At the Festival

I’ve probably written more about Moxie than any Mainer. I might even be approaching Frank Potter’s legendary output—who knows. Clearly, given that Mr. Potter’s Moxie canon is print-based and pre-interwebs, we know that he wasn’t Moxie blogging.

When I rewind back to 2004, the memories are still fresh of the late Sue Conroy, convincing me to take on the PR and marketing that year, joining the small band putting on the Moxie Festival. That was merely year 22 (if my Moxie math is right) of what’s now become the 33rd running of one of Maine’s, if not the nation’s, most unique and intriguing summer festivals. What began with 13 postcards and 500 people (according to one version) blossomed into a festival attracting upwards of 50,000 people to Central Maine and the sleepy town of Lisbon Falls. Continue reading

In the Blink of an Eye

Life’s circumstances can turn on a dime. In a world where technology is exalted and worshiped, we’re less likely to remember that our seasons evolve and fluctuate.

We’ve just come through a stretch of weather spanning 3-4 weeks where May felt like mid-July, or even early August. Then, in a matter of minutes on Sunday, as a cold front passed over central Maine, the humidity and heat were switched off, replaced with a crispness that has been missing for much of the past few weeks.

This morning, I awoke to steady (and needed) rainfall. Talk of drought was replaced by reminders of “flooding in low-lying areas.” As the old-timers would say, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute,” offering their apt and simplified descriptor of what the meteorologists tell us about Maine’s weather.

Sunday, my sister and he who we know as “Handy,” were doing an early run-through of some recipes that may show up in the upcoming Moxie “Cook Off,” better known as the Moxie Recipe Contest, which she reminded me, would be taking place in “40 days and 40 nights.” This year’s Moxie culinary throw-down seems to be taking on something akin to biblical import in Lisbon Falls and surrounding communities.

Moxie-The star of Moxie Season.

The focus of Moxie Season.

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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

If 6 Was 9

Most mornings, I’m up and at my laptop working at 5:00 am. Being a notoriously light sleeper, I find the best time to work for me, and when my energy is at its peak, is between then and around 2:00 or 3:00 pm. So, in order to leverage my strengths, that’s how I usually structure my days, at least when I don’t have outside responsibilities or appointments that prevent me from doing so. That’s how I roll as a free agent.

When I’m working, I enjoy listening to music, usually on headphones or through ear buds. It’s a habit I’ve developed so I don’t disturb Miss Mary when she’s down below, working in her office area, before she’s out and about making sales calls.

My music sources of choice are usually radio stations (rather than music services like Pandora, although I’m not averse to Pandora) that also stream their content. One of my favorites is WMBR, which is the MIT campus radio station. I think I’ve come to appreciate WMBR more than prior defaults like WFMU and KEXP, is that their early morning Breakfast of Champions and Late Risers Club slots during the weekday provide a mix of punk, post-punk, and current indie pop and rock that jives with my eclectic tastes and the desire to stay as current with the rock genre as I can now that I’m post-50 and no longer young.

The Jimi Hendrix-Hamburg, Germany, 1967.

The Jimi Hendrix-Hamburg, Germany, 1967.

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I Like Words

I gave a talk on Wednesday night about small towns and the economic changes affecting them. I was in the small town where one of my seven recent essays was based. I had a small crowd of mostly friends show up.

I mentioned a recent dust up that occurred on Facebook on “You Know You’re From Lisbon If….”

That’s the problem with most of the communication on social media sites. It’s always, “I like __________ and you should too. Oh, you don’t? Well, you suck.” I exaggerate slightly, but the frame of Facebook is fairly narrow and all too often, binary. Continue reading

The Ole’ Hometown

Memories are faulty at best. Often, the things that we remember happening, either never did, or they happened much differently than our recollections offer. Of course, as writers, many of us use memories, experiences, and even hometowns as touchstones to craft stories and narrative, swimming around in the pool of what we think we remember.

My final essay in The Perfect Number: Essays & Stories Vol. 1, “Goin’ Back,” is a narrative about my hometown of Lisbon Falls. I often describe the town where I grew up as “a bit rough around the edges” to characterize the changes that have happened to a place that was never high-end to begin with—however, it was never as shabby as it looks right now, in 2014.

Thomas Wolfe was another writer who mined personal experiences and his hometown and included them in his fiction—me, I’m an essayist, not a fiction writer. As far as I know, I’m the only writer who hails from Lisbon Falls who has managed to weave together Thomas Wolfe, Libya Hill (the fictional town of his best-known book, You Can’t Go Home Again), and Lisbon Falls. I bind them together to try to articulate what’s happened to the town over not just the past 5-10 years, but I decided to go back much further than that to the 1970s, when the current unwinding began.

The Facebook page that pushed me to write the final essay in this new book of essays, “You know you’re from Lisbon ME if…”, was all lit up over the weekend about smoke, stink, and what many were calling a “controlled burn” down at the former U.S. Gypsum mill that’s no more—it’s just a big pile of rubble these days that sometimes smokes and stinks (like on Sunday afternoon). Rather shabby-looking, really.

No smoke in this photo--just rubble.

No smoke in this photo–just rubble.

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Building a Consistent Body of Work

Taking a book from idea to finished product, especially doing it yourself, is a process. A process, I might add that very few know much about. Many wannabes aspire, but few actually do it once—let alone multiple times.

After the manuscript had been completed for my first book, When Towns Had Teams, I was having trouble finding a publisher for something I’d poured my passion into for more than a year. Faced with a choice—keep banging my head against a door that wouldn’t open (traditional publishing)—or figure out a new way of doing things, I opted for the latter. I launched my own micro-press imprint, RiverVision Press. It became the vehicle to get that first book out, and subsequent titles of mine (as well as one ill-fated foray into publishing a book by someone else).

Once you figure out how to publish your own book independently, you get hooked. You think, “I’ve done it once; can I do it again?” The gauntlet has been laid down. You are determined to work the DIY angle once again and see if you can improve your process.

Building a catalog.

Building a catalog.

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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

Selling Cookies

Being able to sell is important.

Being able to sell is important.

It’s been a while since I posted on an “off” day (an “off” day, in case you haven’t noticed is any day that’s not labeled Tuesday or Friday).

I just got to Seth Godin’s Wednesday blog post on Girl Scout cookies. I wanted to weigh-in because what he wrote was that important and resonated with me.

The lesson of his blog post was universal (don’t ask “no” questions, especially in sales), but he picked something that most everyone was familiar with—selling Girl Scout cookies. Good God! Who doesn’t like Girl Scout cookies? Continue reading

Getting Closer

I admire people who complete projects. Completion is much harder than it appears from the outside. This is coming from someone who had to learn how to finish, one tentative step at a time. Later, I learned how to combine these steps and began hitting some major deadlines. Reaching and crossing the finish line, while never easy, is now something that happens regularly for me.

Books are tools that I think more people should commit to writing. If you are someone who is a thought leader, or who has some ideas that others have demonstrated an interest in, then you are a prime candidate for authoring a book. I’ve indicated that books are much better than business cards—everyone has a business card—not many people have a book. Commit to getting yourself into the latter category.  It’s empowering for one thing. It’s also another way to differentiate what you do from everyone else doing similar things. Continue reading