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(*In honor of spring, I’ve reaching into The Urban Erma archives and updated an article that I first posted on the blog in March 2007.  And by updated I mean removed the references to my Palm Pilot, BlackBerry, and MySpace.)

Weighing in at over 4,000 personal and business contacts, my address book is officially out of control. It’s the electronic equivalent of the mafia: once you get in, you never get out. I’m reasonably friendly and outgoing, but I don’t think it’s humanly possible to personally know 4,004 people. In real space that’s a 22-pound Rolodex. One shouldn’t have a phone book the size of the phone book.  So, it’s time to do a little spring cleaning.

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A good place to start is deleting the entries for closed stores, outdated business contacts, and friends from grammar school. Can you really call someone a friend if you have to crack open a year book to remember what they look like? I called a very close, personal, business acquaintance the other day only to find out that he’d quit several years earlier to start a tree farm. I guess I need to do a better job of keeping in touch.

The easiest entries to delete from my address book are closed businesses. Restaurants in New York come and go so quickly that I’m not sure why I bother adding them in the first place. One that’s hard to let go of, though, is Mr. Leo’s. It was a wonderful upscale soul food restaurant in Chelsea that served the best honey-dipped chicken I’ve ever had. Sorry, Ma.

I have a rule against eating messy food in public. That means no hot wings, no ribs, no barbecued anything. Part of it is etiquette, part of it is vanity. I was taught that proper ladies don’t sit at the table and chew on a chicken bone like a famished lioness in the wild. Food stuck in your teeth and sauce on your cheek doesn’t make a good impression on the first date or the 50th. But self consciousness went out the window when I had Mr. Leo’s Honey-Dipped Chicken. That was the quintessential meaning of finger-licking good. And finger licking, by the way, is not necessarily horrible on a date, depending on what you have in mind for dessert.

But I digress.

I was told that Mr. Leo’s went out of business when Mr. Leo himself was robbed and killed leaving the restaurant late one night. I don’t know if this is true or if it’s just an urban legend among restaurateurs who don’t use a bank courier to handle the day’s receipts. For all I know there wasn’t even a real Mr. Leo, just some guy named Otis who had a great honey-dipped chicken recipe and a dream.

Another place that stayed in my address book long after it closed was Dosanko’s. It was a great Japanese restaurant that boasted an amazing ginger salad dressing, and served a better than expected fried chicken. It wasn’t honey dipped, but it was tasty. If Mr. Leo’s was my number one, then Dosanko’s was number one-A. Sorry, Ma.

Two things are evident: I like chicken, but chicken alone won’t keep a restaurant a float. Or, more accurately: if I like the chicken, the restaurant is doomed. This would explain KFC’s continued success.

In clearing out the dead weight in my address book I’ve come across actual dead people like Mrs. Franklin, my sixth grade teacher. Mrs. Franklin was one of those teachers who cared. She loved her raucous class of 28 eleven-year olds. She was a petite woman with auburn hair and a penchant for losing her glasses. She had two pairs: one for seeing and one for reading. When either pair slipped to end of her nose and she looked at you from over the top of the frames, you knew you were in trouble. She was like your mom and the principal all rolled into one. I heard through the neighborhood grapevine that she had passed away, but I didn’t have the heart to delete her name from my address book. It felt like I’d be deleting part of my childhood.

Worse though, is coming across people in my phone book who I’m not sure about. Dead? Not dead? You can’t exactly call up and say, “Hey? Just checking to see if you’re dead. No? Okay. Bye.”

It’s also a bit creepy calling people you think are alive, only to find out they’ve died. That happened once. I called an old acquaintance just to say hi and catch up, but was told she had died a few months earlier in childbirth. What? Women don’t die in childbirth anymore do they? Had my phone call been routed through the Twilight Zone and into the middle ages?

Apparently The Grim Reaper has also been hard at work, whittling down my address book. Between the two of us I’m down to around 3,500. My next project will be tackling the size of my FaceBook Friend List, which is currently over 4,700. Give or take one or two, that’s over 8,000 people whom I may or may not personally know. I hope they’re okay.

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