Friday, October 14, 2011


I love my life, but...

...sometimes I want to go back in time. Getting older is so weird. It was a rewind the clock kind of day. I spent a few hours in town running errands. By town, I mean the town I lived in for fifteen years, the town where I had my bookshop. By errands, I mean I actually had a long list and I ticked things off as I went along. And then I returned to the coastal village I now live in feeling unutterably depressed about the general state of affairs in this land. In town, what I saw: rush, rush, rush, hurry, hurry, hurry, hideous retail space after hideous retail space after hideous retail space, all selling a whole bunch of ugly. For lunch I bought an organic sandwich at the health food store and sat and ate it in the parking lot next to the big empty Borders. Ugly, ugly, ugly. The mall sprawl: big boxes and power lines run amok and everything paved over and some shabby trees valiantly struggling for survival in little median strips of dirt. The local radio station has a retro show on during the noon hour and all this club music circa 1990 was playing while I ate my sandwich. Making me miss being twenty and going out dancing every week. Making me miss being cool, which I suspect I once was, for about a week. Sad, sad, sad. I feel like such an anachronism!

The evidence to support such a feeling: I was waiting for the photo store to print photos for me (item #1) and I had an hour to pass so I walked around the mall in search of something, anything, that would register anywhere on The Scale of Coolness, and found nothing. Except perhaps some Vans sneakers (item #2) I liked. But my lord, the shops these days. Dark and shuttered Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch, with thumping pop music and heavy perfume and naked surfer dude photos and flimsy seventy dollar cotton shirts. I'm either way too old to go into those places or I don't think I'm nearly old enough (item #3). Then the Gap: teeny tiny women's clothes that look to me like unpretty chiffon rags (item #4). And fifty dollar hoodies. And acrylic sweaters for much more than that. Acrylic! Nothing with any real style. Is it me? I remember having to travel to Boston or New York to find unusual shoes, so perhaps I'm still too fussy. Are there still good shoes, somewhere...? And record stores, and bookshops, and places to find cool clothing, and retro dance clubs for old people...? Wait, I think I'm stuck in a Nick Hornby novel. Funny what one old song on the radio can summon forth (item #5). See, a total anachronism.

At home here in the village, I know I can't go back in time, and I'm left with the distinct sense that someone who yearns to still be cool from time to time had best hang that hat up for good and move on. Or, be cool on the inside. Listen to vinyl records, read real books, make one-of-a-kind objects with your hands, wear logo-free cotton clothing scrounged from the local Goodwill. And if we are lucky enough to have shops of any kind nearby with any level of authentic coolness, for god's sake help support them by buying their stuff.

(footnote: Ryan says, as I tell him about my day of uncoolness, "You shouldn't have looked at the mall." Oh. Right.)

Oh, Sarah, you are quite cool, even now. Why?
1. You are an artist. Oscar Wilde said, "A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament." We all know that "unique" is simply a more elegant way of saying, "cool."
2. You had a dream to open a bookshop and you did. There are shelves and shelves of terribly cool books written by terribly cool people about that very subject. Try finding a book lover who doesn't think anyone who had a go at an actual three dimensional shop isn't the height of sexiness. And yes, cool.
3. You are cool because you can remember when cool was a genuine state instead of a culture of consumerism that gives one the illusion of being creative. I recently read an article decrying the "fauxhemiam" movement among today's "hipsters." Shopping at Goodwill when no one else did was cool. Shopping at Goodwill because everyone with an iPhone and a Mini Cooper does is lame, not cool.
There are many more examples of why you are cool. You know that. I feel cool because I read your blog. I feel cool when you mention a book I never heard of and then hunt for it, read it and fall in love. Your suggestions have made me a promiscuous reader and I LOVE that. Finally, I feel cool because I am old enough to remember when cool felt new and fresh and daring. Just like your blog...
It's scary to hear a 30-something saying these things, but at the same time, comforting. As an (ahem) 'older' person, I've been worried that I was getting to be un-cool. Maybe it's just the reverse. We're still cool, but the younger crowd can't compete with us!
You definitely have some cool shops in your neck of the woods. Silkweeds is my favorite. We live near a mall in our neck of the woods and I never go. If I do shop, it's at the big box stores or definitely the independents. There's something about the mall culture that I just can't do anymore. p.s. If you EVER run across The Vital Records of Prospect Maine by Picton Press, I NEED IT! I'm related to everyone in that little town, except for the transplants, of course. :D Thanks!
Leslie, I'll keep an eye out for the Prospect book, I do see Picton Press titles fairly often. I know, no more mall, evah. Over and done.

Oh Bobbi. I am 43 and I swear half my hair turned gray this year. What's a girl to do. Roll with it...

Anon, I don't even know what to say. Thank you for your overly generous refutation of my brief wail of self-indulgent despair.

It buoys my spirits to no end to know that you have actually read books I've recommended. Reading is the best, isn't it? Keeps us weird on the inside, no matter what's happening on the outside.
Yesterday is History,
'Tis so far away —
Yesterday is Poetry —
'Tis Philosophy —

Yesterday is mystery —
Where it is Today
While we shrewdly speculate
Flutter both away

Emily Dickinson
'Amen' to Anonymous. In fact, ALL your commenters seem pretty cool to me!

Probably best for us to just concentrate on--and celebrate--the fact that we've been around long enough to know the difference

Wash and dry, sort and fold.
You and I are growing old

(love this throwaway of Auden's)

How lovely, Antony - thank you for this reminder to focus on the present moment!

Marci - also love the Auden, I hadn't heard it before (see, I only masquerade as a well-read person). Reminds me of the title of Jack Kornfield's buddhist book "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry" - again reminding us to pay close attention to the present and let the rest of life unfold as it will.

And yes, I do have wonderful commenters. Thanks, friends...
Gray hair is in! I have a NY Times article about that somewhere, so it must be true. I hear ya about going out dancing etc. But adventure is still out there, and I think YOU do find it, albeit in new ways. Be careful what stories you tell yourself....
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Hey there Z - I do tell myself stories, carefully, and my personal mythology is layered like an onion at this point. I can't imagine what it will be like in another twenty or forty years! (God willing.) I don't mind, most days, transforming from punky art student to little Maine lady in Keds and cardigans. In fact I love it, otherwise I wouldn't be the way I am. But, you know. Sure do miss the old days sometimes...!
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