A Little Mythbusting about Matinicus Island
I love that television program where the two ex-stuntmen and their cluster of nerdy science geek assistants eagerly blow stuff up in the name of research.
Around here we call that “solid waste management.”
No, in all seriousness, I tip my hat to the “Mythbusters” team. They have the workshop that dreams are made of, walls filled with shelves covered with bins-full of parts and supplies and components and materials (starting to sound like our bedroom), and the bomb squad guys are always just a phone call away (hey, just like here!).
Anyway, I have discovered myself to be a bit of a myth-buster as well, although I don’t have the budget for the better grade of ballistic experiment. I could have saved them the trouble when they did their scientific inquiry into the myth “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” using an elderly Alaskan Malamute; I know from firsthand experience that you cannot make an Alaskan Malamute of any age do anything he doesn’t think is his own idea (sort of like most lobstermen, small-town municipal officials, and, admittedly, me).
Some of the stuff the Mythbusters do hits close to home. Frying doughnuts most every day this time of year, I shudder to think about how a cupful of water spilled into a pan of overheated fat will burn the house down in five seconds flat. My concern for the proprietor of the Only-in-an-Emergency Please Plumbing Company makes it hard to watch a water heater rocket straight up through a second-story roof, and with a blacksmithing hobby I hated to see them trying to smash a chip off the face of a hammer with another hammer. Oh well; facts are facts.
I do myth-busting about Matinicus, and to a certain extent, about all the islands. I only wish people cared about the facts.
Later this month I am expected to present myself and my little batch of slides (OK, not really slides; they’re on “power point,”) showing Matinicus Island at the Rockland Public Library, there and then to offer a bit of insight and a few visuals with regard to the Insular Lifestyle. My plan is to blast a few common misconceptions and tired clichés, while hopefully answering questions beyond the usual broken record. (“No, ma’am, I don’t eat lobster every day. No, ma’am, I don’t get lonely. Yes, ma’am, we do have electricity…”)
I suppose I’ll begin with that worn-out old chestnut, the Time Warp. Matinicus myth #1: “It’s like going back in time, to a place untouched by the modern world...” I’ll show them photographs of the kids in the one-room school doing Rosetta Stone Spanish on their Maine Laptop Initiative Mac computers or talking to children on other islands over the Tandberg video-conferencing unit. I’ll bring pictures of the 60’ Internet tower and the microwave telephone tower. That’s about it for the high-tech, though, and to be honest there is some element of truth to that myth; several folks out here get a rise out of their mainland friends when they brag about having high-speed wireless Internet and an outhouse (but I didn’t say that).
Then there’s the other extreme (how is it that this blessed little rock-pile is both the Simple Quiet Life and a Den of Iniquity?) Myth #2: “They’re all just a bunch of violent crazed lobstermen out there, and they shoot at all the outsiders.” Actually, they don’t. I guess I’ll bring some slides of weddings at the church, and that completely foolish annual strawberry daiquiri fest known as the “Red Dahlia Society,” and Nat playing his guitar and singing for everybody on the wharf on a Saturday night. Maybe the Pet Clinic when the veterinarian comes out, or everybody working to put together the new playground, or the collection of the new Matinicus Historical Society. I’ll tell them about how these supposedly “outlaw” lobstermen make screeching trips to the mainland in the middle of the night when guys get hurt, and how they drop everything to respond to an emergency. I’m not saying there are no fights. Everybody knows there are fights, and Matinicus is no Sunday school, but it isn’t the “outsiders” who are likely to be in the crosshairs anyway. I can bring pictures of a crowd of islanders cleaning up the beach and loading the recycling truck. Maybe everybody all lined up on the wharf on “oil boat day.” No, maybe not.
Finally, since it is summer and the visitors to Maine are thick on the ground, we’ll take on Myth #3: “Nobody really LIVES out there on those islands, like…you know, in the winter….” Sure. Maybe we need a photo of the guy up in the bucket truck getting the electricity back on after a winter storm, with snow and ice all around. Maybe the Island Fellow snowshoeing around the south end, or the cluster of school kids ice skating with Maury, and singing Christmas carols, or the book group women with their hot dip and salsa and homemade cookies and good wine.
Not that everybody is going to believe me. The fact is, a lot of people prefer the myths.
Eva’s talk at the Rockland Public Library is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, July 17. All are welcome. In all likelihood doughnuts will be served.