May 04, 2011
You Never Stop Learning

I was leafing through “Celebrity Butts” magazine at the supermarket when it came to me how truly out of it I was. Here was this vital window on the culture and not only had I never read it, I had never heard of it. I tossed the magazine on top of the grapefruit and the dog biscuits and gladly paid the $4.95. Knowledge is priceless.

But “Celebrity Butts” would have to wait; I had other errands to run first. At the garden store I dithered in the perennial seed aisle, and then, a second revelation! My eye, drawn to a rack of hitherto unnoticed gardeners’ literature, fell on a title so compelling I felt as if I had been visited by the Holy Ghost: “The Truth About Mulch.” I forgot about the seed in my haste to acquire this breathtaking monograph, and in no time, $8 poorer but oh-so-much richer, I was back in the car on my way to the dry cleaner.

Something had happened, but what? At the dry cleaner I hardly noticed, or cared, that my new slacks had been stabbed, beaten and gassed. I was transfixed by a display of free pamphlets on cleaning and laundering. Here in a handsome plastic rack was a whole world of understanding of clothing care and maintenance, a discipline that until now I had been shut out of through ignorance and indifference. As I left the shop with my ruined pants and my personal copy of “All About Shirts” I felt alive to the possibilities that come with learning.

So attuned was I now to the clean, growing, young and beautiful universe that on entering the hardware store I forgot that I had gone there for a resupply of grommets, flanges and ratchets. Instead, I made straight for a small library of incredibly helpful handyman literature. Any one of these scholarly publications would shine light into the dark corners of my ignorance and put me in touch with my nesting impulses.

I couldn’t buy them all, so I settled on a 75-page illustrated treatise entitled “How To Drive a Nail” and a rather longer anthology of anecdotal writings on lawn care called “A Treasury of Really Good Stories About Grass.” For these I willingly paid a handsome price and fled, grommetless, to CVS to pick up a prescription.

Patience may not be a virtue at CVS but it is a necessity. The lines are long and the customers often confused by the complexities of modern pharmacology. I was even more impatient than usual, so eager was I to get home to a close study of “Celebrity Butts,” not to mention “All About Shirts.”

And then my eye fell on a wondrous collection of leaflets, flyers, brochures, pamphlets, and whatnots on all manner of maladies and the drugs that will cure them. A veritable medical school right there in the corner. I forgot all about my prescription and fell on this feast like a starving man.

“You and Your Stomach,” “A Doctor Looks Conjunctivitis in the Eye,” “A Short History of Warts,” “How I Survived Seventeen Heart Attacks,”— everything I had ever wanted to know about medicine was right here, and I had never noticed. Never noticed, that is, until a casual glance at “Celebrity Butts” at the supermarket had opened my eyes, brought me to my senses, showed me there was a lot more to life than watching “The O’Reilly Factor.”

I drove home in a hurry. I had a lot of catching up with the world to do. But before I got to all that reading, I had one more chore. There was a magazine subscription order that had been sitting on my desk for a week. Why had I hesitated? I sat right down, filled out the order, wrote a check, stamped the return envelope, and put the flag up on the mailbox. It’s a subscription to “Sludge,” the magazine for the waste disposal industry and I will never know why I thought I could live without it.



Posted by Paul Duffy at May 04, 2011 07:53 PM
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I can't wait until you get to the part where you go out and pick up the contents of your mailbox. I just know that there's some great stuff in the bulk mail department.

Posted by: Buck on May 5, 2011 8:55 AM
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