Home » Op-Ed/Letters » What’s really important in the world: Part 1
Darin's take on the things that really matter in life: like real telephones, wacky table lamps and lunch boxes.

What’s really important in the world: Part 1

As we wring our trembling hands and wail about the downfall of society and the end of civilization as we know it (‘if UltraFashionSquare closes, where will I get my cinnamon buns?’), stronger heads need to prevail. Like mine. Yes, auto insurance and world peace are important issues, but a partial list of the fun stuff in life is listed below. Because after all, desperate times call for a new look at all those must-haves. It’s the four R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle and retro. Forget for awhile the bailouts and the handouts, the escalating price of a latte, and all those teevee talking heads. Part One covers the tangibles; I’ll cover the more emotional aspects next issue. You know — things like family, God, and where to find a really good pizza.


Cell phones are terrific — don’t get me wrong. If I had a teenaged daughter who was being stalked by Godzilla, I’d want her to 911 her daddy ASAP with the 411. But have you ever tried to wash dishes with a Razr under your neck? It keeps slip-slidin’ away. Naw — give me a real phone — one of those big Bell Laboratory jobs, in basic black Bakelite. Heavy enough to beat a man to death, but gentle enough for a party line kaffeklatsch.


In the 1946 film ‘Gilda’, Rita Hayworth sings and dances to ‘Amado Mio’. She is breathtakingly seductive in a two-piece sequined outfit, with squared shoulders, a bare midriff, and sarong-style skirt. She sways on platform sandals, gliding seamlessly over the jet black floor of a packed nightclub. The music is lush, lilting and restrained; her voice, passionate and smoky. Her on-screen paramour is Glenn Ford, who talks tough, feels double-crossed and kisses like the dickens.


Otherwise known as vitrified china, or ‘diner’ ware. These are the heavy, nearly unbreakable plates from the coffee shops of yesteryear. I really like the airbrushed ones: the soft edges and vibrant images are satisfying and curiously comforting. Especially when you set a slab of cherry pie on a dessert plate, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (a la mode, donchano), and have yourself a tasty little snack. “Can I get you anything else, Hon?”


You know the ones: hideous lighting from the fifties/sixties. There are too many manufacturers to list, and besides — it’d be pointless. The best/worst ones were usually found in discount furniture marts of the period. Think pink ‘n turquoise trapezoids, orange/brown combo stripes, and dancing flamenco couples. The lamps look best with low wattage lighting, or utilizing a dimmer. Or sometimes, just stuck in a closet.


Through my efforts alone, scores of hundred-year-old trees are saved from the woodman’s axe because I carry a lunchbox, not a paper sack. Sure, it looks dorky, and I’m sure schoolkids in my neighborhood snicker behind my back. It’s not convenient, because I have to lug it everywhere, as opposed to just tossing it… but it’s ‘green’. Actually, it’s polished aluminum (no Super Heroes for me), so in winter my ham sandwich is kept cool, and in summer it teems with E. coli.

The point is, I’m making a statement.


Email is convenient and Google’s a giggle, but nothing beats sitting at the kitchen table and reading the paper. The most important stuff is in the front; the back is reserved for celebrity sightings, recipes, and liposuction ads.

Which is the opposite of MSN.

Reading the newspaper is what grownups do to find out what’s really happening in the world. Reading six newspapers will give you a better worldview. Reading twelve papers, tuning into NPR, checking out ESPN, ignoring your local blow-dried Valley investigative news team and skipping the home décor cable shows will give you back your brain.



I love it when the home decorating magazines gush about ‘creating an authentic, organic and joyous space for your busy lifestyle’ and it looks like nobody’s ever lived in the apartment. If one follows the Edit Edict (toss everything you own and buy a sisal rug, some monogrammed designer pillows and a really expensive coffeemaker) then where is the soul of the house? My guess is the attic, where all the cool stuff’s been stored. Really — if it weren’t for screeching shower heads, un-leveled floors and dog hair skittering around like tumbleweeds, I wouldn’t know where I was when I woke up. I like the fact that no one else has done what I’ve done with my living room, because they’d die of embarrassment.

Pre-war novels used to note the ‘stink of cabbage in the hallways of the tenements’, and maybe it was true. But it was also home to real people who lived and breathed and worked, loved and died.

Obviously, there are really important things — stamping out hunger, ending drug and alcohol addiction, providing health care and equal rights for all, to name a few — which need to be tackled. But while we’re doing that, I’ll continue to have fun with the old stuff. If it’s lasted this long, it’ll last longer.

As Grandma used to say — if it ain’t broke — don’t fix it.


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