Magazine article The Spectator

Past Perfect

Magazine article The Spectator

Past Perfect

Article excerpt

It was one of those perfect New York days that make you feel grateful to be alive. I'd eaten my favourite breakfast -- pancakes with maple syrup and crispy bacon -- then salved my conscience with a huge bowl of fresh fruit, and was now taking a post-prandial walk in Central Park.

The sky was an eggshell blue, the air was crisp, there were skaters on the ice rink, and squirrels were chasing each other across the branches of the trees like a scene from Beatrix Potter.

With that extra spurt of energy Manhattan so often provides, I decided to walk up to the reservoir, further than I'd ever gone before, and when I got there, it looked so beautiful in the late November sunlight that I walked right round it. And then I ambled happily over to the Guggenheim for its superb exhibition of Spanish painting and received one of the nastier jolts of my life.

'One ticket, please, ' I said to the man at the desk once inside Frank Lloyd Wright's miraculous spiral gallery.

'That will be 15 dollars, ' he said. This surprised me as the large sign behind him said adult admission was 18 dollars, but perhaps there was a discount on Mondays.

So I kept quiet, paid my 15 bucks, and took my ticket. And there they were, staring me in the face, just two words but enough to knock all the wind out of my sails: 'Senior Citizen'. The crumblies apparently receive a three-dollar reduction. I, however, am a mere 51, no spring chicken to be sure, but 14 years shy of 65 when such discounts are presumably meant to kick in.

I didn't have the heart to protest. How can you protest, anyway, when you've received a bargain?

My problem is that, although I evidently look like a pensioner, I still feel about 27.

Indeed, I feel younger now than I did when I actually was 27, a wretched period of my life when I suffered recurring panic attacks and bouts of depression.

It's always a shock to see that fat, bald guy reflected in shop windows, because in my mind's eye, I'm still some hip, slim young thing who ought to be fronting the Arctic Monkeys. But perhaps I really am getting past it. My plan this month was to compare and contrast the greatest hits collections just released by U2 and Oasis.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get to the end of either of them. In short bursts I find Oasis's yobbish anthemic rock exhilarating, but the solipsism of the songs, and Noel Gallagher's almost touchingly inadequate use of the English language, begins to pall pretty quickly. …

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