Teenage Wasteland, Empire Drive-In

October 12th, 2013, 6pm

It was 20.6°C with few clouds. The breeze was brisk.

When I was very small, my mom and dad would pack my brother and I into the car, with snacks and sleeping bags and all-sorts, and then we would drive beyond the fringes of our Oregon suburb, miles and miles down the highway to reach the drive-in. We did it, maybe, only two or three times; who knows what movies we watched. I, being only five or six, tended to fall asleep as soon as all the popcorn had been eaten.

The Empire Drive-In, a pop-up theatre-cum-large-scale sculpture erected at the New York Hall of Science, is open through October 20. Junked cars are installed in a parking lot, and you can settle into (or on top of) any one of them; we arrived by subway, the 7 train, and sidled over to what I believe was a Honda, spreading our blanket on the hood.

A double feature was playing, structured around a theme, Teenage Wasteland. Punk music set the mood as we waited for the main show to start; a slideshow, “American Reclamation,” showcased photos from Stephen Mallon before vintage ads began to roll, before “Over the Edge” and “Suburbia” were slated to play. (Watch “Over the Edge”: 14-year-old Matt Dillon in crop tops, all smoldering, aimless young discontent.)

It was cold; we wrapped our blanket over our shoulders and ate Hot Tamales, Raisinettes, licorice. And, because we are old — turning to each other, trying to remember that aching teenage anger — we headed out after the explosive denouement of “Edge.” We dropped by Tortilleria Nixtamal for tamales and tacos, then watched the Saturday night people making their way into Manhattan as we returned to our part of Queens, tired, but still home before the clock hit eleven.

Creators Todd Chandler and Jeff Stark note that Empire Drive-In “… invites audiences to participate in a series of questions about car culture, planned obsolescence, and the distinction between public and private space.” Indeed it does; it’s also just a darn good time. Tonight, October 13, you can catch a Space Race-themed program in the shadow of NYSci’s rockets; in the coming week, there’s also a Youth Media Night, a Galactic Drive-In, a Night at the Races, Silents and Noise (handmade films with a live soundtrack), and a celebration of American-made cars, trucks, and other machines. Go.

Cassie and Craig said thanks.

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T. Frey

Watching, wandering

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