Marching forth for Mark

Grief does funny things to you. It’s not linear, and no, there aren’t five stages. Perhaps if you need to stage grief, know that passage doesn’t proceed neatly.

Mark was killed on January 21. We weren’t the first people who found out. Word passed slowly from where Mark was mangled by the side of the road by a woman, who at the very least couldn’t maintain her lane and left it—hitting Mark walking legally, in the ribbon of pavement reserved for pedestrians (he was walking against traffic, in the middle of the day, while wearing his fluorescent vest)—to possibly being distracted by something other than simply maintaining control of her 5,000-pound lethal weapon.

It was nearly 10:30 on Saturday night when the Maine State Trooper knocked on our front door. That was more than eight hours after Mark was pronounced dead.

I now know more about the timeline and who found out before we did. Some of those people botched the handling of that information. I’m not surprised, really. It’s pretty obvious to see from their actions since Mark was killed that they don’t care at all about how Mary and I feel about losing our only son. Obviously, they know little or nothing about grief and at the very least, they come up woefully short in the empathy department. Lacking basic humanness, could they not at the very least, send a corporate-produced card with a perfunctory message that says, “we’re sorry for your loss”? I know Hallmark carries some decent ones. Apparently not. But, it’s also not my fucking job to help you improve your skills in the area of compassion and grief. Continue reading

Parenting Skills

Whatever happened to that tried and true, time-tested axiom about children—that they were to be “seen and not heard”? Apparently, it went out the window with many other common sense conventions from yesteryear.

On Saturday, a local restaurant owner basically told two stupid parents unable to control their toddler that it wasn’t acceptable for their kid to scream and carry on for 40 minutes in her restaurant. And of course, social media—whose biggest claim to fame is that it gives a platform to dolts with opinions not warranting the light of day—has been flooded in typical lynch mob-style, with tirades from “internet moms” against her via Facebook.

Screaming kids ruin restaurant dining.

Screaming kids ruin restaurant dining.

Note to parents (yes, you doltish “internet moms”) of young children; your kids aren’t the center of my universe, especially if I’m eating in a restaurant and your kid’s acting like a brat. Address the boorish behavior like an adult, or take the kid out of the restaurant. Don’t leave it up to the owner of a busy diner to deal with your lack of parenting skills. Continue reading

Rally Round the Hype

It’s Tuesday morning posting time, and I need a topic. I guess Bernie Sanders is as good as it gets right now.

In these late days of empire, Lady Liberty’s political process has become just as dysfunctional and corrupt as all of her other assorted accoutrements and jangling bangles. Take for instance the four-year political cycle for president—as soon as the new occupant’s wife changes the drapes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it’s time to start thinking about the next election, shaking down voters for cash.

Of course, Mr. Obama can’t have a third term (thanks to Mr. Roosevelt). If he could, he’d be out doing what he does best, giving speeches and campaigning. Instead, we’re forced to endure the contrast of just plain tired,the old, and the hilarious—between Hillary, Bernie, and the ever-expanding Republican field—a full 17 months out from our next American coronation.

"Hello, Portland, Maine!!" (Troy Bennet photo/Bangor Daily News)

“Hello, Portland, Maine!!” (Troy Bennet photo/Bangor Daily News)

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Going Back and Moving Forward

I have the 3,000-word front page feature in this week’s Portland Phoenix. It’s about growth in the city of Portland, the current frenzy of real estate development, and whether or not this is best for all of the city’s residents, or just the few that are able to extract value from the current assets.

The article also looks backward, considering past boondoggles in order to have a better understanding of what might be the best way forward. I also am pretty upfront that I’m not enamored with most of the development ideas and plans coming from city hall.

My first extensive piece of writing about Portland and its economy was published back in 2004. It was about Hadlock Field. It’s hard to believe 10 years have passed on this. I’m still employing the same tools of the trade—research, putting boots on the ground and talking with those on the street, and remaining diligent in finding the narrative thread for the story I’m working on. No one has ever bothered to get this kind of up-close-and-personal look at baseball and whether it’s an economic benefit to the city, or not.


The June 2004 cover story in the late, great Portland Pigeon. “Direct Action Journalism” indeed!

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[I’m a big fan of Yelp, one of the apps I never leave home without. I check it whenever I’m looking to try a new restaurant, or some other hotspot. I am also a Yelper, meaning I write reviews of new places that I try, offering my own thoughts and opinions via the site. Oh, and it also helps satisfy my inner food critic when it needs expression.—jb]

Slab-Portland, Maine

There’s a history behind Stephen Lanzalotta’s migration from India Street (and Sophia’s, prior), where he was selling a famous style of pizza out of the back of a well-known Italian bakery, to Portland’s Public Market, on the corner of Cumberland and Preble. If you don’t know about it, then either you don’t follow Portland’s food scene closely, or more likely, couldn’t care less about history of any kind. Actually, there’s a great two-part interview with Lanzalotta at Eater Maine that you should check out from December, 2013, if you’d like more on this.

Pizza is a food that’s ubiquitous and can be found in all manner of styles and varieties in Maine and elsewhere, most not terribly cutting-edge or awe-inspiring. It’s also one of those foods that when I read people raving about others making it, I’m generally nonplussed (kind of like I am with barbecue). I find that with both of these foods, people like what they like, and often, their affections don’t mirror mine. Continue reading

Yelping It Up

Back when I had a BlackBerry, the first app I loaded after, was Yelp. It’s been my go-to app ever since.

When Miss Mary and I hit the road for two weeks to catch up with Mark Baumer on his walk across America during July of 2010, Yelp never steered us wrong on food or lodging. Nineteen states and 4,600 road tripping miles is a good test of any apps mettle–Yelp passed with flying colors.

Yelp keeps your beer cold.

Yelp keeps your beer cold.

I’m still amazed by how many people I talk with who don’t know about Yelp. Come on people; get with the program!! Continue reading

The Great Maine Winter of 2013-14

Winter in the Northeast used to be a period of cold and snow that lasted from late November through most of March. Some of the snowiest winters were recorded during my youth, including the winter of 1971-72 (I turned 10 in January that year), the one that brought us 141.4 inches!

Chairs in the snow-winterIt’s nostalgic to talk about “the winters we used to have.” Using Portland as the baseline, the city on Casco Bay averages 71 inches of snow each year. There were several winters during my pre-teenage years when the average was well above that amount. Continue reading