June 08, 2006

A burger and a movie, or channeling my inner-teenager (Red Robin, San Jose)

Occasionally, I need a kick in the butt to remind me that the teenage years about which I often wax nostalgic are not *all* about high school girls with clear-skinned smiles.

In my world, that butt-kick comes in the form of playing Auntie Mame to a couple of the teens in our lives. Young ladies who remind me that beyond the hair that changes color and style more often than the seasons, under the pierced and perforated but not yet tattooed exterior, there's awe, wonder and more than a little bit of fear about the world around them and where and how they fit into it.

In return for the butt-kicking, I offer them the same escape/support mechanisms that worked for me at that age. A shoulder to cry on. An adult who'll listen to them without providing unwanted judgment or advice -- a sounding board off which they can bounce their thoughts and hopefully reach their own conclusions. And an honest acknowledgement that sometimes there are no answers -- easy or otherwise. That, and a burger and a movie.

This month's feature: Over the Hedge - A mis-matched family animated animals adjusting to the suburban sprawl that invaded their habitat during their hibernation. Some brilliant voice casting includes Bruce Willis as RJ the con-artist-raccoon and William Shatner as Ozzie the over-dramatic opossum. It's rare for a movie to live up to the description "family film" as well as this one does. There's a message about our interaction with the environment, but they don't beat you over the head with it. There's a simple but engaging plot. And it's hysterical -- with layers of humor appropriate for all ages.

Since a late meeting at work meant we didn't have time to grab dinner before the movie, we ventured in a direction I typically avoid in a theater: the snack bar. Hmmm. Twenty bucks for a super-sized *and* refillable bucket of popcorn and two large sodas. I can feel my arteries hardening. We opted for a small bag of unbuttered popcorn and a couple of $3 bottles of water. It wasn't refillable, but since it tasted like stale styrofoam neither of us were anxious for more.

After the movie we hiked across the parking lot to one of my favorite high school haunts: Red Robin.

We threw caloric caution to the wind and ordered the Whiskey River BBQ Burger -- a jumbo cheeseburger smothered in BBQ sauce and topped with crispy onion straws in addition to the standard burger-veggies. Washed that down with a new item on the menu: Very Berry Raspberry Limeade. Despite the proliferation of fruit names in the title, I suspect there's not a whole-fruit in the ingredient list (and counting high fructose corn syrup as a veggie is a bit of a stretch).

We sat back and stretched our legs as my friend shared her story, the good and the bad, her happiness and sorrow, the things that excite her, the things that scare her.

The themes?


As she spoke I was surprised to hear a lot of my seventeen-year-old-self in her voice. Twenty years later and here I am, snacking on french fries pondering the world through teenage eyes. I sink a little deeper in my seat on my side of the table, grateful for the perspective and the life experience that comes over time.

I don't have any answers for her. And that's okay. What I provide as I share some of my story in return is the realization is that she will get through where she is, finding her own answers along the way. That twenty years from now, she'll be sitting at a table much like this, having spent $75 on movies and popcorn, listening to and learning from another young lady struggling to find her place in the world.

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