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Captain D Turns Twenty

BY CAPTAIN D

I CAN REMEMBER precisely the moment I was born. It seems like only yesterday, although it was 20 years ago. I was driving from Ellsworth to Blue Hill when, having cleared Surry, I reflected on the fact that my publishing company was called Downeast Directions while my name was Dick.

I must be Captain D I thought to myself and, somehow, the idea resonated. From that moment on I was, indeed, Captain D. (I didn't realize at the time there was a southern seafood franchise with the same name. I've been getting e-mails about bad clams ever since.)

Having cleared the birth canal, I soon began to appreciate how many truly cool D words there are. "Dynamic," "Dangerous," "Delightful," "Ding-a-ling," "Distinguished," "Dim," "Distraught," "Damnation," the language was awash in descriptive D words." I took as a mascot the dodo. "Dysfunctional" was Blanche's contribution.

The times then were similar to now—tough. I was publishing a paper called "Touring Downeast Maine for Next to Nothing." The idea was to point visitors to as many good deals as possible. It came with coupons and advice on pinching pennies. The remains of this paper can be found on the present paper's Index Page where we say we are devoted to helping visitors discover the best values available in Downeast Maine.

The concept had been well-received, but it required a lot of text, and sometimes I found writing hard. The prose was all pretty straight forward, nothing fancy, but often I felt blocked. But then I made a happy discovery. When I thought of myself as Captain D, the words came easily. Self-consciousness simply vanished. Captain D, a creature of my imagination, was a rakish and witty fellow, wise and articulate, and his words fairly leapt upon the page. Is this why authors adopt pen names? Was Samuel Langhome Clemens tongue-tied until he became Mark Twain?

I worked Captain D into various guises of my paper. "Touring Downeast Maine for Next to Nothing" became "Touring Downeast Maine With Captain D" before it became "Discover Downeast Maine With Captain D." The name would occasionally change, but the paper lived on.

By the mid-nineties, I found myself longer of tooth and shorter of breath. I had gotten myself deeply involved with the Internet—I was co-owner of Panax, an up-and-coming ISP, and like a lot of people I was entranched with the possibilities of dot-coms. I had put the guide online and loved how easy digital distribution is. The click of a key sent it all over the planet. After having gone through I don't know how may cars putting papers in places, this idea excited me. It still does.

I was considering discontinuing publication of the paper, and mentioned this to Bill Paquin. We had worked together on a paper called "Maine Internet News." At that time the Internet was new and exciting and we told the stores of intrepid souls venturing forth in this strange new medium.

Somewhat to my surprise Bill expressed an interest in taking over the Captain D Guide. I had to admire his gumption. With no publishing experience, he was ready to take the bull by the horns and learn by doing. So I took a load off by turning the paper over to him. I agreed to stay on as editor and sometime advisor and retained the Captain D identity online.

There were a few rough stretches, but Bill made the paper flourish. He had had some experience in ad sales, and the energy and vitality he put into the paper were exemplary. He brought in color and more feature articles and, recently, full digitalization. No more hot wax and crooked lines. Under Bill's direction, the paper became better and better.

But Bill was getting restless. He had never been one to sit still for long. He had been in the video business in Hawaii and the restaurant business in Bucksport. He had painted houses, put out placemats, and done the local Coffee News. Now he was contemplating moving to Washington state. He was ready for a change.

One day he was telling all this to Matt Bauman, the Machias man behind that town's Fat Cat Deli. Bill says he had admired the way Matt and his wife Faye, starting with nothing, had built a good business incorporating New York style sandwiches and killer great pizza. Matt had proven he knew how to run an efficient operation by keeping everything on the menu under $6.

"I asked Matt if he knew anybody as enterprising as he was who might want to buy my business," Bill says. "Matt said, 'let's talk'."

Talk led to action. Matt ended up buying Bill's operation (which Bill describes as Downeast Maine's largest nitch publishing company). Matt, excited over the possibilities, immediately began to contemplate expanding it. He plans to cover most of the Maine coast, and the paper is now going by the name, "Discover Coastal Maine With Captain D."

I am thinking Captain D can begin looking forward to an exciting (and maybe even prosperous) middle age.