That was then. In April, I took a buyout from Newsweek so I could write a book and sleep a lot. Plus, the magazine was circling the drain, at least in part because we decided to try to be more like The Economist. Surprisingly to no one, that failed miserably. That's because there's only room for one weekly news magazine that people claim to read but don't. We should have kept doing what we had been for nearly 80 years: being the magazine people read but didn't go around bragging about.
Since I left, I haven't seen a single minute of the 258 Republican debates. I didn't even know the New Hampshire primary had happened until I saw the results the next day on a ticker crawling across CNN at a bar. In fact, I'm not even sure which candidates are still alive on the Republican side. Ron Paul! I don't know the positions of any candidates beyond the surface, and I don't care. I really don't. It's so liberating.
And it turns out I'm not alone. There are plenty of other people I've met on the outside who live without cable or BlackBerrys or smart phones, and they don't miss those things. That's because they are hiking, and chopping wood, and going to church or visiting neighbors. I know there is nothing more tedious than listening to a reformed addict, but it's a revelation not to be hunched over a device all day, thumbs blazing, ignoring the world around me while vacantly awaiting the next tiny development in the incessant parade of mostly pointless political news.
Other people have known that all along. Take my dad, for instance. He keeps up with the world beyond the mountains via radio and the nightly news pulled in by antenna. And that's really all you need. He lives with my mom in the woods of western Virginia where I grew up, without cable or Internet. He can build a cabin with his own two hands -- and he has -- and kill a deer and gut and butcher it and have it in the fridge in under an hour. He could probably even build the fridge if he put his mind to it.
A while back, I was visiting him and he told me he'd driven his truck to the little Goshen Public Library in Rockbridge County the week before and read some of my old Newsweek columns online. I was flattered and liked the idea of him making a special trip just to see what I'd been writing. He said he'd gotten the librarian to help him look them up on the computer. I said, "Next time you go, just use Google." My dad paused for a second and said, "What's that?"
That was probably the single moment in my life when I loved my father the most, and I wanted to be him, free of all of the technology and the pressure and worries that come with it.
That's not really possible in my current writing career, but I've moved a little bit in his direction since my exit from Newsweek. I've learned there are even other sections of the newspaper beyond political news. And you only have to read the parts of The Washington Post you enjoy, like Nationals baseball coverage and "Ask Carolyn." Is it me, or does she almost always take the side of the woman? I mean, sure Bob's in-laws are rude, but Amy should take a look in the mirror, too, you know what I mean? Now I get my Rick Santorum updates from Dan Savage in the City Paper rather than Politico.