Thursday night I went to Joe's Pub with my friend Rich to see Justin Currie play - an artist we worked with at A&M many moons ago. So many moons ago the label actually existed.... Justin and I were good friends - and for a short time more than good friends. I hadn't seen him or his manager, John - also very dear - for at least 15 years, and it was a real treat to see them both, catch up.
As is often the case when meeting up with old friends, except for the time spent inquiring about each other's friends and family, it felt like the conversation picked up right where it left off. But while watching Justin play, hearing familiar songs, standing next to people as familiar - I felt myself looking down on it all. I was consciously trying to "be there," to be in the moment, but found it incredibly hard to do. At first I remember thinking, maybe I'd had one too many tequilas - that the Mexican cloud was somehow impairing my ability to see and feel clearly. But I made the official call, that wasn't it at all. Yeah, sure, maybe heightened the sensation, but this wasn't the same 'floating above a conversation' feeling. It was more similar to the feeling I've experienced when visiting an old house I grew up in or walking a street I played kickball on for years. All so familiar and recognizable, but also a fleeting spark, something unable to grasp, touch or completely embrace.
A few years back I visited the sleep-away camp I'd spent eight summers. I loved camp - everything about it. The summer sun, my friends, the countless 'firsts,' the sports & competition, and even the pathetic playing fields right out of Meatballs... And on that day, I sat there on 'the hill; as we fondly called it, trying to connect to that time and place, to be present, to relive it - maybe. But somehow the years stood in the way. I sat looking down at the pine trees, through to the pool and the dining hall, thinking I know I'm physically here, as countess memories rushed through me, but it was just that - one bundle of sensations, with nothing I could hang on, or define. I felt close, but not close enough. And being at that show the other night, I felt the same way. There, but not. Present, but distant.
Some people pooh pooh the whole nostalgia thing, reasoning that by somehow having the bittersweet yearning of the past, it is by definition the opposite of moving forward. I refuse to see things so simply black and white - at least with regards to this. Generally, I'm a big proponent of the moving forward, but I also love a rearview mirror. I always have - even when I was younger and didn't have as much to look back on. Remembering the people in my life, who I was, how they made me feel - about life and myself - I find somewhat grounding.
As I stood at that show, it wasn't as if I was wishing I could go back to that time and place. I did love those days, those years. But they were a long time ago - a time when I made mistakes I wouldn't make today. The beauty of age.... Standing there I really felt quite happy to be in the here and now, enjoying the reune with people from the then. Maybe it's true, for a moment, I was trying to feel it again - to relive that time, that connection I had with those people, the true feelings I had about them, myself. But standing in the disconnect, I realized that it doesn't matter how much you remember (or don't - having to be reminded about the many details you've forgotten), or how easily the conversation comes to life after all those years - or even how many tequilas you drink - you can come close, and enjoy the past, or at least the memories and the people from the past, but you can never really relive it - not really.
I don't know if it's good or bad, or even why. I've just found it is.