Like a lot of OFs (Old Fellas?) my age, I welcomed in the new year with a snore.
Tradition says you are supposed to stay up until midnight and greet the new year with adult beverages, music, good friends and a kiss from your lover/best friend/wife. Not this year. After surviving 2020 by spending the last 43 weeks hiding in the house as Mr. COVID slaughtered thousands and thousands of our contemporaries, it seemed fitting to do the same thing on New Year's Eve.
We didn't even stay up to watch the TV presentations of New Year's celebrations around the world. Instead, my bride curled up on the couch, and I sat my fat tail in the middle of a fat chair as we indulged ourselves in a secret pleasure – a good book.
There is something special, an almost sinful pleasure, that I get from holding a book in my hand and letting the author take me into a wonderland of words.
This year, we made a pact. As we planned to spend Christmas at home, without the love and laughter generated by a gaggle of kids, grandkids and a great-grandkid or five, we decided not to spend a lot of money on presents for each other. But there were a couple of books on our wish list. But I hate to just click on Amazon and order them. Instead, I picked up the phone and called an independent book store in the harbor – Sherman’s.
The owner of the store, Jeff Curtis, answered and assured me he carried the very book my bride had mentioned. Yes, he said they would be glad to wrap it, and I could pick it up this afternoon. I know, I know, it cost a few dollars more than the Amazon price but, so what.
On the plus side, I got to talk to a human, a friendly bookseller, not some meme-like digital representation spelling out pixels of thanks on my tiny phone screen.
Ordering the book from a local seller over the phone was almost like striking a blow for liberty, a real-life protest against the tyranny of digital devices that seem to rule our world.
Best of all, I could pick it up right away – that very afternoon. I didn't have to rely on overburdened delivery services. While on the subject of delivery services, while I love our local post offices and their hardworking clerks, the big shot bureaucrats and brass hats who run the U.S. Postal Service seem to be slipping a bit.
For example, on Saturday, Jan. 2, I stopped at the East Boothbay post office and picked up a first-class envelope containing a small packet of medicine mailed from Kansas on Dec. 7.
Ordering merchandise on the phone from a local vendor felt so good that I did it again and called Liz Evans at East Boothbay General Store and ordered dinner. She stuffed a spicy curry dish into a pair of cardboard tubes (no polluting plastic, please). All I had to do was drive over to her store and pick it up. It was yummy.
And if you love fresh seafood and fine meat, Russ Pinkham's specialty market is a local gem.
While our small communities are known for their summer pleasures, and in non-pandemic years attract tourists from around the world to our rocky shores, our year-round merchants are one of the main reasons we can enjoy the wonderful Maine winters. I know wearing out a snow shovel in just two seasons is not always included in the press releases the Chamber of Commerce uses to praise our wonderful Maine winters.
Not too far down the coast, a major shopping town is filled with main street stores whose windows sport "For Lease" signs.
The point is that we would all be up the creek without a paddle if we did not patronize our local merchants, and that includes my favorite local newspapers. While you sip your coffee this morning and contemplate our gorgeous geography, think about that for a moment.
Stay well. Be safe.