When the powers that be first offered me a chance to write a newspaper column, I was thrilled. My primary concern, though, was that I’d run out of material and be stuck without anything to say.
So to alleviate this worry, I initially agreed to write Walkabout on a monthly basis. That seemed pretty achievable to me.
That lasted until the very first one came out, back in January 2013. As soon as I saw my name on the page, I had a rush of inspiration and realized that I’d have plenty of stories with which to bore central Maine readers back to bed on a Sunday morning.
I immediately sent my editor a text to ask whether every other weekend was a possibility. I thought she’d think I was biting off more than I could chew, but instead she gave me the green light. The rest, as they say, is history.
It certainly hasn’t been all roses, though. There have definitely been times – especially since I left the paper on a full-time basis – where I’ve raced against time to put pen to paper. But for every scrambling “oh hell, what am I going to write this week?” moment, there have been column ideas sitting on a shelf in the back of my brain, just begging for me to dust them off.
Here are four of my favorites which never saw the light of day.
Watching the man-made scenery change: I’ve had this one in mind for close to a year now, and even went so far as to write more than 800 words on the topic, but it never left my drafts folder. It was inspired by watching a house on U.S. Route 201 slowly undergo renovation over the months that I’d walked past it, and how cities can grow and change while you’re away from them. Would I be able to recognize my hometown of Brisbane now, even after only having been gone for two years? Will Augusta and Hallowell look different when I return for a visit?
One more hot-button issue: Occasionally I found myself branching off from leaf-peeping and beer tourism and into more serious topics, such as my view on immigration as a middle-class white male, and how scary health care can be here. I had one more of those in mind, based on one of the biggest talking points of this day and age: gun control. Now, while I come from a country with strict firearm possession laws, I don’t know the first thing about guns and have never held nor fired one. I figured it wouldn’t be fair of me to pontificate on something I knew nothing of, so I had intended to take a firearm safety course and learn a little more about them first.
Ghostly goings-on: While subconsciously I might have been reluctant to give the previous column a shot (no pun intended), I’m coming right out and saying I didn’t have the guts to investigate this one. As I touched on a couple of times in the past few columns, about architecture and Elmer’s Barn, there’s so much history in this state. Many towns and cities have been settled longer than my home country has. To that end, I’m sure there’s plenty of potential for paranormal activity. Some digging around led me to the website of the Maine Ghost Hunters, based in Augusta, and I was curious to speak to them about whether there were any area buildings or locations that were home to some supernatural goings-on. In the end I chickened out, because I had the worst feeling that they’d identify my home address as a doorway to another dimension or something. Pass.
Lobster roll road-test: This one was obviously a little more light-hearted, and driven more by my appetite than anything. I’ve written at length about how many great things I’ve found to eat in Vacationland, including everyone’s favorite crustacean, but I’ve always marveled at the sheer ubiquity of lobster in Maine. The inspiration for this one was sparked very early on in my stay when, shortly after eating more than a reasonable portion of seafood in the Old Port, I saw a gas station in Cape Elizabeth advertising lobster rolls for less than 10 bucks. When McDonald’s added one to their menu this summer – much to the derision of Mainers everywhere – I figured that would be the perfect reason to road test a bunch of them, from gas station to high end, and review them. I got as far as the one from Mickey D’s – not as bad as one might expect, although it’s tough to disguise frozen lobster – before the idea petered out.
So if there’s another prospective columnist out there “from away,” those ideas are yours for the taking. Good luck with that gas station lobster roll, though.