Voices: Morning paper: Digesting news minus distractions

Voices: Morning paper: Digesting news minus distractions

By MIKE PEMBERTON

The older I get the earlier I awake. If the trend continues, I'll be rising at 4 a.m., eating supper in midafternoon and hitting the hay at 8 in the evening. The jokes about senior citizens' early bird dinner specials taking a different, more practical meaning to me.

"You know," I said to my wife, Yolanda, one morning over the newspaper, "and I'm not sayin' we'll ever do it, but eating early kinda makes sense if you're startin' the day before dawn.I mean, think about the pioneers,Ben Franklin, early to bed, early to rise ... all that jazz."

"Aye, vato," she says, slipping into Spanish when aggravated,"we're not eating before five and you're staying awake with me until ten to watch thenews. I'm not ready to live with an old man."

Sometimes, around 9:30, I'll nudge her awake, both of us asleep on the couch and we'll stumbleupstairs to bed. With the hard-earned judgment of a man married for over 20 years, I make no comment about living with an "old woman."

As for rising early, Ben Franklin was correct regarding thepluses. I can write, checkemail, and take a soul-centering run through my slumbering small town.

But it also gives me time to read the morning paper while drinking a cup of steaming coffee, two practices which Ben would approve.The solitary act of reading the newspaper gives methe chance toconsiderthe news of the day at mypace with no carnival barking announcers, flashing "ALERTS," or gold commercials touting the end of the world. Apparently a lock box filled with precious metal makes economic Armageddon palatable.

A newspaper has none of these distractions. We are in control of the process, interacting with a newspaper in ways we do not with other media.We read what we choose, lingering over an article or ad that catches our attention — no intrusive pop-ups — scanning past those that do not. We separate the thin pages with our fingertips, smell the "fresh off the press" scent, hear the snap, crackle, pop as we crisply fold it to the shapewe desire.

Of course, not everyone has time to read the paper in the morning o rhas delivery available, but, as an addict, I find ways to get my fix. When I lived in downtown Chicago and rode the El to work I purchased the Chicago Sun-Times at a newspaper stand. I chose the Sun-Times not because I thought it was a better paper than the Tribune, but for its tabloid design which made it easierto read on a crowded train.

When Yolanda and I lived in Dallas and drove to work, dropping the kids off at day care along the way, there was no time to read theDallas Morning News. Busy with two toddlers we never woke up earlier than necessary. So I read the paper on my lunch break as I munched a sandwich.

Most people have an order in which they read a paper. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warrenf amously said: "I always turn to thesports page first, which records people's accomplishments.The front page has nothing but man's failures."

As a sports fan, and a person who grows weary ofan increasingly dysfunctional world, I enjoythe sports page as well. The Champaign-Urbana based News-Gazette, our daily, has one of the best. But I save sports for last. First,because for me, like Earl Warren, it is the most entertaining and satisfying section so I savor it like dessert. Second, and more practically, Yolanda and I share a love of the morning paper.

Since I awake about an hour before her, there is usually no conflict. But remember, I've been happily married for over 20 years. That's no accident. To preserve early morning peace I read the hard news, editorial and local sections before she comes downstairs. These are Yolanda's favoritesand she pores over them like she's preparing for the bar exam, mumbling in Spanish when she disagrees with apoint of view offered in a column or editorial.

I also scan the obituaries for those that pique my curiosity. Some may think this macabre, but for me the obits highlight an individual's accomplishments. They provide insight into the deceased's lifeby recordinglineage, loves and passions. When an individual has lived a long and productive life the list of parents, spouse, children, siblings and friends go on for paragraphs followed by the place of birth and arecounting of a life well-lived.

Even in the tragedy of a life cut short, there is a line or two about the individual's love of family, friends, music, reading, model trains, doll houses, school or any number of passions. These obits teach us that the joy we bring to those who know us is not in direct proportion to the time spent together. You certainly will not learn such lessons by listening to the clipped obits on the radio, which state the date of death and the burial time.

No, it is the newspaper which gives us the breadth and depth of coverage we need to digest local, national and international events. From coverage of church bake sales to the machinations of an international economy, from high school softball scores to the Olympics, from the death of a fellow you knew as Frederick, but his friends called "Spud," the newspaper covers it all.

Most importantly,for an "old man" like me, I don't have to stay up until 10 to learn about it all.

Mike Pemberton's short stories have appeared in such literary journals as Aethlon, Touchstone and Euphemism. His first novel, "Transcendental Basketball Blues," was published in 2011. He lives in Hoopeston and can be contacted at http://www.mikepembertonbooks.com.

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