The Good Years: 26
When my mother was alive and I was in my 20s and a mess, I came back home for a visit, and remember overhearing her talking to a friend.
She said, "I wouldn't live through my 20s for all the money in the world."
And I lit up a cigarette, thinking, She's nuts. The 20s are awesome!
But, like pretty much everything else, she was right about that too. Being in your 20s sucks.
You don't see it when you are there so much, because you are young and strong, and fucking enthusiastic as hell. Your worlds opened up, and unlike being in your teens, you can actually do something about it, like pack up and move to wherever the fuck you want, tell your boss to get fucked when he pisses you off and go get drunk at two in the afternoon on a Wednesday. You're generally broke in your 20s, which further adds to the instability that defines that age. But that instability creates a sort of thrilling uncertainty. Some Fridays you might end up waking up under the check-in desk at a Marriot, you sleep with English raver chicks who share your name, and your 20s are usually you best chance for a threesome (unless your bitch girlfriend kicks you out on the spot to explore her newfound sexuality and you are such a liberal neophyte that you want to be supportive).
My 20s were my drug decade, but you could really split it in two: the first half rising and peaking at the halfway point, and the latter half the slow decent into hell.
Which is where we find my 26th year.
I was going out in style, maxing credit cards, entering full-fledged criminality, and playing rock 'n' roll with abandon. It was the year I married my first wife and first picked up the spike. I was still pretty, but young boy pretty, and still delusional enough to think I could take all these drugs, do exactly what I wanted, and have all my dreams come true.
Because I was a fucking idiot in my 20s.
Now, this isn't a dig against everyone in their 20s. Just me and a lot of my friends from back then. I can only report what I saw through my eyes. But even the friends who didn't do drugs, I think they'd agree the 20s were tumultuous. I know my friend Jimmy back east had a rough go because his job sucked, and even guys like my best man, Rich, who is a rock of stability, I bet if I asked, he'd say the 20s were much shakier than now.
It's just how this works. It's why it's so hard to effect change when you are young, why the system is controlled by folks in their 60s. On paper, you'd think that since the same people in their 60s now were once in their 20s then that they might recall the struggle to free Leonard or promote sexual equality and/or liberation, and though I am not yet in my 60s, I can safely say, in my 40s, that I already look back on my dumbass ideas from those days and want to distance myself. Of course, by that logic, by the time I am 60, I will probably read this post and cringe like I do now when I think about the Brave New World Show, Julie and the Cafe, the "seizure," and of course the drugs.
But I will always think fondly of my first wife, Hadley. We had a little apartment, and we were young and dumb enough to think we'd make it, and that part of it really is sweet.
Every once in a while a friend from those days will unearth a photo from that time, put it up on Facebook, like my pal Buick just did (posted above). And I am always amazed at how fresh-faced and wide-eyed I was. Part of you wishes you could reach in and shake some sense into that goofy bastard, save yourself a lot of the trouble and loss. But then I guess you wouldn't be who or where you are now. And that isn't such a bad place.