No Longer Resilient

Over Memorial weekend, I finally had some time to put up my feet and do some reading. Lying on a book shelf was Robert Pike’s wonderful Tall Trees, Tough Men.

Much like Colin Woodard’s The Lobster Coast, Pike’s book offers a snapshot of a place and time in Maine, a state of vast natural resources. Pike’s is filtered through the lens of 18th and early 19th century logging. Actually, Maine was but part of a northern New England focus that included the logging stories and history of New Hampshire and Vermont, also.

Pike wrote his book in the mid-1960s. W.W. Norton & Company published it in 1967 and reissued it in 1999. It’s a book that all Mainers ought to familiarize themselves with simply to have a sense of what the state used to be—mainly a region of tall trees (and rivers to float them down)—with entrepreneurial types finding ways to turn logs into gold.

Because I was curious about Pike, I rooted around the interwebs for more info on why he might have written his book. His obituary (he died in 1997) from the New York Times was a worthwhile read for me.

It’s becoming far too common in our digitally-distracted world to think that life was always about tapping a touchscreen, rather than the kind of dangerous, back-breaking labor inherent in these parts 100+ years ago. Not all jobs included an “easy button.” Pike details the rugged, resilient men necessary for extracting value from the region’s forest resources. Likewise, Woodard’s book offered a similar story about the rebels (and rusticators) that were part of our maritime heritage. The threads are similar and point to a time of hearty souls, rather than the spleeny types dominating the present.

Driving logs down-river was part of logging in Maine.

Driving logs down-river was part of logging in Maine.

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Privilege and Privacy

It’s interesting how the elite have their own unique set of rules for their small circle of friends, and another policy manual for the rest of us schmucks. Take Marky Mark Zuckerberg.

Apparently when you’re richer than God, you can buy up all the surrounding real estate nearby. That way, you won’t have to worry about the hoi polloi peering into your backyard. In the case of Mr. Facebook, he’s planning to bulldoze the homes he purchased back in 2013. The million-dollar homes he scooped up will be replaced with smaller, lower-profile places—the kind that won’t “intrude” on his privacy—an important consideration for Zuckerbuck.

Beware of Zuckerberg's bulldozer.

Beware of Zuckerberg’s bulldozer.

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Battling Bicycles

Bicycling is one of the three elements comprising a triathlon. Usually, the bike event follows the swim, and precedes the run.

Travel by bike seems just about the right speed. You can get from A to B in a reasonable amount of time, compared to walking or running. Pedal power only seems subpar because of our addiction to high-powered gasoline engines that allow us to hurry about going nowhere. When you bike somewhere, you actually notice things on the side of the road. Plus, it’s great exercise.

This spring, I’m not doing a triathlon. It’s the first time in three years that I’m not training for a June tri. I’ve decided to ride 70 miles on June 12 instead, taking part in Bicycles Battling Cancer, in Marlborough, Massachusetts. My fundraising goal is $300, with donations supporting the American Cancer Society. I’ve reached the goal and am hoping to push it to $600, which would be double my requirement. Here is my donor page if you’d like to donate.

Spring has been packed with baseball games, and other assorted duties related to “making a living,” whatever the hell that means. I haven’t been able to bike as much as usual and certainly not as much as I like to.

Slowly, but surely, my mileage has been increasing. I rode 30 miles in the rain this morning following an early morning swim. I thought the showers would hold off and to be honest, had hoped to hit the 40-mile mark on my training ride. If you’ve ever been drenched, you know that it’s no fun. I plan to get out this weekend for a couple more rides. Once I’m at 40, I feel confident that 70 won’t be a big deal.

Bicycles love smooth, new blacktop.

Bicycles love smooth, new blacktop.

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Leaning West

Maine’s western border abuts New Hampshire, known as The Granite State. When pine trees meet mountain rock, it speaks to something rugged and permanent.

Granted, some men never meet a mountaintop or a swath of timber without thinking in terms of dollar signs, but so far, western Maine and New Hampshire’s White Mountains still offer natural beauty and views that are hard to beat anywhere in the East. And while development hustlers and water extractors have made their presence known, just like everywhere else, there is less blight once you get away from the tourist corridors, with plenty of opportunities to appreciate nature.

I’ve mentioned being an umpire. This is a gig that takes you wherever your assignor sends you. Since the board I’m a member of doesn’t have much of a presence in far western Maine, sometimes you’re assigned to cover places like Fryeburg, not far from having entrée into the White Mountain National Forest.

Yesterday, I made my second trip in a week to cover an 8th grade middle school game. Logistics and school budgets being what they are, many at that level opt for paying only one umpire. That means for traveling to Fryeburg, I receive a fee and a half, along with mileage. It’s likely I got picked to make two trips this year because I have a fairly flexible schedule. If you work in Portland and don’t get out of work ‘til 3:00 or even with a sympathetic boss who will let you out at 2:30, you’ll never be able to make the trip in time to get there for the 3:30 game time. Plus, rushing like a mad man is never the mindset you want to show up with, then spend 7 innings focused on being professional and capable of doing a job you’ll be proud of.

Fryeburg takes about an hour and 30 minutes from my doorstep (give or take 5 minutes, depending on the route) to Indian Acres Camp for Boys, where Molly Ockett Middle School is playing their games this spring. Apparently Fryeburg is experiencing an economic windfall of sorts, or perhaps it’s MSAD 72’s turn to receive state school funding—whatever the reason, there’s a major school expansion taking place at the middle school site on Route 302 and their former ball field is a big patch dirt and construction debris. Hence the trip to Indian Acres, a place I’d never heard of ‘til a week ago. If you know the area, or you’ve been to Fryeburg from attending their magnificent fall fair, then Indian Acres is just north of the fairgrounds on Route 5.

Sweden the town, not the country.

Sweden the town, not the country.

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A Discovery (of sorts)

I discovered something last week. Actually, calling it a “discovery” imbues it with significance and something akin to magic. That’s not what I’m talking about. And to say that I came across something new and unique isn’t really the truth, either.

But, I did finally admit that spending most of my week out in nature and not looking at a screen was really good for me. I think I spent about 5 minutes in Zuckerland, and limiting time with Fakebook was especially positive.

So as I move forward into the summer months, I’m planning to spend as little time online as possible. If I read blogs, I will have a routine and try to keep to just a handful of meaningful sites.

I am planning to continue with the blogging, but I’m not sure what other writing I’m going to be doing. Continue reading

Fewer Words

Blogging regularly requires finding a subject and crafting a post about it worth reading. The subject can be something significant and newsworthy—or it can also be mundane and personal. As my sister commented the other day, “there is almost no topic that can’t be worked into an interesting post.” That’s what it takes to keep creating content, consistently.

When I got serious about my writing, I realized that writing regularly was part of the process required to develop my craft. Actually, Stephen King shared that secret with me. Since then, my blogging track record dating back to 2003 (although some of that blogging is no longer with us, at least not on the interwebs) demonstrates that commitment.

While I’ve continued to build narratives of 500, 1,000, and upwards of those word counts, the world seems to be moving in a minimalist direction regarding communication. How many words does it take to tell a story? I’m not sure. Probably 400 or 500 would be on the lower end. I’m a firm believer that it takes more than Twitter’s 140 characters to communicate effectively. And I’m no fan of communicating by emoji via Facebook. That probably identifies me as old-fashioned.

No one writes letters these days. People can’t even be bothered to email.

Then there are days like today when life gets in the way and there’s not enough time to tackle something larger. I’ve been ruminating about things I observed during recent work-related travels through western Maine that I can’t do justice to today, so I’ll hold off ‘til a later date.

The Weather Forecast

Nothing jump-starts early mornings for me like a stellar weather forecast. A sunny forecast can carry me through the most challenging of days.

While weather and an accompanying forecast is a smartphone click away, I’m still somewhat beholden to the Tee Vee weather puppets. This habit likely dates back more than 30 years when my baseball star was on the rise at Lisbon High School. I’d check that day’s prediction to see if our game was going to take place that afternoon—or get washed out by spring showers or rain.

Interestingly, I’m once again seeking weather updates related to baseball games. Now, I’m an arbiter, better known as an umpire. With six to eight games on the docket each week during May, I’m checking weather first thing courtesy of Todd Guttner, and later, rechecking hourly specifics via websites like

I’m back with Guttner after a falling-out period when he seemed to have a penchant for under-predicting snow totals during the rugged winter of 2014-15. For some reason, Mr. Guttner had a rough stretch, predicting flurries and then having to apologize after we’d get 10 inches dumped on us. After this happened several times, I abandoned WCSH-6 for the upbeat and personable (as well as more accurate) Matt Zidle and his equally sunny sidekick at WMTW-8, Mallory Brook.

Today's forecast-sunny!!

Today’s forecast-sunny!!

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Color Me Eclectic

As much as some people tout that we’re becoming a free agent economy, if you’re the one living that life, it often seems like everyone else is still doing the 9 to 5 corporate (or nonprofit) thing. Maybe it’s just in Maine that most people found their dream employer right out of high school (or college) and has been with them ever since.

When I look back over my own career, it’s the equivalent of a cat’s nine lives. By that I mean that there’s the “Indiana era,” “the CMP years,” time served at “Moscow Mutual,” etc. Work relationships from each one of these periods in my life have fallen away and seem to be forgotten by everyone but me. Oh, a few people from my past are on Facebook, but I don’t consider social media the reality-equivalent that everyone else does. There are a handful of people that I remain connected to and actually spend some time with periodically. I treasure these relationships and the qualities represented by true friends.

Probably the most meaningful period during my pre-freelance career journey were four of the six years that I spent working for the Local Workforce Investment Board (LWIB). Our nonprofit organization was housed at the Lewiston CareerCenter, a place that elicited mixed feelings. I’m not a huge fan of government bureaucracy, and the Maine Department of Labor certainly operates like one. Then there were the other nonprofit partners also housed there. I won’t bother to name them. Continue reading

Pitching Like Wade Miley

The Boston Red Sox just completed a three-game sweep of the hated New York Yankees, so all’s well in Red Sox Nation—at least for the moment. The team stands at 15-10 heading into a Midwest showdown with the Central Division-leading Chicago White Sox, the Sox’ pale hose brothers.

I’ve written about the team’s foibles in signing pitchers for extravagant sums of money, in the past. When Boston’s ownership does these kind of things, the results are usually less-than-stellar. Last year, it was Rick Porcello. This year’s big free agent acquisition, David Price, has looked a lot like Wade Miley, a left-handed retread that couldn’t get anyone out last April. Interestingly, if you compare Miley and Price in side-by-side statistical comparisons after six starts, Miley’s numbers are slightly better at this point in the season. Here’s a look at how they compare using ERA. Miley is actually at 84 and Price at 97. I’m guessing that when the Sox forked out the kind of money that most people won’t earn over a lifetime of working, they didn’t expect he’d be near the bottom of MLB’s pitchers in performance.

David Price leaving another less-than-stellar outing. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

David Price leaving another subpar outing. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

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