Empire State

empire_state

midtown from downtown

I was out with my friend Frankie the other night. It was just the two of us after a show, which was itself after a party, so it was more-or-less the inevitable time just before you call it quits and find a cab home. We were at a bar. Some Williamsburg special with cut up playing cards festooning the tables. It wasn’t our first choice, but it was out of the cold and we could hear ourselves over the pulse of the jukebox.

“One day, I’m going to miss this,” Frankie told me. It was a thought that had come to him the night previous while walking home in Bayside, so late it was morning. It wasn’t, he explained, just a thought that struck him because he was walking home or because of the train ride before that (or the midnight movie before that); instead it was a strange awareness that passed over him, a pre-emptive nostalgia for being young and in New York. A knowledge that some day all of this will be over.

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Back to the Keyboard.

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Grand piano guy at Washington Square Park

It’s Sunday at noon and I’ve been in the library for about an hour already.  I don’t know how I’m supposed to concentrate when there is so much blue sky outside the window, but I couldn’t bear to go down into the bowels of Bobst, where there is no sense of time and even your directional orientation is only a trick of architecture.

Today is reverently cloudless.  The kind of blue that reminds me of summer days in California when I used to roam through the dead canyons to the strawberry fields, or cross the tiny trickle of a creek that ran adjacent to our disgustingly uniform housing development.  There is an idyllic quality to my memories of California now, not just for the gorgeous stoop of flowering trees or the joys of being fifteen and surrounded by the most friends I’ve ever had in my life, but because my parents were still alive then, and my sister and I shared a room with sky-blue walls and secrets.

We had an old Yamaha piano that none of us could play properly, but I don’t think I can separate the sound of my sister practicing on it from any part of my childhood.  Pachelbel was just making a comeback and I wasn’t yet sick of hearing her play it.  Music from the Amelie soundtrack was another favorite: so cool and French, an escape from the unrelenting cheerfulness of life outside.

Pianos.  I can’t get away from them.  My mother, apparently, took lessons specifically while I was in the womb.  She remembered as little from them as I did.

I miss her.  I miss Dad, too.  I miss Dad in a different way: because it has been longer, I guess.  Because I never felt like he hung around much more than his allotted two weeks afterwards.  But I miss driving with him at night: our paper route that wove among those haciendas lit up in the darkness.  I miss seeing Calavera at night, with its massive hill overlooking a city turned into fairy lights.  I miss making up stories for them.  I miss Dad driving in the dark, 10 miles an hour as I tried to hit driveways but miss cars.

There was one night when, going down Chestnut, we stopped at a stop sign for thirty seconds too long.  “Sorry,” my dad said finally, shaking his head.  “I was waiting for it to turn green.”

Take me back to those days please, when I was a bookishly smart teenager with the universe’s nerdiest glasses perched on my nose and two parents and a sister and played the cello badly and was on the JV academic league and paid no thought to life after debt other than maybe having unreasonable aspirations of being an architect and literally building the world.

It’s no good to wish for it.  Time can be stupidly linear when you least expect it.  You were forced to grow older, and change into the girl you are now: the one who should be writing about censorship because she actually cares passionately about it, the one who in twenty-five minutes will head to a practice room and, with a classmate, pound out seventh chords on yet another Yamaha piano in an attempt to imprint the intangible into her mind.

Pianos.  We’re still at pianos and a sky blue with secrets.  Life is like the world, in the same way time resembles space. They both aren’t that big at all. Or rather, they are large but repetitive, baffling but stupidly beautiful.