Vanishing of the swashbuckling names

By David Grima | Feb 01, 2013

Christmas and the New Year were only a month ago, yet it seems like much longer. I think this is because time, like water, has been frozen lately. The cold temperatures have made time flow more slowly, or just not at all.

I think this is why winter often seems to drag, while summer simply flies by. It’s something to do with temporal thermodynamics, which suggests that time flows quickly in warmer weather but much more slowly in the cold.

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Speaking of the cold, if I had wanted to endure Canadian weather I would have gone to Canada, and there are all sorts of reasons why I did not do that. Speaking of the cold, a local car parts dealer tells me he sold a dozen new car batteries before 11 a.m. one day last week when it was particularly frigid.

But cold as it has been, I have still not seen much of the harbor frozen over. A few patches here and there, but nothing like it was one January back in the mid-1990s when the salt water was frozen about half-way to Vinalhaven.

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I was in conversation with a young fellow the other day who remarked upon the recent demolition of McDougal School (or possibly MacDougall School …) on Broadway, where he went to kindergarten.

Yes, he said, they are doing away with all the stuff I knew when I was in school. He lamented most eloquently on the vanishing of the swashbuckling names that used to be associated with the former Rockland District High School and Georges Valley High School in Thomaston.

We used to be the Rockland Tigers, he said, and Thomaston used to be the Buccaneers. Now all they both are is Mariners! They could be just about anything. Mariners could just be the ones who clean toilets on boats.

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Although South Thomaston is a weary long distance from where I live up here in my concrete towers on Mechanic Street, I did hear a rumor from that town just the other day that a black bear has been seen around Westbrook Street.

It is as likely to be true as not, as I have heard of bears out that way before. And with all the roads and houses that have been put in over there these past few years, any local bears will have less land to roam around in privately and are more likely to be seen by humans.

I was under the impression that bears bed down for the winter, (and it might be helpful if humans did too,) so why a bear has been seen wandering around this time of year I am not sure. He probably had a bad dream.

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A small party of us crammed into Fabulous Bob’s wife’s little car on Saturday morning, and went up to Augusta to visit the Maine State Museum. Our main objective was to see the famous mural that was stripped from the walls at the Department of Labor a year ago, but which was recently hung with some dignity in the lobby.

Once we had done that we decided to spring for the $2 apiece it costs to get into the museum itself, (cash only I am afraid, as the museum has not yet caught up with modern methods of payment) and view the exhibits.

I had not been there since last century, but I needn’t have worried too much. Hardly a thing has changed since I was first there in the 1980s. Somehow all the stuffed animals are still intact, although I think they are starting to look a little gray and desiccated.

The only newish thing there is an exhibition about the little Phippsburg island of Malagar (or possibly Malaga) whose impoverished mixed-race population was expelled by the power of state government in 1912. Apparently the idea was to boost the sagging Maine economy (sound familiar?) by attracting wealthy out-of-staters to buy up real estate for summer homes. (Sound familiar?)

It was hoped to sell off the island at a profit, but it seems the cash bonanza never materialized, and all that happened is that the few very poor people who lived there were treated cruelly; even their graves were dug up so the wealthy Rusticators would not find themselves digging foundations for their summer cottages in embarrassing material.

The upshot of this is that the exhibition hall in the State Museum that is devoted to Malaga/r is a room with very little stuff in it, so completely was that community eradicated. Poor people do not have a lot of stuff to start with. But it is a fair attempt on a small budget to publicly show what state government did to these people a century ago, when it exploited them in an attempt to earn the favor of the wealthy, instead of protecting them which was its duty.

(Sound familiar?)

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I just finished reading a book by Christopher Hedges called, “I Don’t Believe in Atheists," which was given to me by a friend who is an atheist and who found it a bit baffling.

It is indeed a bit baffling in places, but Hedges’ central theme is pretty clear. The modern atheists (such as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc.) are every bit as daffy as modern religious fundamentalists. They both believe they see things clearly despite the evidence to the contrary, and that those who do not get their point of view are condemned, either by history or directly by God.

They both believe in something that does not exist, Hedges says, namely an irresistible tide of human history which of course is on their side, a tide which will sweep away non-believers. (Sound familiar?)

He mentions how Harris, for example, finds it regrettable but probably necessary to launch a nuclear attack on the Middle East in order to restore a little civilization. It is the same theme Hedges finds that inspires religious fundamentalists, who are convinced the world is coming down to a Grand Showdown between God’s army and the Devil’s army.

His basic point seems to be that we should be very wary of extremists, no matter how they call themselves, no matter what sort of extreme beliefs they preach.

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I haven’t mentioned my old friend Emmet (Antique) O’Meara in this column for several weeks, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to do so today.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at or by clicking your heels together three times and hoping for better things.

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