The Isle of Gorski

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The Isle of Gorski

The Isle of Gorski. Come gentle reader, lend your attention a moment, and you shall soon learn what is required to have your own most viewed New York Times article.

The easy answer is ‘an island,’ but as you shall soon find out, in life as in island ownership, there is no true easy answer.

What follows is a tale of an island, artists and intrigue. For the past few days, our story has commanded pride of place on a list of The Times most viewed stories. The Home and Gardens section introduces us to the young protagonist, Rob Gorski, 34, emergency room doctor, island owner and $100,000 dreamer.

Prepare yourself, the antagonist in this story is the confirmation of your nagging suspicion that you would have been better off going to medical school.

Gorski lives in Manhattan but practices medicine in New Jersey. He grew up in suburban Detroit. Three years ago, he purchased an island.

A man should own property. It ties him to the earth and steals him from the elements, gives him a sense of purpose and perspective.


Conveniently located in the middle of Lake Superior, the good doctor laid claim to the 91-acre Rabbit Island after seeing it for sale in an ad posted on Craigslist.

For some time, Gorski had been contemplating the purchase of property in that region of the country, having spent the summers of his youth in the Keweenaw, which the Times describes as “a remote semi-wilderness on Lake Superior dotted with old copper mining towns.” But, is really best described as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; never Wisconsin, not really Michigan and definitely not Canada. This tundra, wasteland suffers from an identity crisis, as much as it gladly suffers fools who try to tame it.

With the exception of one month out of the year, it is not possible to be drunk enough to stay warm here sans electricity, without first dying from alcohol poisoning, exposure or both. It is a land inhabited by a people of hats with earflaps, snow mobiles and plaids. (Tartans, if you’re a Times reader.)

After six months of negotiation, Gorski purchased the entire island for the not-so-princely sum of $140,000.

Fie upon your half-million dollar condo. You don’t even own the soil upon which that 700 sq. feet sits. Seven stories above the earth? You could not till the earth there if you wanted to; could not sow seeds into the ground. Could not harvest, could not live off the fat of the land. Your children would soon starve and you would slowly wither and die, ultimately reclaimed by the earth you had forsaken.

Gorski knows all this, but he does not begrudge your decision.


“It’s trees. It’s rock. It’s water. It’s birds. It’s fish. It’s sky.” Gorski described the island, “It’s nothing else.”

For as much as you may want to dislike the him – and I really am giving it my best effort here – Gorski “worked with a local land trust to put a conservation easement on the property so it could never be developed, and teamed up with Andrew Ranville, an artist and the brother of a college friend, to start an artists’ colony on the island.”

From what is a presumably high pressure, high intensity job with a crazy work hours, Gorski is allotted three weeks paid vacation each year. He spends this time on Rabbit Island, making improvements to the retreat and hosting its temporary inhabitants.

Of the group that accompanied him to the Island on this trip, “They were a professionally diverse group: David Drennen, a 28-year-old musician who had come with his friend, Ms. Maynard; Kelly Geary, a 35-year-old chef who sells jams and chutneys under the label Sweet Deliverance; Ben Moon, a 38-year-old filmmaker and photographer with clients like Patagonia; Mr. Moon’s 25-year-old assistant, Page Stephenson; Ben Lavely, the 29-year-old chief operating officer of Best Made Company, which sells axes and other manly gear to city slickers at its TriBeCa boutique; and Emilie Lee, a 32-year-old plein-air painter.”

Sorry ladies, but Dr. Gorski is apparently off the market. He was taken with Emilie Lee, a plein-air painter, which means she paints outdoors.

As the Times puts it, “In a twist of fate, her family owns an island, too: Hat Island, on the North Channel in Canada.”


This is what it means to be a part of the Canadian aristocracy, forever, laying claim to and squabbling over these remote outcroppings. Swapping them as easily as sultans trading women between harems, or perhaps more accurately as plantation-owning families trading Confederate tender in a postbellum South.

According to her WordPress blog, in addition to painting, Lee’s other hobbies include funny-shaped hats and paisley bikini tops.

In summation, “But for all the efforts to make the island a Walden-like escape, modern realities have a way of intruding. Among the visiting artists, Brooklyn was heavily represented demographically; Portland, Ore., was a close second. There was so much Patagonia clothing on display, the campsite looked like a catalog shoot. And the focus seemed to be as much on the battery life and reception of Apple devices as on creative projects. At one point, Ms. Lee grew frustrated trying to upload a photo of a double rainbow to Instagram. Mr. Drennen, the musician from Oklahoma City who had established himself as the group’s joker, shook his head mock-ruefully and said, smirking, “So many gramable moments.”

For those wishing to go to Rabbit Island – and who among us does not – applications are now being accepted for the 2014 season. Be forewarned, Rabbit Island is for those who view life through an Instagram filter. Pleasing to the eye, it sets unrealistic expectations.

Therein lies the truth of what it takes to have your own most viewed article on the New York Times website. An island helps. A connection to New York helps. Creating a vague sense of inferiority in the reader helps. Being young and being affluent. All of these things help. But in the end, there is no single one thing. There is magical elixir that the Times searches out in these stories, and it can be found on The Isle of Gorski.

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