I’M WAKING up before dawn in Ely, Nevada, still snug in a flannel nightgown under a blanket on the couch, dog in my lap, sipping coffee shipped from Jack Mormon Coffee Company in Salt Lake City. I’m peering at the iPhone in my hand, reading the Washington Post. Steel-cut oats are boiling on the stove.
More than 2,300 miles away in DC, my mom has long ago finished a small pot of French-press coffee, shipped to her in half-pound bags from West Virginia’s Black Dog Coffee, and eaten an English muffin. The disassembled sections of the Post, read through, are stacked by the front door of her apartment, to be carried down the hall for recycling.
The daily rituals of coffee and WaPo tether my mom, Carol, and me across miles, mountains, routines and time zones.
Anne Lamott writes that the newspaper was the religion in her family. And so it was in mine. Raising my brother and me on Capitol Hill from 1970 to 1985, my dad’s daily routine was to purchase the Washington Post from a newsstand. My paternal grandmother, who lived in Thomas House when the building was ordinary apartments at the edge of 14th Street’s then-red light district, was loyal to the Washington Star. From Nevada, my maternal grandmother sent blue envelopes full of newspaper clippings from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Henderson Home News and the Las Vegas Sun.
The Sunday New York Times was our family Bible, generating discussion, reminding us to be informed citizens, guiding us in decisions through the week. The Post impressed upon my little-kid self that we lived in the nation’s capital and that big decisions were being made in the large white buildings visible from my brother’s bedroom on the third floor of our row house.
College took me to California and I ended up making a home there for awhile, parlaying my undergraduate experience at the Daily Californian and the Toad Lane Review—published by the now-defunct Barrington Hall student cooperative—into a news-clerk position at the Union Democrat. In Sonora, I fell in love with a reporter and also started a love affair with whistle-stops. I married the reporter and together we moved to other towns, as well as larger cities, until we stumbled on Ely during a road trip this past June. The 700-square-foot house we bought soon after is reminiscent of the cabin we first shared in Sonora more than 25 years ago, on a dirt road in town, heated by a robust wood stove and passive sunshine.
When I started buying furniture and kitchen gadgets to fill my new place, my mom signed me up for a digital subscription to the Washington Post. It’s not easy to get news in Ely. The local paper publishes weekly. The Las Vegas Review-Journal is available for purchase Monday through Saturday, but only at a few casinos. Though it’s a morning paper, copies don’t arrive until afternoon, because Vegas is a four-hour drive away. Still, they usually sell out. No other hard-copy papers are available here.
The Washington Post app opens the door to my past, as DC-raised; to my present, doing my darnedest to stay clearly informed in this muddled political climate; and to my future, when I reconnect with my mom through texts and emails. And when I’ll visit home again.
So, first thing in the morning, I check the top stories. What’s happened overnight? Then to the local DC section. Here in the high desert, I can picture rain falling on the Potomac River, and my mom watching the green leaves of Rock Creek Park’s giant trees through her window. TV reviews, book recommendations, recipes—all these provide a common language for us. Opinions in the Post’s View keep me abreast of the macro politics, a balance to the micro of my town. Horoscopes and cartoons? Essential.
Ideas run through DC corridors and avenues, the way veins of silver and copper run through the expansive mountains surrounding me. I need both: theories and facts gathered and printed and delivered in pixels, and trails through canyons so quiet you can hear air rushing over birds’ wings as they fly. One digital newspaper subscription from a conscientious long-distance mom makes it possible.
Writer, editor and yoga teacher Alexa Mergen lives in Ely, Nevada, but she relies on news from her hometown paper.