We had all come to the area in the latter 1980s after New York City joined the deepening Reagan era’s unadulterated pursuit of money and store-bought luxury. Some of us were from France, Germany, various places down the South or out in the Midwest. We all had big homes with extra bedrooms and dining rooms a half to one hour from each other.
One of us would call the others for dinner. Dancing would inevitably ensue. We’d usually overnight, not wanting to have to face night driving after drinks. One season molted into the next.
We pursued a variety of friendships and individual conversations: explorations of music we’d discovered, placement of books and art work for perusal, sometimes a shared film. None of the talk about real estate, binge-watched television, political worries and virus fears. We’d go home with borrowed tapes, albums, books, and other items.
I remember line dancing to Mexican cumbia, improvised rhumba dancing to Central African orchestras, and an evening where we all chipped in for tango lessons. It was like a dream university.
Then it was gone. Fleche and Puanani, who’d depart each summer for the south of France, moved back to New York City. David and Martina, tired of battling to retain their visas, returned to Paris. Richard and Laura sold both their Andes getaway and their northern Manhattan apartment to consolidate into a hilltop home in Cold Spring. Sue and Steve were swallowed by their careers. Tom and Linda shifted across the river to Rhinebeck. Reg and Alice started spending more time in the city. I found love, got married. Several of us had children.
That time lingers. We still hold on to the music we shared, the art books and the novels. We have each others’ paintings and photos, stories and poems.
Sitting at a beach restaurant overlooking St. Malo on the Breton coast a few years ago, our sons playing in the chill water, Martina recited a poem I had written for her during a difficult time. I couldn’t remember it, but recognized the feeling. Staying over at Richard and Laura’s before the current quarantine descended on us, my wife and I looked at old tapes and CD mixes I’d made, and read the inscriptions I’d written in books I’d passed on.
We were influencers before the term was coined. We were witnesses in how culture continues and grows.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.