The Simple Joys Of An Old-Fashioned Datebook | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

The Simple Joys Of An Old-Fashioned Datebook

What if you could hold on to time in your hands? You can, you know. You can crack open, on this New Year's Eve, the unsullied, unhurried, un-trammeled pages of an old-fashioned datebook — the kind that still arranges seven days into a week; the kind you write in with a pen and which never, ever, beeps at you to remind you of a meeting or errand.

I have two friends, who have been making date books, by hand, for 30 years. Their small company Purgatory Pie Press, in lower Manhattan. They set the wood type by hand; type that's over a century old, in a tiny studio not much bigger than the printing press.

They can even run it without electricity, cutting and printing and binding by hand. It's a precarious existence they lead, centered around a tall Dutch Vandercook Press from the 1930s. My friend, a paper artist, along with her designer husband is sometimes asked: Why would you waste your time?

Her answer: "Let's say I can't remember what I did in 1988 or 1991," she says. "I return to my datebook. I open it, and that entire year does comes flooding back. I can flip it open in the face of skepticism and doubt. When I see my handwriting, my ticket stubs, a swatch of fabric, an envelope: All these things remind me of the glory of the day that was."

Once, a time-challenged David Letterman bought their Purgatory Pie Press datebooks for his entire staff.

Another friend is addicted to the Quo Vadis datebook and also loves the sense of a visual cue. She says, "I use writing to anchor things on the page. Months go by. In my mind's eye, when I flip through, I see something blurred. And then I remember I spilled my gimlet, so it must have been hot if I was drinking gimlets. And I flip through the pages until I find the ginny one. And there is the phone number."

That's why some of us want to inscribe in a datebook in the era of the Google calendar. The Mayans and the Egyptians knew that a calendar was a sacred, ancient text and a way of measuring the passage of time. And on the eve of a New Year, a blank page awaits. No beeping digital data has that power. Only analog time transforms.

Is there really anything else that matters quite as much, as the unblemished promise of a blank page of your own life — the particulars of which are written for and by you? And then, as the year ends, put into the scriptorium of your own existence.

That's what a datebook gives you: the script of your own life, in your own, sweet, time.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

What Are The Secrets of Centenarians?

To find the path to long life and health, Dan Buettner studies the world's "Blue Zones," communities whose elders live longer than anyone else on the planet.
NPR

Census Reveals Universe Of Marine Microbes At Bottom Of The Food Chain

The ocean's tiniest inhabitants — including bacteria, plankton, krill — are food for most everything that swims or floats. Now, scientists have completed a count of this vast and diverse hidden world.
NPR

Irish Voters Decide Whether To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Polls show the "yes" vote is stronger in the conservative, predominately Catholic country. But public opinion surveys could be masking a "shy no vote," observers say.
NPR

Mechanical Turk Workers: Secret Cogs In The Internet Marketplace

There are hundreds of thousands of people doing stuff to your Internet experience that you may think is the work of an algorithm. They're working from home doing tiny tasks computers can't quite do.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.