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, July 14, 2008

We're Back

Sorry to be missing as of late but I escaped the high humidity of the mountains with a much-needed trip down to Newburyport between Wednesday and Friday of last week. It was good to catch up with people I’m friendly with, good to see smiling faces, and good to see people who actually waved and said hello. Much like the Cheers theme song goes, it’s good to go where people know your name. When I woke up on Thursday morning I was told to look at Mary Eaton’s popular blog and when I did I saw the following (reprinted with her permission). And she didn’t even know I was in town.

When Tom Ryan came to town and started his local politi- cal journal in 1996, Newburyport, MA was somewhere between “at the beginning” and “in the middle” of a very interesting transition. A transition from a working class, blue collar town, to a professional, upper to upper middleclass destination.

Newburyport had literally rebuilt its downtown from destitution, and that renaissance had begun to spread gradually to the rest of the city. In 20/20 it was almost certain that it would become the desirable place to live, work, visit and play, that it is today.

Lisa Mead, a then Newburyport City Councilor, an intelligent, strong, interesting, young woman, became mayor, and started (consciously or unconsciously, probably a little bit of both) to move the city from its blue collar sensibility.And folks didn’t like that, and there were some very strong and colorful characters who resisted Mayor Mead with vigor.

Tom Ryan, really and truly, had some real life drama to write about. He not only created a “niche” for himself and the Undertoad, but he was in the right place at the right time, with a gift for chronically a story, in a compelling way, that was gradually unfolding.

Not only did Tom Ryan have the talent for telling dramatic stories of Newburyport’s “heroes” and “villains” (see previous post), but he also had some real interesting folks and times to write about.

The dramatic internal struggles and power-plays that Tom Ryan wrote about in earlier years, seem to me, to be pretty much mitigated. A lot of the very colorful characters, might now occasionally, verging on never, make a “guest appearance.”

It seems to me (and I could definitely be wrong here) that this could make it more difficult for local journals (and blogs) to engage folks in the story and the issues of our small New England seaport city.

And, ironically, for me, Jim Roy, the editor of the latest political journal, The Newburyport Liberator, could be one of the most colorful characters in town.

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