Last night, had a good bathtub re-read of one of my all-time Big Books: Gypsy Rose Lee’s autobiography Gypsy. I have the same copy I bought on a family trip to London when I was 13. And tonight, I was watching Yankee Doodle Dandy for the first time, and wryly noting the very cleaned-up performance of vaudeville trouping portrayed: scrounging for money and jobs, traveling town to town, doing 10 shows a day, children exploited for performance at ridiculously early ages, backstage rendezvous, dirty dressing rooms–everything referred to lightly, performed in quotations. Very ’40s musical–nothing too disturbing.
(I’ve gotten a temporary Netflix subscription to watch as many musicals as possible before they start charging me–recommendations are welcome, I’m trying to do a crash-course and I’ll tell you why later).
So I was struck by the palpable yearning to live in another time. I mean sure, we all have those fantasies, right? And though I like the occasional old dress, I don’t tend towards nostalgic in my personal aesthetic. But this felt desperate, strong, as strong as the need to pee–I just yearned to live in a time when vaudeville happened, when Broadway and burlesque happened, to walk through New York streets of 75 years past, to use the period artifacts in their period–toothbrushes, eyeglasses, transportation, talking movies, shoes. To eat, to drive, to wear slips and read newspapers, to do all the day-to-day humdrum stuff of life, but have the activities and objects enlivened by the novelty of my own anachronism. I’d like to not know what’s appropriate in language and action, while at the same time knowing what’s coming next, historically.
Have put Narroway to the side–it’s like an ocean, it has everything in it, yet can fit into whatever container I need it to be. Better later. El Paso, then, next.