As we start a new year, I find myself dealing with a weird mix of emotions. New years are always a time for reflection, but usually they’re a time of hope. This year, I find myself dealing with a new emotion: dread.
I’ve just come off one of the worst years of my life (actually, the worst three years). At the same time, I performed my one-man show (three times this year and one time last year), I’ve gotten back into stand-up comedy, and I remain hopeful that my situation will improve with the start of a new year.
But I’ve been experiencing bouts of depression for the last two years, and I’m not alone. Several of my Facebook friends have talked openly about feeling depressed (and even suicidal).
Nevertheless, I tried to go about my life today as if everything was normal. I bought a new calendar at Stevdan Stationers (they recently relocated across the street from their old location and they seem to be the only place left where you can buy Week-at-a-Glance calendars) and bought some lox and bagels at Bagels on the Square (it was mobbed by people who were priced out of New Year’s Day brunches, I imagine).
On my way up Fifth Avenue, I overheard some guy talking loudly on his cell phone about some “black tie party” he had gone to at the Standard Hotel.
But the streets seemed curiously empty last night. Maybe it was because of the rain. Or maybe it was because even stupid people have figured out that New Year’s Eve is nothing more than an overpriced amateur hour.
Last night, I was watching Coyote Ugly, a Flashdance-like movie about a young singer in New York City. The movie has only the most tenuous relationship to reality (the real Coyote Ugly bar on which the movie is based is nothing like the bar portrayed in the movie, for one thing). But I was caught off guard by a scene where the young singer and her boyfriend go to Bereket, a Turkish fast-food restaurant on the Lower East Side. I was caught off guard because Bereket is no longer there. It was demolished, along with several of its neighbors. In its place is a new luxury building, with an Equinox gym on the second floor and a Marshall’s (!) on the first floor. (I think this is what’s known as a trade-off: give the poor original residents of the neighborhood a Marshall’s in exchange for an Equinox gym to serve the rich new residents who live in the building).
So I was watching a simulacrum of New York, which reminded me of the simulacrum that New York has become of itself.
Before that, I caught the end of When Harry Met Sally1, another one of those movies that could only be made in New York. But the thing that struck me was that two stars of the movie (Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby) as well as its writer (Nora Ephron) are dead. It’s bad enough that the New York depicted in the movie no longer exists (it was released in 2000, which doesn’t seem that long ago, but was 19 years ago); now the actual people in it no longer exist.
But that’s what it’s like to be a middle-aged person in New York. It’s constantly being reminded of people and places that no longer exist.
Earlier in the day I had gone to see the movie Vice. The movie is a bit of a mixed bag. It tries to fit a lot of serious history into a two-hour movie, but do it in a way that’s amusing. I found myself wondering, why wasn’t I more upset when George W. Bush stole the election in 2000? I think it’s because at that point, we didn’t know what was going to happen afterwards (9-11, the Iraq War, the stock market crash, etc.). It’s only in retrospect that we realize what a mistake that was.
I had always thought that Dick Cheney was the real mastermind behind Bush, but in this movie, Cheney is portrayed as a drunken loser who’s forced to clean up his act by his wife. The only qualification he has for being vice president is his ability to do horrible things and not feel any remorse about them.
Right now another person incapable of remorse, Donald Trump, is under 17 investigations and every day he’s acting more like a cornered animal. But Democrats are taking over the House on Thursday and, hopefully, they’ll start undoing the two years of damage that have been done under his administration. (It’ll probably take another two years just to get back to where we were two years ago.)
So I’m filled with hope.
Happy New Year.