Thursday, November 6, 2008
The Preacher’s Corner
Getting rid of some old magazines
Every now and then I am shamed into doing what I need to do. Such a moment came when I ran across a cartoon — I think it was in the New Yorker. It pictured a man and woman in bed, covered with National Geographics. The ceiling has collapsed and hundreds of the magazines had spilled through onto the surprised couple. The indignant wife says to the husband, “You and your National Geographics!”
Since I have secretly expected a similar calamity at my house, I decided the time had come to get to work. Either read ’em or pitch ’em!
Now, I am pretty sure several persons reading these lines understand the urge (or obsession) to collect, or at least accumulate, old magazines and books — particularly those of “cultural” or “educational” value such as the Geographic.
But my conscience has ridden me about keeping so many, most of them unread. It vaguely reminds me of Marley’s ghost in Dickens’ Christmas Carol. The ghost — Ebenezer Scrooge’s miserly partner in the counting house they had owned together — was doomed to pull a heavy chain, the links having been forged by all the avaricious deeds in his life. My “chain” is all these books and magazines.
I inherited the urge and a large part of my collection from Grandfather Winter, whose huge stack was in the little room where I slept while visiting the grandfolks in Memphis, Tenn. as a child. I dearly loved being with my grandparents, but there was not always a lot for a little boy to do at their house, so I enjoyed selecting a Geographic and leafing through its pages, particularly looking at ads for the streamlined trains of the 1940s, when such things were new.
I had a Lionel train set, and these trains in the Geographic were the “real thing” as compared to my diminutive favorite toy. I have heard that many a youth learned the facts of life looking at the pictures of primitive peoples in the Geographic, but I was not so naïve as that..
When I was a little older, Mother’s sister, my Aunt Marguerite, began giving me Geographic subscriptions as a Christmas present, and this continued for many years until college life distracted my interest.
Still, having inherited my grandfather’s collection, I had a huge set of the magazines. So, not to be deterred, I began going to yard sales and the like, scouting out odd issues to fill out my collection, and then as an adult I subscribed on my own — hence the groaning timbers in my attic!
There are famous paintings by artists in the Norman Rockwell vein who depict scenes of eager readers peering into old Geographics, amid musty army uniforms, old family pictures on the odd nail in the wall, and banners from their days at good ole State U. in cobwebbed upper garrets by the light of a kerosene lamp.
It is said that some Geographic subscribers actually believe that membership in the society requires one to keep all their magazines.
On the old Mayberry show, whenever the townspeople would urge Sheriff Andy to take a few days rest, he would resist but then say, reluctantly, “Well, maybe I could fish a little and read all those Geographics!”
I do not want to end up like the Chicago woman I once saw on the news being forcibly moved out of her house by the public health authorities on a stretcher. She was crying out, “But I was going to get around to cleaning up the house someday! I was going to do it!”
The Geographic even spoofs itself. A cartoon published in their centennial anniversary edition shows a feeble old gentleman with shelf after shelf of the magazines behind his reading chair in his library. He is reading the newspaper and then warily looks over his shoulder at his Geographics, greatly discomfited by what he sees. The cause of his uneasiness is made clear by what the article says: “After their arrest a search of the premises by FBI agents disclosed a large number of maps and pictures of vital areas in the nation.”
I don’t want anybody thinking I am sympathetic with al Qaeda either because I have all these articles and maps about Afghanistan in my house too! So I have gone through my stacks and selected a few sentimental favorites, and the rest are set to go.
Now, I am sure there may be some collector out there who cannot bear the thought of discarding such a trove. But I have neither the energy to sell them on eBay, nor time to take them to a sale like First Monday.
So here is what I will do. I will hold them for a week in my garage, and if you’d like to have the set, just contact me and you are welcome to them. There is no charge. You will be doing me a great favor just by taking this burden off my conscience!
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