by Jenny Anastasoff
Our esteemed publisher has deemed me the Local Newshound in the masthead, which may be overestimating my contributions to this worthy paper. You would think that with my Facebook hovering, I’d be privy to a great deal of neighborhood gossip. Alas, this is not the case.
I have a theory: social media gives us so many contextual clues into the lives of others (who participate, that is) that overt gossip is more gauche than ever.
However, I like a good local scandal, and I am coming up short in my hounding. If anyone has dish, you know where to find me! In the absence of quasi-news, I shall continue my Andy Rooney path, and curmudgeon away.
Many social media tongues were wagging this season over a satirical (?) cover essay in The Portland Phoenix, about “being cool.” The piece inspired a great deal of conversation for its tone, but I appreciated its thematic intent: What is cool? Why are we averse to mocking coolness? Is there some meta-force at play when one writes of cool, when one is in fact already cool?
This topic being pertinent to Portland’s identity struggle, and by default, its best (cough!) neighborhood. Is the West End too cool for school? Should we keep this quiet, so we don’t lose our edge?
Through this column and in person, I continue to yearn for past Portland, and her scrappier nature, before we made national Best Of lists.
Perhaps we don’t have to worry about it. By time it’s recognized that we are cool in someone else’s estimation, the moment is over. The buzz machine has moved on. If so, we can cooly sneak back under the radar now, right?
The West End lost a good ‘cool’ one several weeks ago. My former neighbor Marya Baron passed away, far too young. Marya: brilliantly smart, confident, kind. Her memorial service in December had such profound and touching eulogies.
Before she was ill, I admired her for her confidence, and that grew into admiration for her grace. Over the last few years, I’d sometimes think, “What would confident Marya do here?”
I will continue honoring her that way.
It seems a fitting tribute when you can carry someone’s memory through developing their qualities in yourself, or encouraging them in others. Go on, West Enders, be confident, believe in yourselves. We are cool.
We begin a new year with new, yet familiar, leadership, a blanket of snow, and what feels like a crux moment in our city’s development, literally, with another razed landmark.
On New Year’s Day, defying the ‘don’t use this sidewalk’ signs, we peered into the brick basement crevasse that used to be Joe’s Smoke Shop. 2016 had dawned, and the chill wind set yellowed newspapers whirling. I took a guess at their provenance based on a glimpsed ad for the Jordan Marsh department store: 1976.
We peered at the date: February 1976. Wow, why am I not a professional guesser? Then there was the realization that was 40 years ago, and I’m older than that ratty newspaper.
We can only imagine the other strange artifacts possibly released to the winds, in the Joe’s rubble. Perhaps we should sneak some 2016 West End News editions into the new Joe’s foundation, to be found in 2056.