My Ideal Age
I missed my era. Now, which time period would have been my perfect fit depends on the year you ask me, but for most of my life it was the future, until I saw Moulin Rouge. Sure, I went to the Renaissance Festival wanting to live in the middle ages and love the idea of living in 60’s San Francisco or 90’s Seattle, but Paris around the turn of the twentieth century was my dream age when I left for my first solo backpack through Europe. I knew I wouldn’t stumble upon a wormhole; I was just dying to see what was left of what I saw as the time period I was meant to live through.
I got to Prague first, and immediately I was drunk both physically and emotionally. While I had traveled quite a bit before this trip, it had always been mainly sightseeing; this was the first time I was a traveler simply wandering through the city. The biggest difference between seeing the Greatest Hits and flying by the seat of my pants is that by wandering around I found all these amazing magical moments, times that surprised me and gave me something way weirder than I expected to find.
Like this man sketching at the end of the St. Charles Bridge. He was an anachronism, offering me a peak at the romanticized artist at the turn-of-the-century bohemian movement. I was twenty-one when I stole this shot, and I’ve come back again and again to this picture since. It was magical, but what am I looking at?
An artist? No. I didn’t even consider his sketches and paintings artistically because, no matter what he was drawing, it was perfect. I’m looking at a dream. He’s a character on Hollywood Boulevard, and he knows this. He may or may not even care about his actual work because his main purpose for dressing as he does and setting up where he does is to ignite that the romantic yearning for the past that everyone has burning inside of them, the mandatory fee for taking his picture (the bucket of cash by his feet) is the proof.
I don’t judge tourists when they get a picture taken with Bobafet or Jack Sparrow, and in fact I think the Hollywood would be less without them. While it may be stilted and derivative, it’s the only glimpse into another era that most of us have, and it’s important to have our high concept fantasies realized, even just a little bit. It’s important to forget the reality of our time to be able to reexamine the world around us as something that is brightly illuminated by the lifetimes of the past.