INDIAN TOWNSHIP — For the real and virtual friends and family of Joel Marino, life and Facebook got much tamer and a lot less interesting when this online, philosopher, poet, literary wag, politically incorrect poster of scabrous, fictional profiles and beautiful women in various stages of undress, died March 6, 2016, of long impending heart failure.
Joel had a rough start in life. Just two years after he was born Sept. 27, 1948, in Syracuse, N.Y., to Joseph and Eleanor (Gates) Marino, his mother left the home. It was a loss from which he never fully recovered.
Raised and educated in a strict Catholic environment, the church, which should have been some solace to a shy, motherless boy, became another source of confusion and fear, and as soon as he was able Joel and religion parted ways.
Still, despite these early emotional and spiritual hurdles, something profound was ignited in the youngster’s soul — a love of learning and a yearning to connect with other people, although this was a real challenge for him until social media was invented.
“Joel was absolutely fascinated by people,” says his life partner Marta Conlin. “But it was very difficult for him to be around them. A while ago we were reading something on line about the autism spectrum and when we got to the part of about Asperger’s syndrome he stopped and said ‘Oh man, that’s me.’”
After graduating high school, Joel went on to study photography, writing and literature at Beckley, a small college in West Virginia. But it was the summer of love and before long the young man’s attention turned to a classmate named Barbara Blevins and not long after that the couple were expecting their first child and they left school to marry.
For a while there Joel gave domestic life a try, but the mantra of the time was “turn on, tune in and drop out” and he did just that, hitchhiking around the country with his good friend and drinking buddy Tony Minerosa.
“For Joel drinking was really the only way he was able to be around a lot of other people, at social occasions” says Marta. “Without a little booze or weed in his system he’d be the guy in the corner, watching everyone else have a good time.”
In the 1980s, his travels around the country eventually brought him to Bar Harbor, which he liked well enough to stick around for a summer working at Tripp’s Restaurant.
Like many summer employees, after work he’d head over to Geddy’s Pub to have a few drinks and then ask a girl to dance. One night the girl he asked was Marta Conlin, who worked at a Bar Harbor B&B.
“At first it was just about the dancing which we both loved,” Marta says, “but by the end of summer it had turned into a romance.”
She says one of the things that drew her to Joel was the poetry he eventually shared with her and that revealed, in so much more depth than his spoken words, his loves, concerns and life philosophy.
When Joel headed to Austin, Texas, that fall, Marta joined him.
The first year of their life together was pretty peripatetic, but a year after the first of their three children was born they settled in Bar Harbor, where he worked as a cook, cabbie and tour guide, leaving in November 2003 for Grand Lake Stream.
Six years ago they moved to Indian Township and eventually settled at a lakeside cottage owned by a relative, which Joel aptly dubbed “The Hermitage.”
By this time Joel had been sober about eight years, and often commented that he regretted not giving up alcohol 20 years before. Joel increasingly became a physical recluse at the Hermitage, rarely venturing out and only inviting close family and a very select few friends in.
On the Internet, however, Joel was a virtual life of the party, scouring the web for interesting art, ideas and humor to share with an ever-growing number of social media friends who became addicted to their daily dose of his irreverent wit and wisdom.
This addiction became more powerful when he started sharing his original writing — poetry, short story beginnings and character profiles.
While his style was definitely noir-ish, his descriptions were so detailed and nuanced and his fictional situations so fascinating, Joel’s pieces drew the readers in deeper and deeper even as they shuddered every step of the way.
Eventually Joel gave a collective name to his character profiles, “The Stragglers,” and even made a stab at a unifying narrative to bind them together into a story that was reminiscent of Robert Heinlein, Hunter S. Thompson and Robert Crumb, but was most of all Joel Marino.
On occasion in the past few years, Joel would slip in a medical alert amongst his other posts. Maybe it was his back, or gut or chest that ailed him (he was a two-plus packs a day smoker) and he was usually procrastinating about seeking medical attention. More often than not he rode out each crisis without medical intervention.
On Thursday, March 3, Joel was having another such crisis and mentioned in passing to Marta that he thought he might go to the ER the next day. But characteristically he put if off until that Saturday so he could watch the Syracuse basketball game at home. When it became clear he could not ride this one out he asked Marta to take him the hospital.
Before leaving Joel Marino’s final post — accompanied by a cartoon of a heart in distress, captioned “AAACK!” — was:
The music coming through the earphones has always been ‘Hallelujah Music.’
Be it drunk-clogging banjo breakdowns or dark crossroads hoodoo, it was @ root CELEBRATORY, lit w/ fireworks, driven by congas, danced to by colorful nobles & nomads & nymphs…..and attended by all presiding archangels, shaking their celestial asses @ the dour demons of forethought, consequence, and caution.
That self-same celebratory music now vibrates w/ an aural aura of rue, the skipping backbeats of shaky ground, the saxophone wails of remorse & repentance!
The moon wanes, and Blake’s dictum, “The Road of Excess Leads to the Palace of Wisdom,” seems like an ancient battle-cry as I prep for entrance into a wholly different kind of palace —-> the local ER.
Joel died on the ambulance ride from the ER in Calais to Eastern Maine Medical Center. Marta says when she kissed him goodbye on what would turn out to be his final journey; she hadn’t seen him as anxiety-free in a long while.
“It’s almost as if he knew, that the hospital in Bangor wasn’t going to be the destination,” she says. “That he might be headed someplace entirely different and was at peace with it.”
In addition to his companion Marta Conlin, Joel is survived by his children Christine Higgins of Leesburg, Va.; David Marino of Mill Creek, Wash.; Kerry Marino of Bradley; Sarah Rose Marino of Bar Harbor, four granddaughters Olivia and Elizabeth Higgins, Peyton and Ellieanne Marino. He was predeceased by his parents, his two half siblings Thomas Dewey and Patricia Dewey Henderson.
A service of remembrance is being planned for this July in Bar Harbor at a time and place to be announced. Friends who wish may donate in Joel’s Memory to: Seeds Take Root (a nonprofit) P.O. Box 139, Princeton, ME 04668.