Normally when Carrie Bradshaw, all poufs and ringlets, shows up on my TV, I leap for the remote. But when Sexo en Nueva York came on the small screen at my rental apartment in San Sebastian, I let the program unfold. What held my click finger at bay was the shock at how dated this episode was. If I was understanding Spanish correctly, Carrie was only 30, and wearing a spandexy Forever 21 type dress without a bra, the Twin Towers figured prominently in the background and Mr. Big was yammering on a cell the size of a shoebox (Manolos, of course).
The next morning I woke up groggy from the time difference and baffled to see via Twitter that Obama was dead? Ok, the classic S to B slip. This didn’t induce instant patriotism. (A few nights earlier when every patron in every pintxo bar was glued to the Copa del Rey on TV, I did have the urge to yell, “That’s not football!” and hightail it out the door while chanting “USA, USA!”) However, it did create an unexpected gush of relief as if I had been holding my breath for the past ten years. I didn’t even know I cared. In September 2001, I complained of being sweaty and nervous at my doctor’s office and she assumed the obvious, “Do you think that has something to do with 9/11?” I did not think so (I still don’t really and have continued to be sweaty and nervous). For a day, though, last Sunday, I felt light an earnest like the world had changed and I was going to, too. Just naturally.
The second I landed in NYC, I became defreshed, a black blob (more gray now—I started writing this a few days ago). Vacations often have an opposite effect, but this has been extreme. It’s the internet, too much social media, catching up on a week’s worth of “news” in one sitting. I’m now glum and acutely aware of others in ways that never bothered me before. And all of a sudden, now, everyone is looking back. How far we've come, how much has changed, this amazing world we now live in, hard work pays off. Though probably not true, it seems that everyone (and by everyone I mostly mean strangers and acquaintances I see doing things online) is changing and growing. It’s as if the entire universe got amazing new jobs, book deals, columns, awards and/or published things I’ve thought about but have no time to research, hone and write because I work all day and am stagnant and regressing (they also all got engaged, married and had babies this week, but that doesn’t work on me). That I can barely (or that I’m doing it at all) articulate my experiences above a Live Journal-esque level only proves this point.
(I believe a pendulum has swung. In the late ‘90s I blathered personal details about myself and others with abandon because no one was searching. Slowly, I began to be busted and becoming relatively respectable online seemed important. But lately, I’m noticing that people—at least in circles that I montior; those near strangers and acquaintances—are more self-absorbed than at any point in history. I am, too. There’s just too much online noise. People only notice what they and a tight group of friends are doing. Who has time for discovery? In a way this is freeing for the self-conscious like myself. No one gives a shit what I do; therefore I can say and do anything that I want with no repercussion. The only way that people get here is through my link on Goodies First, and I do warn the poor readers. Well, they also show up from sic, sic searches like “how to make no fat juse,” “spoiler alewrt in dear john” and MATURE SCHOOLBUS DRIVER-FEMALE PORN.COM )
I could be losing it. This is something that I’ve thought about recently and came to the conclusion that I’m too old, responsible and security-driven to let myself go, but what if it’s not a conscious transformation? I don’t imagine that most individuals who completely break from reality are aware they’ve crossed over. (I watched "Life is wasted on…people" Greenberg again last night and forgot that he had been in a hospital for a “nervous breakdown.” What does that even mean? It’s like the vapors or hysteria, but not gout, which is very real and on a comeback.) It only occurred to me this weekend (when treated very oddly by a few people at a party—acquaintances and near strangers—who I’ve done nothing to offend) that I might already be crazy and not know it.
It’s so easy to detect in others, those completely oblivious to their unstable, repellent nature. I thought I was a savvy observer, functioning fine while scoffing at the un-self-aware. It’s just dawning on me that I may be one of them.
Going two ways has always been a possibility. (It’s too late to go the ‘70s working-class single mom route that I’ve always found appealing.) One, the most likely, would be turning full-on recluse. I already don’t return phone calls and am getting worse about email. I wouldn’t do it holed up in a shack, though, I just wouldn’t leave my apartment. And I would never be violent. More Marwencol than Unibomber.
The other route would be to just spiral into a permanent stupor where you can no longer function in society where getting up and leaving the house doesn’t matter because you don’t have one. Read The Orange Eats Creeps, a fetid cut-up, mossy, mushroom fiction, ostensibly about runaway, teenage vampire junkies in Oregon in the ‘90s. There’s something very freeing about being a fuck-up, though I would catch myself and be more of a Nurse Jackie. When my mom and her husband were telling me about his sister’s methed-out high speed El Camino chase, I thought, well, that’s one path.
A few Fridays ago, in transit from Manhattan to Brooklyn I got mad for reasons I can’t even remember. Back in Carroll Gardens, I stomped off the subway, got aggravated at James’ slowness off, up the stairs and onto the sidewalk. He wasn’t even in eyeshot behind me. I took off for no good reason to the bar that used to be Lido on the other side of the BQE. I remembered it as being a serious bar, not for babies or condo-dwellers, though not as townie (if there is such a thing in Brooklyn) as nearby Moonshine.
First, I sipped a gin and tonic at the bar, playing with my phone, ignoring both small clumps of people on either side, one who I imagined were limo drivers, the others like aged college kids who still enjoy grunge. A young couple came in, took a seat at table in the dark, hollow space and left promptly after one drink.
“Girl in the blue shirt! Hey, come dance!” It was green. I shook my head no. I did dance, reluctantly at first, to Rio, with a bespectacled gentleman born in the ‘60s sadsacking at the jukebox, dancing alone. By the time Goody Two Shoes came on, I was hamming it up, “pretending that you’re Al Green, Al Green.” Then, I bonded with a guy over how we used to have to order records through the mail and when you wanted to discuss cool music you looked for penpals in the back of magazines.
I stopped after three cocktails (that number, give or take, was already in my system when I arrived) bummed a cigarette and went home. But one kind of me would’ve drank till closing, wandered the streets, gone home with strangers. I know better, but what if one day I don’t? It’s not pretty when you’re over 30.
While catching up with the internet the past few days, I also soldiered through the pile-up in the DVR queue. Liz Lemon saw her mortality in a plastic bag caught in a tree. When I first saw American Beauty, I was bothered by the attractiveness of the supposedly wacko kid who filmed gliding plastic bags. Now, he has aged into something better. Saturday, at a party, the aforementioned one, I discussed the difference between Portland weirdos and NYC weirdos. NYC weirdos are still concerned about their appearance. You do not want to fuck a Portland weirdo. Nothing could be less sexy. I admire their dedication.