Friday, August 28, 2020

Insight: Stupid Song Titles

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

When I was a teenager, my father invited a co-worker home for dinner one evening and I can still recall that conversation around the kitchen table to this very day. My father’s guest was British and told us of his love for “Skiffle” music and in particular, a song by Lonnie Donegan called “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour (On the Bedpost Overnight).”

A few years later I heard that tune on the radio and felt it was highly overrated. To me it was a case where the singer based a popular song on a ridiculous song title.

As I've gotten older, I've noticed this happens a lot in music and so here's a list I have complied of stupid song titles I have heard:

** “You Make My Pants Want to Get Up and Dance” by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. I was at a dance club in Albuquerque sometime in the 1980s when I first heard this disco song. Do yourself a favor and avoid it on You Tube if at all possible. You’ll thank me, trust me. 

** “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” by Kenny Chesney. Country music songs have had a lot of strange titles through the years, but for me, this one always ranks right up there. The video for this is equally comical, about a beautiful woman bringing Kenny Chesney a basket of fried chicken and a jug of sweet tea as he maneuvers his tractor through a cornfield.

** “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um” By Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. I was reminded of this song a few weeks ago when Wayne Fontana passed away. Better known for his “Game of Love” hit in 1965, Fontana recorded this harmonious song in 1964, a year before becoming famous in Great Britain.

** De Do Do Do De Da Da Da” by The Police.  I actually saw The Police perform this song in concert in the early 1980s. And as many times as I’ve listened to it on the radio and purchased The Police album “Zenyatta Mondatta” it was from, 40 years later I still have no clue what the song is about. Probably never will.

** This Song has No Title” by Elton John. Written by Bernie Taupin, this song from one of my favorite albums “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” would have been better named “I’ve Run Out Of Song Titles While Composing A Double Album.”

** “MMMBop” by Hanson.  A catchy pop song by three brothers from the 1990s, this single propelled 10 million sales of their album “Middle of Nowhere.” Can anyone tell me what these lyrics mean? “Mmmbop, ba duba dop/ Ba du bop, ba duba dop/ Ba du bop, ba duba dop/ Ba du, yeah/ Mmmbop, ba duba dop/ Ba du bop, ba du dop/ Ba du bop, ba du dop/ Ba du, yeah...”

** “You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” by Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. With numerous duets these country music legends recorded together in the 1970s, this one stands out for me for its sheer comic absurdity. If this was ever on American Bandstand’s “Rate-A-Record,” I would have given it a 40. “It hasn’t got a good beat and you can’t dance to it.”

** <TIE> “Raining Tacos” by Parry Gripp AND “Satan Gave Me A Taco” by Beck. It says truly says something when both of these songs have been played non-stop in public parks by American cities to keep homeless people from sleeping there overnight. This is akin to the U.S. Army blasting the compound of Panamanian dictator General Manuel Noriega in 1989 with non-stop heavy metal music to try to get him to surrender peacefully. He eventually could take no more of the psychological torture and gave up. And in my opinion, the 1980s singer named Taco who re-recorded “Puttin’ on the Ritz” should be on the Stupid Name List.

** “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” by Crash Test Dummies. They had to have known “Weird Al” Yankovic would envision a parody version and of course, he did so masterfully. I suppose Weird Al’s version will be the only song to ever mention both Tonya Harding and John Bobbitt in its lyrics.

Honorable mentions: “The Whiffenpoof Song” by Rudy Vallee, “Drop Kick Me Jesus (Through the Goal Post of Life” by Bobby Bare, “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival” by Ray Stevens and “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” by Loudon Wainwright III.  

Andy Young: College football: To play or not to play?

By Andy Young


I’m fascinated by the subject of subliminal messaging. In fact, I’m going to try utilizing it in an essay sometime soon. But that’s for another day. Now let’s get to today’s topic: sports and the ongoing pandemic.

Last month University of Maine president Joan Ferrini-Mundy announced that after consulting with the Colonial Athletic Association, the football conference to which the Black Bears belong, the university had made “…the difficult but necessary decision to postpone participation in the fall 2020 sports season.” That means no football, field hockey, soccer or cross-country in Orono this fall.

While the athletes involved, many of whom have spent a significant portion of their young lives preparing to compete in their chosen sport at the collegiate level, are no doubt disappointed, most understand the need for caution.

UMaine is not alone regarding its decision to postpone athletics this fall. The New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), which includes Bowdoin, Bates, and Colby Colleges, had reached a similar conclusion a week earlier, one that foreshadowed similar resolutions from nearly every Division III (small college) athletic conference in the country. In the weeks that followed, still more universities and athletic conferences made identical choices, opting to prioritize the health of student-athletes, coaches and athletic support staff ahead of any competitive and/or economic concerns.

The wave of postponements or cancellations of fall sports is unfortunate but justifiable, given the unprecedented circumstances that necessitated them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), through Aug. 23 the coronavirus had infected over 5.6 million people in the United States, and 175,651 American lives have been lost in the ongoing pandemic.

There are, however, additional considerations involved with cancelling one particular fall sport. For many schools, college football is a ca$h cow that allows them to fund every other intercollegiate athletic team they field. A football-less autumn means taking a major economic hit for many university athletic departments, yet many of them have, after careful analysis, opted to take that step.

On Aug. 5, the University of Connecticut became the first Division I (major college) institution to cancel its 2020 football season. Less than a week later the Mountain West Conference and the Mid-American Conference, two smaller Division I leagues, did likewise, as did several independent Division I schools. Days later two of the five largest collegiate athletic conferences in the country, the Big Ten and the Pac 12, announced they too would forego football this fall.

But not every school is prioritizing the health of their athletic personnel.

The member schools of the $outheastern, Atlantic Coast, and Big 12 Conferences are, at this writing, still planning on fielding college football teams this fall, and on playing full schedules.

The powers that be at these institutes of higher learning, which are located primarily in the south and southeast, have access to the same data the rest of the country does. Suggesting these athletic factories, which, unlike National Football League teams, don’t have to pay their hired gladiators, are motivated by lust for profits would be unseemly. But football involves heavy breathing in close quarters, with body contact and violent collisions on every play. Would any responsible educator risk the health and well-being of some young athletes merely to generate million$ of dollar$ in profit$ for collegiate athletic departments and television network$?

Yet after carefully assessing many factors, the lords of the $EC, ACC, and Big 12 Conferences decided to go ahead with intercollegiate football this fall.

Gee, I wonder which factor$ tho$e people con$idered? Which one$ mattered mo$t? And what po$$e$$ed them to make the deci$ion they ultimately did? <


Friday, August 21, 2020

Insight: A Picky Eaters’ Anonymous charter member

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

When my wife Nancy and I were first married, she handed me a piece of paper and asked me to make a list of all of the foods I wasn’t crazy about eating so she would try and avoid cooking them. The look on her face was priceless when I replied, “Just one page?”

When it comes to eating certain foods, I am in a league all of my own. I avoid some food because I don’t like the way it looks, the way it smells, its texture or especially the way it tastes. Some foods I won’t even try because I just don’t like how they are named.

I know it's rather irrational, but a lifetime of picky eating habits has led me to circle the wagons when it comes to my sensitive stomach. Yes, I can be tricked into thinking I will like trying something new, but ultimately I've found it's always handy to travel with a bottle of Pepto Bismol just in case.

When I was in the U.S. Air Force in Germany, my apartment was adjacent to a pizza parlor and the smells emanating from that place led me to order a pizza from there even if I didn’t speak German. As I was picking up the pizza, the cook asked me something in German and to be courteous, I nodded yes, not understanding what he was asking. When I got home eager to dive into the pizza, turns out the cook had asked if I wanted raw egg on top of the cooked pizza. Needless to say, it turned my stomach when I opened the box and saw it. I wound up throwing the entire pizza away.

Another time in Germany, I ordered French fries (pomme frites) from a roadside food truck and the cook mumbled something at me in German. Again, I had no idea what he was asking, but I nodded and smiled to be polite. When I found out what he asked, I was taken aback. Seems some Germans enjoy mayonnaise on their French fries and he wanted to know if that’s what I wanted too. Like the raw egg on freshly cooked pizza, the mayo-topped pomme frites went straight into the trash.  

Some of my food phobia stems from my mother’s cooking. She would go on these sprees where she’d plan out family dinner menus two weeks in advance and was keen on having a different vegetable served every night. I quickly came to detest lima beans, beets, brussels sprouts, rutabaga, turnips, squash, cabbage and parsnips. And every Thanksgiving Day in my mother’s memory I never fail to pass on the creamed corn when it’s headed in my direction.

As a fraternity pledge in college, I was once asked to eat an entire jalapeno pepper in three minutes or less time. I did it, but ever since, I won’t even try anything remotely spicy, which automatically rules out a lot of Mexican and Thai dishes. 

Just thinking about certain foods because of the way they sound, even though I’ve never tried them, makes me queasy. If you invite me to dinner at a restaurant, I probably won’t order falafel, kimchi, haggis, ratatouille, yakisoba, chilaquiles, or anything made with tripe. 

And in no particular order, I seriously doubt you’ll ever intentionally find anything made with cilantro, liver, red or green bell peppers, pimentos, black or green olives, capers, leeks, garlic, sushi or anchovies on my plate.

Safe to say that tofu, oysters, corn dogs, zucchini, hummus, succotash, Nutella, snails, mussels, or lentils will never be crossing the threshold into my grocery shopping cart basket. Neither will bok choy, curry, caviar, potato pancakes, Hungarian goulash, balsamic figs, rosemary, sriracha, quiche, chutney or sardines.

And for my Maine friends, please know I religiously avoid poutine and also loathe pork pie, with or without mustard. And while I’m going there, I’m not crazy about brown bread or Moxie either.

Through the years, there are a few foods that have crossed over for me onto the acceptable list. One that immediately comes to mind is eggplant parmesan. My mother had a friend who operated an Italian restaurant and she insisted I try her version and I discovered I actually liked it. So that one was scratched off my list of banished foods.

Over the years I’ve come to accept my fate as a picky eater and try to tolerate those who find broccoli, tuna noodle casserole and stuffed mushrooms appealing. After all, it’s all only just food, isn’t it? <


Patrick Corey and Jessica Fay: Keeping the Lake Region healthy

 By Rep. Patrick Corey and Rep. Jessica Fay

Back in Late June we participated in a forum organized by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. Over the past few years, the Lakes Region Delegation has come together to listen to the concerns of our local businesses and to talk about how we can work together to promote sustainable economic development in our communities. While the conversation this year focused on how businesses can be resilient and manage through the COVID 19 pandemic, the sense of cooperation had a similar feel because when the chips are down, we do what Maine people do, work together and take care of each other. In the Legislature, we often work together in a bi-partisan way in order to find policy solutions that work for the Lakes Region and are glad that this work can continue outside of Augusta.

The Department of Health and Human Services has made grant money available to municipalities and to local organizations through the “Keep Maine Healthy” initiative. These funds allow communities to do public outreach and education about public health and what steps we can all take in order to protect our health and the health of our community members. We were not surprised when out of the June forum conversation came a collaboration between the local chamber, local towns like Raymond and Windham, Windham Economic Development, and others. You may already be seeing signage and public service announcements.

We are so proud of all of the creative ways that local businesses have found to comply with the CDC guidance to keep us all safe. From installing barriers at checkout counters, to continually sanitizing high touch areas, to instituting one-way aisles and occupancy limits, these measures can be a resource intensive investment. Our community has always done what it can to support small business and we know that customers will recognize how important it is to support businesses that are taking the health and well-being of all of us to heart. Our number of COVID cases in the area has been low— As of Aug. 11, there have been 69 probable and confirmed cases in Raymond and Windham—and many have taken steps to keep it that way. If you are a business with questions about how to be safe, you can reach out to the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce or Maine’s Dept. of Economic and Community Development, your local municipality or one of us.

Our region’s people have done an amazing job keeping our numbers down. Your vigilance and care for others over the past months has made it possible for many businesses to open up, even with hurdles and challenging cash flows. Your willingness to follow the guidelines that businesses have been given has helped them push through. Thank you.     

As we move forward through this together, we will continue to look for ways to support local small businesses and our communities so that we can survive and thrive in this changing economy. We’re hopeful that this will end soon, but know that with constituents like you, we’ll get through this. We welcome your thoughts and ideas.

Rep. Patrick Corey (part of Windham),, 207-749-1336.

Rep. Jess Fay (part of Casco, Poland and Raymond),, 207-415-4218.




Andy Young: Getting a haircut….after five months!

 By Andy Young


The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has necessitated changes large and small in the lives of everyday Americans, including this one.

An example: recently I was startled when a casual glance in the bathroom mirror revealed a 21st century version of what I imagine Friday saw when he looked at Robinson Crusoe after the two had been marooned on a desert island for a decade or so. Or, for those who haven’t yet gotten around to reading Daniel Defoe’s now 301-year-old novel, think Tom Hanks in Cast Away, only with grayer hair and one less volleyball.

Once I got over the shock of realizing the haggard-looking transient in the mirror was me, I called to make a haircut appointment at the barber shop I’ve frequented for the past twenty-plus years. Fortunately, there was a slot available the next day, which I eagerly and gratefully snapped up.

I don’t think I had ever gone five months between haircuts in my life.

During my boyhood I rarely went more than six weeks between trips to the red high chair where our family’s hair stylist did her snipping. Evading that periodic indignity would have been difficult under the circumstances, since I lived with the barber. My mother did the haircutting in our house when my siblings and I were growing up. I always assumed her talent had initially been born out of financial necessity, but later learned the actual story: she had taken her two toddler sons to a barber shop once, but after the screaming fit one of them (not my brother) had after nearly swallowing the lollipop (stick and all) he had been given by a well-meaning employee, she justifiably decided she’d never again show her face (or the face of her older male child) in that particular establishment.

Actually, I didn’t much mind getting my ears lowered now and again; back then it seemed like my dark hair grew an inch a week. To eschew haircuts likely would have left me resembling a taller, slightly more articulate version of the Addams Family’s Cousin Itt.

Later on when my passion for playing basketball grew, I required frequent trims to keep the hair out of my eyes, even though shaggy locks provided a plausible (at least to me) alibi for every missed shot I ever took.

With five months’ worth of out-of-control mane now gone, I no longer look like a fellow who habitually sleeps under a park bench, although my surviving hairs are nearly all gray. But the guy I saw in the mirror the morning after sojourning to the barber shop looked reasonably handsome, assuming one’s definition of “reasonably handsome” is an exceptionally liberal one, which mine is, especially when I’m the one being evaluated.

But there’s bad news as well. Having not been to the barber shop since mid-March, I had grown enough hair on my dome to conveniently forget that there aren’t sufficient strands left to cover the increasingly gleaming back of my head. I had even fantasized that my once-luxuriant locks had miraculously returned, and all those thick strands on my temporarily non-shiny scalp had eliminated the need to waste time on the elaborate combover(s) some insecure, follicly challenged individuals resort to in order to maintain the illusion of virility they imagine a full head of hair affords them.

There’s no doubt that getting my hair cut was an excellent decision. But there’s still some vanity in me struggling to determine which is more socially advantageous: to look like an unkempt vagrant of indeterminate middle age with plenty of hair, or a mentally sound, well-groomed, but unquestionably balding senior citizen. <



Friday, August 14, 2020

Insight: Unfinished Business

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

A few weeks ago, I was reading a magazine article while waiting in a doctor’s office and an author wrote that “when priorities are in place, one can patiently tolerate unfinished business.” That got me to thinking about my own unfinished business and why some items on my list may never have resolution and rightfully so.

Here’s a partial list of my unfinished business accumulated over my lifetime:

** Back when I was about 10, my parents were visiting their friends Melvin and Olga Mullins on  Saturday evening. My brother and I liked going over there because it meant we could spend time with Wayne Mullins, who was close to our age. In his basement Wayne had a fantastic electric train set and a cooler filled with 10-ounce bottles of Coca Cola. But this particular night, we watched an old black and white movie called "Red Skies of Montana" from the 1950s about smoke jumpers, an elite unit of the U.S. Forestry Service that would parachute behind forest fires to help put them out. With about a half-hour remaining in the movie, my parents wanted to leave and go home. To this very day I have no idea how the movie ended or if either of the characters portrayed by Richard Widmark or Jeffrey Hunter lived or died fighting the fire.            

** A more recent movie I never finished was 1996’s Broken Arrow starring Christian Slater and John Travolta. I had gone to the theater in Titusville, Florida to watch that movie on a Friday evening.  As the action in the film was nearing a critical point and the detonation of a nuclear bomb, the lights in the theater came on and the movie was stopped. The theater manager told everyone they had to leave their seats immediately and proceed to the exits because the theater had received a bomb threat. After standing outside the theater for more than a half-hour waiting for the movie to resume, the manager came around and handed everyone free tickets to another show and said the theater’s projector had broken and the movie could not be shown that night. Just like “Red Skies of Montana,” years have passed, and I still do not know if Christian Slater’s good-guy character was able to stop the villainous character of John Travolta from exploding the nuclear bomb in that movie. Not sure if I actually want to know the ending of that movie with 24 years of hindsight.

** My knowledge and grasp of world economic systems also makes this dubious list. One-third of the way through Economics 101 in college, I was sitting there with an “A” grade on my tests to that point, and my confidence was soaring. I recall thinking that this was one college course that wasn’t as difficult as I was told it was going to be. Then the Economics professor handed out the next batch of reading assignments on a Friday afternoon and started talking about what we were expected to know to pass the mid-term examination and I suddenly panicked. I lost all of that confidence and first thing Monday morning I walked to the college’s administration building and dropped the class while there was still time to do that. My college advisor said it was the first time he had ever heard of someone carrying an “A” grade in a class wanting to drop the class because “it sounded like it was getting more difficult.” I’ll never know and to this day, I’m thankful I bailed on that one.

** Another item on my list was an interview I had in the late 1970s with Eric Burdon, the lead singer of the 1960s band “The Animals.” About midway through the interview, Burdon said he wanted to tell me something he wanted the world to know about him and I was the right journalist he felt comfortable sharing it with. Then the telephone rang and interrupted the interview. When Burdon returned from the phone call, he could not remember what it was that he wanted to share with me and the world appears to be still waiting for that major revelation. That experience, however, did compel me to ask future interview subjects to have someone else answer their phone during interview sessions.

And while we’re on the subject of unfinished business, I’ve been waiting since 1986 for the sequel to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Don’t think it’s ever going to happen. More unfinished business. <



Mark Bryant: Masking up as we return to school

By Representative Mark Bryant

As we settle more comfortably into August and look ahead to September, the question of what school will look like in the fall is on the forefront of most parents’ minds. All of Maine has been designated “green” for returning to in-person instruction. That means all communities, Windham included, have the option to return to school if we can meet the health and safety guidelines established by the Maine CDC and other public health experts.

While all counties are currently in the green classification, county classifications will be reassessed every two weeks. As we know, even the virus' effect on communities in Cumberland County has varied, so districts will not be bound to their county classification. Each district is working with their Collaborative Planning Teams (CPTs) to develop at least three separate models -- fully in-person, hybrid or fullt remote -- in order to initially implement the model each district deems appropriate based on current health data. 

Just last week RSU 14 Superintendent Christopher Howell recommended a hybrid model for initially returning to school. This is scheduled to receive a vote from the RSU 14 board on Aug. 19 and is not yet the final guidance. However, it is useful to look at this proposal as we think about the logistics required for returning to school. The proposed hybrid model would group students alphabetically with last names from A to K having in-person classes in school on Mondays and Wednesdays and those with last names from L to Z attending in-person classes in school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the days when students are not in school, there will be check-in online with their teachers.

Aside from employing this mixed approach, other safety measures must also be taken while students and teachers are in the building. Part of this means that kids will be properly physically distanced and that students and teachers will be required to wear a mask at all times per Executive Order 6. I have already heard from several parents and concerned members of the community regarding this mask requirement. I understand the fears and concerns expressed. My fifth grandchild was born just a few months ago. My other four are between the ages of three and twelve. I know how difficult it is to get them to sit still, let alone wear a mask. However, these are the steps that are necessary in order to continue to safely reopen our economy and return to some semblance of normalcy.

I am not an educator or a child development specialist or a medical practitioner, but I know that experts in those fields have been involved in the decision-making process as we seek to navigate how best to reopen our schools and daycare facilities. Every day we are learning more about this virus, about how it spreads, who it impacts and what long term consequences of having contracted the virus entail. What we have learned is that wearing a mask is one of the most valuable tools we have in combating the spread of COVID-19. I know it feels uncomfortable to watch your child wear a mask. It’s not something we are used to seeing and that can cause fear. But right now, masks are one of our best ways to manage the spread of this virus, and the more we slow the spread, the more lives we save, the sooner we will be able to shift back to normal and the sooner we will get our economy back on track.

COVID-19 will not disappear. It will linger and embed itself in our society the same way the common cold, flu and chickenpox have. But this time the effects are deadlier, and recoveries often leave lasting damage. We must collectively acknowledge that we will have to keep up our focus and remain committed to some admittedly inconvenient practices until vaccines and therapies are developed and widely distributed. That means social distancing, wearing masks and washing our hands regularly.

Rep. Bryant is serving in the Maine House of Representatives, representing part of Windham in House District 24. He is a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation and the Joint 

Andy Young: Hot weather dreaming

 By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

One morning last week I awoke to a disturbing scenario. The televised hockey game I had been watching from the Montreal Forum, where the Philadelphia Flyers had just tied up the Montreal Canadiens 4-4 on the second goal of the game by Biddeford’s Brian Dumoulin, was interrupted by a live report from Cape Canaveral, Florida, where thousands of flashlight-carriers were conducting a somber vigil for the victims of a horrific calamity.  A rocket had crashed into the Kennedy Space Center, and the carnage was dreadful. Bryant Gumbel (or possibly his brother Greg; their voices have always sounded similar to me) was narrating in hushed tones. Adding to the eeriness: the theme music from The X-Files was playing nonstop in the background for the duration of the broadcast. The only good news from whichever solemn Mr. Gumbel it was: the disaster was definitely NOT an act of terrorism; an engineering error had caused the rocket to go astray.

Fortunately, there was no actual catastrophe in Cape Canaveral last week, nor was there a game, televised or not, at the Montreal Forum, which closed its doors for the final time in 1996. Hockey fans who are sticklers for accuracy would also note that the aforementioned Brian Dumoulin, while he does indeed hail from Biddeford, does not ply (nor has he ever plied) his trade for the Flyers; he plays his hockey, when there is hockey to be played, for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I can’t be the only one who’s been having peculiar dreams lately. Given the necessary restrictions associated with the ongoing pandemic our current reality is already pretty bizarre, and as a result there are insufficient outlets for creativity. There aren’t any athletic contests or concerts to attend; movie theatres are shuttered, and comedy clubs are closed, even on amateur nights. Maybe having strange dreams is the healthiest way of compensating.

On the morning I wrote this I went online to check the prospective weather for the seven days ahead. The forecast was, in order, hot, humid, humid, humid, oppressive, sticky, and oppressive. My residence isn’t air conditioned, meaning those grim predictions will, for my family and me, likely be depressingly accurate for conditions both indoors and out. Lately I’ve been going to bed early in the hope I’ll dream something uplifting, inspiring, or amusing, and maybe even see an old friend or two in the process.

The imaginary Florida disaster wasn’t the only odd dream I had last week. In another one a bunch of school kids, none of whom I recognized, were at my house waiting to take a one-line reading comprehension test, only I couldn’t locate a stop watch and a pair of eyeglasses, both of which were required for me to properly administer the exam. At least one impatient parent was angrily haranguing me, and the increasingly antsy kids were helping themselves to the giant bottle of malted milk balls I keep stashed in the air-conditioned room over my garage. (Note: as previously mentioned, my home is not air-conditioned. Also, there’s no room over my garage, and I would never under any circumstances purchase, let alone eat, a single malted milk ball. I’d sooner ingest skunk-flavored cotton candy.)

Even more bizarre: I dreamed that Joe Biden jumped, fully clothed, into a swimming pool at the Democratic convention to celebrate his impending nomination for the presidency, only to be informed moments later that the party had made a last-minute change and nominated former Minnesota Twins first baseman Rich Reese instead.

You can’t make this stuff up, but fortunately I didn’t have to. My subconscious did it for me! <


Friday, August 7, 2020

Insight: Look to the past for inspiration for the future

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

Each year as the calendar turns to August, I stop and reflect about what can be accomplished in life if you set your mind to it. For some this comes easy, but for my father, it was a constant struggle to forge a new life free from the limitations of hardship and poverty.

Born Aug. 11, 1925 as the youngest of nine children and raised on a farm outside Fairport, New York, my dad’s story is like many others who lived through the Great Depression. Putting food on the table and staying warm in the winter was the priority and all members of the family, no matter their age, were expected to contribute.

Ed Pierce, Sr. near Biserte, Tunisia, 1944
While other students at Fairport High School were playing sports or participating in other after-school activities, my father worked two jobs. On Saturday mornings he received a penny for every bowling pin he placed upright on a lane as a pinspotter at a local bowling alley. When classes in school wrapped up weekdays, he trudged off to a 25-cent an hour job at a company that made tin cans for businesses.

There wasn’t money to go to the movies or to buy new clothes. He didn’t own a car and he walked six miles into town for school and then back home again.     

His teachers raved about his abilities in mathematics and science and encouraged him to go to college, but on the same day he graduated from high school in 1943, his draft notice arrived in the mail and those plans were put on hold.

Trained as an infantryman, my father joined thousands of other soldiers on a troop ship bound for Libya. Years later, he spoke of seeing extreme poverty there as Libyan families would raid the soldiers’ trash and convert discarded burlap bags into clothing for their children.

Leaving North Africa, my father was part of the U.S. contingent of troops landing at Anzio Beach, Italy in January 1944. In one of the bloodiest battles of the war, the Americans eventually prevailed, gaining a foothold to drive the Nazis from Italy.

A few months later, as his unit was advancing on Cisterna in Italy, my father was shot in the back by a sniper while trying to repair a broken communications line. He survived his wounds and was discharged from military service in 1946.

He enrolled at Manhattan College in New York City and used the GI Bill to study mechanical engineering. Missing home and finding the cost for room and board expensive, he transferred to the Rochester Institute of Technology and worked a series of part-time jobs in addition to his college studies to pay for his textbooks.

While working as a private investigator, he met my mother and they married in 1951 after he became the first person in his family to ever earn a college degree. I came along in 1953 and my brother in 1957 and by then, my father was pursuing the post-war American dream. Along with my mother, they bought their first home, their first new car and he started his career as a mechanical engineer for Delco Automotive and later ITEK, Xerox, Nalgene Plastics and Harris Corporation.

He rarely talked about his experiences in war, but became something of a sports fanatic, never missing a game on television and championing my desire to someday write about sports for a newspaper.

Just after retiring at age 65 on May 19, 1991, a drunk driver struck my father’s car head-on near Kissimmee, Florida as he was returning home from an afternoon visiting his oldest sister in Lake Wales, Florida and he died.

Through everything he did growing up, my father paved the way for me and my brother to have a better life. I’ll never complain about how bad things are during the pandemic after hearing him talk about eating buttered spaghetti noodles without sauce or meat as the main dish for supper during the Great Depression, or how he watched in horror as an Army buddy lost his life standing just inches away from him during a blast from a Nazi machine gun turret while storming the beachhead at Anzio.

Today, we stand on the shoulders of those who endured far worse than we will ever know and the lesson they have left for us is that we can and will survive these trying times. My father was proof of that and I am reminded of it each year when his birthday nears. <     

Bill Diamond: What will school look like this fall?

By Senator Bill Diamond

What happened to our education system this spring was unprecedented. Almost overnight, in-classroom instruction ended, students were sent home, and they, their parents and their teachers had to adapt to a new normal of remote learning over the internet. School administrators took decisive action to ensure students would continue to get the food and support they needed to thrive. It was a heroic effort by all, which was necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. All involved deserve our praise and gratitude.

This is part of the reason why Maine leads the nation with our effective COVID-19 response: We are diligent, we look out for our neighbors, and when times get tough, we step up. But we are not out of the woods yet. Major outbreaks of COVID-19 persist across the country, and as summer wanes, many activities will move indoors, increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Unfortunately, this means the prospect of schools returning to in-classroom instruction this fall brings up a lot of concerns. It should be said that in classroom instruction is beneficial to students. With remote learning, students’ experiences can vary significantly based on their home environment, socialization is difficult, and lesson plans may not always translate. Remote learning may also increase the risk of child abuse or neglect, as it adds to stresses and pressures at home, and gives children less contact with mandated reporters who may be able to intervene.

Still, it is inescapable that in-classroom instruction presents a risk of COVID-19 transmission. Research indicates that while children who are infected with COVID-19 are less likely to experience the most severe effects of the disease, they are capable of transmitting to other children and to adults they come in contact with. That is a risk that we should take very seriously.

To that end, the Maine Department of Education has put together a color-coded health advisory system to determine the relative safety of returning to school. Red means there is a high transmission risk, and classes should be done all remotely. Yellow means there is some risk, and classes should be a mix of remote and in person. Green means the risk is low and classes may be done in person. As of Friday, the Department of Education has put the entire state in the green category, but circumstances could change.

These designations are done by county, which limits their usefulness, as there is a lot of geographic diversity within our counties. For example, Lake Region Schools and Portland Schools are technically in the same county, but the Maine CDC data show that there are significantly more cases in Portland than there are in Casco, Standish, Raymond, Baldwin and Windham. That difference matters.

Still, we should take some comfort in the extraordinary work being done by our school staff to prepare for a potential reopening. In the Windham-Raymond School DistrictBonny Eagle SchoolsLake Region School District, and the Sacopee Valley School District staff have been working closely with families, teachers and communities to plan and prepare for the eventual return of in-classroom learning. They are planning for symptom screening, physical distancing inside the schools, hand hygiene, and protocols to follow after a student has tested positive. They have also been working to acquire personal protective equipment. They, and our communities, will face many difficult choices in the coming weeks and months, and I appreciate that everyone continues to step up in this moment and make sure every child can get the education they deserve.

If you have questions or concerns about what reopening schools will mean for our community, I want to hear from you. You can send me an email at or call my office at 207-287-1515.<


Andy Young: Realizing a childhood ambition … sort of

By Andy Young


When  I was young (as opposed to Young, who I still am) I had no interest whatsoever in winter, spring, summer or fall. The only season worth caring about was baseball season. I planned to be a major leaguer, a goal I knew I could attain thanks to having read several sanitized, ghost-written memoirs of big league stars, each of whom professed to have succeeded by simply drinking milk, respecting his parents, listening to his coaches and getting lots of practice.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t considered that unlike Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays and their friends, I couldn’t hit a ball 400 feet,  throw one 90 miles per hour or run like the wind to catch one. My playing career peaked at age 15, when I was selected to my town’s Babe Ruth League all-star team. Surprisingly, we won the first game in the single-elimination state tournament against a cocky bunch of bearded, muscular city kids before swaggering up to some small town we’d never heard of and getting humbled by a bunch of unassuming country boys. My contributions were limited to shouting encouragement from the bench, since back then no rule mandated that each player get in the game. Our team’s coach stuck to using the players he judged to be his best nine for the entirety of both contests, and even with 20-20 hindsight and a pair of rose-tinted spectacles, I don’t recall being one of them.

But despite being equipped with a fastball that even with a tailwind couldn’t break 60 miles per hour and a 5-foot 8-inch, 120-pound frame that only occasionally generated sufficient power to drive a ball over the infield, I dreamed of seeing the name “Andy Young” in a major league box score someday. It’s hard to say exactly when I accepted that aspiration wouldn’t come to fruition, but by the time I hit 35 even my closest friends were suggesting, however delicately, that perhaps it was time to focus my attentions elsewhere.   

One brutally honest associate, who in retrospect was probably an early practitioner of “tough love,” was more direct. “I will never open up a newspaper and see your name in a major league box score,” he heartlessly declared.            

I can only hope that guy, who now lives on the west coast, bought a copy of the newspaper this past Sunday, because if he perused the box scores on the sports page, he’d have seen that 26-year-old Andy Young, a native of West Fargo, North Dakota and product of the Indiana State University baseball program, had made his big league debut the previous evening, playing a flawless second base for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the top of the ninth inning of an 11-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In fact, he was in the on-deck circle when Christian Walker, Arizona’s first baseman, struck out to end the game.

Andy Young isn’t just the 19,748th person to have ever played major league baseball. He’s also the 18th native North Dakotan to have done so. More relevant (or at least more relevant to me) he’s the 41st big league baseball player with the surname Young, having been preceded (in no particular order) by Anthony, Cy, Eric Sr, Eric Jr, Mike the outfielder, Michael the infielder, Chris the pitcher, Chris the outfielder, Delmon, Alex, Dmitri, Kevin, Walter, Curt, Gerald, Babe, Don, Bobby, Delwyn, Ernie, Irv, Pep, Cliff, Ralph, Matt, Kip, John, Del the outfielder, Pete, Del the infielder, Dick, Tim, Danny, Jason, Harley, Russ, Charlie, J.B., George, and Herman.

But best of all, Andy Young has made my childhood dream come true.

Sort of.<