20 February 2008

Everything happens downstairs and next door. Those bay windows face Main Street and go ceiling-to-floor. You can see under the tables pushed up to the window; you can see the diner’s knees, you can see the printed wood paneling through those windows.

I’ve only been inside twice.

On my first day I didn’t realize we were next-door to a restaurant. I drove up behind the office and wondered at the forty glittering cars in the back lot. Who did they belong to? We only have two reporters.

Now I know. They belong to councilmen X, Y, and Z, and councilwoman W, the school committee’s lawyer, and the chair of the democratic town committee. It’s one big breakfast, with all my sources in the same place. If I call them before 11 at their offices, they won’t answer.

They’re reading what we wrote in the paper, over lightly breaded home fries, scrambled eggs, and flavored New England Coffee Company Coffee. They might make some comments to one another across the room. But those comments never settle anything.

Instead of speaking table-to-table, instead of face-to-face, they leave breakfast and call me. They would rather respond in print.

My editor says this is how our paper has stayed alive the past 150 years: because of all the generations of microcosm, because in this town personal squabbles can be published as front-page news.