There are times when I want to say “I’m getting too old for all this crap.”

I am of a certain age, one where I have actually started to think about what to do when I retire. I always said I’d never retire. I’ve rethought that position. I have several projects I’ve been piddling around with for longer than I care to admit, and I’d kind of like to finish them before I’m back in diapers.

And then there’s what has been happening in the newspaper business over the past few years.

It’s scary. Readership is down. Advertising revenues are down. Everything’s going to the Internet. People are getting their news from notoriously unreliable sources, such as the new phenomenon of “citizen journalists,” not all of whom feel bound by the standards and constraints that people who do journalism for a living are supposed to exercise.

People say they’re too busy to sit and read a newspaper, but they’ll sit around for hours reading God Knows What on forums and blogs. I’m not sure what to make of it.

So. Right and left, newspapers are laying people off in order to stay solvent, or even simply in an attempt to sink more slowly. At my own newspaper, the company has offered buyouts to qualified employees in an attempt to reduce the workforce by 25 percent.

I was one of those who qualified for a buyout. It was tempting, but I turned it down.

Maybe I’m stupid, but I am not convinced that what I do for a living is really becoming obsolete. I have often said that I think I know how people who made buggy whips felt in the early 1900s when they started seeing automobiles everywhere.

But I think I may have forgotten something important.

Buggy whips became, essentially, extinct because the thing for which they were made, horse’s fannies, had become almost extinct, to be found now only in quaint settings like Amish settlements, historic re-enactment groups, and Congress.

But people didn’t stop moving hither and thither. They simply stopped doing it so much behind horses.

The buggy-whip factories pretty much went away. The people who used to work there moved on to other things. I would be willing to bet that a fair number of them moved on to work in the automotive industry.

I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that really, what journalists do has not really changed, has it? We’re witnesses and story-tellers, plain and simple. Whether it’s in front of a campfire or at a keyboard, that’s what we do. That part’s easy.

The hard part is figuring out the new context for the story-telling. I’m all for bringing back the campfires, but I suspect we’re too late for that. Besides, OSHA would never approve. It may be that the newspapers we all grew up with, the paper-and-ink versions, anyway, will be gone, maybe within the next decade. The price of newsprint is ridiculous, getting rid of the old papers is a headache (there are only so many birdcages to go around, after all) and the time-honored method of delivery by underpaid people in beat up old cars has always been a logistical migraine. If newspaper circulation managers had been in charge of the Vietnam War, we probably would have won.

The hardest part for some of us (read “we the geezers”) is adapting, not only to all the new gizmos – digital audio recorders, mini video cameras, etc. —  but to incorporating said gizmos into the way we think about reporting, to the point that we don’t have to think about how it works.

For example: I once vowed I would never own a cell phone. I thought they were silly.

Now, I don’t even have a landline. My phone has text mail and GPS, a damned good thing, too, with my sense of direction, and a fairly decent built-in camera. I can check the news on it. I could do a lot more if it weren’t for the expense of some of the more advanced features. If pressed, I could actually write a news story right on the phone.

On a personal and professional level, I can’t imagine my life without it. The same holds true for my laptop. I have to force myself to take notes on paper now and then so I won’t forget how to write in script.

I’m all but 60 years old. All this stuff was science fiction when I was in high school. God knows what we’ll have to play with by the time I’m ready to retire or I’ve been needled to death by some editor.

I’m still having a ball. I’m trying not to fear change. It’s not easy. I have good friends who have left the business before they were ready. One, a pretty tough dude who worked for one of the nation’s great newspapers, was sent packing after 30 years or more in the business. He’s worried sick.

On the other hand, I’m staying, and I’m worried, too. I really do believe that so-called print journalists will end up mostly working in an on-line format, and soon, without losing anything and maybe gaining a few things.

The biggest worry there is that nobody has really figured out how to make money doing it that way. I think they will probably figure that out eventually.

I hope they hurry.

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Pre-tired

October 19, 2008

When I was a kid, I remembered my mom me telling that she did all her housework in her head as she was lying in bed waiting to fall asleep.

I don’t mean making a list of the things she needed to do. I mean doing every task mentally first, every detail, one chore after another.

The result was that she woke up in the morning already tired from a night of imaginary housework…and had a day full of the real thing ahead of her anyway.

I always thought the habit was sort of self-defeating, actually, but I was just a kid, and the habits and customs of adults mystified me.

They still do, in fact, even though I have taken up some of them myself.

For example, yesterday, Sue and I worked steadily for several hours bringing the plants in off the deck and stowing them in sunny windows in the house for the winter. Obviously, it’s an annual ritual, one that leaves our bedroom looking like a jungle with a bed in it.

The cats love it. They find favorite hiding spots deep among the begonias and ficus and remember being tigers.

Anyway, some of the plants get trimmed back for the winter, and it gives us a chance to decide which ones will need to be re-potted in the spring. I wired up some lamps to give them extra light so they don’t get too leggy after all those short days.

As we worked, I looked at the chaise-longue on the deck and said I thought we ought to drag it into the workshop over the winter, sand it and repaint it.

“Just like we did the table,” I said, looking around for it. I meant the old iron table base and set of chairs that sits just off the deck along a stone wall. The one with the square tabletop cut from plywood and tiled by hand in the aforementioned workshop. The one I’ve sanded and painted and assembled and tiled in my head at least a dozen times.

The one that is still sitting, un-sanded, un-painted, etc., down in the workshop, where it has sat in that state for at least two years because other things got done instead.

That’s the table I meant.

I’ve gone over the doing of the thing so often by now that it feels done. It’s beautiful afternoon. I want to go sit at the table with a mug of coffee and a good book and watch the cats plotting small murders in the garden.

I guess one of these days I’m actually going to have to build the damned thing, even though I’m already tired from all the times I’ve already done it.

Thanks, Mom.
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© 2008 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
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Wait!

October 9, 2008

HERE AND NOW, I wish I could make it all stop, just for awhile.

The world, I mean. Time. Make it stop at this moment as this golden glass-sharp light slices almost level with the ground as the sun nears its setting,

Make time stop so I could leap,

Run breathless through woods and marsh, along small harbors like this one, see this light,

Shimmering on the still surface of the harbor, reflecting almost perfectly the gulls flying a hand’s breadth above, see it
Dart through the brooding pines to flare the yellow flags of some maple into a
Torch or waving banner, see it cast gold on the flanks of geese against the half-moon whose twin dances in the water outside my window.

If only I could

Raise my hand and still the skies and earth,

Spend myself in adoration of this very moment.
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© 2008 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
https://burger2go.wordpress.com/
http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

In the Oct. 2 edition of The Lincoln County News, a wonderful weekly broadsheet published in Damariscotta, Maine:

“A Camden man hit a moose just up the road from Bullwinkle’s Restaurant and next to a Moose Crossing sign (No, it really said that) on Sept. 23 and kept on going.

The struck moose lay dead in the road that Tuesday night until two Waldoboro residents saw it and called the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, according to LCSO Deputy Brent Barter.

The two men…took the moose home, Barter said. He said they seemed happy to be able to salvage the meat.

“It will feed their families,” he said.

The story was written by John McGuire.

Police said they were probably not going to charge the guy who hit the moose. Hmph. So, what’s the use of putting up Moose Crossing signs? Poor moose was just following directions.

•    As for matters of the spirit:

•    Tucked into the dust jacket of a copy of “High Tide in Tucson,” by Barbara Kingsolver, I found a folded sheet of yellow paper from a legal pad. It was a packing list for a trip, apparently. Also apparently, the packer was a member of the clergy.

•    The items to be taken wherever he was going included a milk crate filled with sermons, a Bible, a word book, and a Franklin speller (he needed it; his spelling was atrocious,) a book of occasional services, his alb, “cassic” (cassock,) surplice and tibit. I have no idea what a tibit is.

•    He also planned to pack “lots of shoes,” sweatshirts, a camera, toys, a crate and chains for Duffie, who I assume is a pet or a very disturbed child, vestments, which I suppose are somehow different from the alb, etc., listed above, a grill and photos of his kids.

•    How do I know it’s a “he?” That’s easy. The very first things at the top of the list were: “frypan/spatula/shotglass.”

•    PS: I went online to see if I could find out what a “tibit” was. I didn’t but found an online clerical supply store called Gerken’s. (http://www.gerkens.com) My favorite item was the Clergy Collars Two-Ply (#54 Clericool Brand) Set of 4. I will be saying “Clericool” for days to come.
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© 2008 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites: