On board the USS Francisco, the sailor who was my “guide” did a good job of following orders — assuming that his orders were to get this hopeless little aspiring journalist totally lost. He led me up a series of grey, metal staircases and down a series of grey, metal hallways, circling the ship and winding through a maze of twisty passages, all alike. Approximately forty miles later, panting and low on provisions, we arrived at the Captain’s Quarters.
ON BOARD THE USS Francisco, SOMEWHERE IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC — Well, OK. The ship’s actually bobbing in the mouth of the GSI harbor, and I just rowed a little dinghy out to see what was going on. I don’t think I’m giving away any military secrets by revealing the location of the Francisco.
Bo Washington is without a doubt the luckiest guy alive.
Bo is an enormous mountain of a man. A dark-skinned, black-bearded bear who looks like he couldn’t run more than twenty yards without gasping for breath but who could throw an oak tree halfway across the bay. His beard is kinky and oily, and he grows it long but keeps it cut straight across the bottom, like he once got his chin stuck in a jet-black cereal box and decided he liked the look. His voice is deep and booming, the kind that you secretly suspect could make the tide run backward if he shouted loud enough.
The tour that Cory gave me of the Greater GSI Area was brief, thorough, and life-threatening. Cory did that Warp-Factor-Nine thing again, skidding the Bronco around town like a demented laser beam. A charming ditty ran through my mind: This is the island that is filled with the people who eat the geese that are killed by the gravel that is slung by the tires that are spun like a dervish beneath the wheels of the Bronco.
My vision for a life lived on the edge, a life of daring and thrills and danger, of illicit trysts and outrageous risks and dazzling color, stems from a deep-rooted fear I’ve had since I was a kid. The fear involves me waking up one morning, only to discover that I’m eighty-four years old and have just a few days left on earth. You know how some old people, when they’re working up to their last gasp, often say something like, “Well, at least I’ve lived a full life”? In my fear-fantasy, I wake up and realize that my life was crap.
Cory Coffin stands a proud four feet and eleven inches tall, provided there’s a bit of a slope between her and the yardstick. She has dark hair with faint streaks of grey — just enough to prove that she doesn’t dye her hair at age fifty-three — and she has battleship grey eyes that stare through your retinas and straight back into everything you’ve ever done wrong. There’s a rumor that she smiled once, when she was young, but I doubt it’s true.
OK, I’ve been promising to tell you something about me and how I got to GSI. Here’s the scoop:
To understand the International Incident that is brewing around Grand Seal Island, you have to get a really big map of the United States. At the extreme upper-right corner of the map, you’ll find the beautiful state of Maine. Off the coast of Maine, near the Canadian border, you would see a little speck that is Grand Seal Island, except that it’s so un-Grand your map isn’t big enough to show it.
As the song says, “It was a messed-up party and I was there!”
I was hanging out with the gang at The Village yesterday. As luck would have it, I found myself awash in this incredible party.
[Editor’s Note: Donovan Graham is a recent graduate of Eastern Maine University in Eastport. He is quite ambitious and eager, so we agreed to let him spend this summer working as an intern for the Eastport Sun. His assignment: writing a blog for us. We sent him to Grand Seal Island to delve into a rapidly escalating spat there between the United States and Canada and share his experiences and thoughts here. It seems that both countries claim sovereign rights over the island, and Canada has recently decided to press the issue.