Second-Hand Sweaters and Artifacts

I was at Housing Works the other day — Doe drags me in there numerous times per week: they give her dog biscuits, the shitty kind she isn’t allowed at home. Anyway, I don’t mind being dragged into Housing Works. I like thrift stores and consignment shops. Sometimes, I look down at myself as I walk along and realize that everything I’m wearing from coat to jeans has been worn by someone else first. Better second-hand cashmere than fast fashion, I say — better for the world and for me too. I continue to enjoy beautiful things though I can no longer afford them. Who can? The price of things has become absurd. I know there are many in my position. It’s the state of the changing world. There are a lot of poor people. In fact, I’m well off by most standards. I have a roof over my head and food to eat. My animals receive medical care when they need it. There are many, many worse off. And truthfully, I’m more comfortable living a bare-bones existence anyway. I’m repulsed by shows of excess. I suppose our non-president has brought into focus the grotesquery of wealth. Greed is so ugly, the opposite of compassion. What kind of fantasy do you have to live in to believe you deserve to travel by private plane while others live in refugee camps or don’t have enough to eat?

But this isn’t what I meant to write about at all. I meant to write about the strange sensation that came over me while I was looking through second -hand sweaters at Housing Works. They always have music playing and on this occasion, the song being blasted at a pretty good volume over the sound system was a David Bowie song — strangely, I can’t recall now which song it was; perhaps, it will come back to me before I finish writing this. But I was enjoying listening to the song, and that’s when it happened, this weird shift in perspective. Suddenly, I found myself feeling sad and thinking that Bowie is dead and, more and more, the music being blasted through speakers in stores, and restaurants, and everywhere is an artifact– not of the present but the past. And that increasingly we will live in a world where this is true. It wasn’t even a thought so much as a feeling. Kids will grow up loving music, art, fashion from decades before they were born. They will understand Bowie and the Beatles and Joni Mitchell as artifacts, not artists. Anyway, maybe this is not such a big revelation, but it struck me as such.

It’s possible that this sense of the world, as increasingly strange, is characteristic of aging– getting old, I mean. Unbelievably, I will turn 60 in March. I still love the world, have become increasingly appreciative of it, in fact. Not the horrible things, of course, of which there are too many. But the beauty of it: the five-story maple tree outside my window, the birds, and the rooftops. Good friends and family. My work, which continues to give me something to do and, on good days, provides meaning.

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