Thursday, February 10, 2011

WHY NEWSPAPERS AREN'T DYING: THEY'RE DEAD (Some proof...)


Hi Folks,
Sorry it’s been awhile, but had a busy week with my class and my own writing and… to be honest, they come first. I love you guys, but most of you are writers so I know you understand.

Anyway, today I was glancing at my local newspaper while in the “reading room” (yeah, you’re right—that room) and trying to figure out why I still pay for the local newspaper. Just about everything I read in it I read a day or two before on the Internet. For in-depth articles the Internet doesn’t give me? Sorry, the majority are the same articles from the same sources. In fact, most of the time I get more depth from the Internet articles—the local paper usually doesn’t run the full articles. Most of the other articles are from The Washington Post so I try to avoid those...

The local color? Please. I live in Ft. Wayne. We just had our first national news-worthy story yesterday when it was reported that the city fathers (or is it mothers? Midwives?) were debating if they wanted to name a downtown erection after a former mayor named… ready?... Harry Baals. (You can’t make this stuff up…) Even better, it turns out his first wife’s name was… ready?... Minnie. If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’…

Anyway, it wasn’t any of those items that justify paying for this rag. In fact, I heard about the Harry Baals thing from my friend Tom in Phoenix who read about it while taking a break from watching for illegal aliens who keep ruining his yard by running through it. Tom's from this area originally and burns a candle every day in thanks for not having to shovel snow... (which happens to be the subject of this--it all comes 'round.)

I thought perhaps the value of a newspaper might be justified from local writers with their unique take on things. I picked up one of the main sections, the one labeled “Living” and the feature article caught my eye instantly. It had a photo of a woman dressed all in black and wearing a fedora (or, witch’s hat, I’m not sure…) shoveling a mound of snow and on the shovel’s handle she had tied what looked like a pillow case to look like a flag of surrender. Not sure what that was all about—it looked like it was there in case she fell into a snowdrift and could perhaps hoist it as a distress signal.

The headline read: “If you can’t beat it, use it.” It was about… snow. Hey, good stuff, I figured. We’ve been dumped on for the past week or so and about all we do is shovel it ad nauseum.

Her essay question and theme was: “So what do you do with all that snow?” Well, personally, I hadn’t thought much about it. Having a somewhat limited imagination inasfar as piles of snow go—look at it when you’re forced to and hope it goes away—is about the extent of any thought I’d given the subject, but by golly, this person had actually come up with some uses for the stuff. She even got a byline for the article and it was on the front page of the section, so I assumed this would be some pretty scintillating stuff. Kind of thing you’re not likely to get on the Internet and probably why I keep shelling out bucks for this rag.

So, I read on. Her illuminating first answer to her own question was: “Sure, you could wait for it to melt, but what fun would that be?” Well, she had me there. That had been about all I’d ever come up with on the (very) few times I’d considered the question.

Now, I was excited! This intrepid reporter had actual uses for the piles of snow that were everywhere. Fun things. At least, that was the implication… By golly, maybe I’d underestimated the content of newspapers. At this point, I was ready to pick up the phone and renew my subscription for another three years. But… something told me to read further. Be cautious.

Her first fun suggestion:

Make some yard art. (Her words, not mine.)
Now that your lawn ornaments and multi-colored, solar-powered mushrooms are underneath a large blanket of snow, you can make some new ones. Be creative. You could make a deer, or some other woodland creature, or how about an army of mini-snowmen to protect your fortress?

When I read her first fun-filled activity suggestion, I began to suspect it was a good thing that I hadn’t renewed that subscription just yet. First, we don’t have any lawn ornaments except for that politically-incorrect statue they’re always circulating petitions in the 'hood about, and I’m not quite sure what “solar-powered mushrooms” are, and I’m reasonably sure we don’t have any, covered by snow or not. Is that an Al Gore thing? It’s minus 7 degrees outside with the wind chill, so crawling around in snowdrifts sculpting deer or other “woodland creatures” (whatever those are… skunks and feral cats?) doesn’t really match up with other potential activities that might rival that for fun… such as watching a basketball game in a warmer place with a brew in hand. How long does it take to sculpt a deer (and what do you use? your hands? a chain saw?) or a woodland creature? Even a skunk would take some modicum of skill, especially from fingers numb from frostbite. I’m afraid I’d be exhausted just doing the deer and don’t know if I could last long enough to mold an “army of mini-snowmen.” How many are in an army, anyway? Fifty? Two hundred? Even a couple of hundred doesn’t sound like much of an army—sounds more like the local PTA meeting. And, I don’t really see my house as a “fortress” to be honest. It’s more like a… house. That’s about to get repossessed. Maybe I do need an army of mini-snowmen. To help me fight off the bank and the guy who’s trying to repo my car. The more I think about it, that army of mini-snowmen sounds like a good idea. Give ‘em M-16s. Wait. Those are outlawed now, aren’t they? Well, are pea shooters still legal? This is gonna be some sorry army…

Her second suggestion:

A natural outdoor freezer.
Take some of your frozen goods and set them outside to be kept cold by nature. Cold beer, anyone? What better way to chill a brewski or pop than  than shoving it in the snow. Just be careful that you don’t set something outside that can attract wildlife.

I wish I could make stuff like this up! On the surface, this sounds doable. It’s for sure cold enough to use “nature’s refrigerator.” On the other hand, with unemployment over 10% for this area, I’m not too sure I should be sticking foodstuffs outside. I can see the lines already—this would look like the food pantry the Salvation Army runs for the indigenous. Although, I suspect the teenagers on the block will be ecstatic if I start sticking my brewskies outside. Maybe that’s what she means about not putting something out that can attract “wildlife.” Are teenagers considered wildlife? Perhaps so… I’m going to have to think more about the brewski thing as well. How long does it take beer to freeze solid at 7 below? Another drawback to this—I’d have to go outside in this stuff both to stick it in the snow and then retrieve it. Maybe I could time it for halftime.

Third fun activity:

Save on water usage.
Melt snow and use it for things around the house that may take a lot of water, such as flushing the toilet, watering the plants, cleaning, etc. On average, about 10 inches of snow is equal to one inch of water.

Or, the way I figure it, one sculpted deer equals one flushing of the stool. Or, six and a half mini-snowmen from my army. (Or, “white and yellow infantrymen” as I refer to them… we have a lot of dogs on our block) Is it just me, or does it sound as if you need to haul an awful lot of snow in for a tiny bit of water? And, where do you put all this snow when you’re melting it? For a bath, I figure I’ll need to fill up the spare bedroom. And then, how do you warm it to bath temperature? Also, if you’re using this much snow, aren’t you going to be exposing your “solar-powered mushrooms?” Is that wise? I need to call her up and ask her if these are legal mushrooms or the kind we used to call “schrooms” and paid a lot of money for and threw out the window when the cop car red light went on...

Next up…

Help for ouchies. (I swear I wish I could make this stuff up!)
Fill a plastic sandwich bag with snow, zip it up and use it as a homemade ice pack. Great for injuries, icing down knees or for headaches.

Mary! Make me a sandwich bag snow pack! I have a raging headache! Make one for yourself, too, for later on when we go to bed and I want to get frisky. My knees are pretty banged up as well, from crawling around outside in the snow, sculpting woodland creatures, but I can’t stop shivering so maybe a sandwich ice pack isn’t what I really want to be holding on them right now…

Are you ready? Hold on. Here’s the next one:

Wax remover.
Use some snow on freshly spilled candle wax. Freezing wax can help get it out of carpets or off tablecloths easier.

I don’t know about you, but I’m having more fun just thinking about all these fun activities than I’ve had in months. Why is there “freshly-spilled candle wax” on the carpet anyway? Oh… yeah. From the six hundred candles we had to light to help warm the house from the spare bedroom full of my developing bath water…

You’d think the quality of these suggestions would begin to flag, but you’d be wrong.

Eat it. (The reporter’s words, not mine. I’m too polite to say something like this to you.)
Grab some clean snow (the cleanest you can find) and make some ice cream. A simple recipe includes getting 1 gallon of snow, one (14-ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix the ingredients together and eat up.

This really works and is fun to do! I made lemon ice cream! Mary’s calling a lawyer—I wonder why. She only had a spoonful and then I revealed the recipe. The dog liked it. He even took his bowl and made it even more lemony… I confess I'm a bit worried about the cleanliness of this snow. Don't we have an acid rain thing going on?

Two more to go. You guys taking notes?

Make snow cones.
Get an ice cream scooper and scoop up some snow into a bowl. Use juice, Kool-Aid or flavored drinks and pour on top. Grab a spoon or just dig in face first.

I have a tip. I just used some more of that yellow snow I used for the ice cream for this. And, I ended up “digging in face first” as per our intrepid reporter’s advice, but it wasn’t exactly my choice. Mary kind of did that for me. That hurt, Mary! Well, she’s gone. Up to bed with her sandwich bag ice pack. Looks like I might have to use the spare bedroom tonight. Oh, wait! My bath water’s only about half finished making.

And the last one.

Snowballs.
Make some snowballs and freeze them for later for the ultimate summer snowball fight. They’ll never know what hit ‘em. Now that’s using the snow.

At last! A fun activity I already know how to do! I have a twist on mine, though. I put rocks in them. Just imagine my neighbor’s surprise when he gets whapped up alongside the head in July with one of these puppies! Some fun!

Well, I’ve completely changed my mind on the value of newspapers. I’m calling the delivery lady up right now and renewing my subscription for the next ten years. You can’t get this kind of article on the Internet, no way! Well, I would call her but I can’t find my phone. I think it’s in the spare bedroom at the bottom of my bath.

First thing tomorrow though. Right now, I’m going to go out and see what those teenagers are doing in my yard. They better not be after my brewskies in “nature’s fridge.” I might have to break out my snowballs early.

If you’re interested in getting a copy, this was in today’s (Thursday’s) Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the publicity and extra sales. For some reason, I’ve heard receipts were kind of down… It’s just heart-warming to know our journalism schools are still turning out outstanding reporters and editors. Not to mention Ft. Wayne is keeping up the standards of the town. This is the place that gave the world the “Potato Chip Lady” for those of you old enough to remember her. She worked at a potato chip factory here in town for years and collected chips off the line that looked like famous people. True story. Johnny Carson heard of her and flew her out to his show. Had to pay for two tickets, because she had to have a seat for her favorite chip, who was a lookalike for (I think) Richard Millhouse Nixon. While on the show, she was pointing out all the famous people her chips looked like and Johnny reached over and grabbed Tricky Dicky and ate him! It was hilarious. I understand she had a bit of a mental breakdown because of the trauma, but she recovered. Not sure Ft. Wayne has…

I wonder if she had a chip that looked like Harry Baals… I'd like to see that one.

I hope my mini-snowmen army look threatening enough if the locals read this and head back down with their pitchforks and torches again…

Y’all come back, heah?

Blue skies,
Les

9 comments:

Ann Best said...

This is one of the most rollicking posts I've ever read. I know I wouldn't have ever read it in a newspaper. I love the potato chip lady! And the snow picture with the global warning sign stuck in the white stuff. Indiana. Glad I'm not there! All except one snowstorm missed us this year in Virginia--so far, anyway. However, after reading about all the things one can do with snow, I'm almost sorry we don't have as much as you do!

I AM sorry about the demise of newspapers, I guess because I'm old enough to be very nostalgic for what once was, especially the kinds of things that created communities of people, face to face people on street corners and buses, etc. etc. The local color, like Harry and Minnie. I grew up with this stuff. I love it!

Les Edgerton said...

I'm sorry at the demise of newspapers, too, Ann. I was a sports reporter for the South Bend Tribune back in the sixties--covered ND football, basketball and lower Michigan h.s. sports. My job for ND football was to sit in the press box with the sports editor and make sure he always had a drink. Great job!

Tiffany said...

You had me for a second with the ice cream and then I thought about it.

I imagine that woman has a lot of creepy ceramic figurines around her house that tell her to write those things. Hmmm. If I wrote horror, I might go with that idea.

The Teddy Bear Family said...

Methinks you spend too much time in the reading room. ;)

Les Edgerton said...

Hey Tiffany--that would make a great creepy setting, wouldn't it! But, that's from a guy who considers DELIVERANCE a comedy...

Teddy Bear Family--you sound like my wife! She keeps asking me if I'd like to move a bed into the room...

Actually, it's the only place in the house I'm allowed to smoke in (when she's home--I sometimes cheat when she's gone and go out on the edge and smoke downstairs...).

Maybe I need a hobby...

Sally Clements said...

Jeez, that's a great post, Les. I started sniggering at the first useful thing to do, and by the time I got as far as ice-cream I was laughing out loud.

Helen Ginger said...

When I was little, we made (and ate) snow ice cream. It was delicious! 'Course, we were careful to use fresh, not peed on, snow.

A very fun post, Les.

Helen Ginger said...

I came back because I forgot to tell you that I laughed out loud about Harry and Minnie Baals.

Alice said...

I have a friend that makes "snowcream", never tried it but she likes it. I remember seeing the potato chip lady on Carson. And your survey at the bottom of the post should have hilarious, not just funny. I giggled through the whole thing. Thanks Les.