Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Paper Boy

I do like coming home in the morning, around 6:30 and finding the orange rectangle in my driveway. It's the Key West Citizen delivered by Dale every morning in its weatherproof orange bag and it is my pleasure, after a refreshing sleep to drink tea and read the crisp clean pages of a proper printed page. Some people enjoy denigrating it as "the mullet wrapper" but I find it to be a remarkable production for a city of 25,000 and a county of 75,000 residents. I hope I am never reduced to reading the online edition of my hometown paper.
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Even in boarding school in England when I was barely a teenager I spent a large portion of my meager allowance from my step father on my own crisp copy of the Daily mail. It was a conveniently small paper, one of the first to give up the "broadsheet" size of the huge traditional papers that were offered free in the common room of my "house." I enjoyed reading the paper enough that I wanted my own unsullied copy. Indeed I was hiding in the toilets reading the Daily Mail (I was a snobby young conservative in those far off days) when a young fag was sent to find me to send me downstairs for an interview, wherein I was told my mother had just died. Then I was bundled off to French class to conjugate irregular foreign verbs with my fellow illiterates. I had, looking back on it, a very Dickensian upbringing...
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I learned this week that American democracy is on the ropes, one more time. It seems the Chicago Tribune has declared bankruptcy, a venerable Mid Western institution going under. Commentators are sobbing declaring the era of the newspaper is Over. It may very well be over, but not because the Tribune's owner is in difficulty. Indeed the developer rejoicing in the name of Sam Zell has said the paper will continue operations without losing a beat as he tries to reorganize the debt he owes on the paper. It so happens the paper owes 13 billion dollars and can't meet repayment obligations, the first amount owed to the tune of 500 million dollars (phew!). It turns out the zealous Mr Zell just happened to borrow the very same 13 billion dollars to buy the paper in the first place and now finds himself in difficulties. I guess he was hoping rising values would buy him a free paper and he got caught short. And because the economy took a dive the Tribune ends up looking like it can't pay it's bills. Too bad as it's not it's bills that are the problem.
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They say newspapers are on the verge of going extinct thanks to the Internet and loss of classified advertising and people like me will soon be deprived of our daily reading fix, with the ink on our fingers and that crinkly noise of the thick paper opening up in our hands. Newspapers have been around for centuries and in the past they dealt with competition from pamphleteers writing essays on single sheets of paper and distributing them like pirate publications. Given half a chance, especially if not being used as financial tools by speculators I'd like to think newspapers could do okay even today, competing with and participating on the Internet. It's just that no business, not even a newspaper can carry billions in debt to support the bad habits of speculators. That will be the death of the printed daily word and another reason for me to get mad at the greedy people who screwed up our economy.

Messages

There were reasons I liked the 1980s and there were reasons I didn't. I wasn't too fond of the motorcycles of the era which looked clunky and weird but I did like the bumper stickers which seemed to proliferate like rabbits. Then they went away. Perhaps because we, the baby boomers, got more serious and decided we didn't want to express ourselves in short incoherent phrases on our cars. So last week I saw this bumper sticker stuck in traffic on North Roosevelt. I was in my car and snapped a picture not knowing what I might do with it. The sentiment left me cold but the bad grammr was deliteful. Get used to it indeed. So from the bad grammarian on the Boulevard I started to think maybe there was an essay in there somewhere. And a short walk in the parking lot in front of Kmart gave me the notion that perhaps I was right:Bit late for that one but this one below seemed timely enough:Or if you prefer a more ecumenical message I've seen this one around quite a bit:The one human family motto gets mangled from time to time and sometimes quite nicely (with apologies to the Stop sign which makes this one not strictly speaking a bumper sticker):The Almighty is apparently presumed to be quite the reader according to the flock driving cars on Earth. Here's another one rendered less apocalyptic by the smiley face:On the subject there is a rather peculiar habit in the Keys of sticking the names of the recently deceased on the back of their vehicles. I'm guessing its a Cuban thing, though they aren't exactly well equipped in the car department on their island. Cubans in Key West make up the shortfall:
The other Key West thing is those chickens, which some people like:And some people really like them:Or perhaps not:

I used to like this one a lot, but now that I work for the dominant paradigm perhaps I shouldn't?There are lots of anti-war stickers around town but this one is less frequently seen. I got the impression the vehicle owner was a military guy judging by the other more boring stickers on his Suzuki:And there's this oldie but goodie which serves almost any purpose you could imagine:A little nihilism never hurt, and these days quite a few consumers are wondering what the point is:
Might as well do it in the Keys, I say. This next one I have no clue what it means, but it sounds Canadian, cold, and most likely painful. Curling with attitude perhaps?:I've never heard of some sports, silly me, but others seem designed specifically for Key West:
Lets not forget old Key West landmarks that provided sport for drivers:The Tunnel was nothing more than a drive through convenience store on North roosevelt Boulevard but they got a lot of mileage out of those bumper stickers.

This is another of those out of town stickers that makes no sense unless it succumbs to those obvious obscene overtones that must have been intended surely?This last was a 51st birthday present. How do I know? Because it's on my Nissan, silly.

Thank you Bruce and Celia.