Wednesday, August 28, 2013

“Campfre in the GC”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: A favorite summer activity in my rural part of Geauga County is gathering around the campfire after sunset. It provides a brief interlude where cares of the day are negated by the dancing brilliance of natural combustion. Participating in these sessions are neighbors of varying interests, none of which include journalistic endeavors. These sessions provide the kind of escape needed to decompress and relieve the pressure of everyday life as a wordsmith-for-hire.

Rebby is a homemaker. Her husband, Rhineland, is captain of a local citizen patrol and fire department auxillary. Taybor who lives down the street is a mechanic. Pratt and Mayte, new to the neighborhood, are parents of three children, all from Akron.
Typically, our evening adventures have consisted of Beer Pong matches, played in non-alcoholic fashion. But on this occasion, the neighborhood meeting found us around the fire.
The new members of our group laughed out loud when I confessed to being a humble, small-town, newspaper scribe, living with two dogs in a rustic shack by the county line. My profession was one they could not quite comprehend. Yet my story piqued their interest.
Still, everyday concerns remained of primary interest.
Rebby twirled her hair reflectively and observed that the upcoming NFL season was not far away. “The Steelers will be ready, soon!” she cheered.
Pratt rubbed his bald head. “Professional sports is a crock! I would much rather be playing on my XBox.”
Mayte nodded in agreement. “You are right, honey. But I do love the Steelers.”
Taybor gestured with a greasy hand. “None of you would have talked like that in the old days!”
“He’s right you know,” I agreed. “Things have changed a lot since the 80’s.”
Rebby frowned. “Listen to the old guys talk!”
Rhineland stuck his head out the door. “Aren’t you people done for the night?”
His wife responded with a grin. “If you won’t sit out here with us, then go watch a movie!”
He was not amused. His face went red.
Pratt adjusted his steel-rimmed glasses. “The Cleveland Plain Dealer just laid off one third of its workforce today,” he said, ominously. “How does that make you feel, Rod?”
I bowed my head. “Sad, more than anything. But the newspaper industry is in a transitional period. Those who adapt quickly will survive, those who don’t will be left behind,”
Rebby pondered my statement with disbelief. “Left behind?”
“Yes,” I repeated. “Left to rust away.”
Mayte shook her head, sending her thick, brown curls into the air. “If you write for a newspaper, then how can you have that opinion?”
My eyes narrowed. “Thankfully, the Maple Leaf has done a superb job of meeting these challenges. Our website has won awards from the OSNA...”
Taybor cringed visibly. His overalls were stained with gasoline. “The what??”
“The Ohio Small Newspaper Association,” I said.
Pratt rubbed his head again. “But where will all of this leave a printed-word guy like you?”
“Look,” I explained. “When I was a kid, pinball was all the rage. We couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than that game. Even ‘The Who’ wrote a Rock opera about it. But then... pinball was gone without a whisper.”
Mayte shrugged while lighting a cigarette. “And what was your point?”
“Technology advanced,” I continued. “But the excitement remained. Just on a whole new level. The creative spark that made us feel alive gave you the same kind of energy.”
Rebby looked sour. I don’t understand.”
“It is a matter of moving from one level to the next,” I proclaimed. “Get moving, or get left behind. That is the way of history.”
Pratt threw his hands in the air. “Okay! You sound awfully brave for a guy in his fifties.”
I laughed out loud. “Would you like to still be driving a Model T Ford in the age of hybrids and plug-in electrics? Or be reading books by candlelight while your neighbor has a Kindle? Progress is inevitable. Frightening, yes, but also thrilling. Like Star Trek, we are going where no one has gone before.”
Matye smoothed her brunette curls. “My dad liked Star Trek.”
Pratt clapped cheerfully. “So did my father!”
Taybor groaned. “I watched the original series when I was a kid.”
“Ditto,” I said. “But did you get my point?”
Rebby closed her eyes. “You two are sooooo old!”
Mayte looked confused. “Your point?”
“Radio and television both failed to eliminate newspaper journalism,” I quipped. “The Internet may offer a different avenue for distributing information, but it doesn’t have to destroy our tradition if we remain viable.”
Pratt scratched his head. “So, newspapers will survive?”
“Those that adapt will live,” I promised. “And those that ignore the march of progress will fade into oblivion.”
Taybor rubbed his hands together. “Gone like yesterday’s parts catalogue.”
“Yes,” I observed.
Rebby twirled her red hair again. “Like last year’s football season.”
“Yes, yes,” I repeated.
Rhineland reappeared at the door. His scanner squawked with emergency calls. “It is long past bedtime! I have to stay up all night, but you don’t. Doesn’t anybody need to sleep?”
Mayte finished her smoke. “I’m ready for some sleep. Good night, everybody!”
Darkness won out at last. Our night around the campfire was over.

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