There are times when the world is just right. The City is on my side and the night is brightened by the streetlights and the glow from Midtown’s Times Square.
There are times when I can stand on the roof of a building at Lexington Avenue with a cup of coffee in hand and my eyes geared towards my downtown memories or my old, uptown life.
I am somewhere in the middle of all this now, older and certainly not younger, but I’m still youthful, at least somewhere inside. I have memories of an after hours lifestyle. I remember a night when I passed where the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve. I remember how the mob dispersed until the city became almost vacant. There were streamers and bits of confetti on the ground. And there was me and a group of people who I thought would be my friends forever. It turns out that forever isn’t always as long as we think it is.
Either way, there was a desire to live, to think, to taste and touch everything. I wanted to feel. I wanted to dance along the edge of the blade and live in this constant state of take off.
The world was so new to me then. I was afraid of the things I’m afraid of now. I had no concerns about tomorrow because the assumptions of tomorrow are different when you are young. As a kid, life is nothing but an endless plethora of tomorrows.
I used to think the future was for old people. And me, I was never going to be old. I was never going to walk the line or be ordinary. I never agreed to be one of those people whose life becomes consumed by work and the routines of a 9 to 5 life.
I never thought about healthcare. That was for people who were sick, right? I never thought about retirement funds, annuities, pensions or investments.
Besides, retirement is a lifetime away. Isn’t it? I’ll have plenty of time to worry about that later.
These were the days . . .
We were young enough to stay up and be out all night and somehow we’d make it to work the next day. Oh, and what it means to be young; to heal quickly, to be resilient and wild enough to see the sunrise because we hadn’t made it home yet.
Or, maybe this is only me. Maybe no one can relate or maybe everyone can relate. Still, there is a piece of my heart and a place in my memory. My life was young then. I was almost unsacred and untouched and mainly unscathed. I was on the verge of so many things. I was a warrior, a soldier in my own mind, retreating from battles that went on with the emotional artillery and the scattered bombshells of life and young lust, which was often mistaken for love.
I could be wild. I could go anywhere. I could make love in crazy places. I could laugh at the dangers of the world. I could be a prince and dance with a princess. I could twirl in the ideas that someday, I will find my queen because someday I will be a king. I just needed to find my own kingdom. I needed to find a home. I needed to find a place to lay my head and feel safe, to have my own little yard and a car, a place to vacation to, a dream to live, and life to have and to hold, to honor and to cherish from now until the hour of our death (Amen).
I was young when I first heard the song, Auld Lang Syne.
I never really knew what the words meant. I knew more about this from a movie when two lovers finally agreed to start the rest of their lives together. The scene in the movie took place at a New Year’s Eve party. This is when the song came on.
“Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind.”
What does this mean? Do we remember? Should we remember that we forgot? And I am not quoting the script but only paraphrasing to create the need for understanding.
I didn’t know the answer to this. I didn’t know the meaning of old times because I was too young and too busy trying to find the meaning of my life.
But I know now.
The answer was with me all this time.
I know what it was like to be in ballrooms and toast to the rest of our life. And ah, the way we were. The way we danced. The way we laughed and the way we lived.
I think of this and I truly feel sorry for the younger generation. I only say that because they will never know what it means to physically interact without technology. Our blocking feature back then was taking the phone off the hook. Remember?
There was a time when I was downtown. I split away from the crowd. I was dressed in my typical “Going Out” fashion. I was in my black suit, black button down shirt beneath with the collar over the lapel, my hair as fashionable as I could make it, long and wavy, and my black shoes trekked along. I had my thin silver necklace around my neck and my silver hooped earrings in my left ear dangled in such a way. I was this “Look.” I was a walking statement and gave it my best efforts to characterize my best James Dean approach.
I was definitely a rebel without a cause. Yet, I hid and tried and I thought and I wondered. I was somewhere close to a park on 14th Street. I wasn’t too far from the cobblestone streets. I was weaving through the different species, also known as human beings.
I thought about Frank O’Hara and wondered if Jim Carroll ever walked the same streets and thought the same things. I read somewhere about Carroll and him and his life. He wondered about O’Hara as well. In fact, one of my favorite poems comes from O’Hara. It’s called Having a Coke With You.
I can remember walking alone, navigating my way through the City. I wondered if I would ever find my way. I was so young. In fact, I was unforgivably young and hopeful and wishful yet, I was going about it all wrong.
I connect this to the meaning of the song.
“Should old acquaintance be forgot.”
I had this view of life. I had this inaccurate vision of the world as well as an inaccurate version of myself. I had this idea that life could only be simple if I had the right job or the right life and the right amount of money in the bank. I remember hearing someone tell me, “Location, location, location.”
But then I realized I could be anywhere in the world. I could be amongst royalty. I could live in a castle. I could have an endless bank account. I could wake up to eggs, toast and caviar. I could look through the window of an upscale life or view the world from a penthouse estate. I could look down on the humble or the meek and the meager. I could have it all; yet, I could still have nothing.
It’s not the right moves. It’s not the way you dance or wear a pair of Prada shoes. I have met people whose finances seemed infinite yet their life was no deeper than a puddle after an afternoon rain. I met people who had it all and yet they were so low that they could high dive from a low curb on the cobblestone streets down by The Village.
Somehow, some way, there was a night where we all toasted to our lives and rang in the new year and at the same time, we never knew this was the last time we would ever be together. We never knew this was the last time we would even see each other.
“Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind.”
I remember you, my old friends.
I remember the stomping grounds.
I remember my old acquaintances and the days of Auld Lang Syne.
Auld lang syne is the Scots language that translates to “Old times’ sake.”
For the old times and the new. I am older and getting younger in some ways. Perhaps because at this point in my life, I have decided to stop hiding and wondering. Instead, I choose to live, to touch, to taste and experience everything I possibly can.
We’re almost there. The new year is coming.
And I will remember you all.
For old times’ sake. And the days of Auld Lang Syne.