Monday, March 30, 2015


I had an MRI today. They found a brain, which was good, and they also found boxes of old photographs, stacks of notes filed away and lost, an entire section completely packed with regrets, and one small area about the size of an English pea labeled, "Hapless Hope". I wasn't too surprised.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


FOR MOST OF MY LIFE, TAKING PICTURES AND THEN DEVELOPING THEM IN A DARKROOM WAS A WAY OF LIFE FOR ME. I actually hung out a shingle and pretended to be in the business of taking pictures. It involved film that had a silver based coating that was sensitive to light. When "exposed" in a camera, a chemical reaction happened that had to be "developed" in a solution of more chemicals and the immersed in another solution that stopped the development and then sloshed around in another bath that fixed the image permanently. The result was a "negative" image. Light areas appeared dark and dark areal appeared light. Everything was reversed.

You can see this was a process that offered many places for personal preferences and creatively. That's what I loved about it. That negative would then be placed in a projector or enlarger and light sensitive paper would be "exposed" in much the same way that the film was in the beginning, producing a "positive" image. Then that would be developed pretty much as the film was. You probably have boxes of photographs that are the result of just such a process. All those negatives are likely in some trash bin or dump for they were about as interesting to look at as apple peelings.

It's a different world now. You pull out your cell phone and snap a picture with the camera that's built in it and come away with a photograph of higher quality than could have been achieved in the fanciest darkroom without the mess and expense. To say it's a different world is the number one champion understatement.

So I have this closet filled with darkroom stuff that I have tried to get rid of over the years that now is little more than useless baggage headed for the dump. It is of no use to me and likely to no one else. It's sad for me that after all these years, this equipment should be so useless. Specially as I had spent so many hours up to my elbows in that "wet" photography process.

Time marches on. The horse and buggy come to mind - the Amish notwithstanding. As a matter of fact the Amish themselves come to mind. Then there is the vacuum tube radio, the inner tube, the butter churn and wash board for good measure. We move on. Well - some of us do.

These days, I go out somewhere and take a few photos and when I get home they are already on my computer waiting to be manipulated or printed or shared. I have four digital devices. The pictures I take during an afternoon outing are almost instantly available on all of those devices before I get home. If that ain't magic I don't know what is.

I still recall, with a catch in my heart, the anticipation that excited us all on that sand bar on Thompson's Creek. I peered into the awkward viewfinder on that Kodak box camera saying something like: can you move a little over that way, and smile, please. We were all about sixteen and we knew it all and nothing at all. The photographs say it all.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


There is not, nor has been ever been anything to recommend Sunday night. I don't know why it was ever invented. I mean, tomorrow is Monday, and no one will argue the worthlessness of any Monday. I suppose the best thing that could be said of it, is that on a cloudless morning the sun might come up like a Red Rubber Ball.

It might be a good day to haul in some wood against the winter that is yet to come - no matter what the bought and paid for prognosticators might be saying. I drove over to Pineland this morning for one of their famous cinnamon rolls and in the fifty feet or so between my car and the door I almost expired in the blistering freezing wind right off the top of Mount Washington. Fortunately, being the hearty soul that i am, I survived.

Towards the middle of the night, I woke to see light coming in the window and discovered that the simple door light was reflecting off the newly fallen snow - only an inch however, and it made any light seem more than it was. I wondered at the time if I would be able to drive over the four miles to that cinnamon roll without incident. I am happy to report that all is well and that the morning repast was just as expected. Although, I had to resupply the coffee after a while. These days, they say it's better for you than previously thought. Sip, sip.

None of this actually happened on Sunday night, you understand, but it occupies the mind on Sunday night. About all I can say that would recommend Sunday night is - if your system can tolerate it - loads of ice cream. I would offer high test gin but that is it's own problem. In moderation, however, it can ease the ragged edges of a Sunday evening until morning. And, of course, morning is, after all - Monday. I guess there's no way around that.

Good luck with that.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


We were driving down our road today and since it is mid March we have to drive slowly to avoid breaking an axel or blowing out an over priced snow tire.  Why, you ask.  We are in that pre-mud season season I call Frost Heave Season.  Here we have a perfectly even and smooth road that can support speeds up to eighty miles per hour, which it often does, but which today would hold you to sub 40 MPH with a foot near the break peddle for good measure.  We have one road just around the corner which is virtually impassable.  We will seek alternate routs until sometimes around the first of May at the earliest when things begin to smooth out.  There's a rhythm to all this.

Yes, these things could be avoided by digging down over four feet to begin laying the foundation for the road at a cost of 17 bazillion dollars every ten feet.  That's how they do it on I-95.  And that's about what it costs.

The other remedy is to slow down and wait for warmer weather.  That's exactly what will happen.  But with reservations and hesitations which, of course will result in broken axels and busted snow tires.  It's Maine in Spring.  What did I expect?  Still there's that nagging question: Why Maine at all?

I'm not going to spend too much time on snow.  Already did that and have the sprained back to show for it.  In a civilized culture, shoveling snow off the deck, walkway or driveway should be assigned to some sub-human species at best and in the least, high dollar snow blowing equipment subsidized by the government, of course.  I mean, the alternative is to let the stuff lay there until July 4 and light a firecracker and drink a cold beer.  Nothing like being American.  It's Maine.

We are but a brief week away from the Vernal Equinox, also known as the first day of Spring, when the length of day and night are equal.  This cosmic egalitarianism actually doesn't mean a thing in practical terms.  Spring storms can be among the most emotionally damaging examples of weather.  Hope is strongest at this fragile time of year.  We really believe in the onset of good, that is to say, warm, sunny and dry weather.  To have those hopes dashed by six inches of wet icy snow or a flooding rain storm after over a week of marvelous sunny and warm weather is simply enough to call onto question the existence of a deity even remotely concerned with the welfare of mere humans.

There are places in this country where spring seems like spring.  So I ask again, Why Maine?  What is it that drew me here over thirty years ago, even in the middle of winter?   

There was a weekly news paper called THE MAINE TIMES, as well as that still going strong instrument of the Maine Organic Gardener and Farmer organization, (MOGFA).  I had done a little gardening in the South but was not at the time, and had not done any in years.  Why had I thought that moving to a place with a growing season the length of my little finger would somehow magically transform me into a Back-to-the-lander, is completely beyond me.  

Regarding the Maine Times, I felt that was one of if not the best weekly paper I had ever seen and I still think so.  A state that supported such a news outlet had to be the place to be - right?  Well, right and wrong.  Right it was a fantastic paper and wrong the state did not support it.

In short, we gleaned as much information as possible from various source.  We wrote to a couple dozen towns in Maine asking for information that might be useful to new immagrants and got replies from most of them, including one from Eustis.  Eustis is a postoffice and a few buildings way over in western Maine.  I had written asking for information on the town and area that might be of interest to people moving into the state.  I got a hand written reply saying, in summation: Thanks for the request, however, we don't have a regular town office and I am the town clerk as well as the Post Master but will try to answer your questions.  Which she did by saying that "we" are a small community in the foothills of Western Maine - just plain Yankee folks and except for the woods and hills there isn't much to do here.  I drove by there one day by and by and sure enough the Post Office was closed (it was a weekend) and not a single person was in sight.  It's a good thing we didn't try to move there, given to social stimulation, as we were.

Still the dream lingered and we moved, lock stock and barrel.  I can't say I never regretted it.  That first year was tough.  My wife at the time made multiple efforts to modify her life here and ultimately did escape.  Something held me here.  As I stare out at the mud and dirty snow piles in the yard, I wonder what that something was, or is.

If you stay somewhere over thirty years, things called "roots" begin to anchor one to a place, no matter what.  Sometimes that's not enough but it is a force to be contended with.  Some of the characteristics of those "roots" are as follows.

1   Friends: all but a few of my friends, it turns out, live in Maine.  I think about being somewhere else and leaving all these friends and I nearly get sick.  Only a few ever come see me and even fewer ever call or send an email or text but they are here.  If I should call they'd say, Oh hi, Jerry - I remember you.

2   All my  doctors are here.  This is not a small thing.  Enough said about that.

3   The ocean!  Here's the thing - there's a whopping tide here.  It can be more than ten feet here and much higher the farther Down East you go.  It can be seen in action driving to Portland or anywhere on the coast which is near here.  I've written about the ocean before [ see WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE OCEAN at <>] .  I see the tides sort of like the life breath of the earth.  In and out it flows twice daily.  It can happen quickly.  Once we were on a little island that was accessible at low tide.  We forgot to check and found that the tide had come in and closed off out escape route.  We took our pants off and waded thigh deep holding on to each other to reach the shore in a swift currant.  You can't do that  in Tucson.

4   Four Seasons.  This was probably one of the main reasons for our move so long ago.  The idea of only four seasons is a standard joke in this state.  You have mud season, frost heave season, black fly season, Japanese beetle season, getting your wood stacked season, leaf raking season and snow shoveling season.  There's more, but you get my point.

5   Home:  For the time being, we live in a nice large house on three acres of woods on a paved road.  We are thirty minutes from Portland or Lewiston/Auburn and ten minutes from Freeport.  I mean, think about it. We couldn't do this anywhere else.  Some friends of ours down the road are selling their home and land and moving into a condo later this year.  I am envious.  I am tired of the work, but not that tired yet.  I'll get there, I know.  Don't yet know what the next "home" will look like but I can tell you it will be a heartbreaking day when we give this up.  It won't happen this year.

Why  Maine indeed?  Ridiculous question, eh?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


When I was a boy, going downtown to the movies (we invariably said, "The Picture Show") what we meant was we were going to the Paramount on 3rd Street, which was the main thoroughfare in the capitol city, at the time. To say it was special is, I believe, my first experience with the concept of the classic understatement.

Cinema was never used in my crowd to speak of the movies. It could be said that "cinema" was the generic term that was used by "professionals" and Europeans, who, by the way, were understood to be rather otherworldly, in much the same way that an Aardvark would seem to be were it to appear on Pontiac Street where I lived.

If someone had said to me that cinema was the generic term for movies, I would likely have blushed since generic sounded to me like something one did not speak of in mixed company. That's how off the beaten track we were in our little community.

When it came to the Paramount on 3rd Street, however, no term could be too fancy for the experience. Even people who looked to be European would "Ooo" and "Ahh" upon entering that gilded and plushly carpeted foyer after the ticket booth, which itself was majestic in its throne-like setting.

We were plain folk, and we lived among plain folk. We were dutifully awed upon visiting high end clothing stores, funeral parlors and the Paramount on 3rd Street. After painted wood or cracked linoleum floors, ankle deep wool carpeting, brass sconces and filigreed plasterwork on high arched ceilings seemed to be completely otherworldly, and of course, it was. I always felt as I ascended those broad stairs to the grand mezzanine, pretty much, as I am sure, I would have felt entering the Louvre in Paris, where Europeans live, I am told.

All of this preambling was only to introduce one to the grand salon or auditorium with its central stage that would accommodate a full scale Shakespearian production - orchestra pit and all. I always liked to sit toward one side or the other - not in the center section. That way I could look at one side of the room with its box seats and long curtains and subtle lighting that magically dimmed as the camera began to roll.

What's particularly odd, I don't have many clear images of what movies I saw there, except one. My mother wanted to see it. I believe it was called Mr Skeffington, or something like that. It stared two of the most boring personalities ever to "trod the boards" as it is said: Bette Davis and Claude Rains. Of course this might have had more to do with being a thirteen year old boy than the actual abilities of the actors - but I doubt it. My mother was so pleased. I never changed my opinion of those actors even unto this day. I am sure I saw film there that was wonderful, but I am mystified as to my unfailing inability to recall any of them. Go figure.

My most recent rationale for this strange omission is that I was more impressed by the place than I was the program - whatever it might have been.

When you looked up - and you always looked up - there were stars twinkling in the distant reaches of the sky-like ceiling. When house lights came up at the end of the program the illusion was broken, of course, and there were little lights that tried to illuminate the pathway as you made your way to the restroom and then outside into the humid South Louisiana evening.

There was always a bit of sadness when we left that well crafted emporium of unreality. As I write these words, I am poignantly reminded of that same sense of longing to extend that lushly carpeted escape from what I knew to be my real life.

The North Baton Rouge bus made its way up Scenic Highway (no one ever explained to me what the "scenic" referred to) with refinery flares illuminating the night sky for miles around, rumbling sounds that shook the earth, and smells of petroleum refining and chemical processing that occupied the next several miles between the highway and the river. When we passed Hunt's Florist, I knew my stop was coming up. I rose, pulled the cord and walked to the front of the bus. Descending to the sidewalk I always felt it was a bit ironic (though I am sure I did not understand the concept at the time) that after an evening in the elegance of the downtown Paramount Theater I was let off in front of our very own Istrouma Theater - a cinder block neighborhood movie palace only two blocks from my bedroom. No carpet except in the foyer and definitely no stars in the ceiling, but there was a Buck Rogers serial every Saturday afternoon where 25¢ got me inside with a box of Milk Duds. And as an extra added attraction on one weekend, the very car in which Bonnie and Clyde were riddled with bullets was on display on the sidewalk out front. Yes - I put my finger into many of the bullet holes in that car. Awesome!