Generation Gap

That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another. — Adlai Stevenson

I sidled up to David and waited for him to finish explaining his artistic process to a group of his admirers. Silent and smiling, I took a moment to savor the vision of my man endearing himself to others with his artistic perfectionism and personal charm.

When I wasn’t answering questions about my man’s photographs (drawing from an osmotic knowledge acquired from years of gallery sidekicking), I spent my time appraising the trendy attire worn by the fashionistas strolling through the showrooms of Los Angeles’s Pacific Design Center. Five hours later, fatigued from sustaining an unnatural level of agreeability, I was finally alone with David in our hotel room.

“How are you feeling?” I asked.

“Good. Well, tired,” said David. He sat on the bed and kicked off his shoes. “I was just thinking how nice it would be to have a break.”

I removed the clip from my hair, shook out my curls, and sat down beside him. “Isn’t this a break? I mean, we’re out of town, away from our day-to-day responsibilities. It’s nice to be away.”

“I mean a real break, like a whole week where we don’t think about any work at all.”

“We’d have to go somewhere far away from civilization,” I said. “I love technology, but we’re slaves to being connected. The one major downside to working from home is that you never get to go home from work.”

David nodded at my observation. Though we spend almost all of our time together, it’s rare for us actually to be together in that New-Agey presence-of-mind sort of way. At home, we are each at our respective desks from the moment we’re awake until we crawl into bed. As times have been getting harder (i.e., galleries closing and our home being worth less than we owe), David and I have been hustling with an ever-increasing intensity. Our “downtime” has been relegated to sharing short breaks throughout the day, during which we’re most likely thinking about what we should be doing instead of taking a break.

Over our anniversary weekend, David and I attended the reception for his exhibition, visited with a handful of friends, and drove to San Luis Obispo to deliver and install one of his pieces. By Sunday morning I began to stress the way I always do on the last day of any trip as I start to visualize the pile of bills, emails, and chores that await me at home.

We were going through our usual checkout checklist, first packing our toiletries, then sweeping the room for any forgotten chargers, when I stopped and said, “Forget about this. We have plenty of time. Let’s go have breakfast.” I tossed a towel onto the bed to demonstrate my dedication to carefreeness and followed David out the door.

“I have an idea,” said David. They were his first words since we were seated, and I was already on my second cup of coffee. I raised my brows in question. “We could make a ritual of doing the Sunday New York Times together — lots of people do it.”

“Why would we do that? We can read the news on our laptops,” I said.

“No, you’re missing the point,” David said, a frustrated edge creeping into his tone. “It’s not about reading the news. It’s about the Sunday magazine, the crossword —”

“You want to do puzzles together?”

“No!” David took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he considered an alternative approach. “There’s an entire mood. Think about a lazy Sunday morning, the early morning light.” His voice took on a dreamy quality. “A cup of tea or coffee, both in pajamas.” I refrained from pointing out the fact that we don’t own pajamas and replaced the word with “robes” in my imagined scene. “We’re both on the couch, the paper spread out, reading book reviews or theater reviews or lifestyle articles, doing the crossword puzzle. And we might share bits, like the travel section, and have classical music or any kind of music on the stereo. It’s relaxing and indulgent. Definitely not the news — we wouldn’t be reading articles about what Obama’s doing. The point is to escape that.”

“Then why not read books?” I said. “Or we can bring our laptops to the couch and read the New York Times online.”

This time, David laughed. “Maybe it’s a generational thing,” he said. Because we share so many interests, and people often mistake David and me for being the same age, I tend to forget there are 16 years between us.

“Just because I don’t understand it yet doesn’t mean I won’t like it if I try it,” I said. “Hey, why don’t we do it today?”

“No, that wouldn’t be a proper experience, the whole thing — remember? — the whole thing is to have a lazy Sunday morning. You can’t have an un-lazy morning checking out of a hotel and driving home from L.A. and then be lazy. It just doesn’t work that way. That would be like baking a cake and putting the eggs in after you baked it.”

“Maybe you’re right,” I said. “Maybe this is just one of those age things that I’m not going to get. You know, like Gilligan’s Island or WKRP, or any of those old shows you Netflixed.”

“Or I Dream of Jeannie,” David added.

“No, I like I Dream of Jeannie. Because there’s magic in it.”

David chuckled and shook his head. “Haven’t you ever read newspapers?”

“My dad did,” I said. “Oh, wait, yeah, I can remember taking the funnies out on Sundays because they were in color. But I don’t understand what the difference is — if you want to read stories, we can read stories online. Heather and Sean have a Kindle. You can get the news on that, and we wouldn’t be distracted by email or other websites. We could focus on the one publication. You know, together.”

“Right, while we’re popping our frozen entrées in the microwave,” David muttered.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“People sometimes cook because the process is relaxing,” said David. “Not just to get to the final product. It’s not about ingesting the news like it’s a pill.”

“But we could read our laptops in our…pajamas,” I said. “First thing in the morning. And we have an instant espresso machine. I could make us coffee.”

“No, no, no,” David said. “Spreading the New York Times out over the floor and sifting through the sections —”

“Sounds messy.”

David opened his mouth as if to argue, then dropped his shoulders in defeat and said, “Well, yeah. I guess it does.”


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