A Post About A Post

Recently, as I was walking across campus to my car, I found myself fascinated with a telephone pole I’d passed hundreds of times without giving a second glance.  It stayed in my thoughts on the drive home, so the next day on the walk to the office, I stopped to take a picture.

 

pole

 

What struck me was the thought that there’s a whole generation of students on campus who, if they stop to look at this pole at all, probably have no idea why it’s densely covered with rusty old staples.  Of course, back when I was a student here, in the primordial past of the early 80s, the pole was covered with handbills, broadsheets and assorted missives from about two feet off the ground up to the 7-foot mark, all of them fastened on with those staples.  You can see where some folks finally gave up on trying to drive in staples on top of staples on top of staples, and resorted to hammering their messages up with nails.  Located in a high traffic area between lecture halls, this was a popular pole.

I remember tons of papers plastered on poles at every corner of campus, ever changing and yet always pretty much the same.  “Come to the big party,” they said. “Don’t miss this awesome band.” “Buy my car — cheap!”, “Join our club.” “Vote for me.” “Roommate needed.”  “Have you seen my dog?” “Would you like a puppy?” “Used textbooks for sale.” And on and on.  I remember homemade ads with amateurish doodles and murky black and white photos, duplicated at corner print shops on paper that came in colors like “canary yellow”, then tucked under someone’s arm in a thick stack, with a fully loaded stapler in one hand to engage in the 20th century version of “self-publishing.”

One flyer you could always count on was the one that read, “Let me type your term paper. ”  Back then, typing was a relatively rare skill, one you could use to drum up a few extra bucks.  In my Freshman year, I had to take a typing test before I could sign up for Journalism classes; if I’d failed, I’d have had to pay for a Typing class.  Today, there’s no way anyone could show up at college without typing skills; kids are texting before they’re out of diapers.

At the bottom of the homemade “typing” ad would be a carefully scissored fringe of  “contact info” tags to tear off and take with you until you could get to someplace with a phone.  I mean, it’s not like your phone cord could stretch all the way out to the sidewalk, right?

This set me to thinking about all the things that were once so ubiquitous, but somehow at some point just faded away entirely, things I never paid much attention to until I noticed they were gone. Typewriters, for one.  Pay phones.  Rotary dials.  Fax machines. Fotomats. Is Kinkos still around?  So many things that filled a need no one has any more. Nowadays you can post your announcement to the Web instantly and reach more people than you would have with a thousand broadsheets stapled to a thousand poles.  Every club, band, school, neighborhood, hobby or perversion is represented on Facebook or Twitter or Craigslist.  You can offer up your old couch at 1PM and have it gone by 1:30.  Progress, right?  Why look back?

My problem is I’ve always been fascinated by ephemera, all that printed matter tied to a specific moment in time, briefly accessible or even ubiquitous, then consumed, discarded and forgotten: comic books, pulp magazines, newspapers, event posters, and the like.  These homemade handbills would be the ultimate example of that: briefly relevant (to someone, anyway) but soon just an outdated, fading, rain-sodden eyesore left fastened to a pole.  Now there’s just the staples left, but every one of those staples held a story, once.  Did someone decide to go that concert and end up meeting the love of their life? What happened to the previous roommate, anyway? Did that search for the lost dog end in relief or sorrow?  And what about the people who pounded in those staples; students before and after me?  What twists did their lives take after that moment at the pole? Did they graduate or drop out?  Are they alive or dead?

While I was standing there, pondering the mysteries of these phantoms and taking a picture of a cluttered-up telephone pole with my cell phone, my boss walked up behind me and said something that put it all into perspective.

“Shouldn’t you be at work?”

 

 

It’s Alive!

Okay, so (1) this page hasn’t been updated since last summer, (2) there were only seven entries for all of 2017 and (3) over half of those were related to obituaries.  I get it, I’m bad at blogging.

The irony is that I’m always miffed at the state of blogs in general, or at least the ones I used to enjoy visiting.  Basically, they’re either neglected, shut down or vanished.  For instance, I used to enjoy visiting Bat-Blog for a daily dose of all things Batman, but it was abandoned two years ago in favor of the author’s Facebook page.   I get that it’s easier to post to Facebook than a blog and you’ll reach many, many more readers that way, but I’ve been off Facebook since December 2013 and Batman news isn’t nearly enough to entice me back.

After my pals and I shut down the old “Mr KissKiss BangBang” James Bond fansite, I frequented our former rival, CommanderBond.net, where content slowed to a trickle, then stopped altogether, leaving only a message board.  I guess it doesn’t help that almost nothing’s happening in the world of Bond (how many different spins on “is Craig coming back” are even possible?), but still…

It’s anyone’s guess what happened to Silver Age Comics or Blog Into Mystery, neither of which has had content posted since May 2016 (the same month as Bat-Blog: maybe they all made a pact to move to Facebook together?)  Some blogmasters make a conscious decision to pack it in, posting a goodbye message as a coda to the enterprise, but other sites end unceremoniously and mysteriously in mid-mission, leaving us to wonder if the owners just lost interest, were hit by a truck, won the lottery, or what.  Hanging out on these sites can get spooky, like one of those movies where someone finds an abandoned ship drifting at sea, with food still out on the table, the crew’s clothes packed neatly away and no sign of a struggle.

Garfield Minus Garfield may have joined that cyber-Sargasso; at this writing, it’s four months dormant.  Letters of Note hasn’t posted anything in six months, though in this particular case I’m guessing the huge success of the spin-off books and celebrity live readings have made the blogmaster too busy or too rich to bother anymore, or maybe he just doesn’t see the sense of posting content for free when it could be worked into a format people will pay for.

There are a few bright spots, though.  MAD cartoonist Tom Richmond seems to post at least weekly with new art or anecdotes.  Several years into his Wild About Harry blog, John Cox keeps miraculously producing fascinating tidbits of Houdini history like a never ending chain of handkerchiefs from a magician’s pocket. And incredibly, Ross Pearsall’s “Super-Team Family” site has been churning out fun and wonderful faux comic book covers on a daily basis (even weekends!) for over 2,100 days and counting.

So who am I going to throw in with, these champions of consistent content or the quitters and Facebook defectors?  Well… I’m going to at least TRY to produce more content this year, not so much because I think the world is dying to read it, or I’ll ever have the following the other sites do, but if nothing else because generating some content makes it easier to complain about the folks who don’t.  And I love to complain.  Also, this site started as a way to document all the cool and funny and charming things my kids do, and though they’re no longer rugrats, they’re still as fascinating and fun (to me, anyway) as they ever were.  And if I don’t document their shenanigans somewhere, it’ll be lost for good.  Just a perusal of past posts proves that: there’s lots of stuff on this site I wouldn’t remember at all if it were left up to my tired brain.

So anyway, this site is back in business.  Wish me luck.