I wrote a post last week over at DadCentric about the lost art of the mixed cocktail. . Aside from the fact that the post got me thinking about turning the Peanut's diaper-changing table into a homemade mini bar, it also got me thinking about other lost arts..like the hand-written thank you note, the two-handed bounce pass, and the hand job. (Just kidding. Sort of. Ok, not really. Whatever!)
Anyway…I think I'm stating the obvious when I say, "the times, man. They are a changing." But seriously, I think that there are quite a few significant socio-cultural traditions in America that are starting to lose significant ground and may soon become extinct. I think that by the time the Peanut hits 18 and I bring up any of these so-called "lost arts," she's going to look at me as if I'm totally crazy.
So, while I was sitting on the can today, I started thinking about other so-called "lost arts." Here's what I've come up with so far...
The Lost Art of Lunching
Approximately once every two months, I meet my buddy Kyle for lunch. He works in a relatively nearby office so, occasionally, we’ll phone one another up to to grab a sandwich and shoot the shit. But the rest of the time? I either go to the deli downstairs and find something to eat at my desk or I bring my lunch from home and eat it at my desk. The whole process usually takes about 10 minutes. Clearly, the days of steak sandwiches and a few martinis are over. But does anyone take a full hour anymore? Are we, as a society, so rushed that we can’t even sit down and eat a proper meal during the workday anymore? Because honestly? I feel like pretty soon, we'll all just be shooting up Big Macs in the backroom during our pee breaks.
The Lost Art of the Bender
These days, the only time that you generally hear about people consuming copious amounts of alcohol is when the conversation turns to the growing trend of binge drinking (the weekly act of high school and college kids boozing it up until they pass out, solely for the sake of entertainment.) But what if you have a deeper, darker desire? What if, in a time of great personal sorrow or despair, you simply wish to escape, disappear from sight and drink unrepentantly for a long period of time? What if you feel the need to vanish from the planet for a “lost” weekend? Then, my friends, you plan on going on a bender.
Now, is it me or has the bender been forgotten as a semi-legitimate form of self-exploration? Because I’ll be honest with you, folks. There have been a few times in my life where therapy and the comfort of loved ones haven’t always been enough to soothe my soul. I wouldn’t prescribe it for everyone but there’s something to be said for grieving via a bottle. But I feel society frowns upon it now. So, is the bender as a form of self-therapy dead? Has it been replaced by Prozac nation? Jut wondering.
The Lost Art of Talking Trash
When I was a kid growing up and playing competitive sports, talking trash was often an integral part of the sub-culture. Many times, it was the battle within the war. With a few well-chosen words, you could get inside your opponent’s head and gain a subtle advantage. Sure, it was part braggadocio. But it was also part entertainment. And make no mistake, talking trash was an art form. Guys like Charles Barkley, Muhammad Ali, and Reggie Jackson were the Van Goghs, Picassos and Rembrandts of the genre.
But now, it seems that political correctness has decried that talking trash is uncivilized and has no part in competitive sports. Furthermore, now you not only have crazed parents in the stands, ready to jump down and attack people but, if you someone is perceivably disrespected, you're also likely to get shot! Too bad. Because talking trash is like great poetry. And I hope that the time comes again when instead of admiring guys do idiotic TD dances in the end zone, we'll have more eloquent spokesmen like Reggie Jackson (who after all, uttered the following: "The only reason I really don't like playing in the World Series is 'cause I can't watch myself play."
The Lost Art of Hitchhiking
When I was in my teens and early 20’s, I used to hitchhike all the time. Now, I’m not talking about thumbing it across country like Tom Robbins’ Sissy Hankshaw. But there was many a summer when I was working in rural Pennsylvania or Massachusetts when I would get around town simply by thumbing a ride. It was cheap and you never knew when you were going to meet someone interesting. But somewhere along the line, something changed. Somehow, hitchhikers became synonymous with criminals (even though they were more likely to be the victims of a crime.) And somehow, we began to trust our fellow brethren less and less. Nowadays? I can’t even remember the last time I saw a hitchhiker.
But hitchhiking is an interesting experience. Do you know what its like to be alone on the side of the road, putting your faith in the kindness of strangers? Sure, there’s always the slightest hint of fear (which probably makes it a little more exciting.) But picking up a hitchhiker truly is a random act of kindness. And you know what? We don’t see too enough of those these days.
The Lost Art of the Crank Call
When Caller ID was first introduced to the public, it’s safe to say that few people were happier than I was. At the time, I was single and in my early 20’s. I won’t go into all the details but let’s just say that I was a horrible dater. If I went out with a woman a few times and I no longer wanted to see her again? I would simply employ technology to disappear off the face of the planet. My friends used to refer to it as the “Total Media Blackout.”
Now, I wasn’t necessarily proud of those times but, in all honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to pull them off without Caller ID. God, I loved Caller ID. Still do. Without it, I would NEVER answer my phone. But with every technological advance, it seems that something irreplaceable has been lost along the way. For me, it’s the lost art of the crank call.
I’m not talking of those asinine crank calls like, “hello? Is Mike Hunt there?” That’s juvenile frat-boy behavior. No, the prank calls my young friends and I did were more cunning and Chekhovian in nature.
Growing up, one of our favorites involved going through the neighborhood directories and crank calling strangers.
Me: "Hi. Is this William T. Gibson?"
Victim: "Yes, it is."
Me: "William Gibson in Manhattan?”
Me: "At 1249 Broadway?"
Victim: "That's right."
Me: "Phone number 555-1212?"
Me: "Well crap, I must have the wrong number. Sorry!"
Victim: "Ok. No problem!" *
We used to make calls like this ALL THE TIME and never--not once--did anyone ever notice anything odd about the conversation. Sadly, the Peanut will never be able to follow in her father's footsteps. Because of Caller ID, the fun aspects of telephonic anonymity are long gone. Alas, the age of innocent pranks may be gone with it. The age of innocent fun has died as well.
(*Upon further contemplation, this type of prank call may have had more in common with Beckett than Chekhov. I'll leave it to my man Dutch to correct me if I'm wrong.)
Again, this may be another case of an old man reminiscing about his youth. But what do you think? And are there any other "lost arts" that you think your child will never get to witness? As always, an inquiring mind wants to know.