Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Head in the Sand

Building Sand Castles
My Head in the Sand

Back when I lived in the Windy City I subscribed to the Chicago Tribune, called by its publisher, Colonel McCormick, the “World’s Greatest Newspaper”. In those days it listed farther to the right than any newspaper in existence. This was the paper which ran the famous banner headline: “Dewey Defeats Truman”. The Sunday edition was approximately four inches thick and so heavy I had to separate it and drag it into the house, once section at a time. If I plunked the whole thing on the coffee table all at once, the legs splayed out like a spavined horse. I started with the front page and worked my way through the entire paper, section by section, a task which consumed a major portion of my day.

If that wasn’t enough, I regularly watched the televised news. This was back in the day when I had to cross the room to change channels, switching back and forth between Huntley-Brinkley and Walter Cronkite. I was mesmerized by the monster of the airwaves. I watched every hour of both local and national news. I became a news junkie. News began to take over every aspect of my life. It was not pretty. The more news I consumed, the more deeply I sank into a morass of depression. I couldn’t separate my personal problems from the problems of people in the news. I couldn’t get enough. I upped my intake. It only made me worse. In the grocery store I sneaked the National Enquirer into my cart and pretended it was not mine while the checker totaled my bill. By the end of each day I was sick to my stomach.

My addiction escalated. One day friends found me lying in an alley, wrapped in layers of newsprint, clutching a copy of “TV Guide”. I was incoherent, spoke only editorial-ese. My friends forced me to take a rigorous inventory. They made me admit I was powerless over the hours I spent immersed in stories of murder, mayhem, war, scandal, fraud, sex-crimes and political misconduct. Diagnosis: overdose. Prognosis: potentially fatal.

I was terrified. I broke it off cold turkey. With one phone call I cut off my supply of newsprint. With white knuckles I pulled the plug on the tube and trundled it down to the basement storage room. There I found an ancient, crumbly stack of “Archie” comics, left by a former renter. I carted the comics upstairs. They became sugar-pill placebos to aid in my recovery. I plowed through the stack, one day at a time. Memories of Archie, Jughead, Veronica and Betty still make me smile, though I have not read a comic book since.

Today I do not subscribe to a major daily, but I am an avid supporter of my local newspapers. I am seldom nauseated by the headlines, and rarely spend a day paralyzed with horror over world events. I appreciate the Havre Daily News because the editors carefully choose what national and international news is most important and they don’t obsess over the sexual antics of famous people. I value the weekly Blaine County Journal. It keeps me up to date on the latest happenings in my immediate neighborhood.

My little world, which directly influences my life and which I, in turn, might influence, is small indeed. I want to know on what day is the pancake supper at the fire-hall, when is the health fair scheduled, and who won the basketball tournament. It is important to me that the agenda for the city council meeting be available to the community. And we all need to know about the projected raise in water rates and the city clean-up day. And where else could I search for a battered old pick-up truck at the right price, something to haul garden debris and landscape rock, if not in my local want ads.

So what if I have sand in both eyes and ears. In this age of electronic information, I do not feel disconnected. If I needed, for whatever reason, a more comprehensive view of an event, I could go on-line to read any newspaper in the world. Meanwhile, I’ll play ostrich.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door.
May 13, 2010

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