Anyone who uses the National Weather Service to check up on local conditions will have noticed that there have been no temperatures reported in Knox County since before Christmas.

I used to be a real newspaperman and still remember a thing or two about how to find out about stuff, so I called the weather office in Gray to inquire. I was told that the big wind that blew a couple of days before Christmas damaged the equipment that reports our local temperature, which is located at the airport in Owls Head.

The equipment, said the forecaster on duty, is owned by the Federal Aviation Administration, not by the National Weather Service.

He riffled through a few papers on his desk, or something like it, and told me that the parts needed to fix our temperature machine are on order, and no further information was available. He was quite polite.

We might have guessed that the loss of temperature readings for our darling county was caused by the bad weather in December, but I wanted to be sure. I also wanted them to know that someone had noticed, etc. If I were still in the business of writing news headlines, it would be something like “Bad weather knocks out weather equipment at airport.”

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Two weekends ago I noticed that Wink’s Place swap shop at the city dump has reopened. Astute readers (both of you) will remember that I had spotted some kind of activity at Wink’s on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and had wondered if it meant that life was returning to the place.

For those who don’t remember, it is called “Wink’s Place” after the late David Winchenbach, a dutiful city employee who worked at the dump for many years.

I went into the shed on Jan. 7, the first day the place had been open for a few years. Inside there were shelves stocked with books and VHS tapes, and a few armfuls of clothing, all arranged as tidily as Wink’s has ever been arranged.

In a wooden chair in the middle of the cement slab floor sat a gnome who was conversing with a member of the public. Using yet another method honed during my decades as a newspaperman — listening shamelessly to other people’s conversations — I was able to determine that the gnome is a volunteer and expects to be at the shed the first Saturday of each month.

If other gnomes can be persuaded to take a shift in the shed, he said, it is possible that Wink’s could be open for more days per month than one.

Any takers, ladies and gentlemen?

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As far as my old-newspaperman skills go, I seem to have given them quite a workout this week. Another skill I learned years ago was the ability to read upside down. This often came in handy when I was in a government office or a police station, as the people behind the desks in these places seemed to assume that people on the other side of the desk don’t know how to read things that are upside down. This was once considered to be a very necessary skill for working journalists.

Another skill that I will confess to using in my old job involved being able to hear through a closed door everything that public officials are yelling at each other, even though I had been told to leave the room where they were arguing. They said nothing about me having to leave the building, so I didn’t.

 

On this occasion, I was able to take extensive notes detailing a ripe and fruity argument between a certain board of selectmen and the town’s policeman, and then wrote up the story for the paper. I will say that they took the publication of what they thought was going to be a private fight in reasonably good humor.

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Poor Prince Harry of Britain! I wonder how much money he has raked in with his recently published memoir, called “Spare”?

Apparently, it was actually written by an American ghostwriter called J.R. Moehringer, whose own memoir, “The Tender Bar”, describes his own childhood spent in a barroom where his chaotic family often left him with an uncle, or something like that.

I suppose that a ghostwriter whose youth was rooted in one kind of dysfunction is a natural choice to collaborate on the memoir of a helpless young princeling whose own family wallows splendidly in its own kind of dysfunction.

Mad as hatters, the lot of them.

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As one doughnut shop closes in Knox County, another one rises.

Willow Bake Shoppe on Route 1 in Rockport closed last week. Meanwhile Ruckus Donuts, which opened last year on Main Street in Rockland, seems to be doing well.

It would be natural to think the two doughnut stores had been fierce competitors, and that one of them was forced into the ditch as a result of the ferocious and generally merciless system known as free-market competition, yet it is not so. In fact, I am given to believe their owners had quite friendly relations and even helped each other out from time to time.

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Several notable citizens in our county have died in recent weeks. Former school board member Dennis Norton died early in December. He was also involved at one point in the football booster club at Rockland District High School, a volunteer group that I remember mostly for helping to cover transportation and lodging costs for the school’s theater students who were taking part in the statewide one-act competition many moons ago.

And Wayne Nelson died near the end of the same month. He was business manager at the Courier for many years, and his memory is dear to me for having agreed to buy an air conditioner for the newspaper’s office over the Haskell & Corthell clothing store in downtown Camden, one stiflingly hot week back in the last century.

I was new at the paper in those days, and was pleasantly surprised to find out how easy it was to achieve this piece of administration. I called Wayne down in Rockland and said we were dying of heat in Camden, and he said to just go and buy an AC device and send the bill to the Courier.

I have liked him ever since!

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I think we can all agree that Joe Biden now has a wonderful opportunity to show his predecessor exactly how a US president should respond when classified state documents are found improperly in his possession.

Will he claim that he authorized this serious mistake by force of sheer mind power, claiming that he has declassified them by a bizarre act of merely thinking about it? We will see, won’t we?

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I followed a town truck along a local highway on Sunday afternoon, as it spread sand over the icy road ahead of me. Normally, this would have been a comfort under the circumstances, in such bad weather.

But the more I followed the sanding truck, the weirder it all seemed.

The sand was spewing out from somewhere at the left of the truck, giving a fairly generous covering to an area on either side of the double yellow lines down the center of the pavement. But nothing was being spread at the right side of the travel lane.

Slowly I figured out that when the truck reached the end of its run, and turned around to go back in the other direction, it would again only be sanding the center of the highway. In both directions there would be little or no sand at the edges of the road by the ditch.

Why wasn’t it sanding properly from the back of the truck, covering the width of the whole travel lane? This puzzled me then, and it puzzles me still.

Heaven help us all.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at davidgrima@ymail.com.