Impossible Nostalgia

I’m the kind of person who gets nostalgic for times, and places, where I’ve never been. It only takes a film, or a book, or a song to set me off in a wistful fantasy about living in the American 1930s, 40s, for example. A time when a man could, nay, was expected to wear not only smart shoes, but a shirt, a tie, braces, a waistcoat… a time when it was important to look smart, to look neat, never mind your profession. A time when people took pride in their appearance – odd because I type this in my typically unkempt state. I’m no Tom Hagen, I’m no Eddie the Dane, I’m no Noodles Aaronson, sadly. I shall keep my charity-shopping eye out for the regalia however: if it’s a bargain, maybe you’ll yet see me pacing down the street in overcoat and leather gloves.

This happens pretty much every time I watch a film set then. It’s most apparent in The Godfather: Robert Duvall is my style icon – he can wear a waistcoat like no-one else. But I’m also a big fan of Albert Finney in Miller’s Crossing, anyone in Once Upon A Time In America, and so on. I love it: I want to be there, drinking coffee in an Eastern city diner at four in the morning with Tom Waits, where nobody talks because everybody knows what everybody else is thinking.

It’s not just that era, though: I get a little bit nostalgic when I watch, say, A Beautiful Mind or read Cryptonomicon. I want to be some sort of maths genius at Princeton in the 50’s. I want to be approached by the CIA because I fit the profile and do my bit to fight the good fight. I want to get away with wearing a long coat and swanning around the Eastern bloc, I want to drink whisky with Kim Philby. I hear something like REM’s I Remember California and I want to be something to do with the ocean’s trident submarines, the motor boys and girls with tans.

Maybe one day I’ll learn to be happy with the time I’ve been plonked in – I blame the overglamourising and dissatisfaction-selling Hollywood – but until then, I’m going looking for some cheap Stacys.

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