MAYBE THIS TIME IS DIFFERENT
From Groundhog Days – Intercourse on Time
By Melina Costello & David Arthur Walters
October 1, 2003
Dear Madame Melina,
You seem to believe that the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence is fallacious nonsense. This groundhog would fain beg to differ with you, not on logical grounds, but due to his experience.
Although I have been repeating myself ad infinitum, at least on this subject, there was a time that I thought, “This time will be different!”
You know I used to venture up the Hudson from Manhattan on the railroad to Cold Spring for weekends from time to time, hoping to get away from New Yorkers, only to find the town packed with them, of course, and then return again, but after I returned the last time, I flew off on a tangent to Honolulu yet again, and do not think I shall see Cold Spring again.
I wish I had finally left Cold Spring when I was a much younger man, for then it would not have been my last departure: I would be bound to return to Cold Spring on yet another train up from Grand Central Station. And then I would have purchased that little stone house near the Cold Spring railroad station, the one within walking distance from the pub. It would have served as my author’s den three days a week. On the other days I would have slept in my tiny studio Uptown, on West 84th Street, christened Edgar Allan Poe Street; I would have worked my part-time job and continued with my dancing, singing, and acting avocations, in that order. There is nothing inherently wrong with repeating oneself, is there?
I threw it all away again. I am back in paradise again, and I feel too old to start all over again. I have ping-ponged between Hawaii and New York several times. That last stay in New York was my fourth, at least as far as I can remember, or maybe the fifth time. I stayed for twelve years that time, or maybe more; I have difficulty remembering time as it is all the same to me. I do recall that I managed to go from nice guy to New York jerk again; one becomes a jerk there when he acts like one and doesn’t believe he is one.
Not only have I actually shuttled back and forth between the same two islands on opposite sides of the world, my dreams have taken me hither and thither too many time to recount. Last night I dreamed that I was sorting files in Midtown; I took a cab to La Guardia; I dozed off and missed my plane because the Iraqi cab driver, a trainee, got lost under the Triborough Bridge.
However that may be, wherever I might be, the place from where I came is always more attractive than where I am. Paradise can be a pleasant hell, whereas Manhattan can be a hellish paradise. I seem compelled by some deadly instinct to repeat my first move, to go back and forth instead of directly ahead to some new adventure; if my former wives were of the same mind, I would marry and divorce them over and over again.
Yes I would return again, but I was not so young when I left, and six years have passed since then. I don’t know how I survived the shock of returning to the city the last time, after a several years in the pretty Pacific. Those in the know say either god or chance or I had worked a miracle, that I should have been a goner for good. I wound up standing homeless on 57th and Broadway with $40 in my pocket. I walked into the Fisk Building and got a job. A few years later, after taking considerable pains to increase pay, I was still on that part-time job, earning about $70,000 per year including benefits. I managed to stash some money away.
I was compelled to quit, to throw it all way, because that is what I do; take a job to save up some money to do what I want to do. I felt like I was in the wrong place, that I was not being all I could be, either a successful business leader or a famous author. I found an excuse for not being a good little parasite on a humble easy street. I made an ass out of myself, and resigned, and made a worse ass out of myself before my two week’s notice expired. Fortunately my employers understood; if they had not owned the company, they might have done the same thing themselves: both are frustrated artists in their own right.
I invested my savings again in the same old dream, of being a great author, since business was getting me nowhere. And now I am almost back where I started, almost broke in a dead-end paradise with a probability, according to the average rate of response to my resumes, of getting another good job sometime in the next seventeen years or so, just in time to die on the street; at least this is a good place to die without shoes.
Of course I could be on the top of this little heap if only I were a hustler, but I’m not: I’m a book worm, a writer, quite shy except on stage, where I am quite the ham. This time is a bit different: I have a huge inventory of essays and stories, and I can write well for hours on end at break-neck speed – who needs nicotine and alcohol? If only I could attend to marketing, I might return to New York in style, or live both there and here, or go somewhere new, visit Europe! But alas, I am a groundhog!
Now it seems too late, although I take some comfort in the notion that I shall repeat this life time and again. A military historian I knew might have been right when he said history is just one mistake after another which we are doomed to repeat.
Every time I have left one sister island to return to the other, my friends say I am nuts, that I am making a big mistake to throw away my life again and again and again. It does seem suicidal in a way. Maybe Freud was right. Should I go back to New York? I’ve always done well there during recessions. I don’t know if I can survive another mistake. I feel like I’ve been here before.
This feels like Groundhog Day as usual. But this time I really believe I am stuck in it. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe this is my last Groundhog Day, or maybe this is not Groundhog Day after all, since this feeling of being stuck is new, sort of….
Your Desperate Groundhog