Kim Block Fan Meets Idol | 'This Just In'
My sister Betty, who cannot consistently count past 10, is a news junkie. Every evening, in a ritual that reflects her scrupulous sense of order, she prepares her TV tray: Glass of milk. Potholder. Plate of casserole (cooked by our sister Anne) placed on potholder. Fork to left of plate. Little Debbie cake to right of plate. Only then will she settle in, one narrow thigh crossed over the other, for her nightly visit with her idol, Kim Block, longtime anchor for our local CBS News affiliate.
At 6:00 on the dot, the same incongruous vision: two intensely focused women face to face, one on screen in a silk blouse, the other in her sister’s den, wearing a child-size hoodie and size-0 sweatpants. Despite their staggering outer differences, Betty Wood and Kim Block share a few essentials: They’re close in age; they live in Maine; they love the news. Each has worked at the same place for 30 years: Kim at Channel 13, Betty at a community program for developmentally disabled adults. And, as Betty has pointed out, they each ride from time to time in a work van–Kim’s a high-tech affair emblazoned with the Channel 13 logo, Betty’s a used Dodge Caravan with seven seats and a chairlift.
When Kim brings news of blood and murder, her admirer briefly flees the room; otherwise, Betty is the ideal listener. She “reads” Kim Block the way Victorians once read novels: for guidance on how to comport herself, how to scrutinize a world beyond hers, how and when to be shocked, or captivated, or aggrieved.
“Hear this,” she’ll say to Anne, darting into the kitchen for the nightly recap. “Confetti in Portland!”
“On the bank. They had a can!”
This is Bettyspeak; you get used to it. “Graffiti, you mean? Spray paint?”
“Spray paint!” Although my big sister is a cheerful soul, she likes umbrage as much as the next guy. Slowly, so slowly, she’ll shake her head like an exhausted schoolmarm, tsking three distinct times, the better to lament the tedious frailty of her fellow man. If reported by Kim Block, even the pettiest crime–some nameless youngster tagging a bank wall–will merit Betty’s eternal indignation.
A couple of weeks following the vandalism at the bank, she comes to visit me in Portland, patrolling the scenery from the passenger seat of my car, on the lookout for “confetti.”
We’re on Washington Avenue, on our way to a surprise. “Look at that man!” Betty huffs. “On a phone!” Kim Block has reported on this: Cell phones are bad. Worse than confetti.
“It’s okay, Bet, he’s not driving.”
Head shake; three tsks.
“Bet, he’s not even in a car.”
Unconvinced, she remains silent as we pass the maligned pedestrian and pull into the Channel 13 parking lot. “Here we are,” I tell her. “Now guess.”
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