There have been a number of articles recently about the demise of Mad magazine. I used to occasionally buy an over-the-counter copy of the magazine and read it. I like the comic book-like format and there were some very good drawings and insightful social satire in the magazine. But it isn’t one of the magazines that I every good into reading each issue. There are a few of them. For more than 25 years, I kept every copy of National Geographic Magazine, all organized in slipcases, so that I could refer back to prior issues. Add that to the copies that our mother kept and we had over 50 years of the magazine. Then, one day, I was able to purchase digital copies of the magazine - the entire publication run - on CDs. I bought a set. I found out that no one really needed old copies of the magazine. Libraries, even jails, had sets of copies. I was fortunate when I took them to the church rummage sale that they were able to find a buyer and they escaped being taken to the paper recycler, which was the fate of many years of the Experimental Aviation Association magazine that I had also kept.

These days we don’t get too many magazines at our house. Several magazines are enjoyed regularly in their online format. I’ve decided to let subscription after subscription go and engaged online subscriptions at a fraction of the cost. There are, however, two magazines that I still receive in paper form at my house. Both have to do with boats and building boats. They are very different sorts of magazines. Wooden Boat is a slick, full color magazine published six times a year. The July/August issue is number 269. The magazine is in its 45th year of publication. It once was a more humble journal, appealing to those who built and restored wooden boats. Over the years, it has focused on larger and larger boats and projects that are more and more expensive. Occasionally they will carry an article about a canoe or kayak or a small rowboat, but those articles are often about custom tenders that are made for larger and more expensive boats. Reading the magazine is, for me, an exercise in fantasy. The boats about which I am reading represent projects that are beyond my means. Even the advertisements in the magazine are for products that I will probably never buy. I buy varnish by the pint, or occasionally a quart, and never by the gallon. The ads for boats at the end of the magazine include multiple-million dollar yachts and projects that would require a semi truck to move. Classic bronze castings and hand-carved wooden pulleys are beautiful and important for a historically-accurate ship recreation, but beyond the means of a person like myself.

I have considered letting my subscription to the magazine go, but have hung on for the occasional article that intrigues me and the occasional advertisement for a product that I might actually use. It is also a good way to keep up on technological developments in wooden boat preservation and building.

The other magazine I receive is published monthly and is just a slight step above a newsletter. It is printed on copy paper, just like our church newsletter, and has the same format. It is a bit larger, with 64 pages each month. There are no color photographs and no slick, professionally laid out pages. In its place are substantive articles with good information and a few photographs that are worthy of study. There are quirky columnists who are trying to build and restore boats with tiny budgets and lots of used parts. There are designs of boats that an amateur could build with a hobbyist’s budget. I read that magazine from cover to cover every month. I write thank-you letters each year when I send in my check to renew my subscription. As opposed to the other magazine, where subscribing and renewing is an online process, this one still operates with a renewal reminder letter and my sending a check by return post.

The contrast between the two magazines has been in my head the last couple of days simply because I’ve been reading both at the same time. I have one in one location in my home and the other in another and I pick up one and read an article or two and then put it down. The next time I might pick up the other.

The magazines reflect a lot of what I see going on in our communities these days. I watch, as I drive around town, custom home builders create huge structures that seem to have few budget limitations. I visit folks who live in modest homes and who struggle to keep them maintained enough to have dry basements and roofs that don’t leak. The contrast is very evident. The cost of new home construction has tripled in the last 15 years in our town. There are plenty of people who are being left behind because of those costs. Much of what is being bought with that extra money is more house. Three car garages are becoming common. A builder told me that the number of bathrooms per house is the number of bedrooms plus one. Master suites now not only have private baths, but the bathrooms have vanities with multiple sinks. Mood lighting, built-in vacuum systems, high-end kitchen appliances. All of those things cost money.

At the same time, we have plenty of people living in poverty and substandard housing in our town. It isn’t just the homeless who experience the crisis. There are three and four families packed into houses designed for a single family. There are children who don’t sleep in the same bed every night and who often don’t sleep in a bed at all.

I’m probably going to let the subscription to the color magazine go. It is an expense I can avoid. I can occasionally access a copy of the magazine online. But I have no intention of dropping the inexpensively-produced magazine right now. It is the journal of my people. I’ve become comfortable with the folks who make do, use repurposed junk, and pursue their interests without excess funding. None of my boats will ever become museum pieces, but we sure have a lot of fun playing in the water.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!