So I was at my doctor’s office last evening and he knowingly asked me “How was I doing?” I responded with, “Well, I am certainly not depressed during this COVID time, but I am often very disappointed.” He nodded and smiled.

So here’s a column about the season. Not Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza, dear reader, but the true season, the season of the catalogue.

They started rolling in a few weeks ago. True to form, what began as a trickle morphed into a tsunami of printed material.

The catalogues, at least here at Ranchero Musselwhite, occupy two categories, food and clothing.

My take is that the key to clothing catalogue strategy is based on several factors. First, the producers must find a way cool destination so that the models in the photographs have a backdrop of unparalleled splendor. The locations appear to favor either the upper northeast of Maine’s lakes and mountains, or the craggy geography of the American West.

Heck, even I look good in photographs in front of say, The Arches up in Utah, or in the canyons a few short miles from my New Mexico home. Take note of automobile commercials. Either those shiny SUVs are barreling through leaf-laden New Hampshire highways or climbing ochre colored rock outcroppings.

So the recipe for catalogue success are as follows: 1) a tall model gazing into the distance 2) earth colored sweater with an open weave and 3) windswept mesa. An acoustic guitar soundtrack is optional in videos. If reading, one must supply one’s own soundtrack while turning the pages of the latest catalogue.

A catalogue of rugged men’s clothing caught my eye yesterday. The photos were heavily filtered so that the burnt sienna of the latest jacket sizzled on the page. Jeans weren’t just black. They were a seductive charcoal black.

Texture in clothing catalogues is of paramount importance. I picture the Italian shoot director screaming behind the camera, “More texture! More texture!”

Did I mention plaid? Plaid shirts, plaid skirts, plaid jackets, plaid caps. It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that plaid.

Due to the recent quarantine, we have ordered quite a bit of food from online catalogue sources, and those orders beget more food catalogues, and on and on.

Food catalogues employ folks called food stylists. This is a real job.

If you want to experience the life of a food stylist, tonight at dinner prepare your plate as usual. Find the brightest light in your home. Focus on the food before you. Lower your face to about three to four inches from your victuals. Rearrange your food until you get a special tingly feeling. Remember, keep your face next to your plate.

Voila! You are a food stylist.

We have for years received a holiday gift box from one of the better-known food catalogue companies. The pictures in the catalogue of the various cookies, sausages, and cheeses are arranged for maximum saliva production. They look fantastic.

When the order arrives, however, one can’t help to be disappointed, for the ingredients are all there, just as requested. The thing is, they are all individually wrapped in plastic. Why one would have to be a food stylist to re-create the picture from the catalogue, and for what reason? (sigh)

Today brought the catalogue capper of all time. I had never heard of the company and found the catalogue to be, well, rather slim. The pages revealed exquisite cuts of beef and (warning: food stylist time) beautifully photographed displays of suggested recipes. Lovely, but nothing original here. Yet.

I turned the page, and there was a beautiful two page spread offering my choice of a product I have never, ever, imagined I would order from a catalogue.


I’ll give you a moment.

Ice. Frozen water.

Yes, my fellow Americans, one can now order custom ice from a catalogue.

One can order various shapes and sizes of ice in order to prepare the most perfect drink one can imagine. The catalogue did not indicate how this frozen water was shipped. Questions arise: what if instead of ice, the great shipping companies deliver, well, water to your door? Do you re-freeze in order to send it back? What if it arrives intact, but like that ill-fitting plaid shirt Uncle Carl sent you, it just doesn’t fit?

I hope your catalogue season is lovely. I see you sitting by a roaring fire in your burnt sienna open weave sweater under your photographs of your recent trip to Zion National Park. I hear the tinkling of custom ice in your highball glass.

Ah, the good life.

Former Roman Harry Musselwhite is the author of “Martin the Guitar,” co-creator of “The Dungball Express” podcast and is an award-winning filmmaker.

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