“Hello darkness, my old friend,” our brother Paul Simon once sang, “I’ve come to talk with you again.”

And I’ve come to talk to you again about this ugly concept imposed upon us by the well-meaning long dead.

We’re compelled once again to say goodbye to that mixed bag of ticks, mosquitoes, sunburn, grills, and yes, glorious sunsets and greenery, and say hello to darkness at noon.

For myself, over the years, I’ve managed to deal with it. I learned the tricks long ago to survive and devised ways to smile through.

I stay up to watch the late-night comics, turn up the lights in every room, going from kitchen to bath to dining room and to the one lamp next to the table full of books in front of the ever-glowing tube.

My house from the street must resemble a peacetime battleship in a dark sea. I can almost hear the folks driving by and slowing down as they pass to point me out to their back-seat kids.


“That’s old J.P. Devine’s house. You remember him. He was a funny guy, made grandpa laugh? Now he’s a slippered old poet, shuffling about his house, turning on lights in every room and sipping brandied tea while setting mousetraps.”

All very true, all very funny. When I came here, I unpacked my bag of tricks and found a warm paper stage to entertain on. Life, of course, is unendurable without laughter, and I cherish my talent to amuse.

But it’s that time of year when Mother Earth grows weary of producing color and succumbs to winter. It is, as journalist Dan Rather put it, “No leaves, no grass, no sun … November.”

I know you all need laughs now more than ever, and it’s my life’s joy to provide them.

Writer Christopher Isherwood reminds us of the early days in Europe, when the side streets of Berlin and Munich, Vienna and Hamburg were cluttered with cabarets hosted by comics who taunted the Nazis.

Most of the actors and comics of the time were Jews, and eventually “those in charge” came for them, and cabarets, films, theaters and all of Europe fell dark.


Today when — despite people like me, who keep trying to amuse — the laughter thins out, we’re reminded of the words of the German playwright Bertolt Brecht, “He who laughs last has not yet heard the bad news.”

This month, this week, no one is laughing, and all the news is bad: the slaughter of 11 American Jews in Pittsburgh — in a synagogue, mind you, a house of God, a temple of prayer.

This following the panic that walked the streets when multiple bombs were hurled at innocent men and women by a psychotic drifter who was inspired by his president and “those in charge.”

It’s time now to deal with this other darkness, this suffocating black cloud that floats over us.

Those of us who remember and cherish the brighter windows of Camelot find ourselves in the clammy grip of old white men — dinosaurs who spend their days in Washington’s shambolic majority, desperately trying to hold on to the keys of a kingdom gone astray.

It’s no sin to be old or to find oneself blinded by the light of slick magicians with top hats full of promising rabbits. History’s graveyards are full of such autocrats and their misguided followers.


Now, in our time, we find ourselves engulfed in a time warp, on stage in a memory play.

At first, the leading actor pops in and out and strolls the stage from town to town, hamlet to village, like the old medicine peddlers with an all-healing elixir.

“Step right up,” he bellows. “Take a sip of my magic tonic, and all will be well. Take another sip, and you’ll feel ‘great’ again. Isn’t it worth the price to feel ‘great’ again?”

You know him, this one. Those of you old enough to have seen this play before. You recognize the script, the props and lighting effects. And Maine is not immune to the tricks of these players. We’ve had our own tricksters from time to time. It’s easy when times are tough to be blinded by the light of traveling hucksters and magical con men.

Today, nature’s seasonal darkness is descending, made even darker and scarier by the coming midterm elections.

But we can deal with it. We’ve learned the tricks. We will go from room to room, heart to heart, mind to mind, turning on the light of truth in each of those by voting; and on election night, with God’s help, we may resemble a “peaceful battleship,” in a very, very dark sea.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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