Friday, July 3, 2015
Thursday, July 2, 2015
The book titled Now I've Seen Everything has thousands and thousands and thousands of pages. It has been in bookstores since the beginning of time. Everybody's copy has a few different entries depending on your experiences, but if you turn to page 772 in mine, you'll probably find this interesting entry. "Colorama Books". If you have ever been wandering through TV channels at about 2 AM, you might have come across a commercial for adult coloring books. That's right, adult coloring books. And no, it's NOT that kind of coloring book. For your investment of about $25, you get a book of 45 'wonderful detailed patterns' to color. Of course, that doesn't cover your special colored pencils, crayons or pens. The complexity goes from beginner to the expert level. I'm not kidding here. The books are advertised as offering hours of stress relief and creative fun. You can color cat pictures, mandalas, garden scenes, spaceships, and even fruit. I'm not kidding here. The thematic books take you back to that act that we all loved as children. Coloring. Santa always brought us a new one in our stocking hung by the chimney each December 25th. My, I did love that waxy smell of new crayons, but I digress. Now, when you complete your 'artistic endeavor' you can give it as a gift to a friend or better still, you can frame it and hang it about your home. I'm not kidding here. Here's my suggestion: If you need to relieve some pressure, some tension in your everyday living, might I suggest forget grabbing your Crayolas and just find a bench in the warm sun or pop in some nice soothing music depending on your tastes and kick back.
It works for me.
It'll work for you too.
And save you a little cash.
I don't know if it will rid insomnia though.
Besides, I color outside the lines anyway.
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
You see. My friend Donna has done it.
Joanne, my sister, is doing it now.
What have they been up to? Burying a perfectly good saint, that's what. And they're not the only ones. If you've got a house to sell, get your hands on a statue of St. Joseph and bury him upside down. Lots of Catholics, Christians and even non-believers with properties to sell are into this bit of superstition. So where did it all begin? One story says, the tradition stretches back to the 1500s and St. Teresa of Avila. She founded an order of Carmelite nuns. At one time, the nuns were searching for a piece of property for another convent. To help in their quest, St. Teresa asked the nuns to bury blessed medals of St. Joseph around the property. Soon land had been found for the convent.
Do you believe it? Heck, in this housing market, it's probably not a bad thing to take a chance on. Yes, Donna sold her house quite a few years ago. Joanne's is still on the market in Oregon, so I wish her well.
Now, to the 'hardest working man in real estate'---
St. Joseph, do your thing!
*("Bury me in plastic, please. Your friend St. Joseph")
Marchin, my brother in real estate, how many do this?
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Need a calming place?
They say a walk along a labyrinth might just be the cure. I'm not so sure, but if you are really miserable 'any port in a storm' may help. Well, at least for 15 minutes. Seen here is a 5-circuit medieval labyrinth that is a permanent installation on the UNE campus, just off of Stevens Avenue. Parts of Pine Grove and Evergreen cemeteries can be seen in the distance behind the white fence. The spot is nestled under tall pines. The natural pine needles form the pathways of this maze. If meditation is due, large slabs of granite form benches to rest and sooth the spirit and soul. A word of caution, at this point, might be apropos. I've heard tell that people have had to be rescued from complex corn mazes in the Midwest. I don't know how stress relieving getting 'lost' in one of those would be.
That experience might increase my stress level.
"Serenity now; insanity later."
Not a bad mantra for some.
'Keep on the sunnyside'.
Monday, June 29, 2015
The Art Gallery on the University of New England campus off of Stevens Avenue is called 'the little jewel' by some, but I just call it the Cube. My Dad once told me that a guy named John Calvin Stevens (1855-1940) built a lot of homes in the city, but at the time the man with three names meant nothing to me. After college, I read a bit more about him and found out that he really wasn't a builder, but an architect who designed over 1,000 buildings in the state of Maine. He was a major innovator in the Shingle Style and Colonial Revival style in America. His designed houses in Portland are quite attractive in their exterior, and it's not really a challenge to spot one if you know there is one on the street you are travelling. They are quite distinctive. A close family to us, the B's, owned one on Craigie Street, and I was in it quite a few times. An amazing home. So much wood. So much light. So many windows. So many nooks and crannies. I loved stopping over and seeing the Mr. and Mrs. and their home. There's a lot I didn't know about this architect though. The biggest was that besides designing homes, libraries and churches he made time to paint. I did not know this. This past week, we visited the Cube where about 60 of his landscape paintings are on display. Most Sundays in the early 1900's found JCS and a group of fellow painters painting 'en plein air' in Delano Park near his home in Cape Elizabeth.
I was pulled to his winter scenes most of all.
He designed parts of the city.
And he 'painted the town' too.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
I can see fingernail polishing. The fingers, after all, are out there for all the world to see! They are in the lead! Out front! They are everywhere! They are hard not to notice, but your FEET?
I'm struggling here.
Can anyone out there help me?
I want to rest easy tonight.
Off to the musical "Sister Act" this afternoon.
I wonder if Sister Marie or Sister Delores ever worried about 'jazzing up' their toes.
What do you think?
Saturday, June 27, 2015
No, this isn't the water feature we were planning on adding to our deck area this summer. Haha! That was a good one. It's a small pond nestled in the inner courtyard at the Portland Harbor Hotel. It's one of our favorite places to relax and unwind on a warm sunny day. On Wednesday, Elenka's last day, it was the perfect place to meet up with Marchin, Donna, Yelena and Justin and celebrate the conclusion of a fabulous career. This simple figure off to the center of the pool always recalls one of my favorite Greek myths: the young Narcissus. The young boy who knelt by a pool of water and was so enthralled by what he saw mirrored back at him that he fell in love with his own reflection. I've read a few of translations of the story, but my favorite, by far, is the wonderful tale that Edith Hamilton unwinds.
This myth must be a Kadashian family favorite.
"Kim, quick take a selfie."
Friday, June 26, 2015
Right this way.
These days, if there's a bar or a restaurant in the city that doesn't have an outside seating area, I'd like to know where it is. It's a craze here and just about all over from what I have seen and read. If I owned an establishment like this, I'd string tables along my storefront too. Only one big problem. If you are a pedestrian trying to negotiate the sidewalk, you might be fighting a losing battle. And sidewalk usage on First Friday Art Walk down Congress Street? Forgetaboutit! Ain't happening. It got so bad last summer that over the winter the Portland City Council passed an ordinance that determines how much of the sidewalk was tables, chairs and umbrellas and how much was a 'restaurant-free' zone. They also attached threats of fines on for good measure. Now, 8AM on a Sunday morning it's not a issue, but come 4 in the afternoon until closing it can be a mighty problem.
A walking hazard, if you will.
Free at last!
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Moral to the story:
After you are gone, you might be very well gone.
I thought you couldn't take it with you.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
It's been quite a run.
Today, Elenka hangs up her teaching easel. This morning her alarm sounded at 5:30 AM for school for the very last time. I applauded in bed! Back a few years in the dining room on 409 North Beverwyck Road in Parsippany, NJ, she pulled out a map of the northern New England states, closed her eyes and touched the map 3 times. Her finger landed on Wiscasset, Bath and Portland. She inquired and only Portland had an art opening. She was interviewed over the phone, and soon a letter arrived confirming that she had the job. This morning for approximately the 8,228 time her car will turn into the King Middle School parking lot as the art teacher for the very last time. Back then, she had never been to Maine. After a week at the local YWCA, she made friends with another first year teacher, and awhile later they rented a camp in North Sebago on the lake. It was her first taste of the state. These days you'd be hard pressed to find a piece of this state that we haven't traveled to riding the blue highways.
Of course, these last few weeks have been bitter-sweet.
She loved teaching art to middle schoolers.
But she's excited.
After today, a new, adventurous canvas awaits.
And she's ready to spread some paint.
Happy Retirement to my best bud!
All the best ahead.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
This is the stone of Alonzo P. Stinson. It reads:
"Alonzo P Stinson
Third Sergeant Company H
Maine Volunteer Infantry
Aged 19 Years
Killed First Battle Bull Run
July 21, 1861"
Stinson was the first volunteer soldier from Portland to give his life in the Civil War. It was presented to the City of Portland July 4th, 1908 by the surviving members Company H. Something I learned: all soldiers were issued a knapsack and a bedroll on joining up, but most discarded their knapsacks along the way. Soldiers kept mementos and other valuables secreted within their roll. So the design of this stone marker makes perfect sense. It's quite unique. I just can't believe I've never stumbled upon it until now or even heard about its existence.
I learn something new everyday.
Monday, June 22, 2015
I haven't, although I hear that put on an incredible show. As I recall, they have done a few shows in Merrill Auditorium at City Hall. Yesterday morning driving around in a pretty serious shower, I caught this sight on the iron fence that surrounds Eastern Cemetery. I thought to myself: I could do a funny story about one of the group's members losing a glove. I could get a couple of yuks from that. I thought Lowell might get a kick out of it. This morning I pull up the photo, and I mumble something to myself something to the effect of "Holy smokes! Looky here. What is this?" Look closer at the gravestone in the background. Bedroll on the top. Straps below the plaque. Is this a stone in the design of a Civil War soldier's backpack? What's this all about? I must take a return trip, move inside the fencing and do some research. I have spent some time in this relatively small burial ground at the corner of Washington and Congress Streets, but this stone never caught my eye.
Ever find a bit of a treasure?
I think I might have.
More information to follow on this 'find'.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Happy Father's Day!
Here's a special portrait. Just two guys sittin' on a step. I think Justin was two at the time of this photograph. It's one of my favorites ever. Just two guys in their Converses sitting on the back stoop. He was and still is one happy-go-lucky kid. Me? Simply put today. I don't know how it happened that I ended up with J. I guess, I'm just one lucky guy. I ended up with a 'beautiful boy'.
*(this is a black and white photo hand-colored by Elenka)
Saturday, June 20, 2015
Get ready for a bumpity, bump trip into the past.
Friday, June 19, 2015
Off in the distance you can see the Casco Bay Eye. My eye! It's just a ferris wheel situated along the water for last weekend's festivities. I must say though, it must have offered quite a view of the waterfront. It one of those fold-up contraptions offered by Smokey's Greater Shows, a carnival outfit out of Fryeburg. Name a fair or summer festival in this state and their carnival rides will be ding-donging in the distance. Oh yeah, and sorry about the stupid 'love locks' in the foreground. I did notice that the locks are beginning to creep their way to the other side of the chain-link fence though. Besides being in love, you better have a bit of the daredevil in you. You see, there's about a 12 foot drop to the water and rocks below.
I have no plans to add my YALE lock to this fiasco.
Others I know might like to try.
Love ferris wheels.
Wasting a MASTER lock?
Not so much.
"Love is Strange"(1956) by Mickey and Sylvia comes to mind.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Who are all these people?
And where the heck did they ALL come from?
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
For example take a look at a few of my favorite flowers. I love irises. Yet, the flower would be hard to recognize in this photograph. They run a week and then it's adios. I think they are my favorite flower. I love purple too. Lavender irises. What a combination! So beautiful. So fleeting. These June flowers come and go so fast. Sure, they'll be back, but I must endure another Maine winter until I greet them again. I guess it's worth the wait. These fading blooms even have tears on them. Are they are going to miss me that much?
Isn't it true. If their lifeline was stretched to two weeks, I'd want more.
Give me just three?
After rain, sunshine.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Our gang did.
Pretty much the entire neighborhood did or at least tried. I think we actually might have seen an old circus movie or some character on the Ed Sullivan Show walking with them. Anyway, something caught our attention and dropped the idea in our brains. We found a pile of skinny, 8 ft. pieces of lumber and nailed smaller scraps to them for our foot rests, depending how high off the ground we wanted to be. Then 7-8 of us went traipsing through the neighborhood. Stilt-walking is all about balance. If you can ride a bike, you can 'do' stilts. A bit of practice, some falling, a little blood-letting, and we were ready to attack the neighborhood sidewalks. I must admit, we caught the eye of even the adults that we used to drive crazy with our antics. I think I remember a few smiles too coming across even the stodgiest of faces. Seeing a bunch of crazy 12 year-olds moving around, our heads about 7 feet off the ground, could create that sort of reaction. Even some of the 'little kids' of the neighborhood got on to the bandwagon and attempted to construct them. Of course the newness of walking like that wore off after a couple of weeks, and we were on to other adventures. After all, we had probably hit the doldrums of the early dog days of August and these pre-teens boys needed something else to entertain them and fast. The specter of having girlfriends had hardly reached our horizon. Boy, were we so not ready for that eye-opening experience.
Let's see running around on stilts or getting a girlfriend?
Which one would we pick?
That was an easy call.
By the way, no, we didn't wear pants like this guy.
But we were UP there!
Monday, June 15, 2015
Love zany 15 minute parades?
Did I have the place for you yesterday.
It was Old Port Festival Weekend in the city. It's our traditional welcoming of summer to Portland. Events started happening on Friday, but everything hit a crescendo Sunday afternoon when thousands upon thousands crowded into the Old Port. Rain or shine for 42 years the fest has brought crowds into the city from all the surrounding communities. By about 12:30, waves of festival-goers were streaming down towards Middle and Temple Streets. Elenka and I had found seats on a concrete barricade and were listening to the band North To Nashville at one of the music stages, and it was simply amazing to watch the people funneling down towards Exchange Street. As has been the tradition through the years, the Shoestring Theater troupe kicked off the events of the day with many of their hilarious-faced, gigantic puppets with a madcap romp down Exchange.
The sun was out.
The crowds were out.
The fun and festivities were on.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
We're heading into the Old Port Festival later this morning, and we're certain to pass a few of these walking the streets. I think the words of caution are meant more for businesses nearby then the stray contents of my soda bottle though. Most cities, towns and other locals all contain some dirty little secrets, and 'Forest City' is no different. Going back to days before my youth, it was common practice that raw sewage was dumped into Back Bay. I mean everything! Can you imagine next to one of the most scenic drives in the city along Baxter Boulevard, raw sewage! Dad told me once everything you could image and more was deposited in there. EVERYTHING! Yes, that too. Many years back this practice was aborted, and a sewage system was installed. Our house on Coyle Street overlooked the Bay, and their were mornings heading off to high school that were just... Whew! And once in college a friend visited in summer. He had never 'experienced' the ocean. He stayed overnight at the house and commented the next morning on the strong odor emanating from the water. The tide was out, but it was a fact of life to me living so close to the water. By this time of course, it was not sewage but just the common aroma of tidal pool actions and reactions at low tide.
Life along the water.
Get used to it.
So if you are visiting this summer, don't panic.
It's not what you think.
It's low tide.
Strong olfactory nerves needed.
Saturday, June 13, 2015
This is the distinctive roofline of St. Dominic's Roman Catholic Church at the corner of State and Gray Streets in the heart of the city. It was completed in 1893. At the time, the parish was composed of the heavily Irish-settled neighborhood of Gorham's Corner and and Knightville in South Portland and some residents of Cape Elizabeth. Today, it is the home of the Irish Heritage Center. St. Dom's played an intricate role in my Dad's life. He was christened here in 1915. He served many years, growing up, as an alterboy at the services. He sometimes took my brother and me here to early Mass on Sunday, before transporting us to Riverside to caddy. In later years, he passed the offering basket during Masses, and as a matter of fact this is what he was doing Christmas Eve 1997. He passed away later that evening. His funeral was held here three days later. Although the priest at the hospital told me how lucky he was to be taken 'home' by God on this holiest of nights, it doesn't make the anniversary each year any easier for our family.
Some say our lives move in a circular fashion.
His certainly did.
He was never far from home.
Friday, June 12, 2015
One of my favorite names for a band is Talking Heads. Men in Suits might be a close second. However Men in Suits is not a band. It's the name of a Natasha Mayers' exhibit of 84 paintings depicting the corporate world and the havoc it wields. I myself don't wear suits often. When I worked I think I wore a tie though everyday or most days. In a heated 'dress code' discussion once a new principal had stated that "Gentlemen look good in ties." That resonated with me. It stuck. Suits not so much. I plan to view this Mayers show soon. I've seen some of her painting, and I liked them. Eighty-four of them in one show, at one fell swoop must be something. I want a look.
"We need artists to help explain what is happening in this country, to tell the truth and reveal the lies, to be willing to say the emperor has no clothes, to create moral indignation, to envision alternatives, to reinvent language. We need artists to help us come together and share our voices and build community around powerful issues concerning our in the world and our planet's survival. Compassion must be translated into action." Natasha Mayers
Thursday, June 11, 2015
You never know about this crazy little thing called life.
Share with someone.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
That'll be nice.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
We can learn a lot by just observing and listening. No news here, but sometimes it's worth remembering. I learned one thing about flowers from my Mom. ONE single thing. Pick a bouquet of stupid dandelions off the front lawn and bring them to her, and I'd get a big hug and kisses on the top of my head. That's about it. I began to accrue some knowledge of plants, trimming bushes and seeding lawns while in high school working at the cemetery. It was limited, but it was a start. Most of my understanding of how things grow and sustain comes from you know who. She has taught me when and how to transplant, when to trim for best results, and when to do something simple like water. And I thought all you had to do was turn on the spigot and aim. There's a science to it? Well, well. Old Mr. Gardiner, the man with the perfectly manicured lawn back on Mayfield Street, told me once to water in the evenings that way the ground stays moist all night. Makes sense. Elenka, however, claims the old man was wrong. Water in the early morning she says. That way there is less chance for mildew to form on your plants. Also makes sense to me.
These spring and summer days, I usually water in the AM.
As a matter of fact, I better go water now.
But here's a little secret.
Some nights, I pay homage to that old guy and water fighting the mosquitoes.
It's our secret.
I told you I was bad.
Monday, June 8, 2015
No, she really did. I spied her the very first day in junior high in Mrs. Nichols' homeroom. She and her friend Sophie were both curly blondes, wicked smart and oh so quiet. I mean 'didn't talk quiet'. They were cute too. This was a new world for me, away from St. Joseph's School where I had gone since kindergarten knowing the same faces every year. This was my brave new world. Cynthia and Sophie never got in trouble. Trouble found me. The girls both carried home report cards each quarter with nothing but an A+ next to each subject. I struggled for B's and C's and sometimes less. You might say, as a 7th grader, I was an 'active child'. Let's leave it at that. I loved PE (gym class) though. Well, I loved it until the day Mr. Atwood announced that the following day we'd start square dancing... with members of the opposite sex. Yikes! I was nervous. I couldn't sleep. I think I had a mild case of diarrhea. I was in tough shape. I even thought about 'playing sick' and staying home from school but thought that would only make it worse. 10:30 and Gym class came and Mr. A. lined the boys on one side of the gym and the girls on the other. The first day the boys would walk across the gym and select their partners. The next class the girls would. What to do? Walk fast and pick a girl I'd like to dance with or walk slow and get what was left. What to do? I'm just happy I didn't stop 1/2 way across the floor and breakdown in tears or worse. One kid did. As I was walking, I spied Cynthia standing there and made a beeline for her. I must admit she hardly gave me the time of day in class, except when I was up to mischief. Then I always thought I detected a small smile creeping my way. So I knew she didn't hate me. What to do? I had readied myself for rejection, but she nodded yes and we headed for the center of the floor. I must admit it wasn't torture. I think I had fun. She admitted she was as nervous as I was that day. I guess you could say we survived!
The next day she and Sophie were absent. It was a Jewish holiday. Darn. Now what?
Gym class. What to do? I KNEW she would pick me. What now though? My stomach wasn't feeling too fine. All bets were off. What girl would pick me now? Well, Bente did. It was fun again. After a couple more classes, square dancing was over for the year.
I had survived!
And thank you Cynthia.
You saved my life!
Sunday, June 7, 2015
I'll keep you posted on our progress in that area.
If you've got it today, enjoy the sun.
Parking is downhill.
But sunny weather is looking up!
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Yes, you heard me correctly.
In this day of $$$$$, the LL Bean concerts are free.
Friday, June 5, 2015
Well, it was Sunday when I stopped by Deering Oaks in a pretty serious shower. This guy was pretty happy and wanted to stop by the truck and tell me the news. "Hey, the ice is out, and our newly-painted duckhouse was finally delivered this week to the island in the middle of the pond. Whoop-de-do!" When I stayed a couple of weeks out of the summer with my grandparents besides our nightly jaunts to Dairy Queen, we always grabbed a bag of bread crumbs and headed off to Woodlawn Cemetery and the duck pond. The white ones, if there were a lot of them, were pretty aggressive. I stayed close to the car, and somedays just rolled the window down to feed them. My grandmother had told me stories of getting chased and bit by some wild geese in her youthful days, and I wasn't about to test her story. The car was safe and that was where I was staying.
Geese are not always what they're 'quacked up' to be.
And that's the truth.
... nice feet.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
As of this past Monday, the M/S Nova Star, the ferry between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, is making its daily run. It leaves the city at 8 PM each evening and arrives in Canada at 8 AM the next morning. There's about 1 1/2 hour turn around time, and then it's on its way again. Back somewhere in the 70's, we took the trip aboard the M/S Prince of Fundy, the ferry at the time. We sailed in the morning and stayed at The Grand Hotel in Yarmouth overnight. My memory of the hotel was that it was adequate but in no shape or form was it 'grand'. Since 1970, there have been quite a few ships carrying passengers from Portland to Canada via this route. Along with the Prince of Fundy, The M/S Bolero, the M/S Caribe, the M/S Scotia Prince and The Cat, a highspeed catamaran, have all ferried passengers during the summer months. Last season (June to October) the ferry service struggled financially, and there was some question whether the Star would make a return engagement. It has and on Sunday the ferry gave free tours to showcase the ship's sailing amenities like its three restaurants, bars, casinos, fitness facility, on board entertainment, spa, and movie theater.
No, I didn't take advantage of the free tour.
I've sailed on Royal Caribbean's BIG ships, like the Allure of the Seas.
Once you go there, you can never go back!