in recent years

   

   

goodbye momma, goodbye poppa

So. My parents move to North Dakota on Saturday morning.

Wait. Go up there, back to the beginning, and read that again, please. And again. And again. And again. And again. And over and over again until it’s the only thing you can hear inside your head or feel under your skin or understand. Read it until it’s ringing around in your bones like a tiny forgotten windchime hanging in the breezeway of a house where no one has lived for a long time. And then maybe you’ll understand, like, a tenth of what I’m feeling over here in my real life.

Isn’t that ridiculous? Isn’t that the most intense/tragic/pathetic thing you’ve EVER read regarding someone’s totally alive and healthy and communicative and loving parents? It’s SO ridiculous. But that doesn’t make it not true! ALL THIS SADNESS IS DOWN INSIDE MY BONE MARROW.

» more: goodbye momma, goodbye poppa

dear amc theatres

Dear AMC Theatres,

You and I have a longstanding relationship. A long, longstanding relationship. I’ve been dedicated to your company since the AMC 30 in Covina opened when I was twelve.

Though I had long been a loyal customer of the Edwards West Covina, I abandoned them rapidly after watching my first movie in your new multiplex. Though I was young and subject to the the whims of my peers and caregivers, I always requested shows in your theaters whenever possible and lamented those rare times I did not win.

I have been brand loyal to AMC Theatres for almost fifteen years and I have always been happy with not only the service of your employees but the entire moviegoing experience in your establishment. Your sound is excellent, your screens are large and well-kept, projection was great even before the switch to digital, and your theatres have always been generally well maintained, clean, and comfortable.

When my partner and I moved to Kansas City this summer, we were wildly excited to try out both the Fork and Screen and Cinema Suites viewing experiences you are testing there. They were FABULOUS and those KCMO theaters, even the regular ones, were one of the things we’ve missed most since returning to L.A. They were so well staffed and never failed to give us the perfect movie experience. And we were thrilled to be paying into a local company! And even to see your offices downtown. It’s a JOY to get to support and interact with a company that you love. Especially one with such a solid ranking with the Human Rights Campaign.

While in KCMO people were often aghast that we would pay the high ticket prices for your theatres but my partner and I espoused, time and time again, the merits of the AMC moviegoing experience and the value we saw in it. We hope, often, that the Cinema Suites experience (and the theater quality in general) that we saw in KC will come our way in SoCal.

My partner and I even joined your Stubs program almost immediately after its inception and have found it to be an exceptional deal and have recommended it to all of our friends with similar moviegoing appetites. And though we recently lost ten dollars in rewards due to our forgetfulness, we still renewed today and not just for the free popcorn.

But, guys, you are not without faults. First, you stopped using two of the three concession stands in the theater, but that was okay! It was an understandable cut and never a big deal. Lines weren’t bad, after all.

But then you took away your lax policy on outside food as the country stumbled into the recession. And even though you were attempting to maximize profits on the backs of your consumers and even though it made your one concession line unbearably long, I forgave you anyway because times were hard for your company and I liked you.

Then, you added an IMAX theater! Which seemed great! Except for how it’s a fake one, which, granted, isn’t entirely your fault, but is shitty anyway. And you don’t even tell your customers!

Then you closed more than a third of my theater. MORE THAN A THIRD. You reduced the number of showings in general and began ushering movies out of the theater faster to make room for new releases in your newly limited theaters. This is the very same multiplex that was the 28th most visited in the entire United States in 1999. One of the largest, one of thirteen you list at that size in your entire chain.

When the walls first appeared, we got excited because our theater was edging toward fifteen years old and it was starting to look shabby and tired and we thought it was getting a refresh! And it would be shiny and new. But no, we asked and were told that it just closed. And yet it retains it’s status as AMC 30, when it isn’t at all. And again, you balanced your budget on the backs of your customers.

And then service started to get shitty. Theaters weren’t cleaned and when they were, it was only because someone stood at the base of the stairs trying to rush us out before the credits had rolled. I always sit through the credits, AMC. I haven’t walked out before the absolute end of a movie since I got my license. And your staff have repeatedly attempted to ruin this ritual for me. If it isn’t that, it’s projection errors or doors left open or lights left up well into the start of the movie. And all of these little things continue to degrade the moviegoing experience.

But through all this, we have returned. The prices have risen and risen and risen for both tickets and concessions. And yet we persist. We save, we SCROUNGE so that we can still go to the movies. So that we can SPECIFICALLY go to the AMC where the sound and projection are still usually solid. Where the staff are still relatively competent. We have done Gold Class. We have done ArcLight. But we keep coming back here, not only because it’s close to home, but because it is consistent. But consistency is meaningless when it’s consistently shitty.

This last Sunday, my partner and I got up to go to the earliest show of Wanderlust. We renewed our Stubs membership even though money is tight. And we bought some concessions so that we could have the whole experience. We used to go every Sunday morning as our form of church, but we hadn’t been in quite a long while and we’d really missed it.

My partner stopped at the concession stand while I headed into the theater to grab us seats. It was early in the morning and there was still lots of time before the show, so unlikely to be crowded, but I think this letter is evidence enough that I’m a reasonably particular moviegoer and wanted to make sure we got the right seats. I paused as I walked into the theater and blinked several times because it was so dark I could hardly see where I was going. It was so dim, I even checked to see if I had forgotten to switch my sunglasses for my regular glasses, but I had not. It was just that dark in the theater. It was still playing the pre-movie trivia, but I tripped as I headed up the stairs. The rope lights weren’t even lit.

I found our spot, settled in, and waited for my partner to arrive. She did, also remarking on the dimness of the theater.

Then, you guys played a trailer for that bigot piece of shit Kirk Cameron’s documentary Monumental. And look, I know you play what advertisers pay for. And I get that. And I know that Fathom Events are a thing that AMC does. I’ve gone to a few over the years! But you can’t pride yourself on having that 90 HRC score and then let some bigot piece of shit sell me his stuff. That’s not okay. But I let it go, AMC, because I love you. And our relationship is important to me.

Despite Kirk Cameron’s foul existence, we enjoyed the show and left happy that we’d made the trip. So far so good, AMC.

That’s where it ends though, AMC. Unfortunately, I’d spent the morning with a pretty bad headache and it was 90 degrees out when we got to our car and I was grouchy, GROUCHY. We tried to go get food, but everywhere we wanted to eat was either closed or ridiculously crowded. So, grumpy and dejected, we headed to the pet store to visit some animals up for adoption.

You have to understand me, AMC, we were desperate to cheer up and these puppies were going to help! And this might seem like a tangent, but I hope you’ll soon understand why it’s here.

We got out of the car, SUPER EXCITED to pet some strange dogs, and I turn back to grab my bag and I see, immediately, a HUGE RED SMEAR OF FUCKING CHEWING GUM ON MY SEAT. The beautiful, clean beige cloth seat of my 2010 Honda Insight. Has an enormous smear of someone else’s fucking gum on it. And you know what that means, AMC? MY ASS ALSO HAS AN ENORMOUS SMEAR OF SOMEONE ELSE’S GERMY DISGUSTING CHEWED GUM ON IT.

The only places I had sat down all day, AMC, were my couch at home, my car, and YOUR THEATER SEATS. And one of those places covered me with gum. The USED, CHEWED, GERMY GUM FROM SOME OTHER PERSON’S MOUTH. GUESS WHICH SEAT IT WAS? GO AHEAD, GUESS!

And, okay, AMC, I am SO MAD at the gross person that would do that. I am HORRIFIED that people stick their gum places other than their mouth or a trash can. I DON’T EVEN UNDERSTAND GUM. It absolutely is one of the grossest things we do as humans! HOORAY I WILL CHEW THIS WAD OF RUBBERY STUFF FOR A TOO LONG AMOUNT OF TIME. AWESOME. But I still do it, AMC, and I don’t begrudge my fellow gum-chewers their gum. I begrudge them the desire to stick gum where it doesn’t belong and I know that isn’t your fault, AMC. I know that. You can’t control people or what they do with their nasty wads of mouth filth.

But you know what you can control? You can control how fucking clean your theaters are, AMC. You can control how well-lit they are before a show. You can control the environment that you provide to your patrons. Not just your patrons, YOUR CUSTOMERS. The people who pay your bills and pad your profits.

Had the house lights been at the level they were supposed to be, I probably would have seen the HORRIBLE WAD OF GUM awaiting my ass. If your staff had done their job, it wouldn’t have been there in the first place. IF ANYONE WAS DOING THEIR JOB I WOULD NOT HAVE HAD TO SIT IN GUM AND RUIN MY ONLY PAIR OF JEANS. I AM A VERY FAT PERSON, AMC, DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW EXPENSIVE JEANS ARE?!

So, AMC, what do you think happened after I discovered a wad of red gum smeared all over my butt and my previously pristine car seat? I YELLED. I sweared the fuck out of EVERYTHING in the parking lot of that PetSmart. And I got SO ANGRY. And I closed my eyes and I tried not to cry. Because, AMC, do you know how hard it is to get gum out of stuff? Out of anything? Do you understand how expensive it is to get a car detailed? And how you just have to HOPE that gum comes out? Because it doesn’t, not really, not totally ever.

Then I didn’t get to go pet strange puppies and kitties, AMC. You know why? BECAUSE I HAD GUM ALL OVER MY ASS. And not only is that gross and inconvenient and sort of embarrassing if I had any sense of dignity, but also, I had to rush home so I could TRY — let me emphasize that again — TRY to get gum out of my god damn car seat.

So, let’s recap. I am grumpy because I haven’t eaten anything but popcorn. I have a terrible headache. It is 90 degrees in early March. I have GUM ON MY ASS. I have GUM ON MY CAR SEAT. I don’t get to pet puppies or kitties. And now I have to go home and sit on my knees with ice and a butter knife trying to get gum out of my car seat. Then I have to try to do it to my jeans. MY ONLY PAIR OF JEANS.

And AMC, man, I want to blame the person that put the gum there. I do. That person is a big ol’ asshole, plain and simple. And you know what, it’s not your fault at all that I had a headache or that it was hot or that I was in a bad mood and couldn’t get food. Those things are not your problem. But a poorly lit, dirty theater is your fault. My ruined car seat and ruined jeans ARE your fault, AMC, and I blame you wholeheartedly for it. Also, by extension, it is TOTALLY YOUR FAULT, that I didn’t get to hang out with some puppies and kitties. Not cool, AMC, not cool.

I know you had record losses last year, guys. I know. I know the theater business is suffering and suffering badly. There are all these new ways to watch movies at home and it’s hard to compete. But cutting corners and making the moviegoing experience some kind of stripped down joke isn’t the way to win. If I’m going to sit in a filthy pit staffed with people who can’t be fucking bothered to do their jobs? I’d rather stay home. I’d rather wait for stuff to come out on DVD or Blu-Ray or On Demand or HBO or WHATEVER.

This isn’t just about the gum, AMC. (But oh man, is it a LOT about the gum.) It’s about the EXPERIENCE. The service and quality of show we saw in Kansas City was unbelievable. Cinema Suites service was out of this world and we SPENT MONEY because of it. Even the regular shows were wildly enjoyable which meant we went to more shows and were less hesitant about spending money on concessions. I saw ONE cell phone in use in KCMO and an usher was there and telling them to put it away within a minute or so. Here? I have to yell at people. AND I DON’T WANT TO. (I might enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean I want to do it.)

This is about the consistent degradation of a brand I not only respect, but WANT to remain loyal to. A brand I LIKE. AMC, you are making me believe in the idea of brand responsibility and shit! Because the AMC of today is a straight up EMBARRASSMENT to the one I frequented from 1998 to 2005.

This isn’t about free stuff or a wrecked seat or my ONLY PAIR OF JEANS. This is about feeling like I am losing one of my favorite activities in the entire world. I love the moviegoing experience. I LOVE IT. And I think I don’t want to lose the one place that has served it so well for most of my life. My partner and I might be joking when we talk about going to a Sunday morning movie as church, but the metaphor is apt. Your movie houses have been holy places for us. But now I’m starting to worry that we’d be better off worshipping at the altar of our flat screen.

amc theatres

Save our sacred place, AMC. Treat your theaters like the temples they should be and people will want to spend their time and money in them. Save yourselves, AMC. Before it’s too late.

Sincerely,

Ash Russell

ETA: After mentioning this post on my Twitter (and a couple of helpful retweets from people I looooooove) I was contacted by Jordan Laine from AMC who put me in contact with Bob Garcia, the GM of my particular AMC. They were apologetic and helpful, though not WILDLY ENTHUSED about helping a bitching customer (which I don’t really blame them for, I guess?!) and Bob offered to pay to have my jeans dry-cleaned, but I declined. (I don’t like dry-cleaning chemicals and my pants were already clean-ish, so.) He tossed me a couple free passes and popcorns, which I GREATLY appreciate even though that’s not at all why I went to the trouble of writing all this. 2500 words and the time it takes to produce them are obviously worth more than $30.

I am amazed by the power of social media in all this. My girlfriend really only uses her Twitter to bitch at brands. It is a thing she enjoys and it works. We’ve had a lot of issues settled because of something she posted online. And this AMC thing was no different. Nothing grabs a brand’s attention more efficiently than bad PR, even on a small scale.

Gratitude for passes and the power of social media aside, I hope AMC considers the greater message here because it’s serious. Because when I posted, I got several @-replies expressing similar sentiments. Because people are not going to go to the movies if the experience isn’t worth it. And because the people that love that experience don’t want to lose it.

~feelings~

Today I am going to ~get real~ and talk about my feelings. I like personal blogs, this is a personal blog, I am a person, the website is my name, and I want to talk about some SHIT, okay?!

My girlfriend and I have been home from Kansas City for about a month. And it has been an excruciatingly hard month for both of us. She is readjusting to a killer commute and a rough office environment and I am unemployed and mooching off of her and generally feeling like a massive, tragic pile of crap.

I liked Kansas City. A lot. And I really, until the last three weeks, enjoyed my internship immensely. It’s more complicated than the following sentences, but: I was good at my job. I enjoyed it. And then that was taken away from me very suddenly and very… unfairly isn’t the right word. Unexpectedly. Shockingly. Unbearably. And it made our last weeks there just unbearable. Really and truly stressful in a way that moving those 1600 miles had not even come close to being. And it sucked. And getting the hell out of Kansas City felt SO GOOD. But I left happy. I mean that. And I can remember the good parts of my job. And I’d do it again if they asked it of me. And/or something similar. I don’t know if I could stay there for more than a year or maybe I could. No, I definitely could. I could stay there forever. Maybe? I don’t know. What do I honestly know from second to second?

But I was so glad to be home. I am so fucking glad to be home. I missed my family SO MUCH. And my animals. And Disneyland. And my incredible friends. And California. I adapted to KC and I liked it, but I can’t imagine it ever feeling like home. Or maybe I could?

But having my feet swept out from me before the end of the internship has left me inconsolable in a lot of ways. The internship fell together so easily, so simply, and everyone spent so much time assuring and reassuring me that it was meant to be (because I am, like all creatives, eternally my own worst critic) and that I deserved it. And I left feeling a lot like I really hadn’t deserved it and a lot like I’d failed, even if failing isn’t why I left. Even if no one ever used the word failure. Even if my co-workers threw me a wonderful going away party and gave me cards and food and gifts and sent me away feeling warm and fuzzy and appreciated. And even if coming home is what was best for both me and my girlfriend.

I have anxiety. I AM SURE THIS IS SHOCKING AS SHIT TO EVERYONE IN THE WORLD, NO REALLY. And I experience immense, heart-heavy periods of depression when I feel like things are out of my control, when I feel I’ve failed. And the last month has just been that. A train wreck of misery and sadness and bad hygiene and being broke and frustrated and embarrassed and disappointed. I have taken it out on my girlfriend and my family and I’ve tried to hide from every single human being on Earth.

I haven’t looked for jobs because my blood pressure spikes when I think about going back to work, when I think about interviewing, when I remember how fucking awful it was the LAST TIME I was looking for work. People were constantly telling me I was overeducated and inexperienced and now I have an additional degree (a terminal Master’s!) and very little additional experience! And when they weren’t saying that, they were questioning why I would want to work so far away from where I live (I LIVE IN A SUBURB, THESE ARE MY ONLY CHOICES) or looking at my fat body and thinking that meant anything about how good I would be at a job or who I was at a person or better yet, telling me how I wasn’t the right representation of their office. THIS WHOLE PROCESS JUST SOUNDS GREAT, SO GREAT. I CANNOT WAIT.

And my girlfriend has been wonderfully patient and kind and takes incredible care of me. But I have to get a job. I want to work! I want to contribute to my household and to the world at large! I want to be upstanding! I am able to work! I am a capable, intelligent, competent person! I can work! I should do it!

But I fight with looking every day and every night and I hate myself more every week and the anxiety gets WORSE AND WORSE and I have more nightmares where my internship manager tells me how much she regrets hiring me and where I lose a house I don’t even own in real life and where planes crash and I fight with my friends and things break and I can’t pull myself together to handle any of it.

And I know writing this out won’t solve it. I’ve been talking this stuff out with the girlfriend for weeks and it has done little to ease the aches and pains and agonies and tensions in my brain, but it’s down anyway now and it’s loose in the world.

This week I am going to try to take hold of myself and apply for jobs. I’m going to work at that proactive thing. I’m going to shake myself out of this bullshit. Because that’s something I know I can do. Because I’ve done it before.

So check in with me in a week and it’ll either be resume sendin’, application fillin’ superchamp Ash. Or I’ll be in bed passed out in the fetal position surrounded by garbage and dog hair with a pizza box from Mamma’s Brick Oven Pizza between my knees and a 22 of Wyder’s Pear Cider clutched in my fat fist as I cry into a wad of filthy paper towels while watching Drake & Josh. Only two options.

Or I’m going to knock over some sort of financial institution and head straight to Vegas. Three options.

Also, I groomed my eyebrows today (pluck pluck pluck) and didn’t overtweeze for the first time in maybe my whole life. NEW CAREER PATH?! j/k j/k I would rather touch someone else’s poop than the meaty end of their freshly plucked eyebrow hair.

KCNOMO

ass

OKAY SINCE I PROMISED TO TALK ABOUT IT: The gf and I came back to California! KCNOMO. Home where we belong.

I’m not going to explain in as much detail as I had planned on, but we have been back in L.A. for almost a month and OH MAN did I miss it so much more than I even thought I did. Basically: I left on my terms. I left with good experience and good feelings. I don’t regret going. And I got to do one of my dream jobs for three months. Not so bad!!

breaded

But whatever, that part is boring since I am still not going to talk about my actual work, so moving on:

THINGS I WILL MISS ABOUT KCMO:
1. bbq
2. small, accessible downtown
3. no traffic
4. fat people out in the world doing things!
5. old architecture
6. my job
7. having my own apartment
8. the income from my job
9. the weather
10. the awesome people at my job
11. steak ā€˜nā€™ shake
12. frozen custard
13. the cicada noise (only a little)
14. the amc main street and olathe studio 28 theaters (NO JOKE)
15. the fountains!
16. my landlady/kcmo momma
17. the hyvee

THINGS I WILL NOT MISS ABOUT KCMO:
1. getting my car vandalized
2. assholes who steal assigned parking spaces
3. cicada noise
4. DRIVERS
5. having to drive into a different state for a decent grocery store
6. phony niceness
7. SPORTS — gawd bless l.a. where no one gives a shit
8. weather
9. did I mention the fucking spectacularly terrible driving?
10. ridiculously low speed limits EVERYWHERE

brained

There are more things I won’t miss, but I’m not going to kick the midwest while it’s down. I mean, it already lost me, it seems mean to also tear it to shit while I’m at it.

SO I AM HOME NOW. And job-hunting. Which is giving me so much anxiety and my gf is being SO AMAZING and patient and stuff. And everyone has been so excited about our return and supportive and yadda yadda, I am surrounded by really good people, gross.

pizza

Enjoy my face over the last two weeks. Such a good face. The best face.

kansas city, here we … are.

So! Kansas City is BEAUTIFUL. And hot. And humid. And kind of awesome. There’s a lot of good food, even though the gf and I are too lazy to really go anywhere after work. It turns out that working eight hours a day is, like, a lot lot different than going to class once or twice a week and playing video games in your underwear the rest of the time. Work is great, but they get real weird when I play Tetris topless.

Jokes aside, work is AMAZING. I don’t want to talk about my company here because they probably wouldn’t want to associate themselves publicly with someone who calls Jesse Eisenberg a rapscallion and makes as many poop jokes as I do — BUT. I get to WRITE all day in my own happy little booth and be surrounded by people who are kind and talented in a variety of fascinating and jealousy-inducing disciplines and wander around this beautiful and massively confusing building with a bunch of other interns who are turning out to be way more excellent than I imagined. Most of them are leaving on the 12th of August, but I’m here for an entire month after that — the joys of being the last to arrive — and I am ACTUALLY going to miss other human beings when they start to disappear. I’m going to miss coworkers! How is that even a thing?!

Our apartment is lovely and our landlady is great and friendly and sort of like having a mom out here who politely stays out of the way, but gets really excited and or angry on your behalf when necessary. At the end of my second week at work, the back window of my car was smashed in by shit-bag vandals and EVERYONE was scandalized and furious on my behalf. People in the midwest are NICE. REALLY NICE. L.A. nice is a different kind of nice — we’re polite, we want to be friendly, but we don’t really have time for you — here, people CARE and are INTERESTED and want to hear all about your life and stuff. It’s weird and has not yet stopped being weird.

I miss my family and friends desperately. DESPERATELY. Like, wake up when the alarm goes off at six and cry once a week while rolling around on the bed because you just WANT TO GO HOME ALREADY EVERYTHING SUCKS WHERE IS MY MOM SOMEONE MAKE ME A SANDWICH AND HUG ME. But I am so happy with my job that it’s keeping me sane. Crystal is putting up with SO MUCH and being SO EXCELLENT and she doesn’t even complain or cry or tell me how much she hates me for forcing her to come here. Instead she just makes dinner and does the laundry and does weird sex things with me sometimes. She’s the best. And she’s made this entire experience so much more survivable and excellent that it ever could’ve been if I had to come alone.

So yeah, people out here talk funny (it’s ADORABLE) and they apologize a lot, like, for things that are completely out of their control. Like the weather. EVERYONE HAS APOLOGIZED FOR THE HEAT. I feel like the governor of Missouri is going to send me a letter soon, just to check in and apologize.

Today an unmanned rolling cart rolled into me of its own volition while I was standing near it and I apologized to it. THE MIDWEST HAS GOT ME, SEND HELP.

I’ve said, “Oh, the heat’s not that bad, it’s the HUMIDITY” so many times I want to slap myself. Also, “CALIFORNIA DOESN’T HAVE…”, especially re: terrifying insects, food chains, grocery stores, coupons, milk in glass bottles in the regular grocery store, delicious Sonic-esque PERFECT ICE everywhere we go, etc. See also: “CALIFORNIA HAS…”, re: EVERYTHING ELSE EVER.

Here are some pictures of things!

home sweet home
nelson atkins

through fences

work fox

midwestern cloud to cloud

Midwestern thunderstorms is NO JOKE, yo. Crystal locked herself in the bathroom while I stuck the camera out the window and tried to catch some lightning while yelling at my parents via Skype. I have NEVER seen lightning like that. INSANE. And amazing. And a little terrifying. The Midwest is the weirdest.

 

In other news, Michael Cera looks like a turtle.

seriously