I’m not a news hound and had never considered subscribing to a paper before. I was, however, always on the hunt for paper products with which to start my wood burning stove. I quickly became a newspaper connoisseur, discovering that different newspapers had different burn potential. The worst one is The Good Times-the local and alas free weekly rag here in Santa Cruz. The Good Times smolders and makes a lot of smoke, but never really catches. I have a well-to-do neighbor who heard of my search and offered me a stack of his Wall Street Jounal that were headed to the recycle bin. I’m here to say-nothing burns like the Wall Street Journal.
Actually, it burns so fantastically, that I decided to get a subscription, just a weekend subscription, in order to ensure that I would always have fire starter on hand. After my first few deliveries, I thought I may as well peruse the paper before setting fire to it, since I had, in fact, paid for it. As I suspected, the pages of business and stock market info held no interest for me. But it turns out they have a stellar book review section, advice on fashion from millenials (God help us), a recipe of the week which I often enjoy clipping and cooking, a new and interesting products section many of which I have sought out and tried (I now use”Just Date Syrup” to sweeten my coffee), a travel piece, and obviously-the news. As the weeks went by, I forayed into the opinion section. While Peggy Noonan and I are on opposite sides of the political fence, I find her well thought out and well spoken and I often find myself thinking that while I may not agree, I can see where she is coming from and why. On the other hand, I find Holman W. Jenkins Jr. to be an entitled, pompus, windbag who I am certain belonged to a fraternity at some point in his life. There are some weeks when I just don’t have the fortitude to read his column.
There have also been unintended consequences to having a newspaper. I was sitting in the cafeteria at the hospital where I work one morning, reading my paper and having some coffee. A flight nurse who I knew by face, but not by name, stopped and commented, “Oh my gosh. A newspaper? I can’t remember the last time I saw an actual black and white newspaper.” We had a whole discussion about it. He hesitated and then asked if he might pull up a chair and read the section I was done with. He was more than welcome to. And so we sat in companionable silence, he doing the crossword, while I read about a new and exotic travel destination. It was such pleasant company and now there is a new friendly face at work. I find that this happens at the dentist office, at the auto shop, etc. People find a newspaper a topic of conversation. I like how it draws strangers and makes them smile instead of putting up a wall that says “don’t bother me” the way headphones or a laptop does.
Also at work, one of the other x-ray techs said she noticed I often had a copy of the Wall Street Journal. She enquired as to whether she might have them when I was done. I hated to disappoint, but the truth was that their most vital function was to start my fire at home, so I couldn’t give them away. She thought about it and came back the next week suggesting that she just borrow them and return them to me the following week. To sweeten the deal, she’d throw in the occasional copy of the New York Times. My curiosity was piqued. I had yet to burn a copy of the New York Times. How would it hold up to the flammable qualities of the Wall Street Journal?
We now have a whole system worked out. We rarely cross paths as our shifts are opposite. When I’m done with an issue of the Wall Street Journal I put it in a special hidey-hole in the old dark room with a yellow post it note in case anyone but the intended recipient should find it. Sooner or later it reappears-minus a few clipped articles-in my locker which is never locked. Now and then The New York Times also appears, rolled up and battered with a grey rubber band around it.
And in case you were wondering, the Wall Street Journal still reigns supreme. Nothing, but nothing burns like the Wall Street Journal.