No time for the present



Steven Spielberg talked in an interview a while back about how he was always drawn to projects set at least thirty years in the past (e.g., Indiana Jones, Catch Me If You Can, Saving Private Ryan, etc.), or roughly that far in the future (e.g., A.I., Minority Report), or at least things dealing with advanced civilizations (e.g., E.T., Close Encounters).  I can see the draw in this.  Things from the past have their own story that we are free to discover.  Things from the future have a history that we are free to invent.  But things that are of our time are part of our lives, and where's the fun in that?

My house was built in 1925.  It's been refurbished, so it's hardly like it's completely original to that time, but there are elements dating back that far.  In fact, part of the fun in working on the house (e.g., updating the plumbing and writing, etc.) has been in discovering that unknown history literally embedded in its walls.  One of the more recent projects I've been involved in was removing all of the outside walls, siding first, then underlayer, so as to access the space between the studs and add insulation where (believe it or not) there was none previously.  In digging beneath the façade, I've discovered the frames of windows that are no longer there and even a doorway leading out of Stan's room onto the back porch.  There are bits of wiring that can be traced to the mantle where they presumably powered lights.  The lights are gone, but the wires are still active all the way up to their dead ends behind the sheetrock.

Much of the house has already been updated by previous owners.  While I still have knob and tube (ceramic) fittings guiding the cloth-sheathed wiring to its destination in most places, the breaker box is a modern panel with modern NM wiring up to a point, and all the major appliances (range, air conditioning/heating, etc.) are modern and have new wiring.  The plan is to update everything that remains.  As of this writing, I have added additional outlets were none before and upgraded some switches with X10s (smarthome; remote-controlled).  The efficiency of the house increases ever year as well.  In addition to the fiberglass insulation, I've added radiant barrier to the attic and polyurethane board and foam where applicable.  It's a historic house... from the future.

I'm not big on antiques, but somehow we've collected a smattering of relics from the past that decorate the inside.  In one room we have a non-working 1950s Philco Predicta tv atop an antique table with baroque legs.  In another there's an old Underwood-style manual typewriter sitting on a pedal-driven Singer sewing table.  Ironically, I love modern furniture.  I don't have the money or space for much, but I prefer minimalist things that are more functional than ornamental like the all-glass table in the dining room (only the legs are wooden) or even those glass-top ranges where the burners are invisible, which is what we have in the kitchen.  The floors are classic hardwood, but the walls are painted in solid colors like Planetarium Blue and Cosmic Berry Purple.  The only things hanging on them are guitars.

Even the guitars seem wary of the present.  Sure, I have a few popular standards like a Les Paul and a couple Stratocasters, models that both date from the '50s, but those seem commonplace rather than relics.  The latter category is populated with archtops like my Gretsch 6120 and or the D'Angelico New Yorker or the copy of the "gran bouche" Selmer Maccaferri played by Django Reinhardt around the time the Germans were invading his native France.  Contrast this with the ultra-minimalist Steinberger guitars or the "Rail" bass (both of which do away with even the headstock).  Even the more straight-forward looking instruments often have modified electronics.  I add phase switches or preamps and whatnot to them, usually out of sight, the way gadgets from the future usually are.

Even the music I listen to and play along with bifurcates in a way that completely detours around the present.  I really don't follow a lot of popular music.  I can't tell you who I'm listening to on the rare occasions I find something other than NPR on the radio.  It's not so much because I have some blanket position that "it's all crap" or something similarly sweeping, negative, and dogmatic.  It's just that my interests are elsewhere.  The music I am drawn to tends to be by electronic artists who most folks (i.e., non music nerds) have never heard: Brian Eno, Chicane, M83, Ulrich Schnauss (I'm actually listing favorites here; I'm not intentionally singling out obscure names from my collection).  To me they sound like the future, even some of the tracks recorded thirty years ago.  But then there's this other side of me that listens to... of all things... jazz.  Yeah, I know.  Mind you, it's not that I'm some kind of music snob.  I don't listen to a lot of artists who people consider "the greats."  Most of what I'm into are jazz guitarists: Django Reinhardt, Johnny Smith, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian, etc. and then a lot of rockabilly.  Go figure.

We can't help but be immersed in the present, whether we like it or not.  But it's more interesting to find things outside of our own place in time and make them our own.


Copyright 2009 Alexplorer.
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