Monday, March 25, 2013


A handful of matchbooks advertising defunct restaurants, mostly in San Antonio.

I don't collect matches. At least, I didn't think I collected matches until a few bags full of matchbooks resurfaced in my life after a recent closet avalanche. So I guess it's more accurate to say I never set out with intent to collect matches, but I ended up with a collection just by virtue of being a smoker and a New Yorker who warmed many barstools and dined in many fine restaurants and never could turn down a complimentary matchbook, especially if it was cute but mostly because I was always losing my lighter.

I see a lot of matchbook collections on my estate-sale rounds; the graphics are so great and the establishments being advertised sound so awesome, it can be difficult to resist buying them. But usually I resist. I have my own memories in matchbook form—do I really need someone else's? The handful you see here are from two Ziplocs I selected at random from two laundry baskets overflowing with matches at a sale last summer. Somebody used to really get around!

A lifetime's collection of matches.

I've been mourning the ephemeral nature of ephemera on this blog for some time now, and most often the digital age we live in the culprit: Concert tickets, greeting cards, invitations, business cards, address books, etc., have all been outmoded. But we can't blame the slo-mo extinction of matchbooks on the interwebs ’cuz last I checked, fire had not yet been digitized—obviously, it's because no one smokes anymore. Okay, people still smoke, but they are (for the most part) no longer encouraged to do so, and judging by how my children react to the sight of some pathetic smoker, huddled in the cold for a furtive puff, I don't think the tobacco companies are going to have much luck seducing the next generation (seriously, my kids are ready to make a citizen's arrest of any smoker they see; I have to remind them that even when we're visiting the Nanny State of NYC, smoking is not actually against the law). I assume Red Bull, or some pernicious variation thereof, will be their version of smoking.

Ah, to have frequented the Gay ’90s or Ichabod's...

But what a pity, right? Towers of Future Red Bull and its accoutrements will never have the panache of a serious matchbook collection. We used to keep ours in a large wooden bowl in the living room. My parents (not smokers) kept a container full in the kitchen. Lindsay remembers his grandparents having some sort of  three-tiered platter—like the kind for serving those extravagant shellfish apps at your nicer brasseries—where they displayed their assortment of matches.

My rediscovered matchbooks are still in a plastic grocery bag in the Closet of Doom. I've thought about displaying them in a jar or bowl but they're just another dust magnet and what if the kids take it upon themselves to burn the house down? I did photograph a few of the choicer ones, however, which I'll share this week here on the blog.

Gail and Harold, was it a good marriage?

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