Sunday, March 20, 2005

I Don't Want to Go Home

I was in the East Village at the Continental last night and should have been having fun seeing Walter Lure and the gang, but all I felt was sad. Sad because I could see it disappearing before my eyes. Blondie was playing on the P.A, and every band that came on before Walter (and even he and the Waldos too) was trying way too hard to be the Ramones or the Dolls, and it was just wrong. It felt like a museum and I felt like a museum piece. It's a feeling that Marty Scorsese captured very well in his (flawed but fascinating) "Gangs of New York." At the end, the last shot you see is the graves of the people he's depicted in the film, people you've grown to care about, and he shows the passage of time, pulls back the camera and you see the NY skyline and the now dilapidated graves, and it's just overwhelmingly sad--like there's this scene and these people that you once felt so strongly about, and still do, and you feel lost and out of place because nobody cares anymore except you, nobody gets it. And you feel sad and alone and wistful. It's all gone, everything that once meant so much, and you can't bring it back. And your heart breaks.

I wasn't a part of the East Village scene, but I participated in something similar down on the Jersey Shore--the heyday of Springsteen and Southside Johnny and all those great bar bands, and those places down there where the magic happened, places that are gone or are mere shadows (as is CB's) of their former selves: The Brighton Bar, The Tradewinds, Cafe Bar, The Green Parrot, the Fastlane, and of course the Stone Pony. The latter is now a museum piece, a relic, a phony "House of Blues"/"Planet Hollywood" nightmare that people fly in from Europe and walk around and gawk at. (And sometimes, they even gawk at you.) I can't even tell you the times I had there--the nights when anything seemed possible. It was the early '80s, and you could walk up to Bruce, who would be there just to see Graham Parker or Dave Edmunds or whomever was playing there--he would be sitting in the back bar drinking a beer, and sometimes he would even come over to you and say hello if he had seen you there before. Just wanted to know what you were listening to, how things were going. And then he would jump onstage with these people and here you were and you just paid 6 bucks and you are seeing friggin' magic right before your eyes. And then you would go to the after party with whatever band was playing or just hang out all night with your friends and they would sit around and though we would never talk about how amazing it all was, we all knew it, we just knew we were a part of something special. Those were the nights you just didn't want to end because you knew they wouldn't last, and so you would stay up all night and just rehash and gossip and party till the sun came up.

And so it is going, and soon it will be gone. Like the East Village, Asbury Park (and the Shore in general) is going condo and gentrifying. There are powerful forces at work, and they are winning. And it is heartbreakingly sad, but there is nothing we can do. We are all older, and time moves on apace, but like Walter, we can't completely let go of this thing that once meant so much to us and still does. It was a big part of our lives, and it's going and we can't bring it back. Grabbing onto it too hard is self-defeating and painful and (like last night) more than a bit embarrassing. But we can't help ourselves. Because it once made us so completely happy, so truly alive, and it seems like we haven't felt that way since...

So what do we do now? We are walking anachronisms lost in a world in which we no longer belong. We are still drawn back to that time and that place. We are, at times, Fitzgerald's Gatsby, lost in the past, looking off at the green light across the water from a long distance and hoping...we are Margaret Mitchell's unforgettable Ashley Wilkes, who lives his whole life lost in a nightmare from which he can't awake. Everything he's known, anything that ever meant anything to him is gone and he can't process it, can't comprehend it. So he goes about from day to day, lost in a fog, not quite sure what to do or where to go, trapped in a brave new world that he doesn't understand and to which he cannot hope to belong. He has the look of the living dead. We can't allow ourselves to be like that, or we we might as well be dead too.

So we forge on, and hope, desperately hope, that something new and meaningful will come along, something that makes us feel like we did then. But deep down we know, don't we, that what made those times so special was the knowledge that they were irreplaceable and fleeting. And when we are lonely or sad, late at night unable to sleep, we reflect upon them and remember and we are young and beautiful and vibrantly alive again, if only for a few moments...

We were there, we really were, and we saw it, and wasn't it great?

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
---F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

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