Thursday, February 15, 2007


Okay, so Valentine’s Day is just another opportunity for companies to make money feeding on human sentimentality—right?

Okay, so it’s Valentine’s Day and my love is out of town. I’m missing her something fierce. A few hours ago I got tired of listening to classical music on our cable, and switched channels to something called Cityscapes. Turns out it’s all music from my youth (yeah, a long time ago). “Moon River,” “What Kind of Fool Am I?” and “Look For The Silver Lining.” Music you forgot years ago, or never heard of, and glad of it. Right?

Okay, so the Michigan Theater—our hometown version of NPR or PBS, a non-profit dedicated to the past and to the local, an old movie theater that is now owned by the city of Ann Arbor (or a nonprofit supported by the city)—is putting on a Valentine’s Day Special Event for its members, including free sparkling wine and locally made chocolates and an old Audrey Hepburn-Humphrey Bogart-William Holden movie called “Sabrina.” Encouraged (sort of) by Judith, before she left for Florida, to attend this Event with our mutual friend Marjorie, I’m getting ready to drive through single-digits weather to Ann Arbor, and figure I need some bolstering.

Okay, so I mix a martini in one of our new elegant martini glasses, and look through my retiree’s clothing, and decide to wear black slacks, almost-black blazer, and an almost-white knit turtleneck that I’ve had in a drawer for about—what?—thirty years?

Another old song plays on the stereo a tune that I can’t remember the title but will never forget the melody. I’m fitting in, right? It’s the kind of music that we used to play very softly when we had a girl over and the lights out but a fire going in the fireplace and there weren’t any complications that we’d admit to. A nice buzz going in my head—but nobody close to flirt with. I’m swept up in nostalgia.

Romance, like sex, is wasted on the young. Probably all those romantic songs playing on the stereo were written by guys almost as old as I am, letting booze take them back to their days when all of us were beautiful and had a lot of stamina.

Did I feel like this when I was twenty? What I remember was more like yearning for what I’d never had than nostalgia for what I did. Other guys might have been luckier than I was. But I do remember—vividly—standing, one time, at the edge of an overlook on Twin Peaks at night watching the lights of airplanes lined up in the sky for miles on final approach to San Francisco International with a good friend at my side and soft music playing in the car, and wishing the moment would go on and on. And wishing that I could afford a house on that same mountainside with a big picture window overlooking the fog-wrapped city a thousand feet below us.

It’s the gin, obviously. Why else would I be listening to “Among my Souvenirs,” or “Blue Moon,” or “I’ll Be Seeing You?”

I suppose in forty or fifty years other codgers this old will be looking back to their years of discovery and listening to things like “Irreplaceable” by Beyonce (whoever she is) with the same feeling of nostalgia.

Cityscapes, or its latter-day counterpart, will be playing music that gives the elders of the day a break from the “infernal noise” (as my father used to call Harry James’s great “Cherry”). And some doddering but incurable romantic will mix up a martini or its counterpart and get lost in memories for a while.

And then, if they’re lucky, they will go over and sit on the sofa next to their love and pick up a book and read.

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