A makeshift shrine now appears on the desk of Mary Duan, the editor of the Weekly.
As this goes to press, a week after she learned her husband, Chuck Messenger, had won $2.7 million on a California Lotto ticket purchased at Star Market in Salinas, the shrine includes more than 40 artifacts. The various tributes sit on top of what she was looking into – a restraining order and an environmental impact report for Monterey Downs among them – before she went on vacation the same night he won.
The shrine rests next to a dry erase board where three hashtags are scrawled: #BringMaryBack, #FreeMary and #WWMD?
Behind the desk, in her chair, lingers a giant puppet version of Squid, the weekly’s edgy insider, who works with Duan and the editorial team to watchdog local politicos and the community at large. Maybe Squid sees an opportunity.
The significance of some of the shrine’s totems is self-evident. Those include a jar of Advil, a small bag of Kranky Mexican cookies, a Yoda statue and a Yoda Pez dispenser. There are four scratched-off lottery scratchers and a Quail Motorsports Bonhams auction catalog, because she can now afford things like the rare 1924 “Pegasus” hood ornament (estimated value $5,000-$6,000).
Others artifacts are more symbolic. Like the orange electric pepper grinder, presumably placed there because good journalism is a hell of a grind, with a little peppery kick. Or the can of SPAM, because quality reporting involves synthesizing a lot of disparate ingredients into something vaguely digestible. Or the portrait of Monterey Mayor Clyde Roberson, a reminder of the politicians she can look forward to coming back to, or staying away from. Or the organic baby basil start in a shot glass of water, because a) She’s looking at a new beginning; or b) She can now purchase Weekly owner Bradley Zeve’s Bad Dog Farms, from whence the basil came.
Others pieces on the desk are open to interpretation: A framed picture of a whole fish on the grill, a whisk with a pink pig handle and Kris Kross’ 1993 album Da Bomb, in vintage vinyl.
Beyond the shrine, other reactions to the news were similarly diverse and vulnerable to translation. One colleague said, “She’s so tormenting us.” Another said, “Time out. I need to sit down.” A third offered, “I didn’t think she had to be here before. Now I know she doesn’t.”
Reader responses to the brief blog the Weekly ran to report the plot twist – pointing out Duan’s current vacation was planned before the lottery – included comments like, “Good things happen to good people” (from Larry R. Gowin), “So the Weekly will be free now, right?” (Greg Schroeder) and “Happy retirement, Mary” (Brian Rozema).
Republican campaign operative Brandon Gesicki, last seen fundraising for a shady PAC to tarnish former sheriff Scott Miller, sent this direct message: “Congrats on your new fortune. With all the taxes due, time for you to join the GOP? I also know of a PAC you could donate to. :)”
On Facebook, Seaside resident and friend of the paper Roberto Maceira wrote, “Awwww hell no.” Carmel Pine Cone Editor Paul Miller wrote a 790-word column about the state lottery explaining why he doesn’t write about the state lottery, and helpfully pointing out the odds of winning Mega Millions are longer than winning at roulette.
Messenger played roulette for the first and only time in his life last week while he and Duan were in Las Vegas for their 24th anniversary. He hit on 15, turning $25 into $875.
I’m feeling lucky for the lens into why we do what we do, and for this real-world look into how a universal fantasy actually plays out. Suddenly the most powerful two-letter word out there – if– is no longer hypothetical. Character reveals itself when the unexpected happens.
When people ask me if Duan will be back, I demur. I know she won’t stop observing the community closely. In fact, she was at a Salinas City Council meeting May 26 (before she knew Chuck won) for, as she says, her “own amusement.” Her friend saw Duan’s tweets and messaged her, “forget [Mayor] Joe Gunter eating at McDonald’s – did you see someone hit the Lotto and the ticket was at Star Market?”
Duan replied, “Haha, hope it’s my husband.”