Now this is the way to do café society when it's all summery like this: outdoors on a busy city street, letting life stream by and around. I'm down the street from the townhouse at Peaks, giving them yet another chance. The wi-fi seems strong today but my iced coffee is more tepid than cool, so it's still a mixed result at best.
My days of regularly photoblogging my coffee stops aren't so long ago, but a few times recently I have found myself slipping into reveries of times long past. The most acute was occasioned by my seeing a movie trailer for the remake of The Taking of Pelham 123. This caused me to seek out the some clips from the original on YouTube, and that's what led me in search of lost time.
You see, the original book and movie of Pelham 123 came out at exactly the right period in my life to be deeply influential and important: that is, when I was sixteen or so, immersed in old-school pulp adventures, stumbling-to-maturity comic books, Humphrey Bogart movies, and Raymond Chandler novels. Crime as metaphor, heroes vs. villains, the antihero, battered morality, and flawed ethics were themes I and my like-minded pals grabbed, swallowed, inhaled, and sweat. It was a period of time when traditional narratives were becoming problematized for us, when it seemed the world, like television, was no longer merely black and white.
Compounding Pelham 123's appeal as an example of our chosen genre was its setting: New York City, in the subways. This was my world; my high school years saw me on the BMT and the IRT (transfer at 14th Street/Union Square) for over two hours each weekday, and as much or more on the weekends, looking for diversion. The City was in bad shape in the seventies, a mean drunk in the middle of bender, dirty, dangerous, and broke. Simultaneously thrilled and appalled by our home, we responded to stories that wallowed in its degeneracy. This story, and its contemporary, Report to the Commissioner, captured that fatalistic edge while still providing us with enough "good guy" energy to keep us from spinning off into nihilism.
All this was happening in during a time when I was discovering, sometimes in very indirect ways, who I was, and what I valued, and what was important. And once again encountering The Taking of Pelham 123, while it was only one small piece of that mosaic, puts me in mind of that whole growth experience.
Nostalgia has been commodified along with so much else in our culture; we package and sell the memories of our youth and even those bygone days that we never experienced. But it would do us well to remember that the word nostalgia contains the root form of "pain" as well as that of "home"; it is not an emotion to take lightly, and it brings with it much more than fondness and warmth. For as I remember the young man who was captivated by a certain crime drama, I realize that never again will I be as open to the world, as impressed with new-to-me ideas, and as constantly surprised every day to find out that the world might not be exactly as I thought it was the day before. With age comes a certain amount of weariness and dullness; I can cultivate my wonder and practice my curiosity, but the eyes of a sixteen-year-old have a special quality as magic as X-ray Specs, and as young-at-heart as I remain, I will never see the world through those eyes again.