Sunday, October 7, 2012

the "new neighborhood" of 50

the following post includes photos i took of the "Levitated Mass" at LACMA.  this huge rock made a news splash earlier in the year as it traveled for two weeks from a riverside quarry to its new permanent home on wilshire.  it is the centerpiece of a project by reclusive artist michael heizer.  this is the first time that i went to see the finished exhibit.  the rock is supported over a concrete trench, and from underneath the rock, there is the impression that the mass is being "levitated".

a boulder out of its "place"
i have now been 50 years old for over a month, and i have experienced some interesting "settling" into my new decade of living.  as i have written before, the build up to turning 50 was not really something that i, um, enjoyed.  it felt as though i were being forced to move from a home that i had grown comfortable in, to a new and unfamiliar neighborhood.  but about a week or so ago i began to realize that moving is exactly what i did when i turned 50.  and now that i have been in my new "house" for a bit, i thought it would be fun to report how things are in the new hood.

you can walk right under the boulder
you know the old saying "wherever you go, there you are"?  of course you do.  well, i really kinda HATE that saying!  it's such a downer when you think about it. what it says, basically, is that you can run from yourself, but you can't hide!  not exactly what someone wants to hear when attempting to distance oneself from undesirable behaviors or unwanted personality quirks.  i had a bit of a panic about this saying in the early summer of 2011 when i was visiting san francisco, and i suddenly wondered if i would eventually make the move to the city only to have nothing change for me.  if you want to refresh your memory, you can read about it here.

everyone wanted a picture like this guy on the right, pretending to "hold up" the rock.  hysterical!
well, if i am to compare turning 50 with the experience of moving to a new neighborhood, then i suppose i can report at this time that the ol' saying is only half true.  amended for accuracy, it should be "wherever you go, you will recognize a part of yourself that has come along".  or "wherever you go, you will find parts of your old self".  or "wherever you go, you will drag along some of the old crap, but there will be new crap too, so it wasn't a total loss".  so maybe i never was a good "saying" writer, but you get the idea!  here is the thing:  of COURSE we take ourselves wherever we go, but as i have written before, we are a product of a three-way interaction between our brains, our bodies, and our environments.  so if one of those things change, well, then we change.   somewhat.

i wonder if, after these few months, the rock feels "at home" in its new environment
in turning 50, you might be asking yourself which of those three things has changed for me, and believe me when i tell you that i am asking myself the same thing.  in my previous post i made it abundantly clear that my body has not changed that much, and as you know, i have not moved to a new environment yet.  so what does that leave?  you guessed it!  my brain!  in a nutshell, i have noticed that my brain seems to have moved into a new neighborhood, symbolically speaking.  an unfamiliar neighborhood, but a likable one nonetheless.

from underneath, i felt as though i was looking at a view that nature did not intend me to see--like looking up the rock's "skirt"!
the new neighborhood that my brain seems to be inhabiting is the brain of a man who is growing older, and who is also preparing for the day when the body "moves" as well.  the experience for me is one of confusion and also wonder.  imagine that you have moved into a new neighborhood.  it takes a while to know the neighbors, if you get to know them at all, and for probably the first month you feel out of sorts even in your new place, at least until you begin to unpack your things and "personalize" the place.  as you arrange the house with your familiar things, you begin to recognize yourself a bit more every day when you come home, even though it is not exactly the same.  it may take long time to find out who your neighbors are; it may take a while to decide who is nice and who is not nice.  but along the way you will be subject to the reflection of yourself that new people project back to you, and it may not exactly match how you were previously reflected!

oh my god. even i can't read the previous paragraph!  let's put it this way.  more than a month into being 50, i feel as if i have unpacked about half of my boxes--enough to "recognize" myself in this new place.  but i still feel as if i know none of my neighbors, so there is the rub.  in other words, i am not so sure about how others are experiencing me as a 50 year old.  make sense??
this thing is 340 TONS!  and yet i felt very secure walking underneath it.
i didn't have this problem when i was going through my 40's.  i did not feel, during my 40's, that there was much that needed to change.  for some reason, 50 has been a sticking point.  but there is some movement.  for instance, i notice that there are certain things that i just don't do anymore.  like going out dancing, or even going to bars, or hooking up, or trying to dress "edgy".  it is not as if i suddenly stopped doing any of those things, it is more like i slowly just "let go" of them, and then one day realized that i was not doing them anymore.  let me just state that there is nothing wrong with doing any of those things at the age of 50, but i think that in my head, i feel as though at SOME point, i have to stop them (believe me, nobody is telling me i have to stop these things!).  i would rather, as they say in the biz, "get out while i am on top".

from afar, it looks smaller, and somewhat lonely.  as if it really does not belong there.
but what has been interesting to notice is that as i arrange more and more of my "familiar" things around my new 50 year old "home", i find myself coming into contact with familiar parts of myself that i had "packed up".  the artist part, for instance.  that one is showing up all over the place.  (for those of you who don't know, i was a dancer/actor/singer for many years.)  not that i am going to start dancing professionally again, but i may go dancing.  i may start practicing my guitar again.  i may write more.  i may seek out other artists, particularly "older" ones.  i may do that.  but since i don't know the neighbors yet in my new older home, i am taking baby steps with that.  without a doubt, i am inspired by artists like madonna, who just never fucking stop.  i don't think she gave turning 50 a second thought!

they say that the exhibit is "permanent" and that this is where the rock will be for hundreds of years.  in time, people may start to think that it has always been there, and that they dug the trench around it.
so with that in mind, this is where i am.  i am still unpacking, if you will.  but i have a few things around the house that i love and recognize, and the place does not feel so unfamiliar anymore.  but there is still much more to do...

and i have GOT to start meeting my "new neighbors".

this poor rock has no "neighbors", just lots of visitors.  is it possible to feel at home where we don't belong?


  1. Oh, the 'new neighbours' will show up some day, when you least expect them! Now the trick is to accept and welcome them!!
    You know what Tony? I think from the time we are born we begin to 'unpack' because we are constantly evolving/growing into this 'thing called LIFE!!!
    I have found as I lived through the 'decade changes' that I wanted also to hold on to the past and was hesitant to 'embrace' this new neighbour! I LOVE how you wrote about this!
    You will survive this change and by the sounds of things have already started 'sorting' through things.
    Take care.
    Now, that ROCK is humungous!! And the photos are great.

    1. thank you, jim! we do have a tendency to hold on, but i don't throw that completely away. it makes sense, really. it is what we know, for better or worse, and sometimes that is preferable to the unknown!

  2. I was so glad to see you posting - I need to read this one a few times to get all the goodies out of it.
    I am all for rocks, big or small; they are part of my name afterall.

    1. part of your name, like "blockhead"? ha ha! read as many times as you like, michael, just be sure to deposit 25 cents in the can every time.

    2. My name and how it is associated with stone is available upon request - and with reasonable handling fees of 50 cents.

    3. my lawyers will be in contact with your lawyers!