I fully appreciate the irony of what I'm about to write, seeing as how you're probably reading this online, but after experimenting with reading the news online, I've re-subscribed to a daily local paper. I tried it for about a month. I told myself it was less expensive, created less (though recyclable) waste, and put far less clutter on my kitchen table.
And it just didn't work. One of my most cherished routines is the morning crossword. My grandfather did it every day, in pen, and rarely missed a clue. My mother does the crossword each day, although she alternates between pen and pencil. Me? It's Grandpa's way or no way (sorry, Mom). In pen, one can always see one's mistakes. Life is messy, and so is a good crossword, but eventually, the struggle will produce the right answers. In honor of my grandmother, I also do the Jumble, and also in pen. It, too, is messy sometimes, and sometimes, as with the crossword, when you just get to where you can't figure out any more, you just have to walk away with it unfinished, accept the temporary defeat, and dig into a new puzzle again the next morning. Could the life-metaphor be any clearer?
With the computer version of the crossword, I figured out every puzzle, every time. There's a "hint" button or a "solve" button, and because I'm only human, I always "figured out" the right answers. No scratch outs, no blank spaces. There was some silly little "ta da" music that played when you finished the last square, and a silly little congratulatory message appeared on the screen. But that's not real life, that's ensured , unearned success. No, thanks.
Spread out on the kitchen table, a full newspaper doesn't invite others into the space. The quiet after the kids leave for school, the quiet before a busy day begins. And, now that everyone is older, an extra benefit from the paper version of the crossword is that when I can't get a few answers, I leave the paper open to the page. Then, sometimes by evening, a few more squares are filled in. Maybe I came back to it with a little clarity or memory-jog. But more often, a family member has taken a stab at it, and our combined wisdom solves the puzzle.
I like discovering the themes of the puzzles. Sometimes they're so esoteric as to be ridiculous, and of no help whatsoever in solving the actual clues. Sometimes they're punny, and I like those the best, because it stretches my wordplay. And as all of us regular cross-worders know, the puzzle gets harder as the week goes on. It's an odd progression toward Shabbat, frankly, when things are supposed to get easier. But, again…the metaphor for my week is there. If the beginning of the work week is tough, well, at least I'll be successful with the crossword. If the end of the week gets harder, well, it's mirrored by the crossword, and it marshals my resolve for the tasks ahead.
I also like the comics on the same page. Most are idiotic, true. But every once in a while, in a very low-tech kind of way, one comic strip will really make me laugh. Or, in the case of "Doonesbury", nod vigorously, wince, smirk, or get angry. "Doonesbury" will always be the focus of the comics page. Mike Doonesbury appeared around 1970, when he started college and I was halfway through high school. Doonesbury was just that much ahead of me in life, and has been for all of these 40+ years. How many 40 year-long relationships do you still have that still spark some fire like that?
I do get around to the news, by the way. In a very linear way, reading one article at a time, instead of coming across an everpresent blue "click here" attention-diverter in online reading. I read things I wouldn't ordinarily read, because the articles are right there on the table, and one learns all sorts of things that way. And yes, I do a lot of online reading of articles, journals, blogs, and digests. They have their place on the kitchen table, but not in the morning.
Yesterday morning, my paper was back in the driveway (how else do you know what kind of a day it is if you don't walk out and get the paper? Please don't talk to me about exercising or walking the dog.) Back to the pen and paper.