Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The New York of my youth, the television of it too

There are many ways of looking at the “me” in each of us.  At any given time, we exist in so many different worlds simultaneously that we could be said to be different people connected only in body, not in mind. Our work world, our home world, our play work, our love world, our think world — these different worlds integrate into one person whom we call “you” or “me”, but in practice, the very parts of us that make up us may be coexisting oceans apart from each other.

Time adds a whole other dimension to it all. Living a lifetime allows a person to have many different lifetimes. The crawling infant turns into the playing child turns into the amorous adolescent turns into the contemplating adult turns into, you get the idea. Mewling and puking in our nurse's arms, or something like that.

To make sense of it, we push a needle and thread through these different layers of persona, binding them together into one continuous life story, one we insist has a direction, a point and a purpose. This life includes a full cast of characters, heroes and villains alike and everyone in between, joined by events that produce the person you and I become to be. Still, dissonance never pulses far away.

Dissonance is not a sound unfamiliar to any of us. Every child struggles with a certain amount of it, and we might say that the task of childhood is to make sense out of a world that otherwise would make no sense at all, filled as it is with odd incongruities and these strange creatures called adults.

I was thinking this morning of one my incongruities, which I’ll call the intersection of a world of realities and a world of dreams. I am speaking about the city I grew up in and the television I saw at the time. The first was New York City in the 1970s, and the second was the suburbanized fantasy world of cheap sitcoms.

Pictures show this dissonance more succinctly than words could describe, so I won’t bother with the words. Furthermore, interpreting this dissonance is to some degree what subsequent life is all about, an ongoing performance piece happening in real time for all to see. So again, I’ll let my own too many threads be its own exhibit for inspection and loosen my clammy grip on the writing pen for the time being.

Here’s the goods in pixels …

Kids at play, on a cold day, in East Harlem, circa 1971

Yes, this was New York in the early 1970s

An image of American Eden, from Leave It To Beaver, in the immediate post-War years.

One of the most iconic houses in all of TV land, the southern California template for fulfillment in the 1970s, with sidewalks to nowhere, off-street parking and traffic-free streets, where the Bradys lived.