Garth Brooks will be performing in my little hometown of Alliance, Neb. at the end of the month.

Sort of.

The world-famous country superstar is performing in a live concert that is being broadcast to 300 drive-in movie theaters, including the Sandhills Drive-In located just outside my hometown.

Who would have thought that drive-in movie theaters would be making a comeback? It takes a coronavirus to make the old seem new again.

I practically grew up at the drive-in. During the summers – you must understand Western Nebraska winters to know that the drive-in was only open during the summer – my best friend, Steve Britten, and I spent Wednesday nights and Saturday nights at the drive-in. Steve’s parents owned it, so Steve and I got in for free. We got to freeload at the snack bar, too.

Oh, the memories. Back then, it was called the Starlite and the drive-in didn’t show trendy first-run movies but lots of older, black-and-white thriller and detective movies. That is when I fell in love with those film noir movies that are so popular now.

I guess there are some good things that have come out of this coronavirus thing. The rise of the “drive-in.” Another is Zoom. If you have kids, they are probably all “Zoomed out” and itchin’ to get back in the classroom. For us older folks, Zoom is better than Facebook for keeping in touch with family that you don’t see much because they’re up there and we’re way down here.

Sister-in-law, Theresa, was Zooming with her two daughters so, when none of us could travel to the University of California-Irvine to watch our nephew, Chris, get hooded for his Ph.D. in statistics, “Zooming” just came naturally.

UC-Irvine canceled the graduation ceremonies anyway, so nephew Chris sent an email link to the family. We all watched the hooding ceremonies first and Chris got his six seconds of fame when his photo and degree flashed up on the pre-recorded screen. Then we got down to the real reason for gathering in front of our laptops. 

Time to Zoom-unicate.

We spanned the globe, well, the United States: Alliance, Neb.; Rapid City, S.D.; DeSoto, K.S.; Bethlehem, P.A.; Oklahoma City, O.K.; Kettering, O.H.; and Irvine, Calif. And Kingwood, of course.

It was a lot like the Brady Bunch opening. Each of us with our own little box and our name at the bottom. OK. It sounded more like that great old television game show, “Hollywood Squares.” 

First, we congratulated nephew Chris for the incredible accomplishment of earning his doctorate and writing his dissertation about “Statistical Methods for the Forensic Analysis of User-Event Data.” We all gave him a few minutes to explain exactly what that was.

And then we visited. At the same time. All 18 of us. There may have been more. I lost count. We got caught up on life during a pandemic. We got to see Jack and Leo, two of the cutest great-grandkids ever. 

And now I learn that Zoom has a beautification filter that “… smooths out your skin and makes your face look more polished and unblemished …” kind of like Doris Day in one of her 1960s romcoms. 

Naturally, nephew Chris had to show off his ability to change backgrounds. Another Zoom feature. He was in the mountains for a while. Then at the beach. Then at the office. Super cool.

And Zoom obviously knows our family. Midway into the reunion, Zoom posted that they were giving us unlimited time. Normally, I am told, you get 40 minutes. Frankly, it takes our family 40 minutes to say good-bye.

Zoom and similar apps are making quite a change in how we interact. Of course, there is nothing quite like seeing Jack and Leo, the cutest great grandkids ever, in person but it isn’t always possible, even if there were not a pandemic going on. 

Weddings, baptisms, birthday parties, funerals. Because we all live everywhere, it is a terrific way to never miss any special event. And now that I know how to look “polished and unblemished,” we will never have to miss another event just because we look a little flawed.

Now if I could just get one of the relatives to Zoom Garth Brooks when he performs at the Sandhills Drive-In.

Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.

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