It’s gotten to the point where I basically have no interest in going out, in the traditional sense. Either I’m filthy in a foreign country or I’m ensconced in my tiny apartment. I’m by no means a shut-in; I get out, I get around quite a bit. My day job takes me to every neighborhood in the city where neurosis and college admissions reign supreme, and if time permits, I take long walks in between these neighborhoods, compulsively passing landmarks of personal significance and seeking certain cookies or sandwiches of which I have fond memories. But as far as going out, drinking in bars or going to parties or shows or readings or openings or such things, my appetite is greatly diminished.

I went to a party tonight, only because it was for a local publication for which I wrote an essay and hope to write more and was at a bar only three blocks from my house. I didn’t know anyone at this party besides the two people I came with, and soon realized that this was simply a room full of people I didn’t know in which I had to pay for the bourbon, and that if I were in my own house I would not have to be wearing pants. Everyone at the party was perfectly fine, well dressed, probably well read. But I have my own friends, who are also well dressed and well read. I was terribly lonely for them. I was lonely for the two friends I was with. I wished we were not surrounded by all these strangers taking digital pictures of one another.

Still, it was interesting to see what was going on on the outside. There seemed to be new clothing trends of which I had not been keeping abreast, though the clothing trends towards the end of a decade are never as pronounced as the ones at the beginning of the decade. The party was a holiday party, and someone made a toast to the publication and Christmas and the year 2006, and I thought, “Holy shit, it’s the end of 2006. It’s well into the latter half of the decade.”

The things this decade will be remembered for–terrorism, war, electoral fraud, nihilism, global warming, the ubiquity of iPods–have already been set in stone, and now we’re just living out the end of it. It seems that a decade is like a relationship, any relationship, between lovers or friends or bandmembers or siblings. The patterns are established early on, and as the decade or relationship progresses, they just find new expressions.

I live in a neighborhood known for its ennui, its outfits, its core not so much rotten as empty. Still, it has a magnetism, and people who do not live here often remark that they “should.” In 2001 I sensed I should be living here and by the 2002 I lived here. This was the bygone time of pointy shoes and eighties revival, of trucker hats. It was also a time of halfhearted mass protest, or maybe it was wholehearted but ineffective mass protest. I don’t know. I participated in the mass protests, but on the day the United States invaded Iraq, I took up yoga across the street from my house. I could see my yoga place from my roof while I was up there drinking, or doing drugs, or being morose, or euphoric. It’s that kind of neighborhood.

But the neighborhood was known for something. It was known for trucker hats and yoga centers. It was known for coffeeshops full of computers of uniform brand. It was known, of course, for the most dubious of all cultural movements, hipsterism. It still is, but the trends are less aggressive now, the yoga less obsessive, and the condos are going up, to loom, to obliterate even our most dubious of cultural movements.

I have kept up with the times, I live in the now. I have the computer, I have the iPod, but they’re four years old, almost obsolete. They were never intended to cross over into the latter half of the decade. It’s absurd that anything could be obsolete after such a short time, but that absurdity more than anything else defines this epoch. We are living in a time of long wars and short lifespans for electronic devices. But how does that differentiate our epoch from any other? We are living in an epoch that slips free of any attempt to define it.

I think the reason I don’t like going out is that it reminds me of time passing. The only bar I ever loved closed, and I am a sentimental person, slow to move on. The holiday parties are annual things, they mention the year, and time frightens and depresses me. I have kind friends in foreign lands willing to tell me via email that time does not exist, but I can’t fully believe them. Time is passing. Electronic devices are getting faster and smaller and the war goes on. Things are changing, things are staying the same.

The bar we went to tonight, it’s been here all the time. It has survived, we realized, as other bars have closed, or changed hands, or become different versions of the same bar. “We’ll miss it when it’s gone,” said one friend. “It’s an institution,” said the other. “Then let’s burn it to the ground!” I said, only half-joking. We were sitting by the bonfire this bar keeps in its backyard, even in winter, a place for smokers to crowd around. Someone from the bar came out, carelessly threw more logs on the pile. He made no effort to stack them in any kind of pattern. “That’s no way to build a fire,” I thought. But the fire, haphazardly, burned on.

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