Very cool. Like a-very-dry-martini-in-a-frosty-glass-sipped-to-a-soundtrack-of-Miles-Davis-blowing-Blue in Green; like Ginsberg-reciting-Howl-at-Caffe Mediterraneum. That kind of cool. Way too cool to ever speak of it, because, well, that just wouldn’t be cool.
There was a point when we all wanted to be like them. Shit, we wanted to be them. Because they were so… well, you know. We bowed at the altar of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. We went around talking about what the meaning of life would be, if life meant anything to us. We listened to Chet Baker while we smoked and got drunk on cheap vodka. We dreamed of a garret in Paris, when we weren’t talking about how we were of Everywhere and eschewed the cliché of “roots.” We nodded sagely as Peggy Lee asked, “Is that all there is?”
Did we really believe all this stuff? Who the hell knows? I suspect not. But being so damned cool, we never questioned each other, let alone admitted that, deep inside, we might be wondering, “Really, is that all there is?”
That was then. And this is now.
Most of us grew up. Oh, not all of us, that’s true. Some of the really cool ones remained true to the anthem. Many of them died, casualties of the war against the establishment or their trip to find meaning, a trip fueled by Wódka Luksosowa or LSD.
The rest of us eventually joined the reviled establishment, probably driven by the recognition that having a gnawing hunger in our bellies wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Our sell-out started slowly, perhaps a job washing dishes in that coffee house in the East Village, but as things on a roll will do, it gathered steam. We met our soul-mate, a kindred free spirit, and talked of wandering together. Just as soon as we had a few bucks. But inevitably, there was another mouth to feed. And the next thing we knew, we were working for The Man, paying down a mortgage, and driving a Ford. I think they call it maturity.
Looking back, I see that all our cherished individuality was a sham. We numbered in the thousands, and we were all pretty much the same, a band of faceless robots trying so hard to feel nothing. We dressed alike; we lived in the same lofts and basements; we wrote the same bad poetry of our despair.
I thought it was a phenomenon of the time, a product of being in the vanguard of a generation born under the threat of The Bomb. But I was wrong, because they are still out there, those robots. Oh, they dress differently, listen to Death Cab for Cutie, drink Yellow Tail and write better poetry. But they are us.
I wish I could save them their lost years. But I see now that it must be a rite of passage. The Self can’t be found without being lost first.
Whoa, that’s heavy. Very cool, Dude.
This was written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory.