Indiana, PA is a small town where grocery shopping is a profoundly social experience. I used to watch the cart-boy roll steel caterpillars across the parking lot, secretly pledging my love as my mom listened to Mrs. Duntley talk about the new pastor, or the price of lottery tickets, or how nobody made their own pie crust anymore. The cart-boy drove a red truck and mowed our lawn every Thursday. His dad, Fred, painted our house. His mom's family owned Donitellos, the Italian restaurant that my parents said was good even though they didn't have peanut butter sandwiches.
The Historical Society said that Jimmy Stewart grew up in the house next to mine. I didn't believe them. Jimmy Stewart never lived in Indiana. He grew up in a world where "As Time Goes By" drifts out of Ingrid Bergman's window as Alfred Hitchcock reads the Evening Post in a phone booth, scanning headlines about cowboys, diamonds, and stone women who crumble when men dare to say "I love you." This is where Jimmy Stewart spent his childhood; not in some dopey gingerbread town, but in a city made of cigarette smoke.
Like Stewart, I grew up in somone else's short story. Because I went grocery shopping, I knew everybody. I lost my first tooth, graduated high school, and got drunk knowing everybody. When I woke up, the entire neighborhood said "good morning, you're looking thin."
I watched movies and dreamed of other worlds. Sometimes, I went to the coffee shop and read about people who took drugs. The Barrista's name was October Surprise. It used to be Cole, but he changed it because he's a sociologist and wants you to think about things like gender identity. I complained to him about the editor of the campus paper who cut my articles to make room for Dr. Hatcher's Hair Laser Removal ads.
"Print is dead." He shrugged. "The sooner newspapers face reality, the better."
I didn't agree with him. I liked newspapers because they were ephemeral. The idea of someone reading my article one minute and wrapping their tuna fish in it the next made me swell like a hot-air balloon.
Print will never die. I'm starting a blog because I can't reach people in China from the back of a coffee shop napkin. The Internet, like a good movie, connects me to other worlds. No English professors will teach this blog in their classrooms. It is my sincerest hope, however, that they use it to wrap their tuna fish.
I can't turn the pages of Google like the pages of an old book. Nor does my computer smell anything like my copies of Alice in Wonderland (cinnamon, grass, and dry paint) or On The Road (apple pie and the inside of a rental car).
Reading print is like looking out a train window: the view is always changing.