My kids think The Times is my only source of information since I quote it endlessly, and though it’s not my only source of information, it is the most interesting and certainly the one source I am most committed to.
Like many, I read the Times every morning. I have been doing so for only about 30 years, but have been reading it in some form and at some time of day for almost 50.
I know that isn’t any record. There are many older than I that can claim a longer association, perhaps even a more complex one, but nonetheless, my relationship to this incredible, comprehensive, incisive and illuminating newspaper is a passionate and devoted one, and I pray to the newspaper gods that it may continue for many years.
The Times was in my life for many years before I began reading it. My father, though he did not pay for the paper, rather he collected discarded copies on the MetroNorth commuter rail as he disembarked at Grand Central having spent his entire trip playing bridge with his train buddies, would read the paper as he walked the eight streets and two avenues from Grand Central to the Empire State Building where he worked on the 37th floor, for about 37 years. He knew the streets by heart, and could manage to catch the most important news, as well as the bridge column, during his roughly 15 minute walk, without ever getting hit by a bus, or a bike, catching all the lights without missing a beat, or a news story.
He would bring a then much used copy home for my mother when he returned each evening from ‘the city’. My mother would pour over the sections, and I don’t remember exactly when she started, or had time to do the crossword, but I remember her broad lettering filling in the blanks from an early age.
We kids, my siblings and all the others in my elementary school, were officially introduced to the New York Times in 5th grade when every student was required to purchase a subscription – I believe they were subsidized then as well as now – and each morning we went through the top stories, reading out loud and then perhaps to ourselves, reporting on what we had read and learnt about the world.
We were taught not only to read The Times but how to read The Times. You started on the right – still do – with the top story, followed on the far left with the second most important news event of the day. Banner headlines were a sight to behold, rare and often thrilling, portending either fantastic or dire news.
All the photos were in black and white and there were eight columns from left to right. It was a larger paper than it is now, longer at least, and wider, and it felt massive in our ten-year old arms. We mastered the art of opening and folding and refolding to view only one quarter of each page, lest our pages float to the floor and the classroom became an inky mess.
Your hands got blackened or grayed each morning and we took turns afterwards at the sinks in the back of the classroom, ridding our fingerprints from the sooty mess. Inevitably someone would have wiped their brow, or worse picked their nose, and the gray smear would leave telltale signs.
I had limited access when I left home for college, though you could espy a copy in the main library sometimes. But back in Manhattan as an assistant at the Parsons art library I could see a copy every day. I don’t know if it was during that year, or just following when I attended grad school that I began to do ‘The Puzzle’ as well. I do remember repelling the idea early on of completing it in pencil. Too hard to read. So many more smears. Not professional or intellectual.
When I got married in the early 80’s there was a tacit understanding between my husband and I that Sunday mornings were reserved for a long, slow read. He’d been coming to my parents’ home in Westchester enough by then to know the drill, and likewise I’d witnessed a similar devotion by his family, in particular, his grandmother, who had it delivered to her penthouse suite each morning when residing in Manhattan, or on her breakfast tray each summer morning while residing in Cape Cod. I still have that tray and its deep pockets on either side are commodious enough for either a weekday or weekend edition.
Looking up our personal subscription history, I find that our home delivery dates back to July 17, 1990. That’s only one week after we moved into our first house. Prior to that we had to purchase the paper each morning from the corner bodega when we lived in East Boston. You couldn’t rely on the paper remaining on your doorstep if they delivered it to the stoop.
A home subscription was therefore a big step toward adulthood. Far more important than merely purchasing a home.
It meant we were stable and reliable, informed and worldly. No longer just a reflection of our parents’ stature, our own subscription meant we were serious in our own right. And it was a glorious moment in 1993 when we opened what would have then been the Home and Garden section to see my husband’s sculpture pictured with a tiny article as a recent purchase by the Cooper Hewitt Museum in NY. Although this orange, yellow and pink
inflatable lamp was portrayed only in tones of gray, it jumped off the page to us and my mother and father had to acknowledge that my husband, the artist, had finally arrived. The ultimate feather in your cap… “As pictured in The New York Times.”
Its been many years now and several homes later and The Times keeps coming.
I look for that familiar blue bag on our driveway each morning even though we are a couple of hundred miles from the city. This means there are often panicky moments, if
there’s bad weather, when your heart drops a beat, and you can’t find the paper anywhere outside. You search around. Under the car. In a bush. WHERE IS IT??? The worse thing is I’ll have to face my husband and impart the news that paper was not delivered. His look of dejection and sadness almost too much to bear.
We’ve managed (barely) with the online version and I receive the abridged version by email each morning, just in case.
Well at least the abridged version has the puzzle which can be printed out. I’d almost die if I didn’t have access to the puzzle.
It’s a long term relationship and it’s a well-worn pattern of our lives. It’s essential to enable the start of our day and at our distance from NY, critical to our connection to the center of the world. The ink is somehow less inky now, the pages are less wide and the sections somewhat thinner. But it’s a real paper. It’s my paper and I’ll quote it all I like.