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!

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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.

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The Jewelry Bag Explosion

On Friday, I went to a photo shoot.  Not for myself, but for this Sunday’s “Easter Bonnet” article.

My friend Gail offered her hat collection as props for my Sun Journal story.  Gail loves hats, she wears hats, and she encourages other women to wear hats.

She also offered Les Troubadours, Lewiston’s French language singers, as hat models.

When I arrived at the photo shoot, Gail and Les Troubadours were there with 20 hats and a whole dressing room full of theatrical props.  There were scarves and gloves; there were extra jackets for color changes.  There were mirrors, make up, and hair spray.  The piece de resistance was a large jewelry bag filled with costume jewelry.  Like a shoe bag you hang on the door, it was a sack of sparkle better than anything Santa baby might bring down the chimney.  Rhinestone pins, chandelier earrings, lacquered bracelets, and so much more.

It was a chaotic scene and the photographer, Andree, was making picture perfect order of it.

Someone made a costume change and then, suddenly, there was jewelry all over the floor.

Gail did not miss a beat and because the show must go on, she calmly pushed all the jewelry into a heap in the corner of the room and said “don’t worry about it.”

The jewelry bag explosion was unsettling to me and I made a few attempts to sort earrings and put them into order.  The whole situation felt like my writing process.  The sentences, the words, and the ideas are like jewelry on the floor.  It is the chaos of a million potentially bright and sparkling things that need to be reined in and put into place.

Today’s blog post will be the penultimate piece of jewelry going into the bag today.  I’m still working on my presentation for today’s talk at L/A College.  A junior high school French teacher helped me write my introduction.  I’ve got 16 of Russ Dillingham’s photographs loaded into my PowerPoint presentation so far.

I’m using this image of Ronald Bosse’s painting in the slide show, too.

Who is Ronald Bosse?  I don’t know.  But maybe he will be at the presentation.

When I told Gail about my response to the jewelry explosion, she shared a secret and some wise counsel with me.

She said “I, like you, live so much of my life like ‘jewelry on the floor…’  But every time, I have to ask God to help me through…I don’t want things to turn chaotic because God is not a god of chaos.”

If you can’t make it to the presentation today, it will begin like this:

Je voudrais remercier Madame Bonneau, la Presidente de la Collection Franco-Americaine, pour m’inviter de vous addressez aujourd’hui.   

C’est une honneure pour moi d’être ici aujourd’hui.

Avant de partager mon histoire de la Basilique de Saint Pierre et Saint Paul avec vous, je voudrais offrir ma gratitude pour trois choses:

Je voudrais remercier le bon Dieu d’avoir eu l’occasion d’etudier et faire recherche de la Basilique.

Je voudrais me souvenir de tous les fideles de la paroisse.

Je tiens à exprimer mon honour et mon appréciation pour mon héritage franco-canadienne et franco-américaine. 

Pour tout ça je suis reconnaissante. 

I might even ad lib a little bit.

Merci, bon Dieu.

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Great on Their Shoulders

It is fun to occasionally talk and write about yourself in the third person.  As a literary technique, it has its merits.  The Charles Dickens Dombey and Son character, Major Bagstock, pompously talked about himself in the third person.   Often.

It was glorious and fun to read and Dickens didn’t overdo it.

I’ve tried not to write about myself in the third person at this internet venue.  From time to time, though, I have written press releases about myself in the third person.  After all, I am a freelance writer with no agent; just a speck of dust on the trash heap that is the literary world.

On Wednesday, March 28, I’ll be speaking about the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at the Franco-American Collection at USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College.  I wrote a press release about it and passed it along to the Collection for their own amendment and distribution.  Being predisposed by work on the presentation and at the counting house, I have no other words to offer up to the content gods today.

Julie-Ann Baumer will discuss her research on the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 as part of Lewiston’s Francophone Month celebrations.

Her talk, “Great on Their Shoulders” will include a historical overview of the Basilica’s construction, its role as a focal point in Lewiston’s Franco American identity, and how the research and writing project she undertook — which appeared as weekly stories in the Sun Journal over a year’s time and will soon be released in book form — affected her personally.

“I always had a sense of being French,” Baumer says. “Maybe it was the distant memory of hearing the language and living in the traditions. But spending so much time at the Basilica and being immersed in 150 years of Lewiston’s French Catholic history increased my reverence for these ancestors who imagined a grand church on that hill. Their sustained vision and perseverance inspired my work as I dug up new information. It was a constant reminder of the importance of history and that we are only great on the shoulders of those who came before us.”

Baumer, a Lisbon Falls native and resident, is a freelance writer and blogger. She also works as an insurance analyst.  She is currently on the Gendron Franco Center’s board of directors, serves on the Moxie Festival Committee, and is involved in other local projects. She is a sustaining member of the Junior League of Boston.

Her talk will be held in Room 170, the Franco-American Collection at U.S.M.’s Lewiston-Auburn College, 51 Westminster Street in Lewiston.

The event is free and open to the public.

Doors open at 2:30 p.m.

Posted in Just Writing