The calendars I receive at Christmas are of course welcome, for what they say about me and the people who give them: last year, the cats of Rome, the Pacific Northwest, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania; this year so far, Australian Aboriginal art and a tiny floral desk calendar. But the one I live by, the one I cannot live without, is the New Yorker Desk Diary.
At $37.95, this calendar is something of an investment. But what that $37.95 buys! Vintage New Yorker covers in color, and a cartoon every week. “About Town,” this year 12 pages of phone numbers for airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, restaurants, theaters, museums and galleries, and still a dozen bookstores, all with color illustrations. In past years, maps of Manhattan (up to 125th Street, as if we in the Heights did not exist), the city and vicinity, the transit system, U.S. time zones. International dialing codes and currencies. For those who like to get a jump on their planning, the diary includes most of the preceding December, plus the first few days of the January to follow. Spiral-bound, it lies flat, and instead of letting bills and papers pile up on my desk, I can insert them into the weeks they’re needed.
Last year I procrastinated. Did I really need to spend the money? How often do I look up information in its pages? In an age, when my laptop is on from morning to night, I’m much more likely to Google. So I delayed until it was apparently too late.
The Conde Nast Collection (condenaststore.com) was happy to sell me one — which would ship around mid-February. When I called the 800 number in mid-December, I was told late orders would have to wait until bookstores shipped back their leftovers. On Dec. 26 the wait was down to 10 days, but I decided to try the bricks-and-mortar Barnes & Noble at Broadway and 82nd Street. “Sold out,” I was told, so I hightailed it back to Conde Nast and hoped for the best. On the 27th, I ordered, figuring I could last until mid-January. My diary landed on the 3rd.
In the meantime, I had decided to join the 21st century and try Google Calendar. My only previous experience with it had been in Vancouver the winter before, when my new-media teaching partner in Arts and Culture Journalism had decided it would be a good class project to compile an online arts calendar. The project was not a success; after a strong start, students stopped posting, and the calendar languished.
On Google Calendar, you fill in blanks on a form, much as you might on a paper calendar, but more neatly than in rushed scribbles. The calendar knows who I am because I’ve signed into Gmail. I click on a square and a box pops up, telling me the “when” — the time slot of the square I’ve chosen — and asking for the “what.” When I create an event, I can add the “where” and maybe the “who.” I’m never asked “why.”
Google sends reminders of what’s on it. “Reminder: Joey @ Tue Jan 1, 2013” meant I was booked to usher “War Horse” at the Beaumont last New Year’s Day. The reminders are great for, say, UPI Next conference calls, but sometimes I find them a little disconcerting. “25 years in New York!” on May 6 was apparently a reminder to post my anniversary essay (Milestone, May 6, 2013), but I have no memory of having put it on my calendar.
Google Calendar does come in handy for traveling; the New Yorker calendar weighs a pound or so and takes up luggage space. (When I went to China for four months in 2010, I ripped out those pages and took them along.) Before leaving to teach in Poland last summer, I went through the desk diary and transferred the things I needed to remember to Google. Aug. 1: “Order Elizabeth Grady when August sale kicks in.” It was a little confusing because the calendar initially assumed I was still in New York, moving a 7 p.m. screening of “Parsifal” to 1 a.m. Sunday. That lasted about a week until I received a note asking if I might want to reset the clock to Warsaw time. I did, and everything was fine for the rest of the trip. But the minute I got home, I reverted to The New Yorker.
This year I was taking no chances. I started stalking the desk diary online in mid-autumn. The price didn’t budge. Then, about a week before Christmas, the magic e-mail landed in my inbox: “Now ON SALE — Get Your New Yorker Desk Diary Today!” I did; the 25 percent discount essentially gave me free shipping. I even took advantage of the offer to “have the cover of your diary personalized with your name at no extra charge!” The package arrived before Christmas.
I grew up with the superstition that it’s bad luck to start using a calendar before its time (and I never peek at future cartoons). So 2014 remains tucked away in my phone-and-calendar stand until New Year’s morning, when 2013 will join years past in a closet, stuffed with the cards and letters from the one just left behind. Onward.