I used to love her and for a long time she loved me back. She was an old and regal damsel when I first met her, but she never showed her age, she had aged gracefully always finding the fountain of youth with every passing era, returning exquisite as ever. Permanently elegant in her dress and conversation, persistently methodical, always keenly aware of the historical context of her every action and of the melodrama she unraveled daily with her spectacle. To love her is to have a strong sense of history, to understand tradition and tendency. I revered her quiet unassuming pace, her long paused silences, stoic and genteel, but not quite aristocratic, just the right amount of class and crass. She told me stories of her rebellious youth, of the woolen and smartly threaded shrouds she paraded around in, of the whiskey, the cigar smoking, the city swinging, of having grown up in the urban core as the rest of 20th century immigrant America. I was an outsider to the dominant culture that she had helped to shape and so I allowed her to shape me into it. My fascination with her persona was adolescently obvious, but she never took advantage of it she was always subtle with her charm, slow, gentle and thorough. I wanted to be an acceptable American and she seemed to hold the keys to that world. She taught me about the magnificence of failure, about virtue as an outlet for my religiosity and about her most beloved paramour; Jazz. She told me stories of her old home in the city, of its old bare bricked asymmetrical charm wedged between the apartments and shops of the working class folk that witnessed her rise to prominence, of the manner in which she had received Edna Lazarus’ tired and poor gave them a refuge from the factory. Her home held a balcony of leisure for the industrialists and grandstand of respite for the working class a proper place to channel their irreverence and frustrations and yell out salted elocutions at the authority men dressed in blue, a place of high and low brow intermingling.
She was my ageless history maiden, my Virgil through America. Despite all of her graces she could be unforgiving, at times stifling, unwilling to accept that perhaps she was from another era and that she needed to be just that and not give into cheap tricks and fashion. When I met her she was no longer living in the city. She had been exiled to the suburbs into a soulless mastodon tract home made of concrete bland utopia. She no longer had a home to herself she had to share it with brutal burly brutes, evangelical ministers, monster trucks and rock and roll stars, second fiddle to the whims of the new world that she was a part of. I’d usually visit on Fridays I would arrive early and await her curtain call at 7:05 and for 3 hours I’d sit and listen to her, watch her, be in her presence and feel the love she still had to give and receive. Her new cavernous home had outgrown her capacity to illicit joy in others, no more intimacy, a new home with zero traces of a storied downtown past.
The older she got she really started to show her age and her vanity. She became obsessed with staying relevant and chasing after new lovers, complacent to their need for instant gratification and raunchy heft brutality. She got strung out on drugs to enhance her appeal and ability to awe and inspire, she tried to muscle her way into the hearts of those with plastic yellow dreams of Jerry Springer violence. Her tryst with drugs was supposedly short lived; she crashed and came down quickly shamed and ostracized by the hypocritical puritans of the land that claimed to love her. I didn’t care about her drug use and her wrinkles or her continued attempts at being liked, I still loved her despite her insecurities. Behind her back they’d say she’s old, too slow, boring, and not fast enough. I tried to love her for what she was but she had no desire of going back to that. As regal as she always has been, she’s always been easily brought down by the insults slung at her back, the end of her; the end of my patience.
And then one day I learned that she was finally returning to her old digs in the polis, back to the downtown core, away from the ambiguity of the suburban sterility, lured back into the city with a promise of being the high maiden of the downtown scene again, the girl about town. Her exile to suburbia had almost killed her. Entire city blocks were razed and old places I used to visit were leveled to make room for a new old looking home. I didn’t care that the developers had changed the face of my city, I was happy that she was finally returning to the urban core, to her proper place. As a kid I always dreamed of being able to walk to see her, and avoid a car ride into the suffocating sprawl of middleclass resignation. She always looked so out of place next to strip malls and freeways.
I went to her house warming party to see the luxury of her new home, she had Wi-Fi and a fridge stocked with craft ales and sushi. I was looking forward to seeing old friends instead I walked into a place run amok by hucksters and marks. She made her entrance, her façade looking timeworn but still graceful. Her style had changed, no longer refined in her dress, wearing a loose get up that looked like pajamas. She looked old, frail, irrelevant, confused, parading around like a relic, a sad memory of a past I couldn’t recognize. This was no home for a renaissance; this was a place for convalescing.
I don’t love her anymore she’s not the same girl, pieces of her past remain but they’re no longer for me. I still go and see her, we’ve remained cordial, but I no longer go inside her home I just stare from a hill in a park behind the grandstand far away but close enough to still catch a glimpse of her pastured glory. It’s hard to walk away from a maiden that has taught me so much, who taught me about the discipline of failure and who introduced me to Jazz and the historical necessity of remembering, who kept me company through my assimilation to the strange and amazing land of invasive wasp values. For her sake I hope she finds her fountain of youth again. I’ve moved on to greener pitch, to a land south of the gringo gate, gone to Mexico to forget that I used to love her.