Friday, September 23, 2022

Insight: A cautionary tale for would-be journalists

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


The Hollywood portrayal of journalists is often far from reality and despite the glamorous image and stylish depictions in movies and on television, many reporters, editors and sportswriters lead simple and unassuming lives but sometimes are targets because of their careers.

Here's an example from my own life to prove my point.

In the late 1980s I was working as a reporter for a newspaper in New Mexico. A man came to the newspaper office on a November afternoon and asked if he could speak to a reporter about a possible story. I happened to be sitting at my desk at work that day when my editor called me over and instructed me to find out what potential story this man wanted to share with us.

I introduced myself and the man said his name was Gene and that he had a "tremendous" article for me. I sat and listened as he told me that he had been wrongly convicted of shooting at one of his neighbors in Decatur, Georgia and had then served a 10-year sentence on a Georgia chain gang reconstructing highways and moving boulders and rocks by hand.

Gene said he had taken his appeal to the governor's office in Georgia, the attorney general's office there and had paid a family member who was a lawyer a large sum of money to prove his innocence and have his conviction overturned. Apparently, nothing had worked and once he was released from the Georgia chain gang, he had moved 1,400 miles west to New Mexico and was now working in construction.

He told me during his time on the chain gang, his wife had divorced him and married his family member, the lawyer who was handling his appeal in the court system. His mother had also died since his arrest, and he was planning on exposing everyone who had testified against him resulting in what he said was a wrongful firearm conviction.

After hearing his story, I told him I would speak to my editor about it, but I doubted he would have me write a story about this because it had occurred so far away and had little news value to the readers of our newspaper in New Mexico. I then returned to the newsroom, pitched Gene’s article idea to the editor, and I was right, he instructed me to tell Gene it was not something the newspaper was interested in writing about. Gene didn't take my response well and called me a 'phony" and said it was a "typical" reply that he had heard from other newspapers that he had presented the story to.

The very next afternoon, a Friday, I was back at my desk at work when the receptionist informed me that Gene was back and asked to speak to me. I walked out to the lobby and Gene apologized for calling me a "phony" and asked if I'd be interested in writing a book with him about his case. I told him no, I had little free time and was barely keeping my head above water with all my newspaper work. Gene politely thanked me and left, and I went on with my day and continued my work.

That Saturday evening, my wife and I were just about to sit down to supper when we heard a gunshot in our driveway outside. We lived on a remote farm on a dirt road about 17 miles south of the city where I worked. The time had changed the weekend before and it was dark at 5:30 p.m. when we heard the shot and someone hollering for me outside.

My wife pleaded with me to stay inside, but in looking out the window I saw Gene standing in my driveway holding a pistol. I told her to call the police and I thought I could speak to him out there, calm him down and prevent him from shooting out the windows in our home.

I stepped outside and discovered that Gene was quite drunk, and he was also very angry. He called me a “hypocrite” and said I was like everyone else who had not believed his story. He said he was going to show me what it was like to be humiliated and pointed his pistol at me and told me to get down on my knees.

At that point, I thought I was a goner until two sheriff's cruisers pulled in behind Gene's truck and the deputies shouted to him to drop the gun and walk backward to them. He did and Gene was arrested for violating the terms of his probation. The deputies asked him how he knew where I lived, and he told them he looked up my address in the telephone book.

From that point on, we kept the driveway gate locked and removed our listing from the next phone book. It was very scary and difficult to talk about afterward.

Almost four decades later, journalists everywhere face risks and threats every day for just doing their job. I was fortunate to have survived my brush with an unhappy person and can attest to the inherent dangers of this career. <   

Andy Young: Enjoying the continuing search

By Andy Young

I’ve been looking for a specific person for years, and about a month ago I thought I had found him.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get his name, but I can describe him.

He’s about half my age, stands somewhere between 5-foot-10 and 6-foot-1, and weighs between 170 and 180 pounds. Our paths crossed on the home stretch of a 25-mile bike ride I was taking. The athletic-looking cyclist glided past me like I was standing still. But that happens all the time, so I didn’t have any particular reaction.

Pedaling past me on a titanium bike, he was outfitted like a Tour de France competitor, so he probably wasn’t overly impressed by my ensemble, which consisted of old basketball shorts, a T-shirt, and the long-sleeved, size Triple XL green hoodie I bought because it was 80 percent off. Wearing that hood under my helmet protects what my dermatologist tells me, and my children gleefully remind me of every chance they get, is a rapidly expanding bald spot which needs perpetual protection from the sun.

Doggedly pedaling away on my generic road bike as the mystery cyclist zipped by me like the Roadrunner passing Wile E. Coyote, I turned my attention to the pavement ahead, a section fraught with the sorts of imperfections which, while they’re mere bumps in the road for someone piloting a motor vehicle, are potential teeth-rattlers and/or tire flatteners for self-propelling bikers.

After successfully navigating between potholes and reaching a smoother, wider section of road, I passed him. He was re-mounting his bike after having pulled over to take a quick drink from his water bottle. Going by I gave him a quick wave, knowing he’d soon overtake me on the hill we were about to ascend.

Except … he didn’t pass me. Not for a while, anyway. But when he finally did, he slowed just long

enough to say, on his way by, “Man! You must be in great shape. You kicked my butt going up that hill back there!”

He didn’t have to say that. He didn’t have to say anything. But he took the time to share some words of encouragement that made a total stranger feel like Superman. That spontaneous bit of altruism was what led me to believe that my lengthy search was over, and I had finally located and identified the world’s kindest person.

But then a wonderful individual bought a copy of the book I just had published, plus five additional copies to give to her friends. Then the week after I wrote a column in this newspaper bemoaning the lack of vegetarian ramen in local stores, someone mailed me a dozen packages of the stuff. Shortly after that a man let me in front of him at the grocery store checkout counter when he saw I only had two items. Then there’s the fellow who periodically sends me vintage baseball cards while expecting nothing in return, the student who, with no apparent ulterior motive, brought me the world’s best cookie, and the old friend who, for no discernible reason, sent an amazing letter informing me that I am truly making a positive difference.

All these random acts of kindness have me somewhat conflicted. Here I thought I had solved the
mystery of who the world’s kindest person is, but subsequent developments have left me more confused than ever about this individual’s identity.

I’m probably no closer to locating the world’s kindest person than I was when I began my quest to find him, her, or them a few decades ago. But for now, I’m perfectly happy to continue enjoying the search. <

Friday, September 16, 2022

Insight: Accessing the deepest corners of your mind

Ed Pierce's grandparents, Anthony and
Josephine, both died when he was a small 
child in the 1950s. COURTESY PHOTO
By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


If the human mind is this incredible feature that separates mankind from all the other species on Earth, why is it then that few, if any of us, can recall memories from our youngest days?

I have some vague recollections of places and people I visited under the age of 5, but not many. I don’t think a whole lot of other people do either.

The earliest memory I remember is being in the living room with my mother at about age 4 watching afternoon television with her in the late 1950s while she ironed shirts for my father to wear to work. She told me as an adult that I actually learned to tell time by knowing when certain television shows came on.

I do recall watching a program with her as she ironed called “The Buccaneers,” which was a pirate-type adventure show starring British actor Robert Shaw, who later appeared in the film “Jaws” as Quint and then as Robert Redford and Paul Newman’s con victim in “The Sting.” That show was followed at 4 p.m. by an afternoon soap my mother watched every day called “The Edge of Night.” I learned that at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, “The Edge of Night” started and my mother said she would point to the clock’s hour hands and say 4 o’clock.

Those are some of my earliest memories, but where are the rest?

The phenomenon known as “childhood amnesia,” or the inability to recall early childhood memories, has perplexed scientists for more than a century. It seems developmental changes in our basic memory are thought to be as an explanation for our lack of childhood recall, and it’s perhaps the top theory that the scientific community has come up with so far. The development of our memory process spans several brain regions and includes forming, storing and then being able to retrieve the memory.

A brain region called the hippocampus is believed to be responsible for forming memories, and scientists say it continues developing until at least age 7. Decades of testing subjects shows that childhood amnesia shifts as we age, meaning that young children and teens can recall earlier memories than we as adults do but that fades the older that we get. For scientists, this suggests that the problem of recalling early childhood events may have less to do with the formation of memories than with our brain being able to maintain them.

From about the same time that I can remember watching “The Edge of Night” with my mother, roughly 1957 when I was nearing my fourth birthday, I have a faint memory of driving to my grandmother’s home where she was confined to her bed dying of colon cancer. I remember walking up a set of stairs to get to the second floor and then passing through her kitchen to go into her bedroom.

In her kitchen was a shelf where she kept spices and for some reason, I remember seeing a package of Junket rennet tablets for making custard. It’s an odd memory but something I do recall from when I was nearing the age of 4. I also remember my parents sitting me on my grandmother’s bed and her talking to me as they went in the other room with my grandfather to discuss her deteriorating condition.

I’m not sure what exactly my grandmother told me, and try as I might, I can’t remember what her voice sounded like, but I do remember her kind and loving face, her blue eyes, and her softly kissing me on top of my head. If there is a memory that I do wish that I could recall much better, it would certainly be that. My grandmother died on my fourth birthday in December 1957 and although I have some old black and white family photos of her and my grandfather, I would have enjoyed hearing her tell me about her life at some point as I was growing up.

My memory of my grandfather is even fainter. I’m told that to entertain me when I was very small that he once handed me a hammer and some nails and showed me how to hammer the nails into a beautiful oak floor in my grandparents’ home. I have little or no memory of that, but I do remember the shiny and polished oak floor in their living room. I also have some recollection of my grandfather showing me a goose and some chickens in his barn on his farm in Macedon, New York.

Like my grandmother, my grandfather also died on my birthday. He died on my 6th birthday in 1959 and I do remember that day because it was one of the only times in my life that I ever saw my father cry after he received a phone call from his brother informing him about his father’s death.

Life is full of so many happy memories and wonderful events that we all wish we could replay, but we are limited when it comes to most from the earliest part of our existence. But wouldn’t it be great if we could? <


Andy Young: The death of dying

By Andy Young

Queen Elizabeth’s demise at age 96 last week has me thinking about lifespans.

When my father was born in 1923, the life expectancy for American males was 56.1 years, so suffice it to say it would be pretty amazing if he got to celebrate his 100th birthday next summer. Of course, he’d have had to beat some pretty significant odds to do so.

As it turns out, the chances of William S. Young celebrating his personal centennial next summer are easy to figure: they’re zero percent, since his earthly existence concluded in 1974, when pancreatic cancer claimed him just a month before he would have turned 51. But even if he were still extant, I know for a fact that my dad would not have died next year. Dying is so 20th century. Nobody dies anymore. They “pass.”

Few people live 10 full decades, so it makes sense that when someone hits the century mark some sort of commemoration is in order. However, it’s never a good idea to celebrate a birthday prematurely, particularly when all the excitement is centered around a centenarian-to-be. Putting Betty White on the cover of People magazine the month before she was to turn 100 turned out rather badly, since the beloved actress, author, and animal welfare activist subsequently transformed from living to non-living just two and a half weeks before her scheduled big day.

America’s end-of-life nomenclature has quietly but inexorably undergone significant change over the past few decades.

In the past, how and when a person met his or her maker determined exactly which delicate phrase was employed to describe the nature of their earthly existence’s end. People who had been in ill health for a lengthy period of time inevitably “succumbed” to their particular affliction(s). Those who met a violent end got “killed” (or, if it was firearms-related, “gunned down”). Unfortunate folks whose lives ended along with a significant number of others (think earthquakes, floods, or plane crashes) “perished.” And for the most part all that phraseology made sense. No decent obituary told of someone succumbing to an assassin’s bullet or getting slain by leukemia.

Americans have never had an easy time talking about death. The euphemisms people employ regarding the end of life in order to avoid using any form of the “D word” range from the sublime (passing away, eternally resting, meeting their maker) to the ridiculous (taking a dirt nap, buying the farm, pushing up daisies), to the utterly nonsensical (remember Jimmy Durante literally kicking the bucket in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World?).

Currently the favored verb for describing someone’s demise seems to have become “passed,” without the “away.” When I was growing up, “passing” referred to one of two things: what Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr and George Blanda did for a living, or what people who drove faster than my dad (which was just about everyone) regularly did to us on the highway.

Given today’s fascination with political correctness, I imagine the thought police re-dubbing classic literature and movies so as not to cause trauma for those who see or hear “the D Word” unexpectedly. Imagine future generations viewing classic films like Night of the Living Expired, Demise Wish, and Passing of a Salesperson.

I sometimes picture all of my departed family and friends having a good laugh at our expense from the great beyond, watching us verbally tiptoe around “death,” “die,” and other forms of the word. But is there actually an afterlife? I don’t know for sure, but like everyone else I know, I’m literally (though involuntarily, and hopefully slowly) dying to find out. <


Friday, September 9, 2022

Insight: Somewhat Spooky Sugary Speculation

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


It seems a bit early this year, but a trip to the grocery store over Labor Day Weekend unveiled for me that a vast selection of Halloween candy is already filling supermarket shelves.

I’m not sure exactly how long candy lasts, but by my calculation at the time of my visit there were at least 58 days left until Halloween. If I had purchased and brought home some candy for this year’s trick-or-treaters, it would have had to sit on my kitchen shelf without being devoured for nearly two months before the evening of Oct. 31 arrives. Knowing my own weakness for sugar, I’m certain I wouldn’t have the willpower to let candy sit for that long at my home without sampling it.

Making the decision to not purchase Halloween candy during this visit, I did, however, carefully examine what products have currently made their way onto the supermarket shelves in 2022, what old favorites are returning, and what is new this fall that I should consider.

The first item that I noticed this year is not something I would hand out to neighborhood kids for Halloween. A price tag of $19.95 for a 1-pound grape-flavored gummy bear in the shape of a skeleton is more of a personal gift for the grandkids in Connecticut, except after mailing them a huge box of Easter candy in April, I have been asked not to mail them sugary snacks going forward to avoid childhood hyperactive “sugar high” meltdowns.

Next, I noticed some odd-looking fun-sized Twix and Snickers candy bars with packages bright green in color. The Twix bars were labeled as “Ghoulish Green” while the Snickers bars were identified as “Ghoulish Green Nougat.” I suppose if these new candy products don’t sell for Halloween that they can always be relabeled and recycled next spring for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Moving on, I proceeded to look over a creative section filled with small colorful and collectible tins of Halloween candy that caught my attention. I laughed at the “Sugar Skulls Tins” which encourage celebrations of “Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in colorful style!” Each of these decorative skull tins contain 1.4 ounces of vibrant candy skulls for $3.99 each. The product line also offers “Ouija Mystifying Mints” for $3.99 featuring an embossed tin with retro artwork of the “Mystifying Oracle.” Inside are 1.5 ounces of Ouija planchette-shaped peppermints. I chuckled when I saw the “Childs Play Chucky Tins” filled with sour cherry candy knives and adorned with artwork of the serial killer doll “Chucky” all for just $3.99.

For those trick-or-treaters who can’t live without the sensation of the Pop Rocks candy that explodes in your mouth, there are two new must-have products for 2022. Bags of KOOL-AID GHOUL-AID Popping Candy and Warheads Popping Candy are now found on store shelves. KOOL-AID GHOUL-AID comes in Scary Berry flavor while Warheads Popping Candy features Wicked Watermelon, R.I.P. Raspberry, and Cackle Apple flavors.

There seems to be a lot of gimmicks associated with returning candy favorites this year too. Hershey’s is offering a large candy skull filled with bite-sized treats and chocolate kisses now rendered to resemble eyeballs, while M&Ms, Snickers, Milky Ways and Skittles now come in a bag proclaiming they are “Glow in the Dark.” Kit Kat is selling “Pumpkin Pie” treats, and Reese’s has gone all-in on Halloween this year with an array of new products including King-Sized 2.4-ounce peanut butter and chocolate pumpkins, white crème peanut butter ghosts, and large Reese’s potato chip big cups.

Also new for 2022 are Froot Loops Gummies; Nerds Candy Corn; M&M Creepy Cocoa Crisps; Tootsie Roll Caramel Pops; Dove Dark Chocolate Pumpkins; Monster Mash Jelly Belly jelly beans; Jelly Belly Pumpkin Lollypops; Dubble Bubble Jack O’ Lanterns; Sour Patch Kids Zombie Orange and Purple Candy; Brach’s Caramel Apple candy corn; Fruit Stripe Gummy Candy; Nerds Rainbow Rope Candy; assorted Halloween-themed candy canes; Toxic Waste sour candy in plastic drums; and Red Vines in Halloween candy corn flavor.

Looking over the Halloween aisle this year, my own personal favorites are the Peeps assortment. Made of marshmallow, Peeps were once exclusively shaped like small chicks and were rolled out for Easter in yellow, pink, and blue colors, but they are now available in varying shapes and flavors for other holidays and especially for Halloween. On this visit to the store, I found Halloween orange pumpkin Peeps, green and red Peeps skulls; glowing green Peeps Monsters shaped like Frankenstein heads; all-white Peeps ghosts; and purple spooky Peeps cats. And for the first time this year I spotted Astronaut Freeze-Dried Halloween Peeps in green, orange, and white colors.

As for our household for Halloween this year, we’re more than likely going to purchase our giveaway candy around Oct. 15 and in keeping with Pierce Family tradition, we’ll be handing out an assortment of full-sized Hershey bars, Snickers bars, Kit Kat bars, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Starburst, Skittles, Three Musketeer bars, and Milky Way bars. These typically come in 20-full-size packs.

We always plan on 80 trick-or-treaters and end up having about 48 or so kids ring our doorbell, meaning 32 candy bars are left over for me. <

Bill Diamond: Continuing the fight to protect Maine children

By Senator Bill Diamond

After four Maine children died last summer – allegedly at the hands of their parents – I and many other Maine lawmakers formally requested that the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee (GOC) begin a thorough investigation of Maine’s child protection system. It’s clear that the system is failing to protect kids, and the only way we can make the changes we need to is by understanding exactly what went wrong in these cases, and where other shortcomings and challenges lie.

The GOC strongly agreed with us, and in August 2021 they voted to authorize an investigation to be carried out by their independent partner office, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA). One year later and the investigation is still ongoing, with the GOC and OPEGA doing great work collecting critical information, reviewing systems and listening to the public.

Their work is nearing an end, at which point the GOC may recommend reforms that the 131st Legislature can vote on when it convenes in 2023.

In July, the GOC requested that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) share the case files for the four children who died last summer to help in the final steps of the committee’s investigation. Those children — 6-week-old Jaden Harding, 3-year-old Hailey Goding, 3-year-old Maddox Williams and 1-month-old Sylus Melvin — all have parents who have been charged with murder or manslaughter in connection with their deaths. 

If the GOC could access these case files, they may learn critical information about what went so horribly wrong that these children ended up dead. Last month, DHHS denied this request under advice from the Attorney General’s office, saying that sharing this information with the GOC may put ongoing criminal investigations at risk. While DHHS will share the case files with OPEGA staff, they are refusing to share them with the elected members of the GOC. I find that unacceptable.

The GOC has two choices now: They can rely on OPEGA’s staff to summarize and share the key points of the case files, or they can pursue legal action against DHHS and demand that the files be handed over.

I believe it’s critical to the integrity of this investigation and of future investigations that the GOC firmly stand their ground and assert what I and others believe to be their right: To review these cases in a confidential, closed-door session, where they can uncover potentially critical facts without jeopardizing the criminal investigations into those responsible for these heinous acts.

Thanks to family members speaking out, we already know some critical information about the case of Maddox Williams and how our child protection system failed him. Despite the fact that Maddox was living safely with his paternal grandmother, he was placed back with his mother – who had a history of involvement with the child protection system – over the objections of other family members.

Maddox’s mother, Jessica Trefethen, is scheduled to go on trial this fall for Maddox’s murder. There’s no telling what additional details a review of Maddox’s full case file may uncover, or what shortcomings of our child protection system may be revealed if the GOC is allowed to examine the case files of the other three children.

When I served as a member of the GOC back in 2018, our state was confronting two heartbreaking tragedies: The murders of 4-year-old Kendall Chick in December 2017 and of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy in February 2018. Both girls had prior involvement with Maine’s child protection system, and yet both girls were murdered by their parents.

The GOC’s current investigation is much broader than what we undertook in 2018, as it should be. If we want the GOC to be able to do the work they set out to do, it’s imperative that they have access to any and all information that aids in their work, including these case files.

If you believe a child is in immediate danger, please call 911. To report cases of suspected child abuse or neglect, call Maine’s Child Protection Intake line at 1-800-452-1999. If you have concerns about how a child protection case is being handled, contact the Maine Child Welfare Ombudsman at 207-213-4773.

As always, I’m here to talk through your questions and concerns and to help you address any challenges you may be facing. You can email me any time at diamondhollyd@aol.com or call my office at 207-287-1515. <

Friday, September 2, 2022

Insight: Going, going, gone

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor 

When you reach my age, thoughts of one’s inevitable mortality are hard to prevent from creeping in as I seem to be bombarded almost daily by news of the deaths of someone I know, a friend or relative of someone I know, someone I once worked with, or someone I grew up with. It’s just a fact that when you live a long time, sometimes those you meet along the way in life aren’t on the same timeline or schedule as you.

After enduring the loss in the past year of three high school classmates, my brother-in-law, my 39-year-old auto mechanic, and just last weekend a fellow I sat across from at work for five years, the parade continues. Two weekends ago, it was the longtime partner of a high school friend, and the week before that, it was singer Olivia Newton-John, basketball star Bill Russell, actress Ann Heche and one of my favorite authors, David McCullough. In July, my cousin’s mother passed, and I could go on and on.

As we near the three-quarter mark for 2022, I’m asking if this is it for this year? I’m ready to jump off the mourning express train and focus my energy on positives for the remainder of this year, rather spend another minute shopping for sympathy cards at Walgreens or selecting a bereavement FTD bouquet from an online florist.

None of us know when our time may be at hand. We don’t walk around displaying expiration dates like milk or some grocery products. But there are some lifestyles that may contribute to early demises such as using fentanyl for recreational purposes or driving recklessly while intoxicated. 

That’s why it’s so shocking when someone seemingly in good health such as my former co-worker, who unexpectedly passed away last Saturday, departs. No matter how prepared you may be, when the notification reaches you, it throws you for a loop and you’re left searching for answers.

Death touches us all in so many unique ways. Last fall, a hot internet trend was a video series posted on You Tube and Tik Tok that applies age progression techniques to photographs of celebrities, politicians and well-known individuals who died young. Those videos were hard to watch because they were so life-like. It’s one thing to imagine what Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, Kurt Kobain, Selena, or Andy Kaufman would look like today, but these videos went a step farther by making their eyes blink and move, turning their heads slightly and smiling. Those subtle expressions indeed make it appear that these people are still alive when they really died long ago.

Some popular celebrities may die of old age, but the memories we have of them are frozen in time. Such is the case for me of Tony Dow, who played the older brother Wally Cleaver on the classic “Leave it to Beaver” situation comedy television show decades ago. I still envisioned him as a perpetual teenage high school student, but in real life Dow was 77 when he died in July.

I’ve always envied those who get to know their grandparents because all of mine had died by the time I was 5. I have recollections of my grandmother Josephine as she was dying of cancer in 1957. A crocheted bedspread she made me and a set of mother-of-pearl dishes she brought with her to America from Poland and left me in her will are my reminders of her. She’s been gone 65 years and I still think about her.

I couldn’t imagine being the police officer who is assigned to make the notification call of the death of a loved one to a family at their home. In my opinion, that’s one of the most difficult tasks imaginable and yet also one of the most important functions of the police department.

In my own life, the state trooper who appeared at 2 a.m. on our doorstep in May 1991 to let us know that my father had died earlier that evening in an automobile accident was kind and thoughtful. He offered to help us find out more information regarding the accident and what steps we needed to take next. But it was still shocking to hear the doorbell ring at 2 a.m. and hear the words he spoke to me, and that conversation is never far from my mind more than 30 years later.

Because everyone dies, the topic of death remains a constant in all our lives that many try to avoid thinking about. Yet there are those who choose to do things like make a will for survivors or purchase life insurance. Some may make funeral arrangements in advance or transfer possessions to those they care about.

The stark fact is though that nobody truly knows when their time is at hand. We go through life aware that the clock is ticking and try to make the most of what is given us. Some people live a long time, while others leave us much too soon. I’m certainly no expert on this subject, although lately it seems that I’m constantly affected by it.

My time will come eventually but hoping it’s not for a while yet. <

Andy Young: Aspiring to visual respectability

By Andy Young 

School starts this week, which suggests I should try to look respectable. That means it’s haircut time.

Certain “friends” of mine chuckle when I broach this particular subject. One remarked that I need a haircut like Angelina Jolie needs liposuction. Another commented I’d require a trim when Shaquille O’Neal feels the need to wear platform shoes. (Or when he needs a haircut, for that matter.)

Don’t let the lush head of hair in the photo that runs atop this column fool you. It was taken when Barack Obama was president.

During his first term.

Or possibly when he was still a community organizer.

In my youth, getting a monthly haircut was a necessity. Fortunately, it wasn’t tough getting an appointment with the local barber; my mom was in charge of keeping my siblings, my dad and I appropriately coiffed.

Growing hair wasn’t a problem for me during my teenage years. In fact, if it wasn’t cut frequently enough it would get into my eyes during basketball games, which could negatively impact my already shaky on-court performance.

I never gave a second (or even a first) thought to thinning and/or disappearing hair until I was in my late 30’s. At the end of Day One of a business trip to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I was brushing my teeth in the privacy (I thought) of my hotel room’s bathroom when … I suddenly realized I was not alone. There was a balding man lurking behind me! 

Terrified, I let out an ear-shattering shriek, all the while looking desperately for a way to alert security of the situation.

Then I realized the multiple mirrors on the walls in the bathroom had created an optical illusion. The back of the potentially psychotic intruder’s head was, in reality, the back of my own.

I didn’t have much luck growing facial hair, either. I’d never tried cultivating a beard or a mustache until I spent a summer in Alaska, but it seemed like the right time (I didn’t know a soul there) and place (appropriately wild and far away) to try the unshaven look for a while. Four razorless days into the experiment I began looking suave, like a rugged, younger version of James Bond. Encouraged, I vowed to give up shaving for the rest of the summer.

The results weren’t pretty. After a week I looked like someone who had slept on a park bench. A few days later I could have passed for a guy who regularly slept under park benches. By the end of the month, I resembled the runt of the Bigfoot litter. My face sported neither beard nor mustache, but a series of random hairy patches of varying sizes, shapes and shades.

These days my dermatologist, who I see twice annually (or half as many times as I visit the barbershop), informs me I’d best keep the expanding solar panel on the back of my head covered, and accordingly I’m no more likely to go outside without a hat than I am to drive my car without a seatbelt.

The woman who currently cuts my hair inherited the job from her dad, who retired from full time barbering a few years ago. She does a great job, even though doing so takes her about as much time as it would to pull all the weeds from a Death Valley tomato garden. But come December 1st or so, she knows I’ll be back for another haircut, whether I need one or not.

Every so often I find myself wondering how often Shaq goes to the barbershop.

Or if he’s ever worn platform shoes. <

Friday, August 26, 2022

Insight: Visiting a shrine of legendary heroes

Outfielder Heinie Manush played 17
seasons of major league baseball and 
suited up for six different MLB teams.
He had a career batting average of
.330 and was inducted into the 
National Baseball Hall of Fame in
a 1964 ceremony in Cooperstown,
New York. COURTESY PHOTO
By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

For those who’ve never visited Cooperstown, New York, you are missing a genuine slice of history at a site revered for its devotion to the American pastime.

On a hot summer day in August 1964, my father loaded myself and my brother Doug and our family friend Bill Topham in his 1962 Chevrolet Impala and we headed east on the New York State Thruway from our home in Rochester for a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown. It was about a three-hour drive and my mom had packed us a picnic basket filled with baloney sandwiches, Coca Cola, grapes, and potato chips.

Bill was a World War I veteran who was a lifelong baseball fan but like us, he had never been to the Hall of Fame. My father told us that he had visited there once in 1946 when he was on his way from Rochester to attend Manhattan College in New York City upon his discharge from the U.S. Army following World War II.

I was fascinated listening to Bill’s stories of the early days of baseball in Rochester, especially when he told us about the Rochester Red Wings’ exceptional team of 1929, while playing in the International League that season under two managers, Bill McKechnie and Billy Southworth, and opening a new stadium in the city that same year. He described how Southworth came to be the Red Wings’ skipper in 1929 after being promoted to manage the St. Louis Cardinals in the major leagues that spring.

A former outfielder who played for St. Louis when it won the World Series in 1926, Southworth decided to impose new rules for discipline on the 1929 Cardinals that forbid them from driving a car, and the players rebelled. After just 88 games, McKechnie, who had been managing the Cardinals before Southworth and had replaced him as the Red Wings’ manager, was elevated back to his old managerial job, and Southworth was demoted back to managing Rochester in the minor leagues. Southworth proceeded to guide Rochester to four consecutive International League championships and cemented his place in Rochester lore forever. 

As we neared the highway turnoff to reach Cooperstown, my dad and Bill discussed what artifacts we might see that day at the Hall of Fame and whose Hall of Fame plaques they were most interested in looking at.

My dad mentioned that he wanted to see Lou Gehrig’s #4 New York Yankees’ uniform which he wore when he made his famous “Luckiest Man” speech upon his retirement on July 4, 1939. Bill said he wanted to see the new plaques that had just been installed the month before for 1964 Hall of Fame inductees Burleigh Grimes, Luke Appling, Red Faber, Miller Huggins, and especially Heinie Manush, whom he said had dated his wife Ida long before they were married. (Apparently Ida liked sports stars because she also once showed me an old black and white photograph of her on a date with heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer, Sr.)

We finally arrived in Cooperstown, parked, and entered the Hall of Fame just before noon. Bill began to laugh and called us over to look at the Hall of Fame plaque for Bill McKechnie, who had been inducted two years prior to our visit in 1962. When I looked at the plaque to the immediate left of McKechnie, I was amazed to see one for Jackie Robinson, who had become the first African American player of the 20th century in 1947. To McKechnie’s right was the great Cleveland Indians right-handed pitcher Bob Feller, who had won 266 games during his major league career and pitched three no-hitters. Billy Southworth was also elected to the Hall of Fame as well in 2008.

Our group then walked down an aisle where photographs of the pitchers and baseballs from each major league no-hit games were enshrined. I stopped to read about Bo Belinsky’s no hitter of May 5, 1962, while pitching for the Los Angeles Angels against my favorite team, the Baltimore Orioles. In a shoebox under my bed at home, I had Belinsky’s 1962 Topps baseball card. I also stopped and read the descriptions of the latest two no-hitters in the majors at that time, one thrown by Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers against the Philadelphia Phillies on June 4, 1964, and another thrown by Jim Bunning of the Phillies against the New York Mets on June 21, 1964. I found it interesting that former Orioles’ catcher Gus Triandos caught Bunning’s no-hitter in that game, and I had his 1964 baseball card too.

I joined my dad as he admired a display containing a bat that Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees is said to have used while clubbing his famous "called shot" in the third game of the 1932 World Series against the Chicago Cubs, and next to it was a baseball that he hit for his final career home run, number 714, on May 25, 1935.

We spent more than four hours there and each of us came away with such a wonderful appreciation of the sport. I haven’t been back since but wonder what treasures I would find if I’m lucky enough to return some day.<

Jessica Fay: New laws aim to improve life for Mainers

By State Rep. Jessica Fay 

Summer will soon be winding down and back-to-school season will be here before we know it. Until then, I hope that you are able to spend plenty of time enjoying Maine’s beautiful outdoors and gathering with friends and family.

So far this summer, I have enjoyed volunteering at Casco Days (in the pouring rain, it was still fun!), working in my garden and tending to Raymond’s age-friendly accessible garden as well as swimming and paddling in our local lakes.

This time of year, my legislative work continues - I serve on the Government Oversight Committee which meets year-round. While I still tend to these ongoing committee meetings, my current legislative work largely involves answering questions from constituents and helping people connect to the resources they need. It’s also a time to reflect on all we accomplished this year.

While some of our work was already being implemented and other measures will go into effect later, a number of the bills we passed into law this year went into effect earlier this month. To give you a sense of the wide range of bills we enacted to make life better for Mainers this session, here are a few that went into law this month:

· A new law that improves access to lifesaving, chronic medication in emergency situations by allowing a pharmacist to dispense an emergency supply of a chronic maintenance drug to a patient without a prescription if the pharmacist is unable to obtain authorization to refill the prescription from a health care provider but has sufficient records of the prescription that meet a number of criteria. 

· A new law provides ongoing funding for Meals on Wheels to provide home-delivered meals to homebound seniors. It also allows the Department of Health and Human Services to reimburse an area agency on aging for mileage that exceeds the state reimbursement rate.

· Lawmakers passed two new laws to improve property tax relief for Maine veterans. The first measure allows persons who served in the Armed Forces of the United States during the period from February 1, 1955, to February 27, 1961, to qualify for veterans’ property tax exemptions based on the status of the property beginning on or after April 1, 2023. The second law provides an additional refundable property tax fairness credit for veterans who are 100 percent permanently and totally disabled.

· A new law better supports survivors of domestic violence by codifying and restructuring the Protection from Abuse Statutes so that the language is clear, easy to read and accessible to survivors of domestic violence, attorneys and judges.

· A new law enhances apprenticeship programs by providing $400,000 in funding for the Maine State Apprenticeship Program and pre-apprenticeship opportunities.

Personally, I am most proud of the legislation I successfully sponsored to improve boating safety, increase Maine’s veterinary workforce, establish a working group that will support the building of our essential support workforce and provide grants to families to treat contaminated well water.

As always, please feel welcome to call or email me with any ideas, questions or concerns you have. It remains an honor to represent you in Augusta. <

Jessica Fay is serving her third term in the Maine Legislature and represents parts of Casco, Poland, and Raymond. She serves on the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.

Andy Young: A sensible, long-overdue proposal

By Andy Young

Just who decided to designate January 1 as New Year’s Day?

It’s quite possible Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1585) was responsible. The man who served as pontiff for just under 13 years during the late 16th century was also the last recorded pope to have fathered a child, or at least the last one who owned up to fathering a child. However, he did so before taking his holy orders, and that makes it okay, at least according to his modern-day apologists.

As a young man Ugo Boncompagni (he wasn’t born a pope; duh!) studied law and taught jurisprudence.

After succeeding Pope Pius V in 1572, he set about reforming the church. First off, he implemented the Council of Trent’s recommendations. (No need to feel ignorant or inadequate at this point; no one else - including me - knows anything about the Council of Trent’s significance, either.)

Gregory XIII’s next order of business: updating the Index of Forbidden Books, a list of titles the church deemed contrary to morality. The pope’s ambitious goal of opening the minds of his flock was an admirable one, and thanks to his tolerance and relative impartiality 21st-century Catholics are still able to read titles such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Sensuous Woman, and Mein Kampf without fear of excommunication.

A passionate advocate for education, Gregory XIII increased funding for Jesuit colleges in Rome, including the still-existing Pontifical Gregorian University. His support for the development of knowledge led directly to the establishment of many Catholic institutions today right here in the USA, like the College of the Holy Cross, Yeshiva University, and Oral Roberts University.

But while he did much to improve the world in general and the Catholic Church in particular, one of Gregory XIII’s reforms is badly in need of an update.

The Gregorian Calendar was introduced 440 years ago to replace the then-widely-accepted Julian Calendar. The major change was a difference in the spacing of leap years, ostensibly to halt the gradual drift of the calendar with respect to the equinoxes. And to give credit where credit is due, that alteration did indeed more closely align the calendar with the 365.2422 days that constitute an actual solar year, the length of which is determined by the Earth’s revolution around the sun.

But as the current number of people still communicating solely via smoke signals attests to, times change.

A new year should begin at a natural time of new beginnings, not an utterly random date like January 1. Here in America the one date guaranteeing a fresh start for most people is the first day of school. The number of Americans who attend school, are parents (or grandparents) of schoolchildren, and/or work in or around schools has got to be in the hundreds of millions. Why didn’t the all-knowing Pope Gregory XIII think of that? Could it be that his own birthday (January 7) just happened to be at the end of the week he and his sycophantic enablers designated as the first day of the Gregorian “new year”? Could January 1 be New Year’s Day solely because of a long-dead cleric’s need to gratify his ego?

Society has been held hostage by Pope Gregory XIII’s long-ago narcissistic egotism (or, if you prefer, egotistical narcissism) long enough.

I hereby propose that the world begin transitioning immediately to the Youngian Calendar, which differs from its outmoded predecessor in only one way: going forward, our planet's annual New Year’s Day will be September 1, which I decree will henceforth be the first day of a new school year around the world.

Happy New Year! <

Friday, August 19, 2022

Insight: Recalling treasures of bygone days

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

A selection of comic books that Ed Pierce collected as a 
child growing up in the 1960s and still has today.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE

Tucked away in one of my closets is a colorful stack of cherished reminders of my youth and items I refuse to let go of for sentimental reasons.

Growing up in the 1960s, in exchange for helping my father with his household chores each week, he would often give my brother and I each 25 cents to spend any way we chose to. It wasn’t an allowance, he would say, rather it was compensation for performing necessary duties, like taking out the trash or raking leaves that had accumulated in the yard.

When I had saved up $3 from his generosity, an advertisement caught my eye, and I asked my father to help me spend my windfall on something I had never done before – purchase a subscription to a comic book. We carefully cut out an order form from the back of an old comic and he filled in the name and address for me.

He showed me how to address an envelope and we placed three $1 bills inside, along with the order form. I applied the postage stamp and put it in the mailbox the next morning,

About three weeks later, my mother informed me that I had received a piece of mail. It was a brown tube with a sticker on the outside that had my name and address on it and inside was the next month’s issue of “Adventure” comics. 

For a 10-year-old, it was exciting to receive any mail whatsoever and about mid-month I would eagerly await my next comic book. The covers were magnificently drawn, and each issue contained a complete story that held my interest to the very end.

The stories themselves were what captivated me the most. I always tried to figure out how the villains would be defeated, and world order restored through the intervention and heroism of the superheroes described in the comic books.

When I would go to the dentist or physician’s office, they would always have plenty of reading material for children such as Highlights magazine or funny comic books such as Little Lulu, Donald Duck, Casper the Friendly Ghost, or Archie. Every so often they would have comic books featuring Western stories such as The Lone Ranger, Kid Colt Outlaw, or Thunder, but to me, those stories weren’t as appealing as the ones that arrived at my house monthly by subscription.

I’d scour each Adventure comic from cover to cover and that would include reading the mailbag at the end of each issue and perusing all the advertisements, which were well worth the $3 subscription cost alone.

There would be ads for sea monkeys that grew mysteriously from a powder you could add to a bowl of water; joy buzzers that you could hold in your palm and shock your friends when you shook their hand; whoopee cushions that would emit a socially unacceptable sound when someone sat on them; boomerangs; x-ray spectacles that would allow you to see inside of sealed boxes or supposedly underneath clothing; a secret system described by Charles Atlas to build incredible muscles in just 10 days; or a special secret agent pen that could write messages with invisible ink. There were ads for a squirrel caller, a hypnotic whirling coin, or a self-contained ant farm. Nothing was priced more than $3.99 making them affordable for teenagers.

Most of my time reading comics though was spent on the stories themselves. I considered myself a “DC Comics” person, preferring Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, and The Flash to the “Marvel” comics my brother liked, such as Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Silver Surfer or the Fantastic Four.

I particularly enjoyed stories that evolved beyond the typical scope of DC Comics, such as when Dick Grayson, also known as Batman’s sidekick Robin, would join Superman’s pal, cub reporter Jimmy Olsen, and travel to the lost Kryptonian city of Kandor, which had been miniaturized by the evil villain Brainiac. Grayson and Olsen became superheroes themselves under the artificial red sun of Kandor and had adventures as crimefighters Nightwing and Flamebird.

My brother and I would take our comic books along on long car trips with our parents and sometimes we’d acquire more comics after visiting our relatives or friend’s homes. For the most part these were hand-me-down comic books no longer wanted by teens going off to college or the comics were in poor shape such as missing covers or having a page torn out.

The hand-me-down comic books were issues deemed not worthy of being collected. I typically ended up with unwanted editions of Sgt. Rock, Blackhawk, Green Arrow and Tales of the Unexpected.

Once my subscription ended about 1966, our family moved, and I didn’t renew my monthly Adventure issues. About that same time, I started buying Classic Illustrated comics as I was moving into junior high school. I thought reading those comic books would give me an advantage in seventh-grade English class where we were assigned novels such Ivanhoe and The Three Musketeers, which were adapted by Classic Illustrated.

My comic book days seem so far away now, but the stories and lessons I learned from them have stuck with me for a lifetime. <

Andy Young: The solution to declining restaurant quality: ramen!

By Andy Young

A friend of mine claims restaurant service has declined precipitously since the start of the pandemic. He says it’s particularly noticeable in the folks who deliver food prepared in local eateries to people in their homes.

I hadn’t noticed. I’ve never had food delivered to my residence. Ever.

My family never ate out when I was growing up. The closest we ever got to doing so was when, on very rare special occasions, my exhausted mom would pick up a bucket of chicken from the Drumstick Bar-B-Q on her way home from work.

Wait. I take that back. I’m pretty sure we went to Howard Johnson’s once when we were on vacation. That aqua building with the orange roof (or was it an orange building with an aqua roof?) sure was funky.

The first time I remember dining out with people who weren’t family was when I was in high school. The boss at the apple orchard where I worked took his half-dozen teenaged employees out to eat at a local Chinese place to celebrate the close of a successful season. I had never eaten any ethnic food (unless spaghetti qualifies), so I was pretty alarmed when I first saw what the waiter at the Golden House was bringing over to our table. But then I took a tentative bite of an egg roll, cautiously sampled some moo goo gai pan, and dove into some sizzling pork with vegetables (once the flames emanating from it had been extinguished). By evening’s end, consciously mourning those previous 18 Chinese-foodless years I realized I’d never get back, I had loosened my belt two notches.

I’ve never seen much need for eating out, given the many advantages in preparing one’s own victuals. 

Here, in no particular order, are just a few:

1. The chef and the chef alone decides what’s on the menu

2. The chef and the chef alone decides how (or if) to season what’s being prepared

3. When no one else is home the chef can eat right out of the pot the meal was prepared in (an attractive option if the chef is also the dishwasher)

4. Eating out (at a non-fast-food restaurant) generally costs about the same as feeding one’s self for about five days

5. Ramen noodles were invented!

Okay, so ramen noodles lack any real food value. But chop up some carrots, onions, broccoli, zucchini, celery stalks and/or green peppers, put them into the two cups of water you’re boiling, plunge the noodles into said water for a couple of minutes, toss in some frozen peas and/or corn, stir, cover the pot for five-ish minutes, and - voila! - you’ve got a meal Mahatma Gandhi would have happily helped consume. Or, for those preferring to dine with still-living individuals, a meal that’s shareable with Samuel L. Jackson, Kim Basinger, Paul McCartney, or any other currently extant vegetarian(s).

So how come vegetable-flavored ramen isn’t obtainable here in the USA? There’s veggie-flavoured ramen in Canada, but why should I have to hike all the way to Quebec or New Brunswick to get noodles with green (as opposed to brown, red, blue, and/or pink) lettering on the package? Surely someone who’s producing and marketing ramen noodles in beef, chicken, pork, sriracha, and shrimp flavors can invent some sort of faux veggie flavoring. Let’s face it, there’s not a whole lot of actual beef, chicken, pork or shrimp in those poisonously salty “flavor packets” that come in ramen noodles now. How tough would it be to come up with phony veggie powder for the millions (okay; maybe scores) of health-conscious American ramen eaters? <

Friday, August 12, 2022

Insight: It can’t be just me

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

For years, Friday evenings have always been our night off from cooking. My wife Nancy and I would choose a restaurant we enjoyed and have dinner there, typically rotating between a few of our favorites to keep things interesting. But then came the pandemic and many restaurants weren’t open for sit-down dining patrons or offered take-out only meals instead.

I quickly became an aficionado of some nearby restaurants’ online menus and placed either their ordering apps or phone numbers on my iPhone. Some popular restaurants had aligned with home delivery services, and so for a while I never even had to leave my home to go pick up the meals, and that was simply the utmost in convenience.

However, as time wore on and some of the take-out restaurants we liked emerged from the pandemic with thinner staffs, the quality of their service and convenience of their meals significantly declined. Not all of them, mind you, and I realize there is a diminished pool of skilled restaurant workers, but some places could offer better service.

The take-out telephone line at a popular Chinese restaurant would ring and ring and ring without anyone picking up the phone. Orders became mixed up and we did not receive the food we had ordered and paid for. Some other restaurants reduced the hours and days they were open or slashed the menu eliminating some of our favorites to keep things as simple as possible. 

Here are some examples from the past six months of what I’m talking about:

At 5:10 p.m., I placed a $22 online order from a popular burger place, paid for the food and a tip for the delivery driver, and I received a text message confirmation that the food would arrive at our home by 5:40 p.m. Then as I stood in the driveway at 5:38 p.m. awaiting the delivery driver’s arrival, I received a text message that the delivery driver was approaching and would be there within several minutes. At 5:40 p.m., I received another text message that said that our order had been canceled. I walked back in the house confused about why the order had been canceled and attempted to call the restaurant. The phone rang 104 times without an answer.

Then at 5:50 p.m., I received another text message saying that the delivery driver was approaching our home with our food. But at 5:52 p.m., yet another text message said that our order had been canceled again. After that, we decided to fix our own meal by ourselves and were sitting watching television about 7:45 p.m. when I got a text message from the delivery service saying the driver was approaching our home with our order. This time once more, nobody showed up and I went to the restaurant the following day and got my money back from the manager.

Another time I had ordered a strip steak cooked medium well, mashed potatoes, and a garden salad for Nancy and fish and chips, fries, and coleslaw for me from a nearby restaurant. To place the order, I spoke to a restaurant employee on the phone, and she seemed very personable and reliable. At this restaurant, they offer curbside take-out, and I drove over there and when it was ready, they brought out the food in a large bag.

I asked the staff member who brought the bag to my car to read me the order, so I knew what I was receiving was correct. He read back exactly the order that I had placed, and I drove home. Opening the bag once home, we found the strip steak order turned out to be rarely cooked steak tips, a baked potato, and broccoli, while the other item was salmon, potato skins and fruit slices. I apologized to Nancy for them mixing up the order and we both agreed that we shouldn’t order from there again. I called the restaurant to complain, and the manager told me that his staff was new and still learning. He offered to give me a $5 coupon off our next meal, which I told him to keep because we weren’t planning on visiting there again.

Our pizza order from a reputable pizza restaurant chain couldn’t be simpler. We placed the specific order online, requesting delivery of a small cheese only with gluten-free crust, and a medium chicken and pineapple with a regular thin crust.

In about 20 minutes the delivery driver showed up with the two pizzas. The small cheese pizza had a regular thin crust, while the medium chicken and pineapple had a gluten-free crust. When I called to tell them what they delivered was wrong, the person answering the phone said I had probably given them the order on the phone incorrectly. I informed him that I had placed the order online and had email confirmation as to the specifics of what I had ordered.

He then told me, “Sorry, my bad” and hung up. Again, Nancy and I vowed not to order from that pizza place again.

I want everyone to know that this is not one of those “old man rants.” Just what has happened to the concept of service or of trying to get the order right to ensure our repeat business? That apparently is no longer the case. It can’t be just me. <

Andy Young: Back on the bike

By Andy Young

In my youth I customarily got from Point A to Point B by bicycle.

Right up until the day I didn’t.

My reluctant but inevitable progression to chronological adulthood led to my purchasing (and subsequently relying upon) a motor vehicle, which correspondingly led to several bike-free decades.

Since I spent much of my 20s and 30s working in a profession requiring frequent relocations, the few large tangible items I owned were transformed from possessions to burdens. But at some point (possibly when I noticed my waistline expanding) it occurred to me that if I were ever to settle down in one place for a while, it might be fun to acquire a two-wheeler.

The opportunity to do so occurred at a random barn sale shortly after realizing that, with three small children and a semi-permanent job, I might actually end up residing in southern Maine for a spell. That’s why I invested a whole $10 in a one-speed bike (the gearshift was inoperable; thus the unusually reasonable price) with two round tires and semi-functioning brakes.

Whoever said, “Once you learn to ride a bike you never forget how” knew exactly what they were talking about. I bought myself a cool helmet and was back in the saddle!

A couple of years later, some “friends” began chiding me about looking like a cross between Pee Wee Herman and the Wicked Witch of the West on my barn sale special, so I traded up for a hybrid model designed specifically for someone my size. That allowed me to log countless additional miles while expending far less energy doing so. During the summer months I routinely pedal 100 or more weekly miles just running errands or grocery shopping. I regularly replenish the fresh produce at our house, but in limited amounts since I can only fit so much in my backpack.

Hard experience has taught me that trying to lug both a five-pound bag of onions and a gallon of milk five miles on one’s back is a bad idea. Thankfully I haven’t had to learn too many similar lessons through such ill-considered trial and error. I instinctively knew I’d need a car to effectively and reliably buy and transport eggs and/or ice cream. And what’s more, I figured that out all by myself.

Biking is beneficial both environmentally and economically. This summer I went a month without putting gas in my car once school let out. And my big boy bike allows me to go up any hill in Maine without getting off to walk. However, I’ve long since learned hills aren’t a cyclist’s primary enemy. Both wind and sand can be far more challenging.

There are other downsides to biking as well. When I began riding regularly, my doctor, an experienced cyclist, told me he’d have me arrested if ever saw me riding helmetlessly. He helpfully added that there are two types of bicyclists: those who’ve fallen off their bike, and those who haven’t fallen off their bike yet.

It didn’t take me long to join the first group, and as inevitably happens with those who cycle frequently, I’ve literally hit the road several times since then. My most recent fall occurred last week when I came around a corner at an angle and hit a patch of sand. As a result, I’m currently sporting scabs on my left hand and left knee, and a small scrape on the right side of my face.

Too bad my doctor wasn’t with me. He could have helped. Plus, I was wearing my helmet, so he wouldn’t have had me arrested. <

Friday, August 5, 2022

Insight: Secrets to some great newspaper interviews

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


Being a journalist isn’t always easy. Yes, you do get to meet newsmakers, celebrities, and people of all ages from all walks of life, and I’ve always prided myself on having the knack for asking the right questions at the right time.

Ed Pierce once interviewed professional wrestler Mick
'Mankind' Foley about his career in the ring.
COURTESY PHOTO 
But it hasn’t been easy doing that and many of the questions I now ask during interviews for an article are based upon experience, my knowledge of the issues and the person answering the questions. Back when I was in Journalism 101 class taught by Dr. Harry Lancaster at New Mexico Highlands University in 1971, we discussed the proper way to conduct a newspaper interview and Dr. Lancaster said something I’ve never forgotten all these decades later.

He said that Voltaire was quoted as saying “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers” and that pronouncement led me to always having a few thought-provoking questions in my back pocket to ask interview subjects through the years.

When I sat down with Hall of Fame baseball manager Earl Weaver of the Baltimore Orioles, I had a tough question for him that came up halfway through the interview with him I was writing for the Sunday sports section of the daily newspaper I worked for. I told him that I noticed a few of his major league players he had managed, such as Don Baylor and Frank Robinson, had gone on to become major league managers. He smiled and nodded and said he was proud of their success.

Then I asked him if he ever had a player when he was managing in the minor leagues that he knew then was going to become a successful major league manager.

Weaver thought about it and answered. “That’s a great question and nobody’s ever asked me that before. Yes, I had a 19-year-old player back in 1964 when I was managing at Elmira that I knew was going to manage somewhere someday,” he said. “He kept a small notebook in his back pocket and one of those little bowling scorecard pencils. When I would make a pitching change or put on a hit-and-run, he’d ask me why I did it and wrote down my response. He was preparing back even then and I was proud when he eventually managed the Cincinnati Reds to the World Series championship. His name was Lou Pinella.”

In another interview I was running short on time and was interviewing recently retired professional wrestler Mick “Mankind” Foley, who was throwing out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game in Florida. I had little time to get him to give me some quotable material to fill out my article about him. Foley wasn’t volunteering a great deal of information, even though he was promoting his new book, so I needed a question to turn the interview around fast.

I asked him how many times he had been clobbered with a folding chair during his professional wrestling career. Foley’s eyes lit up and his entire demeanor changed. It was like I had struck a nerve with him. “Would that be over the head or over the back,” he asked me. I told him either one. “Wooden chair or metal?” he asked me. Again, I told him it didn’t matter. “10,000 times,” he said.

That exchange led to an awesome 10 minutes of him telling me about his experiences in the ring and how much he loved the sport but hated being away so often from his wife and young children. That simple question had helped me to gain a greater understanding of a complicated man the public didn’t know very well, other than for his weird behavior, the foolish characters he portrayed, and the unusual plotlines he was involved in as a pro wrestler.

On another occasion, I was interviewing the Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, who was visiting New Hampshire and had announced his intention to campaign for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. We discussed a range of topics including the success of America’s space program and how it inspired and drew the country together and he talked a bit about his love for thrifty shopping and how thrilled he was to save $10 on a sweater by using a Kohl’s cash certificate. But I still didn’t think I had the hook to write a great article.

While he was delivering his stump speech to supporters, I noticed his wife, Tonette, standing off to the side. I made my way over to her and asked her if she was me, what question would she ask her husband. She laughed and told me to ask him about his motorcycle.

It seems that they drove to New Hampshire in his truck pulling a trailer with his motorcycle. After checking into a hotel in Manchester, the couple rode to the campaign stop on his motorcycle which unfortunately ran out of gas along the way. He hiked to a gas station, refueled, and then flooded the bike, making them late for the event.

I asked him, “What do you love about riding your motorcycle in New Hampshire?” He grinned and said, “How in the world did you know that?” <

Bill Diamond: Supporting teachers, setting up students for success

Senator Bill Diamond
By Senator Bill Diamond

As a former teacher, principal, and school superintendent, ensuring Maine students have access to quality education has been a priority for me for a long time. School prepares young people to meet the challenges of tomorrow and to become the leaders our state needs. Of course, none of that would be possible without the thousands of dedicated teachers across Maine. If we expect our students to receive a quality education, we need to make sure our teachers and schools have the tools and support they need to succeed. That’s why I’m proud that the Maine Education Association, a group that represents 24,000 Maine teachers, recently gave me a high score for my votes this year to support Maine schools, teachers and students.

Back in 2004, Maine voters approved a referendum to require that the state fund 55 percent of public education. Voters approved this important measure because increased state funding means that schools have the resources that they need to provide quality education to their students. It also lessens the burden on property taxpayers, whose dollars go toward funding local schools. However, it wasn’t until just last year that the Legislature was able to pass a budget to make this 55 percent state funding a reality. I’m proud to have voted in support of achieving this important milestone. And, to make sure the state will be able to meet this obligation in the years ahead, this year the Legislature created the Education Stabilization Fund. I’m incredibly proud and grateful to have been a part of this historic achievement in my final term as your senator. 

Another historic accomplishment I was proud to vote in favor of was bringing universal free school meals to Maine – meaning that no matter how much a student’s family makes, that student is able to get free breakfast and lunch at school. We’re one of the first states to pass this legislation, though during the pandemic the federal government allowed all states to provide universal free school meals, and with great success. Students need full bellies to learn, play and grow, and universal free meals are the best solution to making sure that no student falls through the cracks. The Legislature also passed measures in recent years to help put more nutritious, fresh, locally grown food on student lunch trays by creating and then expanding the Local Foods Fund. This not only helps children get the nutrition they need, it helps local farmers and food producers grow the market for their products. These free meals are also available to Maine kids throughout the summer; visit hotlunchsummer.com to find meal locations near you.

We also funded career and technical education and supported postsecondary education in Maine. For the first time, two years of community college tuition will be free for Mainers who graduate high school between 2020 and 2023. These students had their education the most directly impacted by the pandemic and giving them this opportunity to learn and prepare for some of the most in-demand jobs in our state not only benefits them, but all of us. We also froze in-state tuition at the University of Maine schools for students who are pursuing a four-year degree, and we expanded the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit to encourage graduates to stay in Maine and contribute to the future of our state.

On a separate note, I wanted to share that the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) has moved up the repaving of the Route 302 Rotary from 2023/2024 to this August. I contacted MDOT to share my concerns about the state of the rotary and ask that they come out and examine it. They agreed it was unlikely to stand up to another winter and so will instead begin work shortly. I’m grateful for Commissioner Van Note’s prompt attention to this matter, and to MDOT crews for the important work they do. Safe roadways are critical for all of us – whether you’re a patient headed to the doctor or a child on your way to school.

If you have questions about any of the work we did this session, or if I can help in any other way, please reach out to me any time. You can email me at diamondhollyd@aol.com or call my office at 207-287-1515, and you can also visit mainesenate.org to sign up for my regular email updates. <

Andy Young: A sudden job (and life) change

By Andy Young

Early this week I got a phone call from my old friend Kevin. We attended college together, two aspiring journalists who spent countless hours covering the school’s athletic teams, he for the university’s student newspaper, and me for the campus radio station. Since our long-ago graduations we’ve taken two significant road trips together; one of which took us all the way across the country, so it’s fair to say we’re pretty tight.

He had called to tell me he’d gotten a job with a newspaper in Durham, North Carolina, running the sports department. He raved about the great people on his staff, the terrific support management was providing, and the appreciation expressed on a daily basis by the paper’s unusually large readership. Then he got to the crux of the matter: there was an opening for a lead reporter to cover the city’s professional hockey and baseball teams, and would I be interested in filling it?

And so after 20 years of teaching high school English in southern Maine, I decided to make a career change, just like that.

Of course, I couldn’t just up and leave, so the next morning I reported to school where, by utter coincidence, my classes were beginning a new unit on a book I was excited about teaching for the first time. My college-age son, who himself is considering the possibility of a career as an educator, came with me in order to observe a typical day in the life of a teacher. And wouldn’t you know it: all my classes really got into the activities I had planned, making me even more wistful about my looming departure. It was like the students had conspired to be their kindest and most productive that day, which made the prospect of submitting my resignation to the principal and the school superintendent, both of whom have been extraordinarily kind to me over the years, even more challenging than it already promised to be. And of course, I hadn’t informed any students of my decision. That too would be difficult.

When my son, who knew of my impending job change, asked me what I’d be earning in my new position, I had to confess I’d be taking a 40 percent pay cut. I’d also be relocating, and suddenly it occurred to me that maybe I didn’t want to go to Durham after all. But how could I back out of a commitment I’d made to one of my oldest friends?

Then, as if things weren’t already tough enough, that night Kevin called again, informing me he was sending me my train ticket, and oh, by the way, how soon could I get down there?

Deeply troubled over the possibility of disappointing an old friend or some people here in Maine who’ve been enriching the lives of my family and me for the past two decades, I promised to call him back in the morning. After hanging up, I looked at the clock, saw it was 3:30 a.m. and wondered why he’d call at such an odd hour.

Then it slowly dawned on me that:

A. It’s early August, so school isn’t in session;

B. Kevin stopped sportswriting some time ago, and is now a teacher in Arizona;

C. The principal I didn’t want to disappoint retired two years ago; and

D. I had dreamed up the entire scenario!

It didn’t take long to get back to sleep, even knowing that in less than a month’s time I’ll be putting in 10-hour school days, plus spending significant time at home (and on weekends) grading papers and lesson planning.

I can hardly wait.<