Armchair Peregrinations


August 22, 2004

I was rummaging through the used books at the flea market the other week when I came across a little gem of a retro magazine, one I had not seen in ages, probably not since I used to go to a real barber shop when I was a kid. It was a 1952 issue of True: The Men's Magazine. Apparently, it was the largest selling men's magazine at the time. The cover itself was worth the paltry price I paid for it.

Now this was a magazine that made no bones about it's intended audience. Like Saga, Outdoor Life, and dozens of other male-oriented magazines that flourished in the Forties, Fifties and earlyi Sixties before they disappeared, these publications were truly a bellweather of the times. In the pages of True are articles about guns, flying saucers, hunting and fishing, wild horses, wood ducks, model cars, railroads, crime and the like.

The ads are classics: Browning and Winchester firearams for hunting, of course; diamond rings for "the only girl in your life"; Gillette injector razor blades; Old Spice for Men (who can ever forget that first splash of Old Spice, a tried and true rite of passage for male teenagers after their first shave); tools, batteries, gin ( the preferred hard liquor of the men who read True Magazine); shoes; cars; and Coleman outdoor equipment. You get the idea.

It was a man's world in that magazine. It all seems both quaint and yet oddly true and timeless today. In a sense things have not changed that much. Men still love sports, hunting and fishing, and home improvement. The gulf between the sexes is still pretty wide. It's just that decades ago it was more, what's the right word..... pronounced. How many men today where those funny looking fedora hats that were de rigeur for decades. Men dressed up when they went out.

Also, things are not as politically correct in the pages of that magazine. For instance, I had to laugh at the cartoon showing a group of men at the beach all looking one way as a dog ran the other way clutching a bikini as it flapped in the wind. Or, the ad for the Graflex Camera (prize winning cameras) showing two boxers pounding each other and the caption, "for pictures with punch."

But as I say, this is a true mirror of the times, just as old issues of The Saturday Evening Post, Reader's Digest and Look Magazine were.

Lastly, I must say something about the ads for hair tonics. Seeing those gave me a real laugh. It just made my day. I had not heard of Wildroot in a long time. But there on one of the first pages was an ad for Vitalis, truly a miracle elixir for men's hair. Why do I say this? My friends, I have a confession to make. I have used Vitalis for more than 25 years. I would do ads for it. It changed my life. Without it, I would have a raggedy mop-top of untamed Beatlemania type hair. Spared by Vitalis. :-) Here's what the ad says, "You SEE the difference in your hair, after 10 seconds combing. It's far handsomer, healthier looking -- and it stays in place longer." Oh my, that is so true.

Well, i get carried away talking about my one and only essential hair product. See what secrets are revealed from a 1952 issue of True magazine? I will have to be more careful at those flea markets in the future.


August 15, 2004

We who live in Charleston are aware of what devasation hurricanes can wreak, for it was just 15 years ago that Hurricane Hugo ravaged this area and a wide band of South Carolina up through Charlotte, N.C. in 1989. I was not here then, but the people of this city who were will never forget.

We thought we might be getting the order to evacuate again as Hurricane Charley seemed to be heading directly toward us as it emerged out into the ocean from Daytona Beach.. Fortunately, it stayed just east of Charleston, and we experienced only some high winds and brief bouts of heavy rain. There was little damage to speak of in the city.

As I packed belongings to take to the house in Charleston and prepared to leave my apartment yesterday afternoon, I had an eerie since of deja vu. It was uncannily like the morning we had to evacuate Charleston en masse when Hurricane Floyd threatened us with 140 mph winds in 1999. Would we have to leave again?

Each hurricane season at this time of year we go through this period of anxiety and dread when storms start making their way west across the Atlantic from near the coast of Africa.

As I loaded up my bags with food, flashlights and batteries, radio, books, and various sundry items, and as I placed my computer and a few treasured books in a bedroom closet and shut the door, I realized again how fragile life is and how quickly material possessions can be lost forever. There is not much I could do. A lot of thoughts race through your mind and they are focused on what you have to do to get away from the storm, if necessary. It's very disorienting. Your whole life is turned upside down until the storm has passed on.

My heart goes out to all the people in Florida who had to endure that ordeal of a storm and who lost so much. It looked a lot like what Hurricane Andrew did in 1992. How can words even begin to express what those who were affected in Florida will face in the days, weeks, and months ahead? I watched with grim fascination and disbelief the scenes of the aftermath on CNN today. Finally, I had to turn off the TV.

There were the continuing reports of loss of life as stories unfolded of missing and unaccounted for residents of condominiums and mobile home parks. . Then, the scenes of the destruction and close ups of the contents of homes and businesses, now just debris lying about amidst destroyed buildings, homes and apartments. It's not just material possessions that are lost in such huge storms, and in tornadoes, but priceless memorabilia, books, keepsakes, family photo albums -- the records of our lives, our pasts. Livelihoods are gone when businesses are destroyed. Ways of life disappear. How can we comprehend?


August 3, 2004

Sometimes in summer when I hear the sounds of certain birds singing, it reminds me of the woods in back of our house on the West Bank of New Orleans in the very early 60s. We had just moved there and it seems like a grand wilderness to explore. With our knives, we'd cut saplings for spears and stripped the bark off them. They made good walking sticks, too -- not that 11-year-olds needed them. Of course, we loved the Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies, and I think that was the source of some of our inspiration as we made our way through the woods, spears in hand, knives attached to our belts. The sounds of the various birds seemed to be all around us. It was magical. Before we knew it, we were deep in this forest kingdom, just a few hundred yards from our house.

It was only a matter of a year or two before it was all gone. The woods were mostly cleared, but many trees were left, I have to admit. Streets and subdivisions sprang up. For a suburban tract, it was pretty nice. But we missed the woods. I always wondered what it would be like to live in the country. For a brief couple of years in childhood, I could imagine I did, at least when we kids ventured into one small patch of woods.


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