Saturday, May 14, 2005

“Any time a man weasels out on you, turns out he’s doing you a favor.”

The Movie: Hombre, 1967 (Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr., screenwriters, from the novel by Elmore Leonard; Martin Ritt, dir.)
Who says it: Diane Cilento as Jessie, a recent widow
The context: John Russell (Paul Newman) turns down Jessie’s proposal of marriage, saying he’s doing her a favor.
How to use it: When you’re not bitter. No, really.

The only news in Maine today is the base closing announcements. Unless the base closing commission changes its mind -- unlikely -- the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard will close, and Brunswick Naval Air Station will lose half its personnel. It's an immediate loss of 7,000 jobs -- more than 1% of the state's work force -- and an economic impact conservatively estimated at more than $400 million.

No one can quite believe it. Even I feel it as a punch in the gut, and I've only been here for six months. Someone at the Department of Defense said yesterday that base closings had actually been good for communities, that they'd spurred new economic development. I can only assume they're talking about places like the Presidio, which was probably the most valuable piece of real estate the military owned.

No offense to summer people, but more waterfront homes for part-time residents are not going to solve the state's economic problems. In his commencement speech at the University of Maine last week, Stephen King gave graduates ten pieces of advice; the last four were, "Stay in Maine, stay in Maine, stay in Maine, stay in Maine."

But how can anyone stay in Maine if there are no jobs? Most of the people I know here work for themselves, as I do. The people I know with "real" jobs generally work for the government or for some human services organization (schools, nursing homes, food banks, other nonprofits).

A commenter on the Maine Today website yesterday said that maybe this could be a blessing, if it forced Maine to come to grips with its hostile business environment. Maybe that's true, but it'll take some time -- and, in the meantime, a lot of people will just leave.

Ironically, the jobs that are leaving Maine are going to Tidewater Virginia, which doesn't need them. Virginia is a pro-business environment, and the Tidewater area has more than quadrupled in size since I left for college, in 1982.

Maybe I can set up my own relocation service.

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