October 26, 2008

Drowning in four-color slick paper stock

I have surveyed the landscape that is my apartment and discovered an appalling number of magazines received and unread. I do like the printed word, holding the magazine in my hands and flipping through the pages.

I particularly appreciate the mobility of the hard copy, how easy it is to read in transit, for example, or in bed, where it is possible to read while prone, something you can't do with cyber text.

However, the magazines seem to have reached critical mass, bringing up the question, are you going to read these periodicals, or shall they be relegated to the recycling pile? How many weeks of The New Yorker is one reasonably expected to keep?

The New Yorker
offers hours of entertainment and some additions to my knowledge base, as I suspect it is currently called; most of my other magazines are less intellectual and contain more in-the-moment content.

Do I really need to read "The cabbie in the coal mine"? How will this information enrich me? Or will it piss me off, so that I simply turn the page? Yes, the economic sky is falling, and it's not chicken little's hallucination.

Simplicity has taken on a new place in my life and in that of my friends. "Need" has become a working part of our vocabularies. "Want" has been relegated to what-were-we-thinking?

I have to laugh at the travel magazines: Endless Vacations? Forbes' Life Fall Travel? Gourmet? Then there are the "trade magazines," for which I pay someone $300 a year to summarize the articles and rate them, so I don't have to slag through half a dozen of them myself. Sure, I mean to read and file the articles, but then again, I mean to grow four inches taller, and neither is a likely scenario.

Plus, seeing that we are nearing the Christmas season, I am full up on catalogs, both from places I know and places that apparently rented my name for purposes of commerce. N0 one I know needs a fruit basket this year, much less outdoor apparel despite its money-back guarantee.

I have to worship at the alter of Lands' End and L.L. Bean, whose customer service is legendary. They will accept merchandise returns at any time, for any reason. My wardrobe may be boring, but at least it's replaceable without much cost beside postage.

Recently I received a magazine about offerings for rabbits; I called customer service and told them that the off-White Rabbit, aka Bunny Boo-Bearsky, had gone to his reward in the sky two years ago, and that I didn't need to be reminded of the days when my closet contained 10 pounds of Timothy hay and 5 pounds of rabbit breakfast pellets.

Nothing gets you off a list faster than when you say, the creature or person for whom these products was intended is dead. My mother, over the years, has become a whiz at responding to people who call asking for Mr. Uptown. She simply says, he can't come to the phone. Ever. He's dead. That will teach people to cold call, or at least rethink that particular vocational opportunity.

What falls into the "want" category is now scrutinized for weeks on end before a decision is made. Consumer purchases are debated, where once they were a matter of course. Currently up on the block is a 32 inch LCD TV. Do I join the flat-screeners with the high-res pictures or do I hold on the what I've got until it totally dies?

I have been offered birthday and Christmas money to subsidize the purchase, so it's looking tempting, and since New York City is carting away electronic refuse through mid-2010, it does seem timely. Yet in this economy, purchasing anything beyond the most basic needs seems like a display of financial security I don't honestly feel. Thus, the dilemma.

I am sure I am far from the only one facing these questions; all I can really say is, my mortgage is paid off, and I still do have money in the bank (and in the stock market, but that account is hemorrhaging fast) .

So, drowning in magazines is not the worst thing that could befall me. Not having any marketable skills, simply on the basis of having worked for myself for 20+ years and having no idea how to transfer my skills, much less my attitude, to any corporate culture, is my one major drawback.

Then again, I can always occupy my time with all those magazines to read.


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