Baltimore’s City Paper was always around, though it’s anybody’s guess how it found its way into my hands at first. During pre-adolescence, as with The New Yorker then, the cartoons—which were puzzling and light years beyond my comprehension—fascinated me: “Dykes to Watch Out For,” “Life in Hell,” Lynda Barry's various prickly, bespeckled doodles.
But by late-1992 or early-‘93, I actively sought the weekly out. Trips from my father’s apartment to the Record & Tape Traders at Pikesville’s Greenspring Station might or might not end with a purchase, but invariably ended with a City Paper splayed open on my bed. I drank in arts coverage of tantalizingly unfamiliar media, grooved on a tilted authorial tone Sun articles never bore, and slowly began to recognize bylines: John Lewis, Lee Gardner, Sono Motoyama, Michael Anft. I was 15; so was City Paper.
On Wednesday afternoon, copies of the weekly’s final issue sat in a small stack outside of the Pikesville Library. On the way back to my car I picked up three copies; cool and shadowy and glowering, the late afternoon threatened to tumble into evening. The brisk purposefulness all around seemed at odds with dense gridlock—worse than I could remember it being—and encroaching twilight. I’m 40, a father, divorced, in different ways still figuring myself out. Impossibly energetic 15-year-old me was capable of devouring a City Paper in one afternoon; distracted, flagging 40-year-old me will read this much slimmer edition over the course of a week or three.
Twenty-five years. Twenty-five years later—gone by in a flash, crawling imperceptibly—my relationship with City Paper has changed significantly. Twenty-five years earlier, the notion of City Paper ever folding seemed downright incomprehensible. Comic strips ended, bands ended, and television shows ended; newspapers and networks were the bedrock upon which society was built—they weren’t allowed to end. They just couldn’t. And, anyway, the Internet was a rumor, the economy was improving, Donald Trump was a punchline. The future was limitless, it seemed; the future looked so fucking bright.