Don Rogers: A remarkable brunch
Never mind the snow, feet of the stuff, the chill on the cheek and the sudden sunny promise of the slopes.
I walked into a warm home of book-lined walls, all of them, and a wood stove perking, coals still more or less in the shape of sticks glowing bright orange. Then deeper, into the kitchen bright with windows and plants, more bookshelves, and a big round table. There, hosts and guests engaged in a genial, thoughtful discussion just as I’d imagine with such a salon. This polar bear of a dog lay outside, shaggy and comfortable, eyes of a philosopher, perceptive and maybe a little weary. Not at all cold.
I’d be snowboarding if I hadn’t accepted the invite a few weeks ago, while winter still ran dry and unpromising. No matter. The ski hills were overwhelmed Sunday anyway. I’d aim to get enough work done over the weekend so I could go during the week, free of lines.
First, though, brunch, with a psychologist, teacher, professor, bookseller, Realtor, intellectuals all, or at least I took them as such. Interested in education, theater, art, music, architecture, history, writing, me, their new guest. And books, I gathered, glancing around.
I confessed I’ve turned bookish in my, ahem, maturity. The boomer generation may average 40-something hours a week of television, with X and the millennials not so far behind. But I’ve squeezed nearly all of it out.
When I do look, I see I haven’t missed anything. The reality shows are no more real, sitcoms no more clever, late night no wittier, news shows no less portentous, cable no less hysterical, movies no more original.
I’d remark I must be getting old except most of my elders watch more and more as they age, not less.
Worthy books by local authors alone stack high. Reading them sure beats sitting dazed in the blue glow, hours wasting. At least for me. Sands Hall’s “Catching Heaven,” Louis Jones’ “California’s Over,” Jordan Fisher Smith’s “Engineering Eden,” Josh Weil’s “The Great Glass Sea,” Dmitri Keriotis’ “Quiet Time,” Rachel Howard’s “The Lost Night,” Gary Snyder’s “The Practice of the Wild,” Molly Fisk’s “Blow Drying a Chicken,” and can I count Wallace Stegner’s “Angle of Repose”? I love them all, and have learned a lot from them.
The book seller, now retired, said he finds himself reading newspapers more and more. The large, important papers, sure. And some foreign ones.
But the small papers fascinate him for the window on the communities they serve. Less refined than their big city brethren, certainly. Also less homogeneous in the way of a professional sheen dating back to around World War I with the rise of J schools.
I find something more real in the little papers myself. The writing and design and all tends to run rougher, sharp corners unsanded, lumber raw and often bristling with splinters. But I don’t know, they’re more, what, authentic? Open hearted, generally less cynical and no less accurate, actually.
My own theory is that for employees of community news media, not just newspapers, the labor is more heroic quest than regular job. But as I declare this, a bias or probably just a chip on my shoulder, I can think of friends and colleagues from large papers with plenty of fire themselves.
My favorites are the ski town papers, though. Vail, Aspen, Park City, Telluride, Truckee, Moonshine Ink, the Sun. When they hit their stride, these papers have unique voices, often funny, always eccentric, fun as well as informative. They lose something when they try to be “normal,” adapt to the orthodoxy, and drone on rather than enliven.
Society’s race into the digital ether is transforming everything, including media, faster and faster, at whitewater’s pace. Information really is overflowing, overwhelming, and misinformation is the most interesting of all.
Cable, the partisans, Facebook and the Russians have learned to tap into our synapses and addict us in these rage-and-sensation cycles. It’s not so different than before World War I, when the papers were largely partisan and often outrageous. The yellow journalism coined in the 1890s was nothing compared to Civil War and the early days of the republic. Now we just have so much more of it and we can click in so quickly.
We talked a little about this before the conversation moved on to the ehru, a fascinating two-string Chinese instrument someone who recently moved to town is accomplished in playing, and the Forbidden City with huge old-growth log posts cut a millennia ago and built to last without nails, along with writer’s block and cures for the affliction. (Um, a deadline?)
Not quite snowboarding, but I had a great time and left with plenty to think about and maybe some new friends. The host invited me back, any Sunday. There’s always a group like this there for breakfast and smart conversation at such a welcoming home where even the family dog looks wise.
I definitely plan to go back. Probably after ski season, though. Now that we have one again.
Don Rogers is the publisher of The Union, The Wildwood Independent and Truckee Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-4299.