on the page magazine

issue no. 3, summer 2001
adult adolescence


quotes of yesterday

We can drop the fundamental hope that there is a better "me" who one day will emerge. We can't just jump over ourselves as if we were not there.

~ Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

Now, it's true, I'm short of requests and absolute requirements. But I do want something.
     I want, for instance, to be a different person. I want to be the woman who brings these two books back in two weeks. I want to be the effective citizen who changes the school system and addresses the Board of Estimate on the troubles of this dear urban center.
     I had promised my children to end the war before they grew up.
     I wanted to have been married forever to one person, my ex-husband or my present one.

~ Grace Paley, "Wants"

In this our life there are no beginnings but only departures entitled beginnings, wreathed in the formal emotions thought to be appropriate and often forced.

~ Delmore Schwartz, "The World Is a Wedding"

"Attend to me, girls. One's prime is the moment one was born for. Now my prime has begun...."

~ Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

As he drove the little Ford safely to its garage, he remembered for the first time in years when he was young and brash, a student in New York, and the shriek and horror and unholy smother of the subway had its original meaning for him as the lilt and expectation of love.

~ Eudora Welty, "No Place for You, My Love"

I once kissed my mom goodnight when she was ironing some clothes. It was not the usual tightlipped thing, instead our lips mashed a bit. It was not on purpose. I thought, "this is how people must kiss when they mean it." I felt both guilty and worried that my mom felt uncomfortable. So I went to bed.

~ jimbo, 33, general manager

NAVIN:   Now be totally honest. You do have a boyfriend don't you.
MARIE:   Kind of.
NAVIN:   I know this is our first date but, do you think the next time you make love to your boyfriend, you could think of me?
MARIE:   Well I haven't made love to him yet.
NAVIN:   That's too bad. Do you think it's possible that someday you can make love with me and think of him?
MARIE:   Who knows. Maybe you and he could make love and you could think of me.
NAVIN:   I'd just be happy to be in there somewhere.

~ The Jerk (1979) by Steve Martin, Carl Gottlieb, and Michael Elias

Just before our love got lost you said,
"I am as constant as a northern star."
And I said, "Constantly in the darkness
Where's that at?
If you want me I'll be in the bar."

~ Joni Mitchell, "A Case of You"

I had a feeling this guy was trying to find out what I did for money, not who I was, and I got all confused because I was not a job. I was unemployed, but I didn't want to say that, so I got all confused and said, "I'm a model....No, I mean...an actor....No, not that....I'm a...mmm..." I hesitated slightly and then spit it out: "I'm an artist." I wanted to tell him that I was a poet, only I hadn't written any poetry yet, but that was too confusing, so I told him I was an artist, which somehow felt right at the time. Without so much as a pause, he just smiled back at me and said, "Well, I can tell you, Mr. North, I understand you sensitive artist types, because I play the clarinet myself." And as soon as he said that, I knew I was not going to sign that admissions form. If he had said he played the oboe, well, maybe I might have signed; but when he said he played the clarinet, that was it. I just asked Barney and Meg to please take me home.

~ Spalding Gray, Impossible Vacation

The character we exhibit in the latter half of our life need not necessarily be, though it often is, our original character, developed further, dried up, exaggerated, or diminished: it can be its exact opposite, like a suit worn inside out.

~ Marcel Proust

The best Victor I can be! THE Victor.

~ victor, 36, tough guy
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

     On the Adriatic Coast after eating squid...
     Albert in Andy's closet when I was 16...
     Elephant in a Torquay Zoo.
     One comes to mind, but in retrospect it's just too depressing to share the experience in this format. Maybe that's what being an adult is all about.

~ from OtP's adult adolescent survey

I also learned in the interim between the two books that it is really important to take at least some responsibility for every situation we find ourselves in. That is probably the essential difference between the narrators of those two books. The ones in Cowboys stand in wide-eyed wonder, the ones in Waltzing are starting to suspect that they put themselves right where they are.

~ Pam Houston, in a conversation with OtP editor Carolyn Foley

What good am I then to others and me
If I've had every chance and yet still fail to see
If my hands are tied must I not wonder within
Who tied them and why and where must I have been

~ Bob Dylan, "What Good Am I?"

He should have been used to it by now, but being alone in the house on a weekday still made him feel like he was back in high school and had just put one over on his parents. All sorts of exciting and illicit behaviors offered themselves for consideration. He could smoke a joint, phone an escort service, fry up a whole box of breakfast sausages. In the end, though, all he ever did was sit down in front of the muted TV and strum his guitar.

~ Tom Perrotta, The Wishbones

Robert Duvall is everything that an adult male should be. He is this way despite lack of height and lack of hair. We can all learn something from him.

~ jimbo, 33, general manager

People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history.

~ Governor George W Bush, Jr.

     "I'm sorry. Since I came in here, I've been trying to hurt your feelings. I have no idea why."
     He waves this off. "Forget it. I've known you for twenty years. I know you have no idea why you do what you do."

~ Richard Russo, Straight Man

Jesus would maintain his bratty edge throughout his life. But brattiness does not inhabit the core of adolescence; it's an outgrowth, like pimples. On a deeper level, the skepticism of youth signals the beginning of a search for something actually worth trusting, both within one's own psyche and in the world. That's why teens, supposedly stuck in life's lost years, are often so unequivocal about what they love and what they hate, and so frustrated when they feel misunderstood. The adolescent spirit is not the spirit of the lost. It is the conviction that you are not lost—that wandering has a purpose, and that what you deserve more than anything is the freedom to walk a while on your own path.

~ Ann Powers, "Teenage Jesus," in Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited, Rick Moody and Darcey Steinke, eds.

"I've seen the future! It's a bald-headed man from New York!"

~ David Howard (Albert Brooks) in Lost in America (1985)

Fuck. I hate all this stuff. How old do you have to get before it stops?

~ Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

Message keeps getting clearer
Radio's on and I'm moving 'round the place
I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face
Man, I ain't getting nowhere
Just living in a dump like this
There's something happening somewhere
Baby I just know that there is

~ Bruce Springsteen, "Dancing in the Dark"

Hannah:   Could you have ruined yourself somehow?
Mickey:   How could I ruin myself?
Hannah:   I don't know. Excessive masturbation?
Mickey:   You gonna start knockin' my hobbies?

~ Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Late one evening I was mulling all this over on a barstool at Tom's, picking unhappily at my existential scabs, when an idea came to me, a scheme for righting what was wrong with my life. It was wonderfully uncomplicated, and the more I thought about it, the better the plan sounded. By the bottom of the pitcher its merits seemed unassailable. The plan consisted, in its entirety, of climbing a mountain in Alaska called the Devils Thumb.

~ Jon Krakauer, "The Devil's Thumb"

     "She's been a bum all her life."
     "No," said Francis. "Nobody's a bum all their life. She hada been somethin' once."
     "She was a whore before she was a bum."
     "And what about before she was a whore?"

~ William Kennedy, Ironweed

It's never too late to have a happy childhood.

~ Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker

Then you comb your hair
Shave your face
Tryin' to wipe out ev'ry trace
All the other days
In the week you know that this'll be the Saturday
You're reachin' your peak

Stoppin' on the red
You're goin' on the green
'Cause tonight'll be like nothin'
You've ever seen
And you're barrelin' down the boulevard
Lookin' for the heart of Saturday night

~ Tom Waits, "The Heart of Saturday Night"

You don't have to suffer to be a poet; adolescence is enough suffering for anyone.

~ John Ciardi

We are always getting ready to live but never living.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hadn't ever realized that independence in the most conventional sense means leavetaking, putting distance between yourself and other people, getting out of their orbit. So then I wondered if that's what it has to mean, so I thought I'd write about it and see if I couldn't make it mean something else, if independence could in fact mean a freedom to make contact with others, rather than just the freedom to sever oneself from others.

~ Richard Ford on Independence Day in a 1996 Salon interview

There was not much I had to be affirmative about. Having rejected grandiose ambitions at thirty-three, I saw myself very narrowly as a man with one suit of clothes, two thousand dollars' life insurance ("planting" dough), and four hundred bucks in my pocket, as one who had to go away from this place, this room, and find a way to live in the world. The thought of leaving disturbed me greatly.

~ Frederick Exley, A Fan's Notes

Myra (Laurie Heineman):
     Are you OK? Do you want something?

Harry Stoner (Jack Lemmon):
     Yes. I want that girl in a Cole Porter song. I wanna see Lena Horne at the Cotton Club—hear Billie Holiday sing fine and mellow—walk in that kind of rain that never washes perfume away. I wanna be in love with something. Anything. Just the idea. A dog, a cat. Anything. Just something.

~ Save the Tiger (1973)

     These are days you'll remember. Never before and never since, I promise, will the whole world be warm as this. And as you feel it, you'll know it's true that you are blessed and lucky. It's true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.

~ 10,000 Maniacs (Buck/Merchant), "These Are Days"

I think being an adult is learning not to be ashamed of what you want. And I think for a lot of us, it's hard to admit even to ourselves what it is that we want. Much less to have other people see it.

~ Ira Glass, in a conversation with poetry editor Zoë Francesca

Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go it's one of the best.

~ Woody Allen

Once I was comfortably alone in the dark, beneath the covers of my pallet, I let my mind wander, like that of any over-sexed twenty-year-old. I thought about this girl I knew back in high school. I hadn't seen her for a couple of years, but I fantasized about her frequently because I believed she was the only woman I could ever love. I was operating under the premise that though I was undoubtedly attracted to other men, it was prudent to try and date women anyway. I did this sincerely. Such is growing up gay in Arkansas.

~ William Nations, "Saving My Grandparents"

And words are like poison
That lives down inside you
And some things you do
You just don't understand

~ Lyle Lovett, "Promises"

The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.

~ Albert Einstein

     "But haven't you ever wanted to work?"
     "Oh, yes. Sometimes. It's just...I don't know. I never seem to get round to it."
     And that was the long and the short of it. He never seemed to get round to it. Every day for the last eighteen years he had got up in the morning with the intention of sorting out his career problem once and for all; as the day wore on, however, his burning desire to seek a place for himself in the outside world somehow got diminished.

~ Nick Hornby, About a Boy

     "No, youth is the Season of Deeds. The question youth asks is: Who am I?
     In the Season of Grace we ask: What have I become?"
     "And what have we become?"
     "I have become very drunk."
     "Then don't drive home." I insisted. "Stay here tonight. Drive back in the morning."
     "I accept your invitation for one reason and one reason only."
     "Because this is the Season of Grace?"
     "You always were my best student."

~ Richard Russo, Straight Man

Youth is a wonderful thing; what a crime to waste it on children.

~ George Bernard Shaw

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself

~ The Talking Heads (David Byrne), "Once in a Lifetime"

Sometimes I think maturity might be best defined as something like figuring out what makes a valuable life, and then moving towards it, taking responsibility for your actions along the way.

~ Pam Houston, in a conversation with OtP editor Carolyn Foley

Generally it was true that in my own life so far I myself had not done anything just because my mom or stepfather or teachers I have had or any of the adults who had me in their power told me it was for my own good. No fucking way. And whenever somebody told me that, there was like this alarm that went off under the hood and all I could hear was whoop-whoop-whoop, somebody's trying to steal something valuable, I'd think so I'd usually do the opposite.

Russell Banks, Rule of the Bone

"Wouldn't it be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If needy were a turn-on?"

Aaron (Albert Brooks) in Broadcast News

I feel that people who act like adolescents—they are the interesting people. Everything about being an adolescent...is the interesting thing about being a person. You feel you're on a process of discovery towards something. And you have things that you really love and you organize your life around things you really love. If you're lucky, and in a situation where you can.

~ Ira Glass, in a conversation with poetry editor Zoë Francesca

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