Saturday, July 31, 2010

Remembrance of Remembrance of Things Past

I recently looked through an old notebook. I think it dates from some twenty years ago: dusty history. I was apparently nostalgic for my own past even then. This should be a lesson to me, but is probably not. I will no doubt continue to take long, soapy baths in ill-advised remembrance.

I have had to amend one brief passage, so as to render it suitable for all audiences. And also to respect my own sense of shame. See if you can guess where.

(Illustrated, fittingly, with Robert Frank's "Parade--Hoboken, New Jersey.")


"It was a dream," said John quietly. "Everybody's youth is
a dream, a form of chemical madness."

. . .

"But," inquired John curiously, "who did plan all your wonderful reception rooms
and halls, and approaches and bathrooms -- ?"

"Well," answered Percy, "I blush to tell you, but it was
a moving-picture fella. He was the only man we found who was used to
playing with an unlimited amount of money, though he did
tuck his napkin in his collar and couldn't read or write."

--F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz"

God damn, I wish I had stayed inside my young adulthood, savoring those odd moments--

Think, for instance, of the sunny white bedroom on Bloomfield Street, the fruit crate of books next to the tousled bed (onto which he dumped a mug of tea, damaging the copy of The Americans you had searched out and bought for him as a present, then didn't give him because you decided it was too extravagant, too early). That room, that apartment, seemed to belong to you and him, even if it did not. You spent hours in that bed, you slept late in the day on weekends, then woke to go straight out to dinner. In short, you did what kids all over are doing this very moment as they fall in love, and that you now look back on with horrible unquenchable longing. That will never happen again, you think, and if you had just known you would feel this now, wouldn't you have at least remained aware of its sweet temporariness, aware of the great gift you held in your hand like a magic fountain pouring itself out over your fingers as if the water and its gorgeous coolness would last forever?


John L said...

At that age, people are mostly thinking "What's next?".

ren said...

Every decade that I go through, I am happier and happier that I never have to live through either my twenties or thirties again. Yeah, my joints hurt and my arms have sagged, but I am mentally healthier by knowing myself better.

And, things like tousled beds and doing what you please and having good physical relationships are still possible, still necessary, but filled with greater meaning because we know so much more and are more aware of the meaning of "now." And, equally important is now knowing how much more there is to know, and that is a good reason for looking forward.

To John L: At this age, I'm asking, "What's next to know?"

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

As usual, Ren, you pull me back into the (rich) present. And I can honestly say, in the next breath after the regret & nostalgia, that I am giddily happy when I sense now the true meaning of this grabbing of life with both hands: because it's here, now, and will not be forever. It's a paradox, the relief I feel at that.

I was a roiling mess of unhappiness in my twenties and thirties, and it's a bloody wonder I am still around. So I can now think, "What the hell was all that fuss about??"