Dinner after 9 p.m.
I was surprised by how much response was provoked by last week’s column concerning the nature of religion. In the newspaper business, getting two calls from readers used to be considered a great response. Three was an absolute mandate for action, and four was proof of overwhelming support.
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I just want to mention the passing of Ivan Sprague on Sept. 9. He was a custodian at South School when I briefly knew him a long time ago, and had a reputation for being friendly and having a pleasant sense of humor.
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Last Friday night in Rockland, BW and I roamed the streets downtown like hungry ghosts trying to find a place that would serve us something to eat. But like the mournful spirits floating in the air outside Scrooge’s window on Christmas Eve, it seemed we had quite lost the power to take part in that blessed enterprise.
By comment consent, or so it seemed to us, almost every eatery in town had agreed to close their kitchens at 9 p.m. The one place we found open was so full of clamoring, starving customers as to make the chance of us getting served before Sunday appeared remote.
Oh listen to the white man whine about not getting fed upon demand! He fled instead to the dark corner of the South End where his silent grain towers loomed like the Mountains of Mars in the darkness, and crawled painfully to the top of the very highest, there to poke around in the dark for leftover dried fish pieces amid the gull feathers.
But before we were forced out of town by hunger and, apparently, a lack of planning, BW and I found an old man fallen on the ground, sober he said but unable to get up. He also said he had no place to sleep that night.
I found myself wondering if he had simply surrendered to the forces of gravity, either deliberately or subconsciously knowing his distress would bring aid and the chance of a night inside. As BW remarked afterward, in New York people simply step over them and move on. Thanks heavens we have not yet become so stone-hearted as that.
If only we had a place here where the innocent homeless could be given a bed and food in Knox County. Wouldn’t that be a good idea?
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Only a week or two ago, I was walking on the boardwalk that links my silent towers with the throbbing heart of lit-up Rockland. It was a misty,warm night that had tempted me down to street level, seeking the company of humans and leaving the Four Seagulls of the Apocalypse perched upon one leg each, at the four corners of my lofty bed.
At one point something spectacular caught my eye, out in the harbor. Perhaps you remember that scene near the end of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” when after all the small spaceships have done whizzing and whooshing over the secret landing ground behind the mountain, there is a brief period of silence, and then the monster mother ship arrives, towering over everything and huge beyond imagination?
Well it looked like that, a great shining pyramid of lights hovering over the mist above the water, capped by a single unblinking electric beam.
Then I looked again, and thought no, it is really a magical Pleasure Island all lighted up and lacking only a Ferris wheel or something to make it appear like the place that Pinocchio barely escaped from with donkey ears. Then I blinked hard and thought instead it might be some new infernal federal aid to navigation, a monstrous beacon, a help to guide all those cruise ships to Rockland that everyone says are either terrible or wonderful, depending on how much they have been reading Joe Steinberger or not.
Finally of course I recognized this vision for what it was, nothing less or more than ye old boathouse, which was never actually an old boathouse but is now a restaurant. But in the fog it seemed unconnected to the street, and looked more like a ghostly galleon ready to set sail out to sea beyond the breakwater, there to torment the haunted souls of lost Yankee sailors with unattainable visions of joy and laughter. And possibly even dinner after 9 p.m.
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A friend showed me a small cannonball she had excavated while poking around in a garden in St. George, a town rumored to by quite invisible from the South End and therefore not necessarily an actual place. I doubt it came from a haunted galleon, but rather looks like it was meant to be shot from a small land-based piece of artillery.
I know such things are dug up around here from time to time, serving as mementos of more dangerous times and people. Around 1814, for example, I believe they hauled a fairly large cannon from the mythical St. George peninsula all the way to the summit of Mount Battie, in an attempt to scare the naughty British away from Camden. As a measure of the sheer ineffectiveness of this military deterrent, it is well known that the British have been coming back to Camden ever since.
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Sitting up here in the west grain tower, I am aware that things are not the same lately. Hardly any trees in the South End have begun to turn color in a serious way, other than the chestnuts which simply seem to slowly go crispy and brown, but there is definitely something happening to the weather. I have already seen the first ads seeking people to shovel snow.
I think it might be wise to revisit my opinion about the loose gull feathers that litter the rooftops of the towers up here above Mechanic Street. Maybe if I were to start collecting them together, they might prove helpful in my forthcoming struggle against winter up here?
One thing does seem to be improving with the weather, however. The bottle of milk kept under my bed goes sour less quickly now than in July, and I am more likely to make a success of my morning coffee, using water brewed secretly over a fire made of twigs and what we can politely agree to describe as bird fuel.
David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by offering him dinner after 9 p.m.