Somehow I have become incapable of buying a newspaper. Worse than that, it never even occurs to me to buy a newspaper; I have to get my news on the fly, or, of course, from television–but the tantalising point here is that somehow I consider newspapers to be like artifacts, something you find when you are out, rummaging around in the world. Even though I say “artifacts” I don’t mean newspapers are now relics, or only of historical interest; I recognise that newspapers are nothing if not current. They belong to today; we all know there is nothing more useless than yesterdays’ newspapers, since 98% of what is in them proves of no blinking interest the very next day. They can be regarded as a supplement, and most people need some fill of them; but the point is, not me–I exist without newspapers because, as I have noted, I no longer even think of buying one. And yet, behold me in the presence of a newspaper spied on a table at Starbucks. I can’t wait to get my hands on it, and if I can get my hands on it I will devour it. I am a kind of saboteur in regards to newspapers; I like nothing better than to read a newspaper, if only I can find one lying around–say, in waiting rooms, at the Hyundai dealer or the dentist, where my person is stripped of pride, and I am like waiting for some verdict and thus have become susceptible, precisely, to headlines. Or I am at Starbucks, which I consider one of my workplaces, and am therefore most pleased to encounter sudden opportunities for taking a break from what are enormous mental labors. Reading a newspaper is both a satisfying and a slothful affair; and by the end of it, having gone through all the sections of the newspaper, even the Lifestyle section, I feel both like a criminal, and a victim of a crime. Both stuffed and empty. Up to date, and hopelessly behind.
Analogies abound, for reading a newspaper is not simple, is no longer routine, but actually an odd thing to be doing. It is merely personal. (Reading news reports on the computer is even odder!–even more arcane, I would say.)
Now as I have said, I never go out of my way to get a newspaper, but am always delighted when one shows up in my immediate path. I’ll even snatch them off tables, if they are unattended, and hasten to a corner table, with my iced coffee, for what can be described as a rendez-vous, a session with an old pal, a kind of tete-a-tete. It is incredible how I react to newspapers. I want to make this clear. If I spot it, I will wait with my eyes trained on some upside down Sports Section headline, and move to get it if it remains unclaimed. And, I repeat, it never occurs to me to buy one, carry it around as my own possession, take it in the car. Or bring it home. I don’t think I have walked in the house with a newspaper in the last ten years! I just react, when I see one out in the world, and can’t wait to get my hands on it, and get diving into it. Of course I treat the whole outside world like some adventure filled terrain, but–that is the larger story. Often I go so far (and you are going to like this, reader) as to fold up and pocket certain pages–that’s right, fold up and put in my jacket pocked or slip into my notebook certain articles I have come across. Heart racing, this is seems like real thievery; and I act like this article (like the one on Tom Grasso’s idea to recreate a section of the old Erie Canal downtown) can be gotten no other way. (Like buying my own copy.) I have even surreptitiously ripped articles out of such a found newspaper, therefore mangling it, just because I took a proprietary interest in that story, then and there. I am a desperate character,I can see that. Always looking for a mystery, or a one-of-a-kind project that might reconnect me to the world. The world!–that I guess I now must feel nostalgic for. Nostalgic for that world of engagement, where, believe it or not reader, I once was a lowly newspaper reporter myself. Maybe that is it! Sheer trauma, being cut off as a result of some catastrophe I cannot reconfigure, has caused this. Something has caused this.
I ask, have you found this out by watching yourself closely, or is it this watching yourself so closely that causes these very conditions, and this behavior, so that only a spiralling despair, or a mounting exhilaration, can ensue? Hmm . . . I am tempted to say, the latter. That is, the super alert watching produces the exhilaration! Otherwise, I am surely finished. Everything I say is the result of having wanted originally to just say things. What could be simpler? I am self-fulfilling prophecy of self-consciousness. Nobody can do backflips like I can. You might think I am standing in front of you, but I am actually running in place. My inability to buy a newspaper is clearly a result of having questioned myself severely in a previous series of purchases. Eventually embarrassed and abased and traumatised by the repeated futility of trying to find out what was going on in reality, I stopped buying newspapers, and could no longer sanction that most normal way of getting them. Morbid curiosity remained, or rather legitimate amazement–that the world even continued. Both interpretations are equally valid and evidence can be gathered for each. Newspapers are commonly lying around like fixtures, part of the setting, I have seen seven or either of them just today. They frequently fall under one’s gaze, and seem numberless, and multiplying, and we are awash in this culture of printed material. Hmm . . . thinking about it from that angle, maybe I am actually acting quite normally.