Even Christmas trash is sublime–tinsel and glitter stuffed into the barrel beside the still-shocked tree. Which brings us to New Year’s Eve, when we ring in the new. As we count down to the moment of truth, here are some urban legends–both trash and treasure–that we should either embrace or delete by then. See if you can guess if they’re true or false before you seek the answer.
No. 1. When Natalie Merchant asked local artist Michael Waterman if she could see the paintings in his garret studio, he turned her down flat. True. When Waterman learned she’d bought two of his paintings and wanted to see more, his reaction was, “I don’t have to meet her, do I?” The Grammy-winning singer/composer (Carnival Wonder) and former lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs “came in after doing some recordings at Gateway Studios and was about to perform at State Theatre,” says former Aucocisco Galleries owner Andy Verzosa. “She was in and out all week, rehearsing.” But now something caught her eye. “Is this for sale?” she asked Verzosa of Waterman’s extraordinary Woman With a Fish. “It’s $2,400,” Verzosa said. “I’ll take it!” she said and smiled, amazed herself. “It’s the first painting I’ve ever bought from a gallery. Can I see some more of his work?” After buying a second painting, she said, “I want to be his biggest patron. Is there any way I can meet him?” Worried about losing more painting time yapping, Waterman 86’d the tête-à-tête. When you live la vie bohème, you’ve got to walk the walk.
No. 2. Vikings visited the coast of Maine. True, per Time Magazine. On August, 18, 1957, the ‘Maine penny’ was discovered by Guy Melgren while sifting through Native-American digs at Penobscot Bay on Naskeag Point. According to Wikipedia, the “Norwegian silver coin [dates] to the reign of Olaf Kyrre, King of Norway (1067-1093 AD).” To some, it’s sparkling “evidence of Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact.” To others, it’s heads or tails.
No. 3. Portland turned down the USS Constitution as a mascot ship. True. She was tied up at a Portland wharf in 1930, begging for a home. The city fathers said no. We had a shot at Old Ironsides, but we were soft in the head.
No. 4. Frank Sinatra once sang in a Portland nightclub. True. He floated into the Morocco Lounge in the Wadsworth Hotel at 30 Preble Street in late August, 1940, after a stop at Old Orchard Beach Pier [see our story “Near East, Downeast,” September 2013, which is noted on Sinatra’s Wikipedia page]. The Forest City has authentic Rat Pack credentials.
No. 5. Giovanni da Verrazzano was mooned by Native Americans as his ships sailed along the coast of Maine.
True. We so often extend this courtesy to visitors from away. In 1524, “Verrazzano’s men were mooned by jeering Indians who gathered offshore.”–The French and Indian War, Alfred A. Cave, 2004. “On a subsequent visit to the West Indies, Verrazzano was set upon, butchered, and eaten by members of the Carib nation.” –Maine: The Wilder Half of New England, William David Barry, 2012.
“True at first light,” these legends will surely crystallize as fact or fiction on New Year’s Eve night. We’re starting the countdown. Here’s to challenging more assumptions in 2016.
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