How to Invade a Country By Beach
The beach just west of the town of GSI is fairly quiet, a long stretch of seagull-strewn rocks and seaweed-clogged sea. I like to hang out there every now and then, eating a sandwich and watching the ocean, gazing across the straits and wondering what people on the mainland are doing. You know — those people who live in real houses and eat cooked food and all that. Don’t get me wrong. The parties down at The Village are amazing, and I love roughing it in the name of journalistic enterprise, but every now and then I spend some tranquil, solitary time reflecting on how nice it would be to own a chair.
I get in these moods from time to time. This one came on last night, when I was sitting alone on my bed in the Stump, eating cold Spaghetti-Os and drinking warm beer. I have a battery-powered boom box, and when I get to feeling like this I put on some mournful folk music and sing along at the top of my lungs. It’s safe — there’s no one around who can hear.
Last night it was Garrett Jones. I popped his “Blue Dog Diner” CD into the box and spent some precious battery juice wailing along with him.
There’s a guy in the corner
Who looks like a mourner,
And he’s thumbing through Great Expectations.
And a girl in the next booth
Who’s nipping at vermouth,
Her bleak, secret, sweet recreation.
And I’m up on a bar stool,
A former guitar fool
Who now spends his time getting stoned.
And we’re killing some time
And we’re killing our minds
In this diner we all call our home.
The Blue Dog Diner’s a happening place,
when the music is loud and the beer’s flowing fast,
But its shimmering colors all fade out to gray,
when the sunrise crawls in through the glass.
Over and over and over again. For half the night, I drank tepid Penobscot and sang along with heavy-handed folk lyrics that don’t quite rhyme but feel good anyway sometimes.
And then I fell asleep on my cot — which was the whole point in the first place.
Today, the mood was still with me, and I figured that staring out to sea and letting the Maine fog wrap around me was a good way to spend an afternoon. So around four o’clock I grabbed some more Penobscot and headed out to the beach on the west side of the island.
I often wonder, when I come across open land like this, whether anyone owns it. There’s a lot of space in this country that just seems to be there, without signs or fences or buildings. Some of it falls under the “state park” or “national forest” headings, but some of it must just be the kind of space that no one has ever thought to buy yet.
Suddenly, the ownership of the land seemed no longer in question. As I leaned back against a rock and sucked down some beer, I saw a large steel barge, painted royal red and pushed by a tugboat lashed to its side, cut across the water and approach the beach.
The barge loomed closer, and eventually it nosed up against the rock. Then a motor began to squeal — the kind of sound that huge engines make when they’re wrangling grease and steel — and the front end of the barge dropped down to form a ramp between the platform and the rocks.
I could now see inside the barge, and I watched as a small forklift hoisted a huge wooden crate. The forklift spun around acrobatically and chugged down the ramp. It deposited the crate on the beach and went back for more.
None of the people involved in this enterprise paid any attention to me at all. There were some people on the tugboat, and the guy operating the forklift, and undoubtedly a few others poking around, but I might as well have been a puffin or a barnacle or something. In about twelve minutes, five crates had been unloaded onto the beach.
Now the workmen-to-whom-I-am-apparently-invisible set about opening the crates and pulling out two-by-fours, blocks of shingles, coils of wire, and other building supplies. A generator materialized out of nowhere, along with circular saws, nail-guns, and other tools. The noise of construction — the whine of the saws, the percussion of the nail-guns, the drone of electric drills — filled the air with such a din that even the seagulls took off for more peaceful surroundings.
Around five o’clock, the work was finished. Where open, peacefully desolate beach-land had once been minding its own business earlier this morning now stood a small, three-room office building. A cable had been strung along makeshift poles and attached to the GSI power grid off to the east, and a load of gravel had been dumped and smoothed to form a driveway that snaked over the rocks to the road.
The bargeworkers packed up and loaded all the leftovers back onto the boat. The tug blew black smoke and churned the water as it backed the barge off the rocks and out to sea. Just as quickly as they had arrived, they were gone — leaving this strange little building behind.
Following my journalistic instincts, I snooped around and peered in through the windows. The building has one large room in the back, with a smaller room on the east side and another small one in front. On the west side is a microscopic bathroom with some kind of electrical toilet; a large tank attached to the outside of the building provides drinking water. The rooms are furnished with desks and chairs, and a small conference table was set up in the large room in back. The place was eerily devoid of people, as though a family of ghosts had hired a barge and a construction crew as a practical joke.
Even a pickup truck had been offloaded. It is gleaming white, with a red maple leaf on the door. Around the maple leaf, in letters that form a circle, are the words “Canadian Ministry of Outport Management.”
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — MapleLeaf249: Good on ya! We Canadians don’t take kindly to land theft, and we’re reclaiming what is rightfully ours. Piss off, Yanks!
Comment — FreedomFirst: Reclaiming? More like an act of war. Just watch — Uncle Sam will hit you so hard your whole country will smash into Russia.
Comment — PolSci206: Actually, it’s not technically an act of war because the control of the island is in dispute. It’s really only an act of war if the aggrieved party declares it so.
Comment — WomynFire982: boys, boys, boys. sigh.
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.