Living In The Past


Living In The Past

I’ve Seen the Future and I’m Not Going: The Art Scene and Downtown New York in the 1980s is a book about a man who wants to live in the 1920’s while he is in the 1970’s. The idea that he wants to live in the 1920 when he is the best time the 70’s, made me think that the time I am in right now (2021) could also be a good time, that I merely refuse to acknowledge. For these two gay male artists, the 70’s was a time of flourishing of gay culture and the night club scene before HIV. Then looking back I wondered he later realized the 70’s were the best time? The book starts in the late 70’s and moves on the 80’s.

When I was reading the book it sounded like a fictional story, especially when Peter McGough describes his friend David McDermott. I assumed at first as I was listening to it as an audiobook ( I don’t like reading much, but I use the printed word to keep track of thoughts and ideas) that David was an older man who liked the 20’s because he could remember them like I can remember the 70’s. But Peter born 1958 is only slightly younger then David born 1952. It started when David found an old record store that had been sealed up like a time capsule. Using the theory that all times are happening somewhere in parallel universes he believes he can find portal to travel back to the 20’s in the record store, but naturally he can’t. “At least he does not talk about aliens”, Peter remarks then he adds “that would come later.”

I had never heard of either of them, but they are real artists who are still alive and even have a website and a Wikipedia Entry. I was only shown this book as a selection on Audible when I indicated I was interested in Oscar Wilde because they created a place called the Oscar Wilde Temple. I enjoyed Peter’s catty sort of attitude toward others and often laughed out loud while listening. There are so many reasons to love this book, besides the nostalgia. One thing that struck me was that when they created a painting on a wall together David insisted the painting be signed with the date 1947 instead of the year in the 70’s in which it was painted. I may add to this review later as I am not very far into the book yet.

Although I was alive in the 70’s I was stuck in a boring life of school.  I was not able to see, do, and experience life in the 70’s. All of these fascinating times came and went while I was stuck in a land of sugar cereal commercials and cheap plastic toys. You know what they say birth, school, work, death.

Quote taken from their website helps to further explain David’s Love for the Past:
During the 1980s, McDermott & McGough dressed, lived, and worked as artists and “men about town,” circa 1900-1928: they wore top hats and detachable collars, and converted a townhouse on Avenue C in New York City’s East Village, which was lit only by candlelight, to its authentic mid-19th century ideal. “We were experimenting in time,” says McDermott, “trying to build an environment and a fantasy we could live and work in.”

Updated: After finishing the book I have a few notes to share. They have spoilers so if you have not read the book stop reading now.


There a few questions I have and the biggest one is who was the young man named Bastion? I see the book as being a happy story about two successful working artists who allow a third party to come into their relationship which created chaos. Bastion passed away in 2015. I think it would be perfectly fine to reveal his identity. I searched for it, but I could not find anything. He was not an artist or a public figure, but his story was compelling. Bastion did try to keep in touch after he left them, but Peter did not want that much chaos back in his life again. I was so drawn into Bastion’s story that I wished Peter had kept in touch just so I could find out more details. The second question is why the two artist now live apart. Peter lives in New York and David lives in Dublin. The third question is how did Peter not only survive HIV (after almost starving himself to death on a macrobiotic diet,) but now looks 20 years young then his physical age? I saw a video of them speaking on You Tube. I am very impressed that Peter knew Tina Chow who I find very interesting. Tina Chow did the macrobiotic diet and died. I feel the macrobiotic diet is likely the worst diet for HIV. It limits calories and is great for weight loss. I would like to write a blog post in Tina Chow in the future. What really killed me was even thought the macrobiotic diet not only did not help HIV but made it worse, Peter still stuck to it until a new drug was found that saved his life. When Madonna got very thin and had terrible looking arms she credited it to her macrobiotic diet. I can’t stress enough how a macrobiotic diet is dangerous less one is at least 40 lbs. overweight.

Updated: I found an article about apartment decoration about Peter in New York on Curbed which said he likes to live alone.

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