MWD55 - On Obituaries and Horoscopes

Or why I just can't quit my newspaper habit

Welcome to Midweek DinnerThere’s a whole story behind that name, something about the way Wednesday creeps up on you, and you have to cobble together a meal out of whatever you can scrounge from the fridge. And yes, sometimes there is talk of food in this place. But mostly it’s about what I’ve been reading, in print and online; or what I’ve been thinking, in clarity and confusion; or what I am hoping, in fear and in joy. And you are always invited to join in.

—— The best conversations take place around the dinner table. — —

Do you subscribe to your local newspaper? Does your local even have a newspaper anymore? If we cared to count, would newspapers classify as endangered?

I do “take the paper,” as we say where I’m from, and sometimes I feel I must be one of the only subscribers under 75, and sometimes I am dismayed by the decision-making of our editors, and often I am saddened by the thoughts shared by certain letter-writers. But I gladly pay them every year — paying even for the twice-weekly, two-page spread from the huge, cheap furniture chain; for the constant (and somehow loud?) advertisements for hearing aids; for the oversized box urging readers to “Visit Your House of Worship,” appearing every Saturday. Alert readers can note the businesses that have sponsored this weekly reminder (a remnant carpet store and an insurance salesman and a funeral home and “Lisa’s Gold & Diamonds”).

I love walking out in the morning with one dog or the other and glancing down at the half-visible headline. Occasionally, I am so intrigued, I have to pick it up, still carefully wrapped in plastic, to get at least the beginning of the top story. But I always leave it there until I return, when I can take it in, unfurl it, and leave it on the table.

I love the fact that my teenagers read the paper. I love that they still delight in the Sunday comics in all their full-color glory. I love that we can cut out and hang on the fridge political cartoons of Stacey Abrams (MY governor) as Rosie the Riveter from our local Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist. I love reading my friend’s Sunday column and working the Sunday crossword puzzle (only Sunday, though) and reading random news items like this about the Augusta couple who unexpectedly found 18 snakes under their bed.

I “read” the paper every day. Which means I usually read all the main national stories and the local content in full, skim the international headlines and the stuff I already heard about on NPR, and glance through Dear Abby and the comics and the sports. But everyday, I read the obituaries and my horoscope. Every. Day.

The obituaries are part because it’s how I make sure I don’t miss the death of an old friend or the loved one of a colleague or student. It’s also just because. The names are often fascinating, and the rhetorical patterns are endlessly interesting. And, I don’t know, there’s something else. Maybe a way of honoring those lives? A lingering in that moment over the words someone chose for them? I’m not sentimental about it. But it is my daily ritual.

The horoscope is equally mysterious. I don’t actually believe that the horoscope writer has any business informing my life. But I take small pleasure in the odd coincidences that can occur, and despite my ambivalence, I still read it every day. Today’s said this:

Stop being so hard on yourself. Consider the changes you want to make to achieve peace of mind and personal happiness.

And though I know the horoscopes are skillfully written to feel personal to the widest possible audience, this one has stayed with me.

I am impossibly behind on several projects, books and notes and ideas heaped around me (both physically and mentally) to the point of chaos. I have bitten off more than I can chew in multiple areas of life, and I see no way out of it. This newsletter sits unwritten week after week, and every week, I consider sending a message to announce its demise. Friends, I am considering the changes.

I am considering what it would take to achieve peace of mind and personal happiness. I am considering if any of us really know what that is. I don’t think I do. But tomorrow morning, as I step into the early morning and see the paper on the sidewalk, I’ll recognize some small measure of it.

The Department of Unexpected Joy:

(for weeks, these two videos have been sitting in this draft, the only two things I had the margin for at the time)

Thanks as always for reading and thinking with me. If you have thoughts to share, just hit reply! I welcome your conversation and promise a response.