Sunday, 17 July 2011

Bygone era

One of the things that strikes me about America is the attempt to hold onto something nostalgic from the past.

The history of America is relatively young in comparison to it's neighbours in Europe. Take the apartment I live in back home in Scotland. It's around 160 years old. Here in the US that would be an ancient monument. I marvel at the attention lavished on buildings from the late 1800s in the US, in the same way Europeans would a thousand year-old French Chateau.

Just the other day here in Fargo I happened upon a fabulous art deco picture palace built in 1937 and within it's walls I discovered a perfectly restored and working Wurlitzer organ, one of very few left in the world I imagine. The love and attention given to this piece of nostalgia knows no bounds and it regularly plays before the evening performance every day, just as it would have done in the 30s and 40s.

I'm not a car lover. I understand the absolute need for them in America, but then I'm managing just fine on pedal power, but back in Detroit I witnessed a classic car rally of vehicles from the 30's, almost works of art themselves, perfectly preserved from a romantic past.

So what is this love affair with a bygone era I wonder. Maybe the desire to recreate the past and therefore preserve our youth is to remind us of how simple life was then.These days we busy ourselves with the constant drive to move forward, to have more, in the belief that will make us happy, believing it to be our manifest destiny, just as the early settlers did, pushing west and seizing lands from the native American.

Certainly I long for some things from my own past, that to me seemed better when I was younger. Take service for one. America reminds me of what it used to be like and what we have lost back in the UK and it goes without saying that I love the service standards in the US. Everything now seems so much more stressful and complicated.

Well, does it have to be so complicated? Haven't we just made it that way and created this perpetual engine of more is better, which in our minds equals happier.

I got off the merry-go-round a few months ago to cycle across North America, just me, my bike, tent and best friend and I get by with very few possessions. It could be said that by simplifying my life I have, in fact, become happier.

I certainly have numerous possessions back home and I enjoy, in fact embrace, modern technology. But it does not rule my life. It certainly has made my career as a film maker more accessible, due to the advent of High Definition video cameras, but I hanker after film, fast becoming a bygone medium itself and at it's height in the golden era of Hollywood when the Fargo picture palace was built.

Maybe we should let bygones be bygones, as the saying goes. But I don't know. I think life would be a little less colourful and romantic without the nostalgia.

No comments: