Nostalgia is only for something you miss.
Many weekday evenings, and most weekend nights, if you were looking you would find the 16-year-old version of myself in my best friend’s basement, smoking pot. We were in the basement because that’s where his bedroom was, a paean to privacy accorded by his trusting parents. We were smoking pot because we lived in a small, uninteresting town, and pot makes everything better. We were smoking pot in the basement because that’s where The Cure could be heard, or the B-52s or The Doors or REM or Sinéad O’Connor or Siouxsie or Echo & the Bunnymen or Joy Division or Bauhaus or, when my best friend made it so, U2, whom I loathed. We were smoking pot in the basement because with the music playing, and dust motes adrift and floating in the soft waning sunlight filtered through the narrow basement windows, our friendship was developing a smoothness, a comforting patina, stability in an otherwise typically chaotic teenagehood.
When I think back to being 16 I think that I must have jettisoned myriad childish likes and beliefs in order to make room for growing up, but it turns out that the landscape of one’s psyche is malleable and limitless enough to have room for all the growth – like some kind of sentient uterus, or a cosmic fold in space-time. What it comes down to is that precious little has changed over the years; I’m stunned by how little the things that have changed matter, or how much the things that have stayed the same really matter. When I blast The Cure, I do it with the same passionate nihilism as 20 years ago. I am still naive and more than a little superstitious; I don’t care what any of you think, I still hate U2. For the record, I still smoke pot in my best friend’s basement. Not as often, of course, and technically it’s not a basement, it’s a second story apartment. It’s not in a small town either, rather New York City, but I know you get the drift. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The only difference that means anything is that my happiness has evolved. Having only had some of the lows of my life, I at 16 did not understand the ephemeral nature of happiness. I thought happiness could be manufactured, either through circumstance or drug; I thought it could be prolonged indefinitely, way past dinner and bed-times. As so many dead rock stars would tell you if they could, the human body isn’t made for a constant barrage of pleasure, no matter that we may crave it, and our meter for detecting it burns out quickly if in constant use. There is a gargantuan level of happiness that I derive from the past experience of pain, simply because it is past. That doesn’t – of course – mean that I don’t know how to get down anymore, just now know how to come down. Hey wait – are those Fred Schneider’s dulcet tones? ‘Scuse me while I get my Watusi on…