I roamed the streets in the 1990's, when some of my 'greatest hits' were born ... The short stories and faction (exaggerated non-fiction) pieces which came from a place of desire, perceived "freedom" and human connection.
In the 21st century, two out of three of these no longer exist.
There is nothing more off-putting to see, more wretchedly, jarringly unattractive, then a phalanx of ass, leg and skin-tight skirt all marching in unison - high heels or boot heels clicking (in unison) - each one ignoring the other, marching in silence, and buried face deep in their glowing device screens: joylessly squinting and pinching and scrolling, ostensibly 'reading', and praying to keep being left undisturbed together.
Or the young woman on her way to work, 5:30, 6:30, 7am, with a cell phone pasted to her face the entire blocks-long walk to the train. On hold with an airline, perhaps ... or she's trying to get through to her cable TV company. Doesn't seem to be having a conversation ... Hmm. Maybe the phone is just there on her face - like a prop; a 'protection' against intrusion?
Nah! No one can be that psychologically damaged ... sick, insecure, afraid, full of themselves ... that they wield the cell phone as a shield, against eye contact or a random "Good morning" ... can they???
If yes, the world was in SUCH a much better place in the '90's.
Fifteen, twenty years ago, the chance to make eye contact, make conversation and make a connection, existed on the streets of Manhattan - in the bookstores, supermarkets, delis ... Even the coffee shops were different.
It was literally another era. The paradigm was just shifting: the music was becoming harder - less "fun." and trying to please everyone, and yet everyone's rifts were beginning to heal: the black and the white became more or less one Gen X, with only a few of the most ignorant failing to catch that vibe ... and 'gayness' was shoved down our throats (so to speak), so that everyone at least was AWARE of a joke, even if they weren't quite in on a punchline.
Simply put, the Milennials' highway was being paved. Gen Y and beyond, instead of rebelling, took what we started, co-opted and ran with it: color blind, tolerant, entrepreneurial ... but terrified of real life.
While Gen X helped shape 21st century reality, Gen Y leads by example in subverting and avoiding it. Sitting in a Starbucks all day, "working"?
You are avoiding real life.
Fast, flying thumbs against virtual villains? You are in another dimension. Hiding behind a glowing green screen or smart cell phone?
You are escaping. Avoiding. 'Keeping up with the Joneses' and helping to support and create new realities: in employment, innovation, technological dominance and heretofore untold riches (he writes breathlessly)!
But with these opportunities comes Facebook Irony: you're no more "connected" or "social" then I am. In fact, in reality, you're SUCH much less so.
All of this occurred to me while chatting with Amy, a like-minded soul (a mind I liked!) I met in a Chinatown brasserie.
Amy reminded me of Sarah - my 25 years ago friend from old college - who licked her full lips when she spoke, and bright smiled, had a thought or two in a crazy brain and laughed at all the stupid jokes ...
She could make a one-liner or two herself, Amy, with a wit and that smile (bright!), quick as gazelle.
In a word, I was smitten.
Amy told me that she and her husband were over, and all of the reasons she felt why that happened. We walked down Canal Street, still real life chatting ... She caught a cab to go back to the ferry, and 2.5 kids on Staten Island.
And I felt as plugged in, newly young and alive as at any time in the 1990's, when I roamed the streets ...