Bellingham is a funny town. People grouse, grumble, and pout from under their umbrellas, bike with gritted teeth to their volunteer jobs, snark about public sculpture or mayors or bad beer, but deep in our dark, disconcerted hearts we are all madly in love. We’re swooning. We’re silly and rolling on the rug about this place.
Recently, a hoax website that exists purely for the benefit of small-town clickbait (who knew that was a market?) called WCPM 3 News posted one of their standard hoax stories “Celebrity X announces he’s moving to Yville.” Yville is typically plausibly large enough to host a celebrity (after all, Misha Collins , Ryan Stiles, and Bob Goodwin have all lighted on our shores), but small enough to be completely dazzled at the thought of a celebrity in their midst. The reasons cited in the article are reasons we all love our town (as, apparently, do all the citizens in every mid-sized city in the world): “I’m just tired of the L.A. lifestyle and the fake people, honestly, and I feel like, at this point in my life, I’d rather just live in a place full of real, genuine people. I’ve been to Bellingham a few times over the years and the people there are real… they’re genuine, and yeah every community has its problems but the people there are good, decent people and they care about their community. Those are the things I find most important in deciding where to live.” Though Damon didn’t utter those words, Bellingham, being Bellingham, folks shared the post on social media and our entire town lost its ever-loving mind.
Some of the comments on the post were along the lines of “We don’t care about celebrity here, so you’ll be treated like one of us,” even though the hoax generated 150 comments and counting. If, for example, Uncle Mo were to post on FB he was thinking of moving here, he might get a few likes. Among Matt’s absolutely cool, collected, not-at-all excited comments were real estate offers, some tips on where to get the best beer, and even a request for a him to advocate on behalf of teacher wages. But a bulk of the posts were earnest accounts of people’s own experiences living here, stories about how they raise their kids in the best city in the country, about how they lived here as kids and love it still, about their favorite places to hike. Their words are touching. Several people who have moved away lamented leaving the ‘Ham.
And maybe, just maybe, all of that chatter will cut through the static of Matt Damon’s busy celebrity life with its many buffers between him and internet clickbait. Maybe he’ll recline poolside, script in his lap, with a weak, terrible beer on the side table, exhausted by traffic and smog, and think, “Well, okay. Maybe I should check it out.” And if he does, boy howdy, we will be so calm about seeing him at Elizabeth Station, we won’t stare and whisper and swoop past a few extra times on our bikes to make sure, or slip our business cards in his hands, or ask him about his thoughts on coal, nope, not us. We pinky-swear. One thing we will be, we always are, is welcoming. Welcome, Matt Damon. Like whoever you are, whatever, we’re not staring.