amazing and cool shit, dinner time conversation, lovely things, miscellaneous, drivel, things I love, tom being tom

…as the world turns…


I’m not just here for the food. Sometimes it’s easy for me to compare everything and anything to the paradigm of cooking and eating and preparing or gathering of ingredients. To be sure almost all of it has some parallel there, some metaphor that can be found, along with some (albeit loose) reasoning to back up and solidify my biases and curmudgeonly views. It’s not the only place however.

I can make the case with almost anything – and sometimes making the case in terms of some metaphor or with odd and meaningless analogies only makes it stronger for me. It allows me the freedom to flounder wildly and gesticulate verbally, with prose I have no mastery of, for the sheer sake of never actually saying what I’m really trying to say.

I am pondering, for some ungodly reason, phonebooks today. They’re the perfect example of a dinosaur, how quickly the world changes, how much computers, smartphones, ‘devices’ at large have stolen our humanity, and continue to do so at an ever growing rate. No one uses them, phonebooks that is, these days, and the mere sight of one on the doorstep (think of all the trees it took to print that thing, for chrissakes!), is about as welcome as someone handing out samples of cigarettes to children.

It isn’t so much that I like phonebooks in particular – really I don’t – and rarely if ever have I even used one. Maybe it’s more the case that seeing them disappear is a bit disappointing in some way.

I actually began cogitating this post thinking, hoping in fact, that it would be about things that I love. I began realizing that most of them reward you for the time and energy you spend getting to know them.

Pens and penmanship for example. Skills for a lifetime, something you can practice, never fully master, but still attain some degree of comfort and proficiency such that the tool becomes invisible, a mere extension of your own self. It’s the reason I’ve always gravitated to fountain pens and other refillable media – I hate the thought of disposing anything I’ve got an intimate bond with.

Same too, with a knife. Eventually it becomes your knife, and if you sharpen it yourself, it really becomes your own…

Inalienable skills you possess and can use, employ, for whatever larger purpose. There’s something lovely about owning something like that, having an ability that others don’t exactly have. Because even though others can write and chop onions, they all do it a little bit differently – some innate style evolves from it all, and eventually it’s got your signature all over it and no one elses…

What’s really got me puzzling and lamenting the loss of phonebooks is that many years ago I worked with a man who knew (and demonstrated!) how to rip a phone book in half. He was an architect – and of all the professionals you might imagine possessing such a skill, I would still say that would be rather low on the list of guesses – which made it even more impressive. To be fair, this man was a grizzly bear of human with the largest hands – catchers mitts come to mind as I recall them – I’ve ever seen. I’m sure there are many who are unknowingly thankful he didn’t become a proctologist. It would actually have been disappointing to discover that he couldn’t rip in half phonebooks after seeing those hands, or that he couldn’t rip doors and body panels off of old Buicks and fold them into elegant bits of oragami if he so chose…

To be sure – there is something utterly magical and unforgettable about seeing a person shred a phonebook with no real effort. It’s amusing and in spite of all my former years committing similarly silly feats of strength at a gym, something I’ve never been able to master. I’ve always, in the back of my mind, thought it would be one of the best things a person could do.

Imagine going to a car dealership, negotiating the sticker price, coming up with a lowball offer that makes the salesman laugh… A pregnant pause ensues, at which point you calmly ask if you can borrow his phonebook… Rather than looking through it, you simply grab it in your mitts and rip it in half. Immediate gravitas.

Or imagine your daughter going on a first date – some wonderful young amalgamation of acne and testosterone and limited driving experience comes to pick her up and meet you… You tell him when you expect her back home and in what condition, and, “Oh, by the way, lets get out the phone book so I can circle your parents number… Say – while we’ve got this nice thick phone book – check out this little trick!… Riiiip”…

None of that works with a smartphone, or iPad of course, and now there’s a whole generation of people who’ve totally lost touch with the concept of things like an actual phone book, let alone the exclamation point that ripping one in half, effortlessly, provides. It’s simply archaic fodder. By no means am I a technophobe, of course. But day in, day out, I realize that every bit of convenience costs a bit of the soul in return…



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