The decade closes.
Thinking back to 12.31.99, I am struck by the fact that time is the most mutational of forces.
I was in New York. It was the eve of the millennium (if you weren’t literal about it); it was the threat of Y2K. It was just another day in Manhattan. Quiet as hell. I remember how nice the dry cleaner was when I went to pick up my outfit. People showed no signs of fear. New Yorkers don’t scare easy.
That night I was at a black-tie party at my mother’s Upper East Side apartment with a great view. I don’t remember much. Bernard was there and there was a lot of champagne and family friends and I think we watched the ball drop on TV and, no, I don’t remember. What I remember mostly are the pictures. The last thing I really remember was the dry cleaner.
Go figure. But time is like that. And champagne.
I only know that on that day in the past, had you asked me my future, had you asked me where I would be on this day, ten years later, I would have been completely wrong. I would have had no idea at all who or what I would be or become. I could not have predicted at all the events and course of this period of time.
I would have said that I’d have directed at least two feature films by now. I would never have said that my primary art would be poetry or performance. I would never have predicted the string of bad boys and boy toys (yeah, I said it). Never have said I’d spend 9 years in that apartment by the sea that needed new carpeting and paint job when I moved in. Never have said I’d watched the Yankees sweep the Mets in a dreamed-for subway series in a grip truck in the middle of a field in Iowa or that I’d fall in love with someone before I’d even met him and then he would do the same and it would all be impossible because of circumstances. Never would’ve predicted so many compromised positions.
I’d have probably said that I’d own a house in L.A. and probably have a dog and maybe a husband or at least another live in boyfriend – the kind who pays his own bills.
If you said, you’ll be known for poetry, and performing, and for presenting artists, you’ll be known for working with kids, that your spirit will wander you as far as your finances will allow – farther sometimes. That you will test your safety net over and over again and find out it is elastic, though stretched thin, that you will never ever compromise your creativity or your vision and you will help many many many others fulfill their own, often to the at least temporary detriment of yours. That artists from all over will be willing to come out and do their thing just because you asked. They will enliven the stages you set, and back you up if you ask and that your favorite band of all time would be a bunch of guys you met at 40’s night when they were undergrads or that one of your closest friends would be in prison for half the decade for the kind of tragic mistake that should just never happen.
That some of the people you feel are family now, you hadn’t even met in 1999, though many of them came to you in dreams before they entered your reality. That despite being raised an only child you’d have nieces and nephews everywhere. That you would find inner beauty in yourself and others you had never imagined and employ it to protect yourself from the evil that is present. That sometimes you would let the beauty trump the protection and get yourself in trouble.
If you said any of that in 1999, I would not have believed you.
In 1999, I had no cell phone. There were no digital cameras taking pictures of that celebration. In 1999, I wouldn’t have predicted that a Writer’s Strike would wreak a kind of final havoc on my financial life. I would have never predicted I’d have the courage I must now possess in order to have lived through this past decade. I would have never told you that it would take me this whole decade to find my brother, and that when I did, it would be on a “social networking site.” (Remember The Well?)
I wouldn’t have even come close to predicting I would be writing this from a room in NW5. That while the people who’ve betrayed stand out, the ones who stand by are a longer list by exponential multiples. That people and their art sustain more than air and food, more than anything except light.
In 1999, I would have imagined women would be a lot further along in our struggle for equality and that the racism that fuels so many fires would have dissipated in the face of firmer knowledge of humanity. I would have had Ann Richards as our first female president, instead of passing untimely.
In 1999, I would have been just plain wrong about the future.
So here’s the important part. Whatever you or I think today, December 31, 2009, about the next decade, we are most likely wrong. The highs and lows of it, the joys and pains we foresee – we are wrong. Think back on your decade. Was it anything like you expected or imagined?
In 1999 would you have predicted George W. Bush? Amy Winehouse? Barack Obama? Katrina? Hulu? Survivor? Sadly, the events of September 11, 2001 might be the most predictable part of the decade. That and the folly of the Time Warner/AOL merger.
Are we solely creating our own destinies? I think not. I think destiny is collective. Can we create a path, or find a path or stay on it? With diligence and energy, yes.
Are we all just chasing pavements? Maybe. Good for us. Because you never know. Whatever you think you know, life will tell you that plus more plus different. Life will show you things you couldn’t envision. Things that can’t be measured right alongside things that can.
Never count yourself out.
Never succumb to boredom.
Never think in dead ends.
Time is not linear. Neither is life.