The other day I got a call from the librarian in Jonesport. She was paging through a copy of my book "Down the road a piece - a storyteller's guide to Maine" and she wanted to ask me a few questions about it before she put it in the libraries travel section.
Q. There are a lot of guides to our state on the market, so what is the criteria for a "storyteller's guide"?
A. Good question. As a storyteller I’m not constrained by silly conventions like "facts" and ‘details’ which your traditional guide books seem to get so hung-up on. As a storyteller I’m allowed, even expected, to make overstated and unsubstantiated claims whenever I feel the need. In fact, when appropriate, I’m expected to flat-out lie.
Q. In the "Maine Cuisine" section you recommend Dysart's Truck Stop in Hermon as one of Maine’s best eateries. Why?
A. As a kid I used to hear people say that you should stop at eating places that have lots of trucks out front, because everyone knows that truckers were the true epicureans, the true gourmets with extremely sensitive pallets, therefore long-haul truckers know where the finest dining establishments are. In fact, the reason we never dined at ‘21’ whenever my wife and I were in New York wasn’t because we couldn’t afford it, or weren’t allowed in. No! It was because we never saw 18-wheelers parked out front.
By comparison, Dysarts always has dozens of rigs out front. Wouldn’t conventional wisdom therefore conclude that Dysart’s serves Maine’s finest food?
Q. You suggest in the destinations section that Fryeburg gets its name from the tons of “fryed” dough produced every year at the Fryeburg Fair. What are some other little-known place-name facts you found while researching this book?
A. You mentioned the lovely western Maine town of Fryeburg, and this is where my storyteller’s guide might differ from your ordinary run-of-the mill guides.
Historians contend that Fryeburg got its name from someone named ‘Frye,’ but that just sounded so predictable and uninteresting. The ‘frye’ story didn’t sound right to me so, using the privileges that come with my recently renewed “storyteller’s license, “ I inserted the ‘fryed’ dough story instead.
Q. What were you trying to put into this book other guides to the state lack?
A. Most travel books give outsiders the idea that an area’s honest, hard-working, thrifty natives are just tickled to death when tourists arrive each summer like swarms of locus.
I just thought it was time to be honest and tell our summer visitors – or ‘summer complaints’ as they used to be called in less enlightened times – that isn’t necessarily the way it is, and if we didn’t need their money we’d demolish the Piscatiqua Bridge to discourage them from coming.
Q. What was the toughest part of the book to write?
A. I guess I’d have to say the part on ‘shopping’ was the toughest part to write, since I don’t like to shop and would be ashamed to admit it even if I did. But since the average tourist carries enough credit cards to shingle the side of the average house, I thought I had to write something about shopping.