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

Wearing the Uniform

Freelancing has its perks. There’s flexibility of schedule, a comfortable working environment from home, and no employee handbook to memorize.

My membership in free agent nation is coming up on three years. During that time, I’ve managed to cobble together a myriad of paying gigs—unique reports, video production, facilitation, teaching writing, and managing grants. I’m also learning to be more patient, during the dry and uncertain patches.

Last year, a unilateral decision was reached that the JBE needed to update his writing portfolio. So 18 months after setting that goal, I’ve managed to write for a number of newspapers, including the Boston Globe, did a couple of critical pieces about Portland (one of the few not sugarcoating life in the “golden” city that sits on Casco Bay), plus putting together a series of monthly travel features for the Lewiston Sun-Journal. I had hoped to do a bit more muckraking, but there aren’t many venues that pay local writers to dredge up stories about Maine’s kakistocracy. Continue reading

A Cut Above-Bowdoinham (bonus material)

A week ago Saturday, I drove to Bowdoinham to gather information about the town for today’s Explore feature in the Sun-Journal’s b-section. Things went much better than I anticipated.

It’s not as if I thought that Bowdoinham wouldn’t offer up interesting things to write about. No, last Saturday, I was in a pissy (see definition #2) mood, running on fumes after a long week. Actually, when I walked out the door committed to spending a few hours dredging up details for my story, I was dreading leaving the warmth of the wood stove and going out into the bleak, dreary November cold. I also know that this type of writing about local communities demands (if done well) putting boots on the ground in order to connect with the sense of the place.

This is my seventh Explore feature. The town of Wilton was my first one back in May. Seven is a number that comes up in my writing and in my latest book of essays—it is the “perfect number,” after all. Continue reading


For six months, I’ve been writing a monthly feature story called Explore for the Lewiston Sun-Journal. Once a month, I spend a few hours in a particular locale and dig beneath the obvious to capture elements of the town that I’m writing about.

Each time I’ve done this, I came away with a much richer appreciation of the community I was profiling. Several times, I’ve featured towns that I regularly drove through, but from the high-speed highways that often whisk us through these places, I knew little or nothing about the town other than what the typical roadside detritus that most communities are afflicted by during our era of Happy Motoring, offered. Discovery always occurs when we slow down, take a look around, and real exploring begins on foot. At least that’s been my experience.

Exploring another Maine town.

Exploring another Maine town.

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Explore! Norway—Bonus Material

Every month, I head out to a town in Maine and try to capture the essence of its people and the place. Since May, when I began these Explore! features for the Lewiston Sun-Journal, I’ve visited Wilton, New Gloucester, Turner, and a few weeks ago, it was Norway.

I continue to hold a fascination about the changes that are taking places in smaller communities across the state of Maine and elsewhere. If America is anything, it’s a country of small towns and communities. Maine is no different in that regard.

The economic shift that’s occurred over the past 40 years hasn’t been kind to small towns like Norway. Many communities in western Maine have been hit hard by globalization, and the loss of traditional resource-based jobs that have disappeared. Continue reading

Explore! Turner—Bonus Material

It’s likely that you are reading my blog for the first time, sent here from the Sun-Journal’s website, or the print version of today’s Explore! feature I wrote on the town of Turner. These monthly features are fun to do—they allow me to scout around a town for an afternoon, talk to locals, and uncover a bit of the local history, along with some color and flavor.

I often have “left-over” material, and in this case, it relates to some writing and research I did on Turner a decade ago. The subject was baseball.

Back in 2004, when compiling information, box scores, and research on town team baseball in Maine for my first book, I spoke to a number of former players, some of them former members of the Turner Townies, or chief rivals of the talented local baseball team that drew fans out on many a summer night to watch them play. Back in the 1960s, they played their games at the field that was located in front of Leavitt Institute—what is now the village green, where the gazebo is. Continue reading

Weekends in July

This past weekend was a busy one. There was an abundance of activity happening at our house, and across the river, in the ole’ hometown.

Friday night was the Moxie Recipe Contest. My sister again choreographed a cook-off that had moxie, with dishes enhanced with Moxie, the distinctly different soft drink that’s followed with cult-like fervor here in New England. If you missed it, you can read one of the more unique articles about the evening written by Mark LaFlamme, intrepid Sun-Journal reporter.

Giving instructions to the Moxie Recipe Contest jury.

Giving instructions to the Moxie Recipe Contest jury.

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Why Moxie?

I’ve moved on from Moxie—at least that’s what I tell myself. But, just when I think I’m free, Moxie reels me back in.

An important Lisbon matriarch passed away last Wednesday. Her death, just two weeks prior to the festival she nurtured for nearly a decade resonates through the town where I grew up and where upwards of 50,000 people will be coming to visit, the 2nd weekend in July.

Sue Conroy; Community Leader

Sue Conroy; Community Leader

I’ve written about Sue Conroy in my two books about Moxie. I referred to her as the “behind-the-scenes maven” of Moxie at the time (2008, when I interviewed her for Moxietown). If I had to “blame” someone for the topic that I’m sure some people get tired of hearing me talk about, probably thinking, “STFU about Moxie, already,” then I’m sorry Sue, I’m laying that honor at your feet.

I’ve been working on a story about the upcoming Moxie Festival that will run next Sunday, in the Lewiston Sun-Journal. When b-Section editor, Mark Mogensen, who I’ve been freelancing stories to at the paper for a couple of months, including my latest Explore! columns asked me about writing it, I wasn’t sure I wanted to crank out another piece on Moxie. I mean, what more can I say about the distinctly different soft drink that has spawned a festival in a town that desperately needs the positive energy that fans of Moxie will bring with them when they come to visit for three days? Apparently, a little bit more. Continue reading

Explore! New Gloucester-Bonus Material

In May, I began contributing to the Sun-Journal’s Explore! feature in their Sunday b-Section. I pick a town and explore it with fresh eyes. Last month I visited Wilton, and for June, I was nosing around in New Gloucester.

I had a bit of bonus content last month about a giant and a naked man in the wilderness that I tied in to the print piece. This month, with Moxie deadlines looming, a new book just off to the printer, plus a few other irons in the fire, I wasn’t intending to post bonus material. However, since Pineland Farms is in New Gloucester, and is mentioned in today’s feature, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share just a bit about Pineland’s past, my own ties to it, and the unique destination it’s become. Plus, I’m a writer and a blogger, and I can’t help myself.

The entrance to Pineland off Route 231.

The entrance to Pineland off Route 231.

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Print That!

Sometimes I am at a loss about what is the best method for me to use in communicating my ideas to others. I am a writer, so I need to write; and believe it or not—I’d like others to read what I write.

Yesterday, I made my bi-weekly trip to New Sharon and then, Rangeley. I’m managing a grant related to aging in place. I thought about tweeting about it, but refrained. Knowing your demographic is important, at least that’s the wisdom offered by social media gurus, and other marketing “experts.” A good chunk of my demographic is 60-years-old, or older. Since they’re not on Twitter, tweeting does no good. I could use Facebook, but even Facebook has a limited reach, at least from my own experience with the demographic apt to read my blogging.

Press it!!

Press it!!

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