My first impression of Mike Langworthy was that his wife was very nice. And he was cranky.
It was a couple years ago, and our families were having brunch at Caiola’s in Portland’s West End. We were set up by my cousin who lives outside Cincinnati, a childhood friend of Mike’s wife, Carol.
Besides the family tie, we had other things in common.
For starters, both of our families moved to Maine from California. My wife and I immigrated in 1984; Mike and Carol had recently moved after deciding to live closer to the Massachusetts prep school one of their kids would be attending.
Law was another common bond. My wife is a journalist-turned-lawyer; Mike is a lawyer-turned-writer.
And true to my cousin’s word, Carol was friendly, engaging, talkative, interesting and amusing.
But Mike seemed out of sorts that day at breakfast, distracted and hardly funny. Not what you’d expect from an attorney who lately made his living as a stand-up comic and TV sitcom producer and writer (“Cybill,” “8 Simple Rules” and “The Drew Carey Show,” among others).
But there was something about his demeanor and distractedness, the way he would intermittently zero in on the discussion with unusually perceptive comments that also made me want to get to know Mike better.
Maybe it was the story behind moving from law to comedy. Or maybe it was the story behind the move from California to Maine, where he planned to get serious about writing. Either way, Mike seemed quirky, intelligent and blunt enough to be able to offer interesting and coherent observations on almost any topic. So I asked him if he had any desire to write for The Forecaster.
He said yes, and promised to send along a sample or two.
We had brunch several more times over the next few months, at The Good Egg or Local 188, and each time Mike would promise to show me his work. And each time, there’d be nothing. I stopped asking.
When he finally did send something, it was much too long – and it knocked my socks off.
It was a travelogue of sorts about the move to Maine, the Langworthy family, first impressions of Portland. It was painful, and painfully funny, written with sarcasm, criticism, insight, love, hate, x-ray vision and a view of Mike’s mind that only he could have.
I told him that whenever he was ready, he knew where to find me. After completing a two-year creative nonfiction program at the Stonecoast School for Creative Writing at the University of Southern Maine, he did.
Mike’s column, the aptly named “The View from Away,” starts this week. It will run every other week, alternating weeks with Sandi Amorello’s “No Sugar Added.”
I think you’ll agree it was worth the wait.
Mo Mehlsak is editor of The Forecaster. He can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 107 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Mo @mmehlsak on Twitter.