Keeping it real: I once committed a crime. I’m here to confess. Here’s what happened…
Recently the literary world lost an icon with the passing of Jerome David (J.D.) Salinger. If you went to high school in this country you almost were forced to read his classic novel of teenage disillusionment, The Catcher in the Rye, featuring the anti-hero Holden Caulfield. After huge praise was heaped on Salinger for writing what many call the great American novel, he retreated into the shadows, shunning celebrity and all its trappings and rarely appearing in public. His reputation as a recluse and hermit gradually grew to epic proportions and he became almost legendary for his ability to avoid being photographed.
Ever the seeker of unusual things to do, I decided I would try to get a picture of the elusive author. I figured that it would be relatively simple to find him—Cornish, New Hampshire, where he lived, is a small New England town and how hard could it be to find one house? I drove across the bridge over the river that separates Cornish from Windsor, Vermont and made my way to the Cornish Town Hall, where I could just take a look at the tax records for the area and would get the address. A nice man in the assessor’s office asked me why I was there and when I told him he said the following, slowly and deliberately: “When someone pulls into Mr. Salinger’s driveway, there are two people in town who know about it…Mr. Salinger and myself. I’m also the police chief. I’m not going to help you. Do not bother Mr.Salinger.”
I had no intentions of bothering Mr. Salinger—I just wanted to get a discrete picture of his house, and the man himself if he should happen to be outside. I crossed back into Windsor and stopped at a Goodwill store there, where a bunch of older ladies were gabbing away, in that quaint way that older ladies gab. New England is often like the South in that regard, just with a different accent. Figuring that since they were roughly as old as Salinger, they might know where his house was. They politely directed me to the Vermont Craft Center down the street, and I was informed that Salinger’s wife, Colleen O’Neil, displayed and sold some “very cute” spool dolls that she made herself. At the Craft Center I was shown the spool doll collection, found a really cool red, white and blue one. Ten bucks later I was out the door with my treasure, which incredibly included an unexpected bonus---a tag with not only Colleen O’Neil’s name on it, but incredibly her address, and by default, her husband’s address. Back into Cornish I went, a quick stop at the post office to ask generally where the road was that I was looking for and within five minutes I was staring at J. D. Salinger’s house. Careful to park on the side of the road, not on his property, I snapped a couple pictures—one of his mailbox AND his trashcans (which I didn’t dare peek into) and one of his house.
As I walked up and down the road trying to get a better view of the house, I noticed that seemingly every tree had an orange “No Trespassing “ sign. So did one telephone pole. A furtive glance to the left and one to the right, and I sprung into action. I hereby confess: I stole J. D. Salinger’s “No Trespassing” sign from the telephone pole, where it no right to be.
Don’t you love irony?