Two quick stories that tell you a little about Manhattan:
FIRST STORY: We had just wrapped up an edition of the paper one day last week when I saw a familiar face at the front counter.
It was Abdu Durar, a guy I’ve known awhile in a couple of capacities. He works for the city’s utilities operation, and so our professional paths have crossed when I’ve written stories about what he does for a living.
Second, and probably more importantly, he has been involved with youth soccer here for many years, and all of our kids have played.
After refereeing a game one night last week, he found an orphan soccer ball at Anneberg with the name “Brett” written on it.
Now, keep in mind that Abdu has probably dealt with several hundred families over the years.
But somehow he remembered that my youngest is named Brett, and so there he was at The Mercury’s front counter the next day to see if the orphan belonged to us.
SECOND STORY: Some of you might recall that I wrote a review of the Foreigner show at McCain Auditorium.
We published it deep inside the paper somewhere.
It dealt primarily with the question of authenticity, since none of the original members of Foreigner were there. I referred to “some mook” in the audience who had hollered to call attention to this fact.
Keep in mind that I didn’t see who was bellowing, and I wasn’t intending to call him out, whoever he was. I was noting that the issue of the band’s authenticity was obvious to knowledgeable fans.
So, of course, the phone rings one day last week, and it’s the mook.
Or rather, it was the fine gentleman I had called a mook in print. He was not particularly happy about that term, and, upon sober reflection, he’s right.
Among other things, a check of the dictionary showed mook to be described as “a contemptible, incompetent person.”
And I sure didn’t mean that.
Besides, even if you soften the definition to something gentler, the man in question is a real person, not a stereotype.
I told him I was sorry, and I am.
But this is not intended as a public apology. It’s intended to make one point: This is a small town.
People know each other. People care about each other and they care about what other people think.
Sure, it’s growing. Sure, there are problems, and there is change, and there are occasional tragedies and disasters.
No small town was ever entirely Norman Rockwell, anyway.
Growth and change are inherently controversial, and the discussion about whether they are good or bad is a discussion for another time.
I also acknowledge that I have a higher profile than most people, given my position at this newspaper.
But still, there’s something comforting about a place where people know who you are, if that’s to bring back a lost soccer ball.
Or hold you to account for saying something dumb.
Ned Seaton is publisher and editor-in-chief of the Mercury.