A few weeks ago a friend of mine called me from Philadelphia. "Did you read the paper yet?"
"Yeah, but I'm only about half way through it. Why?"
Her answer is not as important as "the paper" in question: The New York Times. I have subscribed to the Sunday edition for about 7 of the past 10 years (I drop it when they start piling up on the living room coffee table and I notice that by the time the paper paper comes out, I've already bookmarked, e-mailed, and/or printed half the articles printed there--then pick it up again when I miss the lovely smell of ink and paper and the layouts and the raunchy excess of the advertisements in the Magazine). But I read the online edition without fail, every day. It just is "the paper."
You could even say that The NY Times is my "madeleine"... I spent three summers on parole from my midwestern youth in Hamden, CT, with my grandparents. Unlike my usual mornings in Duluth, or Appleton, or Bloomington, or wherever the parent I lived with at the time happened to be living at the time, mornings which largely consisted of a lonely bowl of cereal and the urge to get as far away as fast as I could, mornings in Hamden were a kind of "Theater of The New York Times." My grandmother, with her paper china cup half-filled with cold instant coffee and a slow-burning Pall Mall straight in one hand, would edit one section of the paper for grammar and style with her blue pencil in the other, while my grandfather cooked up a couple of hot pepper and cheese omelets, then offered pedantic corrections to the political, economic, and other news, as he would say, "so-called," between bites. Then they would start to argue with each other over some little or big thing from The Times, and the day would be off to a rollicking good start. Their's was a bitter romance, often, but it lasted longer than I've been alive (and to his death), and few things make me remember it--including my slender share of it--more than the gothic letters "T", "H", and "E" at the head of the paper.
And now it's all free again, online: Good-bye paywall.