The Blockbuster on Northern Lights is closing. That means that there are four Blockbusters left in the state. While that number is higher than the rest of the nation, it is inevitably dwindling.
From 1997, the time my family moved to Alaska, until just last week, I went to either the Northern Lights or Debarr Blockbuster most every Friday. At that time, my family was poor. Blockbuster was a weekly luxury we saved for. My mother was struggling with alcoholism and, as such, we didn’t leave the house much. The world around me, too often, felt closed. Connecting with people was, and still is, hard. Connecting with movies, however, was easy.
So, on Friday, we rented movies. As a young boy, I was afraid to go through the metal detectors. They towered over me, threatening in a strange way, but when my mom or dad calmly urged me through them, the smell of popcorn on the other side erased any fears I had. At that point, it felt like the world had opened up.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s an immense privilege to be alive in the Netflix era. All it takes to find a movie is desire and a search engine, but that convenience comes at a price: there’s no sense of discovery.
In Blockbuster, there were only so many aisles to browse, so you took chances. The DVD cover alone, and what review blurbs were on it were the determining factors. While that’s not a healthy philosophy to live by, it was perfect for Blockbuster. Now, freshly separated from my longtime girlfriend, I’ve entered a time of transition. So, too, has Blockbuster.
Ironically, the store’s now busier than ever. Returning to take advantage of the closing sale, I was one of many waiting outside for the store to open.
I walked through the metal detectors one last time, feeling as small as I did years ago. Instead of popcorn I smelled plastic, faint whiffs of old candy. People milled about, baskets of DVDs in hand. Even when my own basket was loaded, I didn’t want to leave.
In those aisles, I felt the pangs of nostalgia. Blockbuster is more than just a movie store, it is my childhood. I spent countless hours browsing its contents with my mom, dad, and brother. After two hours, I left. 23 DVDs and two shirts in hand, I realized that I was saying goodbye not just to Blockbuster, but to my childhood. And I couldn’t help but feel that both were gone too soon.