Wednesday, July 2, 2008

An after-thought of one's inquisitive mind...

As time goes by and the years keep adding on and on to the conscious mind and the overall process of "growing up", I become all the more aware of two factors that are pretty much accepted as common knowledge in the masses: a) the magic of perfect timing, and most importantly, b) the past must be appreciated and can be admired but the present is the key to a bright future, hence, no looking back.

On my way home from the studio earlier this evening, I strolled down the West Side and popped over to my haven, my ultimate addiction - a huge bookstore on Broadway. Although I had initially planned to make the stop as brief as possible, I ended up spending a good hour and a half browsing through all sorts of books, both nonsensical (90%) and really fascinating ones.

One particular biography caught my eye most immediately, called "Callas Kissed Me... Lenny, Too!: A Critic's Memoir" by John Gruen. Some of you may already be aware of my undying passion and deep admiration for Maria Callas, and the colorful world of opera, so I didn't even hesitate opening the brand new hardcover, as I shyly sat down on the edge of a cold step of the staircase away from the crowd.

I found myself feeling completely and utterly nostalgic about the fascinating era that I hadn't even been close to experience due to a much younger age compared to that of the author. Yet I felt so reluctant to close the book and reemerge from that beautiful storytelling by a man who had lived through that period and experienced what we now call the golden era of performing arts.

As I left the bookstore and headed towards midtown, a sudden burst of nostalgia for a "je ne sais quoi" that I had never experienced first-hand and had only heard of and read about in books and documentaries, flew right through me and made me feel almost melancholic in a way. It's hard to explain how or why, maybe I just think too much, but just then I wondered if being born in a vastly different time and having missed that "other" era had left me and my generation of young people at an overall "loss".

Obviously this can't be true altogether, as after all, the technological and other sorts of advancements that we are not only witnessing right now but are also a vital part of in this day and age, are really staggering.

But the thoughts about the times I had only had the privilege of reading about lingered in my mind for quite a bit as I kept on walking towards home. And on my way, I suddenly decided to grab a quick dinner for one at a sushi bar in Columbus Circle.

As I sat by the bar, waiting for my order and reading a beautiful book by one of the Bronte sisters, "Wuthering Heights", I noticed a gentleman who had taken a seat right to my left.

Something I rarely, if ever, do in the city - having recognized him from another local coffee shop where I often go with my friends, he happened to be there as well the last time I was there with a girlfriend of mine and we had a brief chat back then, no big deal - I decided to say hello. I bet it was rather confusing, how many people do you meet living in NYC whom you may or may not have seen in the recent past at some café in the area??? And yet, he did remember meeting us at the coffee shop and he even asked about my friend's baby girl who was with us that afternoon!

I am not sure how or why, but we ended up talking about the increasingly globalizing world and constant need to look forward but not back. I shared my earlier recollection of what my ancestors days were presumably like, and how I lamented the fact that I never witnessed that period myself. He immediately cut me off and explained the beauty of living in the moment and how lucky I am, like my peers, to be a young person with a lifetime ahead of me in this ever evolving world. "You can admire the past but you should always enjoy the present and look forward to the future", he said. So simple, if you think about it, but at the same time, it is so true, isn't it.

We also spoke about how young people tend to take everything for granted in the world we live in, and how older people often complain about the present times and prefer to live in the past instead of making the most of the here and now.

Having moved to America from Italy in 1968, my fascinating impromptu dinner companion, Franco, told me about the days when he used to go to the one and only spot in Manhattan that sold Italian newspapers that were not even brand new - they were at least 4 days old by the time they reached the International Newsagents across the ocean. And now, he said, with a click of a button, the worldwide web makes not only newspapers and other periodicals, but also rare books, music, etc. accessible to anyone through the magic of the internet. "There is not space and time in the world we live in. Not anymore". And he is right.

So why do some of us look back, I wonder, and lament the past, when there is so much to look forward to, and so much to learn from and create with our own imagination, our own knowledge, experience and capabilities. Instead of destructing the world we live in, perhaps it would be an even more wonderful place if more people would take the time to mold the kind of future they believe in and want to inhabit for years and generations to come.

I wouldn't dare complain about the present after this conversation with Franco. Honestly, it's a sin against humanity and what we stand for! :-) Sometimes those who are older than us are not only wiser but also more advanced and somewhat more modern in their perception and outlook. That's ultimately what makes the world go round. If we don't take control of what's here and now, we might as well roll over and die and not take up the space in this ever-shrinking territory.

It's quite bizarre but I haven't enjoyed a quick sushi dinner for one as much as I did tonight in a long, long time. As they say, "you grow and you learn", there's nothing wrong with having an inquisitive mind, is there? As long as it also happens to be an "open mind", too!

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