Keeping Both Hands on the Wheel

I’m no fan of our governor, Paul LePage. I guess most of you knew that. My dislike of our perpetually-angry governor is less about his politics (I find them abhorrent), and more about his lack of evolution as a human being.

I can’t recall if I ever shared my “three personal experiences” with Paul LePage story. Here’s one of them.

Back in the day when I was still rolling up my sleeves and doing yeoman’s duty in Maine’s workforce development community, I tried to reach out to the governor (back before he was the governor). He was at Marden’s and I was hoping the company might step-up and support our efforts to improve the skills of Maine’s workforce at the time by lending something tangible to the WorkReady program I was tasked to shepherd along.

Like he’s done countless times since becoming governor, he attacked me (on the phone), literally ranting and raving like a mad man, accusing me of not returning his phone calls. Actually, this was my first phone call to him on the matter at hand—inquiring about getting some Marden’s management and hiring decision-makers to come out and help with mock interviews. Instead, he continued his tirade, with me attempting to get a word in edgewise. Finally, I’d had enough and I said, “will you just shut up for a minute!” That stopped him in his tracks. Word to the wise, when dealing with a bully, you have to mirror their behavior to get noticed. Continue reading

Waiting and Listening

Mark was wise beyond his 33 years. Since he was killed in January, I’ve often reflected on his wisdom—where he gathered it from—and maybe more important, his ongoing commitment to cultivate it.

He reminded me time and time again of the efficacy of stepping back from something that I lacked perspective on. Often, this “thing” would be (at the time) a source of dissonance and more often than not, causing me to get tangled up in anger, frustration, and anxiety.

I believe that Mark’s daily discipline of meditation was teaching him the need (and importance) of creating space from those things that create emotional “white noise” in our lives. Sadly, I no longer get to bounce things his way. Maybe that’s why I’ve been finding myself getting “stuck” in spaces that I should know intellectually are not worth occupying.

Last week, I spent far too much of my time fixated on a moneymaking proposition that I recognize (now) isn’t a good fit. Not a get-rich-quick scheme—but a career maneuver that had me twisting towards something that I’m probably not really invested in. Instead of trusting my instincts, I rushed foolishly ahead and ran into a wall. After a couple of days given to beating myself up about it, I am now able to see some humor in it. I’m also reminded of the scene in Animal House, the one where Stork (played by Douglas Kenney) knocks down the drum major and leads the marching band off the parade route and down a dead-end alley. Continue reading

Finding the Bridge

Sleep and sleep patterns have always intrigued (and affected) me. As in, I don’t always sleep as soundly as some. Basically, I wake up in the middle of the night more often, than not. This has been especially true since Mark’s death.

Several years ago, new information about the history of sleep came across my desk and it helped me recognize that eight hours of uninterrupted sleep wasn’t necessarily the norm, at least until marketers seized upon another way to deepen their pockets—by pushing the idea, along with a host of sleep aids and other pharmaceuticals.

According to Roger Ekirch, a history professor at Virginia Tech, people slept in “shifts,” basically, or twice per night.

His research conducted over 16 years found that we didn’t always sleep in one eight-hour chunk, but instead, sleep came in two shorter periods, but over a longer range of night, with the range being about 12 hours long. He later wrote a book about it.

When I wake up and can’t fall back asleep, I get up, go downstairs and attend to some task for about an hour. Then, I get drowsy and often, go back to bed and sleep for 45 to 90 minutes. I generally wake up refreshed and ready for my day.

These nocturnal interludes between sleep shifts are when I discover interesting things, or do some quick research on something I’ve jotted down the previous day or prior week. Continue reading

On Tuesday, I Hit Some Tennis Balls

The last time I played tennis, Mark was three. That was 30 years ago. We were living in Chesterton, Indiana. One Saturday morning, Mary and I drove down to the public courts and hit the ball around for an hour or so.

Our brand of tennis back then was less about developing our games and more about finding a family activity that offered the adults some entertainment, while affording Mark the chance to romp around. The fenced-in nature of our venue wasn’t lost on us.

Like so many activities that drop away, life, parenthood, and moving back to Maine pushed tennis out of our lives. I’d eventually dust off my baseball glove and find out I could still pitch competitively. We sold our racquets. Continue reading

I Fell Off My Paddleboard

According to this website, Stand up paddle boards (SUP) offer a fun, relaxing way to play on the water. With a minimum of gear, you can paddle ocean surf or placid lakes and rivers.

Paddle boarding delivers a full-body workout and thus has become a popular cross-training activity. And since you stand at your full height, you can enjoy unique views of everything from sea creatures to what’s on the horizon.

That might be the case. However, five minutes into the on-the-water portion of my Sunday foray into the sport, I was in the water, I’d lost my Solar Shield sunglasses, and thinking, “what the hell had I allowed Mrs. B. to talk me into?”

Stand Up Paddleboarding looks easy–it’s not!

We’d both discussed trying to get out and “do some new things” this summer. Like summers past, umpiring and once Mary returned to work—Saturday’s and Sundays often were “catch up around the house days.” Not too much new happening with the Baumers.

I’m not complaining about umpiring. Save for some reservations during my first week back on the field, baseball has been an adequate tonic for dealing with the loss of Mark. I say “adequate” because nothing—not even learning to walk on water if that was possible—will take away the deep emotional pain that we’re both feeling and will continue dealing with for a long, long time. Continue reading

Saturday and Moxie

In a land built on “the pitch,” not the baseball kind, but the one that marketing is known for, having your elevator speech ready to go is essential. Given that this is Moxie weekend in Lisbon Falls, the epicenter of Moxie’s universe, feel free to use some of these tips to frame your parade-viewing and other conversations while taking in the town’s sights and sounds. Before long, people will start coming to you as their resident “Moxie expert.”

Be on the lookout for the Moxie Horsemobile.

What is Moxie?
Moxie is an iconic soft drink. Invented by Augustin Thompson, a Maine native, who was living in Lowell, Mass. at the time, Moxie is the oldest, commercially-bottled soft drink in the U.S., being marketed and sold since 1884.

I’ve written two books about Moxie. There are a host of stories, some true, and some somewhat apocryphal.

For instance, back in 1982, the late Frank Anicetti, owner of Kennebec Fruit Co. (aka, the Moxie Store) sent out 13 post cards for a book signing he was hosting for Frank Potter. Potter, who at that time had written some of the quintessential books about Moxie, including The Moxie Mystique, managed to draw a a crowd that Anicetti claims (in an interview I did with him in 2008) was close to 500 people. While the actual number’s never been confirmed, it was a sizable turnout. The next year, Lisbon’s summer festival, Frontier Days, became the Moxie Festival and we’ve been at it in Lisbon Falls now for 35 years.

Where does Moxie get its distincty-different taste?
Moxie’s distinctive taste comes from Gentian Root, a medicinal herb.

Prior to the Food and Drug Act, which limited claims made about products, Moxie, then marketed as a “nerve food” was said to cure anything from blindness and paralysis, to the “loss of manhood,” making it America’s first Viagra.

Back to the marketing of Moxie, the brand’s chief spokesman during the 1950s was Red Sox star and Hall of Famer, Ted Williams, a huge fan of the soft drink. Maybe It was Moxie that helped Williams hit .406 in 1941, making him the last MLB hitter to bat over .400. That was 76 years ago!

I believe that Moxie’s staying power is first and foremost the result of one Frank Archer, a marketing genius. There are a host of items that collector’s treasure, developed by Archer, to market Moxie. Things like thermometers, a Moxie board game, the various signs featuring the “Moxie Boy,” and others.

While some of Moxie’s 20th century ambassadors like Archer, Williams, Potter, and Anicetti have passed from the stage, Moxie continues to confound critics. The brand, now back in New England where it belongs, has taken to social media and the digital landscape in marketing its magic to a whole new generation. You’ll see plenty of the younger set in Lisbon Falls today, interspersed with those of us who have known about Moxie’s magic for decades.

Enjoy the festival and parade!!

Cover Letter Writing

Mark was a content-creation machine. Just look at all the fucking stuff he’s posted on the feeds since 2006!! He puts most of us who call ourselves creatives (and writers) to shame.

I wrote about our last in-person visit with him. The week following that visit, we had this exchange via email about blogging and a post about creepy clowns that he liked.

I’m glad you are enjoying the Jeff Buckley book.

I liked your blogpost today. Have you ever thought of returning to the blog daily? I know you have a lot going on, but I really like what you wrote today. Especially the paragraph linking the governor to a creepy clown. I think sometimes you put pressure on yourself to create these fully formed blogposts of a certain length. If you were to do a daily blog again I think maybe you should abandon the notion of word count and focus on observing/saying one thing once a day. When you feel inspired to go long then definitely still go long. Maybe keep the same schedule of Tuesday and Friday to go long, but fill the other days with smaller things. Anyway, it’s just a thought.

 I hope the repairs are going well. 

Oh and here’s a neat tweak on cooking sweet potatoes that looks good

I’m not committing to any kind of schedule for blogging or anything else for that matter (at least remaining somewhat in charge, as is humanly possible in money-driven America), but I think I can blog more often, even if it’s following Mark’s prescription to riff on something observed or some other element of living.

Today, in addition to blogging, I’m intent on finishing a lengthy package for a freelance writing gig that matches much of what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years. No matter what kind of skills you have, however, there’s no guarantee you’ll get noticed.

I was thinking about that along with something that a Brown MFA colleague of Mark’s, Darren Angle, shared via Quora. Darren who I’d describe as a life coach for people who think life coaching is a crock of shit, uses this tagline describing what he does—I help people quit their jobs (and do work they love). Sign me up!!

Darren offered the most unique response to the Quora question, “What is important to include on [sic] a cover letter? Please read it now—do not pass Go until you do!

It was Darren’s reality-based advice that made me decide to change my own approach to cover letter writing. Why the hell not? What do I have to lose at this point—grief and loss, if anything is freeing and it helps you to feel like Teflon.

I’ve included my “new” cover letter that I plan to continue using. Key details like employer name and contact person have been redacted. My approach is the “getting real” method. Your own cover letter may likely contain something slightly different.

While preparing to post this, I was also reminded of Mark’s calls to agents. Oh Mark, you were a one-of-a-kind soul and I miss you each and every day (and all the moments in-between).

A real, live draft of my cover letter, with edits.

Continue reading

Finishing the Walk

I haven’t thought a lot about Mark’s walk for a few months. That’s not to say that I haven’t thought about Mark. A day, nary an hour passes when I don’t think of him, especially when I see a picture of him somewhere in the house.

On Sunday, I was working the bases during a Twilight League game and I looked up and saw the moon, pre-dusk. I thought of a tune I’ve heard countless times by Xian rockers, The Violent Burning. The chorus line, “if you ever reach the moon before I do, wave goodbye.” I imagined Mark waving to me planted on the grass of a baseball infield. It was hard not to tear-up and hold it together. I had to because that’s just life—plus, “there’s no crying in baseball,” at least according to Tom Hanks.

Holidays without Mark are tough. Monday and Tuesday were rough days for Mary and me. They always will be.

Today, after completing my tasks for the day around noon and dreading waiting around ‘til tonight’s umpiring assignment, I dug out my 2017 Rand McNally Road Atlas. For some reason, I take comfort looking at the map of where Mark walked and then, projecting the potential route he would have taken west from where he was killed. Continue reading

Remembering Others

I’ve written tributes about people in my life who were special to me. I think it’s important to discharge our debts of gratitude personally, and in some cases, publicly. I’ve tried to walk that out in my own life.

Having written two books about Moxie, the distinctly-different regional soft drink that has developed a cult following in parts of my native New England, I know a bit about the elixir’s history. I also recognize that there have been figures in that history that were essential in keeping Moxie’s brand alive.

If your curiosity about Moxie’s been piqued, I’d point you to a couple of blog posts. This one about Sue Conroy is one I’d highly recommend. Sue got me excited about Moxie and forced me to dig into the drink’s past. And then if you think you are good at math, there’s nothing quite like a little Moxie math. Continue reading

Death Don’t Have No Mercy

Some friends have heard my Jorma Kaukonen story. It was years ago when I was much younger and less well-versed about the personal effects of one particular song he covered frequently (don’t remember if he played it that night, or not).

Kaukonen was an idol of mine, a member of a personal shortlist of musicians that I’ve never grown tired of listening to, reading about, or contemplating their body of work. And in Kaukonen’s case, I’ve had the privilege of hearing him live, too.

My story centers on Raoul’s Roadside Attraction, a small, intimate club on Forest Avenue, the kind of place that was a bit larger than your living room, but not so big that the music and performer got lost in the space. “Intimate” comes to mind as a descriptor. It was likely 1989. Continue reading