TAP, TAP, TAP, I have decided to live in the 1930s.
I have decided to tap dance there, to a time when the women had long hair and wore silky gowns and sung in husky voices. This was a time when people could smoke without getting cancer and when the poor were poor, but proud and happy and had plenty to eat.
Tap, tap, tap. I love the 1930s. I see them in old movies and so I know all about them. I want to sail to Europe on the Ile de France ("with all the gulls around it . . . ") and watch Fred and Ginger dance on the deck.I love Luckies and Camels and double-breasted suits. I'd wear plus fours and have a touring car (whatever that is) and call women "baby." God, I'd kill to call a woman "baby."
No doubt about it, the '30s were the time for me. I would have gone to nightclubs with tile floors that shimmered. I could have drunk all night (martinis) and never gotten drunk and woke up in the morning with just an amusing little hangover and vague recollections from the night before of blondes, bon mots and a dog named Asta.
Tap, tap, tap. There were no alcoholics in the 1930s and people were not yet neurotic. Hamburgers did not give cancer and coffee was java and healthy and no one talked about being in their own space and doing their own thing. They said words like "shamus" and "gat" and "gunsel." No one says gunsel anymore. No one even dresses for dinner anymore.
In the 1930s, there were real radicals. They wore rimless glasses and they always walked into the wind wearing nothing but a suit jacket, but they were never cold. They drank a lot of coffee, their mothers drank tea from a glass and their wives or their women stayed in the kitchen, served food on white porcelain kitchen tables, talked politics with a kind of innate wisdom and moved just like the women in the nightclubs.
Sometimes I wonder if the 1940s are not more my time. I would have been wonderful in the Blitz. I would have worn a trenchcoat and smoked like crazy and been driven around London by a WREN who looked like Joan Fontaine. I would have had a place on Berkeley Square (where nightingales sang) and then gone off to the war and come back with a slight, but very interesting, war wound. I'd rather not talk about it. The main trouble with the 1940s, though, is that they end with the '50s.
Tap, tap, tap, I think I'll stick to the '30s. We had our own war in the '30s. We had the Spanish Civil War with George Orwell and Hemingway (Ah, what a fool he made of himself one night, but that is a different story), and Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the fellow who wrote "The Little Prince," which I read much later. In the '50s to be precise. Everyone drank wine out of goatskins and ran with the bulls at Pamplona, and when they died, and they died by the score, they did it very well.
In the 1930s, people wore hats. I look good in hats, and back then everyone wore them. I could have carried a walking stick, which is something now and again I get the yen to do, and I could have gone up to the stadium to watch Ruth and Gehrig or gone to see vaudeville -- maybe Jolson. Yes, definitely Jolson. At night, I'd go down to the neighborhood where my family lived and see my parents as they really were. I could have sat on the stoop with my grandfather, rubbing the top of my walking stick and asking questions about how it had really been -- filling the old photographs with life.
Tap, tap, tap, I'd take a train to the coast. The train would be comfortable and not like trains really are and the Marx Brothers would be running up and down the aisles. The food would be terrific on the train and I would drink lots of champagne and have a wonderful conversation with George Gershwin and George S. Kaufman, Nathanael West and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Beware of movie studios making offers, I would tell them.
In the 1930s, there was lots of unemployment, but no street crime and even the poor wore ties. The summers were hot but comfortable, and the winters were cold but bracing, and there was no such thing yet as Florida. Shirley Temple was a little girl, the women wore hats, Roosevelt talked from the radio, movies were better than ever, people held hands on the street, romance thrived, sex was for grownups and Ronald Reagan was a hit.
Tap, tap, tap. We're back.