If the world seemed brave and new to its inhabitants more than 80 years ago, imagine that same troublesome planet with video, cell phones, and computers thrown into the mix.
And since imagining that new world is basically our job (in addition to our regular job) when we wake up each day, it's no wonder that we all tend to feel a little on edge. Stir in the added dysfunction of the recent historic, hard-fought election, and even the simple rituals that used to guide our day can feel about as comforting as a bumper-car ride.
Which is why I was so encouraged to learn that the Daily Mountain Eagle, which gave me my first job back when I was greener than crabgrass and almost as suave, is bucking the trend of daily newspapers around the brave new world by continuing its distribution to our personal doorsteps on good old-fashioned paper.
It reminded me of the years when I was living a writer's and photographer's dream after being hired as editor of a weekly paper on the edge of the county called The Community News.
This blessing was a double-edged sword, because we often produced a 24-page publication using a smaller staff than a big metro paper would devote to four pages. We consisted of two full-timers on the editorial side (myself and Rick Watson) and two more on the advertising side (Jerry Geddings and Walter Quick).
Just for fun, try this exercise sometime: Sit down at a keyboard and start writing stories. Keep an eye on the document's Word Count feature, and stop when you've written enough words to fill up one newspaper page.
Take a deep breath. Now, do it all again — but a little bit faster. Repeat. Repeat.
To produce any kind of newspaper at all with this degree of regularity was a major, David vs. Goliath accomplishment. The fact that we could sometimes make it look pretty, to boot, was a downright miracle.
The Community News was printed at night, in between Mountain Eagle editions, and I always hung around to aggravate the press crew until the first copies of TCN started being ejected from the business end of the thundering machinery.
When the print run produced an issue we were particularly proud of, I would take it home and do a weird thing: I would thumbtack the pages to the bedroom wall so that I could look at them as I went to sleep, and dream about doing even better the next week.
Old habits die hard.
Nailing one's iPad on the bedroom wall to admire while going dream-ward just doesn't give the same thrill, somehow. But, there's an upside.
There's nothing quite like working several days in another state and firing up the ol' laptop each morning to read the newest issue of the Eagle over breakfast. Or to be visiting family in Wyoming (speaking of brave new worlds) and sitting on the porch with our granddaughter (speaking of miracles) while she reads my new column and gives her reaction.
The miracle is that Darrah was seemingly born a kind and remarkable person and grows better each day.
The other upside of being able to choose from a paper version or a megabyte version of reality is nothing to sneeze at. At the end of a hard day when all the words I've read, and written, start to run together, just a few quick touches of a fingertip bring to the screen a new picture of her. Prop up the iPad on the bedside table, and the device's silicon innards keep effortlessly dissolving to another picture, and another.
Good sleep. Good dreams.
Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, books, photos, and radio features are available on his website, carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program "Music from Home" airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 and is archived afterward on his website.