NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

September 5, 2013

A 30-year toast to As We See It

As I See It
Jack Garvey

---- — Thank you for joining us Monday — in print, online or in person at the Port Tavern at 4 p.m. — to observe the 30th anniversary of “As I See It.”

As one of just two remaining original cast members — and because Stuart Deane spent 20 years in a Witness Protection Program before rejoining last fall — I have the honor to raise this toast.

And make it a wry toast, as I did at my daughter’s wedding last summer, by turning it into this, my league-leading 224th As I See It.

Contrary to rumor back in the mid-’80s, Rachel Rain was — and still is, I’m pleased to say — an actual person and not a mere fictitious spin-off of Big Freddy who appears here every Saturday.

Admittedly, I started that rumor myself, but I was so much younger then; I’m even younger than that now.

Possibly younger than anyone else here save the upstart majoring in conversation at Stonehill College (young Joe D’Amore), I owe my seniority to so many early descriptions of travels with my daughter.

Indeed, for Rain’s 35th birthday in July, I raided my archives for a collection to send as a gift. Thought I’d find about 20. Found 42, including six that we co-wrote in alternating paragraphs ranging from banter to argument.

And her solo column about several change-of-costume bit roles in “The Nutcracker,” so I include her in a salute to former AISI’ers.

Stuart and I may be the only originals “still with us” in both senses of the phrase.

I’d say “May they rest in peace,” but for the ever-mischievous John Battis and always-feisty Marjorie Melanson, “Jest in peace” would be more like it.

Following a career working with the likes of Edward R. Murrow and John Steinbeck, Ed Bliss set our standards — while Carl Panall, who graced numerous Newbury historical sites and played Santa’s Elf on Newbury Green when not working on Port boats and docks, held us to them.

Ben Stone and Dick Lucy were as generous with encouragement and suggestions for the rest of us as with their celebrations of Newburyport life and times.

First As I See It, an inside view of public education, appeared July 5, 1983, penned by then-School Superintendent Francis Bresnahan — who may be getting more ink lately than all of the present cast combined.

This followed an innovation in Newsweek called “My Turn,” pioneering a trend for publications to invite columns from readers.

Between those two dates I stumbled into The Daily News with a commentary on a scandal in college sports. Fresh from a gig teaching college writing classes peppered with athletes, I thought I had an inside view.

Then-sports editor Kevin Doyle agreed. And then-news editor Bill Plante — the younger, possibly Freddy’s nephew — collared his first recruit for the new feature he would launch that summer.

Two days after Bresnahan’s debut, I followed with “A nine-year tradition bows to ‘progress,’” blasting a local pub whose name escapes me for discontinuing its weekly Hoot Night with local musicians in favor of “Music with Live DJ.”

Orwell would have a field day with the double-speak of “live” in that promo — and “progress” in the headline — but for me it’s all the more reason for a lively toast here at Port Tavern.

So what joins us 30 years later? Following my column about a new biography of Roger Williams last summer, Robert Campbell sent kind approval — but also reported deleting a draft of his own book review: “You beat me to it.”

Couldn’t make him reconsider, but he suggested coffee and conversation about writing.

Few months earlier, I had sent “As Good As Your Word” columnist Jonathan Wells advance notice that I planned to raid his territory with a column headlined “Wise to the Word.”

Recalling his gracious response, I invited him to join us. Next day, Stuart returned from Santa Monica with Whitey and Catherine, and I bribed his parole officer to let him join as well.

So blame us Founding Four-Fathers for the nonsense you just heard — or read — but please raise a glass right now:

Here’s to readers for putting up with us!

To editor Merrily Buchs for putting us up!

And to us for all we put up!

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All present and former AISI writers are invited to join the group at the Port Tavern at 4 p.m. Monday. Jack Garvey can be reached at hammlynn@yahoo.com. His first two AISI accounts of trips were adapted for Newsweek’s “My Turn,” June 23, 1986, “On the Road Again With Rachel.”