Thanks for Everything
I got to meet my replacement the other day. He hadn’t been hired yet, but there’s not a lot of objectivity in such an encounter so no one was seeking my approval. Still, for what it’s worth, I approve. Mike Cote seems tailor made for the job
The new guy was smart and engaging and he asked good questions, but it was one of his toss-off question that I’m still mulling. “What is it about the job that you most enjoy?” he asked me (or words to that effect). I glibly responded with my usual answer: I love being able to help reveal just how different and cool a place New Hampshire is.
It’s a true and earnest reply, but it seems trite, reading it back to myself. I’ve been candid about my far-flatlander status over the 30 years I’ve been doing this. My very first Editor’s Note, back in 1993, referenced my Southern roots and even indulged a “Hi, Mom” shout out to my Louisiana mama, so my affection for the state comes from on-the-job experience, not from being brought up here.
My first job in the Granite State, when my wife, new son and I were still just settling in, was driving delivery for Domino’s Pizza in Concord. I quickly learned my way around town, but tips barely paid for gas. The boss, Rik Yeames, also played (and made) steel drums. He started a local “pan” band and, years later, performed at one of our Best of NH Parties. Recently, I discovered that he and another old acquaintance are involved in promoting the state as a perfect spot to view the total eclipse of the sun scheduled to sweep directly over our North Country next April, so our paths have crossed again.
After Domino’s, I worked for a tiny independent boarding and day school in Canterbury called Horizon’s Edge. It was one of those hippie “experimental” schools, but with a distinctly Yankee attitude. I learned that the woods and farmlands of New Hampshire were populated by as many back-to-the-land progressive types as old Yankee farmers. The history of Shaker Village, next door to the school, revealed the alternative edginess inherent here: a woman-led religious society that practiced celibacy but was so wildly inventive and productive they’d still be around if they had just figured out a sexless way to reproduce themselves.
I knew that politics was part of life here, so when I started writing and editing a little newspaper for the town of Bow, I met some local operators, like Dean Dexter, a former state rep who was running for a seat in the U.S House of Representatives. His campaign went nowhere, but Dean’s stories of the weird and fascinating history of New Hampshire politics left an impression and Dean went on to write for me.
Bow (birthplace of another iconoclastic and groundbreaking female religious leader) was a property-tax haven back then, with the Merrimack Power Station paying a huge part of the town’s bills. Many residents in nice homes on two-acre residentially zoned plots were VIPs from the Capitol City and the Queen City, so at the planning board, town meeting and the recreation center, I got to know people who would become priceless contacts and story subjects.
And there followed so, so many more connections and plot twists involving a fantastic and expansive cast of characters of which, quite likely, you are a part. Our small state is a wellspring of such singularities, exceptionalities and peculiarities.
Even just getting hired for the job that morphed into this job was a serendipitous miracle and fluke. (Ask me about it some day.) Since taking over the chair of prior Editor Dan Ryan (Hi, Dan!), it’s been stories upon stories within stories; with people and more people, some forgotten, some unforgettable, all conspiring to weave me into the fabric of the state that I had chosen — as though the state itself had chosen me.
Why am I so fond of New Hampshire and so proud to share it with others? It seems I’m really just returning a favor. And I’ll never get a better chance to say it, so thanks, New Hampshire, it’s been a trip.