Stupid Tuesday questions, Eustace Tilley edition

They stare at me.  I know they do.  They stare at me with baleful resentment, with unconcealed contempt.  Like a jilted lover.  Like a forgotten friend.  Like the sufferer of a long-ago but unforgiven slight.

They stare at me.

I refer, of course, to the steadily-growing pile of unread copies of The New Yorker, there in the corner of my family room.  Sometimes I, in a fit of optimism, will leave one on the kitchen counter or bring one with me to work.  Thus their malevolence can metastasize all over my small corner of the world.  Their anger is strong, my friends.

It wasn’t always this way.  I was first drawn to The New Yorker, as is the case with so many things in my life, because of “The Simpsons.”  In a throw-away joke (the kind that the show, in its prime, used to do so well), Marge is going through the mail and reacts with disappointment when the family receives a rejection letter from the magazine’s subscription department.  Instantly it was established as the periodical most emblematic of the urbane, sophisticated life I envisioned for myself.

When I finally became a New Yorker in real life, I subscribed shortly after I arrived in the City.  For three of the years I lived there my apartment was on the Upper West Side and I worked just south of Murray Hill, and for my last year I lived in Chelsea and worked on the Upper East Side.  (For two intervening years I lived on the Upper West Side and worked on the Upper East Side.)  Because of this, I usually had a commute to work that lasted about 45 minutes twice a day, almost all of it sitting on subways and buses.  It afforded ample time to read the whole thing cover to cover every week.

While many of the things included in the “Goings on About Town” were too pricy for my meager salary at the time (to say nothing of many of the restaurants featured in “Tables for Two”), I still gloried in the multitude of activities and events I could be experiencing.  I went to enough of the obscure and exotic films, caught enough of the Off-Off-Broadway plays, saw enough of the exhibitions to feel like I was getting as much as I could out of the offerings at hand.  And of course I learned a lot of fun stuff about interesting subjects by reading the articles.

Then I moved from New York City, and suddenly “Goings on About Town” went from being a list of interesting things I might consider doing to a list of things that sounded awesome but were no longer available.  I stopped reading the matter at the front of the magazine entirely.  But I couldn’t bear to let my subscription lapse.  I was still an urbane sophisticate, dammit!  And I’d try to read as many of the articles as I could, despite no longer having over an hour every day where I had little else to do.

Alas, it is now rare that I do more than glance through them at all.  I have the same commute time, but it is now spent driving along the ruthless highways of the Boston exurbs.  While this has allowed me much more appreciation of another Great Liberal Media Icon (NPR), it offers no time to read my erstwhile beloved.  Days at home are spent largely wrangling The Critter.  What time remains is often spent on such frivolous pursuits as writing posts like this one.

But still I will not let my subscription lapse.  I am still an urbane sophisticate, dammit!  And so they pile upon themselves, instantiating both my vanity and my sloth.  I read them just often enough to perpetuate this sorry state of affairs, which looks to last forever.

So that’s this week’s question — to what vestige of a former life do you still cling forlornly?  What books pile high on your bedside table, indicative more of your intentions than your plans?  What cool shows everyone’s talking about accrue in your DVR as you watch that re-run of “Family Guy” that you’ve already seen seven times?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. I have owned The Motorcycle Diaries and The Communist Manifesto since I was a teenager.

    I have not, to date, read either of them. Which is a pity, because I’ve started the former multiple times and twentysomething Guevera’s a really funny guy.

  2. Diving. I held on to my diving equipment for a long time, dragging it to Tennessee and back, until finally Mrs. Likko conducted one of her periodic purges. Sold, at a friend’s garage sale, was my integrated BCD and wetsuit. True, they hadn’t got wet for ten years, and my certification had long since expired. But still I was sad to see them go.

  3. I was a buyer at various used bookstores in the college town that I grew up in. I also managed new bookstores in the towns that I went on to live in. I read about 4-5 books a week, as I had no TV and there wasn’t an internet yet. I still buy books as if I read at that rate, and so have 6 foot bookshelves in every room, and boxes in the garage, and give books away to friends…

  4. Clothes. I am always hanging on to clothes that suit some former life, even after they are in tatters and would not even get WORN by former-me in the condition they are in. I seem to have it more or less under control, since I’ve been hanging on that way since I was 18 and yet the total clothing in my possession has remained more or less sturdy since I was 23 or so. I do violent clothing purges every year or two, which helps.

    And yet, do I still have that one t-shirt I wore constantly the summer I was sixteen? Yes, yes I do. And similarly on up the years…

  5. I have had the Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton since 2004 (just checked the multiplication date). I got it as a birthday present, after much hinting. And (you saw this coming), no, never, not a single page.

    But someday….

  6. the first “real” synth i ever bought. i love it, but danged if i still don’t like programming it over a decade later.

    my wife had the same problem as you with the new yorker, except we still live in new york. i finally got her to cancel the subscription earlier this year.

  7. I should read more in French than I do.

    I should play guitar more often.

    I should talk one on one with my husband more.

    I am a horrible human being.

    • Sing in French to your husband.
      Problem solved.

      Come to think of it, the second part of Celtic Frost’s cover of “Heroes” is in French.
      There ya go.

  8. Music gear. There’s a lot of gear in our apartment, especially since I’m not playing shows anymore. I have a $200ish pedal sitting in its box on the kitchen floor (for some reason) that I never even used in a show. We also have a piano that no one really plays. And my wife considers it ridiculous that I still own a trombone mute that hasn’t been used since high school (owning a trombone being slightly less ridiculous).

    Of course, now I can just say that I’m saving these things in case one of the girls want them.

    • My youngest daughter started band this year, and glory be she wanted to play trumpet, so my old horn that had hardly been touched in a quarter century is back in use. And I can already tell that she’s got the potential to get a lot more out if it than her dear old dad ever did.

  9. “to what vestige of a former life do you still cling forlornly?”

    The firm belief that I am in shape and have all my hair.

    (This requires avoiding mirrors and cameras pretty much all the time.)

  10. I am notorious for buying books and not reading them for life.

    I am similar to you but my life as a former New Yorker though I am semi-seriously trying to move back. More specifically it is not the New Yorker but all the cultural stuff. I pay attention to the Next Wave festival at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), yearn for the Strand, what is happening at Film Forum* and curse silently at being in a second-tier city for many movies that I would want to see. And much more. I am going back for two weeks in October-November and chomping at the bit. I miss the chill of autumn and winter and even those very cold but bright days.

    In many ways life in San Francisco is much easier than life in New York but I think I left too soon** and still go through moods of severely missing my old city and the Northeast.

    *SF lacks a serious revival house movie theatre

    **The best law school I got into was in the Bay Area and it turned out to be the right fit for me intellectually and emotionally (it is basically the law school version of a small-liberals arts college). Yet, I was not quite filled with New York.

  11. when I moved to NYC many moons ago I put my 48″ 8 harness floor loom, potters, wheel and kiln in storage at my dad’s. Now that I am back living where those three things wouldn’t take up my entire living space where are they?…..yep still at dads.

  12. I still have my hockey gear, despite there not being an ice arena within 50 miles and certainly no time to skate even if there was.

  13. I disagree with the concept.
    Were a thing to be ‘former,’ then it could not be current.
    No two things similar are exactly the same.
    Materiality is a thought expressed in form.

    Have you ever seen your shadow in a dream?
    That is, when you’re dreaming, do you have a shadow inside of the dream, or is the dream-body shadowless?

    Could get really creepy if your dream-body isn’t showing a reflection in mirrors.

    • My dream-body is substantially better-looking than my waking-life body. Oddly, it’s still clumsy from time to time but in my dreams, I’m hot and in good shape.

  14. I have yet to abandon the idea that I might one day be called upon to play for one of my favorite professional sports teams. What is most remarkable is that, as a organized league player, I exited the baseball ranks at 16, the basketball ranks at 10, and never even joined the football ranks (Mommy thought it too dangerous… pssht). But there is still a part of me that, should the telephone ring within a few minutes of a favored player being injured, thinks, “This is my chance! They’re calling me to fill in!”

    Of course, this would be easy to write up as silly dreaming… if such a believe didn’t inspire at least 75% of my exercising, most of which occur with “Eye of the Tiger” playing in my head while I view an inner montage of me winning a Super Bowl as a 5th string QB/Free Safety.

  15. Monk.

    I’ve been wanting to watch the entire series of Monk since I had first heard of the conceit. I’ve watched the first two seasons but… man, season 3 is RIGHT THERE and I want to watch it but I have to write an essay or watch something else or play a game.

    But I also want to watch Monk.

    Monk is one of the things I’d do if I won the lotto.

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