Monday, April 21, 2014

Nostalgique

My front garden, at sunset

Well, it isn't really a word used by us English speakers, is it? But I do like the sound of it.

I think back to the days in Ontario when I knew a few female alcoholics and when they introduced themselves thusly: "Je suis un alcoolique", I would think to myself: that sounds so much more fun, so much more glamorous, so much more carefree than "alcoholic".

A couple of web friends have kicked the bucket. One out of Limerick who died in January (of a brief but unremitting cancer) but my FB feed has a mind/agenda of its own. Posts normally at the top of my lists get subsumed by the bots at whim to the nether regions. This is what happened to my friend John's obit news. He was one of Ireland's foremost atheists, a never ending battler for women's rights, a wit, an artist of some renown and a scholar and a gentleman. We'd had some pleasant exchanges over the years. Some Irishmen just make me proud. He was one of them.

Mike I'd followed for many years due to his online magazine, his documentaries and a radio show. He ruminated on many topics - ranging from oil as a finite resource and the underlying conspiracies of corporate interests in political affairs. I had been an admirer of his for about 13 years and befriended him in his transition to FB. Since he has died - by his own hand - some troubling facts have come to light in regard to his declared sobriety (he wasn't), a sexual harassment charge, and his extreme paranoia resulting in a self-inflicted gunshot wound when he'd wrapped up his last radio show. So my opinion of Mike, and now his political slants, have taken a jolt.

Sometimes I do wax nostalgic for simpler times. But were they ever simple? I look at the pictures of Old Cork, a new group on FB that has brought such richness of historical experience to my home city via these thousands of old photos and movies. Many now vanished train stations and trams, unsullied strands, majestic ballrooms, shoppers in hooped skirts, all looking innocent and almost childlike. But I also remember the slums of Cork, now thankfully no more, where lonely old women ate meagre food on tin plates with the damp running down the walls. As "Children of Mary" in secondary school, we would have to visit these old people in their tenement rooms and bring food and clothing to them.

At times like these, I need to step out of Nostalgique, a fine place to visit for sure, and pour myself a stiff cup of reality laced with a hit of cynicism.

Back to normal, in other words.



14 comments:

  1. Amazing what we learn about people after the fact, our opinions colored by what little we know first-hand or what the person chose to share with us while they were alive. This is a fine piece of writing that does justice to waxing nostalgic, which sometimes isn't a bad place to go~

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  2. Nostalgique is fine for a short swift visit, but like blistering sunshine, not a place to dally for too long.

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  3. Years ago, Helen Hayes was interviewed by a young reporter who asked her if she was ever nostalgic about the "good old days."

    Hayes' response:

    "The good old days? When people were still riding in carriages, and you had to walk across Broadway with your eyes on the ground to avoid stepping in the horseshit?

    Not really."

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  4. One of my aunts recently posted this thing about how much better life used to be when kids were fine without bike helmets or seatbelts and so on. And as much as I love and respect her, I had to call bullshit on that sort of nostalgia. There were a lot more unnecessary cases of traumatic brain injury and death before safety laws were tightened up. I remember some of my own past with some fondness but also very aware of the parts that were no so good. Or downright horrible. I prefer to have am more balanced view.

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  5. Sharon:

    I think Mike's death really blew the lid off for me. I had him fairly pedestalized - not too much, I'm not like that, but it got me reflecting on delusional nostalgia - as many of his acolytes are inflicting on themselves.

    XO
    WWW

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  6. GM:
    Agreed - and we colour it too brightly at times.
    XO
    WWW

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  7. Marc:

    You made me laugh. I made such a comment on one of the old pics of my home city, I remarked on the trailing dresses gathering up gawd knows what off the muddy roads :)

    XO
    WWW

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  8. SAW:

    I agree, my own heart pounds when I think of the chances I took as a child that my parents didn't know about. Scary stuff.

    XO
    WWW

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  9. I'm not familiar with the Mike you mention, but the image Mike projected must have been the one he wanted to project, perhaps desperately wanted to be.

    My mother-in-law has fallen into a paranoia in which she's convinced that the world is so much more dangerous than it has ever been. I'm of the opinion that people are people: fallible and glorious, greedy and altruistic, and everything in between. My mother-in-law was marrying and having her first children after having grown up during the Great Depression, having siblings and others wounded in WWII, and learning of the atrocities that occurred during that war. She was marrying into a family in which she was to learn that her mother-in-law was being abused. That was not a better world, just one during which she was younger and more resilient.

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  10. I don't suffer from many feelings of nostalgia at all, although I may sometimes sound like I do. I definitely do not think the good old days were better and I am glad that I am alive now, although I would like to be a young person and be alive now.

    There are also not many people I look up to and that are a great example to me (except you). I have become much too cynical for that. The ones that shout the loudest, are usually the biggest offenders.

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  11. It's tempting to look back at the past very selectively and imagine it was so much better than today, but of course it wasn't, it was just different. Some good things, some bad things, the same as now. I certainly wouldn't like to be back in the days of typewriters, no central heating, no fridges and teachers who gave you six of the best.

    As you say, it's a shock when someone who's cultivated a very likeable public image turns out to have a rather less likeable private self. I'm wary of all glossy public images, especially of people I've never met and know only through the media.

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  12. I've been reading a lot of memoirs lately, and what I note is that there were certain freedoms that no longer exist, but we were too often conditioned not to take advantage of them, girls and women especially.
    I think everyone should write a memoir and intend to make that a project for the next year or so.

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  13. Yes, the French language does lend itself to a certain je ne sais quoi. Though when they sing opera you wish you were in Italy, or Germany.

    Were times simpler, WWW? In many ways yes, in others no. I'd say: At best different.

    As to your friend Mike: It's difficult when we find out that someone was/is not quite the person we thought.I suppose we are best advised to take away the good of a person/memory. I went through one hell of a wringer some years ago. On so many fronts. I spent about three years flooded. Sometimes wondering "What would I actually ponder on/think about if xyz hadn't happened?". I was consumed with grief. And then it abated. The ashes I am left with so cooling. A lot of good memories of some people who left my life of their own volition. Who feel so guilty and full of remorse they can't bring themselves to talk to me. Crazy, don't you think? These last five years have taught me about life, condensed a life time.

    Nostalgia? Sentimental? Moi? Oui. And glad of it.

    U

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  14. Your path and mine seem to be running on parallel tracks. I have been on a roller coaster nostalgia trip the whole week culminating yesterday with a movie and to find this morning with a message from a voice from a very distant past wanting to reestablish contact.

    No, the nostalgia has not been for things but for people and institutions but poignant nevertheless.

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