An Island Town In Search of a Pulse
Previously, in Island Wars… Donovan Graham is young, green, and hungry for adventure. He snagged a job blogging for a small newspaper that sent him to Grand Seal Island to cover a military spat between the U.S. and Canada. During his short time there, he bought a derelict car, moved into a crumbling house, and partied in The Village, the hippie enclave that is home to the object of his lust. He whacked a Navy destroyer with a wooden oar, learned about life from a crazed welder, and tested the patience of his editor. Click here to read earlier entries, or read on to see Van's latest update.
Kate “The Buck Stops Here Unless You Obey Me” Fisher, my illustrious editor at the Sun, has been complaining lately that I’m not giving enough coverage to The Town. She seems concerned that my readers are aching to hear more about the most boring place on earth, and she seems to think they want to read less about the wild and crazy drugs-and-nudity scene in The Village. She asked me, in a tone that sounded a whole lot more like an order than a request, to spend some “serious time” in The Town and to report on its undercurrents.
So I spent all of today in the town of Grand Seal Island, wandering its streets and chatting with its inhabitants. And I’ve come to a very important conclusion: The people of GSI have got to be the most timid, meek, mewling, bland, brain-dead, spineless, anemic, lifeless, shallow, insipid, mindless, vaporous, vapid, clueless, anesthetized, fogbound saps ever to walk on their hind legs. They have the collective personality of a pithed frog. I’ve seen Chia Pets with more sparkling wit. There are easily fourteen species of lichen that are more fun to spend an evening with.
I talked today with probably five-dozen denizens of the town, and I don’t remember a single conversation. No one had any bold opinions. No one offered any colorful commentaries. No one asked any provocative questions. Nearly three-quarters of them began the conversation the exact same way: “Nice day for fishin’, I’d say,” followed by a vague smile and a slight sideways nod of the head. The script continues in uniform fashion. I’m supposed to say, “Sure is,” and then they say, “But you know what we say in these parts” and then I say “Sure do” and then they say (anyway) “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes” and then we both chuckle. Then I’m supposed to ask them something relating to our previous conversation (“How’s your aunt doing with her bursitis?”) or, if we haven’t had any previous conversations, something related to their current condition (“I see you have a paper bag. Been shopping?”).
The conversation continues exactly like this, with nothing resembling depth or evidence of mental awareness, for approximately eight lines. Then one of us says “Well” and the other says “Yep” and then the first one says “I guess I ought to let you go” as though the other person is running late for his Supreme Court appearance. Then we go through the departure ritual, exactly six lines of farewells and promises to talk again soon, and we wander along in different directions down the street.
What this town needs is a first-quality defibrillator. When the conversation reached the part about the aunt and her bursitis, I could whip out the old de-fib, yell “Clear!” and shock fifty thousand volts through their chests. Maybe that would wake them up enough to stimulate some lively, colorful, and even contentious dialogue. Or maybe it would kill them. Either way, it would be a merciful improvement.
I mean, just look at the contrast. OK — I haven’t traveled outside the State of Maine yet. But I will, and soon. I’m going to tramp through jungles and hitch rides on freight trains and take helicopters into remote and desolate parts of the world, all the while writing the stories I find and sending them to a devoted audience back in the States. But these townspeople have no ambitions at all. They move through their little lives like zombies, chugging out to sea to haul traps and drag lines, all in the interest of extracting some meager living from the stuff they catch. They have no dreams. They have no vision. They are never, ever going to change — and they’re all OK with that.
I ran into one middle-aged man on the street, and I wrestled our conversation away from the weather and joint pain. This was the best I could get:
Him: If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.
Me: Listen. I’m a journalist on assignment to cover Grand Seal Island. Can you tell me the most exciting thing that has ever happened here?
Him: Exciting? Well, I…. Actually, I’d have to say that it…. Uh…. No. Not exactly. You might try asking old Ben Bow. He’ll have something to say on the subject.
Me: OK. Great. Terrific. So tell me this: What’s the biggest, most spectacular dream you have right now?
Him: Oh, I never remember my dreams. Not sure I have any.
Me: Not that kind of dream. I mean, if you could wave a magic wand and make anything incredible happen, what would it be?
Him: Magic wand? I don’t believe in that kind of nonsense.
Me: Fine. Skip the wand. Let’s say you win the Maine State Lottery tonight. One million dollars. What would you do?
Him: I don’t play the lottery. It’s a fool’s bet. Did you know that if instead of spending a dollar a day on the lottery you actually invested that money in a reputable bank, you’d have almost five thousand dollars at the end of ten years? That’s good money, you know.
Me: Would you mind if I held a mirror under your nose? I’m not entirely sure you’re breathing.
Him: Well, I guess I ought to let you go. Let’s talk again soon.
And that, I’m sorry to say, was one of the better chats I had today. He’s a regular raconteur compared to most of the people I met.
My advice to the United States of America, regarding the dispute with Canada over ownership of Grand Seal Island: Paint a line through the middle of the island, from east to west. Give Canada the north part, town and all, and keep the south part with The Bon Temps Rock-and-Roll Village.
We’d come out way ahead, and the Canadians would never know it.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — MapleLeaf249: What the hey? That’s not a very neighborly thing to say about Canada. We have some mighty exciting towns up here.
Comment — PeaceNick: Dividing the island does seem like a reasonable solution 2 the crisis — and far better than resorting 2 violence!
Comment — Edith5545: Oh, dear. Is the town really like that? Are you sure? Maybe you’re just too young to appreciate it.
Comment — Amber4295: Funny about the de-fib. Lol.
Comment — Gemstone: Mr. Graham, can you explain this? Please? I don’t understand why you are attacking the town this way. I’d like to hear what you have to say.
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.