Technology and progress are generally great, but sometimes I miss the old things. I know I’m not alone, but I’ve just recently become old enough to truly embrace the nostalgia. I mean, just look at the rest of the fools like me who are keeping vinyl records alive. I’m sure cassettes are next. I will now angrily sip my bargain scotch, set aside the sports page, and begin “pining for the Fjords,” as they say around my place.
The Sears catalog. This thing used to come once or twice a year and was the size of a phonebook but made of glossy magazine stock. It had something for everyone, seriously. You could pick out the toys you wanted for Christmas, dad could take a look at a table saw or a new set of radials for the Dodge, mom could look at clothes or some nice towels to quietly weep into, and your uncle that nobody liked to visit for too long could pour over the firearms. We would spend hours when I was a kid thumbing through this bible of consumerism, sprawled on my grandmother’s rug, counting down the months to Christmas.
Maps. I still love maps. Everyone uses satellites and phones to navigate now, but I’m old school enough to have a paper atlas stashed in my car, for the apocalypse I guess. Dammit that merit badge was a bitch to get, and I’m not about to toss my Silva compass I still have from the scouts. I actually used it a few years ago with a paper map everyday for a month, it was awesome.
Vacant Lots. These seemed to be everywhere when I was a kid. Every neighborhood had at least one. A lot of stuff went down in “the lot”. It was where you learned to jump your BMX, where fights were settled, cigarettes were tried, and forts were built and stocked with comic books and maybe a sun bleached Playboy scavenged from a dumpster. Vacant lots were a contained universe to kids; grownups didn’t care about them or pay attention to the goings on since there ultimately wasn’t a lot of property that could be damaged. Unless you set them on fire accidentally playing with fireworks. Then suddenly they all were very concerned, and began asking a lot of pointed questions. I know some places still have vacant lots, but Los Angeles real estate is too valuable for that.
Side note: Why does the fireworks time of year coincide with fire season? All that dry grass combined with easily procured explosives, who didn’t think that one through?
Old Lady Picture Wallets. It was like they came with the giant purse, you know the one that was like a magical “bag of holding,” but for grandmothers. There was tissue, makeup, gum, oyster crackers…even a spare sub sandwich for emergencies. The heart of the purse was the wallet, a true “Costanza” of a beast. There was no way this wallet would ever ride in someone’s pocket. It was four inches thick, a purse in its own right, the Big Mac of wallets. In the center was a plastic fold out organizer stuffed with wallet sized pictures.
If two matriarchs were in line together at the checkout counter a grand kid picture fight or GKPF as it was known on the underground circuit (aka church bingo or senior day at a restaurant) It would play out like this.
Somewhere in a South Texas K-Mart.
Cashier: Ok so that’ll be twenty six fifty…
Gladis: “I think I have a coupon in here” Begins rummaging in a purse the size of a Volkswagen. The cashier looks at her nails, then glances up at a wall clock, almost two hours til her lunch. Gladis sets a sandwich on the counter and continues the search.
Velma: “Oh hi Gladis, I can’t believe I didn’t notice I was behind you” (She lies). “How’s the family?”
Velma has caught Gladis off guard, she has been preparing for the last five minutes, she holds her wallet in hand, she has the drop on her. Gladis stops rummaging and deftly draws her wallet.
Time seems to stop for a beat. The cashier knows the game, with no sudden moves she leans over and flicks off the open light above her station. She makes eyes with the customer behind Velma to warn him to change lanes, but the poor fool can’t read the signals. He stands there like a lamb before the slaughter holding a sack of tube socks he thinks he will be paying for shortly.
Gladis: “Oh we’re fine, thank you for asking, how’s Jim doing? Wasn’t he in some kind of accident?”
Dirty pool thy name is Gladis, everyone around the craft store knows Jim drinks too much and recently drove his truck into a drainage ditch. But Velma expected that one, and has a reposte.
Velma: “Jim’s well, just a few scratches and a tow bill. I hope little Sarah is feeling better.” Sarah, let’s just say, is in a delicate, not married condition. Velma is not supposed to know this.
Gladis quietly vows to have a little chat with her neighbor Elaine, whom she’d sworn to secrecy.
The gloves are off now, the opening ceremonies are done, lets get ready to rumble.
Gladis whips open her wallet. The plastic accordion picture holder unfurls and she begins singing the praises of a series of kids in varying ages. Graduation caps, football helmets, pom poms, one in the Navy, a not-at-all-pregnant looking Sarah holding a cat.
Velma returns fire. Her accordion tumbles out until it kisses the floor. “Did I mention Tony got into Yale?”
The cashier glances around nervously. They begin to circle, it’s like a Tijuana hen fight.
Anyway I kinda miss those wallet picture things. It’s just not the same watching Grannies fumble with smart phones.