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The overhead at Dennett's Wharf is made of money

BY CAPTAIN D

YOU CAN'T BE at Dennett's Wharf in Castine long without noticing there are hundreds of dollar bills stuck to the barn board ceiling. And if you ask host Gary Brouillard how all those bills stay there, he'll offer to show you, but first you have to provide the buck.

If you're like most people, you pony up, and Gary proceeds to demonstrate how by sticking a thumbtack through Washington's nose and wrapping the bill around a fifty cent piece, he can fling it at the ceiling and, more often than not, have it stick, joining hundreds of similarly stuck bills.

The currency on the ceiling of Dennett's Wharf got national publicity three years ago following the 9/11 terrorist attack. Moved by the horror of it all, Gary and his wife Carolyn, determined to respond with a gesture of kindness, decided to donate the bills that had accumulated on their ceiling for ten years to the loved ones of a 7/11 victim. Using the Internet, they found who they perceived to be a kindred soul, James Audiffred, the elevator operator at the Windows on the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center. Turns out he had had great enthusiasm for Maine lobster and lighthouses.

Gary spent three hours detaching bills from his ceiling, 12,313 of them, and sent a check for that amount to Robin, his widow. The gesture caught international attention. The New York Times and People magazine noted it, as did NBC and CBS.

Gary and Carolyn tend to downplay the incident. "We're not anybody special," she insists. "We didn't do anything much out of the ordinary." Gary, in turn, says that to begin with he didn't feel the money was his, that it belonged to the patrons of his restaurant.

The widespread publicity generated an inflow of new dollars; lots of them started showing up in the mail. The ceiling of Gary's restaurant are covered with them; he says he has no plans at the moment for dispersing them.

And Carolyn found a new friend; she and Robin correspond regularly by e-mail.

The restaurant itself is a famous coastal landmark. The place evidently was built as a bowling alley after the Civil War; Gary found a bowling lane when he tore up some old flooring. Converted to a sail loft in the 1830s, it now boasts Maine's longest oyster bar and hosts the annual Maine state oyster-eating championship. You can get lobster cooked or uncooked and its barbecued ribs are unsurpassed. Other specialties include seafood lasagna and grilled marinated swordfish steak.