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In 1986, one of the most iconic films of our generation hooked me. Wrong.

I thought Top Gun was exciting and fun. But it happened to remind me incredibly of my wonderful early years. I knew these guys.

No, I didn’t know Tom Cruise or Val Kilmer or Anthony Edwards, the actors who played the main roles. But I knew who they were playing: the partying, misbehaving Navy jet jockeys populating all the fun spots in San Diego, the location of the movie.

My late husband was a Navy pilot based at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, just across the bay from downtown San Diego. Many readers know that I was a flight attendant for a dozen years. Our romance began at one of those exuberant pilot parties – an evening to remember. Three years later, we merged our two sets of wings. No wonder our aviation genes eventually produced a Navy pilot.

Our son fell in love with the airplane scene at an early age. While on a history vacation that included Annapolis, our boy decided he was going to the Naval Academy. He was eight years old. Seeing Top Gun at age eleven determined what he would do after graduation. This film proved to be a huge recruiting tool for naval aviation in the late 80s.

I certainly understood why. The film featured the handsome, all-American pilots strutting around. I’ve never known a group – anywhere – that dominated a social scene like Coronado’s lieutenants. Or had so much fun. And Top Gun captured it – from arrogance to camaraderie. It was fascinating for me to watch him in real life and amazing to see him portrayed on screen.

So you can imagine that I wasn’t going to miss the new movie Top Gun: Maverick.

I visited my daughter and my family at the end of May. They had purchased tickets online for the opening night of the new Top Gun on May 27. I was leaving on May 23. Devastated, I was tempted to stay. To make matters worse, they were going to see it at an Imax theater. My “local” Imax is in Williamsville, New York – 101 miles.

When I got home, I wanted to see the movie as soon as possible, just like Dear Richard. By the time we coordinated our schedules, the movie had left Warren. I checked out Jamestown and sure enough it was still there. Phew!

I decided to be super savvy and order our tickets online, just to save time. Big mistake.

The Jamestown screening was at the Lakewood Cinema, not the Chautauqua Mall. So, I simply googled: Lakewood Cinema Top Gun, and it took me straight to the website. When I first checked I thought the afternoon show time was 3:15. The Lakewood site now showed 3pm and I brilliantly put that aside, assuming I either misremembered or they had changed it.

I selected the seats, paid with PayPal and printed out both my receipt and the QR code which I knew would be scanned at the theater. My daughter does all of this with her cell phone, but I was still happy with myself.

I presented the flyer when we arrived at the theater. I noticed they scanned it multiple times and kept turning the page from a different angle. He did not scan. “It’s not for our theater” said the attendant. I was spoiled. The movie was about to start.

We took a closer look and it said Lakewood AMC Cinema in the Lakewood Mall. I hadn’t thought of the Lakewood Cinema as a mall. But oops, it’s not an AMC theater either.

Oh man. Nobody knew anything about a local AMC theater, because of course there isn’t. We left to understand. We finally realized that I had bought tickets for Top Gun; Maverick playing at the Lakewood Cinema in Lakewood, Washington, near Tacoma. I somehow knew we weren’t going to make it, even with the 3 hour time difference.

After shopping and eating we returned for the 6pm show. And it was worth it.

In fact, I think this sequel was more exciting than the original. My son-in-law has one of those all-purpose Apple Watches. As he watched Maverick, his watch vibrated, alerting that his heartbeat was considerably elevated, despite him sitting still. When I left, I understood why. I was exhausted, the adrenaline rush had spread from my toes to my scalp.

“The boys” in the new movie are good, but not like the original. At 60, Tom Cruise still has “This.” I’m sure his plastic surgeon is on retainer and he’s the best in the world. But you can’t fake those abs on the beach volleyball stage. And his maddening and awkward smile? The same.

San Diego, Tom Cruise, death-defying flight, adventurous plot – all on a summer day. Be calm my heart… if it is possible.

Marcy O’Brien can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com

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