Thursday, November 03, 2005

"Use What You Have" Month

I have declared November to be "Use What You Have" Month.

Basically, this means that instead of going out to buy new stuff, Use What You Have.

This does not extend to food, although if you have, say, a can of water chestnuts that's been in the cupboard for a year, you should either eat them or donate them to a needy family so that they can enjoy water chestnuts for the holiday season.

It does extend to just about everything else: Clothes, CD's, books, magazines, household items, and the stuff belonging to that broad category called Health & Beauty Aids.

In fact, it could also be called, Use What You Have.

Case in Point: Seven years ago, I scoured the Odd Job Lots and eBay for several bottles of a discontinued Charlie fragrance called "Oriental," which I've loved ever since 1990 when I bought a bottle in a Duane Reade store. And for seven years, these fake jade bottles have sat on a shelf in the bedroom, doled out as preciously as platinum. Why? Because once I use them, they will be gone! The world's precious resources of Charlie Oriental will be depleted!

So what? Then I can use up the other dozen bottles of cologne I've bought in the past decade. They'll be discontinued by then, too.

It could also be called, "Have What You Use."

Case in Point: Last holiday season, some friends brought over a bottle of wine. My husband and I never drink with dinner at home. We're not teetotallers or reformed drunks; we just like having clear heads to argue with the TV all evening.

Also, due to the extremely small size of our apartment, we never do any serious entertaining, tending to have gatherings of four or five at a time or else moving the soiree to a nearby restaurant.

Consequently, our entire glassware collection consists of three cracked thermal plastic tumblers, four wine glasses I got as a gift twenty years ago and never use, and some Dixie Cups.

So when our friends gave us the wine, we said, "Oh, thanks!" and then proceeded to perform an act worthy of the Flying Wallendas as we clambered up to the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet, hefted old broken appliances over our heads, retrieved the glasses and passed them down to the sink, where we scrubbed them of years of grime and crud. Why didn't we just use the Dixie Cups? They had some great songs in the mid-Sixties. And we could get a set of these neat new Stemless Wine Glasses, which look much classier than thermal tumblers for everyday, non-wine beverages.

Use your Metrocard instead of taking a cab. Use your library card instead of buying a DVD. Or better yet, watch all those DVD's you've bought in the past year that are just sitting there with the books you haven't read yet and the CD's you've never played. Get rid of the Foghat album you bought for "Slow Ride" and the Emerson, Lake and Palmer LP you bought for "Lucky Man" and get those tracks on something like this ... or download 'em. Marvel at how the record industry got us to buy four-album sets to get one song while making 45's uncool.

Take out your old clothes and your old ideas and see which need to be repaired, given away or discarded. Personally, there isn't one occasion in my life that couldn't be met by a black pantsuit with something sparkly.

Often when you're giving away an item, you're giving away a whole idea of your life that went with the item. But in the years since you got it, or actually used it, your real life may have become more interesting than the one you've imagined. Or if it isn't, you can make it that way without really big shoulder pads.

Use what you have, have what you use, and appreciate what you have.

And then in December, go get more stuff.

"Marvel at how the record industry got us to buy four-album sets to get one song while making 45's uncool."

45's aren't cool? When did that happen? Did they get replaced by 8-tracks? This is just plain wrong!
Yes, in the late '60s-early '70s, 45's were regarded as "AM" and albums were regarded as "FM." AM was for kiddies, and FM was for the cool, "big" kids.

Of course, there were some cool things on FM that you wouldn't hear on AM because of length, "adult" subject matter, etc. Mick Jagger's "Memo From Turner" speaks of young girls eating their "mothers' meat from tubes of plasticon," something you wouldn't hear Cousin Brucie raving about. And "Wind" by Circus Maximus clocked in at over 8 minutes, something only permitted on AM if you were the Beatles. Even CSN's "Judy Blue Eyes" was trimmed for AM.

On the other hand, there were cool things on AM you didn't get to hear on practically anyone black who wasn't Jimi Hendrix.
"On the other hand, there were cool things on AM you didn't get to hear on practically anyone black who wasn't Jimi Hendrix."

How true that is. FM would go so far as to play white versions of black music, and never play the originals. This is why so many FM (i.e. white) listeners probably thought that The Blues was invented in Notting Hill. And, of course, when it came to Soul Music, nobody could beat Janis Joplin.
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