Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Death and the Maiden

An  oil painting of 1872 by Puvis de Chavannes. The Grim Reaper not very effectively conceals himself at lower left, with his wicked and symbolic Scythe also not very well hidden under stalks of flowers. And the maidens and the flowers are one in their beautiful brevity.

A predictable commonplace. But it felt fresh to me last night. In fact, it felt as if I had this painting in front of me last night, though I was in a bar in the Castro and not an art museum.

A friend who is 15 years younger than I am wanted to talk. He suggested we meet at the Lookout, an upstairs bar with a wraparound balcony, popular in warm weather with its view over the street scene along Market.

We found a little table along the back wall. The whole wide bar was spread in front of us like a stage filled with actors obviously cast for good looks and high energy.

My friend took it all in. For somebody who wanted to talk, he was strangely quiet. Then at last he said, "Guess what, Benjamin. We're old!"

"When did you first notice that?" I asked.

"About a month ago," he answered.

He just turned forty, so I can see how this new information had come as a shock to him. In another setting it would have been plausible to remind him that we are both still active, that we still look presentable and have a generally upbeat attitude toward life ... etc, etc. I could even tell him how I keep hearing people saying "sixty is the new forty" and therefore presumably "forty is the new twenty." But in THAT setting, I just nodded grimly and turned to watch the pageant swirling past us.