News that does not make the front page
Some time around Christmas last, someone told me they had seen a T-shirt printed with the words “Don we now our fun apparel, falalalala, lalalala.” This is so distressing.
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I was recently informed that there are three responses the ordinary human can choose from if things just don’t seem right. We can avoid change and stay unhappy, we can change our situation in the hope of improving things, or we can avoid change and decide to make that our new happy. I didn’t pay for this advice, but have thought about it for a while lately as I wander these dark and freezing battlements on top of the concrete towers where I live at the foot of Mechanic Street.
In the end I have decided to stay.
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When I was a proper newspaperman a hundred years ago, any story describing the fact that most schools in our immediate area scored below average on statewide testing would have been on Page 1. Last week this story was on Page 11, along with a brief tale mentioning that yet another poor fellow has been talked into being our school superintendent for the next few months or weeks or days or hours or possibly minutes.
News that does not make the front page any more is generally explained as no longer being hot news, which means it is probably not unexpected news any more. Certainly the news that we hired have our 58th superintendent in 10 weeks is scarcely unexpected. I give him until April vacation before he runs screaming from the wreckage. In this case I agree that the story is hardly front page material.
(Long ago and far away when I was a newspaper editor, I once put the story about the hiring of a new town manager in Rockport on an inside page. Asked why this did not merit Page 1 status, I replied that town managers come and town managers go, but if ever the new manager were to accomplish something notable I would probably put that on the front, and not before.)
But if it is no longer unexpected news to be told that our schools cannot even make the state average, if this news is so routine as to merit nothing better than Page 11, then I must respect the current editor’s decision to print it there. To me it says something is broken in the public realm where our taxes are spent and our children are educated, but the news is not fresh, merely exhausting, and nobody can even begin to explain it any more. The placement of this story so far into the paper that it is almost falling off the back end tells us much about our fallen hopes and abandoned expectations.
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Well, we cannot afford the luxury of existential despair for an entire column, can we! What of the good news? Well, Painful O’Meara has finally gone south to irritate both his friends down there. We were beginning to think he’d never leave. As he will no doubt tell you in the Bangor Dreadful News this weekend, the quality of his friends down there can be measured in part by the fact that one of them fixed a New York Yankees license plate holder to his car, and that he drove through three states before realizing what had happened. I believe he favors a team from Boston.
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I see that Jim and Kathy (or possibly Cathy) Beaulieu of High Street have their garden featured in a photo spread inside the current and first edition of a glossy magazine called Porches & Gardens. They own the Time Out Pub at the public landing, somewhere on the periphery of the South End. Their garden shed features elegant Greek-style columns that were salvaged from the old Grand Army of the Republic Hall on Limerock Street, which used to be a museum but is now part of Walker Hutchins’ funeral home spread. I think it quite appropriate that Beaulieu is French for beautiful place.
Their pub features the illuminated scoreboard from the old Camden YMCA, which Jim told me he bought a while ago for a hundred, and which he lights up for games, presumably on the TV.
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Speaking of pubs and O’Meara, which I was, we two old hacks were at the Trackside restaurant back in November and reminiscing about the bad old days when this railroad building at the corner of Union and Pleasant used to be city hall, and we sad sack reporters had to go there and jam ourselves into a nasty little room to hear councilors talk at length on just about everything, bobbing up and down like shooting gallery ducks to make speeches, like something from the courtroom scene in "Alice in Wonderland." I only had to suffer that a few times, thank goodness, but O’Meara was there every blessed week which explains a lot about his present condition I suppose. Chatting about those long-ago meetings, he proposed and I agreed that being able to drink beer there now is a way to exorcise the ghosts of those council meetings so long ago. It probably would not have seemed so bad if we’d been able to drink beer back then.
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I never knew Andy York, the gentleman who I think once ran the South Thomaston stump dump, but he apparently died on St. Valentine’s Day at age 67. His obituary this week says that “Andy was the unofficial South End Maritime Farms police. He arrived every morning at 5:45 a.m.” That would explain why I never met him, God rest his soul.
David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at email@example.com, but why bother.