“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”
Partly as a response to last Monday’s post, Marni forwarded me a list of things that are disappearing today, along with a description for each telling why it is listed. Some of them I’m not too concerned about, while the presence of others on this list alarmed me. Not that I hadn’t realized these things were going away, it’s just frightening to see them on a list (except, obviously, Mumps & Measles). A list seems so irreversible.
Here is the list she sent minus the descriptions (because it was kind of a lot of text to repeat). Thanks for the buzzkill, old chum!
25. U.S. Post Office
24. Yellow Pages
23. Classified Ads
22. Movie Rental Stores
21. Dial-up Internet Access
20. Phone Land Lines
19. Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs
17. Ash Trees
16. Ham Radio
15. The Swimming Hole
14. Answering Machines
13. Cameras That Use Film
12. Incandescent Bulbs
11. Stand-Alone Bowling Alleys
10. The Milkman
9. Hand-Written Letters
8. Wild Horses
7. Personal Checks
6. Drive-in Theaters
5. Mumps & Measles
4. Honey Bees
3. News Magazines and TV News
2. Analog TV
1. The Family Farm
I don’t know why it’s in countdown form nor what the order really implies. The accompanying explanations made it pretty clear that Cameras That Use Film and Ash Trees are in more danger than The Family Farm, and if it’s a matter of actual gone-ness, Analog TV should now be number 1.
Nevertheless, this list gives me paws to think with. For one thiing, I was happily surprised to learn that the milkman hadn’t already been placed in the museum next to the mastadon and cars you could fix in your driveway. For another, I find some satisfaction in the fact that for several of these items whose passing is lamentable, I’m already in the vanguard of tide-stemming action, or at least of neo-Luddite resistance. Or if not action or resistance, then at least contemplation (c.f. Monty Python’s Life of Brian: “This calls for immediate discussion!”). Following their original order, here are my thoughts on some of them, whether I’m involved in their solution or just watching their slow and inevitable extinction. If you have comments on some of these or some of the ones I have omitted, let’s hear them.
* * *
19. The disappearance of the blue crabs from Chesapeake Bay due to overharvesting and pollution and warming is just a very sorry thing. We can put a man on the moon (for crying out loud, etc.) but we can’t figure out how to manage a natural resource whose rhythms and needs are known and understood? My folks are both from Baltimore, and I’m not even going to tell them about this. It would make them cry.
18. The only reason we got a DVD player before the video rental store squeezed out the last of the VHS boxes from its shelves a few years ago is because our VCR tried to ingest (more fully than usual, I mean) our rented copy of Galaxy Quest. I had to destroy the VCR to get the video out. This is how I like to be propelled into next-gen technologies.
16. Ham Radio. If someone wants to teach me Ham, I’ll give it a go. But I”m not getting on there if no one’s going to show up (see #9 below).
13. I bought a vintage 4×5 press camera and I shoot black and white film on it. It’s getting difficult to even find film for sale, let alone large format film. And fewer places will develop it after you shoot it, too (see last Monday’s post). This breaks my artistic heart, because the digital medium that is replacing film is not the same as film.
9. I have been known to wail loudly, like a wookie, about the complete disappearance of letters in my mailbox that have my name on them in cursive, or even print. Or that have a postage stamp, for that matter. A few years ago one of Angela’s old friends visited from St. Louis and brought her new boyfriend, Howard. Howard and I had a very engaging conversation about coffee and sustainability, and about the ugly monster no one selling anything wants to talk much about — to wit, shipping, or what he called the “seedy underbelly of commerce”. I wrote him a long and probably too intimate letter by hand after they went home, basically inviting him to be my pen pal and write me letters. In ink. On paper. And put colorful stamps on them. He was a busy man. He relayed a message that he thought it was a great idea and meant to get around to it, but never did. I put my lower lip out about this one day, and Angela laughed and said, “Oh, sweetie, are you in love with Howard?” I had to admit there was some kinda “bromance” or “man-crush” thing going on there, on my end. The search for a Jefferson to my Adams goes on.
4. I created a nest for orchard bees in my garden once (as easy as a tin can and some straws), but they didn’t come that year. And I agree with Marni, who told me that the disappearance of honey bees is a terrifying thought to her. No bees, no food. On the other hand, Monsanto has probably got copyrighted and patented seeds standing by for plants that don’t require pollenation to bear fruit. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if somewhere on Monsanto’s huge spread, if you could penetrate it, you’d reach some back lot with a barn on it, and if you broke the lock and went inside, you’d find all the world’s bees bound and gagged, blinking helplessly, each of them with three little pairs of handcuffs on.
3. News in magazines and TV went to the dogs a long time ago. No loss (excepting World Press Review, to which I subscribed until it folded). Just talk to your neighbors and you’ll know if there’s a dangerous flu or a hurricane coming. That’s the main thing.
1. The Family Farm. If you’ve been around me at all, you know that my not-so-secret wish is to be a subsistence farmer, or a truck farmer. Actually, yes, I”d like the truck. I don’t know if I’d be any good at it, but it seems very raw and real, and that connection to the seasons, and to the rhythms of the earth from which my dust sprang, seems to be of greater importance than anyone can afford to acknowledge. The awareness of the imbalance of our modern lives can be a dangerous thing.
The bees knew it, and look what happened to them.