25 March 2013

Out of the Game

I must be getting old. (Which is okay, by the way.) Recently, encouraged by Roger Rosenblatt’s New York Times piece on the best movies about a writer, I watched the film adaptation of Starting Out in the Evening, which is based on a novel by Brian Morton. To my horror, then not so much, I found that I could see myself more in the old, writerly Leonard Schiller character (played by Frank Langella) than in the young, student-y, brimming-with-enthusiasm Heather Wolfe (played by fire-haired Lauren Ambrose). Not because Schiller is a writer, which I claim to be (besides, so is Wolfe—she’s writing her thesis), but because Schiller is old—older—and would rather not suffer from the intense but short attentions of young people. 

This is not to say that I regularly attract young—younger—people’s attention. I don’t. Of the intense kind, I attract even less. I only mean that if I do, I won’t be able to keep up with it. I know so! As Rufus sings, not too sadly, “I’m out of the game.” And the game, whatever it was, was invariably something I’d be useless at playing in the first place. 

If this sounds outlandish and awfully ageist, forgive me. But it’s true. A few days ago in a bar I met a pair of backpackers barely out of their teens and, next to them, I could positively hear my bones creaking. One was from France, the other from Denmark, and they began to talk to me about beer—the beers of the world. It was a conversation that lasted close to three hours, felt longer (much!), and involved voluntarily dished out lists of breweries visited, places sojourned in, cultures absorbed, exotic foods sampled, sexual encounters had, wealth squandered and wealth accumulated; it was, in short, the kind of conversation that was not about beer, really. It was about being young, wild, and free (or Eat, Pray, Love as told by two guys in a room). I made less than a little contribution to it. Here’s an old-person skill I did not use to have: I managed to talk without actually saying anything.

Now if only I can find people who’ll tell me something about books instead of beer. Or about Starting Out in the Evening. About anything! As long as it brings to the surface how one thinks instead of what one thinks. Also: age doesn’t matter, as long as it doesn’t get in the way. I thought I’d find friends in bars. Obviously not! But I’m only half-kidding, which goes to show that I don’t know as much as I think I do—a fact that to me will be clearer in a few years, and much, much clearer in a lot of years.

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