To Taylor Swift: Sorry
Because I would like to start the New Year off well, I want to begin with an apology.
I'm sorry, Taylor Swift, for the scorched-earth worldwide news coverage on gossip pages that I apparently triggered with a column over the weekend, about the work on the sea wall at your Watch Hill house.
I gather you must be used to it.
Indeed, we first heard from your publicist hours after the column was posted online Sunday morning. She must have known what was coming.
My first inkling about how sensational it might get was a headline someone sent me from Gawker Tuesday morning: "Taylor Swift is (expletive) up the Rhode Island Coastline."
Wow. I have known of newspaper copy editors who in their wildest dreams never imagined being able to write that in a headline.
And, really, it is indeed a lot of heavy work, moving big rock. I even called it rearranging the coastline. But I think the coastline will survive.
One of the more outrageous descriptions of the work in Watch Hill was on a site called The Wire, under the headline: "Taylor Swift is Ruining Lives."
This rather fanciful account begins by describing Swift as a "corrosive yellow fog" seeping into the cracks of the nation.
"She will stop at nothing until the land itself has been torn asunder," The Wire wrote. "She's begun to fortify her 'lair' with a multimillion dollar sea wall made of enormous boulders dragged from the depth of Neptune's terrible kingdom."
Yikes. Who reads this stuff?
It also strikes me that the tabloid press quickly turned some local grousing about the work, including surfers who know that section of the beach, to a much more organized community "outrage."
"She's tearing up the beach and everyone is pissed off about it," RadarOnline quotes an unnamed "local" as saying.
The Daily Mail offered this: "Neighbors have demanded to know why she is being allowed to build the eyesore along the historic stretch of New England coastline."
I am not sure how they get to the wall being an eyesore. It is stone rip rap that looks like much of the old New England coastline.
Vanity Fair's website had a strange, would-be literary take on it.
The writer, Richard Lawson, used a line from my column, that the heavy earth work being done in Watch Hill might be compared to building a mall or a landing strip.
"And the chilling thing is, that very well may be the case! Maybe Taylor Swift is building a landing strip because presumably she'd like the rest of the crystalline deer and floppy-eared rabbits from her strange planet to join her on earth, right? 'Come, star children! Arrive!' Taylor Swift says, standing on the beach and waving a great staff at the heavens."
It goes on to suggest that maybe a mall really is coming.
"Whether she is welcoming her alien brethren, constructing Rhode Island's newest Hot Topic and food court or just movin' rocks, she owns the place, so it's to do with what she wants. Sorry, neighbors. This is Taylor Swift's world; you're just living in it."
You don't have to be Taylor Swift to take offense at this Vanity Fair posting, either. It starts with a swipe at little Rhody.
"She bought the seaside mansion in Rhode Island, remember? Yeah, it's a $17-million Kennedy-esque estate in Watch Hill, which is almost Connecticut."
Taylor, why do they hate you so much? Alien brethren? Building your lair?
I feel badly about this because I suspect you know very little about the work being done. I'm sure you've got other things to focus on.
If there is something wrong here, it is that the town of Westerly has not required a permit for an estimated $2 million of work, including building big new walls.
The state agency that has co-jurisdiction with municipalities for waterfront property, the one charged with protecting the environment of the coastline, has signed off on the elaborate earth work. But town officials, the same ones who hold most homeowners accountable for every small building project, have inexplicably given you a pass on this one.
Of course, the tabloid press is giving the town a pass on this one. They don't care it's unfair to all the other residents of the town who must pay building permit fees, get projects inspected by the town and have them taxed.
The tabloid press also doesn't care that Westerly isn't collecting the fees and taxes it should, and how that happened.
Anyway, Happy New Year, Taylor.
I hope you have fun back in Watch Hill for the summer of 2014, even though it's not Connecticut.
We'll try to leave you alone.
This is the opinion of David Collins.