Technological change

When I moved into this part of town in 1980 it was only maybe 25 years after the picture. Now it’s been 43 years since I moved here. Everything about my daily life in 1980 was much closer in the banal details to daily life in the 1950s than it is to my life today. You could have plunked the 1980 me onto Vermont Ave in Los Feliz in that picture—we lived about a mile away—and I could have gone about my daily doings with very little adjustment. Technologically it was much the same. The difference between my daily life in 1980 from now, though, is astonishingly different. Plunk the 1980 me down here now (we’re about two miles away now) and I’d be helpless. I’d swear I’d been dropped into a science fiction movie. I would have no idea how to do even the most basic things. The world now is as different from 1980 as the world was of that picture of Los Feliz in the mid fifties was from the world 43 years earlier in 1912. Someone 23 in 1912 (my age in 1980) was about to live through an age of profound technological change. And that 23 year old, dropped into the world of the mid-fifties would be as bewildered then as my 1980 self would be suddenly plunked into 2023. It seems that change doesn’t come gradually. Sometimes it moves slowly, sometimes it absolutely gushes. I spent my first quarter century in a day to day world that was not that different as it was the year I was born. Then beginning in the eighties things began to shift under our feet and by now change comes so fast it’s really impossible to keep up. People really can’t tell what is going on anymore. The last time this happened—from WW1 to the 1950s—all kinds of crazy scary shit went down. I doubt it will get that crazy and scary again. But it likely could get plenty nuts. And stay that way for decades. Anyway, it won’t be boring. Isn’t yet. One of the things I remember so vividly about the 1970s was the boredom. There were times it seemed like nothing was moving at all. We had nothing but time. I remember that now and try to remember what that sort of boredom felt like, and I can’t. The world is so hectic now, so packed with options, that I can no longer remember what it felt like to stare at the clock, listen to the ticking of the seconds, and wish there was something in all this empty time to do.

Vermont Avenue in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, east of Hollywood, in the 1950s. The Dresden is still there in 2023.

Transistor radios

I believe this advertisement was in 1954, which was when the Regency was introduced (amazing thing, Wiikipedia), and that $51.20 price tag would be nearly $575.00 today. Yikes. It’s hard for us now to grasp what an extraordinary thing a transistor radio was when it first hit the market. Ten years later the price of a transistor radio had dropped to about $130 in today’s dollars, which put it within reach of rotten kids everywhere. Still seems high considering it was just a tinny little box with way too much treble and not enough bass, but it meant you could listen to the latest hits everywhere, and not just on the jukebox. Or you could be that guy who listens to the game on the radio even though you were at the game. Or turn on the news whenever an air raid siren went off, thinking it might be the end of the world. That terror was worth $130 right there. Then again, when something as simple and unscary as ball point pens were a brand new thing at the end of WW2 they’d set you back over $160 in today’s money. New technologies are expensive. But they seem to be getting cheaper and cheaper. This handheld computer of an iPhone I’m writing this on set me back about as much as a transistor radio would have in 1954. Progress, I guess.

Sink Water Faucet Tip Swivel Nozzle Adaptor Kitchen Aerator Tap Chrome Connector

I’d never bought a Sink Water Faucet Tip Swivel Nozzle Adaptor Kitchen Aerator Tap Chrome Connector before. I’d always thought it was a metaphor.

OK, I didn’t think it was a metaphor. That was the opener. It didn’t work. Forget it. But to smoothly segue, Sink Water Faucet Tip Swivel Nozzle Adaptor Kitchen Aerator Tap Chrome Connector would be one word in German. And our brand new Sink Water Faucet Tip Swivel Nozzle Adaptor Kitchen Aerator Tap Chrome Connector works beautifully, without shaking the plumbing to death like the aerator with far fewer syllables I bought last week and wasn’t even pronounceable in German. A 2 Flow Faucet Aerator, that one. Actually if you include the description beyond the comma it was a 2 Flow Faucet Aerator, Dual-function Water Saving Sink Aerator Replacement, which rolls across the tongue with all grace and beauty of a sentence in a technical manual. No wonder the pipes shuddered and belched air. It’s so agglutinatively icky, something better translated into one of those endless sentence-in-a-word Turkish words. There’s something morphologically magical about those endless rows of nouns that we in English insist are just that, rows of nouns, but the German sees as one long glorious compound noun, a single word, but maybe that’s just me, and I seem to have digressed. Getting back to our story, this Sink Water Faucet Tip Swivel Nozzle Adaptor Kitchen Aerator Tap Chrome Connector is so hip and sleekly modern it’s just got to be digital, and I must have wasted ten minutes trying to convince the thing to aerate the water (it’s not named Siri, anyway) till I gave up and used the Sink Water Faucet Tip Swivel Nozzle Adaptor Kitchen Aerator Tap Chrome Connector handle thing. Turns out it’s just as analog as the ancient faucet from 1931 that was here when we moved in thirty years ago. You have to turn it on by hand and water comes out. The one we replaced two nozzles back (was that really only two weeks ago?) could go from gush to spritz with a bump and back to a gush with a tug. Talk about a conceptual step up from the binary gush/no gush. What will they think of next. But the Sink Water Faucet Tip Swivel Nozzle Adaptor Kitchen Aerator Tap Chrome Connector looks digital anyway. A jarring touch of the modern in our Art Deco kitchen. No, I won’t post a photo. I’ll be damned if I’m going to take a picture of a faucet. Writing Sink Water Faucet Tip Swivel Nozzle Adaptor Kitchen Aerator Tap Chrome Connector over and over is embarrassing enough. And Sink Water Faucet Tip Swivel Nozzle Adaptor Kitchen Aerator Tap Chrome Connector embarrassment would be one word in German.

It’s a great big beautiful tomorrow

I had no idea that searching for a new dish rack—dish drying rack in the trade—would open me up to an entire universe of dish rackery of all shapes, sizes, materials, and functions, none of which are even close to the old fashioned dish racks we’ve been using for decades now. At least none were digital, though maybe I didn’t look hard enough. To think that in less deadly times I could just pluck one of the obsolescent models from the shelf at Target in a wide variety of three colors from white to blue to green. Now I’ve been searching for an hour to no avail. I actually got lost in Wayfair, I typed dish rack in the search window (populated sounds so dirty) and was zapped into a vast collection of dish racks from all over the galaxy, not one of which looked even remotely like the simple things we used to use on earth a decade ago. Bathroom rugs were easy, though, pretty green ones. Fyl picked them out. They’re smart rugs. You’re peeing on me, it says, and in various languages. I like the music. Then she went to the Victoria’s Secret site to buy underwear. The models were so young and gorgeous I felt even dirtier looking than I did populating the search window, so I put a CD in the TV and listened to music from Australia recorded upside down.

Valentine’s Day

What a great Valentine’s Day that was, our 40th. Dinner at El Cacerio in Silver Lake. Called earlier to double check on our reservation made weeks ago. They didn’t have it. Said they’d called yesterday and I didn’t answer so they gave our place to someone else. I didn’t remember any call except our Uber driver. But that wasn’t our Uber driver, it was the restaurant. The Uber driver had been about to call, saw us and hung up before dialing. How was I to know. Anyway, we got a 9 pm reservation instead, but as we were speaking a cancellation came through Yelp on her iPad for 8:30 and we took that. Yelp texted my iPhone. I had to download the app which I didn’t realize I hadn’t done yet. A few buttons pushed and the app was downloaded, I dragged it into the folder with all the other dining apps and opened it, accepted the reservation verification and closed the app. Yelp texted me again, telling me the reservation was set. Then I opened up the Uber app, then the Lyft app and compared fares, closed Lyft, typed El Caserio into the Uber destination field, the app populated the destination info for me, arranged a car, which arrived and drove us past the lake which glimmered with an analog beauty in the moonlight, dropped us off at the restaurant and took payment for the ride from our bank account via PayPal. The maitre d’ found our reservation on his iPad and we were whizzed off to table for a meal that was delicious and terribly romantic in its lack of high technologies until I paid with an ATM card.

Forty years ago on our first Valentine’s Day we ate at a place called Hal’s off Upper State in Santa Barbara. The only thing that meal had in common with tonight was that we ate our food with a knife and fork. I’d called in a reservation on our rotary phone and my name was written in pencil on a pad of paper next to their rotary phone. Not only did we do none of the other internet driven preliminaries forty years ago, but none of them were actually possible because none of the technologies had been invented or even imagined yet, not even on Star Trek. The hours before dinner were rendered empty. We probably spent all that time screwing.

Now the Chinese will steal it.

A guy asked how many of you have dropped an ice cube on the kitchen floor, only to kick it under the refrigerator instead of picking it up? Let’s see those hands.

I had to be honest. Me, I said, where it melts, and in our tilty kitchen the water trickles out from beneath the fridge and winds up in the middle of our kitchen floor and my wife asks where the water on the floor came from and I say I dunno and wipe it up. My Rube Goldberg ice cube picker upper technique.

You get very inventive in a thirty nine year marriage.


Speaking of the social uses of technology, I am no longer getting two or three emails a day from hundreds of Asian women who want to marry me and I’m now getting three or four emails a day about erectile dysfunction. The hundreds of Asian women must have been concerned.

The miniaturization of civilization

I don’t gave a computer. I don’t have an iPad. My entire digital existence is conducted on an iPhone, and almost everything we do is digital. All our business and finances, a lot of our shopping, all our transportation, much of our medical stuff, all the social media, all the research and every last word I write. I didn’t realize this was strange until today. We manage our lives out of a red folder containing a few papers, two old fashioned and ink smeared calendars, a few sheets of scrawled monthly budgets on a clipboard (remember clipboards?), and this iPhone. That is the entirety of our transactions, interactions and communications with the world outside our house. The thirty two year old Brick would find the sixty two year old Brick’s daily life utterly incomprehensible and certainly ominous. And the 62 year old Brick wonders how the 32 old Brick got anything done at all.

Huge hands

Huge hands with huge fingers are not an evolutionary advantage on a smart phone. I see my kind becoming extinct, like some sort of vastly fingered megafauna. I go to the La Brea tar pits and look at the skeletons of megatheriums with their huge clumsy claws and envision me thudding at a tiny digital keyboard with ridiculous fingers, tormented by GIFs.


New iPhone. First ever iPhone, actually. Last time I used anything Apple was 1993. I was much younger then. It’s a little weird and counter-intuitively disconcerting now, this iPhone, like learning an Indo-European language vaguely familiar but full of irregularities. Plus I’m ordering all these coffees at Starbucks and I don’t even know what they are.

Also, these Apple decals are stuck to my fingers. My shirt. My hair. That lady’s pants.

Oops, gotta run. Siri just told me it’s goat yoga time.