By Lenny Ackerman
It was nearly two years ago that Carl Butz and I first had a conversation about his acquisition of The Mountain Messenger newspaper. I had called him mainly to offer my congratulations, as he had just rescued the paper from closure and in doing so made national news, which is how it came to my attention. We quickly hit it off, and it was that phone call that led not only to a weekly column for me, but to an unexpected and rewarding cross-country friendship.
During that initial call, I told Carl about my late wife, who passed away in 2017, and how I had continued writing letters to her as a way to deal with my grief. I learned Carl, too, lost his wife in 2017. A phone call about a newspaper became something more, as we bonded over our mutual loss and loneliness. He suggested channeling the letter writing into a weekly column. The idea was to put down in 250 words or less, my impressions of life from where I was living at various times of year — Maine and East Hampton in the summer, Palm Beach and New York City in the winter. So, under the heading “Here Back East,” my first contribution to the Mountain Messenger, “Open Remotely,” was published on May 7th, 2020.
Two years and 65 columns later, I look back on what has happened during that span of time, to me personally and in the wider world. I tried to put so much of it into words on a page as I experienced it — maybe I was being ambitious, but it was always from the heart. There have been concerns expressed, from friends and colleagues who thought I might say too much in these columns and possibly harm my business — I am an attorney and discretion is paramount. But my political columns were few — about the January 6th insurrection and the Inauguration Day reading by the poet Amanda Gorman. Most of the topics are purposeful and personal — what I think about events at the time and how they affect me, my family and friends. And I write a lot about fishing — writing about it is the next best thing to doing it.
There is no denying we live in difficult times — the neverending pandemic, inflation, wildfires. So much of it leaves us unsure about what is ahead. Yet we must look to the future and not without hope. The pandemic will become endemic, like a seasonal flu. Interest rate hikes will quash the inflationary bubble. Technology and proper forest management will quell the flames out west. With a positive view and an appetite for understanding and love we will get through it. We are not the first generation to think we are living through the worst, and we won’t be the last.
I will be visiting the Sierras this summer to fish, as I will fish East Grand Lake in Maine. My new partner in life, my sweetheart Patti, will join me. There is much to look forward to and to write about. My best to Carl and my friends in Downieville. See you soon.