Cycle of Life

Last November we sold our house in Durham where we’d lived for 26 years. This felt like the start of a new chapter. It was, but the narrative soon turned dark.

Landing in Brunswick on a beautiful tidal cove was exciting at the time. Being new to town, I envisioned capturing elements of our new home with a series of post based on weekend forays about the place. Then tragedy intervened. Life along the cove became framed by abundant morning light that simply permitted holding on.

A mile and a half from our house there is an older cemetery. I knew nothing about it until passing while running one morning in December. My new route took me westward from our new place, out Coombs Road. I immediately knew the road to be an ideal alternative providing a side loop away from busy Route 24, where I could enjoy my surroundings and not worry about dodging cars and trucks roaring along at highway speeds.

Purington Road, which abuts the cemetery, also dead ends at a gate on the east side of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. The road, like much of this area, is bordered by chain link fence and warning signs left behind when the town answered the military’s every beck and call.

From RootsWeb, I found this description of the cemetery, known as New Meadows Cemetery:

New Meadows Cemetery is located on Purinton Road and borders the Naval Air Station. This part of Brunswick was farming country known as New Meadows before the Naval Air Station occupied the area. Old records describe it as located on the North side of the road to Great Island, about three miles from Brunswick village. This road is now part of the Naval Air Station.

Doing a minimal amount of digging revealed that the area around Purington and Coombs Roads was once a thousand-acre town commons that was once the New Meadows neighborhood. There are historical records that show there were four homesteads dating back to 1739. What locals know about the area if they know anything is that it’s framed by the recent past following the Navy’s encroachment (and significant contamination) of 90 percent of this section of the community that formerly consisted of farms, grist mills, and brick and carriage makers.

Father and son, forever.

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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

The Anachronism

I’m feeling more and more like an anachronism. The things that I think are important seem out-of-date and not in-sync with technology and our app-based culture.

I like slow things—books, conversation, food, bikes, and black & white movies. I’m not so big on Facebook, Twitter, and a culture with an attention span of 10 seconds.

Innovation, early 20th century style.

Innovation, early 20th century style.

Reading about the past, and prescient thinkers who accurately sketched out what life would be like in the present some 25 or 30 years ago (or even further back) indicates that Americans lack the capacity to change their trajectory, no matter how detrimental their track might be. That sums up the span of my life, demonstrated by history’s arc back to my time of birth in 1962.

As I think about these things and many other matters, I’m less sure about what’s right and perfect. And again, this puts me out of step with the masses—who have never been surer that their opinions and actions are right and justified. Even worse, technology gives them all platforms to spew their drivel.

Of course, the same applies to me. Except writing a 200-word post like this one is torturous, and seems like an exercise in futility.

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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More Than Fried Chicken

Who would you consider our most iconic national figures in the U.S.? In addition to the faces on Mount Rushmore and recent presidents, what 10 to 15 names would you list for people from the past? One name that I’d include would be a man who “arrived” a bit later than most. That would be Harland Sanders, better known as simply, “Colonel Sanders.”

Sanders’ resume is a diverse and varied one. From his very humble beginnings in Henryville, Kentucky, he rose to prominence as an unlikely entrepreneur who refined a recipe for fried chicken, one that became known due his secret recipe containing “11 herbs and spices” that gave Kentucky Fried Chicken its distinctive flavor. It also allowed him to build a business enterprise that he sold at the age of 69, to John Y. Brown (former governor of Kentucky) and Jack Massey, a Memphis financier.

Today, Kentucky Fried Chicken (aka, KFC), has revenues of $23 billion, with nearly 19,000 outlets in 120 countries around the world. Not bad for a recipe for frying chicken that was forged in the backroom of Sanders’ family diner, in 1952.

Southern-fried chicken, corporate-style.

Southern-fried chicken, corporate-style.

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Writers Writing About Maine

Maine is one of our nation’s 48 contiguous states, as opposed to the continental definition that lets Alaska and Hawaii into the mix. The Pine Tree State, as it’s often called, was admitted to the union in 1820 as the 23rd state, part of the Missouri Compromise.

Even better, our motto, Dirigo, means, “I lead.” When Maine (and a handful of states) held their elections in September (while much of the rest of the nation held theirs in November), the pre-New Deal Republican adage that “as Maine goes, so goes the nation” made perfect sense.

Yet, for all this talk about Maine being a leading light, writers and others have been getting our state wrong as long as writers (and others) have been offering their insights on the American experience, which means for as long as we’ve been a state, and before that—a northern outpost of Massachusetts.

Libraries are treasure troves, full of undiscovered gems. It’s not uncommon for me to have a couple of books in mind during one of my weekly runs to Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, and to arrive back at the compound with an additional three or four books I just “happened upon” during my time navigating the stacks. That’s always been one of the library’s lures for me. I’m not sure how the experience will be when libraries stop being repositories, and turn into just another digital archive, which they’re likely to become at some point. Hopefully I’m dead when that happens. Continue reading

Building Bridges

Political dialogue of the binary type, common in these late days of empire, usually centers on a small set of topics: taxes, government size—big for liberals, small for conservatives—military spending, entitlements (like social security), and a few others (maybe). Like a feedback loop, once begun, it continues without variety.

Also, the race to become the new occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2016 has begun. Establishment candidates—Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, maybe Chris Christie—will be opposed by more marginal candidates on both the right and the left. They’ll debate the issues, or at least create the aura that a debate is actually taking place. Then, the party bosses will demand that everyone line up behind whoever they deem most electable, and the sham we participate in every four years will again occur a year from November.

Do you really believe that 73-year-old socialist, Bernie Sanders, has a snowball’s chance to get the Democratic nomination? And if you say that his role is to push Hillary to the left on issues, then I fear you might be giving our current political process far too much credit as means for necessary change. Continue reading

Longer Days and a Longer View

The days are getting longer. Some snow actually melted, and a patch of grass showed up over the weekend. Hooray!

The grass is back!

The grass is back!

My week’s off to a patchwork start. Some cool stuff in the works that will end up appearing under my byline in a week or two. Something else that I’ve been pushing for years (yes, years!!) will making an appearance later in 2015, too.

What I’m learning about most of the stuff in my life is that taking a longer view is required. That’s hard because it’s not in my nature and hasn’t always been my experience to wait on things.

And let me close with a bit of a non sequitur. Continue reading

Losing Our Letters

Dictionary.com has a feature that allows you to sign up for their word of the day. The Saturday word of the day was “epistolize.” It means to write a letter, or to write a letter to.

Epistolize means, "to write letters."

Letters are dead.

Letter-writing has become just another relic, thanks to technology. Email pretty much killed that art of communication. Social media has all but done the same thing to emails in many instances. Each time we take a step forward in the name of “progress,” I wonder whether we’re taking two or three backwards.

A few years ago, I read David McCullough’s John Adams, a biography of the Massachusetts-based Founding Father. McCullough, the renowned American writer and historian, highlighted the written correspondence between Adams and his wife, Abigail.

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