Newburyport Stories

I open the present my son gives me for Christmas, a book. A skull with a cigarette on the front cover. My face obviously gives my skepticism away.

“No, Mom, really, he’s on the New York Times best seller list, I promise.”

I feel slightly better when I find out that the skull was painted by my favorite painter, Vincent Van Gogh. To say the least, I am still skeptical.

My son to reassure me, sits me down and reads the first short essay/story. It’s about germs. I’m still not won over.

But after all, this is my own beloved son, and I want to make at least some attempt to appreciate his thought out present to moi. So I plunk myself down in the comfiest chair I can find, and proceed to read the skull book. By the fourth essay/story, I am howling with laughter, and offer to read my son some of the stuff in his now much appreciated present. He declines.

The 8th essay/story is about a New York City woman, who could have been any number of characters that I’ve known so well. And I begin to wonder that maybe these stories have a lot less fiction in them than I first supposed.

And having struggled with, in what fashion to continue the Newburyport Blog, an idea begins to form. Stories, maybe fiction, maybe true, centered around my beloved New England seacoast city of Newburyport, MA, my stories, but hopefully somewhat universal as well as local.

What woman, Newburyport or elsewhere, hasn’t stood in front of the mirror and wondered about “midriff bulge.” Another version of, “Am I fat?”

What one of us, while considering the problem of “midriff bulge,” hasn’t also considered a personal financial fate in these lousy economic times.

Instead of “preaching” about historic preservation, and preserving the historic quality of this wonderful historic town, an experience of what it is like to live in an historic place, day after day, and how that adds to an unquantifiable quality of life.

Instead of talking about how upset I am about specific “restoration” and building projects, why not talk about historic preservation and boob jobs, hoping that people will start rating planning and historic preservation projects as a “double D boob job” as the worst, to a “braless wonder,” at their very best.

In December 2008 I find I am weary of pissing off my fellow Newburyport citizens, living under a constant risk of being sued or being threaten of being sued, and this appears to be a possible solution.

After trying to find every possible book by the skull guy, I finally Google him. And I find that, yes David Sedaris has not only been around for quite a long time, and I am very late to the David Sedaris planet, but also even that he has been on David Letterman a lot, no less, much less a visit to one of my favorites, Jon Stewart. From here on in, I vow to myself, I will trust my son’s taste in literature, even if the cover contains a picture of a skull.