Goodbye to all that

I just read Joan Didion’s essay Goodbye to All That. Or reread it? I can’t remember. Which probably means I hadn’t read it before, though with my memory…

It’s an interesting time for me to read an essay about New York, and about youth. The former is advancing rapidly (6 months to the move!), and the latter is receding dreamily (remember when you didn’t have to make plans with friends two weeks ahead of time to get to see them, because we all just went out all the time?). 

I loved this passage:

All I ever did to that apartment was hang fifty yards of yellow theatrical silk across the bedroom windows, because I had some idea that the gold light would make me feel better, but I did not bother to weight the curtains correctly and all that summer the long panels of transparent golden silk would blow out  the windows and get tangled and drenched in afternoon thunderstorms. That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every word, all of it.

The first thing I did in my first apartment in San Francisco was hang curtains, albeit cheap blue sheer fabric from the local craft store on Haight Street. Yellow would have made the fog seem even eerier to me than it already did, that first fall in San Francisco.

But. My point was going to be about irrevocability. Didion says 28 was the year it became clear to her; for me it was 30. That was the year I started to notice wrinkles around my eyes, weight around my hips, and aches in my knees. I got engaged, I stopped sleeping like a stone dropped to the bottom of a pond, and I lost my taste for boozing my Friday nights away. I started to realize those extra beers and bummed cigarettes would add up. I saw friends plan children and house purchases. The wonderful promise of my 20s would not be kept, I realized, as I guess everyone does. (Or those lucky enough to have a wonderful time in their 20s, anyway.)

Didion’s New York is my San Francisco. Moving away, for me, feels like two things at once: an acceptance that those times are over, that actions have consequences and we all must grow up in our own way; but it also feels like a leap, a hope that maybe we’re all wrong about that and the feeling of being suspended in midair between the present and the future can be maintained. Maybe irrevocability isn’t inevitable. We can hope, can’t we? Maybe. Or maybe not.

I talk about how difficult it would be for us to “afford” to live in New York right now, about how much “space” we need, All I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore.

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