Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I awoke and paused until my dreams had settled like a dew.

I'll work backwards, gingerly. Delving careful. First there was a moment, just passed. And then my drowsy evening. And with its lazy reading. I'll progress to the ride back home from work, but first honor digression.

It's funny that the Jazz Age has become a symbol of the old. Anytime anyone on TV or anywhere wants to evoke old-fashionedness, old-timeyness, and all the rest of it, well, it's flappers flappin' and big, ol' cars splashin' through the streets, honking horns; people walkin' herky-jerky, speeded-up like Keystone Cops, antlike & funny at the feet of a looming Art Deco monolith. You see that and your button's been pushed: You recognize the old. But of course it should represent the new. Is there anything newer, in fact, than that era, in which we were catapulted most vigorously and unambiguously into the future? In which life really did accelerate, and society changed down to its every recess, transforming art, religion, politics and sex? And yet we see a grainy, shaky newsreel from back then, its stentorian narrator relating some catastrophic disaster at sea plus lawn tennis results – the birth of our absurdity – and we think, Aw, how quaint, the old. Really, the old should be, say, 1840. I mean, take your pick, of course, yesterday is yesterday. But why not a time before industry, before mass media, before emancipation and before trains? Not just before the war; before the wars. Now that's fucking old. But the reason we aim squarely for the new when we think "old" is very simple. The early 20th century was the first period to be recorded by that automatic metaphor we all adore: the movies. Film changed the way we saw and thought about the world, the way we experienced time and history, and thereby started it anew. And this world was so new it must now be consigned to antiquity. The timeline's been redrawn to its right. It is the new antiquity, the new Year Zero, the new Genesis. In the beginning was the lights, camera, action.

I gave a young woman directions to Little Italy before I went down to the train. I hope I didn't get her lost. She was standing there in her glasses, and her little sister there beside her, with her glasses too, and I couldn't decide which one to look at for a moment.