Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Read All About It.

A friend just came back from her first trip to the Grand Canyon and was trying to describe her reaction.

“It’s like…” she floundered for a second, “You think everything in your life is so big and important. And then you’re face-to-face with this huge thing that was here millions of years before you and will be here millions of years after you. I could spend my whole life living in the canyon, and when I died, nothing would have changed.”

“I don’t know if that explains anything at all,” she added wistfully.

I patted her hand. I understood exactly what she was talking about. It is the same reaction I have when confronted by Consort’s pile of untouched reading material.

Even as I write, there are no fewer than five different heaps of old newspapers in this house that I am not allowed to throw out. I tipped my hand once, early on, and let him see how badly I wanted us to be a “Read the paper in the morning and put it out at night” kind of family. I held up a yellowed Wall Street Journal bearing the headline HENRY FORDS SEES ‘BIG FUTURE’ IN HORSELESS CARRIAGE, and politely asked Consort “This can go out, right?”

Consort grabbed the paper and scanned it. “No, I haven’t finished reading this”.

I pointed out, “But everyone quoted in this paper is dead. Some of their children are dead”.

He countered “Give it to me; I’ll take care of it”. Which I came to learn meant “I will secrete it in another stack of newspapers”. Knowing what I know now, I should have just run through the house arbitrarily stuffing newspapers into the recycling bin, and then denying having seen them when and if Consort asked.

I suspect Consort read the statistics on declining newspaper readership, and plans to keep the endangered papers for breeding purposes at some future date. He hoards specific newspaper sections for reasons so murky he can’t even remember them:

“Don’t throw that out, I’m keeping that to send to…someone. Is there something in there about feral cats?”


“Coal mining?”


“I know, trans-fatty acids”

“It’s the Real Estate section. From last October.”

“Don’t throw it away until I remember who I was saving it for”

But newspapers, as esteemed as they are around here, don’t end up being carefully archived into cardboard boxes and shipped to the storage space. Newspapers don’t get packed into business-trip luggage, only to return wrinkled but unread, then re-stacked next to the bed. Newspapers don’t bring out a glee in Consort that is in exact inverse ratio to the despondency in me. That special place in our life is reserved for The New Yorker.

I have tried to figure out why The New Yorker magazine forms 25% of the solid waste in our house. I used to blame it on being a weekly, but we have several magazines which arrive weekly, and they aren’t nearly as insidious as The New Yorker. For example, Newsweek arrives, Consort fulminates over politics and cackles over some article about Linux but moves on. I can slide the magazine out of the house in no more than ten days. Contrast this with me trying to get New Yorkers out of the house:

I am conveying a grocery bag out the back door, whistling. I am attempting to give off the vibe of a person walking to the trash can, not the vibe of a person taking magazines to leave in a coffee house. I am careful not to make eye contact with Consort, who is watching television. He, however, senses a disturbance in the force and looks up.

CONSORT: What’s that in the bag?

QUINN: What, this? Just…some…stuff.

Agile as a cat, Consort is at my side, pulling from the bag a New Yorker from the previous year.

CONSORT: There is an article in there I wanted to read.

QUINN: Which article?

CONSORT: The one on the cod-fishing rights in the North Atlantic.

I check the table of contents to see if he is bluffing as he filets out other elderly New Yorkers from the bag. He puts one back in, and gently caresses the other ones.

CONSORT: You can give that one away, but not these, I haven’t even started them yet.

QUINN: I can’t help that; they’re older than our washing-machine.

CONSORT: Look, this one has an article about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s sister-in-law. This one has a piece about sitar players in Ohio. Ooh! This one has a really interesting look into how ballet slippers are designed.

QUINN: Oh, now you’re just making them up.

But no, he wasn’t. The gift of The New Yorker is the ability to publish a lengthy article about a subject you’ve never even considered and keep you reasonably enthralled for an hour or more. This would be fine if Consort had ten extra hours a week to put into being educated in the ways of, say, Mormon entomologists or King Edward II’s boyfriend’s cook. But, Consort does not have the time. All he has is the unflagging optimism of a man who believes that his reading speed is going to double before the next issue arrives, and the engineering skill to create five foot-high towers of slippery magazines.

And all I have is patience, cunning, and the capacity to smuggle up to four magazines at a time out of this house inside my waistband.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quinn, I'll trade you your piles of newspapers and magazines for my husbands piles of tiny pieces of paper all over the house, consisting of illegible notes on his unified theory of physics which may very well be the key to saving humanity. See how close to the trash can you would get with that!

Great writing - I'm looking forward to reading more... although you're making me dread my own 11-month old daughter's coming infatuation with the pink, princessy stuff.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Just enjoy these moments when you dress her and she cannot articulate the words "party shoes" yet.

10:29 PM  

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