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Just like a change of season, signs abound of our changing times

sandra thompson
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© St. Petersburg Times
published July 6, 2002

It's that weekend, the one that in other parts of the country means summer is now in full swing and you'd better enjoy it while it lasts. For us summer has been here since February and won't leave until November.

It's hard to find anything to feel really good about other than leaving town, except that in September, even though it's still 95, the rest of the world thinks it's fall and rolls out the non-kid movies, what there are of them anymore.

Last weekend we went to Channelside to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and since I have complained about the absence of human bodies in the theaters there since they opened, I am honor-bound to report that for Sunday's early evening show there was a crowd countable in the dozens. Actually, the theater was two-thirds full -- for a movie that's been playing for at least three weeks. And one that has no recognizable stars and no car chases or massive explosions of any kind.

It's the latter omissions that have made the movie a word-of-mouth success. This is a simple story about actual people who talk to one another, and it's not even in a foreign language.

Yet to see this low-key romantic comedy, which is at least much better than its title, we had to endure trailers for several other movies, all of which seem to consist of car chases and massive explosions. For this, the decibel-level is turned up to Highest. And without the slim excuse for human interaction interspersed with the explosions and crashes that occur in the actual movies, watching the all-speed, all blow-up trailers is as dizzying as being on the Cyclone. Even from the back rows.

Of course, that's after you've been subjected to the commercials, including the ones for the armed forces.

They're pretty good, actually, and may appeal to the testosterone-driven young men they're aimed at, who would never be seduced by something as bland as "Join the Navy. See the world."

On this Fourth of July weekend, the first Fourth since Sept. 11th, many of us are looking at the armed forces in a different way. Right after 9/11, whenever I saw a uniformed Air Force or Special Forces person in the parking lot at Target, or wherever, I felt in-league and actually had to stop myself from saying "Hello," or "How are things going over at the base?" because, of course, I didn't know these people at all.

As much as I feel akin to MacDill's finest -- they are actually doing something for our country -I feel alienated from the civilian flag fliers, who are everywhere this weekend and seem to have not dissipated since 9/11. Like the woman in front of me the other day, flying from her SUV a really cheesy American flag, its edges torn and frayed as though the flag itself had been through Vietnam.

What are you trying to tell me with these flags?

Are you telling me you're in line with a South Tampa restaurant that after 9/11 paired its flag with a message that amounted to Love It or Leave It? Or are you simply telling me you love your country -- and maybe didn't realize it before?

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is, on one level, an American melting pot story about people in two cultures who rise above their differences for the sake of a common good -- two young people in love.

It's not a new story, and maybe one day we'll see it told over again with a bride who is Arab-American.

In the meantime, at the movies at Channelside there's a sign informing us that all bags carried into the theater are subject to being checked.

While this theater is a pretty unlikely target, I'm grateful for any continued vigilance.

The Fourth is over, another State Department alert passed without explosions. So far, so good. But this is the way we live now.

- Sandra Thompson is a writer living in Tampa. She can be reached at City Life appears on Saturday.

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