When you live in New York as long as I have, the passage of time is often marked by a passing of a place.
I just took a walk with Whiskey around my neighborhood—a neighborhood I’ve lived in since 1982 when it seemed like it was one of the few safe places left in a New York that was slip-sliding-away into chaos.
I walked past a building that has just been torn down on East End Avenue. It was home to a friend of mine, way back in the early 80s. We had met in a course at School of Visual Arts and we spent many hours in his apartment working on our advertising portfolios.
Man, that was 35 years ago. Half a lifetime if you believe the Psalm’s threescore and ten.
I lost touch with this friend some time after that. I think he moved down south for a job, or out west, or wigged out when his girl-friend dropped him, or something.
But seeing his apartment house torn down (surely it will give way to $7 million apartments) made me sad, mostly because a lot of times I feel like I am the last man standing.
Of all the people I started with so many days ago back when I was skinny, I think I am the last one still working in a regular job. I say this not to brag. More to lick my wounds—the wounds of a million meetings, a billion ads, and, maybe a trillion disappointments.
I just finished a book, a diary of a sort by a veteran of the Pacific war, E.B. Sledge. Sledge was a 19-year-old marine who survived the fighting in 1944 and 1945 on Peleliu and Okinawa. Of the 1,500 men who started with him in basic training, he was one of only two who came back home when the bloody war ended without physical wounds.
Sledge wrote “With the Old Breed” as an old man and as a private memoir. His family persuaded him to publish it, and it eventually became the HBO miniseries “The Pacific” which was produced by Tom Hanks.
The sense I get from Sledge is how I feel sometimes. I have a sense of loneliness come over me—because no one is my age anymore and though I admire, respect and enjoy the people I work with and for, I feel, very often, a bit distant from them.
I also have what I guess you could call survivor’s guilt. Why am I the one still working—where did I go right, or wrong.
This is all pretty somber, even for a Monday.
But sometimes a torn-down building will do that to you.