Clippings: A long ritual that’s fit to be in print
I am not generally known as a creature of bad habits. I don’t gamble, smoke, or drink and carouse (well, I drink, but I don’t carouse). I don’t use foul language (not that much anyway) and I’m not ill-tempered (mostly).
Nonetheless, I’m trying to break a habit, and not really a bad habit at that, one which has developed over a lifetime. It’s perhaps more of a lifelong ritual, which has now become impractical.
I’m trying to break my newspaper habit.
For all of my adult life, I have read a newspaper, real newspapers, made out of paper, newsprint. Hard copy.
My newspaper of choice has been the Boston Globe (I was born in Boston, like my dad), though in my six years in Cleveland, I read the Plain Dealer. I have lived here in Vermont continuously for over four decades and the Globe has been my companion for all that time.
My newspaper habit goes back a long way.
Lewiston, Maine, where I grew up, had three newspapers: the Sun in the morning and the Journal in the afternoon, and Le Messager, a French language daily. Both the Sun and the Journal covered local sports intensely, so getting my name or a picture in the paper was an early thrill.
My dad walked the quarter mile to work at Bates College every day. He came into the house in the evening with a Boston newspaper tucked under his arm that he bought at Ernie’s Store on his way home. It was the Boston Traveler or the Herald first, and then the Globe. He’d give the sports section to me when he was finished with it.
We subscribed to the Sun and the Finns, my cousins next door, subscribed to the Journal. The Sun was on our porch every morning at the crack of dawn, delivered by the “paper boy,” who collected in person Friday evenings.
My older cousin Charlie subscribed to The Sporting News, a weekly, a whole paper, page after page, solely about baseball. What could be better than that! When a new one arrived, he gave me the previous week’s to devour.
My cousin Charlie’s son Chad (Chad Finn) is a sports columnist today for the Globe. I was pleased to meet Chad at a family gathering a few years back at Old Orchard Beach. Very self-satisfied, I told him that I bought my Globe every day at the Middlebury Market.
“So you’re the guy!” he said. “We’re all wondering at the Globe, ‘Who’s that guy in Vermont still buying the hard copy paper?’”
How’s that for a nice connection? Chad writes a sports column in the national daily newspaper with the best sports department in the country, and I, his elderly cousin, write a sports column for the best local weekly newspaper in the country.
I have always liked to read the newspaper in my car. For me, like a lot of men (old-fashioned men), the car is my refuge, nothing hurts there. I’m safe. My friends would often see me reading in my car on College Street near the little market at the bottom of the hill (Doria’s, Emilio’s, Lyon’s Place, Sama’s, Shire Town, et al.).
In 1995-96, I spent an idyllic school year living in Ogunquit, Maine, in its quiet offseason, living right on the Marginal Way. My wife, Brett, a tenured professor at Middlebury, had a scheduled sabbatical and I was granted a leave. We had a little baby boy, Peter, just a few months old, and big dog, Bodie.
In the mornings, Peter would wake and be fed about 5 a.m., and then I would take him out in the car to one of coastal Maine’s breakfast spots so his mom could sleep. A favorite was the Maine Diner in Wells. I’d grab a Globe from the newspaper dispenser (two quarters) and we’d have breakfast — his was a few Cheerios, mine was more substantial.
After the excitement of breakfast, he was ready for a nap, so we headed for any of a number of scenic spots overlooking the ocean and I would read my Globe while he slept.
One of my favorite newspaper rituals, now that I’m retired (Peter is 27!), is driving to Maplefields in Middlebury with my dog, Paco, and grabbing a breakfast sandwich, coffee, and the Globe. We then go sit in the parking lot at Greg’s Market and spend a great hour together. I give him the sports section when I’m finished with it (he can’t actually read, but we both like the pretense).
The Globe now costs four dollars a copy (six dollars on Sunday). That’s $30 a week, $120 a month. It adds up. The Globe my dad brought home cost a dime. I can remember buying it for a quarter. We also subscribe online for $27 a month, a fraction of the hard copy expense.
My financial adviser and budget manager (wife!) advises me that this expense will not break the bank, and I am otherwise something of a cheap date. Nonetheless, it seems to me an extravagance as I can read the same copy online. As a New England Yankee and a Swede to boot, I am both culturally and genetically restrained from extravagance.
I am trying, then, to move from reading the hard copy newspaper to reading it electronically on my computer. This transition won’t be cold turkey — I can’t do that to Paco — but I am trying to cut back.
Deep in my nature, however, is the tactile enjoyment of reading the newspaper, an activity in and of itself, fundamentally separate from the life we lead now on our screens, which for old guys like me, seems excessive.
If you see me in town, on a day when I’m parked in my car, reading the Globe, likely with Paco, feel free to tap on the window (these days, we might both be napping).
I’ll lower it and we can chat, person to person, no screens between us.
Karl Lindholm, Ph.D., a retired Middlebury College dean and faculty member, can be contacted at [email protected]
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