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The other day I got a call from a reporter for a newspaper in Pennsylvania. He had just received a copy of my book "Down the road a piece - A storyteller's guide to Maine" and he wanted to ask me a few questions about it, with the idea of writing a piece for his paper. I agreed and here's the result:

Q. There are a lot of guides to your state on the market, so what is the criteria for a "storyteller's guide"?

A. As a storyteller I’m not constrained by silly conventions like "facts" and ‘details’ which your traditional guide books seem to get so hung-up on. As a storyteller I’m allowed, even expected, to make overstated and unsubstantiated claims whenever I feel the need. In fact, when appropriate, I’m expected to flat-out lie.

Q. In the "Maine Cuisine" section you recommend Dysart's Truck Stop in Hermon as one of your favorite eateries. Why?

A. As a kid I used to hear people say that you should go to eating places that have lots of trucks out front, because everyone knows that truckers were the true epicureans, the true gourmets with extremely sensitive pallets, therefore long-haul truckers know where the finest dining establishments are. In fact, the reason we never dined at ‘21’ whenever my wife and I were in New York wasn’t because we couldn’t afford it, or weren’t allowed in. No! It was because we never saw 18-wheelers out front.
By comparison, Dysarts always has dozens of rigs out front. Wouldn’t conventional wisdom therefore conclude that Dysart’s serves Maine’s finest food?

Q. You suggest in the destinations section that Fryeburg gets its name from the tons of fried dough produced every year at the Fryeburg Fair. What are some other little-known place-name facts you found while researching this book?

A. You mentioned the lovely western Maine town of Fryeburg and this is where my storyteller’s guide might differ from your ordinary run-of-the mill guides.
Historians contend that Fryeburg got its name from someone named ‘Frye,’ but that just sounded so predictable and uninteresting. The ‘frye’ story didn’t sound right to me so , using the privileges that come with my recently renewed storyteller’s ‘license’ I inserted the ‘fryed’ dough story in stead.

Q. What were your trying to put into this book that other guides to the State lack?

A. Most travel books give outsiders the idea that an area’s honest, hard-working, thrifty natives are just tickled to death when tourists arrive each summer like swarms of needy locus.
I just thought it was time to be honest and tell our summer visitors – or ‘summer complaints’ as they used to be called in less enlightened times – that isn’t necessarily the way it is and if we didn’t need their money so bad we’d demolish the Piscatiqua Bridge to discourage them from coming.

Q. What was the toughest part of the book to write?

A. I guess I’d have to say the part on ‘shopping’ was the toughest part to write, since I don’t like to shop and would be ashamed to admit it even if I did. But since the average tourist carries enough credit cards to shingle the average roof I thought I had to write something about shopping.

Q. Which part of the book do you think is the most indispensable to folks traveling in Maine?

A. My grandfather used to say that cemeteries are filled with people who thought they were ‘indispensable’ so, I guess, it may be possible to go on living without the benefits of this book. But I think everyone traveling in Maine should consider the book’s ‘Introduction to Maine’ as very near ‘indispensable.’ For that reason I’d appreciate it if the Maine Legislature would pass a law making the purchase of my book obligatory!

E-mail me with YOUR questions at: mainestoryteller@yahoo.com
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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