Roger Ebert’s bankruptcy-induced memory (or so it seems) of life at the Sun-Times when he was young and it was healthy stopped me in my tracks. I read it, and then I immediately set my college roommate (who happened to be visiting) down at the computer screen and told him to read it. Ebert had done a much better job of making a life spent in the Chicago newspaper world sound marvelous than I could hope to.
So it’s over, I thought. And here’s the proof. Not simply the bars that have closed and the newspapers on the ropes and the technologies that have changed everything, but the fact that something so romantic and evocative can now be written about this heyday. And it wasn’t by Ben Hecht. It was written by Roger Ebert, someone I know, and the only reason it doesn’t make me wish I’d been alive then is that I was.
I e-mailed Ebert and thanked him for the memories. But blogging is not unromantic, I added, in defense of our present lives. You write in a frenzy and you write from your heart, pouring it out to the multitudes who no longer read newspapers. And once in a while someone immediately responds and says you’re wonderful. (The responses to Ebert in that vein are well past the hundred mark.)
The thing is, when you’re done blogging you look up and look around and wonder whatever happened to the long rows of clattering typewriters, the hovering copyboys, the glowering editors. You’re staring at a bedroom wall, and out the window is the street you live on and it is absolutely silent. Cocking an ear, you hope to pick up the wail of sirens in the distance. But you don’t, so you trudge downstairs and make a sandwich.