An Ode to Pulp and Paper

All of his addresses are there in the palm of his hand, but it’s not a smart phone he holds. No touch screen showing contacts. The Bohemian is flipping actual pages. As in, real, pulp-made paper, bound together in a rare relic known as the Address Book. Yes, he’s still got one.

I’m reclined on the bed watching him reference this little piece of the past, as he addresses a box to be mailed.

“You’ve still got an address book,” I say from the pillows.

“I’ve had this for sixteen years.”

“You know, everyone just has their addresses on their computers or their cell phones these days.”

Pen in hand, he’s writing letters neatly on the box, eyes carefully moving from page to label. “But if something happens to your phone, you lose all of your addresses.”

Right.

I love that the Bohemian still has an address book.

“I had an address book – the same one – for over twenty years.”

“Really?” He rarely rushes. Slow as molasses. Not a multi-tasker. He’s listening to me, but quite intent, filling out his postal custom’s form.

“My grandmother gave it to me in high school and I had it into my thirties.”

I sound as though I’m lobbying to be included in the cool club. Trying to prove that even if I have acquiesced to technology by inputting data rather than handwriting names, that this segue hasn’t happened unnoticed. I still honor the value of a book, even if mine has transitioned to virtual.

It was in the name of simplicity and streamlined effectiveness that I finally recycled the 5×8 inch book that had twenty-plus years of characters inscribed. Many people were long-lost to me, addresses and phone numbers outdated. Heck, there wasn’t even a place on the template to enter an email. The internet didn’t exist when the book was printed.

A digital database of contacts can seem more neat and tidy. Easily updated, accessible anywhere, hyperlinks, et al. It goes without saying that if you don’t keep a back up, then all is gone to the ether. But such was the case for anyone, back in the day, that lost their address book, as well (though those king-sized, desktop Rolodexes weren’t going anywhere).

That’s the thing. I never thought of a “back up,” and I never lost that address book. The blue and pink flower design on the cover faded through years of schlepping, but that bridge to all my people wasn’t going to be misplaced. It was precious.

There were doodles in the margins. Ink-laden entries in greens and blues and reds. Sometimes I would have my friends fill in their phone numbers, the pages holding the handwriting of the very characters it charted. Flipping through, eras were revealed. Addresses in Vermont and New Hampshire chronicled my year in New England. The Oregon names came from that scorching summer near Grants Pass. Entries with monikers like “Pony” and “Sunshine” recall the months I spent camping with the nomads at Rainbow Gatherings when I was 21.

That address book was rich with texture. So full of third-dimension it had a smell: the scent of fading paper layered with dried flowers and forest floor, as real and tangible as the people documented within.

The Bohemian, he’s a bit of a keeper, like me. Holding on to his address book for sixteen years. But he strikes an even finer balance. No clunky 5×8 sentimental scrapbook, logging a lifetime journey, as much as listing zip codes. No, his address book is a mere 4×3 inch example of streamlined efficiency. Smaller than a cell phone, with paper light as a feather, detailing only the necessities.

He’s now done with his packaging project. He puts away the address book in the single box that sits neatly on the shelf of the closet that houses his ten shirts, three pairs of pants, and zero clutter.

I am not that zen. And I don’t know if I’m included in the hip club of retro techno-rebels, either. I use iCal and Google Contacts. But I used to have a real-life address book. And it was really cool.

william-morris-pocket-address-book-3-1

4 Comments

    1. Thank you! Why do I continually feel like a senior citizen in an unfamiliar world? Technology, as much as I work with it, moves so fast that I fear I’m becoming a grandparent cliche! I have an appreciation for both the new and old, I guess.

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  1. I still have my Dads address book and he sadly passed away almost 20 years ago. Of course it’s a link but more importantly it’s written by his hand. Technology is amazing but it can never replace that……

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