Two full days selling books at Printers Row left me with one powerful insight: children born in the last ten years have to be told what matches are. Matches are no longer part of these almost-people’s reality. Is this good or bad? Does it matter?
I’ve been saying for years there will come a time when a kid won’t know how to read a clock face. I think that has been widespread for a while now. It seems absurd to someone my age, but give me a kerosene lamp or ask me to shoe a horse, and I’ll be just as lost as any of these children I’m disappointed and puzzled by. Who says what cultural artifact or technology should stay and which should go? In a few years, seeing a movie in a theater will likely be as quaint as a magic lantern show seems now. Hopefully, we’ll stop insisting on owning our own private motor vehicles. Perhaps, and this is pie-in-the-sky, I know, but people will be provided a basic income instead having to demean themselves at obsolete professions for little compensation. Don’t begrudge me my silly dreams.
Child after child came up to my table and grabbed an Old Style or Music to My Eyes matchbook. They knew enough to take one and wanted to because they’re colorful and small, like candy in a bowl in a waiting room. But what are they? Their parents tried to explain. I’d helpfully ask them not to start any fires. Not sure whether they knew I was joking. The grownups who picked them up were charmed and got that faraway nostalgic glint in their eyes. They had no idea anybody even made matches any more. I told them I had to order them all the way from New Jersey. One older lady was so overwhelmed by the matchbooks, the fact I’d written, illustrated, designed, and self-published the books I was selling, she kept congratulating me. I thanked her several times, then kept the smile frozen on my mug until her granddaughters led her away.
I guess, since I don’t have any distribution channels for these books, aside from my bicycle and the ever-changing moods of USPS, I should participate in more fairs. I did really well at Printers Row. Much better than I expected to. I’ll have to break down and get a burner smartphone to run credit card sales, because sending the poor people to my webstore and watching them struggle to input all the info in the burning late-summer sun is painful for all concerned. So be it. My barber told me the other day she has an old iPhone gathering dust in her car. That might work.
In the meantime, I’ll keep confusing children with my matchbooks.
(I illustrated an essay about chronic illness, tattoos, and the Soviet immigrant experience and added new bookmarks to my shop.)
Thalia Zedek Band at the Hideout, 9/16/21
Eleventh Dream Day at the Storehouse in Michigan, 9/18/21