So this isn’t the best song I’ve ever written. But it’s the best song I wrote this week about a hermit. You can read all about the real North Pond Hermit HERE.
I’m a newspaper man by trade. I deal with facts and truth. But I’m also a lover of folk songs, ballads and legends. Ballads, sung by folks, passed around, changed here and there were the newspapers of their day. It only seemed fitting that this man, who has captured the imaginations of a whole state, get his own ballad. I didn’t work very long or very hard at this. It just kind of fell out onto the table.
I’ve been doing a lot of video in my Bangor Daily News visual journalist capacity. It was time for some fun.
President Obama hit the airwaves tonight with big news: Osama Bin Laden is dead.
When the planes hit the towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington and the field in Pennsylvania nearly ten years ago, I’d been working as a daily newspaper photographer for a year and a half. I was frustrated at being stuck in mid-coast Maine, covering what was obviously one of the biggest news stories of my life from so far away. I wrote this piece a few months after the attacks:
I was driving to work when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. I didn’t know it happened. The Earth didn’t tremble underneath me. There was no blinding flash, no roar of thunder. There was no hint of tragedy in the bright blue sky. I drove north on I95 with my sunglasses on and my arm stuck out the window. There was good music on the radio and I was a little late as usual.
But something was burning somewhere.
I got the word last Wednesday that he was gone. I was shooting a committee hearing at the State House. I was in the well, on the floor in front of the horseshoe-shaped arc of lawmakers’ desks. It came up on my iPhone. I wanted to cry, to get out of there, to scream in the parking lot, but there was no way out. I had to stay until the committee went into recess a few hours later.
I continued to shoot pictures of the droning figures, pointing to maps. I wrote down their names. I did my best, but my thoughts escaped me, into the past, back to the summer he saved my life.
When I hit high school, I didn’t have much going for me, just barely passing grades, long hair, a collection of black concert t-shirts and the vague feeling I was headed down a life path laid out by people who didn’t know me very well. My family liked racing cars, fixing cars and talking about racing and fixing cars. I wanted nothing to do with that world. It didn’t interest me. I knew I wanted something different, but I didn’t know what. My world view was so small, I didn’t even know what my choices were, or if I had any at all.
By some miracle, I got into Mr. Bourgoin’s filmmaking class. It was one of the few electives unrelated to cars or woodworking. It was rare that a freshman would get in, because upperclassmen had dibs. This was the old days. No computers. Not even VHS. We shot Super 8 and, later, Betamax. I learned to write storyboards. I learned to run the camera and how to splice film together. More importantly, I got a glimpse into a world where silliness and creativity were encouraged. It was a space (a slightly grungy classroom, divided in two, by a beige accordion curtain) where you could take a risk without being ridiculed. You could make your own world.