Monthly Archives: December 2011

got a bitchen new teen line dude


The indispensable Block called me on my cell phone today to say he takes issue with my affection for old hardwired landline phones. Now, yesterday I didn’t specifically say the old phones are intrinsically better, but he knows me well enough to hurdle to correct conclusions. He had even found the also-indispensable Virginia Heffernan’s NYTimes column mourning the end of the analog phone and disagreed with her too, saying that we are taking magic for granted.

Fair enough – if someone had told me in high school that by 2002 everyone would walk around with (semi)working telephones in our pockets, I would have felt robbed for being stuck with Yars’ Revenge and 15 lbs. of trig homework. And acne and inopportune vasocongestion. But I digress.

Virginia’s column is lyrical and gorgeous, however, I would add something to her argument: the essence of the old telephone is the handset, the thick, heavy half-moon that cradled in your neck and endured anything. Block asked me about household wireless phones, and I told him they were better than cell phones, but they weren’t heavy enough, and the interference can be just as crappy.

How many times have you been on a wireless landline and accidentally hung up on somebody with your own ear? Or blasted the “9” button with your clavicle? Forced someone to listen to you accidentally redial their number in their ear several times over?

The telephone has one job: to recreate the act of conversation between two people who would have been face to face. In that regard, a cell phone fails miserably. You can’t relax for long on a cell call – the heat starts to wither, you can’t shove it between your shoulder and your ear for multitasking, and eventually you start wondering if you’re irradiating your brain.

Yes, I know there are bluetooth earpieces, but then you’re adding ANOTHER THING that can fail, have bad reception… not to mention the “pairing” issues, keeping it charged, and finding the fucker when you need it.

In my teens I overdosed on two things: Fig Newtons and talking on the phone – and now I don’t like either very much. But maybe I was looking at it wrong. I’d still love to talk to you on the phone, even for hours, if we all still had old analog handsets that allowed for endless ruminating. I need a heavy beast of a telephone with heft enough for big ideas.


dig the aqua blue wall phone I installed in our hallway here in CA

come here watson, i want to see you


There’s a great article in Salon today called A Fond Farewell to the Hard-Wired Phone, featuring a sweet set of pictures and videos from the design site Imprint of a product our generation will be the last to use. I’ve always had a bit of a telephone fetish – I learned to wire the old ones, and was one of the first of my friends to get a cell phone (even if it never worked, basically, anywhere).

But here’s where past and future collide: cell phones fucking suck. We have become so used to terrible, expensive service that we no longer even complain about it. America is the beaten wife of the wireless industry, and no amount of Fruit Ninja will change it. So we have never let go of our landline anywhere, having learned our lesson from countless dropped calls during important meetings, and more importantly, during 9/11 when cell service ground to a halt.

But if you’re going to have a landline, you have to have at least one “wired to the wall” connection in case the power goes out, so I decided to recreate the phones I had as a kid. Sadly, the one I grew up with in Iowa circa 1976 was “avocado” colored, and I just couldn’t face it, so instead I found a pink one and rehabbed it:


It sits upstairs at the farm and sounds better than any phone I’ve used since high school. And the round number card in the middle is our actual number, based on the old exchanges in upstate New York circa 1948, when all phone numbers used to begin with two letters:


hence, PEnnsylvania 6-5000

I simply took the old phone card, scanned it, Photoshopped new info on it, printed it, and voilĂ ! Instant retro preciousness! I did the same thing with the phone downstairs, an exact replica of the “harvest gold” touch-tone phone we had in our piano room in 1979:


Not to be a Luddite or a grumpy “get off my lawn” piss’n’vinegar old fart, but I feel like there might be something lost when you can no longer see the fragile tether that binds you to technology. Lucy occasionally uses these analog phones, and without being told, she’ll have a sense of being connected by a wire that inexorably links her to the ones she loves. Not everything should be in the cloud, wispy, invisible in the ether.


George and Mary, finally forced to fall in love by sharing a tiny wire

the low angle of a breathtaking yellow


Okay, December has begun, and that means taking things a little more seriously – not in a holiday-defiling way, just in a “take care of yourself” kind of way. The days are mind-zappingly short, there’s the travel, the incipit “fun” and Fun and fun and fun you’re supposed to be having, and it does add up, y’know.

As such, here are your rules for the month to come. No arguing, just participate – it’s all backed by evidence, both scientific and frightfully anecdotal.

1. Spend ten minutes a day in full sun (or closest approximation) with no sunglasses. This was a rule I stole from Tessa’s mother, who presciently followed it long before the studies were done on circadian rhythms, naturally-produced melatonin, and Vitamin D. Combine this with any kind of aerobic exercise, and you’re way ahead of the game.


Figure 3-b: winter is time for ping pong

2. Eat decent fish or take an Omega-3 supplement with at least 1000mg of EPA daily. I’ve already extolled the merits of Omega-3, but the evidence keeps mounting that this is good for all sorts of emotional reasons.

3. Make frequent, “real” contact with close friends. Facebook does not count. This means actually, physically breaking bread or doing some social activity with the people you love. It can be a shitty movie, an accompaniment to errands, anything, as long as you are breathing in the pheromones and decoding the millions of tiny social cues wafting from another human being.

4. Turn off – or tape over – the LED lights in your bedroom. The sleep studies on nighttime light pollution are arresting; even small lights like the pulsing “sleep” indicator on your computer or the familiar green “charging” light on many wall plugs can really screw with your sleep and your health. If you turn off the light and see anything glowing, it is messing with your head, and it needs to be doused with black electrical tape.

5. Take substantial breaks from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos and the internet in general. The social interactivity and alluring rabbit holes provided by the internet are like the unicorn’s blood in the Harry Potter novels – it’ll convince you that you’re alive, but it’s a kind of deceit, a half-life taking the place of the whole. Take a day off… not to be a Luddite necessarily, but in order to do Rule #3.

6. Think good thoughts and forgive yourself. My therapist said something brilliantly simple the other day: “We all have a tape running through our heads most of the day… you must ask yourself what that tape is usually saying.” Since then, I’ve been conscious of what that tape loop is chanting, and wondered at the destructive power of all the negative shit, and the restorative power of the positive. In that vein, just keep telling yourself that YOU ARE OKAY. YOU ARE DOING WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING, EVEN IF IT’S NOTHING. IT’S OKAY TO FEEL WHAT YOU JUST FELT.

In other words, forgive yourself. Unless you’re killing kittens.