I received in the mail (which was uplifting altogether to see it stills is being delivered) a copy of the Reader’s Digest. I didn’t ask for it; it just showed up, with a subcription card, of course. What memories..
Magazines and I were buddies in my youth. They were always there in the doctors’ offices to lose myself in, combat boredom, hide from fear.I went to high end doctors so I had my pick of good magazines. I always looked for Sport first (before SI became into being). Life and Look were favorites; not a lot of writing and lots of great pictures. The National Geographic fascinated me. Intense dramatic pictures of the world’s exotica. The colors were something that television would not be able to reproduce for decades. And then of course there were those naked natives. I would press those pages against the ones before them and sneak peaks when no one was looking at me.
Then there was the Reader’s Digest. A little guy amongst its much bigger brothers and sisters, the Digest was mostly short articles. They were practical, often interesting even to me. But my favorite was the humor section which always ran a teaser sort of daring the reader to shake his funny bone and see if something came out that RD would publish. About 10 years later when i began to write, I did shake it and “Holy Good Writing Batman!” They published it. Fortunately I didn’t have to deal with the great upsets that fame heaps upon the young. How good could it have been? I don’t even remember what it was I wrote.
Later in life, to digress a moment, I had a different experience with the Digest. We were trying to sell our house in the woods of Ridgefield, Ct. After living in it blithely, blissful to any flaws it might have, an inspector pointed out to us that the cross beam in the basement that essentially supported the structure, was improperly installed. Literally 1/4 inch of wood was keeping the first and second floors from taking up residence in the basement. This was a worry and also probably issue come sale time. As we fretted over that, we had an interested buyer. His daughter was learning disabled. Over the CT/NY border line, nearby, was one of the finest schools in the country for her problem. They were interested, not much worried about the house falling in, made an offer, and set up for a week later a final inspection. Then came the flood.
It began to rain the kind of rain G-d promised Moses when he said, “Build an ark.” I was in the basement and noticed a never before event. Water was coming through the wall. I ran outside and for the first time noticed that the house, built on an uneven piece of land, had dirt piled up against the wall for stabilizing purposes. The tons of dirt absorbed gallons upon gallons of water, which weighs eight pounds per gallon, became heavier and heavier, split the seam where the wall and floor met, and was at a quicker and quicker pace turning the basement into a swimming pool. This was not good. It would either rain for a week and we’d have a swimming pool and possible a one story/three story house to show– or it would stop and we’d figure something out.
With everything in the house that was absorbent, we mopped the floor down to dampness. Then we bought more 24″ fans than a platoon in the desert would need. The basement sounded like a wind tunnel but six days later, the day before the inspection, the floor was dry as a bone and the fans were in the attic. Worst thing I ever did in my life–maybe even worse than shooting the movie matron in the rear end with a rubber band propelled paper clip but if you want the details you’ll have to read, “The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales from Brooklyn.”
The Digest was also a staple in our house. My mom devoured it in between books. It was an easy read allowing her an intellectual break between the amazing number of books she read in a week. It had the second benefit of fitting on almost any size table, not something you could say for Life or Look, which took up space. I don’t know if the publishers planned it this way, but the little, lean Digest always managed to end up on top of the table top sized magazines. You either had to read it or move it to get to the others.
Today’s issue has the tried and true articles one associates with the Digest. Dogs that sniff out cancer. 10-minutes life fixes. How to Stay Positive. A BFF story about how Oreos brought two people together (I would have been too busy pulling apart the cookies to get to the cream and then go back to the cookie to be able to sustain a relationship). There’s 20 Most Trusted Health Brands piece. Believe it or not the vile Listerine is one of them. I guess people figure anything that tastes that bad must kill germs. Finally, from the Chicago Tribune is the head-scratching, “Disability Can Be Beautiful.” And of course the humor section. Reflecting on my papge flipping, I seem to remember that the old digest used to serialize books or very long articles. Maybe hence the name. Those are gone from at least this issue.
This issue has 124 pages. I recall the Digest of the ’50’s having more pages and certainly being heftier. I don’t truly know if it is smaller in size, but it looks and feels a bit anemic.
There is a tendency as one gets older to fix oneself more and more firmly in one’s comfort zone. That tendency should be challenged. Yet its a good thing when something pops up unexpectedly in the mailbox and brings with it a flood of good memories–something the mailbox box does less and less frequestly…at least from my perspective.
It’s another lovely day in Lake WoebeBoca. Almost, but not quite, boring this run of weather we’re having. It seems fine until one turns on the news or picks up the paper. Then we are reminded that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, it is just doing so around here in nice weather. Be well, stay that way and buy my book on Amazon, soft cover or Kindle, “The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales From Brooklyn.” It will bring smiles even though the general state of things is close to miserable.