Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pirates return in an evolution of change

by Jim Heffernan

If you live long enough -- and I haven’t lived nearly long enough, but plenty long nevertheless -- you begin to get used to change (you’d better because it’s going to happen with or without you).

So many things that seemed permanent years ago were ephemeral. I am at the stage in life where almost nothing is the same today as it was when I arrived kicking and screaming at adulthood a half-century ago. I don’t necessarily lament it, but I notice.

At the same time, you notice the consistency with which “what goes around comes around,” as the Ferris wheel operators all say. But what goes around always comes back around in a slightly altered form.

The past couple of years have wrought astonishing change – change at hyper-speed – that was unimaginable as recently as the turn of the century (20th to 21st ). Never in my wildest imagination–and mine can get pretty wild–did I for a moment think General Motors would falter and possibly go bankrupt, and I am old enough to recall the demise of Studebaker and Packard (but not Auburn or Essex). Chrysler, maybe, but never GM.

Well, read the headlines. Headlines where? Why in newspapers, where the news has always been and always will be forever more amen, that’s where. I spent 42 years in newspaper work believing that newspapers would be around forever. Sorry newspapers, but things just haven’t been the same since I left you on your own.

I don’t know if or how long they’ll last in the form that shows up on subscribers’ doorsteps, but you wonder if there’ll be newspapers in their present form with their strong local news emphasis – “Local Woman Stung by Wasp” in 72 point type – 10 years from now. Why, I could outlive them. Like to think I will.

But seriously, GM, Chrysler, Studebaker, Packard, Lehman Brothers, Goldfine’s By the Bridge, Shoppers’ City, Glass Block, the DM&IR–to cite some local history–and newspapers notwithstanding, the most astonishing development in our time has got to be the return of big-time piracy.

Pirates roving the high seas, plundering shipping, taking hostages, confronting governments? Never thought I’d see that day. And here it is.

I suppose I should welcome the return of piracy. I was crazy about pirates when I was a kid – Long John Silver, Blackbeard, Captain Hook (by hook or crook). “Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest – yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.” Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately, today’s pirates don’t seem to live up to the grand, romantic traditions of piracy – jolly rogers aloft, cutlasses at the belt, plank walking, keel hauling, eye patching, parrot perching, treasure burying, damsel ravishing, pennant winning.

Call me a geezer, but piracy just isn’t what it used to be, just as General Motors and newspapers aren’t.

Change isn’t always for the better. And what went around doesn’t come back around the same as it was when it left. More’s the pity. Arrrrrrrr.


Generose Scheidt said...

Newspapers are still being delivered to my door in Pennsylvania.

Jim Heffernan said...

We still get them delivered here too... but I do wonder for how long. I get both the Duluth News Tribune and the NY Times delivered. Couldn't live without them :-)