"In the disco era, we hung our Christmas tree from the upper reaches of the ceiling, its lights dazzling like a mirror ball as it worryingly spun. Another year, my mother, disinclined to go out in the snow and buy a tree, just painted one onto the wall."
Isabel Fonseca wrote an enjoyable to read article in the November 14th issue of the New York Times' T Magazine about what it was like to grow up in an apartment (pictured above) with artistic parents in Greenwich Village in the 1960s and 1970s.
My generation is in some ways more cautious than the last couple of preceding generations were. I'd argue that this is often by necessity (it's hard to be footloose when you start out your adult life with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. Or to be whimsical decorating a house that you've mortgaged for hundreds of thousands, since home prices have also risen precipitously in the past couple of decades.)
Still, I'd like to bring some of that old school freestyle spirit back into my life, especially when I have children of my own. "It's too snowy outside. Mom's just going to paint the Christmas tree on the wall this year" sounds like the start of a fun holiday season.
"But walking around Chinatown is the only time I can feel authentic old Manhattan -- our neighborhoods have been neutered. I miss the old New Yorkers," she adds.
"What's confusing is that all these jocks dress alternative now due to hipsterdom or whatever. They're all out in disguise. It's very disturbing."
-- Chloe Sevigny in the November issue of Harper's Bazaar
I liked this when I read it, as it articulates something that's bugged me lately in my more cynical moments, in NYC and elsewhere.
"Good evening, Taylors' residence... May I ask who's calling, please?... Hold on, just a moment."
Though my father passed away four years ago last month, I can still remember so clearly the way he sounded when answering our home telephone. It's funny how certain memories -- sounds, smells -- stay with you so clearly. It's funny the things you end up missing.
My dad wasn't a stickler about many things. Going to the grocery store with Dad meant that you'd probably get to pick out a candy bar in the check out aisle. Mom was the one who made sure the trains ran on time, that my sister and I did our chores, got good grades, and dusted the baseboards when it was our turn to clean. They were a good team.
But the one thing my dad was strict about was how we talked to people. He insisted that we address grownups as Miss and Ms. and Mr. and Mrs., unless they absolutely insisted otherwise. And telephone manners were huge. "Introduce yourself!" bellowed Dad from the living room as we called our friends from the kitchen phone.
"Hello, this is Colleen Taylor calling. May I please speak to Ashley?" is a pretty embarrassing thing to say when you're 14 and trying desperately to sound cool when Ashley's cute older brother answers the phone. But house rules were house rules.
Time often helps you see that your parents were right about a lot of things you chafed against growing up. Dad's phone etiquette rules are certainly in that category for me. I've learned it's much better to err on the side of seeming too polite or too old fashioned, than to take up other people's time in an entitled way. (Programmer and writer Paul Ford had a post about politeness recently that's a good read.)
And more and more, it just rubs me the wrong way when I pick up the phone, say hello, and hear a voice I don't recognize chirp "Is Colleen there?" without introducing him or herself first.
It's a very silly, very small thing. But it's just one of those things.