I had a horrendous dream yesterday morning. I was walking through a half animated/half real forest. Waddling down a pretty, sun speckled trail appeared none other than Winnie-the-Pooh, your favorite “bear of very little brain.” But right behind him, waddling in hot pursuit, was ANOTHER Winnie-the-Pooh. The second Winnie had cancer! He was trying to catch the first Winnie to give him his cancer.
The only physical difference between the two was that the second, cancerous, Winnie-the-Pooh had white eyes instead of black. “Jesus Christ, Winnie, run! It’s cancer, for fuck’s sake!,” I yelled. Realizing he was in mortal danger, healthy Winnie waddled as fast as he could, big, stupid smile frozen on his face, and kept repeating over and over “Oh, bother!, Oh, bother!”
My alarm went off and I woke up in an absolute stupor. I walked to the bathroom through thick air and replayed the dream over and over while in the shower. I got into the city, still not fully awake, turned the corner at 44th and Broadway and was hit in the face with this:
Sweet Mother Mary! The big Times Square Disney store animated billboard is featuring Pooh characters. It’s as though this town is a living entity that peers into my innermost thoughts and daydreams and uses them to torment me. My iTouch shuffle does it sometimes, too.
A friend invited me over for a post-work glass of vino and a bite to eat. He lives on the Upper West Side and was home with his charming 3-year old daughter while his wife was out at a business dinner. I had some time to kill so I walked up from 54th and 6th, cut across a corner of Central Park, and then up Amsterdam Avenue into the west 70’s. The sky was a brilliant blue hue and there was just a slight twinge of a cool breeze to announce the coming of autumn.
I didn’t listen to my iTouch or bury my face in a smart phone (as many did). Instead, I did a lot of people-watching and soaked it all in. Walking up Central Park West and winding through the neighborhood, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the sense that I was surrounded by successful, happy people. People who had interesting careers and lots of friends. Pretty homes, perfect marriages, stable work they enjoyed and no financial duress. They don’t get bad haircuts, don’t drive a car with a big dent in the front quarter panel and don’t wear shoes that hurt their feet. Frankly, it made me feel kind of sad.
Now, I know better. All those people who I clandestinely envied are probably just as neurotic and I am. Possibly more so. The Upper West Side of Manhattan is one of the top two epicenters in the U.S. for neurotic behavior (the other being the Upper East Side). But it seems to me they handle their neurosis with a lot more panache and joie de vivre than I do mine. I felt melancholy.
What are we longing for? Where does all this yearning come from?