I’ve mentioned before how I am searching for a Sunday night ritual—something that I can do every week, without fail, that will soothe me, energize me, mentally prepare me for the week ahead and make me look forward to that time rather than moping about the end of the weekend. I’m getting close, but I’m still looking.
I forgot to mention, however, that I do have a Sunday morning ritual, and that’s reading The New York Times’ Sunday edition. This started way back in college, when the paper (via a special student-priced subscription) would be waiting for me down at the front desk of the dorm, where I’d pad down in slippers and pajamas that passed for play clothes, pick up the paper, then take it to the dining hall to read while I ate breakfast. Actually, I guess it was more like brunch at that time of day. There was usually still plenty to read by the end of breakfast, so I’d go back to my room, make myself a little 4-cup pot of coffee, and sit on my bed and read more. Sometimes it would take most of the day, especially when you threw in the crossword puzzle.
Then, I read it more as if I were studying it, since I was a communications student at Syracuse University, and as a rule we worshipped the media. Most of my friends preferred broadcast to print, even then, but I enjoyed diving into a story that could only be told in 5,000 words. I didn’t want to know just what happened, but the history of it, why it happened and if it could happen again.
The Times has been published in New York City since 1851 and has won 106 Pulitzers, more than any other news organization. Its motto is “All The News That’s Fit to Print” and its not joking about that, especially now. Its nickname is “The Old Grey Lady,” which once referred to its front page, a solid 8 columns of type, once without pictures and then only black-and-white. When the paper moved to color photography, one of the last newspapers to do so, and then to—gasp!—ads on its front page, many readers were out of sorts. Still, you wouldn’t want to give up your subscription over it.
My first apartment was a little U-shaped studio in Yonkers, within walking distance of a Metro North station. My bed was a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from the coffee pot, which was a leap away from the front door, so I could quickly jump out of bed on Sunday mornings, in jammies, run to bathroom, make a pot of coffee, grab the paper and get back into bed, where I stayed until lunch, reading the paper. It was ideal, even though the way my apartment’s front door, steps and walkway were situated, it DID require a coat and boots and sometimes a shovel to retrieve the paper on snowy winter mornings.
My favorite sections were the Book Review, the editorial page, and Arts & Leisure. I read every word and dreamed of writing for the paper. But most importantly, the Sunday Times was my quiet, private time of the week—nowhere to go, no place to be, no trains to catch, no scary bosses. I’d always wear a favorite pair of pajamas to bed on Saturday night, check ahead to make sure I had some good coffee beans to throw in the grinder, and sometimes lit a vanilla-scented candle, just to up the warm-and-toasty factor.
Moving to North Carolina was a bit of a disappointment. When I first moved to the state, the area where I lived didn’t have Times delivery. If I wanted the paper, I had to either have it MAILED to me (meaning I wouldn’t get to read it on Sunday) or I could drive to the store to pick up the regional edition which, I have to tell you, was a bit flimsy. I was used to heaving around a paper that was thick as a brick, heavy as an anvil, stuffed with ads and the city desk section and tons of juicy New York-based tidbits. The pamphlet that was available in North Carolina was minus just about everything except the first section, business, politics, and luckily, still, the Book Review.
When I moved to Greensboro and then to Raleigh, I was able to resume my Sunday Times delivery, and the tradition continued. I made no plans for Sunday mornings, and once again hopped out of bed, put on the coffee and settled back in with the paper that landed on my doorstep.
It’s still something I look forward to every Sunday, although things have changed a bit. I received a Kindle for Christmas in 2009, and promptly tried out a Kindle subscription. I immediately saw the advantages. For a fraction of Sunday home delivery costs, I could read the Times EVERY day. When I got behind a few days, instead of the Leaning Pile of Paper sitting on my living room floor, the issues accumulated in my Kindle without taking up space. There was no ink all over my hands (and inevitably, my face) when I was done. It’s true, I missed the heft of the pages, running my fingers over the sections when I first picked it up to make sure everything was there, the pungent smell of the ink on paper, the crinkle of the paper as I maneuvered the oversized pages to comfortably read a column in an out-of-the-way corner, and of course, the crossword puzzle. Going digital did change the ritual a bit, less because the actions were important and more because the old way was how I had always done it.
Today, I am reading the Sunday Times for the first time ever on my iPad. It’s in color. There is additional content—slide shows and audio interviews and updated blogs and the like. Articles from earlier issues don’t disappear at midnight, apparently, and to see the captions on pictures you have to tap through to the article in its entirety. It’s taking a little getting used to, again. There’s no way to scan the entire page and take it all in at once, as there was with the paper version, and instead of a linear read like the Kindle (one story after another), the iPad shows you the sections as little boxes of text on a screen, just the opening nuggets of each article to tease you to tap through so I keep losing my place in the paper.
I’m adjusting, and I’ll learn to love it, I’m sure. Because in the end, it’s about the stories and the writing for me, and the real ritual is taking time out of my week every Sunday morning to enjoy them.
The one nice thing about reading the Sunday Times digitally is that all I have to do is roll over, grab the iPad from the nightstand, and start reading, even on the coldest and rainiest of days. Now if I could just see about putting a coffee maker in the bedroom, I’d be all set.