Memories From the Balcony – We Miss What No Longer Exists

I suppose what I miss the most are the things that no longer exist. And this is more than my youth. This is more than my ability to recover or to make it through a night without any sleep and somehow, I’d still be able to get to work the next day.
But I miss more than this.
I admit it.
I miss the angst. I miss the misdirection and the yearning to live yet I had only just begun. I had only scratched the surface of so many things that I had yet to understand.
I miss my version of the City. I miss the downtown score and the feelings I had when I was walking down by the unknown and undisclosed theaters where people would do their obscure readings.

I never did a reading. Never have and perhaps I never will.
Then again, the importance of this has changed in my eyes.
Then again, my perspective has changed.
So have my incentives
And so have my intentions.

I remember sitting in a small showcase with unknown actors who probably never made it (so-to-speak) but hey, good or bad, and yes, some of them were downright awful; at least they dared. At least they did it.
At least they had the balls to try and pull off their craft. Whether their wishes were granted or if their trick came off without a hitch – who cares? At least they found their fortitude and took the shot. Meanwhile, a thousand critics sat in the background and tore apart an artform that they never dared to try for themselves.
I see the artist as a hero. I see them the same way I view the underdog. I view the meek and the humble and beauty in their artwork because they have something which,in their modesty and in their humility – their beauty is undeniable.
I have seen the so-called less-attractive or the ugly. I’ve watched them manage to dare or to give themselves. And yes, I’ve seen the beautiful. I’ve seen how everyone swarms them.
I have seen the wealthy who have whatever they choose and I’ve spoken with people that range from centimillionaires to billionaires. Yet, I have never seen anyone so wealthy and so beautiful or wholesome as the poorest man who smiled at me with a toothless grin. Do you know why?
This was all that he had and his smile, while imperfect at best, was true. This was real. There was no pretense. There was no searching for his intention. There was just the humility of a smile from a man who had nothing to a man (like me) who had more than I realized.

I see the artists with true admiration. I say this because at least they color the world. At least they sing, or read, or they perform.
I can remember sitting at the showcase where the actors did their skits. I remember someone in the audience who had a few wisecracks and some wiseass comments – but to me, at least they bled out loud, live and in color.
At least they took a shot instead of so many others who live mindlessly, never trying, never hoping, or never opening themselves up to dare it all – just because. 

I saw this at a young age.
This is what I miss.
I miss these moments of realization which were only glimpses at the time.
My age of awareness was still maturing.

I miss the drives home after a long crazy night, alone, and watching the sun come up. I remember the mornings after. At times like this, I even miss my long hair because this was part of a statement – this was my free-flag which I had chosen to let fly.
This was part of my statement.
I miss this too – I miss the young rebellions and the ability to have a get-up-and-go mentality.
If something didn’t work out, that’s fine.
I could just go another way. Besides, I had time on my side – or, as I love to say, youth comes with a plethora of tomorrows. There’s no reason to be afraid of the future because the future’s for old people. Am I right?
Who wants that? Who wants to be old? 
Who wants to worry about things like retirement? Or insurance? Or how about importance of having a 401K?

I remember hearing about these things during one of my first real job interviews.
The hiring manager told me, “I know that retirement and having a financial plan doesn’t make sense to you right now. But trust me, this is gonna be important when you get older.”

Who the hell needs that?
Just give me a rooftop, overlooking the city.
Let me look out at the skyline and watch the stars above the buildings.
Just give me a trip down the cobblestone streets, The Village, SoHo, Tribeca.
Or, let me dream. Let me hit the parks or let me stroll down memory lane,
Let me laugh about the days when we sat on a hill in Central Park, young and unforgivable, wild as ever.
No politics. No worries. No pain either. Just the angst of being young and full, like a pot about to boil over.

Let the tension take place. Let the sexual revolution come to its manifestation and let us get back to the freedoms where not everything was so goddamned serious. 
Remember that?

Remember Chelsea?
Of course you do.
I remember sitting in coffee shops. There was one over by 28th Street. I’d sit and face the window to enjoy the age-old sport of “people-watching.”
I’d sit there and dig into the vibes, which are New York City.
There is literally every kind of person here – every kind of fashion and every kind of bravery and me – I just wanted to be brave. I wanted to be discovered yet – as I say this, I do not mean that I wanted to be discovered by someone else. I wasn’t looking for an agent. I didn’t want someone to come along and say “Hey kid, where’ve you been? We’ve been looking for you.”
No, I say that I wanted to be discovered but really what I mean is this: I wanted to discover myself.
I wanted to know who I am.
I wanted to know – who am I really? What do I like?
What do I love? Why is it that people are so afraid to be themselves?
And why is living your life out-loud such a taboo thing?

I used to think about the poets and heroes who inspired me to write – yet, I would never dare to tell anyone. I would never dare the mic or the stage to stand up or read. I’d never dare the audience, to speak, just from the heart because (of course) what if I speak to the room and not even the crickets make a noise? 

What if I open up? What if I show myself and bare my chest to the world, or bare my soul?
What if I show the beauty of my scars?
What if I take the chance and none of this is seen as beautiful? 
Then what?
Aside from going back to the misperception that I’m ugly, what comes next?

I miss this fear and at the same time, I don’t miss this at all.
I suppose the nostalgia machine is an interesting process because these memories have aged.
Perhaps, this is a processes somewhat like a fine wine or a scotch or whiskey – and here’s the kicker because I don’t drink. I don’t even know what the finer liquors taste like because, at best, my drinking days consisted of cheap thrills, like Mad Dog or Boone’s Farm. I drank stolen bottles of gin or whatever else I could gain during the sneaky-sneaks when I’d slip through someone’s liquor cabinet. 
And just to be fair to my timeline –
I laugh about this too because my sobriety is an adult of more than 31 years and, as such, my sobriety is far older and longer-lived than the pains of my drinking days. But either way, I find myself offering this to you in an understandable comparison because hey – everyone knows about the glitz and the glamor of commercialized themes.
Everyone knows about the glitz of a fine wine – even if they never drank it.
Everyone knows about the value of an expensive cigar.
But do people know what it was like for me to walk passed the theaters?
Do they know about my hopes and dreams?
Does anybody know what it feels like to want to create and at the same time; does anybody really understand what it’s like to have so many dreams inside of you but you don’t ever dare to let them out?

This was me in my youth.
So full of so many ideas yet I was so unaware of myself
(and my abilities).

The City has changed since then. The buildings have changed. The spirit of my City has changed and some places, like all places, had eventually been altered or undergone a facelift to reverse the process of aging.
Hence the saying: that was then. this is now.
I was looking at the world with different eyes. I didn’t see what I see now,which is not to say that what I see didn’t exist back then. 

No, it’s me who’s changed.
My intentions are different. My direction is different.
Although my ability to stay up until dawn and still make it to work the next day is not the way it used to be – my goal is not to break the night anymore. I don’t need the late night dance halls or the uppity bullshit of the ritzy crowds and socialites. I don’t need the same attention nor am I interested in keeping up with anyone or keeping a score of who does what (and who doesn’t).

There was a pointlessness to my constant comparisons. I see this now. Hence, this is why they say hindsight is always 20/20. There was a pointlessness to my aching insecurities and there was a senselessness to my fears.
These are what prevented me from giving life a shot. But I learned from this. Maybe the hour is late, but still, I learned.
I learned because to hell with fear. To hell with the social norms. To hell with external acceptances and to hell with the social draws of popularity. 

No one ever got me back up when I fell. No one ever got me out of a ditch. No one nursed me back to health and nobody ever pointed at my reflection in the mirror and told me, “No, you got it all wrong. You see that guy – he’s the greatest he’s ever been. You need to see that now!”
Now, get up. Get out there
and show this world what you were meant to do!

I miss what no longer exists.
I say this and dare I say it, I would never want to go through this again.
I just want to learn. I want to be inspired.
I want to walk down the street and remember the old Dominican man who shaved ice near Archer Avenue and poured flavored syrup, like Pina Colada mix. I say this because to a kid on a hot summer’s day, smack-dab, in the middle of Jamaica Queens, I had no idea what kind of memory this would be.

I miss what no longer exists like the drive in from Long Island City.
I was about to head over the 59th Street Bridge and there it was, a sign that was high above the 7 train that said, “Perfection is not an accident.”

I don’t look back with anger. I don’t look back with regret.
No, I only look back and recognize that I was lost.
I was missing and meandering about the world, unaware that there was a direction right in front of me.
All I needed to do was go full-steam ahead. 

Something I know about our youth is we often lack the internal cheerleader.
We lack the internal dialogue and the narrative that creates motivation.
We hear plenty of voices that tell us to be cautious.
We hear that voice that tells us to “be cool”
but we lack that internal hero to act as our protector.

I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know what I was capable of.
I didn’t know much.
But I did know about beauty. I knew what it was like to see the sun come up over Manhattan.
I’ve seen the sun come up at the beaches on Long Island and I’ve stood there, dressed in the clothes from the night before. 
The wind was blowing through my hair. I lit up a smoke – took a drag from one of my last few cigarettes and then blew the smoke up to the sky as if to say, to hell with you fate.

I have seen life. I have seen creation. I’ve seen the cross-dressers over by 14th Street and I was around when 42nd Street had an entirely different theme.
I remember the nights and the clubs and the kids and the scenes.
I remember watching people dance. I remember watching people live and love and not relent or temper their true selves because, to them, this was living.

I always wanted to be this way . . .

I admit to my small-mindedness. I admit to my misconceptions and misperceptions of life.
I admit to my ignorance and to my misdirected anger.
As well, I admit to my flaws and to my short-sightedness.
I admit to my old prejudices and to my misinformed opinions.
I admit to the parroting aspects of the crowds – and to the monkey-see, monkey-do bullshit and the false bravado,. To be clear, if I had to do this over and if I had to go at my youth again – I can say that I would love more than I hated.
I would do more than I pretended. I would offer more and learn more.
I would remove myself more and place myself where I’d want to be rather than stand with a crowd – just to avoid being alone.
I would let myself be humble and modest and I would remove myself from the comparisons and stop myself from trying to keep-up with other people. To hell with that.

I would remind myself that the only reason why nice guys finish last is because nice guys aren’t trying to win the race.
They’re too busy enjoying the scenery.
I would remind myself that not every race needs to be run.
I would offer myself the advice of longevity – to endure, to withstand, to hold my head up because in all fairness to the truth – no one has it all together.
We all have life on our hands. We all fall, We all slip.
We all get sick and even the proud, they fall too.
The mighty fall – all the time. 
Just look around, you’ll see.

If I had to go through my youth again, I would offer the hint that although this might seem like a dress rehearsal and although everyone around us is trying to paint a pretty picture – just remember that surface levels are only surface levels.
Remember that no matter how pretty or beautiful someone will appear on the outside, if they’re ugly on the inside then they can only be average at best. Fuck being average.
To hell with this judgment that dismantles us and breaks us apart.
To hell with that worry that maybe you’ll make it to the stage and grab the mic- and maybe someone will laugh (or not) and maybe no one will like you – but hey, at least you dared.
At least you took the stones in your heart and built a bridge between you and the dreams.

By the way . . .
This is why I love it when young people make a choice to dedicate themselves to their dreams.
This is why I always listen to our youth and offer my support.
I love it when people dare the edges of their fears and face their own darkness like a hero.
I love this because I never dared when I was a kid. No, it took me being a grownup to learn how to be a kid again.

It’s true, sometimes I’m afraid that maybe I woke up too late.
Maybe the early bird really does get the worm.
But I’m not looking for a worm.
I’m not looking for a diet.
I’m looking for a moment in the sun to warm my skin; to soften the paleness of a life without color and be at one with myself.

Should this reach you – and I mean really reach you; and should this touch your heart and make you think or feel; and should this hit the mark or make you see something that was otherwise missing from your view – then all I can say is that every word in this entry was written for you.

I was so wrong about so many things. Then again, this is one of the wonderful things about hindsight.
This allows us to see where we took a wrong turn so we can learn from this – and navigate our way down a new road . . . Together!

5 thoughts on “Memories From the Balcony – We Miss What No Longer Exists

  1. I really like this, I am an alcoholic, a fisher, a rusher, a chaser, and a dreamer too, and I admire your perspective, it being so different from mine. I am a consumer not a watcher, but you are an interesting breed, I like people like you.

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