Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Curious Nature of Time...or, An Ode to North Jersey

I had some free time this week, thanks to the time in the van driving to and from New York, and spent a lot of the drive-time thinking about the curious nature of time. It was probably just a waste of my time, but I still had a good time ruminating about the philosophy of time. While I’m confident I had no thought that hasn’t been thought before, I say with admiration and some trepidation that time is a very peculiar thing. The debate whether time is linear - a continuous, forward march away from a start point to an end point - or cyclical - with patterns and repetition - has been around since the Greek greats of philosophy. And while I spent a lot of time thinking about the nature of time, and the changes brought about by time, I also enjoyed my personal discovery of another component of time - what I will call stationary time, the random point that connects to nothing else, without change or progress or movement in any direction. 

Whew, I just got dizzy! I don’t know if it’s all the deep thoughts or the stiff margarita I’m working on, but I need to slow down. Over spring break, the kids and I drove to New York for a few days. For many miles, I thought about how, road trip after road trip, the kids have grown up and changed so much - linear time - from four infants who needed me for absolutely everything, to one tween who is frequently embarrassed that I even exist, a nine-year-old who is developing an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Star Wars, a near-six-year-old who uses words like “magnificent” to describe the new juicer, and a four-year-old with an advanced vocabulary who says things like, “This freakin’ chair!!” with an excessive amount of disgust. 

For the record, to put into perspective how much time I’ve spent in the van with those kids (and these are trips with just me and the kids, not Mike), I easily tally at least 10,000 exclusive miles on various cross-country or coastal jaunts (not including moves). I became a little sad thinking about time in this reference, which is clearly linear, moving me away - every day - from where I am, where I’ve been, where I know, away from the good times, and away from the bad, always changing, always evolving. I have mixed feelings about linear time, but one of those feelings is definitely melancholy. 

And then I had a brush with the cyclical nature of time. While we were in New York, against my better judgement, I let the girls watch the Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg movie, Daddy’s Home. After the movie, Nadia commented on Mark Wahlberg’s delightful abs, which reminded me of his frequently-shirtless, Funky-Bunch days (c’mon…feel the vibrations!!) and how I’ve actually met Mark Wahlberg twice. Realizing Nadia didn’t know this, I told her, and now she thinks I am famous, simply because I met a famous person…twice. My coolness factor, at least in Nadia’s eyes, totally skyrocketed with that nugget of knowledge (yay, me!!).  And that’s when I realized that time is as much circular as linear. Twenty-five years ago, I was admiring Mark Wahlberg’s abs and cracking up at Full House (while also having the hots for Uncle Jesse and his marvelous mane). Today, two-plus decades later, my kids are admiring Mark Wahlberg’s abs and commenting on how fabulous Uncle Jesse looks, as they watch Fuller House in binge doses. And so I have mixed feelings about cyclical time, as well, including some worry and skepticism, as I know that time embodies change and things evolve…except, apparently the mysterious hair of John Stamos and abs of Mark Wahlberg. 

And speaking of mystery…enter New Jersey, which is where my theory of time-as-a-fixed-point developed. I hadn’t driven through New Jersey in almost a decade but when I did this week, it was like time had stood still. As soon as we reached North Jersey, Liam immediately asked, “What smells so bad?!? Who farted?!?” And I had to explain to him that that’s just how North Jersey smells, that it’s always smelled like that and, I fear, may always smell like that (ironically, as soon as we hit North Jersey on the way home, Liam said exactly the same thing). Then one of the kids said, “It’s so ugly here,” and I remembered various road trips through New Jersey over the decades - the ’80s, ’90s, ’00s and now the ’10s -  and realized how nothing had changed for so many years. For the record, I hate stereotypes and I apologize to the state of New Jersey, but that state does all it can to enforce every New Jersey stereotype in existence.

For those of you who many not have had the pleasure of driving threw New Jersey for four decades, go watch the opening credits of The Sopranos to see what I’m referring to (the scene could’ve been filmed a half-century ago, or 15 minutes ago). There was the delicious irony of the “luxury apartments” I saw in The Oranges, starting at a mere $600, with the complex almost sitting on one of the dozen lanes of highway. Off the highway, I discovered a Lamborghini dealership next door to a Hooter’s (hats off to you, Paramus!) and couldn’t help but smile, chuckling at every boy’s ambitions, rolled into one glorious, pot-holed, New Jersey parking lot. At one point, I was sidled up next to a silver pick-up truck being held together by hot pink Duck tape and driven by your classic bleached-blonde, heavily-tanned 50-year-old Jersey girl; at another point in Clifton, I swear I saw Paulie Walnuts’ younger brother driving an ’80s model, red, convertible Cadillac. The sun glinted off of the heavy gold chain around his neck and all I could think was, Thank you, New Jersey, for your constancy in an ever-changing world. 

And, unexpectedly, for 40 miles or so, in the marvelous bastion of North Jersey, I reveled in ‘stationary’ time and felt a little better about change and the peculiar nature of time, or at least this particular embodiment of it.

1 comment:

carol said...

Thanks again for the great read. I say it is time that New Jersey clean up that smell that sneaks up on us as we cruise through the state, that would be progress but some things never really change.... stationary time?