Monday, March 19, 2018

The Sunday Paper: In Three Parts

Part I: The News
The Sunday before last, I woke up earlier than usual, especially considering it was Daylight Savings. While my morning chai brewed in the machine, I went out, all Tony Soprano style in my robe and slippers, to get the morning paper. Thankfully, no one was there to whack me and I was able to retrieve my tea from the machine then shuffle over to the kitchen table to read the paper. I repeated the same steps this past weekend, though it was much later. I'm thinking Daylight Savings might have caught up with me.

I still enjoy reading the Sunday paper. Sure, the news is rarely good and our local paper's Sunday edition isn't what it used to be, but there is still something about sitting down with a cup of chai (or coffee if that's your poison) and dissecting it part by part, from the hard news of the day to checking if someone has lamb chops on sale this week. Regretfully, there are no lamb chops on sale this week and the beast that was the Sunday paper once is now a mere pamphlet by comparison. I wonder, though, if that is more my own sense of romance affecting the memory of the experience, as is that case with many of things I reflect back on with only my memories to remember them by. There was a magic to the Sunday paper that just isn't there anymore. I can't determine if that's because of my own memories, my present perspective, the changing way that we consume news or the physical changes to the paper itself.

The Sunday paper wasn't just a report on what happened the day before, but a review and a preview. A look back at the week that was and a look forward to the week that will be. IN a day and age of instant information access, I understand that it might be hard for someone to see the appeal of reading the Sunday paper. I was so struck by the memories, I wrote down what I was thinking.

Part II: The Insterts
Okay, this is the get off my lawn section.

Growing up, I was a paper boy. (For this I am using the masculine with apologies. I know there were paper girls but I was a paper boy.)

It was a largely thankless job where the money didn't match the effort. The adults I trusted took advantage of the cheap, willing labor, nickel and diming us every chance they got like modern day versions of Fagin, relying on us to not only deliver the papers but act as bill collectors on "collecting night." What twelve year old is ready for a career in bill collection? Seriously, we would've made piss poor loan sharks. I was thinking about this as I read the paper. Not the loan shark part. That's all handled by computers now and the paper is now delivered by adults in cars. What got me thinking about my former career was this:

This would've been unacceptable. Like phone call from our Fagin unacceptable.

Three parts. Unassembled. And wrong.

We had to put the paper together. If you were smart, you did the inserts on Saturday because the Saturday paper was the smallest paper. The inserts were the ads and preprinted parts of the paper that you had to put into the Sunday paper. It involved your paper bag, a huge cart and endless prayers to the gods of wind, rain and snow. Then delivered to the front door between the storm door and main door. Locked storm doors or no storm doors were a nightmare. That's not the case anymore. Instead the paper is stuffed into my mailbox in three parts. Meaning I have to shuffle to the mailbox to get the paper. I'm too lazy to complain about it, but it's vexing. I think of all the tips I missed because a storm door didn't close right and a paper blew away. Or a dog got to it. Or it got wet on a porch with no door. At least my paper is dry, I suppose.

Part III: The Sports Section
Growing up, my father had a rule about the Sunday paper: no one was allowed to read it until he was done with it. He didn't like it out of order.

It was such a weird, random thing. If you've ever seen his workbench or any of the garages he's had in his life, you would know that this was the most out of character thing ever. This was frustrating because the only sections I ever read were the ones he didn't: the sports section and the Stars (books and movies, right?). He never relented. He studied the comics like there was going to be a test and endlessly scanned the classifieds for garage sales to peruse. So, I would wait.

I don't read the sports section anymore. I'm not sure why. Is it that, like so many others, I can get any sports related information I want when I want it? As I was writing this, I checked the score of Bournemouth-Tottenham soccer match several times on my phone. Or is it that, like the paper, the sports section isn't what it used to be. I had a whole section of this about box scores, but I've decided to save it for another blog post.

Writing about sports takes a skill that eludes me. In another universe, I am a famous sports pundit pontificating about the underappreciated greatness of LeBron James, Doug Gottlieb's petty and intense dislike of Syracuse University basketball or the sham that is the NCAA. But we aren't in that universe. My deleted sports blog is proof of that elusive skill. Some of the best writing out there right now is sports writing. Deadspin, Bleacher Report, Yahoo Sports and even the Four Letter are doing amazing things these days. But not so much on the local level.

I criticize my local paper a lot. They've fallen into the trend of fishing for clicks rather than good reporting. I was shocked to find out that reporters load stories online almost exactly the way that I load this blog. No editorial oversight. Just write it and put it out. That's dangerous. Then there's SLOW news days.

Slow news days means rolling out the overpaid teacher narrative. It never fails. It gets clicks. Lots and lots of clicks. The basement crowd loves the overpaid teacher narrative. Because, y'know, we do this for the money. Ah, I'm ranting about the job. I'll stop here. If you need me, I'll be double checking the ads to see if someone has lamb chops on sale.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A Pocketful of Hope And a Smidge of Talent.

Why write?

The question was first posed to me a few years back. Now that I think about it, it was many years back, when we first started doing the now regretfully discontinued summer writing institute at school. We developed the simple but thoughtful essential question of "Why write?" It is a question I am thinking about this morning. The thought is so important that despite setting a goal of surpassing 70k on GIRL IN THE PICTURE today (I'm presently at 67,776 words), I'm writing this instead. The catalyst for all the thought was another terrific blog post by my friend Brian Fay (If you aren't reading his blog, you are doing it wrong. All of it wrong!) about the occasional (or chronic) feeling of futility in hope and the overwhelming disappointment we feel when what we are hoping for doesn't work out.

I'm going to admit that I was kind of bummed for Brian when I read his post. Brian is a beacon. I find his posts inspiring. We are birds of a feather, in many ways, having many of the same thoughts, struggles feelings and frustrations. I have no idea what the thing he was hoping for was, but I was crushed for him, but I've been there.

If you follow me on social networks (especially Twitter), you know that I am one for throwing myself a good old fashioned pity party. You also know that I am an avid fan of show RICK AND MORTY and on of my favorite things that came from that show is the phrase, "WUBBALUBBADUBDUB!"

It's one of Rick's catch phrases and said in times when Rick is trying to break tension or express that he's having a good time. We came to find out from Rick's best friend Birdperson (it's a batshit crazy show if you aren't familiar with it) that it actually means, "I am in great pain, please help me." I understand Rick, especially in moments when writing let's me down. And I find myself asking that essential question from the writing institute: "Why write?"

Well, it's a simple answer: I write because I can't not write.

I've tried not writing. The summer I met my wife was a tumultuous summer. It was as close to the lowest I've ever been. I decided sometime in the late spring that I wasn't going to write for a while. I was frustrated with writing. With life. With myself. I needed to clear my head. This was a massive mistake. I should've been using writing to get me through what I was going through, working on my craft and getting better at what I was doing. It took months to get back into it and the lack of discipline still impedes me to this day. But in the end, I couldn't not write.

I've been told that rejection is part of the publishing/writing game. And it can be pretty hopeless sometimes. When the rejections pile up, it's almost easy to put on a smiling face, brush it off to the "business of writing" and cry out "WUBBALUBBADUBDUB!" I have to reset myself. Find the hope again.

JK Rowling was told not to quit her day job.

LORD OF THE FLIES was rejected 20 times.

John LeCarre was told he doesn't have a future as a writer.

A WRINKLE IN TIME was passed on 26 times.

Stephen King saw 30 plus rejection slips before CARRIE came out.

Am I any different from them?

No. And I get back on the horse. Like many things in life, things come in waves. Ebbs and flows. Pools and eddies. Of joy and pain. Of hope and disappointment. I refuse to let it break me. In the end, the only things I have is my talent and a pocket full of hope.

It might just be enough.