Still in love with print

Kathy and I were in charge of grandchildren Will and Norah (ages 11 and 7) this past weekend while their parents David and Erin were out of town. The kids were at our house in Jefferson from Friday morning till late Sunday afternoon, then we all drove to their home in Adel and stayed there until Monday afternoon, when their folks returned.

We’re both retired. Our usual morning routine is to wake up about 7 or so, make coffee, turn on a TV morning show and read the Des Moines Register, the print edition of which awaits us on our front porch.

Our role as temporary child care providers over the four-day weekend altered the schedule. 

The four of us entertained each other, as you might expect. A highlight for me was winning a Monopoly game against Will, a rare outcome in our long-running series of those contests. The kids greatly enjoyed Sunday afternoon at Deal’s Orchard’s playground.

Monday morning in Adel was different from our normal routine, of course. The grandkids had to be at the school bus stop across the street from their house at 7:20, and that goal was achieved, with Kathy doing most of the heavy lifting. 

But there was no Des Moines Register on the front porch in the morning. 

Dave and Erin, like many of their generation, stay current electronically through their cellphones or their laptops.

I felt almost undressed without the Register print edition to go with my morning coffee. It’s been part of my life for most of my 78 years, and the day feels unbalanced when it’s not available.

So after the kids headed out the door, and coffee was made, I made a newspaper and doughnut run to the Adel Casey’s. Kathy and I sank into easy chairs in the living room and performed our standard rite — trading newspaper sections and quaffing our steaming brew.

Print journalism is of more than passing interest for me, the natural result of an editing and publishing career. 

I read the Register with an almost unconscious editor’s eye, applauding well-turned phrases and disapproving awkward syntax. 

Kathy takes a similar approach as the former editor of the student newspaper of her large Minnesota high school. 

I appreciate the immediacy of electronic news, of course. Several times a day I turn on a cable TV news channel or check a news source on my laptop. (I haven’t yet felt the need for a smartphone, and remain satisfied with my flip-top, at least for now. I’m sure the time is coming for my transition to the 21st century, but I’m smug in my resistance as of yet.)

T.S. Eliot penned a brief, wry poem that I suspect may describe my relationship with the Des Moines Register. It’s entitled “The Boston Evening Transcript.” It’s only nine lines long, but it deftly makes clear how he regarded that paper’s readers. 

The operative phrase:

“When evening quickens faintly in the street, wakening the appetites of life in some and to others bringing The Boston Evening Transcript ...”

Eliot’s observation rings true even though he wrote it in 1920. 

Many of life’s appetites live mostly in memory for me today, but my appetite for the daily newspaper print edition remains as strong as ever. 

When I finish this column I’ll pour another cup of strong coffee and tackle the crossword.

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Jefferson, IA 50129

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