There are two pieces of music that I would choose to live in if I could. I guess there are three is you count the tv jingle for Bagel Bites, because any world where I can eat pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, and pizza at supper time is a good one. But for reals, of the songs I would choose is the 59th Street Bridge Song by Simon and Garfunkel.
I am more in my element when I can skip through life with as few people as possible tapping their imaginary wristwatches and looking at me with the cocked head “I ain’t getting any younger, you know” look on their face. You probably know that look: raised eyebrows, triple espresso eyes, severe or exaggerated frown. I hate seeing that it as I try hard to keep my life together according to other people’s timelines.
The real world mostly operates in this way, and I’ve tried to fit in but, like Bob Dylan before me, it ain’t me, babe. I’m not as free wheelin’ as Bobby Zimmerman here, but a day I can spend bopping around letting ideas crawl into my lap like affectionate cats is my jam. Throw in some unplanned fun with friends and we are soul mates, that day and me. I want to look for fun; I’d kill to feel groovy.
Schedules and logistics make me feel as fun and groovy as the Internal Revenue Service. Some might say that makes me a child, and they might be right. But maybe there should be some children around to remind us that things are actually really wonderful in the true sense: there is wonder in the world.
So change my address to 59th Street Bridge Song, please and thanks.
My other choice would be “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” which is the theme song from “Cheers” in case you missed the 80s and have never enjoyed re-runs or the Internet. It’s just about the best things I can think of. If you can look me in the eye and tell me that song doesn’t make you a little but happier than you were before it started playing, then I will buy your next beer and shout “Norm” when you enter any room for the rest of time.
There have not been many times in my life when I have been where everybody knows my name, where I am surrounded by people I love and who love me back. As a kid, my reserved family didn’t exactly burst into spontaneous choruses of affection. And many of my young friends and I were a little bit insecure, I think, and while we liked each other I don’t know if there was a lot of love going around.
But then, college. In college, I relaxed a little. I figured out when to be funny and when to be sincere, which helped. Plus, after crushing a cup of wine, the ice of learned inhibitions gave way a bit and I found more ready access to my feelings. I was once told my superpower was going around at parties and telling everyone what their friendship meant to me. The person didn’t mean it as a compliment at the time of telling me this, but I like that power and I’ll use it with great responsibility.
College was a perfect storm: people with a common interest (theatre mostly) working closely together (making theatre mostly) and celebrating often (because theatre) and mourning sometimes (also because theatre) and learning about themselves and other people in a safe, lovely, charming, wintery and summery town. I learned how to love in Bemidji, Minnesota. That is not to say I loved perfectly, selflessly, or even all that well sometimes, but it was a start.
I think of those times, that place, those people often. When I moved to Minneapolis, I fell into some bad times as I mentioned here, back in the first post in this year-long journey. The move was tough. Digging my roots out of such rich soil did not do me so good and I withered a lot for a handful of years. That devil’s brew of shame, narcissism, and acute self-criticism was just a real bitch, if I may be crude. All that time, I missed my lovely people and I was afraid to reach out to them. Some I have not reached out to still, and the shame is that situation is like a serpent eating its own tail and living forever, let me tell you. But I’m working on it. And if you happen to be one of those lovely people, I hope you can imagine how much I miss your friendship and how sorry I am to have let it die.
I feel nostalgia often and easily. There isn’t a word yet for nostalgia for things that are happening around you in the moment. Or maybe there is, but it’s a word I haven’t learned, though I think I might understand its parts: part gratitude, part presence, and part love. I hope there is word for that happening all at once after all, and that someone who finds it can tell me what it is. That would be super neat.
As I get older, I am more aware that despite my efforts to bop around free of a schedule, we live on a timeline after all. Everything is borrowed and not everything can be renewed like that library book we swear we are going to read once we find the time next weekend. Sometimes, the time is up and that’s it.
I am so overwhelmed by the idea that this carousel only goes around once that sometimes I feel like the awareness of it all might just open me up and spill me out into the universe like a bag of marbles. I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. But the combination of forward motion and everything being temporary freaks me out. And I want to use that knowledge for good—I want to be a living vessel of that present nostalgia.
The place I want to start is in my relationships. Lots of big things are happening in the lives of my closest friends: several are now parents, one is getting married this summer, and one is moving away to attend graduate school for three years. All of us converged for a bachelor party weekend, and going into it I was thinking less about early Tom Hanks movies and more about when a time like this, in which we are young, most of our lives still ahead of us and rich with possibilities, most of us about to make choices that will shape our future in huge ways, and all of us still pretty silly would ever happen again. The answer I kept coming up with: never.
This may never happen again. And while the sadness of that would normally do a real Tanya Harding to the kneecaps of my feelings, I tried my hardest to focus on gratitude, on presence, and on love.
And this weekend ended up being one of the best I have ever lived. For a couple of cool and overcast days, I got to live in what might have been a combination of the 59th Street Bridge Song and Where Everybody Knows Your Name. There was a loose itinerary, but the course of the weekend was decided by our whims more than anything. Have you heard the theory that everyone in the world is either an Order Muppet or a Chaos Muppet? Order Muppets are the Kermits of the world, the Berts, the Sam the American Eagles. Chaos Muppets are the Gonzos, the Dr. Teeth, the Rowlfs. I’m a Chaos Muppet, but I don’t get to be one all that often.
It felt incredibly good to wander around, trying things we wanted try among people I really love.
Today, I am hoarse from laughter and from talking. There is a temporary tattoo of a tiger who is just over it on my shoulder. There is one of a rainbow fairy stripper on the shoulder of the bachelor himself, and a tribal half circle on the face of another. We ate much (including the worst Cesar salad I have ever had and the best steak I have ever had). We toasted each other. We each added our own brand of jokes and our own appetites for adventure, and the result is a two and one half days that I wouldn’t sell for any price.
I know I keep coming back to my shame and anxiety issues, but I think I’m finally ready to start writing about them differently. I have been tempted to move into my problems like a hermit crab, to use them as my shell against the world and also as my solitary home. It didn’t get me too far.
I’m ready to break out of that shell at last, because it’s me against the timeline, and I have wonderful things in my life that I have not been enjoying while they are around. The timing of this trip couldn’t have been more perfect.
Well. Everything about it couldn’t have been more perfect.
See you soon, I hope.