31 March 2011

On an issue in my 60s

On my recent visit to the Upper West Side in New York I was struck by the number of young people I observed walking in the street, dining at the plethora of restaurants and trendy eating establishments that have sprouted like crocus in Central Park in the early Spring. What counts as the newest rage in New York in culinary tastes predicts what will become popular in the hinterlands, and I like to know what is coming my way. When I left New York in 1990 Mexican restaurants were the latest rage and here it is twenty years later and my small town is overpopulated with Mexican restaurants! New York, not really part of America, nevertheless sets the style for it as far as I am concerned, and it makes me happy to know what is soon due here in the real world.  Alas, I wasn’t in New York long enough to get a good sense of the zeitgeist in eating predilections, and I didn’t really make it very far out of the Upper West Side to get a firmer sense of what might be coming down the highways next, but I ate out every night with the dearest of friends (fortunately all my age save one), and so enjoyed the company so well that I didn’t notice the particular restaurant at which we dined. Indeed, one restaurant at which I dined with Renee she chose specifically because the clientele tended to the older crowd and we didn’t feel out of place. Every one drank their beers out of glasses into which the beer had been poured rather than from bottles lifted awkwardly to their lips. 
But these young people sat in groups and restaurants in the bars in the after hours. They were, I suspect, all in their 30s, and they were all quite sophisticated and certainly beautiful. Whether they were, indeed, the former I never learned well, but that they were the latter I had no doubt. They wore comfortably the newest fashion styles that lay on their bodies as if the streets were runways at the most recent fashion show and they the hired models displaying only the most au courant styles. Indeed, as I gazed about me at all of this beauty I wondered where was everyone else in the world. I wondered where I might be found! Indeed, as I sat I felt quite invisible. No one turned to look at my entrance, and certainly not at my presence. I occupied a seat but I took up no space. 
When I lived in New York City I was in my thirties, and I loved to walk the streets of the City, to pop into and out of all manners of establishmentseating and drinking establishments, book stores, cinema houses, even a clothing store every now and then. I had presence, or so I liked very much to believe. I was vain as perhaps a thirty-something might be in New York City surrounded as we were by images of ourselves everywhere on the streets, in the stores and on the billboards and advertisements that covered New York City halls and walls. All about me were people of my own agethirty-somethings all engaged in similar meanderings and posturings. We felt not only present but ubiquitous, as well. We were the world, indeed. And then I didn’t see people in their fifties and sixties, the latter the age at which I have now reached. 
And I knew intuitively that in New York back then in my thirties, that to me those who had reached the age at which I was now were invisible to me even as I am invisible to those who are now at the age I was then. 
Is it that youth does not recognize age, or that age doesn’t feel recognized by youth? 
One night—it was a Wednesday, in factI attended a concert at Alice Tully Hall and there we all wereall of us over thirty-somethings out for an enlightened evening of CPE Bach, while across the street the Allman Brothers were playing their annual week of concerts at the Beacon Theater. I wanted to be noticed by those attending that other show, but felt very comfortable to be ensconced in my mezzanine seat listening to a wonderful performance of Bach’s Cello Concerto, surrounded by people who dressed a lot like me, who sat rapt and quiet with their wizened hands on their chins, their eyes sometimes closed (even sometimes nodding off), and knowing I’d be home and in bed by 10:30pm while they went off to celebrate the show until late into the evening and early morning hours.  
I don’t at all think that youth is wasted on the young, but there exists perhaps, a certain and necessary blindness particular to youth of which in my aging I have become conscious. Struggling to achieve their own identities and create some sense of groundwork on which to build their lives, to identify and work from a sense of purpose, and to develop a social network that is in person and not online, the youth have little inclination or even time to turn their attention to those who cannot join in their effort or that community.  
Tinged partially with regret and partially with relief, I moved invisible through the world of Columbus Avenue as I once walked unseeing on it. 


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