Rolling With the Tropic: The Personal History of David Copperfield

By Ian Brockway

5/5 (1)

Under gray skies from Tropical Storm Gamma, I set out for the Tropic Cinema. My thoughts were on the strangeness of our country, political division and Trump contracting the virus. But when I looked down the lane and saw the sun come out, I was on my way.

I put my chair in gear, carrying iced coffee. The street was quiet but I hit bump after bump. The coffee was sloshing all over my seat. I thought of the film “The Sorcerer” where a truck carried nitroglycerin across a desert.

A dead bird fell right next to my wheels and was followed by a hectic golf cart in Mardi Gras colors. I recalled reading about birds dropping from the sky. Thank heaven for movies.

One or two people passed me. It seemed as if Duval Street was a sparse outer land as it had been in the 1970s. I crossed the bumpy sidewalk into the Tropic, a sanctuary, careful not to spill another drop.

I moved into the lobby and then the theater itself, dark and comforting. I settled into my space, six feet apart from another Tropic regular who cackled, already anticipating All Hallow’s Eve. On-screen was “The Personal History of David Copperfield” starring Dev Patel. I watched Copperfield’s picaresque wanderings, his scary run-in with Mr. Murdstone (Darren Boyd) and his adventures with Mr. Micawber (Peter Capaldi) and the zany Mr. Dick (Hugh Laurie). I thought of the tradition of the Gothic and how much the dark madcap weirdness of “David Copperfield” reminded me of Roald Dahl.

As I watched the young man scamper here and there, I saw Uriah Heep (Ben Whishaw) snarl and spit at the hero in clear violation of social distancing. I sipped my coffee thinking of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Jaws,” blockbusters of the past when screaming in the movies was a usual occurrence.

Giggling at this film’s entertaining hijinks, I set off home. Down the street I saw a young man, high on Key West and partying, twitching his arms and legs around and shouting. I took the opposite side of the street home thinking of empty streets and black and white horror films especially Vincent Price in “I am Legend.” I pushed all dark thoughts from my mind and greatly looked forward to the upcoming Bill Murray film “On The Rocks” showing next week.

After all, it wasn’t Halloween just yet.

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