I think it was 1966. Dell Setzer and I were passing the old theater in Nyack, NY on our Schwinns. Not sure which one of us noticed, but there were bricks missing on the side of the theater, and maybe even ghosts behind the wall…
Avenue Q, the hilarious, raunchy, take off on the Sesame Street characters, has a grand finale song called “For Now.” The theme of the song is “everything in life except death and taxes is only for now.” Midst positive mentions like sex, or “your hair,” “George Bush” was added to the lyrics. In 2004 Conservatives complained loudly about the musical, not because there’s puppet sex, or the “f” word, or a gay Conservative puppet: a self deluded gay Conservative puppet annoyed by a song sung by his puppet roommate about toleration called, “If You Were Gay.” No, not even that. The Republicans who went to the show while at the 2004 convention complained because they included “George Bush” as something “Only for Now.”
What they expected forever? That’s kind of the point here: people get used to the way things are and seem to get very riled when anyone suggests it hasn’t always been that way… or might not stay. They don’t want to hear, “Everything changes.”
But it does.
I have seen the musical. No faces made as they yell out their list that’s “only for now.” No out of line gestures at the mention of Bush. Just the fact that everything is “for now:” even Bush.
One hopes the script for Avenue Q now substitutes “Barack” for those with the same obsessions now. And one hopes the Left wouldn’t be as clueless regarding the fact that everything, yes, even despite the song’s claim (“except death and taxes”): yes, “everything” is “only for now.”
Sooner or later there most likely will be no us, therefore no taxes, right? And the human race is by no means eternal.
We have the same phenomenon over at the debating site: Volconvo.com. There’s was a thread for a while that claimed, Obama “pissed” on the Queen because he said “…warm greetings from tens of millions of Americans who claim British ancestry.” Their complaint: it’s known as Great Britain and more than just those with British ancestry treasure Great Britain.
Well of course they do, but do they think it was always just “Great Britain?” And not known as the “British Empire,” back when a good portion of colonists were, um, British?
Historical ignorance: just anther example of how people have the habit of thinking what is now has always been, and what is can be judged by today’s standards.
What does this all have to do with two kids on Schwinn bikes in 1966 peering through a hole in a brick wall?
Our heritage, and life in general, exist on an odd, shifting, stage. Kind of like the theater in Nyack, which was very old. Think of high ceiling theaters with smoking sections in back behind a half stone wall facade with glass above that, and small balcony/tiers up near the stage area, kind of like what Abe Lincoln sat in just before that “delightful” “sic semper tyrannis” moment… only closer to the stage, my perspective here being only from the drawings I’ve seen of the assassination.
To enter you went through the golden, multiple, glass doors, past a huge concession area, up a very wide ramp and out midst a sloping floor: smoking area behind you, regular seating ahead of you.
I’m sure not one of us kids ever wondered if there was anything below this huge sloping theater seating area. Yet, as we peered through the missing bricks on the side on the theater, underneath the floor where we watched Disney films, Stooge shorts, The Sound of Music and Forbidden Planet, there was a forgotten: now forbidden, theater… seats all dusty and coated in cobwebs. The floor slanted down to where I assume the bottom of what was still the current stage met the old theater’s floor. A bit spooky. I wondered at the time if apparitions might still be laughing and crying at stage productions, or movies, long since silent, rarely seen: especially since there was a false floor above them.
Have you ever noticed when you pass a place where a demolished building was only a year or two ago you begin to wonder what was there before?
9/11 was like that. I left the New York City area long before it was built. Many call it sacred ground, yet before that was Radio Row: a sacred place for electronic geeks/ham radio ops like my father to haunt for parts and old radios. I seem to remember Dad considering the plans obscenely big, gross and, cough, cough, dangerous.
“Sooner or later something will happen to anything that big, that tall. Large target.”
Though he came to loath the city he worked in; and the desecration of his beloved Radio Row, I suspect he would have been just as angry as everyone else about 9/11.
Politics is like that. The thread I mentioned at the start of this column was a perfect example. Even if you consider Barack’s behavior before the Queen appalling, you only have to go back a few years previous to Barack to see a president do and say embarrassing things in the presence of world leaders. We could go back to Reagan and the wreath on a Nazi’s grave.
Or go back to Nixon proposing health care reform that would make Barack’s seem insignificant, even a capitalist’s dream.
Or Bush II who only cut down the public’s image of rampant spending by keeping two wars off the books, and his VP who said, “Deficits don’t matter.”
Where was all that concern for our children’s future then? Perhaps lost in the rush to slash the budget and destroy their future through educational cuts.
These are the moments, the buildings of shame, built by past presidents: but so many drive right by while ranting about current concerns, perhaps not even knowing what happened.
Sometimes I wonder. The public’s memory is so damn short. Is some of this like that theater in Nyack? Or the building you pass by that’s no longer there?
I have been blessed, and cursed, with a very long and detailed memory that simply refuses to leak out of my head: no matter how much sometimes I wish it would. And many times I really do wish I knew the bliss of the un-missed moments, places and most of all: people. But even I understand, when it’s all too easy to assume something has pretty much always been this way, my memory may not always serve that the truth very well. And that nothing stays as is. Nearing 60 I have noticed I’m becoming a bit out of sync, less of the current era, yet the generations behind me still behave like I did once: as if we will never reach this point.
Like those in the long lived Roman Empire and British Empires, or the supposed thousand year German Empire, essentially some of us act as if, “It’s always been this way, and always will be.”
Somehow I can’t shake the feeling that there are ghosts of old time patrons sitting watching old plays or movies in a theater, that as far as I know, doesn’t even exist anymore. I don’t know. Last time I was in Nyack Dell and I were too busy driving around with my wife remembering other boyish adventures, so I didn’t pay attention when we went by.
I wonder if they’re lonely…
Maybe next time I’m in Nyack I’ll drive by and try to visit them?
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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