Tue | Dec 7, 2021

The Gleaner grew me

Published:Tuesday | June 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM

By Gordon Robinson

Two months ago, I rose at 5:30 a.m., as usual, pottered around as The Old Ball and Chain pretended to sleep until her prescribed hour for waking; turned on the computer; and, at 6:15 on the dot, dressed, like Tony Soprano, in my pajamas with robe flapping open, I headed outside to retrieve The Gleaner.

I'd travelled at least 10 yards before I realised, with a terrifying mixture of disappointment, shock and gloom, that The Gleaner had not yet been delivered. This was a disaster. Some people must have coffee first thing in the morning. Some must have tea.

I must read my Gleaner by 6:30 a.m. every day except Sundays, when it's a more leisurely occupation. I can't leave home or begin work until I've read The Gleaner. So I waited. By 8 a.m., withdrawal symptoms kicked in. In desperation, I emailed the following to Gleaner management at 8:05 a.m.:

"Over the years, as Jamaica has moved more and more towards becoming a police state, I've become accustomed to giving up my basic human rights. Little by little, day by day, I've grudgingly conceded this or that which formerly one enjoyed as natural justice in a pure stream directly from Heaven.

For example, every morning before 6 a.m., the bread van would arrive at my home. Just the smell as the driver opened the back was perfection. If I was lucky, he'd allow me to ride up front with him for the next few stops (ecstasy). The milkman wasn't far behind. Two bottles of the freshest milk you can ever imagine (with cream on top) were left on the back-door step every morning. A little later, one could sit and watch the iceman as he wrestled with a huge block of ice on a grappling claw, swinging it from side to side as he carried it for placement in the icebox. ('Fridge'? Wha dat?)

But, bit by bit, my basic human rights have been eroded. Like an old man suffering from a progressive cancer, I've reluctantly conceded territory and adjusted my expectations. But, over the years, one last vestige of civilisation has remained with me. Every morning, at around 6 a.m., there comes the sound of a reassuring thud outside my front door as The Gleaner is delivered, seemingly by a baseball pitcher with a perfect arm. I've NEVER had to leave home without reading my Gleaner. IN INK.

Frightening turn of events

But, since Monday, a frightening turn of events has begun to cloud my mornings. The Gleaner has appeared later and later until, as I write to you today, tears streaming down my cheeks, THERE'S NO GLEANER AT MY DOOR.

Woe is me. I am undone. I've an ongoing complex case against [name deleted] and today I must cross-examine a senior HQ manager. How will I do this if I haven't read my Gleaner?

So, all of this is to warn you that if my case goes badly today, The Gleaner will soon be served with a breach-of-constitutional-rights claim from me.

I'm not joking. In 1975, I began two years' residence in Barbados. On my first morning in a strange country, I headed outside to the Gleaner man on the corner. "Sell me a Gleaner," I asked.

He looked puzzled, "Whak yu say?"

"Gleaner!" I repeated slowly for him.

"We ain't gok nun a dose, fren. I gok de Advocate an' de Nation."

Slowly, at the ripe old age of 21, it dawned on me. Gleaner was the name of a paper published only in Jamaica. It wasn't a generic name. That, I learned later that same day, was 'newspaper'.

I should've known. From childhood, I wanted to be a journalist. But my parents, from humble backgrounds, were adamant I'd be a doctor. When that failed, I sulked around at home until receiving a visit from my uncle, mentor and hero, J.D. Hall. "What is it you want to do?" he growled. "Journalism" was my swift reply.

He looked at me a bit askance, shrugged his shoulders and arranged an interview with the great J.C. Proute, then Daily News editor-in-chief.

"I have a cub reporter position for you," said Proute, "but I want you to go away and decide whether you really want this. A journalism career comes with many rewards, including ulcers, psychological problems, money troubles, marital difficulties, and you'll wake up most Christmas days at your desk."

There was no second interview. Still, it never occurred to me the Daily News was anything but another Gleaner.

Peace and love.

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.