A comic strip and a New York Times article recently defined my key personality trait. 

Zits, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, good-naturedly skewers teenagers and their parents. Their 15-year-old Jeremy was incredulous that his father once had a waterbed. “A lot of people did,” Dad explained. “Well . . . A few. Okay, nobody.” Jeremy’s zinger: “You only missed being cool by a couple of decades that time.”

In the March 6 Times, Brian X. Chen and Yiwen Lu offered “The Youths Have Spoken: Wallets Are Uncool. Go Digital.” Younger people make mobile payments for purchases and “are increasingly using their phones for purposes that older adults would use a traditional wallet for, like carrying . . . a driver’s license, boarding passes and event tickets.” 

Turning 80 this July, I retain my traditional wallet with credit cards, AAA card, driver’s license and—gasp!—cash. However, I download airline boarding tickets to my phone and use them.

Less cool, I use physical credit cards rather than Apple Pay. On the other hand, my wife Carolyn insists on using Apple Pay even when it takes her more time to find her phone than her credit card. Our three kids have virtually no use for cash unless we give them some.

I’ve long been uncool. In fact, I’ve never been cool. (Several friends are chuckling at this.) Granted, once upon a time, I wore bell-bottom jeans and a wide-collar leather jacket. My hair was longer, and I sported a mustache. Also, Carolyn and I hit the road in 1970, a year after we were married. We drove cross-country from San Antonio to Los Angeles, up to San Francisco and across the continent to New York. Then we traveled through western Europe by train for eleven weeks.

Window dressing! I was still the uncool guy from a middle-class Jewish family in Queens. I’ve remained that way. 

That’s why the protagonist of my upcoming (April/May) novel Taking Stock sprang to a great extent from my ho-hum mindset. (Hang on: The novel is not ho-um.) Steve Goldman is only weeks from 80. He too grew up in a middle-class Jewish household in Queens. He had a few adventures as a young man but outgrew his peccadillos (check your e-dictionary). In his 30s, he married Evelyn Fried. 

Having just buried Evelyn, Steve takes stock of his life. He evaluates his relationships with family members and friends, entering their names into columns labeled GOOD and BAD.

No, Steve is not me. I drew on my life for some material, but my background and life serve as a springboard for my imagination. Steve sets the record straight when he mentions creating a character based on a real person in his first, and unpublished, novel: “Fiction is fiction.”

Reality is reality: My sons will never imagine there could ever have been anything cool about me, including my writing the award-winning Fender Guitar fairytale ad campaign in the ’70s. My friends see me as a guy they can depend on, hardly exciting but there for them.

Then again, Kirkus Reviews glowed about Taking Stock in its pre-publication review: “An absorbing novel by a wise and graceful writer.”

I’m not hip, with it, groovy, dope, sick, the bomb or whatever in-word is used today. But I’m cool with that. 

Please pass on this post.

Order The Short (Pun Intended) Redemptive Life of Little Ned in softcover or e-book from Amazonbarnesandnoble.com or iuniverse.com. Or your favorite bookstore.


  1. Carolyn Power on March 29, 2024 at 10:20 am

    Au contraire my love, my iPhone is always at the ready. It’s my credit cards that are zipped up safely zipped up inside my purse. You lie, but why let the truth get in the way of a punchline?

    • David Perlstein on March 29, 2024 at 11:01 am

      My darling, I’m glad to see you understand that the joke comes first.

  2. David Sperber on March 29, 2024 at 10:35 am

    Haha. Zits is a favorite, and yes, i had a waterbed, and never lie to Caroline.

    • David Perlstein on March 29, 2024 at 11:00 am

      I love “Zits” too, David. I never had a waterbed, and Carolyn seems to take issue with my comment. She straightened me out!

  3. RONALD EATON on March 29, 2024 at 12:07 pm

    David, Such false humility: everyone in your rarified circle of friends knows the meaning of “peccadillos’. Most of us use the word at least once a week.

    • David Perlstein on March 29, 2024 at 12:20 pm

      Well, Ron, my rarified circle of friends is made up entirely of people brighter—and more cool—than me.

  4. David Newman on March 29, 2024 at 12:12 pm

    I’m pretty sure a peccadillo is a cross between a peccary and an armadillo, which you should know from your time in Texas, where they are frequently seen as roadkill and on diner menus.

    And as for being uncool, it depends whether you are sincerely uncool, which is uncool, or ironically uncool, which is cool.

  5. David Newman on March 29, 2024 at 12:17 pm

    PS The blessing before eating roadkill would end “hamotzi lechem min ha-derech.”

    • David Perlstein on March 29, 2024 at 12:19 pm

      David, were roadkill kosher, I’d be cool (possibly ironically cool) with that.

    • Sandy Lipkowitz on March 29, 2024 at 5:11 pm

      Good one!!!

  6. Susan E Shapiro on March 29, 2024 at 12:19 pm

    I, too, have never been cool; but I have been HOT (wink, wink; nudge, nudge)

    • David Perlstein on March 29, 2024 at 12:21 pm

      You’re still hot, Susan. I say no more.

  7. Sandy Lipkowitz on March 29, 2024 at 5:20 pm

    Cool is a relative term connected to a point in time. Not sure Cool is even cool in today’s lingo.
    I have a wallet, credit cards, a little cash for when I have to tip a valet. I’m someone happily not connected to my cell phone. It’s a necessary evil for me. Happy not to have my life depending on not losing it, not having a cell connection or wi-fi , leaving it at the airline counter or through security. Not to mention getting yet another way to be hacked.
    I prefer human interactions and not my main source of connection being a device. I hated the movie Her.

    • David Perlstein on March 29, 2024 at 9:33 pm

      It seems, Sandy, that the younger generation often avoids person-to-person contact. If so, not cool.

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