The years were 1988 and so on. Dad Jay would deposit me, sometimes still sleeping, into the arms of Lola Mommy in the early a.m., on days when both parents worked. No one was ever awake. The sun wasn’t awake. The cat wasn’t awake. It was only Lola and Lolo Daddy, in that gray morning light, cigarette smoke and coffee wisps, the newspaper rustling, balanced between Lolo Daddy’s delicate hands.
Every morning, before even my early arrival, Lolo Daddy would wake. Cane in hand, to ward off potential attackers, he strolled down the walkway to retrieve his daily Chicago Tribune. He read it until 8 a.m. And this is key: he read it cover to cover. Cover-to-cover. Every word, every line, my mother swears by it, he missed nothing. Every car ad. Every obituary. Every job listing. Perhaps this was indicative of his past in the Philippines, as a prolific attorney. But even deep into his nineties he maintained a supernatural recollection of all major and minor dates and figures, of all their historical meanings. To me, my grandfather possessed the brightest, most wonderful intellect one can acquire in a full lifetime. It was a warm intelligence, sincerely interested in everything. I promised myself that, one day, when I become an adult, I would read a newspaper just like him. Cover-to-cover. Hence #3 on the list: learn to read a newspaper properly.
Let’s be honest. This was a terrible week to try this. It was the week of my unfortunate downloading of the addictive Draw Something… I’m not nearly qualified as an “adult”… Also, as the cosmos would have it, this happens to be a horrible decade to attempt something so archaic. To blog the obvious, we are living in a digital age. News travels via email, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, second-hand gossip. The little bit of everything. Knowledge without foundation. It was a week flooded with pictures from Coachella. It was the week Angelina and Brad have become engaged. The week Dick Clark passed away, and is publicly mourned and replaced by his “good friend” Ryan Seacrest. And thanks to it being election year, I am privy to almost everyone’s good opinion on Facebook, which, as you know, instantly morph into FACT the moment they are shared/published…
This past Sunday I decided to buy a paper. Chicago Tribune. The Sunday paper. The motherload. Also, for some inexplicable reason, I bought a giant bag of Andy Capp’s Hot Fries (which I hadn’t had in forever!). Settling down comfortably, I began immediately. I read about all the fracking going on in Fairfield, Illinois. The article detailed the large drill pumping millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals into the earth, which instantly reminded me of the great Dr. Who episode with the underground lizard people. This led to a two minute fantasy conversation with Matt Smith in my head. Nothing creepy! I would just casually bring up my love for deep sea creatures, which would inevitably charm him with a deep sense of my random whimsicality.
I shook my head. I was uncomfortable. How do I sit? Flipping back to page one, after following yet another one of its story leads, I found the shape of my paper noticeably flimsier. Looking over, my teacup was empty. Eight pages into the Tribune, and I realized something. An hour and a half had passed. This, after only reading about the increasing number of college students learning overseas. This after a story covering Bacon Fest 2012. This after realizing I have a terrible habit of skipping titles before registering the article’s content. Is this because of the Internet? I asked myself, mortified. Has my attention span become so poisoned by only reading what interests me? But I wasn’t reading only what interests me. This was an official 30 things endeavor. I was roughing it. I was reading, with furrowed brow, about the upcoming NATO summit (which is going to make for terrible traffic, was my initial thought). I read off every item in a Walmart ad, comparing its receipt to a Jewel’s receipt. The Old El Paso taco seasoning. The Del Monte canned peaches. She saved 20%!
With a heavy heart, I thought about what my intellect is made of. True, there are many passions. But substantially, I know much of my general knowledge has been built to come off as “passable,” to conceal the many, many things I do not know. Grade school all over again — no idea how I passed.
My heart beat noticeably faster when I realized I could skip a few articles. That is, articles I had read already (continued from the first page) allowed me to collect $200. Two hours, three bathroom breaks, and a quarter bag of Hot Fries later, I folded my messy handful of the Tribune’s first section and tossed it onto a nearby chair. I felt like I usually feel after running a block: wheezy but accomplished.
I will break this epic Rocky narration to let you know that the part one of this endeavor obviously has a part two, and possibly a three or four. While I proceeded to read the comics, wondered where Brenda Starr is, and caught up on Nation & World, Business totally wore me down. One look at the Sports section, and I decided to call it a day. Five hours, after all, had passed. I left this first day endeavor like a warrior, just returning from Chuck E Cheese. I looked down at my hard won prizes. Apparently on this same day, the great icon of my life, Greta Garbo died in 1990. Weather patterns are quite pretty, when Tom Skilling is there to explain them. Someone was selling all their brand new, Ralph Lauren furniture for cheap. They Hemingway’ed the explanation: “Must sell due to divorce.” Most noticeably there is a Pets section. Lab pups.
I’m well beyond my Thursday blogging tradition. It is now Friday, 12:30 in the a.m. and I still have so much to tell you. In the past five days, reading the paper with growing adeptness has enlightened me, dare I say, changed me. All the things I thought were beyond me, I’ve somehow been able to pick them up, tangible, truths, facts. I’m astounded by how much a newspaper informs! More astonishing is how much I’ve absorbed, and independent of subjects I’m peripherally interested in. Shockingly the Arts + Entertainment section has been least useful to me.
I need to end this. It is getting late. I will say, besides reading about NATO members as if they were trading cards, and the Japanese architect who designed a cardboard Cathedral to replace one destroyed in a New Zealand earthquake, one of my favorite things from this week was being introduced to columnist Mary Schmich. On Monday, she won a Pulitzer for her commentary. She also, WAIT FOR IT, wrote Brenda Starr. She was touted as someone who connected readers to her very human stories, etc. Mostly I was moved by her Wednesday ‘thanks.’ She wanted to “introduce Chicago people to each other. Make the city visible. Make it feel like a small town. Stories.”
Amazing. So real.