- Tim Newcomb
Southbound Interstate 89 looked pretty good on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It had been a long time since my partner and I had rolled down that ribbon of highway to the land of the pilgrims, his home state, past so many familiar landmarks: White River Junction's imposing veterans hospital on the hill, the roadside Whaleback Mountain ski area, the reliable Dunkin' off Exit 9 in Warner, N.H.
On the radio: good news — at last — in a case of racial justice. The three men involved in the Georgia shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery had been convicted of murder. A reporter from the local daily Brunswick News, Larry Hobbs, was credited for asking the tough questions that kept the case alive until the damning cellphone video of the killing emerged.
For a Grateful Dead-accompanied moment, I let myself imagine that all the wrong in the world could right itself and things might turn out OK.
Traffic was light, for Thanksgiving Eve in Massachusetts. There was no snow in the forecast. Right off the highway, beautiful historic towns offered up their Main Streets, many of which were already decked out for Christmas. We hadn't seen my in-laws for two years. Ditto their longhaired dachshund.
When we arrived, the dog was running around excitedly with something in his mouth. I thought I recognized his favorite chew toy from 2019. "Still torturing Donald Trump?" I asked my mother-in-law, a lifelong Democrat.
"No, that's Joe Biden," she said. From her sheepish expression, I guessed that it had been a gag gift from another son. But no, indeed, we weren't in Vermont anymore. Along with turkey and all the fixings, this 48-hour family reunion in sharp-elbowed Massachusetts served up a political reality check.
Another odd realization: Thanks to these weekly "From the Publisher" messages, many strangers know more about me, and the trials and tribulations of Seven Days, than some of the people with whom I sat down to share Thanksgiving. When someone inquires, "How's the paper?" I know they're looking for a short, simple answer, not an impassioned speech about the challenges of publishing an independent weekly in the middle of a pandemic. I miss my mom, who died at the beginning of it. She would listen to my tales — with patience and seeming interest — until I ran out of words. Seeking an alternative way to connect, a few days later I sent an email to my in-laws with links to some of the notes I thought they would enjoy or relate to.
En route home on Friday, laden with leftovers, we heard about the new Omicron strain of the coronavirus. I let out an audible groan, joining a worldwide chorus of the worried and weary.