Let Me Have My Rose Colored Glasses of the Future
A free-fall meditation on the dreaminess of nostalgia, romanticizing the past and the slipperiness of time
During a phone call this week, a Lufthansa rep used the most unexpected words to spell out my confirmation code. I wish I’d been fast enough to jot them all down but the two I managed to capture were:
T as in tangle.
W as in whiskey.
Did the Lufthansa rep actively think to himself, I am going to make myself, and this job, more interesting by using funky words when spelling? Or is this just the way his brain works?
That’s another level when I consider all the boring names I call on to demarcate the letters of my name: M as in Mary, E as in Edward, I as in Ithaca… Next time, I decide, thanks to the inspiration of the Lufthansa rep, I’m moving out of my flat recitation and getting creative with my last name, too:
M as in megalomaniac monsters,
E as in expensive eggs,
I as in insensitive, as in intrigue, intellectual interplay…
In small ways, we are constantly reinventing ourselves. People who can reinvent, and do so in a big way, strike me as another kind of free.
Then again, sometimes ignorance can feel like (or even offer a bit of) freedom, I guess. It is seductive and often harmful, but also, in the right scenario it can open another option: not knowing that the Lufthansa rep was simply using the “NATO phonetic alphabet, which replaces letters with words that are easily understood over radio or telephone,” (thanks John Paul) made me want to spice up a dreadfully boring interaction and make my life just a little bit more bearable.
You have to mourn your past self, she is to be mourned. I want to cry when I water the plants listening to Joni Mitchell and her river to skate away on — and so I do.
C as in caustic sometimes, though also creative
A as in allegiance, alignment, altruism
I as in inspirational interiors indeed
T as in TANGLE (I’m stealing it from the Lufthansa rep!)
S as in, I’m sorry.
I am working on attending to the present. The lilies in the book bouquet I made inspired by Olivia Laing’s “Funny Weather” (a favorite author) all opened their faces this week and they smell beautiful. The smell of beautiful are these lilies. Synesthesia. That feeling, I want it, infused into every possible interaction, on the breath of every baby in my path.
We are young / and life…
It is a practice, living in the present, because like most people, I tend to romanticize the past. Highly nostalgic, I can get caught in that glorious, golden trap of “who I was.” Even the pain of the past becomes a brilliant, bright paint I love to smear the walls of my brain with.
It’s not that I want to return to a younger self. No, really, I don’t. Instead I find myself wishing I could collapse time to move back and forth between planes of existence, like staying home every night with a book while also simultaneously rapping Lauryn Hill’s verse in “How Many Mics” again on an elevated stage, backed by a live band and fooling multiple audience members into thinking I am a rapper — by way of just one example.
The recklessness of youth: all the others.
In other words: I want to be drunk without drinking.
Last night I had one of those hours-long heart to hearts with one of my most cherished friends. Through out the call, a delay would creep up through the phone line and what felt like whole minutes of his conversation would cut out— but then, after an extended silence, the rest of the sentence just dropped, perfect and complete, into it’s pocket from thin air and time moved forward.
At first I found it disturbing to my senses. Annoying. I could tell the wires got crossed when our responses to one another had a lag and started to sound circular. But after the first time it happened, I didn’t hang up again. I just listened more intently, I paused longer before talking. The record skip had an air of the sacred. The lessons exchanged were aplenty.
“People like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” (Einstein)
Friday morning, pre-coffee, I got my hair played with by the stylist I’ve been working with since her preteen son was in diapers. I had heard her New York story before, but I couldn’t remember it, so I asked her to tell me again, and so: the unfolding, from Japan, to London, to New York — the last of which just… stuck.
She also told me how much she loved London as a twenty year old, but also admitted, who knows if that can be considered a reliable memory because “I lived in the smallest room in a seven person occupied townhouse! I barely paid to live! I had no responsibilities,” she said.
Sneaking in a work email while in the styling chair, I meant to write my delighted heart and my autocorrect rudely changed it to my aging heart. We had a good laugh over that one. The earlier Lauryn Hill rap memory surfaced when The Fugees came on the De La Soul playlist she had cookin’ in the early morning salon, which was all our own at that hour.
“I don’t care if people think I’m old,” she said about the sounds, and I thought, old? This music still sounds like youth to me.
(“That’s liberation, and baby, I want it.” (Outkast))
When she then pointed out how my white nail polish matched my new white sneakers, a lightbulb clicked on in storage room of my brain:
Chuck Taylors are best when beat up! Beat up Chucks. They should be lived in. Especially white ones.
As I type this now, Robert Glasper covers “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the stereo. It is so appropriate that I gasp up a smile.
My timelines are colliding.
What is a song cover but nostalgia for a life you’ve never lived? Selective memory, inventive memory. I am free-associating, letting the seams show, but I think you follow me. I am envious of musicians who can sing their way into an emotional taste of other’s lives, just for the length of a song. I haven’t quite gotten there with my writing yet. Less embodied process, I guess.
After the hair fix up on Friday, I rode down to 2nd Avenue and exited a train station that once felt like home. I was back to the old stomping grounds of my early twenties to visit a photographer I admire. He reminded me to “bring loving kindness into the eyes” as I tried to imagine a face onto the lens but could only see a black hole. We swapped New York tales of learning from and being let down by our idols — New York facilitates that tricky proximity by nature — though as he has at least 15 years on me, his stories were of course far juicier.
For example: I asked the photographer to play “Wear You Out” by TV on the Radio and soon found myself thumbing through an old illustration-laced limited edition xerox of Tunde Adebimpe, the lead singer’s, tour journal.
This treasure of Adebimpe’s book had the frenetic and sleep-deprived energy of an over-loaded spirit: the overflow, little snippets of text and wooly self portraits in cartoon forms that bore much character. I could see it was the brain-wipe of a person on the run, passing time on the bus, zoning out in the loving presence of that sacred pact between the page and the author. I could only imagine how the privacy found in that spiral bound notebook must have felt like such relief after so much time spent being looked at. (Consumed?)
Tomorrow night I will be on a series of flights that deliver me across the world after a 30 hour journey. Time always feels different in the sky: supernatural. I hate planes, but oh how I love to elevate above earth physically: unreachable. It is like moving meditation or a kind of externalized zen if you can get into the mode of forgiveness for the lack of personal space.
What is time? Across the world, I will be six hours in the future from those I left behind, and yet, we can find a phone connection and our universes can shift to the same plane again. Quick alignment and release. We can text and the message zooms and buzzes in less than a blink.
What is time? I can talk for hours and watch the night slip by. I can write for hours and it feels like 5 minutes has passed. Many moons ago my uncle asked his daughter, “what makes time stop for you?” And that’s how they decided she should study art.
A song keeps time. The album is over and I put it on again.
How does a record hold sound?
My brain is so frustratingly limited.
Friday’s afternoon: a poetic discovery in dialogue with a tree that holds meaning for us — what would the tree say?
Yeah, yeah, what would you say, ancient being?
This is not literal, it was a metaphorical writing exercise I was led in by a young, wise poet.
But it made me wonder: what is time to a tree?
Have you ever had a conversation with someone in your head that you haven’t spoken to in years and and thought, wait a sec, do I have ESP?
Then, have you wondered if you are perhaps just a little bit delusional?
Revisit your journal, I read as advice on determining the difference between a mental health crisis and a spiritual message. If it is clear when you are grounded again, it is likely spiritual. If it sounds mushy and strange, well there’s your answer.
It’s all crystalline in my pages, I have to admit.
I think every artist wants to bend time. Maybe every person, too.
I hope I have some potent dreams on the plane, closer to the ether of all that is. I hope I have the strength and foresight to write the dreams down and then watch them close to see if they come true.