IT SEEMED LIKE A COMPLIMENT TO ME

Joe Wright is “an average middle-aged, thick-around-the-middle man hopelessly clinging to the 20th century.”  Joe is 62 years old, overweight, balding and outspoken, saying things he should keep to himself. And he’s admired by a lot of folks in Maine.

 “It Seemed Like a Compliment to Me” is the second book about Joe, following “Thoughts of an Average Joe” in 2014. He is the alter-ego of Brunswick humorist Brian Daniels, a fellow with a sharp wit, keen observations and the unique ability to make us laugh at ourselves. These 62 short commentaries about small town life, marriage, growing up, technology and getting old will cause some people to say, “Holy Cow, that’s me!”

Joe lives in Smalltown, USA, the home of the “Bag Balm Udder Fun Fest,” proudly pointing out that it’s a small town because nobody wants to live there. He spends a lot of time thinking about things like when gas stations provided free air to fill your tires. He’s annoyed that now free air costs 75 cents. And why is it so difficult to buy a simple light bulb these days?

In “Geezernasium,” he suggests a private playground for grandparents — no kids, no cellphones, with a full bar, a pharmacy and 1960s oldies tunes playing in the background. He wonders how he survived childhood — riding a bike without a helmet, eating peanut butter that didn’t kill anybody, playing in the dirt and jumping off the roof.

Among the laughs is one essay that is not really funny at all, but will touch a nerve for its truth and honesty. Joe hates lousy customer service and won’t put up with indifference, insult or ignorance from any business. He expects to be treated with courtesy and respect, but fears good customer service disappeared along with free air.

WHEN YOU FIND MY BODY: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GERALDINE LARGAY ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL

Sixty-six-year-old Geraldine “Gerry” Largay was an adventurous woman who loved nature and dreamed of hiking the Appalachian Trail. She began hiking the AT in April 2013, making it to the most rugged AT terrain in Maine in July. Then Largay disappeared. Her body was found in dense woods two years later in 2015.

This is the powerful, poignant and cautionary true story of Largay’s hiking ordeal, how she got lost in Maine’s wilderness, her agonizing death from starvation and “the largest lost-person search and rescue in Maine history.”  Award-winning Maine author D. Dauphinee is a sensitive storyteller, carefully telling this tragic tale with the grace and dignity it deserves.

There are great truths here, with strengths, weaknesses and mistakes, all contributing to Largay’s disappearance and death, the exhaustive search for her and the grim lessons learned for anyone considering hiking the AT.

As Dauphinee reveals, Largay’s determination could not overcome her lack of field-craft experience, the land-navigation skills and equipment needed for wilderness survival. Hiking alone, she stepped off the trail for some bathroom privacy and became disoriented, making numerous mistakes that compounded her desperate situation. She was hopelessly lost 800 yards from the trail and was never seen alive again.

Dauphinee tells of the massive search and rescue effort, its organization, tactics and techniques involving hundreds of professionals and volunteers on foot and in the air. He also vividly describes the physiology of starvation and the debilitating psychology of “lost-person behavior.”  Largay’s recovered journal and cellphone text messages (never received) reveal a strong woman who knew she was going to die. The last message to her husband and daughter is a testament to her love and courage.

For more on the history of the AT, see Jeffrey H. Ryan’s 2017 book, “Blazing Ahead.”

 

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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