Thursday, April 30, 2009

Eternal Spring

Last weekend, New York was treated to a premature summer. Such a dramatic burst of heat (and dry heat, mind you, not humid, like it’d been imported from the California desert or something with just enough faint Santa Ana-like winds for it to feel haunting) that before you knew it the City was in full-summer sensuality mode. Walking around the streets, you couldn’t help but be struck by the endless carnival of human beauty: one gorgeous, expertly-coiffed, fat-free, cocoa-buttered person after another strolling by seemingly unencumbered by anything but the care of their own good looks. It was hard not to stare, it was hard not to feel like some kind of combination of troll and vampire, it was hard not to feel titillated and not worthy at the same time, it was hard not to feel pained somehow by the beauty as far as the squinting eye could see, it was hard not to enjoy it but feel hollow in the too early summer sun as part of you wished you still had a parka to hide all your failures and dashed expectations under.

Everyone talks about winter being the difficult season but after this weekend that gave me pause, maybe its spring. It dawned on me that to be faced with another renaissance, another renewal, another rebirth was to be confronted with the realization that your springs are not eternal (to embrace a cliché), and that difficult recognition unleashes an exquisite panic. You know the one, right? It’s the “life is passing me by”/ “What is this existence, this life thing?” anxiety. Or as Diana Ross, the ultimate Supreme, sang to herself in Mahogany “Do you know where you’re going to, do you like the things that life is showing you, where are you going to, do you know?” Skin barred, sun blazing, green buds sprouting, winter weather long gone and the natural obstacle of cold weather no longer a factor in the daily struggle, the answer seemed to be “FUCK NO”!

The weather in the City has returned to its normal 60-degree type spring fare. Summer has been temporarily staved off and jackets and boots are back on but we all know that it won’t be long till the halter tops are de-rigueur and the Greek Gods come out from under their sweaters to parade the streets with us mortals. The smallness of my life will, no doubt, be all too readily illuminated by the summer sun but by then the humidity will have kicked in and we’ll all be sweating - a reminder that perfection, like spring, is hardly eternal and as Shakespeare might have said, sweating his balls off on the streets of Manhattan under thousands of heat blowing air-conditioners “conscience doth make cowards of us all.” Conscience might not but spring in New York certainly does.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Diminished Returns

In the months since I last posted (months, I tell ya, months) the American financial system has undergone the equivalent of a heart transplant. I happen to live in the place where its undergone surgery. In other words, I live in the rotten heart -- New York City. It's been a strange few months, to say the least. On the one hand, 2009 started out with this kind-of glorious optimism: the end of 8 years of unimaginable Bush era malaise, mendacity and mediocrity and the beginning of the Obama years. His inaguration day seemed like something out of a fiction, a mixture of extreme promise and hopefulness and sheer relief: it felt like the war had ended and all that was missing was a ticker-tape parade and a sailor kissing a girl on a corner.

Well, the fiction has ended now and the reality has set in and we have to trudge, slog, or as Churchill said, "muddle through" what everyone is calling "the new hard times". I am part of a generation that is not the "muddle through" kind. Again, I know I speak to a particular class and, to an extent, race. Most of my friends were not born in extreme poverty, the kind that has to muddle through no matter what returns their parents are getting on their 401k's because their parents never had them to begin with.

I am fortunate enough to have a day job right now which I am grateful for while at the same time resenting which is an odd juxtaposition. I have an ego and ambition, I imagine for myself a fully creative life one day that is not subject to performing administrative duties for others, for pay. But, all around me I have friends who are unemployed, getting laid off, borrowing money from parents and now they are forced to wait. All the while, we tell ourselves and each other that this is only temporary, because deep down despite our cultivated disaffectation, we feverishly believe or hope that the American Dream, as it were, is just laying dormant right now, and that, we too, will be rewarded for working hard, if and when the chance to do so comes back.