Smell That Water

WELLS, Maine — With our quasi-oceanfront 1930s motel, My Beloved Wife and I felt a little sheepish that only on our second full day we waded across the Ogunquit River (doable at low tide) then clambered over a tall dune to find the beach.

The tourist season we were told begins on the Fourth of July. Heck, it was certainly still rainy and cool at the end of June; how unlike Arkansas. The un-season was obvious by the sparse crowd. We were close to having the ocean to ourselves, well, us and just a few locals and a number of birds.

The water, in the ocean itself and the “river,” was surprisingly clear. And as far as that briny smell of saltwater, where was it. MBW and I are quite familiar with California beaches from San Diego to Half Moon Bay, and a consistent odor. Before Maine, we associated the smell with happiness: We are here! In Maine — with only a nearly absent and maybe slight astringent quality — we realize the Pacific smell has a fair amount of rot in it, seaweed on good days, a little fishy on others.

We only would smell decaying fish on Wednesday, the Kennebunkport day, but that was more from the inevitable walking past restaurant trash bins more than the little port.

We drove one town up to Wells for the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge to learn about the ecology of salt marshes. As a child in the 1960s (not a “child of the ’60s), I remember seeing a documentary film about Carson in class. Inspired, I bought her Silent Spring. In recent years I looked through the classic somewhere and wonder how as a kid I got through it. Was it an abridged version from Scholastic Books?

After a satisfying dinner in Ogunquit, at the Impastable Dream (never mind the stale pun), we walked around; stores were starting to stay open late for the season. A drug store had a Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald, which I bought because it had the John Updike talk “above the fold,” 1A. The large photo was of the entire, dark stage, Updike’s head lit, centered and tiny, and the write-up only adequate.

The Portland (Maine) Press Herald overall has been so much better; I got one at the motel office every morning. It was small but complete, locally and nationally, good local columnists and displayed a pride in itself, too. On Wednesday mid-afternoon, we would be driving to Portland. At dinner then (more in tomorrow’s entry) with a college friend and his wife, I praised it. I thought he’d be pleased that I liked his hometown newspaper, but he wasn’t keen on its quality. He complained that its editorials especially in recent years were more conservative than they and their friends liked.

We in print journalism still see editorials and opinions as an inevitable part of our identity. Newspaper folk pooh-pooh dailies with light, “neutral” or vague commentaries, despite five years or so of inarguable national declines in circulation.

Editorials probably aren’t costing sales in and of themselves, but they aren’t really helping, are they? -30-

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One thought on “Smell That Water

  1. My friend in Maine e-mailed to clarify his thoughts on the Portland paper:

    My complaint with the Press Herald is mostly that it is owned by the Blethen Family from Seattle who are one of the families funding the estate tax repeal campaign.

    In fairness, they do not seem to have changed the paper too much. Seattle journalism must be interesting with the Times and the Post Intelligencer (owned by Hearst, the good guys!).

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