Do I dart outside in my bare feet to pick the New York Times up off the front walkway? No! Today is the first day of my canceled subscription. I'd maintained that subscription since 1984 when I moved from New York City to Madison, Wisconsin. How happy I was back then to learn that you could get the Times delivered here.
In my favorite movie, "My Dinner With Andre," there's the moment of great relief when -- after an hour or so of Andre Gregory's rambling tales of avant-garde theater in strange places around the world -- Wallace Shawn finally asks if Andre would like to hear his response to all of that. And Wally's idea is that it doesn't make much sense to do all these unusual things in search of real life, because real life is right where you are in your real life. He says he can't imagine anything better than living with his girlfriend (Debbie), reading a book (specifically, the autobiography of Charlton Heston), and getting up in the morning to find his old cup of coffee (and it's pure bonus that no cockroach has died in it overnight). He exclaims:
Isn't it pleasant just to get up in the morning? The Times is there. You can read it.And for all these years that I've had the New York Times delivered, I've thought of that line, that line that expresses the joy of ordinary life: "The Times is there. You can read it." But now, the NYT is not here.
It's here on line. And the truth is, I've been doing nearly all my reading of it lately on line -- often with the still folded paper right next to the laptop. But this symbol of real life, the paper, is gone. The coffee is real. It's not on line. The news is real. It was never in the paper. "What's in the newspaper?" is a funny expression. Or is "the news" only the human expression about things observed in the world? If something happened and no one reported on it, would there still be news? If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? Do we need that tree mashed into pulp to make paper to print the news for the news to be news? I think the news must be reported for it to be news, so, in fact, the news really is in the newspaper, but the newspaper doesn't need to be paper.
So I'll be reading on line now. Ironically, what pushes me over the edge to canceling the subscription is moving back to New York City. But I'm not in New York yet. I've got my keys to the apartment, but I'm still here in Madison, Wisconsin, where it's light out now, and life is real.
It's not 1984: