Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Newburyport Blog's Entry On Us

By Mary Eaton of the Newburyport Blog.
What has happened to Tom Ryan, former editor of The Undertoad?

Last year Tom Ryan, with his dog Atticus almost climbed New Hampshire’s 48, 4,000 foot peaks twice in one winter to raise money for cancer.

I remember watching Tom at a Newburyport City Council meeting after that experience was over, and thinking to myself, “The mountains have captured him.” And they had.

And there was the ultimate, “Shall I stay in Newburyport, or not stay in Newburyport” question, when Mr. Ryan threw his hat into the ring as a mayoral candidate this fall.

It sounded as if when it came to Newburyport, MA, that in the end, “all passions were spent.” And Mr. Ryan left Newburyport, MA on October 1, 2007 for the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

And this year Tom Ryan and Atticus are attempting the same feat, but this time to raise money for MSPCA-Angell, a not-for-profit organization that helps thousands of animals each year. All the money that is raised through this hiking marathon would go directly to Angell Animal Medical Center.

Tom and Atticus’ adventures can be followed on
Tom and Atticus’ Blog.

I have wondered, however, having spent 11 years immersed in Newburyport politics and writing the Undertoad, if it could be difficult for Tom Ryan to let Newburyport, MA “go.”

And one of the blog entries that I have enjoyed most so far, is Mr. Ryan’s
post about the bears that were outside his cabin last year, complete with photographs of bear and adorable bear cubs up in a tree:

“In my two months up north I can feel myself transforming from that life to this one. Following Thoreau’s dictum to “simplify, simplify, simplify”, I’ve found it rather easy to leave the intrigue and often rough and tumble world of political reporting and journaling behind.

So this morning I woke up thinking not about zoning issues, the latest mayoral appointment, or Steve Karp’s vanillaization of Newburyport, but of the bears.”

But even leaving Newburyport, MA behind, Tom Ryan nailed it, at least for me, in passing, “the vanillaization of Newburyport.”

And for me, that could be what so much of the chit chat on the Newburyport Blog could come down to. Desperately, and possibly futilely, trying to hold on to the color of Newburyport, MA, whether it could be it’s architecture and streetscapes, the colorful mix of people who may inhabit this town, or a distinctive downtown economic makeup.

It often feels as if Newburyport was once a delightful version of some scrumptious ice cream, and may becoming a bland vanilla version, made with skim milk.

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