Are you drawn to another era – a time and place that feels like it belongs to you?
- Do you picture yourself travelling west across America on a covered wagon, cooking on an open fire, clearing land and building a log cabin?
- Are you the plain-spoken sister in the grey dress whose father wants to marry you off to a country vicar – but a dashing count rides through town and is driven wild by your aloof ways?
- Do you imagine sailing the high seas, being blown onto tropical islands and cataloguing new species of birds and lizards? (um, probably that’s just me?)
- Are you the toast of the town – with invitations every night of the week – in New York’s Gilded Age or La Belle Époque in Paris or Weimar Berlin in the 20s?
- Do you picture yourself a writer, an artist or a musician, part of a group of like-minded souls – Bloomsbury or Dada or Harlem Jazz?
- Do you wish you were a sharp-dressed Mod zipping around on your scooter in 1964?
- Are you a peacenik who hitchhiked to Haight Ashbury in 1967?
- Would you be at home in the Tudor court – keeping your head, of course?
- Can you imagine being celebrated like Josephine Baker or Ziggy Stardust or Charles Lindbergh?
I have a favourite “scene” but my part in it is very vague. I like to picture myself in NYC in the early-to-mid 1970s in the proto-punk era, going to see bands like Television, Patti Smith, the New York Dolls and The Ramones at cheap and gritty clubs any day of the week, living in a little walk-up and (in advanced versions) maybe earning a modest living as a rock critic.
Never mind that in real life, I was in the 6-12 year old age range back then! It seemed very romantic to me to live in poverty in a big city and live for your art. Especially to live alone. Interestingly (and maybe discouragingly), I never imagined myself a musician or an artist. Just more of a scenester!
An intense longing for another time and place must say something about our desires and who we are.
As a child I was always told I could be whatever I wanted to be, and it was always assumed I would have a good education and a career. But people in my real life, especially women, had only traditional women’s jobs. So I learned from their strength and determination, but not necessarily their ability to break the mould. As a result, I think I put caps on my own dreams. I wasn’t always the subject who went out into the world and did grand things. Sometimes, even in my dreams, I was just the girlfriend. I was the one who followed my dreams “as a hobby” while making a life at something else.
Of course, there is a difference between achievable dreams and time travel 🙂
The more I read and watch about another era, the more I picture its shortfalls – the realities of poverty and abuse and discrimination, the lack of rights for people of colour and women and LGBTQ people. So I can’t really romanticize freely any more. Reality intrudes.
I’m not really one to dwell on my own past – things I should have done, paths I should have taken. In fact, I often cringe at my youthful self and would rather not overanalyze me! And although it’s taken a good long while, I have come to like my life as it is.
Nevertheless, I will be visiting a few rock-and-roll haunts when I visit New York this Fall.
Wait…would I then be the Festival Grandma? Gaack!