Down East 2013 ©
I've done the math, and there's at least a 50-50 chance I'm an idiot.
No, my editor, Katherine the Benefactor of All That is Lucrative and Published, did not bully me into submission, although it’s not for a lack of trying. I’ve been hauled across her carpet so many times I have the world’s first Scotchguarded butt. To her credit, she did punctuate her repeated attempts at my execution with supportive comments: “I like the tone of your blog,” “I want you to be yourself.” But then: “But there are limits to blah, blah, blah.” Nevertheless, I remain Berbered but not bowed, and it is not for Kate that I write this blog entry today.
It’s really not for me, either. I don’t really care if I am allowed the privilege of reporting on GSI for the hallowed Eastport Sun or not. I like it here, but it’s not exactly the jungles of Borneo. I’ll get to the jungles someday, and this little stopover on GSI isn’t going to slow me down any.
No, I’m writing today’s blog for the people of The Town of Grand Seal Island. The little rant that I allowed to creep into the generally fair and restrained Web pages of The Sun caused them some pain, and I do feel pretty crappy about that.
I actually was pretty damn surprised about it all. I really didn’t think anyone on the island read my blog. Hell, I didn’t think they knew how to read — someone must have been holding secret literacy classes behind my back. But despite all the snotty little comments I’ve tossed out in these blog entries, no one has ever said anything to me at all. No one has complained. No one has offered me compliments, bouquets of roses, or bottles of champagne, either, but I wasn’t really getting my hopes up in the first place.
The fact is, it felt like I was writing in a vacuum. I’d send these little barbs out into cyberspace, and they would trigger a rushing, amplified, raging echo of — silence. It’s like in space, no one can hear your sarcasm.
But then somehow, I crossed a thin, invisible line. OK — it wasn’t “somehow.” It wasn’t mysterious. It wasn’t really all that invisible. I blew steam. I thought it would stir things up a bit, maybe get Kate off my back about covering The Town for a while. So I launched a small-scale nuclear attack against the people of GSI. I won’t repeat the details of the blog — it’s remembered well enough by my fan club, which basically consisted of my Mom and Dad until last week, when Mom resigned in protest — but I guess it has to be said: It just wasn’t fair.
At least, I don’t think it was fair. I really don’t know the people of The Town all that well, and I’ve lived in Maine long enough to know that conversations between strangers tend to be a bit formal and reserved. But I was pissed at Kate for pushing me toward The Town and away from The Village all the time. So I blew my stack, which is fine, but I offended some innocent people in the process — which is not fine. In fact, it’s piss-poor journalism.
I realized how badly I hurt some GSIers earlier today, when I drove the Island Car from The Stump to The Town because I needed groceries. The mice and raccoons and chipmunks and rats and rabbits and lizards and iguana and moose had pretty much wiped out my supply of Cap’n Crunch, and at least some of them had infiltrated my defenses and done a serious number on my secret stash of toilet paper, so it was time to head out for some essential supplies. I was hoping to slip into town in the early morning hours, when most of the God-fearing population of Grand Seal Island were sleeping the sweet sleep of the blameless, but I overlooked the fact that most of the God-fearing population of Grand Seal Island get up at three o’clock in the freaking morning. They were all finishing lunch when I staggered down Harbor Drive at eight-thirty.
Still, I had managed to get into the general store and track down the cereal and Charmin without incident. That’s when a heavy hand slapped itself on my shoulder, halfway down the canned-prunes-and-hunting-rifles aisle. I turned around, expecting some kind of ugly explosion. And there was the Mayor Himself — the Honorable Henry Coffin — looking straight into my eyes. He is taller than I am, which is intimidating enough, but he’s also wiry and tough, with blue eyes that are pretty damn piercing for an old guy. He looked at me over his little half-glasses with an expression of pain — and, strangely, sorrow.
I braced for impact, putting my seat backs and tray tables into their upright and locked positions and assuming the emergency-landing position with my arms crossed in front of my head. But nothing blew up. There were no loud noises. No hellfire and brimstone pummeling me from Above. No Wrath of Khan, no Revenge of the Nerds. The Empire didn’t strike back.
Instead, he looked sad. This fiery, fearsome sexagenarian whose language has been known to shock longshoremen into impotence didn’t seem all that angry. Just hurt. And he was man enough to let me know it.
“Son,” he said, not very loudly, “you don’t seem to think much of us, here in Grand Seal Island. But we’re good folk, decent people, with dreams and aspirations. Just like you. The trouble is, you’ve given all your attention to those hippies down in The Village. And who wouldn’t? At first glance, the Town has nothing to compete with the drugs, the booze, and the boobs that you can find so easily to the south. So why would a young, warm-blooded journalist like yourself want to spend time with the families in The Town? No one here is going to sleep with you ten minutes after saying hello. We’ve got a nice beach, but all the women keep their suits on. Some members of my family make a pretty decent kind of beer, but you won’t find much in the way of Ecstasy, crystal meth, or cocaine here. So why would you bother with this old Town?”
OK — I was amazed that he knew about Ecstasy and crystal meth. Those are stupid, nasty chemicals that will kill you first and get you stoned afterward. This guy was more savvy than I thought.
He continued: “There are some reasons why a young, ambitious journalist like yourself might be interested in the town of Grand Seal Island, but they aren’t apparent right away. I’d like you to stop by my house for dinner sometime — tomorrow night, if you’re available. I’d like you to meet some of my family, and some of the people I consider part of my family even though we’re not directly related. The story of Grand Seal Island can’t be found in beach parties and love nests. It lies in the relationships we have here, and I’d like you to get a chance to see that.”
It would have been so much easier if he had just blown up in my face. Instead, I have to endure Death By Family. The in-laws with their stamp collections. Mucus-drooling kids with their piano renditions of “In The Land of Let’s Pretend There Lived a Kanga-Rooster.” Third cousins with their photos albums showing each other grinning in front of the “Welcome To” signs for all fifty states. After an evening with the GSI Munsters, I’d probably be ready for self-referred admission to the State of Maine Funny Farm, except that I suspect it’s here. Why is it that most people can’t stand their relatives but still think they’re charming to strangers?
But I’ll go. Mayor Coffin made a pretty damn huge human gesture today, and I’m going to hold up my end. I will not back down in my coverage — I’ll call things as I see them, and I’ll use any damn tone I want — but there will be no more verbal attacks against people who don’t deserve it.
I’m a journalist, dammit, and I intend to be a good one.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — SunTanDude: Welcome back, Van man! Good to hear your written voice again. Rock on!
Comment — Edith5545: Were you on vacation? I really must read this more often.
Comment — Gemstone: It was indeed a wonderfully human gesture that Henry Coffin extended to you, and I hope you’ll treat him and his family with the grace and respect they deserve. Still waters run deep.
Comment — George Reynolds: Hey — how’s the shack holding up?
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here .