I met my wife for the first time in Creative Leisure. I had gone to Creative Leisure to rent a move that had just come out - it may have been "Shaun of the Dead," or "Kill Bill," or some other cult classic from the early 2000s - and I had just rented the last copy in stock. This cute girl and a couple of her friends came in and asked Rick Linie if he had any copies left of the very movie in my hands.
An awkward kid barely out of his teens, I said something stupid like "Nyah nyah, I've got the last one," rather than being suave and inviting some lovely women to have a movie night.
Samantha doesn't remember this incident, because we weren't properly introduced to each other until several years later in college. But it's one of many memories I have from the coolest store in Havre.
Creative Leisure will be closing its doors this fall after nearly 20 years of business in Havre. To be honest, it's nearly a miracle it stayed open into the year 2014, long after the death of national music, movie and book chains like Blockbuster and Borders. It's hard to compete for movie rentals when a robot the size of a refrigerator can spit out new releases on DVD for a dollar. It's hard to compete for music when a computer or cellphone can stream it online for free.
Sixteen or 17 years ago - I was still a teenager, didn't have a driver's license yet - while wandering through the store looking for a movie to rent, I stopped in front of a rack of VHS tapes labeled "Cult Classics." One box cover jumped out at me, a copy of "Akira," a Japanese animated science fiction movie from the 1980s.
Like most kids in rural America before the Internet, my cultural knowledge was mostly defined by top-40 radio, big-budget blockbusters and network television. "Akira" was a revelation, and led me to further exploration of Creative Leisure's "Cult Classics" rack: Kung Fu movies, indie art flicks, subtitled foreign films, low-budget horrors and comedies and mind-expanding documentaries. It would not be a stretch to say that the inventory choices of Mike Hamilton and Rick Linie had a huge influence on my artistic tastes growing up.
I know I'm not alone: How many Havre kids developed a love of punk rock or classic blues by browsing Creative Leisure's music? How many recommendations have its employees given out over the years, pushing people down new creative paths, inspiring and cultivating a love of film and music? How many aspiring filmmakers and musicians have they influenced?
The end of Creative Leisure's business model might be inevitable, one more bump in the road of progress. I have to admit, I stream music online all the time, I watch tons of TV and movies on Netflix, I order obscure items off of Amazon when I can't find them locally. Kids these days - I must be getting old - are born with the totality of human culture and art at their digital fingertips and aren't limited to the local radio station and basic cable. But for people of a certain age, the Internet can't fully replace the value of a passionate human who uses their love and knowledge of a subject to guide others to new experiences. Thanks, Mike. Thanks, Rick.
(Caleb Hutchins is design editor for the Havre Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)