The other day I stepped out of Grand Central Station onto Lexington Avenue. It was grey and sloshy. Mid-day people were carrying umbrellas and some of the men were wearing hats. The buildings gleamed silver in the grey light. Everything was a black and white photo from years ago. Swish went the cabs passing by. People were walking quickly with ducked heads.
I pick up my son in midtown every day, and it is a tedious commute in the middle of the day. I have thus declared the iPod the Greatest Invention of All Time. It will be a tragic day when I am hit by a bus that I didn't hear coming, but I will be oblivious, and if I'm listening to The Stones I won't care what hit me.
I opened the doors on to the avenue and Angel from Montgomery came on, out of nowhere. When did I download this not-Stones song? I don't remember, but here it is. I crossed Lexington and as I crossed the avenue and the first notes of the song, a remarkable and peculiar thing: suddenly, a memory, an absolute moment nothing more, was triggered. It was early summer and it was warm and in P's green SAAB somewhere in Montana, or Wyoming maybe, driving west for the summer---we were all a tiny bit mad from the constant driving west----and this song came on. This perfect little song. The road curved and ascended, after miles and miles of straight monotony. Below the curve were some tract houses. My stomach lifted. We were giddy. The way the car lifted up that hill was lovely----it was dusk and quite beautiful with the sun setting and the orange sky, the expanse, the tract houses below and the lives in the houses so hopeful even from here.
The feeling of suspension in that moment was superb. That solid car lifting feeling, and the friends, and everyone about to be on the west coast. We were moving there, some for the summer; others, having graduated, would stay on. Some of the people stayed on forever and became famous in their fields of film and wine. Others returned east for school or marriage and became activists, wives and farmers. Oh, the music and the sunset. And all the laughing! We were not Jack Karouak or Jimi Hendrix or Hells Angels or the Grateful Dead anything---I mean, it was the 1980s, we knew that---but it was still fun to be American and driving endlessly, heading somewhere and full of ideas.
Well anyway. I've been hanging out in the South of France the last few weeks, cutting an album called Exile on Main Street. I love the rock and roll and all that. I love what they call the raw energy. All night I'm awake and working and smoking cigarettes and thinking and creating and drinking bourbon, but not too much bourbon, and then the sun rises and a few of us take the boat out to Italy for breakfast. We sit at a cafe on the water---croissant, cappuccino, more cigarettes because where this place is, there is no cancer. No need for sleep. There is music and sitting in a bikini and having a coffee and a cigarette and talking about art, music, and happy gossip; there's this lightness in the body and everyone speaks words but there is no pain, no cruelty, no sarcasm, no arguing. There is no laundry. See how the sun reflects on the sea? See how the body floats as it walks, so light---it is not tired, not overfed, not poisoned by stress. Boats drift across the water in the early morning before the tourists are out, and we have been up all night creating work. That feels good. That is Eden.
I really did do it once, you know. Not in France. I stayed up all night for a year or more. I smoked French cigarettes and had one bag that carried my things, and lived suspended in this most heavenly space. I worked all night. I borrowed apartments. I drank and ate so little, food was not necessary. I ate when I felt hunger, there was beautiful fruit in the summer. In the winter I boiled kale. I went to bed after the Mexican men who worked in NYC kitchens had finished their 4am soccer game in the park below my window. Or sometimes I stayed up. It was the best year and yet it ended, like so many things that reach such heights, in quite a crash. Make me an angel, that flies... No, I was not a rock star,
but I am now.
Wassily Kandinsky The Garden of Love (Improvisation Number 27), 1912.