Mike Klein Online

Good-Bye To Really Good Friends

Atlanta Mike Pix_Press_Club_189_-_Version_2The first one arrived nearly fifty years ago, wrapped in a brown paper sleeve, my name “Mr. Michael Klein” printed on the wrapper.  It came to the little black mailbox my father hung near the front door.  National Geographic magazine and I were getting to know each other.   Welcome to the world beyond your driveway, young man.  Step right up and shake hands with pharaohs.

National Geographic magazine was my first real mail.  It arrived every month.  There was no mistaking the plain brown paper wrapper.  Lately I’ve been trying to figure out the special attachment that some people including me have with National Geographic magazine.  Publications come and go … I have subscribed to and canceled dozens over the years … but National Geographic always found a special place in the bookcase.

National Geographic magazine marked a certain coming-of-age as I slowly made the transition from skinny kid with thick glasses wearing my Roy Rogers pistols to skinny older kid with contact lenses who was trying to figure out the world beyond Louise N. Henking Elementary School.

National Geographic magazine and I maintained an unbroken partnership that has outlasted virtually every other relationship in my juvenile and adult life.  We went to college.  We moved from Chicago to California, back to Chicago and twenty-five years ago, we moved to Atlanta.

National Geographic magazine issues in my collection would grow to number in the hundreds with thousands of pages.  Virtually every scientific discovery over the past half century and lots of other important stuff is contained within those pages.  One entire bookcase in my basement was purchased to store the magazines in their leather-bound cases.

National Geographic magazine introduced me to tall birds, short birds, fat birds, skinny birds, pink birds and brown birds.  There were dinosaur fossils, dinosaur eggs and dinosaur droppings.  We went deep inside The Kremlin during The Cold War, traveled along the Great Wall, plunged into the oceans with Jacques Cousteau and explored the moon with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and what’s his name … the other guy, you know the one.  He was the non-moon walking astronaut.

National Geographic magazine probably did more to popularize amateur photography than even the Kodak Brownie.  Say what, you don’t know what a Kodak Brownie is?  If you were a kid in the 1950s or 1960s, you probably owned a Kodak Brownie.  It had those neat little pop out bulbs that looked like tiny bombs when they flashed.

National Geographic magazine brought us marvelous photographs of Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, huge grizzly bears, huge elk and huge mountain lions.  Standing there on the cusp of the gorge, your Kodak Brownie firmly gripped in tiny hands, you could imagine yourself taking a picture that was every bit as good as photographs inside National Geographic.  Well, almost.

National Geographic magazine took me deep inside Africa, where my little eyes burst forth with all the excitement that one would expect from a pre-teen youngster gazing upon naked women in a magazine not named Playboy.  Of course there were also large snakes, larger snakes and even larger snakes in great river basins too scary for this rough and tough continental explorer.

National Geographic magazine introduced me to great leaders.  Camelot in Washington began the very month of my first National Geographic.  The magazine cover showed the White House.   This month the magazine cover takes us back to Yellowstone.  We have visited a time or two.

Lately, I began wondering what should happen with hundreds of National Geographic magazines that have accumulated, twelve per year, downstairs in the basement.  It became harder to justify their bookshelf space when other equally important books were scattered everywhere.

This weekend I loaded nearly fifty years of National Geographic magazines into the van and took them to the library.  The ladies at the front desk seemed impressed.  Now this was exactly the reaction I had wanted all along.  Finally, someone would recognize the extraordinary value of this remarkable collection of fossils, pyramids, canyons and maps to dinosaur droppings.

So, I asked, what will happen to my fine collection of National Geographic magazines?

Book sale, came the reply.  The birds, the dinosaurs and the pharaohs moved to the Internet.

Even the public library no longer needs hundreds of National Geographic magazines.

Strangely, it feels like a member of the family went away and won’t be coming back.

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August 10, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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