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A subscription to glossy culture - Rob Felt

The car's engine hasn't fully wound down and my feet hit the pavement with a noticeable determination. Striding across the parking lot of my apartment complex the anticipation swells. Will I get one today, or maybe even two? I approach the bank of square metal doors and key into my designated cubby. There's some junk mail on top and a bill sticks out at me like a tongue, but underneath is the prize inside this Cracker Jack box that I'm looking for.

How did my need for a magazine fix get to be this bad? Like all addictive habits I have a "bad influence" friend to pin this on. Last year Mike moved to Eufaula, Ala., to take a job. Without any friends this small town left him with some free evenings, because aside from Wal-Mart and a bowling alley there isn't a thing open in Eufaula past 5 p.m. Mike somehow took up magazine reading as his new hobby.

He started slowly with over-the-counter magazines, a couple every week. A need for the shiny newness of a freshly printed page gripped his soul in no time and those subscription cards were flying around like a ticker-tape parade. Mike had slipped and fallen from the real world and landed between the pages of Time, Maxim, GQ and Playstation Magazine. He called me less and less and I didn't know what was going on in his life. His subscription count was around 20 and some of these were weeklies!

Eufaula is now behind him, and with a new direction in his hometown of Dothan you'd think that the frenzy of magazine heroin would have been left behind like a mildewed shower curtain. Not the case. Mike's longtime friend and new roommate Barrett has inherited this pulpy bounty through the wonder of address forwarding. Barrett, who identifies subscribing as "contagious" and "something to go to the mailbox for", says that Mike is still looking for "new reading on the toilet every day."

After dismissing the condition as a response to his habitat I found myself nonetheless intrigued by the happiness this brought on. In need of some scientific evidence I augmented my Esquire subscription with Newsweek to test the effects of added volume. At first it was too much to handle and the piles on my coffee table looked like the inbox in a Dilbert cartoon, but before long I was shredding through pages and salivating on my mail key. Utterly infected, I added a combo of Details and Wired for only $15 a year.

Is the promise of "85 percent off the cover price" all it takes to get a casual reader hooked? Do I need to know what the new tech gadgets are going for? Get a rundown of celebrity exploits and fashion trends? Read another story about the Bush administration and post-war Iraq? Do I need these witty diatribes and cutting-edge layouts smattered with colorful photos and illustrations to filter the world through? I don't know anymore.

I can stop whenever I want, really. I just don't want to.

Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at rfelt@henryherald.com.