The Drive-In, Jill, Genny and a Gay Bar
I was lucky enough to be born at the tail end of an era. My fellow classmates were the last
children of the big families that used to be common place. The city had built a public pool,
but we still swam and played in the local river. Dr. Spock was read by our parents, but
none of them wanted to be their children’s friends. We had Cub Scouts and Little League,
but parents did not want to program our entire day. In fact, in the summers, mothers
generally booted their children out of the house and you were not expected back until
supper. When you got to be a teenager, prom was still a dance, not an expensive social
event, you only had four channels of nothing to watch on television instead of a 152, and
there was the drive-in, in its last dying days.
When I got home from college, it had closed for good. A few years later, I noticed half the
screen had toppled over. But, when the drive-in was in operation, it was the place to be. A
poor view coupled with tinny speakers, half of which had been spliced back together after
people had driven off with them still attached to their car, made it a movie going experience
and the place to take your date.
Okay, you did not go for the movies. You were lucky if you could follow roughly half of
what was happening on the screen. Still, it was the place to be. You have to remember that
we did not have many entertainment options back then. Literally, not figuratively, I think
half my Friday and Saturday nights were spent driving over and over again a little over a
mile loop from the coop to an all night restaurant with a giant statue of a cook holding a
spoon in front of it that talked. If you were lucky, your friends and you had enough money
for cinnamon rolls and enough courage to talk to Becky the waitress who was way out of
One of the few dates I had in high school was with a beautiful blonde named Jill, perhaps
the smartest girl in my class. In a time when no one left high school earlier or built up
college credits when they still could get arrested as a juvenile, she graduated a semester
early and was going to the nearby university. Even when I was dumb, I found smart sexy.
For some unknown reason she thought I was smart too. I tried to assure her I wasn’t, and
I’m not, but she never bought what I was selling. One of the problems with being smart in a
school of dumbasses is you always feel like an outsider. I think that is why we had a
friendship, at least on her side. I was just thrilled a hot chick was talking to me, okay, any
girl was talking to me.
I don’t remember who asked whom out. I know I certainly would not have the courage to
have broached such a subject with her or any other girl at that time. (In order to get my
first date, I had to have my best friend Matt pretend to be me on the phone in order to ask a
girl out. I am not joking. We actually did this several times for more years that I would
admit under oath.) Somehow, it was decided we were going to the drive-in together.
I remember picking her up. Wow, she spent some time getting dressed. She was amazing
looking. Me, I was wearing a white football belt that I had stolen from the school, a dirty
white and red football practice jersey I had stolen from the school that covered a faded
green t-shirt with a caricature of frog with a rainbow behind him giving the hang loose sign,
or the devil’s sign, that I had stolen from the school’s lost and found (even though I knew it
was the property of a guy named Tengu), a pair of broken down wrestling shoes, that used
to belong to one of my brother’s, and blue jeans, which were mine. (How do I remember
this? Because it was one of my three favorite outfits at the time. I also wore a Luther
College gray t-shirt, liberated from my brother’s dresser when he had come home on break,
and a red plastic Luther College wrestling team shirt that was used to help with sweating,
also removed without his permission. As long as I was wearing my football belt, I was
styling. Seriously, I thought I looked cool.) Why Jill did not run screaming back into her
house I will never know.
It was on the way to the drive-in that I found my dog Genny, short for Generic because she
was a black and white Dalmatian. One of the mysteries of my teenage years was for about a
two or three-year period dogs in our neighborhood were disappearing, old dogs, blind
dogs, fat dogs, dogs that would never leave their yard, all disappeared like they were part of
some staggered canine rapture. Neighbors speculated that they were being sold to one of
the university labs, that a sadist was at work, or possibly an unseen mountain lion had
found its hunting ground in our area. Even to this day, I don’t want to know which.
I loved Genny. Most Dalmatians are frantic animals. She was just sweet. Even though my
mom had banned dogs from coming inside the house after the Christmas tree had been
knocked over for the fifteenth or twentieth time, I used to sneak her into my room at night
and let her sleep on my bed with me. She had vanished a week earlier, which had been hard
to believe considering I don’t think she had ever investigated the back pasture, let alone left
On county line road, a rural highway that separated two counties, on the way to the drive-
in, I was practicing my best patter, hoping Jill would suddenly view me as more than the
shmuck that sat next to her in history class, and I am pretty sure that patter included doing
a Long Duk Dong impression from the movie Sixteen Candles and talking about the New
York Yankees, you know the things that ladies like, when I spied Genny running along side
the road. She was a good fifteen miles away from our place. But there she was. Even
without her collar on and going 55 mph, I knew my dog when I saw her. I jammed on the
brakes, opened the door, stood in the middle of that rural highway, and called her name.
She ran at top speed to my black Monte Carlo, jumped in, and gave me an affectionate
greeting that only a dog is able to give. That which had been lost was now found.
I maybe should have taken a moment or two to think about the beautiful Jill in my
passenger seat. It could not have been good for her outfit with all that white shedding hair.
I know Genny’s tail hit her pretty good a few times as it whipped back and forth as the dog
showered me with affection. I am also sure looking at the west end of an eastward pointing
dog could not have been a delightful view for Jill. I thought about asking her to get in the
backseat. I am talking the girl, not the dog. Hindsight’s 20/20, but I am pretty sure even
today I would ask the girl to get in the backseat before the dog. I’m sorry. I have had a lot of
dogs and girlfriends over the years and the worst thing a dog has ever done to me is eat a
hole in the mattress of my waterbed and pee on my lovely comfortable white cushioned
chair. With some of my girlfriends that would have been getting off easy.
People, don’t worry. There were lots of I love yous, hugs and kisses at the drive-in. Again, I
am talking about the dog and me, not the girl. Even in the darkness, I am pretty sure even I
could make out that pained expression on Jill’s face as she realized that she had gotten
dressed to the nines to sit in a car with the biggest loser in the world and his black-and-
white dog that was licking him all over his face and stepping on her in the pooch’s
excitement. And yes, I did try to give her a good night kiss at the end of the evening. I’m
talking the girl this time. Dog slobber germ covered lips, oh, teenage romance. Surprisingly,
she turned her head.
Women, don’t worry. Years later, Jill tried to get me back when I was in college and a
young conservative. We decided to give each other a second chance. She took me to a little
bar in Des Moines that I had never been to before or even heard of for that matter. Slipping
into a back booth, there was something strange about the place, but I could not quite put
my finger on it. She was suddenly extremely affectionate with me, rubbing against me, her
fingers slowly running down my arm to, well, this is a family newspaper. It had the affect
that it was supposed to. I was 21-years-old after all. She leaned over, her warm, moist
breath in my ear, and whispered, “You are probably the only heterosexual male in this
It suddenly dawned on me that I was in a gay bar and, at the same moment, I was looking
eye to eye with one of my old friends playing pool. I stood up like I had been struck by
lighting, probably not the best idea. He quickly informed me that he was there for the
music. I responded, in my usual always loud voice those words that I am sure that every
woman would love to hear, “I assure you that she is not a drag queen.”
I can say with reasonable certainty years later that, yes, my friend was there for the music
and, no, she was not a drag queen. At least, I think. As for Genny, she vanished from our
yard again almost exactly a year later after I found her on the way to the drive-in. I know
that it is impossible but, even decades later, every once in awhile I look out the window of
my car and half hope I see her run down the side of the highway. I’m talking the dog.
Although the girl would not be bad either.