John Harrigan: The view from the catbird seat, reminiscing with an old friend

JOHN HARRIGAN August 10. 2013 6:58PM

OK, this is a potpourri, which means saving up stuff for a stew or something, like jump-steak, which is code for venison, not because I don't have any ideas, because I always do, but hey, it's the lazy hazy days of summer. So I delve into notes and memory.

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This past Tuesday, I sat in the catbird's seat at an outdoor table at The Barley House, downtown Concord, directly across from the State House.

The catbird seat is a time-honored term. It means that you sit where you can see everything happening. Sitting with me was Adolphe Bernotas, who held down the desk at the Concord bureau of the Associated Press for 40 years or so of my 45 years (I'm still counting, he's not) of newspapering. It was like old home day.

With people coming by that we each knew, we scarcely had time to eat. One hour turned into three.

Among my few accomplishments during my career was getting rid of the bounty on bobcats paid by the state years ago. We talked too much to ascertain Adolphe's.

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Cat-bird seat: For years, when I made reservations at The Balsams, after having caddied there with Steve Barba, who stayed and went on to hotelier fame and I didn't, I'd ask for the cat-bird seat.

This meant the corner of the L-shaped dining room, from where I could see everything that was happening. And believe me, I did.

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The Balsams, like a lot of hostelries of the time, required a dinner jacket ("coat" in less refined places) or whatever threadbare piece would suffice for supper. What we forget, I think, is that many hostelries were founded on fishing.

One would go out to fish, and then one would go into a lodge or hotel to dine. My friend John Lanier's father often availed himself of such places. He'd get in toward dark, wet and muddy, perhaps having fished the Rapid River, and present himself at the dining room of whatever hostelry was at hand, whereupon the maitre d' would fetch him a jacket.

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One-issue readers are even worse, maybe, than snap-shot readers, those who pick up one copy of a paper and see one column out of 39 years' worth. Anyone who writes a column runs this risk.

So I got a pithy letter from a reader who said he'd loved my stuff until I took a stance that ATV riders, having been obliged to pay registration fees for lo these many years, deserved a place at the table and places to ride, which they now have in a huge circular loop north of the notches.

He would never read me again, he wrote, to which I said, Sorry.

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Who owns the dirt? We do. This refers to the landowners all over the state who've negotiated conservation easements for the long term.

Any yield on this front will spell doom for future easements.

As for the chambers of commerce in Nashua and Manchester and the editorial gang at the Concord Monitor who've endorsed the not-for-our-gain, for-private-gain Northern Pass scheme, have you taken a ride up Route 145, the so-called back way between Colebrook and Pittsburg? If not, I'll be your talkative guide.

John Harrigan's address: PO Box 39, Colebrook NH 03576, or

John Harrigan

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