Practical magic: At Points East, it takes a village

Former editor Nim Marsh and the author, taking a break from peddling wares at the Wooden Boat Show in Mystic, Conn. Photo by Bob Muggleston

September 2022

By Bob Muggleston

“Champagne taste, beer pocketbook.” This was a phrase my dad used many times in the 30 years I worked alongside him as a landscaper in southeast Connecticut, often as he was getting back into the truck after meeting with a potential client. It meant, of course, that someone had aspirations that wildly exceeded his or her means. In my dad’s eyes, this flaw of logic – the inability to modulate one’s preferences based on the reality at hand – was, at best magical thinking, something to be derided.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I’m prone to a bit of magical thinking myself. For instance, despite being someone of limited means, I love to ski and sail. Many of us know that even when these activities are carefully managed, they can become big-time budget killers, so thank goodness for clubs, which allow like-minded folks to pool their funds and efforts and collaboratively achieve what otherwise might be unachievable. It’s amazing, actually, what can be accomplished on a shoestring budget with a bit of hard work and unflinching dedication.

The eight years I worked at Points East felt very much like being part of a club. That is, while there, I was always cognizant of how much effort it took to put together an issue and how dedicated the staff and contributing writers were. An especially good issue of the magazine felt like proof that my dad’s phrase didn’t have to be negative: That is, you could have champagne taste, a beer pocketbook and still create something special.

One of the things I enjoyed most while working at Points East was the old-school feel of putting out an issue. We embraced technology, yes, but just barely. For instance, no article on the magazine’s website landed there because someone at a Zoom meeting thought it would be good for search engine optimization. The magazine has a light social media footprint and never uses analytics to steer content. A ship destined for the rocks in this advanced era? I doubt it.

Too many people are still aboard, working hard to keep her afloat. During my editorship, one of the publication’s founders, Bernie Wideman, proofread every issue, and the other, Sandy Marsters, contributed content. After his retirement, Nim Marsh, who I eventually replaced as editor of the magazine, stayed on to edit features. A friend of mine, Marcia Murphy, is still proofreading the magazine, despite the fact that I haven’t been there in over a year. All of the above work done for free or nearly so.

I was always surprised and amazed at the magazine’s readership as well. One notable example is Pam Humbert, who lives on Long Island, a region that is technically out of the publication’s distribution zone. For years she took it upon herself to distribute Points East in her area and afterward would send Joe Burke, the magazine’s owner, Excel spreadsheet breakdowns detailing her efforts. (So much for us not using analytics, I guess!). For free, of course.

Since its inception, Points East has always punched above its weight. Interesting features, wonderful columnists and wildly popular sections like “Mystery Harbor” have kept the publication lively and relevant for 25 years. Its staff is incredibly dedicated, and its readers are wonderfully loyal.

All this being true, longtime readers might wonder what the heck happened to me . . . why I ever left such a great place? Well, let’s just say I was lured away by a bigger, shinier magazine that was less about magical thinking and community and more about Zoom meetings and search engine optimization.

“So whaddya think?” I asked my dad after he got his first issue from my new employer. My name was at the top of the masthead, and, truth be told, I was pretty proud of the work I’d done. “It’s not Points East,” he said. He always was a good judge of character.

Bob Muggleston, one of Points East’s former editors, lives in Deep River, Connecticut. When not actively engaged in magical thinking, he’s either skiing, sailing, mountain biking, or creating custom marine canvas for boats in southeast Connecticut.