Writing for a small weekly newspaper is a pretty interesting job. It's unfortunate that it doesn't pay enough to live on (and has several other fairly significant drawbacks, like the fact that I’ll probably spend more on health care in 2009 than I actually earn…are you listening, Congress?) because it's the first job I've had in a while that I haven't quickly become bored by. (Note to the grammar police: Yes, I know that phrase should be “by which I haven't quickly become bored,” and yes, grammar is inordinately important to me, but this is not a grammar blog [at least not today], and “by which” sounds a bit stuffy for the conversational tone I'm going for here. Oops, I mean, “for which I'm going here.”)
I've been there for over a year now, and it hasn't made me feel as if the soul is being slowly sucked out of me. That's an important quality in a job, and one not as easy to come by as you might think.
For the most part, I get to do something different just about every day, and although I'm not entirely sure this is good for me (mainly because I suspect that it could be worsening my self-diagnosed ADD, and I could end up like the whole generation of kids who grew up on “Sesame Street” and, as a result, can't pay attention to anything for more than a minute unless it's shiny or it shouts or flashes or wiggles or beeps), it has kept me from wanting to pull the covers back over my head on weekday mornings.
A couple of weeks ago, for instance, I went out to interview two local kidney transplant recipients who will be walking in the Halloween Kidney Walk in Portland next month. They are both about the same age (late fifties), have both lived in the area for decades, and both worked in elementary education, but they hadn't known each other until, after Martha got her new kidney about three years ago, she volunteered to serve as a mentor to Mike, who was undergoing dialysis and waiting for his turn.
Mike and Martha have become fast friends, and on the morning I visited, they were sipping coffee at Martha's kitchen table, listening to a Peter, Paul and Mary CD (another note to the grammar police: Yes, I know that I have, in the past, ranted at length about the importance of the serial comma, but I checked their website [you should visit it, especially if you're “of a certain age,” like me, but be advised that the site currently features a touching tribute to Mary, with words from Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey that are refreshingly honest and might make you cry], and Peter, Paul and Mary don't use the serial comma...so even though the middle finger on my right hand is itching to hit that comma key, I'm going to respect them by leaving it out, too), and reminiscing about Mary Travers—who had passed away just the day before—and the importance of that iconic trio during their formative years.
Martha welcomed me into her kitchen, which had beautifully-done stenciling in a blueberry motif and matching curtains (yes, she had both done the stenciling and sewn the curtains, she told me when I asked) and offered me a cup of French vanilla coffee that smelled good enough to make me wish I were a coffee-drinker. Her sweet Labradoodle leaned against me for a scratch while she and Mike answered my questions, and I had one of those “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this” moments.
I had another one of those moments—a couple of hours, actually—a few days later, when I got to cover the eastern end of the Bethel Historical Society’s “Barn Tour.” The tour encompassed ten historic area barns, two of which, the Abbott barn and the Weston barn, were in Rumford.
It was a beautiful day, perfect for touring barns, both of which were fascinating and actually pretty awe-inspiring, architecturally speaking. At both places, I met wonderful people who showed me around and told me all about the history of their barns. And there were snacks!
Best of all, at Bill Weston’s barn, I even got to go up into the unique octagonal cupola to take in the view of the Androscoggin River valley. I’ve always wanted either a cupola or a round tower room of my own (ever since, when I was about eight years old, I read The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder), but as far as I can recall, this was the first time I’ve ever actually gotten to go up in one. It was very, very cool!