”

“Don’t ‘but’ me Marvin. Don’t ‘but’ me when you sit there in the lawyers office while your rich brother, Melvin, across the table from you, is laying IEDs in your path to the future, our future, and you say nothing. Niente, Niks, Nitchevo. Capisce?”

“Nitchevo?”

“Russian.”

“Millie. Mel is giving us the business. That’s not nothing.”

“Mel is giving us the business. That’s the only smart thing you’ve said all day.”

The business in reference was Robbie’s Roadside Drive-in Movie Theater in Fort Lee, New Jersey, of which Marv’s father had been the sole but silent owner of record, unbeknownst to anyone in the family, and of which Mel, as executor of their father’s estate, made sure Marvin would take ownership upon his father’s demise. It was, he said of approximately of equal value to the Bitcoin account, “give or take,” which Mel inherited from the old man.

Robbie’s Roadside was one of two existing drive-in theaters in all of New Jersey and the only one without a functioning outdoor screen, making it something of a campy tourist attraction.

The summer was the busiest season. Travelers on their way to Bear Mountain often stopped after taking selfies on the Governor Chris Christie Bridgegate off-ramp of the GW. Though too few to make Robbie’s a moneymaker.

That was until Marvin took over the operation, of which Millie wanted no part. “Nothing,” she said. Rien.

Marvin did his homework. He talked with the few customers who came in, asking for directions or for change of a ten or a bathroom. Some, seeing the concession stand, would buy a $5 box of Nonpareils or an $8 tub of buttered popcorn.

So Marv put up some signs along 9W:

Need change? Stop at Robbie’s Drive In.

Want Real Movie popcorn? Stop at Robbie’s.

Free restrooms. No purchase necessary. Robbie’s Ahead.

Robbie’s. Are we there yet?

The signs got noticed. He got interviewed on Jimmie Fallon’s show. And then Late Night calls him. They film a segment with Seth Myers in a sandwich board standing in front of Robbie’s eating a hot dog with mustard and ketchup on his chin.

Tourists started passing up the Christie Bridgegate and took selfies with Marv. The lines got longer. Marv was afraid that the lines deter some customers and so he tweaked his business model.

He introduced Jersey’s first mobile app for pre-ordering concession items and making restroom line reservations. He bought an extra popcorn popper and installed in a few extra restrooms, all labeled with the Jane Austin They.

For a not insignificant service charge, customers could beat the long restroom line with a priority-access pass. Others, craving a giant box of Good and Plenty could now cut to the front of the line.

Millie, who had been watching all this, was, to say the least (which was what she always said), pleased. “This is good, Marvin.”

When he refitted the parking lot into New Jersey’s first virtual reality outdoor drive-in theater, each customer was given an Oculus Quest Bluetooth virtual reality headset showing first-run blockbusters in which they each played a staring role, in the comfort of their own car, Millie was moved somewhat beyond her minimalist view of her husband.

“Marvin,” she gushed, “this is really good!”

For Marvin, it was just like one story his father told him about the day in 1962 when Marv Throneberry, who was coaching first base, in the bottom of the ninth with Mets down 4-2 with two on and two outs and the crowd chanting, “We want Marv!” and Casey Stengel pulls him out of the coaching box and puts him in to pinch hit against Elroy Face, the Pirates star reliever, and after taking the first pitch, Throneberry swings and blasts a towering 450 ft shot deep over the right-center field wall for a game winning walk-off homer!

Really, really, good.

3 thoughts on “Robbie’s Roadside Drive-in Movie Theater”

  1. I love this, Joe. I just kinda wished it would end with Marv making a fabulous fortune with his reimagined drive-in enterprise, Millie asking for a share in the profits, and his telling her, “Non, niet, nitchevo”!

    Like

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