Welcome to Obsolescence, Everyone
Amen, Joe Posnanski. From his piece, “The Asheville Pinball Museum Turns Everyone into an Arcade Wizard,” in Our State magazine:
One of the daunting things about getting old is how quietly stuff — your stuff — becomes outdated and obsolete and, most of all, forgotten.
Take phone booths. They don't really exist anymore except as photo props in London. This hit me hard recently when, as a family, we watched the old Christopher Reeve Superman movie. There's a little joke in the movie — a killer joke when I was young — where Clark Kent is looking for a phone booth to change in, and he comes upon one of those newfangled 1970s half phone booths without a door. He grimaces and searches for another place to become Superman. I remember the theater when I first saw it: screams of laughter.
To my daughters, 10 and 13, this joke might as well have been a Sanskrit retelling of the fable “Of Crows and Owls.” They got absolutely none of it. They didn't get that Superman used to change in phone booths. They didn't get why there were new phone booths. They didn't even get the basic concept of phone booths. To them, the time before cell phones is a time before understanding.
There is too much stuff like that, stuff that was such a big part of my life, stuff that I expected would last forever — Saturday morning cartoons, taping songs off the radio, video stores, electric football, actual paper letters that came in mailboxes. That stuff, to my daughters, isn't just gone, but ancient and silly and lost in the dumpster of pointless history.“
Here are some thoughts I had about those actual paper letters that came in actual mailboxes, after I saw the 2009 film ”Bright Star," a biopic of John Keats:
Keats travels to the Isle of Wight to write, to try to make a living, and Fanny is left behind. Ah, but the letters. He writes, says he wishes they could be butterflies, living three perfect summer days and expiring, and she and her siblings collect butterflies and fill her room. “When I don’t hear from him,” she confesses to her mother, “it’s as if I’d die.” I remember those feelings. I remember those letters. My own doomed first love took place in the late 1980s, and though 170 years had passed between me and Keats the means of communication, give or take a telephone, were more or less the same. Twenty years later it’s not. Do today’s young lovers still send letters? How does one clutch an e-mail to one’s chest? There is no more daily waiting for the postman. Now the wait is 24/7. Has she written? Has she written? I think I’d go mad.