Down East 2013 ©
A few of the guys out here had this thing where, when they mailed a letter on Matinicus to go to someone else on Matinicus, they’d just write the word “town” where the address should go. That seemed to be an accepted small-town tradition; maybe they do it where you live, too.
We used to have a postmaster (now deceased) who was known for his grouchy and blustering ways, and he’d occasionally pull the rulebook on somebody addressing mail to a recipient by first name only. Yet somehow he’d countenance this business of writing “town.” Paul and Vance were the only people by those names in this entire zip code before Vance’s grandson Vance was born, so from time to time Paul would address a propane bill or whatever to Vance, with “Paul” in the upper left corner, and “Vance” in the center, and nothing else on the envelope. Old Dick Moody would have a fit. “How,” he would demand, “is the post office supposed to know what to do with this?”
Of course, there was no reason why such a system wouldn’t be perfectly adequate, as the mail handed to Dick through the post office window was just going to be placed in somebody’s post office box half a yard to the starboard. We never did have RFD mail delivery on Matinicus; not until the post office burned down last year and Cynthia had to run the mail around to people on her four-wheeler. It’s really rather odd seeing actual regulation mailboxes in the yards around here. I can’t help wondering what folks will do with them once we have a normal post office again; plant petunias in them, I suppose.
What really made Dick’s day once was a letter my family received a couple of months after a hiking trip to the Grand Canyon. There, at the bottom of the trail, over a can of Tecate Mexican beer in the Phantom Ranch lunchroom and foot-sore cantina, we met a doctor from Montana. He had his two young sons hiking with him, and we were planning on bringing our two grade-school age children another time. We were interested in hearing how his kids were managing the long hike, and got chatting, as people do who have shared an experience. We happened to mention Matinicus Island, and he asked, by way of idle conversion, what we did on the island seeing as we did not fish. That was about it. We did not happen to exchange names.
We came home and never gave it another thought, until we got a nice letter from a family in Montana. It was addressed to “The Bearded Electrician whose wife is an EMT, Matinicus Island, Maine.”
Dick thought that was really something.
Back to this business of calling the environs around the post office “town;” I have heard people ask others of this island, on rare occasions, if they were going “to town,” or going “down town.” I always thought “going to town” meant going to Rockland. To me, “town” only could mean the mainland, as in “over to town” (“Did you hear? They got a new Chinese restaurant opened up over to town.") For a few, though, the little gravel parking area between the old post office (no longer there) and the power house, with connecting road, if you can call it that, to the wharf, was “town.” It used to make more sense when there was also a grocery store there, and a place to buy gasoline, and a community well, but we’re talking ancient history now (like, say, the late eighties.)
So, pretty soon, if the bureaucracy should deign to get with it, we’ll be enjoying the rights and privileges that come with our new post office, which is to be in the front of the parsonage building in the middle of the island. Next to that is the island’s recycling facility (about which I can talk for hours but will spare you.) A thirty-second walk to the north brings one to the lovely new store, during the warmer months anyway (this time of year it’s where Lisa stacks her firewood.) Next to that you pass the school, and then “The Old School,” which is the municipal office and just beyond that, the shed where Matinicus Island Rescue stores the medical supplies.
It is looking as though an islander could potentially drop off her empty Jagermeisters, Twisted Teas and White Trucks to benefit the Ladies Aid or the kids’ field trip, pick up her mail, drop most of said mail immediately back off at the recycling shed (as it is invariably 90 percent mail order catalogues,) stop for an ice cream, salute the flag, wave at the school kids, license her dog and bum a band-aid before going home.
That would mean we'd darned near have "town." Town will have moved up the road a half a mile or so, that’s all.