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Hoarding Magazines

From room to room I would lay the pages out on the green carpet, or tuck them away within the confines of my fluffy room. Saving precious pieces, I cherish the ritual sometimes, reading then stacking, letting the magazines sit for awhile, waiting, but then going back over a multitude of times to those favorite shots or those passed over before. Turning the pages is quite a feeling, the slick copy or rough card stock. Sometimes viewing becomes an event, sometimes just another notch in the long, long road of print consumption. The print medium is one that I would carry with me, roll it up and make into a lone binocular until unraveling for the next viewing. From the age of going to sleep before dark, and loving nothing more than to stay out to play right before then, the papers thrown all through my house, from glossy color to black and white just seemed to be a constant backdrop.

Libraries had fewer National Geographic than we did. All of those yellow bindings stacked and lined covering shelves and bookcases stringing together a line of international coverage that dated back to before I was born. I used to stare at them, on top of the large wooden cabinet that sat, bulky, in the corner of the living room. It was always an effort to get the issues down, only on special occasions or peaks of interest would I drag a chair over in pursuit.

So, National Geographic has always been a staple. Then appeared World, the young person's version. A magazine I shared with my sister. I remember wildlife mostly, the common look of hairy apes and running zebra. There was always that part on the back where you had to guess what the zoomed image really was. I think that last page kept my attention more than the others. Specifically, arguments would ensue like the time my older sister was trying to tell me that the threaded screw was a thimble. We sat next to the dark- brown bookcase side by side, heads almost touching. Glaring at that back page we spouted out what each identified it as. The answer revealed that I was indeed right and she ran away in denial that her younger sibling could be correct.

The plenitude of World still paled by comparison to our National Geographic supply, and it seemed as if there were two stages sometimes. The yellow bound "adult version" was a voyage into some world my parents knew that I wasn't always sure I was a part of. All those tribal bodies painted and pierced in their ritualistic dance, clad scantily, if at all. I know I use to take out the accompanying maps of the featured areas. However, they did not mean much to me, just some lines usually drawn in muted tones that appeared in patterns. I vaguely knew my small town, not even the shape of it, never mind the continent of Africa, or some South American coastal country.

The pictures were so bright. The fish swimming by looked wet. The tractor farming the crops dug up earthen smells and the warmth of the sun from the field. The people captured wore such different clothing than my tough skin pants or monogrammed sweater. There were wrinkled faces you could touch, and fits of passion that rang clear even if I could not understand the plight or context or severity. I understood the quality of light, and vibrancy and the representations as they related or did not relate to my world approximately three blocks wide.

The magazines would not always be acquired through subscriptions. When the World went away with the onset of early teenagerhood, quality references such as Bop and Teenbeat would be acquired weekly. They all were trapped behind the multitudes of wire racking, surrounded by those other magazines that I tuned out of existence.

I didn't want furry animals anymore, I wanted TV stars and singing sensations. Summer was the big time to hit the store for candy and the latest story of Kirk Cameron and Johnny Depp. On that typical July afternoon, the four of us , Caroline, Amy, Christina, and I made the ten minute walk to Mr. Price's drug store. There were rows of those faces in hundreds of poses on the front, then grainy features and the ultimate pull outs where I hoped my favorites would always be. Today I wanted to see Jordan Knight, the New Kid that I loved. I already had a space on the wall for his next installation. The yellow gingham wallpaper of my bedroom seemed to bring out his eyes so much better. We had made our purchases and sat on the sidewalk outside of the store when some of the boys from school rode their bikes by. There appeared Richard Puliafico, my long time crush, but today he meant nothing. I crunched my blow pop and fantasized about the one day I would meet Jordan in some twist of fate. Laura Michele Knight I repeated in my head as our inevitable wedding day was finally realized.

Just as I had my must-sees, so did my parents. Theirs was delivered by the mailman Andy. Long after his truck drove away his deliverables sat in waiting to be ripped open and leafed through. My Mom's must see has always been a Good Housekeeping this or a Better Homes & Garden that. The issues of craft and interiors, and the latest older aged actress on the cover, or First Lady in her rose garden. My Dad has his religious consumption of Sports Illustrated. "Has anybody seen my book" he would exclaim referring to his weekly magazine.

The athletes ran and jumped and played on these covers. I pretended that some day I would become one of the faces in the crowd for excelling in soccer. My face would be next to The three-hundred pound football players and or the latest Michael Jordan dunk. All the team jerseys seemed to blend together after a while as one season turned into another. Every sport starting off with its preview, every fourth year covering the Olympics in detail. I was never one to read the articles much, just mostly the captions, and an occasional heart wrenching come-back story. Most often I would look through after my Dad's coffee stains had made there marks. Sometimes it would all spark a discussion with my father. The issue featuring Tiger Woods spurred an afternoon talk at our kitchen table. My father and I discussed the role Mr. Woods has played in his sons success, maybe to a brain washing extent. We both found that unsettling the amount by which Tiger was revered as a God by his father. It was so nice to have that type of exchange with my Dad. We are close anyway, but sharing felt good.

The imagery in Sports Illustrated would instill a drive in me sometimes, those cut bodies and hearts that willed through the physical pain for that last fifty yards or glorified homer. Sometimes I would be inspired enough to do some sit ups or at least imagine a gold medal around my neck as the tears flowed down when the flag was raised. I am the worst swimmer around, but when Janet Evans was pictured standing atop the podium, waving, I for one moment became a world class swimmer too.

On occasion, the Judds would go head to head with Mike Tyson within the confines of our red and white kitchen as Good Housekeeping lay next to SI. A battle perhaps a bit one sided. My Mom sort of gathered her issues and would read them when the mood struck. On the car trip to my relatives in Maryland we were playing "slap the star " game. This game, enjoyed in the back seat of the big green wagon consisted of hitting any star that appears within the magazine. My sister Christina and I had a fevered game going on while our Dad quietly drove, Maribeth (another sister) lounged out in the even further back seat and Mom was saying something about Julia Child. She raised the pages so we could see, and their was Julia in her kitchen, propped behind a kitchen island with various pots and cooking paraphernalia around. I did not really know why my mother was showing us this, perhaps to stop us from the game for awhile. She went into some detail about Julia's background, but I did not pay much attention.

On the whole, the colors of Good Housekeeping seemed to be more pastel-like than the darks of artificial turf and blackened cleats. Usually the faces on the covers were all smiles of celebrities, or Mom and kid modeling. It is always quite a juxtaposition, the perfectly crimped actress with her new child still in the rubbery stages not able to sit up straight, you wonder who usually holds this baby. Tips and recipes, the shots of delectable meals abounded. Moms and daughters often hugged while the next page had ultimate make-overs or sketches of face parts for the correct color palette of the season. So this was what being thirty-something and beyond was all about. I could definitely wait for all that responsibility of parenthood, all those health issues that crop up when a body gets older. No thank you, I wanted my youth and carefree ideology, for at least a few more years.

Automatically while in the impressionable junior high years, I wanted to react against the domestication found in Good Housekeeping. It was sort of an adoption process though, I had a forerunner, my sister, two years older in experience and attitude. So, she got the cool Rolling Stone which I had always associated with bikers or Mick Jagger-esque scenarios for some reason. Instead it had all the "cool" stuff even with uncensored articles and the darker side of the music industry. Full bleed faces in the larger-than-life format. There was a certain degree of knowing what the elders didn't know or at least didn't keep up with. The large red and white script scrolled across the top as I would tackle an issue. The pages covered the entertainment industry with some stray features on politics and current issues. I invested some real power into looking and reading. This time the pictures had more of a voice because I read the content, good or bad, to be agreed with or disagreed with, but I shifted into a more literary accompaniment.

Hoarding the magazine from my sister, I read an article with Natalie Merchant. She projected herself as a mystery mostly, from what I had seen of her and the pictures here did not change much of that. They were very atmospheric and a lot of poses looking away from the camera. This article was the interview at a small coffee shop type. They of coarse were sipping away and occasionally peering out to the street as Natalie professed her life. The pictures that went along where only of her and not the rest of the 10,000 Maniacs. I found that sort of odd, this separation. Overall, I do not recall learning much more about her, she still stayed a mystery, just in another context.

I had to look no further than my own backyard, or coffee table, or mailbox. Each held their own billboards, and montage of images, that stuck around the kitchen during meals, and beside the bed before sleeping. Through the stages of life, my own interest dictates whatever I may view. Along the way there are peripherals introduced, like the favorites of family members. More and more I realize the type of representation that had been brought into my home in various ways. I do gawk at the latest issue of Vanity Fair or People from time to time. A nudge from my past excursions. Even though I do not regularly buy a magazine they always find ways into my hands, from those heaps at home or as a reference for my latest project. Nothing is sacred anymore, often times I'll cut the pages rather then covet the faces. Sometimes cycles don't change though, tomorrow's Thursday and I know what's sitting in the mailbox again.
10-23-97

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