Every young person imagines at some point what their home will look like when they’re adults. This mental picture is influenced by the dwellings you inhabit and visit, available technology and your own ridiculous fantasies. Now that I’ve lived in a few places (including two swingin’ bachelor pads), I can look back on the difference between youthful imagination and the future (which, as many an ’80s commercial assured us, is now).
Here is a list of things I thought I’d have in my dream lair, but don’t:
Land-line telephone — I didn’t get my first cell phone until Christmas 2004, and even that wound up lapsing for several months until Mardi Gras 2006, when I got the phone line I still use today. So it’s no big surprise that I found it amazing in 2005 that my friend, who owned a condo, had only a cell phone. This was the first time I’d ever realized that someone could do that. It didn’t seem right somehow. In a way, it still doesn’t. But only once have I had my own landline, and I never used it. I felt weird about never using the number (417-881-2309), but I quite possibly hold the distinction of being the youngest person to have a listing in a phone book in 2009. Once, when I left my wallet at a department store counter, the girls actually looked me up and called my land line. When I beelined back there on my own, the girls were impressed that I was even in the book. Odd, but cool, conversation starter.
Phone book — I still find these useful at times, but not on the level that I once did. Even with the faster, easier, more ecologically friendly ways to find phone numbers now, I still lament that I don’t have a dog-eared phone book.
Encyclopedia — My grandparents had a set of Collier’s Encyclopedias from 1960. My dad’s mother had a nearly identical set from the year before. As you might expect, I often read these things just for fun. They also proved useful for research papers, though in at least one case my teacher remarked, “1960 facts are 30 years old!” (Fine wine, am I right?) I should have said, “Yes, and you don’t look a day over 28.”
Entertainment center — When I was 13, my college-age cousin gave me an entertainment cabinet he was throwing out. It was somewhat sloppily built and he was disposing of it on account of getting married, but for me it was a tremendous score. It was bigger than I was, and I almost felt guilty about having it; my parents didn’t even have one. Nevertheless, I made that thing the centerpiece of my bedroom. It held my TV, my CD player, videotapes, records, CDs and much more. When I got my first VCR that Christmas (a 4-head — also better than my parents’) and a cable box at 16, the ensemble was complete. When I look back at it these days, it was anything but fancy or elegant — most of my small appliances were too small for their respective spaces, and few if any matched each other — but at the time, it seemed like I had far more than I deserved.
Eventually, the shelves began to sag and the entire setup began to fall apart. So when I was 19, I decided to trash it. But the garbagemen wouldn’t pick it up, and it wound up at our new house when we moved that August. It stayed in the garage for a few more years before it finally went to the heap. I never replaced it, and to this day I have a newer TV (even smaller than the one in the entertainment center) on a microwave cart with two Nintendo systems attached and a stereo underneath. It’s very utilitarian. And nothing like the upgrade I figured I’d have when I was 31 and living large.
My parents eventually assuaged any guilt I had by getting really fancy stuff for themselves, such as fancy cabinets, video game systems and, later, flatscreens. Now they laugh at me and refuse to watch anything on my “outdated peasant setup.” (Not a direct quote.)
Ashtrays — I don’t think I ever thought I’d one day smoke, but I still figured my friends would. But I don’t and very few of my friends do, and certainly not indoors. The closest I’ve come to having an ashtray is a soup can on the patio. I don’t even have that much at the moment.
Barbecue pit — So many family functions revolved around barbecue. My grandfather had several pits both at his home and his camp (his frugality, including replacing the bottom of one pit by halving a trash can lengthwise, is family legend), and my dad even built his own massive pit while working as a welder (at my suggestion, he welded some M’s between the legs for McGibboney). Barbecue is still my favorite food and kind of party. But I have never had a pit of my own. In Springfield, it’s illegal to use a pit on an apartment patio per fire code. And I don’t have one in Baton Rouge.
Desktop computer — I have a desktop computer. It’s an ancient IBM that I got from a bank that threw it away. I used it during college to write papers in my bedroom. It never had Internet access, but it did have a floppy drive, Microsoft Word 97 and a sexy case of the Melissa virus. It’s still sitting in my closet at my parents' house, along with two perfectly functional but redundant VCRs. These days, I have a MacBook Pro laptop that I use both for home and for work. It’s more than enough.
VCR — I have a bank of these, like I just said, not counting the ones I had before. They were my favorite piece of technology for years. But the only one I have in my place is built into my TV. And I’ve never figured out how to use its timer, which means I’ve lost brain cells since I was 8. I don’t know what’s sadder — that fact, or that I still need a VHS tape if I want to record something.
Dresser — While living in Springfield, I borrowed an heirloom chest of drawers from my dad. I used it to store shoeboxes full of photos and college papers. Dad has it back now, and is using it for its intended purpose. Meanwhile, I have collapsible cubbies that serve the same purpose and take up less space.
Desk — I have a simulated-wood computer desk, but not an old-school, heavy, real-wood behemoth with a glass top and multiple drawers on both sides. As a writer from an early age, I assumed that’s the first thing I’d own. My mom keeps my grandfather’s desk, which she recently refinished, so there’s still a chance for this one.
Recliner — Everyone has one. I don’t. Probably because I’m not a lazy boy. Just a lazy comedian, clearly.
A lot of food — Let’s just say my kitchen is nowhere near as stocked as your average family’s. I might as well unplug the refrigerator at night.
Newspaper/magazine subscriptions — Blasted Internet!
A game room — I have the games. I should do this while there’s no woman in my life to ruin it for me.