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?