Who decided it was the Jazz Age?
Did it just happen?
Or was everyone sitting around
with nothing to do on a Saturday night,
having seen all the movies
and there weren’t any parties going on
when some young upstart said:
“Hey, let’s have the Jazz Age,”
and everyone agreed enthusiastically,
F. Scott Fitzgerald most enthusiastically of all?
I hope it was the latter,
because that means we can have a Jazz Age anywhere
and any time we feel like it.
We will be sitting around
with nothing to do on a Saturday night,
having seen all the movies,
and there are no parties going on,
and I’ll say:
“Hey, let’s have a Jazz Age!”
and as soon as everyone agrees
(you most enthusiastically of all,
you love F. Scott Fitzgerald)
a Jazz Age will begin for us right there
in your living room.
We will all suddenly be flush with the excitement
of not having been killed in The Great War,
and suddenly the guys will be in sharp suits
and the girls in little dresses
that have gone in and out of style twenty times since their first time around
but tonight they’re the peak of fashion
because it IS the first time around
and our pockets will have as much money in them as they did
before we decided it was a Jazz Age,
but in the Jazz Age, that amount of money is worth
SO MUCH MORE!
In the Jazz Age, we’re RICH!
And a ruddy-cheeked guy named Fats will burst in,
arms full of bootleg gin bottles wrapped in brown paper,
because of COURSE we have a ruddy-cheeked friend named Fats
who’s fresh from a run to the bootlegger!
It's the goddamned Jazz Age!
The jazz in our Jazz Age
is provided by a dance band who are the toast of Harlem ninety years ago
and they just stopped by your apartment on their way home
from a ballroom gig downtown ninety years ago
and MAN do they kick
and BOY do we ever cut a rug.
Lucky for us, we all immediately know
how to do the hottest dances:
we are instantaneously aware of the difference between the shimmy and the shim-sham
and while we could not put it into words
we are more than happy to demonstrate it
in the fifteen square feet of carpet between the coffee table
and the TV
(which has, for the purposes of our Jazz Age,
kindly become a radio.)
There is not much room in here
but what room there is
we fill with each other’s bodies,
which we can fling around our own with ease and grace,
a living-room solar system whirling in modern time,
and we never collide
and we always beam ‘cause who can help it?
It’s the Jazz Age,
a Jazz Age,
our Jazz Age,
in the middle of another, as-yet-untitled, era.
An era I can't imagine anyone will ever want to call into being
in their living room
on a Saturday night,
but who knows, maybe they will.
Maybe they will have seen all the movies
and there won't be any parties going on.
AIR CONDITIONING IS INSTALLED IN MY APARTMENT.
Granted, it's only a window unit in the living room, but that ace and my trusty box-fan are conspiring to keep a motherfucker as cool as some college-town record store employees. I might even sleep with a blanket tonight, which is a far cry from how I've been sleeping recently (bare-assed and sheetless staring up at the ceiling making involuntary sweat-art on the matress thinking thoughts like "The Son of Sam's actions were reasonable and ethically sound, because it was summertime in New York!")
I might even get around to decorating the place now, and by decorating I mean taping up some show posters and stuff I left on the window-sill when I moved in and they got rained on so now they're either wrinkly and digusting or charmingly weathered, depending on how you look at it.
How you look at it depends largely on whether or not you have the money to buy other wall coverings.
Today I was standing at an intersection just off the curb when a dude ran into me on his bike and went flying over the handlebars and onto the pavement. I really truly do not know if it was my fault or not. I was looking one way to see if it was safe to cross and he came from the other direction. I think he was turning onto the street I'd just stepped into. From my general level of attentiveness and spatial awareness, I'd go ahead and guess it was my fault. He just nicked my right shin, but it was enough to send him end over end.
He was a bike messenger or a delivery guy. He was sprawled on the street and leapt back up and got back on his bike almost immediately. I asked him if he was okay. He said he was. I asked him if he was sure, but he was off down the street by then. I'm pretty sure I apologized somewhere in there. I hope I did. He hadn't honked or yelled or anything, so I'm not sure if that means he didn't see me in time or if it was my fault he didn't see me in time or what.
I felt really bad, then after a while, I forgot about it. Then I felt really, really bad for forgetting about it and not feeling bad enough.
(I wonder what people felt before they just felt bad for not feeling _____ enough. Guilty enough or happy enough or sad enough or in love enough or what have you. Probably they just felt the thing itself. I imagine emotions in those days like dry goods in a general store: simple and wholesome, just the thing itself. By "in those days," I of course mean the days when they had general stores.
It's probably not a "nowadays" versus "in those days" thing. It's probably a getting older thing. Seems like you have fewer pure emotions and more hybrid emotions: guilt over glee at someone else's misfortune, nostalgia-fuelled sadness followed by anger at yourself for giving in to something that silly, pining for something better than what you have while dreading that your having the audacity to pine will cause the gods to take away what you have currently and don't value enough. The emotions they build complex German words out of. The fossil fuel that powers bad student films and awful poetry. I.O.U.s for emotions you felt as a kid.)
Anyway, I'm pretty sure I should not be all forensics about whose fault it was, as if determining that it most definitely wasn't mine will absolve me from acknowledging that it was a fucked-up thing that happened in the middle of two peoples' days and it shouldn't be shrugged off.
Bike messenger guy: I'm sorry. I really need to be more careful.
I have to train myself to write in my apartment. It is taking way longer to train myself to write in my apartment than it took to train myself to sit in front of the fan in my underpants watching "Rescue Me" on DVD in my apartment. I acclimated to myself to watching DVDs on the couch in front of the fan with little to no trouble. Writing has been harder.
I used to write in the basement of the NYU library. It was air-conditioned there in the summer, when the places I lived weren't. It was open all night, which pretty much fit my "write when normal people with smarter priorities are sleeping" M.O. I started going there out of some sort of conviction that I'd work if I was some place that wasn't home so I'd be motivated to finish whatever I had to do so I could go home, but it turns out if a place has a bathroom and a broadband connection fast enough to let me dick around the Internet at a reasonable clip, I can make that place home. So what I'm saying is, I barely wrote when I was at the library. But "barely" is more than I've been writing in my apartment. I haven't been writing in my apartment at all.
I've been able to use "it's hot as fuck in my apartment" as a good excuse not to write there. Because it's been hot as fuck in general, but my no-air-conditioning-ass apartment multiplies however hot it is by three, so it is as hot as three fucks up in this motherfucker, even with the windows open and the fan on. But it's not a great excuse. I am sure Hemingway wrote in hot climes. I am sure Hemingway wrote at high noon in a bullring in Pamplona, and in the heart of humid equatorial jungle, and had the technology existed at the time, I am sure Hemingway would've taken his typewriter, hopped in a teleporter, and banged out a short story on the surface of the sun before the keys could melt entirely. I'm not sure why I go right to Hemingway, I just feel like he's the go-to "he could do all this crazy stuff and write so so can you, ya miserable bastard" guy.
I wrote this in my apartment, so you can decide how you feel about me training myself to write in my apartment. My reward for writing this is watching DVDs in my underpants.
It has long been my conviction that life is a series of high schools. You start out in a situation where you're young and incompetent and looked down on and rightly so, because you suck. You admire the cool older kids who know more than you do. As you go on, you gain more experience and eventually, you are those cool older kids. Then you graduate on to your next thing where you are once again young, incompetent, and looked down on. Recently my high school has been film shoots and my cool kids have been people who know what the fuck they're doing.
They're SO COOL! Technicians on a film shoot are the FUCKING MAN! I was an extra in a commercial a couple weeks ago, and last weekend I PA'd a shoot some friends of mine are doing, and in both cases, I was surrounded by lighting people and sound people and design people and all of them were fucking cool as hell. They're really, really good at their jobs and, somehow more impressive, they know EXACTLY what their jobs are! That, to me, is amazing. They know exactly what their purview is, precisely what is and isn't their responsibility. No one has to tell them to start or stop or change tasks: they just fucking know. They know when it's time to hang a light or place a cereal box and when it's time to sit in a corner and read a magazine. As a PA I was in a perpetual state of hey-do-you-need-me? Even when I was doing something I'd just been told to do I felt useless. And they're not show-offy or dick-y about knowing and being excellent at their jobs, they're just utterly professional.
And they're COOL! They have cooler clothes that I do, and are often better looking than the people in front of the camera, and when they know it's not time to do their job, they're out in the hallway on their phones making plans to do things after the shoot that are no doubt way cooler than whatever I've got going on later. So I comported myself like you do around people you think are cool: akwardly, with an eagerness to please that can only result in making amateur mistakes that make you look ten times worse! But the infuriating thing: they probably don't really care. They are in no way judging you as harshly as you imagine. They are way too occupied being effortless awesome professionals, or sitting in the corner reading a magazine.
So, yea: film professionals, way to have learned a practical skill and way to be applying it. Please invite me to your parties.
So, I like The History Channel's "Ice Road Truckers." It is a genius show in that it documents men using a form of transportation (big heavy trucks) to cover terrain ridiculously unsuited to support that form of transportation (a thin sheet of ice over deep freezing water) in order to deliver equipment used to produce the most frivilous goods imaginable (diamonds).
Because I like the show so much, I can only imagine that it is a huge success. And when The History Channel comes looking for their next "Ice Road Truckers," I will be ready with some pitches based on their dynamite formula. Here are the ones I've got so far:
"Acid Pond Skinnydippers" - On a small volcanic island in the South Pacific, there's an inland pond where the Earth's nether-regions vomit up sulfuric acid. The rocks at the bottom of this pond contain a pigment that is used to dye drink umbrellas colors that won't run when your drink sweats. It is the only place in the world this pigment is found. So precious is this pigment that men are willing to dive to the bottom of the acid pond to obtain it, but they can't wear wet-suits, diving bells, or bathyscapes, because any non-organic material, when melted by the sulfiric acid, will upset the chemical balance of the pond and cause the pigment to stop occuring. So these men must skinny-dip. The most skilled among them will make maybe four dives before disintergrating entirely, but the haul from those four dives will set their children up for life, or at least guarantee that their children will not have to be acid pond skinnydippers.
"Avalanche-Prone Mountain Ice Cream Men" - Mount Pitchubatso in Peru is the most avalanche-prone mountain in the world. At the top of this mountain is a glade of trees which are cut down and made into the paper the "your copy" part of credit card receipts is printed on. This is the only place in the world these trees will grow. Supplies for the loggers at the top of the mountain are run up in the only form of transportation available in such a remote location: three ice-cream trucks air-lifted there in a poorly thought-out Peruvian wealth redistribution scheme. The ice-cream trucks drive up saws, food, and medicine to the logging camp, and drive down with sheaths of "your copy" receipt paper. The slightest noise will trigger an avalanche on Mount Pitchubatso. The ice-cream trucks' chimes are permanently stuck in the "on" position, as they were brought to Peru as tools of psychological warefare in a poorly thought-out CIA coup attempt. The workers at the bottom of the mountain who load the paper onto cargo planes keep trying to tell the cargo plane pilots to bring out some less egregiously inappropriate forms of transportation, but the pilots don't listen, as they are eager to take off and not be caught in the daily avalanche.
"Ball-Bearing-Filled Hallway Therapy Clowns" - There is a ward at St. Ignatius Children's Hospital in Bronxville, NY devoted entirely to children with Pranksterism. Pranksterism is a very real, very rare mental condition that causes children to behave like Dennis The Menace or the kid from "Home Alone." Unfortunately, the St. Ignatius Children's Hospital building used to be a roller skate factory, and the Pranksterism ward's storage area still contains over fifty drums of unused ball-bearings. The patients of the ward compulsively release torrents of ball-bearings into the hallway, making it impossible for doctors and nurses to reach and treat them. The only thing that calms the children enough to stop releasing ball-bearings is a visit from the hospital's crack staff of "laugh therapy" clowns, yet the large surface area of the clowns' clown shoes makes them uniquely bad at walking on ball-bearings, as the more ball-bearings that get trapped under a shoe, the more violent the resulting pratfall. It is hoped that the children can be calmed, treated, and cured as quickly as possible, as one of the children knows a more efficient method for making smoothies, and his traumatic Pranksterism is thought to be the only thing stopping him from revealing it.
"Women Drivers" - I have this one in my back pocket in case all the History Channel executives are fired and replaced by hacky Fifties comedians.