Lawn Chair Season

Spring.  It’s a busy time of year here in Maine.  I’ve written about it before, the way the grass grows three inches a day, birds show up en masse, and a woodchuck lurks around the backyard.  These are some of the signs and seasons of life in this place.

There are other signs.

Celebrating twenty years of retirement, my father Herman kicked off lawn chair season two weeks ago.  Opening day varies from year to year, but there was a certain feeling in the air on May 2.  Thinking it was “the day,” I pedaled over to my parents’ house and as I suspected, my father was reclining in his vintage lawn chair.

I’ve written about the lawn chairs before.

We are in an unsettled weather pattern this week and it’s putting a damper on the lawn chair lineup, but everything else in the natural world moves forward uninterrupted.

Posted in Weather and Seasons | Tagged | 1 Comment

Cycling the Rail Trail

On Sunday, I drove to Augusta with my bicycle in the back of my Jeep.  Navigating the capitol city’s roundabouts twice or thrice, I parked at the Kennebec Valley YMCA and asked a friendly runner “which way to the Kennebec River Rail Trail?”

Heeding his advice about the “on ramp’s” steep decline, I pedaled forth.

The Kennebec River Rail Trail (KRRT) is a 6.5-mile paved route extending from Augusta to Gardiner.   Founded in 2001, the $4.5 million-dollar project will be complete this summer when construction crews finish work at the Augusta trailhead located in the city’s waterfront park.

Paved trails are popular.  I have one in my backyard and I enjoy walking or cycling there from time to time.  Such enormous publicly funded projects provide peaceful places for citizens to escape an imperfect world.

I pedaled the entire length of the KRRT.  The beginning of the trail passes the Greater Augusta Utility District’s wastewater treatment facility and the smell might discourage the more sensitive fitness seekers.  Growing up in a family that enjoyed making and eating fermented cabbage, aka sauerkraut, I was not offended.  Alas, if you are a person who is in denial about the reality that sh*t does stink, I would suggest you begin your KRRT journey in Gardiner and turn around just shy of the one-mile markers approaching Augusta.

There is currently downtown road construction in Hallowell and that caused some confusion along the route.  I may have been trespassing through the Water Street parking lots; I’m not sure.

I assumed I would be able to access Webber’s Ice Cream stand in Farmingdale; my assumption was incorrect.  Webber’s is closed.  The owners retired in 2016, so says the internet.

The trail featured the work of a talented graffiti artist on the Gardiner approach.

The KRRT website provides a sparse paragraph about the Kennebec River’s illustrious history.  As I pedaled along, I tried to visualize Benedict Arnold and his soldiers navigating the currents on their way to Quebec that cold 1775 winter.  I searched for the ghost of Edwin Arlington Robinson glancing darkly at the river along the Gardiner banks before he penned a cynical poem.  Did I spy Marjorie Holbrook Standish walking to the Gardiner post office to mail her copy to the Maine Sunday Telegram?

I liked the KRRT well enough, and I would like it more if I lived in Augusta, Hallowell, or Gardiner.  I hope the citizens of those communities utilize this trail to the greatest possible extent.  Meanwhile, I’ll confine myself to my own community’s walking path.

Posted in Lady Alone Traveler | Tagged , ,

Senator Mason’s Bill

Maine will be celebrating its bicentennial in 2020.  This past November, Secretary of State Dunlap unveiled a commemorative license plate Mainers can use in lieu of a front plate until the end of the bicentennial year, or December 31, 2020.  People “from away” can purchase them too, if their local laws allow them to affix non-state mandated front plates.  The cost of the plate is $25 and a portion of your purchase goes to Maine cultural agencies, like the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

I was pretty excited to buy one.  The unique people and places of my home state are a regular focus of my blog writing and much of my freelance work as well.

Like this 2015 post about the “Night at the Light” in Cape Elizabeth.  It was a celebration of the town’s 250th anniversary and Gina Mason invited me to be her guest.  Gina and I shared a love of our hometown and home state; maybe that’s why we hit it off so well after I moved home.  Now that Gina’s gone, I’m glad I have that memory to wrap around the Maine Stein song, Portland Headlight, and Moxie.

I’m a big promoter of the home state, so naturally, I put it on the Jeep as soon as humanly and legally possible.

It looks great.  Someone thought I was a politician when they first saw it, mistaking it for the special license plates Maine’s senators and representatives use on their vehicles.  I quickly corrected them and gave a short spiel about the plate’s availability.

This weekend, while driving by the Mason compound, I saw Gina’s son Garrett at her gravesite.  He and his fiancé Rebekah were checking on the tulips they’d planted and I stopped for an exchange of hugs and love.  We talked about the governor’s race a little and then Mason said “hey, nice license plate.”

“Oh, I know,” I said.  “I love it!  I’m like a moving ad agency for the state.”

“That was my bill,” said Mason.

I had to wipe a little tear from the corner of my eye.  Of course it was Senator Mason’s bill.  Legislative document S.P. 455, presented by Senator Mason of Androscoggin.

“That the Secretary of State shall issue, at no cost to the Secretary of State, a reflectorized commemorative simulated registration plate in recognition and celebration of the bicentennial of the State, which became the 23rd state on March 15, 1820.”

I am a big fan and promoter of Garrett Mason.  If he hadn’t strategically decided to run for governor as a Clean Elections candidate, I would have given him as much money as I could afford.  I like his youth, his spirit, and his tenacity.  He’s also aware of history and he doesn’t have the myopic view of the world we sometimes see in others his age (he’ll be 33 in June).  We’ve had a few discussions about the importance of the State’s historic preservation efforts and I’m encouraged by his desire to serve all of Maine’s citizens.

Senator Mason said he first saw a similar plate on a car from Maryland, commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812.  He thought it would be a “cool idea” for the state of Maine and so brought forth the legislation.

It is a cool idea and any proceeds over the cost of production and distribution go towards the state’s bicentennial celebration.

Go Maine…Go Mason!

Posted in Home | Tagged , ,

Searching for Mrs. Shockley

One of my Basilica research destinations was the Androscoggin Historical Society.  The AHS have a large collection of Lewiston’s now-defunct Evening Journal, bound periodical-style.  They’re dusty and dirty and still have the faint feel of newsprint about them.  During one afternoon session, I worked my way through the first half of 1934 and found this advertisement.

I’ve done some preliminary research about this event but have found little about Mrs. Shockley.  Maybe she was a character actress, like Butterfly McQueen or Marjorie Main.

I’m sorry to say that I’ve had very little time for pleasant avocations like researching and writing.


We will reconvene here again next week and ponder the mysteries of women gazing into large mixing bowls, new recipes, and Mrs. J. Watson Shockley.

Posted in Cooking and Food | Tagged

The House of Big Salads

On April 28, the Pickwick Club, Maine’s only Charles Dickens reading club, will reconvene to discuss Jenny Hartley’s book Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women.  Perhaps you don’t know a lot about Mr. Dickens, other than the omnipresent A Christmas Carol.  You are not alone.  Suffice it to say, Dickens had a great interest in London’s poor.  His own father spent time in a debtor’s prison.  Whether his interest stemmed from personal experience or the need to produce content (translation:  sell magazines and books) is not clear to me at this point in my study of the author.

But this book, the Hartley book, is poorly written and I’m struggling to make my way through its paltry 250 pages.  It’s not answering my questions of who, what, where, when, why, and how.

I’ve now resorted to reading the book backwards in preparation for the upcoming club meeting.  I wonder if other club members will echo me when I paraphrase Dorothy Parker and say Hartley’s book is not a book “to be tossed aside lightly.  It should be thrown with great force.”

I’ll get through it, the Pickwick Club meeting, and then it’s on to Great Expectations.

One of my friends reminds me that Charles Dickens wrote his books for our enjoyment, “so we would laugh at his ridiculous characters.  We must always consider the context in which he wrote.  This context is reflected in the story and cannot be separated from the story and analyzed as some sort of modern CNN commentary.  Sometimes ‘a banana is just a banana.’”

She signs herself “Sigmund Freud.”

Speaking of tossing books and bananas, another friend is helping me get my food act together.  She stopped in for a visit and then chopped, sliced, tossed, and assembled a week’s worth of salads for me.

It was a wonderful kickstart to spring and it’s kept me from stressful snacking on pretzels and chocolate-covered graham crackers every afternoon as the counting house spins out of control.  So it’s the “House of Big Salads” here and I could not be happier.

Viva La Lettuce!  And kale and broccoli and cauliflower and celery…

Posted in Cooking and Food | Tagged , ,

Keep Digging

This is a schematic of the coal mine located on the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border.  It’s the Enlow Fork Mine.

Here is a video of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. touring the mine.

I toured this mine once, like Dale, Jr. did.  It was amazing.

Life is a coal mine, baby.  Keep digging.

Posted in Just Writing | Tagged ,

Buy the Book!

The book is out.  The talk is done (merci, bon Dieu!)  The roaster is clean (finally) and I have no more things to say in the passive voice.

Now go…buy the book.

Posted in Just Writing | Tagged