I was looking through a few recent issues of Down East a short while ago. What a small world we live in.
A 1985 essay by Caskie Stinnett turned up in the January issue, and in the same, Paul Doiron’s take-off on Facebook, “25 Random Things about Down East.” These included “…Down East has only had four editors in chief” and “Caskie Stinnett was not one of them.” As it happened, that week I was reading Stinnett’s collection of essays from the 1970s and early ‘80s, One Man’s Island, which I’d got out of the Rockland library.
Stinnett’s island experience is unlike my own in that he had the place largely to himself (albeit shared with a boxer dog and what seemed like an awful lot of houseguests, some less than up to the duty,) but there is something in common among islands. You can tell his experience was the real McCoy when he opined on the wind. “I’ve got nothing good to say about wind, nothing at all” he begins one essay, and in another, “I hate the very guts of wind.” Now, there’s a man who’s been there. He admits that the sailboat crowd would wince at such an attitude, but we in my household couldn’t agree more. Wind is just something to remove shingles from roofs, to toss plastic buckets around the yard so the place looks like a dump, to harass boats on moorings, and to make the lineman nervous.
I remember DownEast back when Mr. Stinnett was writing his pieces. Usually I read the magazine in my grandmother’s bathroom in South Thomaston. In those days I paid no attention to who wrote what; I just enjoyed the sillier offerings, “North by East” and such. If I remember correctly, the Real Estate section was a lot shorter then.
Among those sillier offerings, for example, a small cartoon was once ripped out and stuck on the refrigerator. It is a caricature of a Maine old-timer shoveling out to his snowbound mailbox in his ear-flap hat. Over his thermal long undershirt he wears a T-shirt bearing the legend “Fort Myers is for Wimps.”
That means something on Matinicus.
This sort of remark also reminds me of Jimmy Parker’s printed T-shirts back in Spruce Head in the early ‘80s. He drew the pictures and made good use of the old “If you can’t take winter, you don’t deserve summer” quip, and a few other good one-liners (“Happiness is a warm…” uh, word for small rowboat…) He called his operation “Make-n-Break Enterprises” or something like that, and though I’ve been tempted to name my bakery “Make-and-Break” it would only be with a nod to Captain Parker (no, the other Captain Parker, not the Captain Parker I say hello to on line to get coffee in Rockland.) Yes, I know our fellow blogger Tim Sample has enjoyed that “don’t deserve winter” line in a recent post; it’s an old one, an “oldie but a goodie.” It’s got to be public domain by now. It is not just Maine humor, it’s TRUE. I wish some of the folks who stick their noses up so high and prate about their “native-ness” on this island took that statement a bit more seriously. I suppose we’d better not hold it against Caskie Stinnett or anybody else without a winterized home if they make themselves scarce while the snow flies, but enough’s enough with some of these Better-Than-Thou guys. Where are you when the wind blows? OK, now I’ve gone too far. Probably I’ll get my tires slashed.
Anyway, I’ve met Tim Sample, he’s been to Matinicus, back when he was doing “Postcards from Maine” for CBS. We ate supper together at Hoadley’s bed and breakfast, along with the sound guy and cameraman who used to work for Charles Kuralt. Now THERE was a celebrity. I sure would like to have met Kuralt. If you read this, Tim, we’re mostly still here, and I expect we’ll see you up to graduation this spring.
By the way, speaking of one-liners, on Matinicus it’s a fact that “You can’t get there from here” isn’t Maine humor. It’s a weather report.
Looking through the pile of recent Down East issues brought me back to the piece a couple of months ago about the Spelt Bakery in Yarmouth. Beth George, the baker, went to Bates College, same time as I did. I didn’t know her in college, but I knew who she was, I recognized her picture (cool; there’s that small world feeling again.) The article says she’s an attorney, but now she’s a baker. That’s a pretty circuitous route to going into the baker’s trade. I got accepted to law school, chickened out of the debt and the city life (and Paul probably would never have married a lawyer,) and now I’m a baker. A little. Hi, Beth; I’ll look for your bagels next time I’m in the Portland area.
It was only going to be trucks and boats, I swear. The law thing, I mean.
The article that made me laugh out loud, though, was the September 2008 issue in which bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about Matinicus. “I wanted to go live on Matinicus.” She wanted to do WHAT? Are you KIDDING ME?
I’d forgotten about that.
The piece describes how Gilbert was “fascinated,” how she associates lobster fishing with novel-writing, how she gets the dark months, the dangerous work, the drinking and fighting.
We read that Gilbert’s father graduated from the University of Maine, and he had a classmate who’d grown up on Matinicus and who’d come back home to lobster. The wheels in my head started puzzling that out; I suspect I know who that may have been, but can’t be sure without asking. Maybe I’d better just leave well enough alone.
Or, maybe I’ll “venture out” somewhere “in search of a story” and get away with it. At present, I am only writing from 22 years of experience.
I read Eat Pray Love last year, and was fairly envious of Gilbert’s trip to Italy (her priority being to eat the food. Bliss!) It all sounded like great fun. I wish Ms. Gilbert all the best, but if I ever meet her, my first question to her will be: What were you thinking? Was she planning on making a living on Matinicus? How? If a person lived here, they sure as heck couldn’t write Stern Men at the same time.
A body could get their tires slashed for less. I know; I have 22 years of experience. Then again, I couldn’t possibly get in more trouble than it sounds like our own Al Diamon did. Sometime, Al, we should get together and share some war stories, and not have any boysenberry-infused vodka. Tim can come too.