Sunday, November 16, 2008

See You In The Sunday Paper

My neighbor slept late today, so we didn't get our Sunday papers until after dinner. That's okay. It's Sunday - where are we going to go?

My neighbor has one of the wholesale distribution routes for a bunch of different papers, and every Saturday night he drives off to pick up a truckload of them, and then he spends the rest of the night delivering them to various retail establishments. But the warehouse never counts them out exactly right, and he ends up with extras that he would have to recycle if he didn't give them to us. He's a good neighbor that way.

So on any given Sunday, in addition to the local blab that we actually subscribe to, we might end up with all or parts of the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, The London Financial Times, or a few others. It's a crapshoot, which makes it fun. We each have our favorites. Tabitha likes the ones that have color comics - she is old enough now to enjoy them, though a lot of the humor is still pitched above her. She reads them to Lauren, who laughs anyway. The prize for me is the NYT Review of Books - imagine, a whole tabloid section devoted to nothing but books. There can be no finer use of newsprint.

The ironic thing about the whole set-up is that we now receive the Sunday New York Times far more regularly than we did when we actually subscribed.

I have always loved the Sunday paper. It is a monument to leisure that no web page can replace, which is probably why it is a dying institution. We move too fast these days.

When I lived in Pittsburgh, I would walk the half a mile from my Shadyside apartment to a newsstand in East Liberty that sold not only the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but my hometown Philadelphia Inquirer (pronounced "Ink-wire") as well. I would then walk back to my little apartment, grab my folding chair - the one that rocked - and some snacks and head off for another half mile in the other direction to the park. And that was my day.

I lived alone. I wasn't in school. I didn't own a television. I had nowhere to go, nothing better to do and nobody to do it with anyway since most of my friends were either in school, married or both. This was my time, to sit in the shade of a tall tree and slowly work my way through two - count 'em, two - entire Sunday papers. Sometimes I got ambitious and brought a book too, but that was just overkill.

Oh, I suppose those newspapers were useful in some ways. I was certainly better informed about things than most people, for all that counted for anything. Postal strike in Ireland? All over that. Oddball laws passed in every state? Got that in spades. But usefulness was never the goal. It was simply a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon, when nothing else was being demanded of me. There is too much of "useful" in the world as it is. "Useful" has its place. But it can be overdone.

The Sunday papers await me now, and not having a mast to lash myself to, I must obey their siren call.

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