Walking up to my townhouse today, I spied an errantly tossed Yellow Pages phone book lying askew on my front porch.  As I do every year, I immediately grabbed it and tossed it in the recycle bin without even batting an eye.  I thought to myself … how are the Yellow Pages still in operation?  They are a relic … a dinosaur … they are the Commodore 64 of phone number retrieval.  What’s next? An encyclopedia salesman on my doorstep?

It got me to thinking about all the other things that are wholly obsolete … like VCRs.  Over the weekend I purged all of my old VHS tapes … tapes that cost me thousands upon thousands of dollars back in the day.  (I did save one of ‘em, however. As much as I tried, I couldn’t bear to throw away my beloved copy of “Wayne’s World”.) I haven’t owned a VCR in years. Why I kept the tapes is beyond me. Posterity? Sentiment? I’d guesstimate that 75% of middle America hasn’t watched a VHS tape in years … and that the VCR is probably collecting dust somewhere in the family basement.

While traipsing through Target last week, I spied one of those pricey, new-fangled, blade-free fans. It was a simple, spherical contraption that looked both high-tech and high priced.  (It wasn’t called a fan either, mind you … it was called an “air multiplier”.) I studied it for a white-hot minute … wondering how it worked. Fortunately, Target was smart and had one on display … and switched on. I enjoyed the cool breeze while thinking how sad it was that kids would never be able to talk directly in to an old-school box fan again to create that weird, futuristic, alien voice.

Time marches on.

Speaking of marching on … does anyone else miss maps? I have a map of the great state of Iowa in my car. I’ve never used it. It’s still neatly folded up and sealed in plastic. For whatever reason, I can’t bring my self to throw it away either.  Maybe I’ll create one of those cherished keepsake boxes and put all my obsolete crap in it. I’ll probably put my Garmin GPS System in there eventually. I’m fairly acclimated to now using my smart phone for finding the most efficient route. Since I have zero sense of direction (other than “up” and “down”), I’m still not quite sure how I ever got from Point A to Point B without a GPS telling me to “TURN LEFT … NOW!”

And finally … remember pay phones? Of course you do. Remember the last time you used one? Of course you don’t. Something like 91% of the U.S. population has access to a cellular phone … thus, pay phones have gone the way of the Dodo bird.  I did see one at the Iowa State Fair that appeared to be in working order. Kids would walk by and point … likely wondering what the hell it was. Adults would walk by and fondly smile.

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to run down to my local Blockbuster and pick up a couple new releases.  Oh wait …

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A couple weeks ago when I was in Tahoe, I was constantly being reminded that bears were rampant in the area.  “Do not leave food outside … do not leave doors open … do not put trash anywhere but into the bear-proof garbage bins,” admonished my friend Kipp. When it comes to potential bear rampages, Kipp knows a thing or two as his cozy cabin in Tahoe City has been breached a whopping four times.

Because of that – a series of ingenious precautions have been taken so that Yogi and Boo-Boo don’t invade Casa Blewtrick ever again. For instance, most windows are now shuttered. Motion detectors are set up around front doors and sliding glass windows. Mind you, these motion detectors aren’t attached to lights … they are attached to loud speakers that blare sounds of vicious, snarling dogs. The closer you get, the louder and more fervent the faux-barking becomes.  When I stumbled in to the cabin, I immediately jumped out of my skin thinking I was about to be eaten alive by Cujo at any second.

“Bears are like lazy juvenile delinquents,” Kipp told me. “They want something that requires little to no effort – thus barking dogs are a deterrent.” Uh, barking dogs are also a deterrent if you are attempting to hold a full bladder. When the loud speaker went off I may have peed myself a little.

Speaking of peeing, I was a bit perplexed to see an entire bottle of what appeared to be urine just outside the back door. Nope – turns out it was ammonia … which bears find wholly offensive. Meanwhile, just inside the house was an open bottle of Windex perched precariously on a dog crate. If a bear did manage to break through the patio doors, he’ll be drenched in – you guessed it – ammonia.

A lot of the cabins are draped in weird-looking electric fences – which sort of resemble strings of Xmas lights. If a bear gets too close, he’ll get zapped. Same goes for stupid humans. Clearly, this is new technology – as I don’t ever remember seeing these electrified contraptions when I was in town five years ago.

True story … way back in 2004 I was doing some sunrise yoga with friends out on the dock of the Sunnyside resort.  Imagine my surprise when a young cub magically appeared at the opposite end of the dock – you know, the part with land attached. I figured we were all doomed the minute Mama Bear showed up. Despite our Zen-tastic efforts, she would likely be pissed off and charge our group immediately. While doing an eagle pose, I figured out a contingency plan that included hurling ourselves off the dock and into the lake. Lord knows I was not going to be part of the food chain that day. Eventually, the cub became bored with us bendy white folk and scampered away.

For newbies like me, learning to be “bear aware” took some time.  I spent four days in Tahoe this trip … never once saw a bear.  I did, however, HEAR a bear whilst hiking in a state park early in the morning. He snorted and grunted to let me know he was in close proximity – and even though I never saw him … I did head in another direction.  Since I’m not a local, it was fun to hear residents swap “marauding bear” horror stories. Apparently, bears can cause an insane amount of damage while rifling through a house. Heck, there are even websites dedicated to local bear activity. “Did you see what happened to the Turner cabin?” – was just one discussion I overheard at brunch. “The renters left food out and there was bear shit everywhere!”

Of course, I wanted to chime in … “Does a bear shit in the woods? No – apparently, it shits in the Turner’s cabin!” I figured the local yokels wouldn’t appreciate my sentiment. Bear humor … it’s not for everyone.

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