The Breakfast Table

Boobus Americanus

Spice Girl:

I may have overdosed on gumbo last night, or on Stephanopoulos, but reading the “1999 Classic Farm Tractors” calendar to Natty over breakfast obviously got you hot and bothered about agribusiness. Was it the 1956 John Deere 420 Crawler or the 1951 McCormick-Deering that sent you over the edge?

Not that there was anything else to read. You’re right, the general store sure is quaint–when I went yesterday with Natty, there was an orphaned lamb wearing a diaper and resting by the potbelly stove–but this morning it was sold out of the Washington Post by eight. I wonder if any other journalists go without a morning paper as often as we do. Maybe it’s a blessing; many days, we’re as pig-ignorant as the average American and therefore in touch with our audience. Remember the Indian-summer afternoon we were carving pumpkins on the porch while the phone rang off the hook? Turned out some editor wanted you to go to Baghdad because, unknown to us, the United States was about to bomb Iraq. By the time you returned the calls, the crisis had blown over.

What strikes me on days like this is that the substance of my life is no different without the news. When I read the paper at breakfast, I imagine myself in the broad stream of world events and wonder through the day what is happening in Kosovo, on Wall Street, at the White House. But it’s mostly just noise, a news cycle that has little to do with our lives. Like when we lived in Australia and got the Sunday New York Times via sea mail, three months late. Ninety percent of the stories recorded already-forgotten events, and we could focus on the few that were about something that endured.