Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Can't get there from here

Album mocked Maine ways


PORTLAND, Maine— Some of the classic lines that define Maine humor emerged 50 years ago, on a record made by two Yale University students in a dormitory room.

Uttered in exaggerated Down East accents, the exchanges between Marshall Dodge and Robert Bryan on the “Bert and I” album inspired generations of storytellers both in-state and beyond, including the likes of Garrison Keillor of Lake Wobegone fame.

Some of Dodge and Bryan’s bone-dry punch lines remain familiar even today.

Summer tourist to Mainer: “Which way to Millinocket?” After considering and then rejecting a few possible routes, the native concludes, “Come to think of it, you can’t get there from here.”

Then there’s the day 85-year-old Arnold Bunker “from Bailey Island way” appears in court. Asked if he’d lived there all his life, he replies: “Not yet.”

Maine’s Islandport Press has marked the 50th anniversary of “Bert and I” by putting out a CD that features 34 stories compiled from Dodge and Bryan’s four albums, a concert appearance by Dodge and a public television special.

Though neither was from Maine, Dodge and Bryan were familiar with the state and its people and had a keen ear for dialect, along with a knack for low-tech sound effects. Their first recording, made in their dorm room at Yale University, featured a wastebasket as an echo chamber.

They made 50 copies for friends and family members, then pressed 50 more.

Dodge died in 1982 in a hit-and-run crash while bicycling in Hawaii.

Bryan, a divinity student who went on to be ordained as an Episcopal priest, is a bush pilot, at 77, with the Quebec Labrador Foundation, a nonprofit he founded nearly 50 years ago.