From an ad for White Beaver’s Cough Cream, ca. 1900.
I phoned my dad. I was eager to discuss the recent cover story on a New York City tabloid. It featured a homeless man who lives in my neighborhood, and I was indignant on his behalf. I knew my dad would have read the piece closely and would have strong opinions.
“Did you see that cover story?” I demanded, rhetorically.
“No,” said my dad. “We’re not reading any newspapers these days. Or watching any news.”
“Oh,” I said. “Why?”
“We were getting too involved in politics, and the state of the world was too depressing. We decided we needed a break. So now we only watch movies and the early seasons of Mad Men. Except we’ve watched all the DVDs the library has.”
“Well, okay,” I said. “I wanted to talk to you about this one story, but I guess you haven’t been following it.”
“No, of course not,” he said. “What is it?”
I explained the situation. “I’m actually thinking about writing a letter to the editor,” I said. “I mean, if they’d bothered to ask anyone in the neighborhood, including that store where he sleeps, anyone would have said that he’s a really nice guy and has lived here for years and just minded his own business. I mean, he needs help, of course, but I thought it was really unfair. And cruel, too.”
“Fleet Street 101,” said my dad. “Don’t ask any questions whose answers might ruin your story.”
“How long is your news cleanse?” I asked.
“Not sure,” he said. “But for now, unless it’s a headline on the Gmail welcome page, we don’t know about it.”
I wondered whether they planned to keep it up through my wedding, a week later, to avoid any political arguments. Although, on the other hand, it would be very odd if they didn’t know what was going on in the world and couldn’t discuss any current events, Rip Van Winkle style.
“Well I think you should know,” I said, “that Mom seemed very up-to-date on the Harper Lee story. I think she’s been cheating.”
“She may have read about it in a non-news context,” he said.
“I’m not sure that’s a thing,” I said. “But anyway, I’ll tell you if they run my letter. It’s not my usual style, but it seems important.”
“Keep me posted,” he said.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.
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