Entry 591: Flip or Flop or Love or List Fixer Upper Brothers

Over dinner the other night, my wife Barbara was telling me about her sister’s home renovation project. She was waiting for a general contractor to provide an estimate to install new hardwood flooring throughout.

“What’s the problem?” I asked. “Should be about $400 and take a couple of hours.”

I knew this because, more often than not, when I walk into the living room, Barbara is watching HGTV. HGTV has only two shows. It’s either people looking for a house or people renovating a house.

The show’s all have different names, of course, but they’re essentially the same programs. hgtv-showchip-house-hunters-jpg-rend-hgtvcom-616-3471In the “looking for a house” category, we have House Hunters, Beach Hunters, Beachfront Bargain Hunt, House Hunters International, House Hunters Off the Grid, House Hunters Pop’d, House Hunters on Vacation, Island Hunters, Lakefront Bargain Hunt, Castle Hunters, Tiny House Hunters and many others that imply you’d be better off with a safari guide than a real estate agent.

There are even more renovation shows: American Rehab: Buffalo, American Rehab: Detroit, American Rehab: Virginia, American Rehab: Charlie Sheen, Big Easy Reno, Bungalow Reno, Cabin Reno, Reno Casino Reno, Fixer Upper, Flip It to Win It, Flip or Flop, Flipping Virgins, Flipping the Block, Flipping 600x600bb-851the Heartland, Flipping the South, Flipping the Bird, Love It or List It, My Big Amazing Renovation, My Big Family Renovation, My Flipping Family, Property Brothers, Property Brothers at Home, Property Brothers at Home on the Ranch, Property Brothers Redo a Closet and Then Come Out of It; Rehab Addict, Renovate to Rent, Renovation Raiders, Renovation Realities, Renovation Road, Renovation Unscripted, Rescue My Renovation,  Your Big Family Renovation, and, well, you get the idea. In fact, you probably got the idea about 20 titles ago.  (I may have made up a few of them.)

In all the renovation shows, the experts overhaul a run-down house, then decide what to do with it when they’re finished. They (or their clients) can flip it, leave it, list it, love it or even live in it. It’s always fascinating to see the make-over, especially for Barbara and me, love-it-or-list-it1since we lived through a massive kitchen renovation.

We’re always amazed how the renovations on HGTV differ from our own experience. For one thing, they seem to take much less time. We knocked down a couple of walls, replaced some windows, redid the ceiling, put in all new fixtures, flooring and appliances, installed new cabinetry and created a humongous stainless steel-topped island. (I should clarify that when I say “we” I mean that we stayed out of the way while professionals did the work.) The job began in July and ended just in time for us to host Thanksgiving dinner. (If you want to read my series of posts about this, you can start here.)

So our renovation took about seven months. I believe the folks on HGTV could construct a small city in that amount of time. Including a subway system.

“Well,” one of the handsome Property Brothers says to the “client” upon revealing the newly renovated househgtv-showchip-property-brothers-jpg-rend-hgtvcom-616-3471, “we redid the kitchen, knocked down five walls to create an open floor plan, finished the basement, turned the master bedroom closet into an en suite bathroom, broke through the back of the hallway linen closet into the master bedroom to create a new walk-in closet to replace the one we turned into the en suite bathroom, extended the second floor a bit to add a new linen closet, constructed a staircase to get from your new deck to the backyard which we have lavishly landscaped, and built a dining room table from the wood we collected when we tore out the old floor.”

“Unfortunately,” the other, equally handsome Property Brother says (they’re twins), “one of the walls we knocked down turned out to be load-bearing, so we had to rebuild the part of the second floor that fell into the living room, but that gave us the opportunity to make this really dramatic cathedral ceiling. It did get us slightly off schedule, though, and we needed four days for the entire renovation instead of three.”

“And that,” adds Property Brother #1, patting the “client” on the back, “is only because you helped out by perfectly placing the throw pillows on the couch.”

“We also went a bit over budget,” says P.B. #2, ”because it turns out we had to replace the entire roof. However, we think the renovation costs of $30,000 will be well worth it when we list the house.”

Wait, what? Did I miss the part where they said the show takes place in 1917 so that their $30,000 is the equivalent of $564,016.41 in 2016 dollars? Are they doing the work someplace where labor and materials are very cheap, like in rural Shanghai?

I ask my real estate agent wife about this. “How is it that they can do all that work in a few days for $30,000 when just our kitchen took seven months and, um, a lot more money?” (Honestly, I lost track of our budget during month six.)

Barbara does not have a good answer for this.

I imagine these HGTV shows cause problems for real-life contractors who have to deal flipflopwith real-life people. When they present their estimates, they probably hear responses like, “But Tarek and Christina on Flip or Flop could get that done for $37.98. Plus Christina is a lot hotter than you are.”

In any case, they haven’t started laying the hardwood floors in my sister-in-law’s house, but once they do, I’ll be sure to show up that afternoon to admire them.

See you soon.

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Entry 590: Dear God

The Times of Israel reports that the Israeli Postal Service (motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor any other kind of tsuris stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, although they do take the day off for many Jewish holidays you’ve never heard of.”*), has a new policy governing mail addressed to God.wall-letters-635x357

It is now delivering the letters to the Western Wall, where visitors traditionally place handwritten notes of prayer and wishes in the cracks between its stones.

According to the article:

“The postal service said the letters arrived from all over the world, including Russia, China, France, Nigeria and the United States. They were addressed to God, Jesus or ‘Our Dear Father in Heaven.’”

I have a number of questions about this:

  1. I see some of the letters come from America. How come it’s a miracle if the United States Postal Service can deliver a letter across the street without a zip code, but it somehow manages to get an envelope with nothing more than “To God” all the way to Israel?
  2. I notice from the list above that God also gets mail from Nigeria.  I hope that’s not the same Nigerian prince who’s always bothering me.  If I didn’t fall for that scam, what are the chances God will?
  3. Why do people assume God lives in Israel? Or do they think He** has an angel pick up the mail at the Jerusalem Mailboxes, Etc.?
  4. For that matter, God is supposed to be everywhere. Why not just send your letter to God, c/o IKEA? That way, even if God doesn’t answer, maybe you’ll get a nice catalog.
  5. How much postage do you need to speak to God?
  6. Do Andrew, Bartholomew, John, Thomas, Peter, James the Elder, James the Younger  or their friends get any letters? It would be nice if they did, just so we could refer to the Apostle epistles.
  7. What horrible sin did an Israeli mail carrier commit in order to be assigned the route that includes sticking letters between the stones of a wall?
  8. What was the Israeli Postal Service’s old policy regarding this correspondence? Return it to the sender stamped “Moved, No Forwarding Address?”
  9. What the hell? He’s God, not Santa Claus! You’re supposed to pray, people! God doesn’t want it in writing. He doesn’t want His children to have to buy stamps. He doesn’t want to risk getting paper cuts opening envelopes. And He’s certainly not going to write back. Heck, when Moses went up to the mount, he came down with two stone tablets, not a couple of postcards! Just because you have faith that God exists doesn’t mean you have to believe in the infallibility of the postal service. There’s probably more evidence of the former than the latter.

And finally, what’s up with the snail mail?  God is all-powerful, so He must have decent Wi-Fi.  And Jesus certainly knows we’re in the 21st Century; after all, it’s only the 21st century because we date such things from his death. You want to write to your Dear Father in Heaven? Send an email!

Really.  Here’s how:

You can‘t email Him directly, of course. You used to be able to, but then someone hacked OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGod’s Gmail account and started sending out spam in His name. So now you have to send a note to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which promises to forward your message to The Lord (no attachments, please) by placing it between the holy stones. One might assume they print it out first; otherwise there might be a lot of laptops sticking out of the wall.

And I mean a lot. As of this writing, the Foundation has delivered 517,035 emails to the Wall.

Might I suggest that if you want yours read, you should come up with a really interesting subject line.

See you soon.

*I actually have no idea if it’s true about the holidays.  **Or She.

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Entry 589: Be On the Lookout for Ronald McDonald

In February of 2014, I reported on an alarming trend: America was running out of clowns. sad-clown1We were down to one clown for every 125,000 Americans.

It reminded folks of the severe humor shortage of the 1950’s, when anyone wearing a red nose was accused of being a Communist. Pundits worried (mostly on Fox News) that this new shortage could be the start of a great depression, and warned that soon depressed Americans would be seen waiting on long lines just to get their faces painted.

Conservatives blamed the President. “We must repeal ObamaCar,” said House Speaker John Boehner. “America cannot afford to get all its clowns into one vehicle.”

Liberals blamed George Bush. “He led us into a war with pies,” Vice President Biden said. “There never was seltzer of mass destruction. America must decrease her dependence on foreign balloon animals.”

Well, I’ve got good news, America. We’ve bounced back like a clown on a trampoline! As has been painfully apparent from the beginning of this election cycle, the U.S. has regained its slapstick supremacy! Now there are plenty of clowns to go around.

There’s just one problem.

Our new clowns aren’t funny.

They have eschewed circuses and birthday parties for the dark passages of our suburbs _91197228_istock_91851001_medium-1and the shadowy alleys of our cities. Instead of brightening our days, they are creeping through our nights, causing children and even adults to run for their lives.

Stop laughing–I’m serious.

These so-called “nocturnal clowns” have been spotted in Ohio, South Carolina, North Carolina, California, Wisconsin, and Georgia.

In Aiken County, South Carolina, a radio scanner picked up this bizarre police dispatch:
“Subject dressed in a red and yellow suit with a clown mask through the woods.”

A middle school in Georgia was put in “soft lock down” due to clown sightings. I looked up what a “soft lock down” is:

That means all the classroom doors and exterior building doors are locked. Visitors are asked to state who they are and the nature of their business when they are buzzed into a building.

I’m guessing that, during a soft lock-down, clowns are not automatically buzzed into the building as they would be under non-lock-down conditions.

In Sullivan County, Tennessee, a Pagliaccian perpetrator was spotted outside an apartment complex.   “He had blue makeup around his lips, white face paint, couldn’t really see his eyes,” said a witness. “And I barely got a glimpse of his hair. It was different colors.”

A man in Dublin, GA reported that he had to swerve to avoid hitting a clown who was standing in the middle of the road, although it’s possible this was only a deer dressed as a clown. In other towns, men in clown costumes have been seen “standing in a sinister manner beneath streetlights.” The police in LaGrange, GA. posted pennywise-1050x6751this on Facebook:

“This behavior is not cute or funny… if applicable, you may face charges.”

It has yet to be determined how much jail time someone can get for standing in a sinister manner or, for that matter, what constitutes a “sinister manner.” I’m thinking just being a clown leaning against a lamppost is pretty sinister, even if you’re slouching.

Clearly, this is a disturbing trend. Soon, we may have clowns robbing banks disguised as, um, clowns. I imagine the crime scene investigation going something like this:maxresdefault1

  • Beat Cop: Everyone in the bank was tied up, sir.
  • Detective: The perpetrators brought ropes?
  • Beat Cop: No, sir. They just pulled long ribbons out of their mouths.
  • CSI Guy: Look, a footprint!
  • Detective: What would you say that is, Max? A size 48?

Not everyone thinks this creepy clown kookiness is a bad thing. The New Jersey State hqdefault1Police, for instance, posted a warning on Facebook to be on the lookout for malevolent merrymakers, but ended their post with “”If all of the bad people out there stuck out as much as a person dressed as a clown, we wouldn’t have to write posts like this.”

That’s a good point, especially coming from a state with Chris Christie as its governor.

Of course, if this creepy clown thing continues, it’s going to give regular clowns a bad reputation, which, in turn, will discourage people from becoming clowns, which may cause a shortage like we haven’t seen since the great clown drought of 2014.

There’s one sure way to end a drought, though. Just come a little closer to the flower on my lapel.

See you soon.

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Entry 588: Zodiac Killers

Boy, am I pissed!

Apparently for 62 years, I’ve been carrying buckets of water around for no good reason.13zodiac111

This according to NASA, which has determined that the Earth’s axis has shifted so that it no longer points in the same direction as it once did, which changes the whole alignment of something or other, and thus screws up everybody’s Zodiac signs.

And by “everybody,” I mean 86% of us.

More importantly, I mean “me.”

Here is NASA’s realignment of birthdays to Zodiac signs:

  • Capricorn: Jan 20 – Feb 16
  • Aquarius: Feb 16 – March 11
  • Pisces: March 11 – April 18
  • Aries: April 18 – May 13
  • Taurus: May 13 – June 21
  • Gemini: June 21 – July 20
  • Cancer: July 20 – Aug 10
  • Leo: Aug 10 – Sept 16
  • Virgo: Sept 16 – Oct 30
  • Libra: Oct 30 – Nov 23
  • Scorpio: Nov 23 – Nov 29
  • Ophiuchus: Nov 29 – Dec 17
  • Sagittarius: Dec 17 – Jan 20

I’ve spent my whole life being an Aquarius. It was nice being associated with water, even the_5th_dimension_-_the_age_of_aquarius1though I didn’t like going in the pool that much. But, hey, I had an entire age named after me, with a song and everything. I belonged to the sign of visionaries, unconventionality and intellectual independence, which described me exactly, if, by “visionary,” we mean “often able to come up with a good direct mail package.”

Aquarians are “verbally skilled and very witty…they can deal with any type of personality and adapt to any situation.” Again, me to a tee. Or a T. Or some tea. (I actually have no idea which is correct, or what that cliché even means.) I can, in fact, deal with any type of personality, often by ignoring them. And I can adapt to any situation by leaving.

So, anyway, as I said, I’ve been a water-bearer for 62 years, sloshing through life, trying zodiac-astrology-birthday-sign-aquarius1not to get my feet wet. And now along comes NASA to tell me I’m really a Capricorn. A friggin’ goat!

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But, Mark, you’re birthday is February 15*, so you were always on the borderline. Surely you don’t have to undergo a complete personality change because of this.”

Well, first, don’t call me Shirley. Second, I could name a good number of people who are rooting for me to have a complete personality change. And third, if I’m a Capricorn, I’m damn well going to act like a Capricorn, because Capricorns tend to see life in black or white, with no gray areas.

Still, there are two things about the date list above that raise questions:13

1. Why is Scorpio only one week long? Every other sign gets a month, more or less. Scorpio gets only a few days, which is going to severely reduce the membership of the Scorpio Club (motto: “We’re distrusting and secretive, so you better know the password.”)  Plus, those few days are frequently going to fall during Thanksgiving week, so they won’t even be business days.  At right is the only example I could find of a Zodiac wheel with the new alignment.  Poor Scorpio is now like the Rhode Island of the Zodiac.

2. What the hell is Ophiuchus? You Aries people should enjoy this, because you like 360_ophiuchus_01131new things. (But, before you like it, make sure you’re still an Aries.) Ophiuchus (pronounced to rhyme with “off, mucus”) is the sign of…well, some guy wrestling with a snake. If you’ve suddenly discovered that you’re an Ophiuchus, you probably think that really sucks, because Ophiuchusians tend to be hyper-critical. But, take heart! You’ve also got strong sexual magnetism! And you’ll need it when you’re in a bar and someone asks you what your sign is and you say something that rhymes with “off, mucus.”

“That sounds disgusting,” the person will say, “but you’re hot!”

I’m going to conclude with an actual conversation that just occurred between myself and my wife Barbara as I was writing this post:

ME: Hey, Barb, what’s your Zodiac sign?
BARB: “Scorpio.”
ME: “Not any more. You’re a Virgo now.”
BARB: “What? I’ve been a Scorpio my whole life.”
ME: “Well, now you’re a Virgo.”
BARB: “Who changed it?”
BARB: “I’ve been a Scorpio for 62 years. I’m not changing now. That’s ridiculous.”

Take that, NASA.

See you soon.

*Make a note. Send me something nice.

Posted in astrology, humor, Uncategorized, zodiac | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Entry 587: Massa Chews Its

Google has released what it calls a list of the most frequently misspelled words in each state. Here it is:

Alabama – Tongue; Alaska – Hawaii; Arizona – Diarrhea; Arkansas – Leprechaun; California – Desert; Colorado – Beautiful; Connecticut – Desert; Delaware – Neighbor; Florida – Tomorrow; Georgia – Appreciate; Hawaii – Boutineer; Idaho – Desert; Illinois – Appreciate; Indiana – Desert; Iowa – Maintenance; Kansas – Schedule; Kentucky – Maintenance; Louisiana – Definitely; Maine – Vacuum; Maryland – Cancelled; Massachusetts – Massachusetts; Michigan – Gray; Minnesota – Broccoli; Mississippi – Sergeant; Missouri – Pneumonia; Montana – Vacuum; Nebraska – Guarantee; Nevada – Cousin; New Hampshire – Diarrhea; New Jersey – February; New Mexico – Neighbor; New York – Beautiful; North Carolina – Pneumonia; North Dakota – Attitude; Ohio – Banana; Oklahoma – Gray; Oregon – Definitely; Pennsylvania – Cancelled; Rhode Island – Cancelled; South Carolina – Convenience; South Dakota – Gray; Tennessee – Courtesy; Texas – Niece; Utah – Leprechaun; Vermont – Possible; Virginia – Cancelled; Washington – Pneumonia; West Virginia – Giraffe; Wisconsin – Vacuum; Wyoming – Ornery

I have a lot of things to say about this, so I’ll get right to it.

First, let’s talk about words Google thinks are misspelled, but really aren’t. For instance, “cancelled.” According to dictionary.com, two “l’s” is the British spelling, while Americans spell it with one “l.” I would contend that the English are correct, as they usually are, except when they add “u’s” where they don’t belong. I mean, come on, people: “canceled” just looks wrong, and “canceling” looks even worse. I think so many Americans spelled it incorrectly that the guardians of the language finally threw up their hands and said, “Well, okay, if you want to be idiots, go ahead and use one “l.”

Similarly, dictionary.com tells us that “gray” can be spelled with either an “e” or an “a,” so grey_logo_312x258-32x1take that, Google. I suspect that “grey” is gaining in popularity because of “Fifty Shades of…,” although, if I’m not mistaken, “Grey” was the guy’s name and not a color. I, myself, have tended to use the “e” spelling since the early 70’s, when I worked at an ad agency named Grey, whose logo, inexplicably, was orange, but whose name came from the grey walls in its original location when it was founded in 1917, when there was no color (as photos from the era will attest).

Okay, so we can give a pass to “grey” and “cancelled.” I think we can also throw out “desert,” which I’m inclined to do, since Google would have no way of knowing if people are spelling “desert” correctly or “dessert” incorrectly, especially since three of the four states that can’t spell “desert” don’t have any deserts, but I know from first hand knowledge that Connecticut, at least, does have desserts, particularly since they just opened a Carvel right down the block.

On the other hand, maybe those people are trying to spell “desert,” as in “My ability to spell has deserted me.”

You wouldn’t think Arizona and New Hampshire have a lot in common, but, evidently, 551dd41bc1e7b[1]they share an urgent need for Imodium. Why else would so many of their residents need to know how to spell “diarrhea.” Also, it seems as though visitors to Missouri, North Carolina, and Washington should get vaccinated for pneumonia before arriving. Perhaps, in North Carolina, you can catch pneumonia while waiting to use the public restroom that’s appropriate for your maxresdefault1gender identity.

Moving along to the fantasy lands of Utah and Arkansas–are there many leprechauns in those states? Were there leprechauns in Arkansas before Bill Clinton was governor? Do leprechauns tend to be Mormon? These are important questions that need to be answered, along with “Why do people in West Virginia have such a frequent need to spell “giraffe?”

Maine, Montana and Wisconsin must be extraordinarily clean states because they so often leprechaun21use vacuums. Either that, or people get sucked into those states and are never heard from again.

And what’s up with Ohio? How can you not know how to spell “banana?” How many other ways could you spell it? Two “n’s?” Four “n’s? You’d have to be bannannas to spell it that way!

On the other hand, it’s perfectly understandable that Floridians can’t spell “tomorrow.” For many residents, there is none. And, as I’ve documented repeatedly, just about everyone in the state is such a moron, I’m surprised they could spell “Google” in order to misspell “tomorrow.”

And speaking of morons, let’s go to the one state you’d think would be fairly intelligent: Massachusetts. With all the fancy colleges they have there, they should be able to spell their own state. Jeez, even we Connecticuters can spell “Connecticut,” even though we can’t spell “desert” or “dessert,” and even though we’re not entirely sure what to call ourselves (Connecticans? Connecticotians? Connecticutensians? Nutmeggers?*).

In some fairness to all of America’s bad spellers, Google’s list may be somewhat skewed by its methodology. They didn’t look at misspellings in the context of all queries, but only in searches that began “how to spell.” In other words, they only counted people who were admitting they didn’t know how to spell the word and not people who entered things like, “Is it ok to bring my rifel when I go base fishin in my canu in Texes?” and had no idea they had a spelling problem, among other issues.

For all I know, Americans may care so little about their spelling, there weren’t enough queries in each state beginning with “how to spell” for the “research” to be statistically valid.  For instance, what if the only Minnesota resident who bothered to look up a word just happened to be making some broccoli soup?

I’ll end this post with a shout-out to Donald Trump, a man who sometimes seems to be in his own state (of consciousness), and who sent this tweet back in July:trump
If he’s elected, maybe America will be grate again.

See you soon.

*All of which are correct, depending on your source.

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Entry 586: That’s a Great Idea, Jong-Un

Damn it!

Once again my retirement plans have been thwarted!

As I’ve previously reported (at the links that follow), I considered retiring to Newark, phindeli-pham-dinh-nguyen-cafe-phindeli-phindeli-town-buford-541NJ, but then Newark was rated 150th on a list of 150 places to retire. I looked at Traverse City, MI, which was the best city to retire, but then I discovered that we’re a few decades of global warming away from me being able to live there in winter. I even thought about bidding on Buford, WY, because, back in 2012, the entire town was up for auction with a starting price of only $100,000. But it ended up selling for $900,000 to some Vietnamese guy who changed the name of the place to PhinDeli Town with the intention of turning PhinDeli into an international brand of coffee.


Then I thought maybe I’d look outside the United States. This line of thinking started to look much more urgent as the presidential campaign took shape. I investigated the Kingdom of Enclava, which was a brand spanking new country somewhere in Europe, but it turns out that if my wife and I moved there, we’d double the population. So I relocated my search to Asia.

Specifically North Korea.

After all, Dennis Rodman seemed to like the place, and Seth Rogen and James Franco kji-commemorative-silver-coin1made a movie about it, so it must be a cool place to live.

Also, one of our dollars is equal to about 900 North Korean Wons, so I’d be rich over there, if they let me keep any money. I could easily afford to drop ₩10,000 on lunch and even leave 2,000 for a tip, if they allow that sort of thing.  I could even exchange one of my Wons for Chons, which are their coins.  That way, if anyone asked me for money so they could enjoy an evening out on the town, I could give them some and say, “Everybody have fun tonight, everybody Won Chon tonight.”

And don’t even get me started on soup!

But what kind of house could I afford in North Korea? I went to the real estate website SupremePeoplesTrulia.com to see what was on the market, and found a place in this housescharming retirement community in West Pyongyang (motto: “The Supreme People’s Ft. Lauderdale”). It features amenities such as somewhat straight roofs; cable TV (two channels!); environmentally-friendly outdoor clothes dryers; and free photographs of the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un.

So I was all ready to suggest to my wife that she visit SupremePeoplesGap.com and pick large1out some joseon-ots, which women in North Korea wear for formal occasions, like walking the dog (and protecting it from poachers). But then came the following announcement, which completely quashes my plans to acquire a Jong-un-style toupee:

Kim Jong-un Suspects Citizens Are Mocking Him, Reportedly Bans Sarcasm

This would not be a problem for my wife, who is sarcasm-impaired. But I doubt I could go more than a couple of days before blurting out something like “Is that the Supreme Leader’s new nuke, or is he just happy to see me?” And our daughter is even worse than me; if she ever came to visit, she’d be shot on sight.

Anyone want my toupee?

Anyone want my toupee?

So once again, I am looking for a place to retire.  Which leads me to this question:

Can you get good kimchi in Newark?

See you soon.

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Entry 585: My Fingers Only Walk on Keyboards Now

The other day, when I took my dog Riley out for a walk, I noticed a large plastic bag under my mailbox. Inside where two soft cover books, one of about 90 pages, the other of almost 700. The pages had a curious yellow tint.

“I remember these,” I told Riley, who looked up at me with an expression that clearly said, yellowpages“Go down memory lane on your own time, buddy.”

On the way back from our walk, I picked up the bag, intending to put it directly into the recycling bin. After all, I don’t read books anymore; I have a Kindle.

Also, as I’m sure you’ve surmised (unless, perhaps, you are under 20 years old), these were phone books.

“Does anybody use these anymore?” I asked Riley who, I’m positive, would have liked to reply “Unless you’re going to give me one of those to rip apart, can we go inside now?”

So we did. But on a whim, I brought the books in with me.

These were what we used to call “fake yellow pages.” That’s because they weren’t published by New York Telephone, which became Nynex, which became Bell Atlantic, which became Verizon, which became the company that sends me incomprehensible cell phone bills every month.

In Queens, NY, the phone company published two massive volumes each year, one with white pages and one with yellow. We’d keep those in the kitchen, and refer to them whenever we wanted to locate the nearest anything to us, or avoid the fee the telephone company charged for calling Information to get somebody’s phone number. (For you kids, that’s where the phrase “Getting the 411” comes from.  It was the number you called for information.)

In addition, the titanic tomes were good as booster seats for kids.

I have no idea who these kids are, by the way. I hope they had happy lives and chewed with their mouths closed.

I have no idea who these kids are. I hope they had happy lives and chewed with their mouths closed.

Several times a year we also received smaller, counterfeit phone books, put out by imposters who charged local businesses to be listed in them.  We kept those, too, because they had coupons.

And then the Internet happened.

No longer do our fingers have to do our walking through the Yellow Pages, as the jingle used to say. Now we just Google what we want and where we want it, and then find out what Yelp has to say about it, and then often not even go there at all because we can order from the website.

Getting back to the plastic bag Riley and I found, one of the books in it was for Fairfield County, CT. The other was for the city of Stamford. Since Stamford is in Fairfield, this seemed redundant. It was almost as if someone told the publisher that phone books were archaic, and it responded by saying, “Not if you have two. Here, have another.”

bothThey were doubling down on obsolescence!

I wondered who this publisher was. On the back cover of one of the books, right above a full-page ad for a group of injury lawyers called The Pickel Firm (perhaps Pickel paid a pretty penny for prime placement), I was informed that the publisher was in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Well, I thought, in my condescending, elitist East Coast manner, that explains it. The phone books came from a place that may not yet have the Internet.

Ha ha, just kidding, Iowans. On the other hand, Cedar Rapids is ranked #3 for the hibuhappiest city in America, and I can imagine lack of Internet access being a big part of that, because citizens could live their lives without having their minds blown and their jaws dropped 20 times a day. Maybe they don’t have cell phones, either, and Cedar Rapidians cheerfully go about their days, greeting people as they pass instead of blindly walking into traffic while checking their emails. (BTW–The cities ranked 1 and 2 for happiness are both in Kansas, so, all in all, I’d rather be miserable in the New York metro area.)

Where was I?

Right, the phone book publisher. I figured it was just a bunch of kind-hearted Iowans anachronistically producing a product for the remaining 15% of Americans who don’t use the Internet, like my mother, who has never even touched a computer, and who can’t figure out how to use the speed dial on her flip phone. She has something better than the Internet, though. She simply calls the one number she knows how to dial, and asks me to order stuff for her. I may be the only person in the world who constantly has Amazon prod_27994397281deliver Freedent gum to an assisted living place in Boca Raton.

But I digress.

I pictured the phone book publisher as a small mom-and-pop operation, possibly working out of a barn. It turns out, though, that it’s a major company called hibü. It’s spelled with a small “h” and an umlaut, which seems way too hip for Cedar Rapids. Not only that, but the first thing you see on its website is:

Local. Digital. Solutions.
The digital marketing you need to establish a solid foundation online.

And it doesn’t even list fake yellow pages as one of its services! Doesn’t this very 21st century digital company know its name is on a very 20th century analog product?

Or are they embarrassed to admit it?

Anyway, getting back to my original question: “Does anybody use these anymore?” The let-your-fingers-do-the-walking[1]answer, at least in my neighborhood, is apparently not, because several days later, as Riley and I went on our walk, there were still plenty of plastic bags sitting beneath mailboxes, almost as if the homeowners were afraid to even touch something so antiquated in order to throw them away.

Or maybe they thought the bags contained one of Riley’s deposits. If so, I’ll be hearing from the homeowners association in the near future.

If they can find my phone number.

See you soon.

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