Friday, December 31, 2021

Insight: Looking into the 2022 crystal ball

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

I probably don’t follow many traditions about New Year’s Eve, but back in the 1990s I never missed a Dec. 31 episode of ABC’s Nightline television program because that was their annual predictions show. 

Anchor Ted Koppel would host the distinguished prognostication panel every year that featured Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and former presidential speechwriter William Safire; economist Arthur Laffer, the so-called “architect of the 1980s supply side economics” movement; and former Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford, the dean of American sports commentary. Koppel would lead the panel through a discussion of their thoughts about the coming year and then they would each make three bold predictions for the new year after a review of their previous yearly predictions.

This was always a fast-moving hour of television and I’ve always appreciated the keen insight of Koppel, who was able to move with ease from topics ranging from politics to religion to business to sports, all while keeping panelist egos in check and the discussion focused on what would be in the news in the unknown year ahead.

After Koppel retired as Nightline host in 2005, the prediction show came to an end. Safire died of pancreatic cancer in 2009 and Deford passed away at age 78 in 2017.

After an absence of 16 years, I still miss that panel’s wit, humor, and collective intuition in predicting future events. Although I may not be in their league, perhaps I can start a New Year’s Eve tradition here in 2021 by making a few annual predictions of my own.

Let’s see how many of these predictions will come to pass in 2022:

** Former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who also won a Super Bowl last season playing for Tampa Bay, will retire after the end of this season. My best guess right now is that Tampa Bay is not going to reach the Super Bowl again in 2022 and Brady has had enough. He will turn down lucrative offers to host several NFL Sunday pre-game shows and instead will run for Massachusetts governor and win in a landslide in next year’s election.

** As “supply chain” issues are slowly resolved, the price of gasoline for American drivers is going to stabilize at about $3 per gallon. After months of consumers paying through the nose and enduring seemingly unending rising prices with each visit to the pump, oil companies will settle on $3 as the going rate in 2022.

** The Major League Baseball lockout will end in mid-March delaying the start of the 2022 season by a few weeks. A new lottery style draft system will be implemented to eliminate the strategy of teams who “tank” to receive a higher draft pick. Player salaries and owner profits will remain ludicrous though. The New York Mets will reach the 2022 World Series but ultimately lose in six games to the Toronto Blue Jays. 

** Fast-food restaurants will slash menus significantly to speed up drive-through service times and reduce staffing needs. Many of these same restaurants will also cut hours and days that they operate just to survive in the highly competitive fast-food environment. Chicken wings and breakfast pizza could be the hottest selling drive-through items in the coming year and gooseberries will grow in popularity as a healthy alternative offered in the supermarket produce aisle.

** Poland will be the epicenter of international controversy next summer when it declares its intent to withdraw from the European Union like Great Britain’s Brexit. 

** Trucker jackets will be the fashion rage for women in 2022 while anything plaid or crocheted will be best sellers for females too. Leather vests for men, tight trousers, and belted raincoats all will be making a comeback in male fashion trends.

** The Florida Panthers will defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4 games to 1 to win the Stanley Cup. The Purdue University Boilermakers will capture the NCAA men’s basketball title by knocking off the UCLA Bruins in the championship game.

** HBO Max will announce production of a new “Sopranos” television series sequel featuring a new generation of actors hoping to capitalize on the show’s continuing popularity. Edie Falco will reprise her role as Carmella Soprano and Robert Iler will return as A.J. Soprano in this new revival.

** The real estate market will continue to boom in 2022. As more people search for affordable housing and businesses continue to reduce overhead and site expenses by allowing workers to perform their duties remotely, those looking for homes will not slow down at all in the coming year. Real estate demand will remain high.

** Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, will announce they are expecting a third child in the coming year. I’m also predicting that the couple will be at the forefront of a new global effort to eliminate childhood poverty.   

** The Maine Legislature will vote to allow municipalities to create a new revenue source by authorizing towns and cities to set-up a system to license pet cats annually like existing annual dog licensing programs. 

As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” 

Happy New Year to one and all. <

Andy Young: 100* books in a year

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

I just finished reading my 100th* book of the year.

That achievement* isn’t quite as impressive as it seems. Almost 40 of the books I absorbed in 2021 were read to me. I began listening to books on tape during my daily commute after my longtime carpool got torpedoed by the pandemic. 

Being told stories while motoring has been a godsend. Not only has it allowed me to explore different genres of literature, it’s made me into a far less aggressive driver. In the past snarled traffic on I-295 would enrage me, but now such situations just give me more time to immerse myself in whatever I’m listening to.

A skilled voice actor can make a story come alive far better than I can when I read the traditional way, by sitting silently inputting the words into my brain. For me, listening to Billie Jean King share her fascinating recollections in her own voice is far more engaging than reading the very same words on the pages of her recently published autobiography, All In. The same can go for certain fiction. Garrison Keillor reciting Pontoon in the same understated tone that related the News of Lake Wobegon to untold numbers of listeners for more than four decades on NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion” is still capable of eliciting out-loud laughter and genuine sorrow within the same tale.

But not all audio books are as good as their printed counterparts. An example: the person who did the spoken-word version of Yogi: A Life Behind the Mask, Jon Pessah’s impeccably researched biography of Yogi Berra, was probably chosen because he could speak with a cadence similar to the one Yogi himself did. But knowledgeable baseball fans know how to correctly pronounce the last names of Vic Raschi (RASH-shee, not RAH-shee), Pete Reiser (REESE-er, not RISE-er), and Red Schoendienst (SHANE-deenst, not SHONE-deenst), and the person hired to voice this particular audio book quite apparently did not.

In the past I’ve gone entire years without reading anything. Delayed maturation and a touch of willful ignorance played a part in that, but there was also a more understandable reason for my aversion to books. Staying inert has never been one of my strong points, and when I was taught to read, sitting still was one of the prerequisites for doing so.

All this reading has reaffirmed my preference for non-fiction. A week after finishing a novel I rarely remember the title, or anything about the plot. One exception: The Nickel Boys. If Colson Whitehead wrote it, I recommend it. The same goes for anything authored by Carl Hiaasen or Leonard Pitts, Jr.

This year’s best non-fiction was How the Word is Passed. Clint Smith’s “reckoning with the history of slavery across America,” features exhaustive research and eloquent prose that describes the author’s travels make the book an instant classic. It ought to be required reading in high school and college classrooms around the country, and with luck soon will be.

Years ago, if someone told me they had read 100 books in a calendar year I’d have nodded politely, hopefully resisting the urge to ask condescendingly, “Did you write them all down?” I’d have known for certain that such a person was a hopeless nerd who would never, ever have anything even remotely resembling a social life.

I guess it really does take one to know one. When I finished my 100th* book of 2021 last week (John Grisham’s The Guardians) I documented it on a master list I’ve been keeping all year, just like I did with the previous 99*.

One ticket to Nerdville, please. <

Friday, December 17, 2021

Insight: A lucky flip of the coin

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

A lucky coin flip significantly changed my outlook on life way back in 1983 and it’s a story worth relating more than 38 years later.

That summer I was one of two staff sergeants working in the Public Affairs Office at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona and we were both summoned one morning for a meeting with the major, who led the office. In the meeting, he said that a request had been made for a staff sergeant to be sent on temporary duty to a training camp near Teguicigalpa, Honduras for six weeks.

Because conditions at the camp were primitive and it was situated directly in the jungle, the major wanted to see if one of us would volunteer instead of him having to assign it to one of us. Neither of us wanted to go, but ultimately the other staff sergeant agreed to a coin flip to settle the issue with the provision that the next temporary duty assignment would go to the winner. I won the flip and wished him the best of luck in Honduras.

Six weeks later, he returned to the office and was not at all happy. He had to sleep on a wooden cot in a tent for the entire trip, and those assigned to the camp were subjected to having to boil their laundry in a fire-heated vat to get it clean. Abundant mosquitos ate them alive but worst of all, my colleague said that he felt awful on the return trip and was having to take malaria pills for fear he might have contracted that illness.

A few weeks later in October, I was summoned to the major’s office and informed that I would be leaving the very next day for my temporary duty assignment, but he had no details of where I would be going. As I was packing for the trip that night, I was reminded of something my father had once told me years prior.

He said that I should never be afraid of new adventures and to be open to whatever comes my way in life.

“Every day is an opportunity,” my father had told me. “Embrace it because you never know what may happen that day.”

At the time I thought his advice was something a father would typically say to his son and gave it little credence, forgetting about it until that situation came up.

But when I received my temporary duty orders the next morning, I finally understood what my father had meant in that conversation.

I learned that I was being sent to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada for six weeks to edit the daily newsletter for the U.S. Air Force’s annual air-to-ground weapons competition. I was going to stay in the barracks at Nellis free of charge and was given a base car to drive around to the flightline to interview pilots and ground crews about their work preparing for the events and the competition.

I spent each morning gathering information to write three or four stories for that day’s edition and taking photographs of aircrews, munitions, and aircraft participating in the competition. Each afternoon I would design and edit the newsletter and was usually done by 3 p.m.

The remainder of the day was mine and I determined quickly that the numerous buffets and inexpensive food offered by the casinos in Las Vegas were vastly better than what was served in the dining hall on base. I wasn’t much of a gambler, but I did play some casino slot machines and sat in for a few hands of blackjack at Caesar’s Palace.

While I was in Las Vegas, the World Series was being played at the same time, and I found it interesting how the sports books and gamblers at the casinos would bet on almost every detail of the games, right down to which team would commit the first error to how many total wild pitches would be thrown that day.

A few years later, I was working for a newspaper in New Mexico as a reporter when the editor asked another reporter and myself who wanted to do a phone interview that afternoon with an actor promoting a movie. She wouldn’t disclose who the actor was, which made us both somewhat apprehensive about volunteering for the job.

The other reporter was in the middle of a writing project for an upcoming Sunday edition but agreed to a coin flip for this assignment. I won the flip and told myself that no matter who the actor was, I would embrace the job and thought about how lucky my previous coin flip was.

It happened that the actor was Lou Diamond Phillips, and he was promoting the film “Young Guns” which was filmed in and around New Mexico. Despite suffering a broken leg during filming, Phillips was enthusiastic about the movie and I was able to obtain a great interview and write an article about the upcoming production.

To this day I’m never intimidated by the outcome of coin flips and try to embrace each day because I truly don’t know what may happen. <

Bill Diamond: Making concrete changes to Maine’s child welfare system

By Senator Bill Diamond

In the 20 years I’ve been working on child welfare issues, never have I heard from so many people with their own stories of how the system let them down as I have these past few months. After a summer marked by tragedy, we continue to see stories in the news about children dying with sad regularity – most recently, 14-month-old Karson Malloy of Oakland died after suffering a medical emergency at home. Inside the home, police found evidence indicating drug trafficking, including a shocking 5.85 pounds of deadly fentanyl.

The cause of Karson’s death is still being investigated, and no one has been charged in connection with his death at this time. Nor do we know what involvement Maine’s child welfare system had with this family leading up to Karson’s death, if any. What we do know is that we’re still waiting for change in Maine’s child welfare system to keep our children safe.

In October, Casey Family Programs released their assessment of Maine’s child welfare system, as the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) had contracted them to do. In response, DHHS laid out plans for changes including reviews of staffing plans and better coordination with hospitals and law enforcement.

While I’m always hopeful that we’re getting closer to the systemic change we need, I expect that the review currently being conducted by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) will give a more thorough account of the problems. OPEGA will deliver their full report in September 2022, with interim reports to the Legislature due in January and March of 2022. In the meantime, the Legislature is preparing to go back into session in January, and I’ve sponsored several bills to make more immediate changes.

I’ve written in The Windham Eagle several times about the deaths of Logan Marr, Kendall Chick and Marissa Kennedy, three little girls who were let down by the system in the most devastating way. Many of the details of their abuse and the systemic failures that led to their deaths were unknown until those ultimately responsible for their deaths went to trial – Sally Schofield in Logan’s case, Shawna Gatto in Kendall’s case, and Julio and Sharon Carrillo in Marissa’s case.

I attended the trials of Shawna Gatto and the Carrillos, and the details that came to light in the courtroom were heartbreaking. Particularly wrenching is the timeline of Marissa Kennedy’s final months and the many missed opportunities for lifesaving interventions, including the day before she died, when Marissa lost consciousness in front of a child welfare worker. The caseworker believed the Carrillos when they said Marissa was just tired; in fact, Marissa’s body was shutting down due to severe, ongoing abuse.

Making information like this timeline public is a critical step in identifying where things went wrong so that we can make changes and prevent future tragedies. It is in these trials that key information is discovered and made public.

But even in the best of times, cases can take years to go to trial. Several parents have been charged with manslaughter or murder over the deaths of their children this year, and their trials are likely to provide us with important information about where the system failed.

One of my bills will help make sure we get this information as quickly as possible so that we can save lives. The bill directs the Maine Attorney General to prioritize the criminal investigation and prosecution of murder cases in which the victim is a child, and to work with the courts to prioritize these cases when scheduling trials.

This way, the accused get the fair and speedy trail they’re entitled to, and key information that may save other lives is available as soon as possible. I look forward to keeping you updated on this bill, and on my other bills that aim to improve our child welfare system, in the coming months.

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 or call my office at 207- 287-1515. <

Friday, December 10, 2021

Insight: The Annual Christmas Shopping Excursion

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

It seems the older I get, the easier it becomes to find Christmas gifts for my wife.

Of course, it helps to be married to a voracious reader who tells me that she’s just as comfortable receiving used books from Goodwill as she is at reading new novels just released on Amazon.

Before we got married, the only woman I had to shop for in my life was my mother, and I had it down pat what to buy for her every year. She enjoyed chocolate-covered cherries, a bag of fresh navel oranges or grapefruit, and a gift certificate for dinner at Olive Garden.

In the years since I’ve been married to Nancy though, I’ve expanded my holiday shopping repertoire to now include jewelry, clothing, shoes, winter coats, and sweaters. She’s easy to shop for and grateful for each gift she receives.

For me that hasn’t always been the case. Way back in the 1970s when I was married to someone other than Nancy, I found it much more difficult to shop for her as she was very picky about nearly everything.

One year when I was working at a department store assembling items purchased by customers such as bicycles and kitchen stepstools, I happened to see two very good deals nearby on the showroom floor.

The first one was a Hoover Celebrity canister vacuum cleaner on sale for just $39 and the other item was a Symphonic stereo receiver with a built-in cassette tape player and two large speakers for $135. However, making just $2.75 per hour performing assembly work and going to college to study journalism at the same time resulted in a miniscule budget, preventing such lavish purchases, even at Christmas.

When I told the salesman that I was considering buying both the stereo and the vacuum for my wife for Christmas, but that my funds were limited, he suggested that I apply for the store’s easy credit plan.

I went into debt and brought both items home and wrapped them for her for Christmas and placed them under the tree. Her reaction on Christmas morning was priceless and I didn’t realize anyone could get so mad on such a special day.

The first gift she opened was the vacuum cleaner and I quickly learned that a husband should never purchase items meant for housework for his wife. And she also told me that she preferred upright vacuums more than the canister type because they worked better and picked up more, according to her.

She said that the stereo was obviously something that I wanted and showed little regard for her feelings. She said that she wanted a bottle of “Charlie” perfume instead and demanded that I return the stereo and get my money back as soon as the department store reopened the day after Christmas.

But when I informed her that I had opened a revolving charge account at the store to purchase those gifts, she became even more upset than she already was. I was told that the decision to open a charge account should be a mutual decision when you are married and how foolish I was to think a stereo receiver and a vacuum cleaner were something that she would ever want for Christmas.

So thereafter, I always made it a point to set a spending limit and to have her write her clothing sizes and wish list on a scrap of paper before I headed off to the mall for Christmas shopping, usually on Christmas Eve.

A lot has changed in my life since the 1970s. I am now married to a kinder person who has never complained about a Christmas gift given to her. We do try to establish spending limits every year, but those limits always seem to evaporate when I am choosing gifts for her.

By this point approaching two decades of marriage, I do know her sizes by heart and have a good idea of what she likes and what she doesn’t like. I can’t go wrong in purchasing pajamas, books, teaching supplies, creative pursuits, or gift certificates to Staples.

Being a teacher, one year she was thrilled to find a wrapped box of copy paper and a four-pack of computer printer ink under the Christmas tree with her name on it. Another year she found two cashmere sweaters and a pair of Skechers sneakers in her hard-to-find 5 ½ wide size.

The best thing about Nancy is that I could go to a thrift shop and spend $30 for Christmas. and she would be as happy as me buying her an expensive new wardrobe from Macy's.

I suppose that I’ve refined my Christmas shopping skills as I’ve aged, but it sure helps to have someone who understands the meaning and intent of the season to shop for.

In my opinion, Christmas shopping should be fun and not stressful. It should be done to express your sentiment for that person and not an obligation. Whether it be a summer sausage gift basket from Hickory Farms, an oversized mug for hot chocolate, Bohemian aromatherapy candles, or tickets to a hockey game, it’s the thought that counts, right? <

Andy Young: Locking in on baseball’s lockout

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

The collective bargaining agreement between the Major League Baseball Players Association and the owners of MLB’s 30 teams expired on Dec. 1, at which point management decided to lock out the players. This strategy, which is allowable under federal labor law and creates the equivalent of a strike, has created the industry’s (reality check: professional baseball is a business, not a sport) first labor impasse in almost 27 years.

I’m struggling with how to react to this. I grew up obsessed with baseball. I played the game as a youth, coached it as a young adult, and still umpire Little League games. I earned a modest living working in professional baseball’s minor leagues for nearly 15 years and enjoyed every minute of it. I have good friends who played in the major leagues, and my baseball career was aided and abetted by more ballclub management people than I can count. It’s fair to say any success I’ve had in my life is at least partially attributable to my involvement with baseball.

But before taking an emotion-driven, knee-jerk position on the current labor situation, I need to consider some relevant data. The minimum salary of a major league baseball player (who is on average 28 years old) is currently $570,500. The average annual (as in “yearly”) salary of a major league baseball player is currently $4.17 million.

In the week before the lockout, 37-year-old pitcher Max Scherzer signed a three-year contract with the New York Mets that will pay him a total of $130 million dollars, or $43,333,333.33 annually. This means Scherzer, who pitches every fifth or sixth day, will make more than $1.2 million every time he takes the mound the next three seasons, and because the deal is guaranteed he’ll get paid every dollar, even if he gets hurt and is unable to perform.

On the day before his 29th birthday, infielder Javier Baez, who played for two teams this past season, inked a comparatively modest six-year, $140 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. The Texas Rangers spent $560 million on four players in one day; the bulk of that money went to 27-year-old shortstop Corey Seager, who’ll net a cool $325,000,000 over the next 10 years. The Chicago Cubs franchise, which was purchased for $846 million in 2009, is now worth more than four times that amount.

Scherzer, Baez, Seager, and their peers deserve to be handsomely compensated. Their services are in high demand, and they should be paid accordingly. In addition, they have a limited window in which to make money in their chosen profession, unlike nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters, and members of the military who, if they so choose, can ply their respective trades into their dotage. Nor should anyone resent baseball’s uber-rich club owners for benefitting from their investment; they’re taking the nominal risk, so it’s only fair they reap the rewards.

Besides, if anyone’s to blame for the current state of affairs, it’s the nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters, and military members who purchase cable TV packages, licensed team apparel, and tickets to ballgames (not to mention the $5 hot dogs, $10 beers, and those inexplicable foam fingers hawked at most MLB venues) that drive the market which makes the stratospheric player salaries and uber-stratospheric franchise values what they are.

After considering my lifelong love of baseball, the current salary structure, and what professional baseball contributes to society in comparison to what nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters, and members of the military do, I’ve come to my thoughtful conclusion.

Give the foam finger to ownership and the MLBPA.

Let the lockout go on. <

Friday, December 3, 2021

Insight: Courage above and beyond

Ed Pierce, left, and General Jimmy
Doolittle, a recipient of the Medal
of Honor, meet during an awards
ceremony at The Pentagon in 
Washington, D.C. in January 1981.
By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

I've been watching a series on Netflix for the past few weeks about those who have been awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in combat during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Each of the eight episodes contains interviews with the medal recipient or members of their family and it’s some of the most moving television I’ve viewed in quite a while.

This series got me to thinking about how many actual Medal of Honor recipients I have met or interviewed during my career in journalism and in looking back, I found that to be a total of three.

In January 1981, I was attending a luncheon at The Pentagon and got to meet a special guest, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, who had led the first American air strikes to hit Japan in April 1942.

Then Lt. Col. Doolittle commanded a top-secret attack of 16 B-25 bombers launched from the USS Hornet with targets in Tokyo, Kobe, Yokohama, Osaka and Nagoya. Their mission was perilous as a previously unknown Japanese navy flotilla spotted the American planes and reported their approach.

The American’s fuel supply was mostly consumed by the time they had reached their targets in Japan. Some aircrews were forced to ditch into the shark-infested Sea of Japan while other found their planned landing sites in China taken over by Japanese troops and they were captured.

But Doolittle’s mission was a tremendous morale boost for America and shattered the myth that the Japanese homeland could not be attacked. It helped turn the tide of World War II and Doolittle was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Franklin Roosevelt.

His citation reads, "For conspicuous leadership above and beyond the call of duty, involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life. With the apparent certainty of being forced to land in enemy territory or to perish at sea, Lt. Col. Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteer crews, in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland."

In October 2014, I interviewed a man billed as “the real-life Forrest Gump” at an event at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton, New Hampshire.

U.S. Army PFC Sammy Lee Davis of Indiana was serving at Firebase Cudgel in Vietnam on Nov. 18, 1967, when his unit came under machine gun fire and heavy mortar attack by three companies of Viet Cong soldiers. Detecting an enemy position, Davis manned a machine gun to give the U.S. troops cover so they could fire artillery in response to the Viet Cong attack. Davis himself was wounded but took over the unit's burning howitzer and fired several shells at the enemy. He also crossed a river on an air mattress under heavy enemy fire to help rescue three wounded American soldiers. He ultimately found his way back to another howitzer site to continue fighting until the attackers fled.   

For his heroism, Davis was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon Johnson. On his medal citation it partially reads “Sgt. Davis' extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.”

In November 2014, I had the great privilege of interviewing Ryan Pitts of Nashua, New Hampshire, who was the guest speaker at the Veterans Day observance at the New Hampshire Veterans Home that year.

On July 13, 2008, Pitts, a U.S. Army sergeant, was providing perimeter security at Observation Post Topside in Afghanistan when a wave of rocket-propelled grenade rounds engulfed the post, wounding him and inflicting heavy casualties on U.S. troops. Pitts had been knocked to the ground and was bleeding heavily from shrapnel wounds to his arm and legs, but with incredible toughness and resolve, he returned fire on the enemy. As the enemy drew nearer, Sergeant Pitts threw grenades, holding them until after the pin was pulled and the safety lever was released to create a nearly immediate detonation on the hostile forces.

Unable to stand on his own and near death because of the severity of his wounds and blood loss, Pitts continued to fire at the enemy until reinforcements arrived. He crawled to a radio position and whispered into the radio situation reports and helped convey information that the command post used to provide indirect fire support.

His medal citation reads in part, “Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts' extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service.”

I consider myself lucky to have met and spoken with each of these heroes, who each told me that they did what they had to do to help protect the lives of their fellow Americans and the freedom of this nation.

All three of these men said they were humbled by the Medal of Honor and said that they thought of themselves as ordinary Americans who instinctively acted when duty called upon them. Their courage, patriotism and bravery remain a source of inspiration to me and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to tell their stories. <

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Insight: Thoughts about personal gratitude

Olivia Carpenter, left, with her new baby brother,
Leon Thomas Carpenter, who was born Nov. 9
and weighed 3 pounds, 14 ounces at birth.
By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, which is a quality that continues to inspire many during the annual holiday season.

Early on, my parents taught me that Thanksgiving Day is about more than gathering with relatives, sharing a bountiful meal and laying in front of the television watching football.

To me, Thanksgiving affirms all the good things that have happened over the course of the past year and to recognize the roles that others contribute to providing goodness in my life.

Without further fanfare, here’s my list of things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving Day:

First, a miracle occurred just two weeks ago when Leon Thomas Carpenter was born in Danbury, Connecticut. After his mother was in and out of the hospital in the later stages of pregnancy this summer and into the fall, Leon made his debut as Grandchild #3 weighing in at 3 pounds, 14 ounces on Nov. 9.

After gaining a little weight in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where he had been since birth on a tiny breathing machine, Leon was sent home from the hospital last week where he joined his parents, Chuckie and Casie, and big brother Joseph, and big sister Olivia.

The fact that babies weighing so little can make it is simply a testament to the indomitable will to survive and to the medical staff’s skill and expertise in delivering a child so small.

Therefore, I’m grateful that our third grandchild has arrived and is gaining strength and weight with each passing day.

Second, to even be a grandfather for me personally is something truly remarkable. After being single for 14 years and rapidly approaching 50, an internet date at a Friendly’s Restaurant in Florida changed my life forever in 2004.

An elementary school teacher answered an ad that I had placed on a dating website, and we agreed to meet over a bowl of ice cream on a weeknight in May. The fact that she even chose to reply was nothing less than a miracle as I did not have a photo posted with the ad and it only listed the city I lived in, my gender, and my age.

But fate has a funny way of working it out sometimes. That date turned out to be the best one I ever had, and we mutually agreed to see each other again the following week. After several long phone conversations, she informed me that she was going to undergo cancer surgery and I probably wouldn’t want to date her as a result.

But being a cancer survivor myself, I was compelled to share my experience with her and to help her through the process of chemotherapy and radiation. Slowly she got better following the surgery and by Christmas, she came to stay for the holidays and never went home.

We were married in Cleveland, Ohio in June 2005 as she attended her youngest son’s high school graduation and suddenly at the age of 51, I found myself as the stepfather of three grown young men all at or near their 20s.

I’ve watched as these three young men have embarked upon careers, moved into new homes and now in oldest stepson Chuckie’s case, have begun to raise a family.

And to think it all started with meeting a person I didn’t know previously answering an internet dating website ad almost two decades ago. If you think that’s not something to be grateful for, you are wrong.

The life of a journalist since 2004 has taken me from working for a daily newspaper to an online newspaper startup to working for a weekly paper in Florida, then a move north from Florida to a daily newspaper in New Hampshire and eventually moving again to Maine for work at a daily paper in Biddeford, retirement, and then coming out of retirement to work for a weekly paper again in Windham, Maine.

My family has seen my career go from a news reporter, copy editor and sportswriter to community sports editor, managing editor, executive editor and now Managing Editor of The Windham Eagle. And the one constant during all of that transition has been my wife, Nancy, and my three stepsons, Chuckie, Brian and Danny Carpenter.

My life has been fuller because they are in it and now in my role as “Grandpa Ed,” yet another chapter has dawned for me. Therefore, I’m grateful Nancy took the time to answer my internet ad because it made my life complete and a new world opened as I experienced what it is like to be a parent and now, a grandparent.

Lastly, this Thanksgiving I’m also grateful to have reconnected with so many of my high school classmates and friends at our Rush-Henrietta High School 50th Class of 1971 Reunion in Rochester, New York during the weekend of Oct. 29.

I was able to tell classmates I have known for 55 years or more how much of a difference they made in my life and how much I continue to treasure their friendship and encouragement despite the passing of five decades.

It’s said that in daily life, we seldom realize that we receive more than we give and that through gratitude we discover that our lives are richly blessed. In my case, it’s so true. <

Andy Young: Can littering unite America?

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Since Maine’s six-week spring is still five (or more) months away, on a recent unseasonably warm Saturday I filled my water bottle, grabbed a couple of snacks, and headed out on my bicycle for what I anticipated would be a bracing and relaxing late-season ride over some lovely, seldom-traveled country roads.

But what should have been a treat was spoiled by something (or more accurately several things) I picked up along the way. Thankfully, it wasn’t a strain of Covid 19, or any other dread disease.

But what I did acquire was nearly as unpleasant. A fifteen-mile trek that shouldn't have taken much more than an hour was made considerably longer because I had to dismount numerous times in order to pick up far too many randomly discarded aluminum cans that formerly housed 12 or more ounces of Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Miller Lite, Hurricane Malt Liquor, Goose Island IPA, Twisted Tea, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke, and Red Bull. I also grabbed bottles that once contained Gatorade and Vitamin Water. Even more infuriating: I left at least twice as many bottles and cans as I picked up because I didn’t have any room left in my backpack.

I’ve attempted to come up with a sensible rationale for littering. But try as I might, I cannot conjure up a single decent reason for tossing detritus out one’s car window. And it’s not just me who thinks this way. Nobody finds laziness, arrogance, selfishness, and wanton disregard for Earth and its denizens even remotely attractive, nor does any decent person boast of his or her garbage-scattering abilities. So why is it that roadsides are blighted by refuse in general and empty libation containers in particular? I’m not suggesting prison time for litterers, but clearly something needs to be done. 

Here’s a thought: how about upping the amount drink-buyers need to deposit on each bottle of liquid refreshment they purchase?

Maine’s bottle bill program began in 1978, when buyers began paying a 5-cent deposit on glass, metal, and plastic beverage containers. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thanks to inflation and the passage of 43 years, those five 1978 pennies are currently worth approximately 21.2 cents. So how about raising the deposit on drink containers to a quarter per vessel?

Bottlers and drink sellers would likely fight such a proposal, contending this “new tax” would be unjust. But that argument is demonstrably spurious, since the new rate wouldn’t cost consumers a thing if the bottles and cans are returned, a course of action consumers are more likely to perform if failing to do so will set them back not one nickel, but five.

Of course, the real reason bottlers, brewers, and purveyors of other liquid refreshments might oppose such legislation would be the possibility, however slight, that upping the deposit on bottles and cans might move some folks to purchase alcohol, caffeine, and/or sugar-laced products less frequently. Or -gasp - perhaps not at all!

But perhaps this situation will ultimately be more boon than blight. Contemporary America is stridently divided on issues ranging from vaccinations to abortion to guns. Who knows, maybe this is the topic that can unify the nation. Opposition to littering is something Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, Liberals, Christians, Muslims, the LGBTQ+ community, environmentalists, venture capitalists, and people of all skin tones all can all agree on, since being pro-littering is only slightly more politically expedient than being pro-pornography, pro-leukemia, or pro-Sandy Hook-was-a-hoax.

In 1975 the Captain and Tenille sang “Love Will Keep Us Together.” Could it be that 46 years later, trash will bring us together? <

Jessica Fay: There aren’t enough veterinarians in Maine and here’s what we can do about it

By State Representative Jessica Fay

Maine has a shortage of veterinarians, and it is growing worse, particularly in rural communities. There are only about 420 veterinarians practicing now in Maine, down from 540 just a few years ago. 

While this shortage is more acute in some areas than in others, it is having an impact on Mainers across the state. It is affecting all sorts of people who love, own and care for animals. Some people are waiting weeks or months for wellness visits for their pets. Dairy and livestock farmers have a hard time finding vets who can make farm calls. Animals are dying in animal shelters for lack of veterinary care.

The high cost of education and relatively low rate of pay for veterinarians in Maine is often blamed for why fewer people are entering the field of veterinary medicine. At Tufts, the closest veterinary school to Maine, the cost of a year of school is around $90,000 including tuition, housing, books, and other fees.   

This high cost leads to veterinary students graduating with significant debt, averaging $183,000 in 2019. At the same time, Maine has the lowest pay for veterinarians in New England.

Compared with our neighbors in New Hampshire, vets in Maine earn about 10% less. Given these factors alone, it is no surprise that Maine has trouble attracting new veterinary school graduates to set up practice here.

We need to be incentivizing more veterinarians to live and work in Maine. After hearing from so many of you regarding your worries about accessing care for your animals, I sponsored a bill titled “An Act To Increase Maine's Veterinary Workforce and Keep Maine Farms Healthy through a Scholarship Program.”

The bill will amend an existing loan program to help veterinary students who want to practice in Maine pay for their education. I was very pleased when the Legislative Council, which is made up of each party’s leaders in the Maine House and Senate, decided in a bipartisan vote that this bill was worthy of consideration. It is encouraging that Democrats and Republicans agree that the Legislature should be examining solutions to Maine’s shortage of veterinarians.

While the exact details are still being worked out, my bill would build upon and improve Maine’s existing veterinary scholarship program. The current program has a maximum of two participants, which doesn’t even begin to address the need. I am proposing to increase this number to 10 students. My bill would also increase the amount of the available forgivable loan, which is currently $25,000, to an amount that would make a meaningful difference in addressing a veterinary graduate’s debt. Protections requiring recipients of the scholarship to stay in Maine or be forced to repay the scholarship would also be in place.

The state needs to act to make sure we have enough vets to keep our pets and livestock healthy. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to find solutions to Maine’s veterinary workforce shortage. <

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.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Insight: Whispering in the wind

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

Over the weekend, I watched a Sunday news magazine segment on television about a man who took an old rotary telephone, placed it on a piece of wood and then nailed it to a tree in a park in Olympia, Washington. Soon, people grieving the loss of loved ones started visiting the tree and using the disconnected “telephone to the wind” to try and communicate with those who have died. 

As they put it, simply picking up the phone and making a call to the deceased helps them to deal with their grief and to remember their lost friends and family with a simple sentimental gesture of love.

That got me to thinking about whom I would call if I were given an opportunity to do so and just what I would say to them.

Probably first on my list would be my father, who died when his car was hit by a drunk driver in Florida in May 1991 just three days after he retired at the age of 65. My father never got to read some of my better newspaper articles, but I know he was immensely proud of my accomplishments as a journalist.

Early in my career when I was covering a baseball playoff game in Florida on a Friday evening, I felt like someone was watching me and out of the corner of my eye, I spotted my dad, arms crossed and leaning against a utility pole just watching and observing me as I went about gathering information and interviewing players for an article. I never told him I saw him there that night, it was something he’d do from time to time.

Of all my stories he’s missed since, I’d share with him in a call something I’ve written through the years about veterans and how their valor and willingness to sacrifice everything for our freedom continues to inspire me. I’d also tell him about the direction of my life and how grateful I am that he changed my major from physical education to journalism when he had to sign and submit my college application paperwork. Lastly, I’d tell my father how much I miss being able to sit and speak with him, laugh at his silly jokes, tell him how much our family loves and misses him every day and that I still think of him whenever I hear a Ray Charles song come on the radio.

Talking to my father again would be special, but there is someone else I’d cherish being able to speak to one more time, it’s my grandmother, Josephine.

Even as a small child, I can still vividly remember her radiant smile and hugs when we would go and visit her on Sunday afternoons. She was in bed and very ill with colon cancer, but she’d always sit up and hold her arms out for me each time we went to go see her.

When she passed away, all I had left were a few photos of her and memories of eating homemade ice cream that she had fixed for me. But as I grew up, my parents told me that my grandmother had left me several other items in her will that she wanted me to have.

The first was a hand-crocheted bedspread she had worked on for months as she was confined to bed. The other item was a delicate set of mother-of-pearl dishes that she had brought with her when she emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1900.

Those dishes were so fragile that I asked my mother to keep them for me in her dining room breakfront so they wouldn’t be damaged during my military service and frequent moves I would make from one apartment to another as a young adult. When my mother eventually gave up her home and moved into a nursing facility late in her life, I didn’t know what had become of those dishes.

Sometime after my mother died a few years ago at the age of 95, my brother called me and said that he had rescued the dishes and was keeping them for me. On Labor Day Weekend this year, during a visit with him at his home in Connecticut, he gave me the dishes and it made me think about how much I missed growing up without my grandmother.

Therefore, the other call I would place if given the opportunity would be to Josephine.

I’d share with her what her precious gifts have meant to me in my lifetime and how they connect me with family and how much I miss her hugs and kisses, even though it’s been 64 years since she left us. I’d be certain to ask her about her life in Europe, about her parents and family and why she chose to move to the United States and start a new life here without ever seeing her own family again.

Wouldn’t it be marvelous if there was a way to speak to lost loved ones again and to tell them how much you love and miss them? I’m convinced that everyone who would have that chance would certainly take it. <

Andy Young: A King on Mount Rushmore?

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Reading Billie Jean King’s autobiography, which was published this past summer, brings thoughts of Mount Rushmore to my mind. 

The colossal mountainside rock sculpture of four American presidents’ profiles took 14 years for sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son to complete. It was intended as a tribute to America’s birth (thus George Washington’s image), growth (Thomas Jefferson’s), development (Abraham Lincoln’s), and preservation (Theodore Roosevelt’s).

But since the memorial’s completion in 1941, historians more interested in uncovering truth than perpetuating unquestioning deification have pointed out some inconvenient facts. Washington and Jefferson owned (and traded in) human chattel. Lincoln’s freeing of the slaves was motivated more by political expediency than by any particular moral objection he had to “The Peculiar Institution.” And Roosevelt’s well-documented views regarding the capabilities and worthiness of peoples more darkly complected than himself are the very embodiment of white supremacy.

But should historical figures be condemned for holding views which were, in their day, just as commonplace amongst their contemporaries as open-mindedness, tolerance, and understanding are amongst the more enlightened, better-informed people of today?

If racism, sexism, misogyny, colonialism, ethnic cleansing, drug use, and/or being unfaithful to one’s spouse were retroactive disqualifiers, the massive sculpture in South Dakota’s Black Hills memorializing America’s eligible presidents would, if it existed at all, likely be known as Mount Jimmy Carter.

But back to Billie Jean: appropriately titled All In, her memoir is inspiring, frank, and often astonishing for its blunt depiction of some of the author’s less flattering qualities. It’s reasonable to assume that at least part of a writer’s motivation for producing a memoir would be to cast its protagonist in a flattering light, but Ms. King doesn’t pull any punches regarding a few notable missteps she’s taken in her life, some of which were, to her everlasting regret, hurtful to her family and others she truly cares about.

But aside from her dedicated commitment to fighting injustice based on race, gender, sexuality, nationality, or any other artificial dividing line, what comes through about the admittedly headstrong, uber-competitive Ms. King is her magnanimity. She possesses the ability to see the good in every human being she’s encountered over her six-plus decades in the spotlight, including those who were her bitter rivals on or off the tennis court. She ultimately befriended Bobby Riggs, the self-promoting “male chauvinist pig” who provided her opposition in the epic “Battle of the Sexes” winner-take-all $100,000 tennis match of 1973, and expresses respect for Margaret Court, arguably her greatest professional tennis adversary whose politics are, to put it mildly, the polar opposite of Ms. King’s.

This week the former tennis star and lifelong passionate advocate for equal rights turns 78 years old, but she and her wife Ilana Kloss will probably mark the occasion quietly. Ms. King has observed birthdays in subdued fashion ever since her 20th, which unfortunately fell on the day John F. Kennedy (whose subsequently revealed philandering makes him ineligible, by 21st century standards, for any future presidential memorials), was assassinated.

Were there a Mount Rushmore for American athletes who used their fame, even at great personal sacrifice, to selflessly advocate for fairness and the betterment of society, there’s little doubt Billie Jean King’s face would be one of those carved into the imaginary stone, right alongside Jackie Robinson’s, Muhammad Ali’s, and someone else’s.

But then, if infidelity were a disqualifier for the socially conscious athlete Mount Rushmore, Ali and Ms. King would both need replacing. But with whom? Bill Russell? Roberto Clemente? Colin Kaepernick?

Let the discussion begin, and the ongoing search for a flawless human being (living or dead) continue. <

Friday, November 12, 2021

Insight: A role model for the ages

William A. 'Bill' Topham
By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

I have always envied those who have known their grandparents because I never got that opportunity. My grandparents had all died by the time I was 5, so my memories of them are distant and hard to recall, but as sad as that is, I did have one older figure in my life that helped me find my way in the world.

William Anthony Topham was my “foster grandfather” and from a different time and era. Born on Dec. 6., 1890, “Bill” Topham was one of a kind and preferred cultivating flowers and tending his garden to discussing politics and social issues with friends and neighbors.

He was an aging Irishman who loved to grill outside during the summer months and had a hearty laugh that could be heard for miles. Bill was simple in many ways and advised me to always look for the best in people and learn what they were most passionate about as it helps to get to know them on a different level.

This he learned from experience, Bill said. Looking for the best in people made him an outstanding supervisor at an Eastman Kodak manufacturing plant that made Kodak cameras and helped him marry his wife, Ida, who was a successful real estate agent for many years.

A visit to Bill and Ida’s home was always fun for my brother Doug and me. They had a fluffy white Spitz dog named “Whitey” and a huge jet-black cat called “Blackie.” The names were chosen for simplicity, Bill said.

In the winter months, my brother and I got to play downstairs at Bill and Ida’s home in their finished basement, the site of many wonderful Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties through the years. It had a full bar, and my favorite item there was a clock with hands running backwards on the wall behind the bar. During the summer we would sit outside in Bill’s colorful garden and shaded backyard taking in cooling breezes blowing in from the lake nearby.

Bill was in his 70s by the time I had first caught a glimpse of him as he hammered in a “For Sale” sign in my parent’s front yard. His wife was the realtor that my parents had hired to sell their first home when we had bought a new one and that’s how we had first met them. They were alone and getting on in years and kind of took us under their wing as “foster grandparents” when they found out that ours had passed away.

I bonded with Bill as his birthday was in early December like mine is and he loved to regale me with stories of his life growing up in the early 20th century.  

Filled with tales of a time where automobiles were scarce and of sports legends such as boxing’s Jack Dempsey and Babe Ruth, Bill Topham also was proud of his service as a doughboy, the American infantrymen of World War I. He once described in detail for me what it was like to be in the trenches on the frontlines of the war in France and suddenly see an American airplane flying overhead. It was the first time Bill had ever seen an airplane and he said it was an astonishing sight in the middle of a war.

Bill never shied away from the fact that he liked to drink. His favorite was “Wild Irish Rose,” a wine from the area where we lived. He also could sing the traditional Irish folksong “My Wild Irish Rose,” although the words became somewhat slurred after he downed a few glasses of the wine.

He loved watching horse racing and other sports on television and was a devoted baseball fan. While watching the 1965 World Series with him on a portable black and white TV set, I asked him why he was rooting for the Minnesota Twins to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in that October classic. He said the Dodgers were favorites in that matchup because of their star pitchers such as Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, and everyone expected them to win.

“I’d rather root for the underdog, it’s so much more fun to do that,” Bill said. “Anyone can pull for the favored team, but it takes a special kind of person to pull for the underdog. The reward is so much greater for you when they win.”

It is a lesson Bill passed on to me that I’ve never forgotten about to this very day. I especially think of him if I watch the Kentucky Derby and watch the parade of horses in the field listed as 50-1 longshots.

When I was serving in the U.S. Air Force in Arizona on Nov. 30, 1981, my mother called me and told me that Bill had died at the age of 90.

I consider myself fortunate to have known a World War I veteran like Bill Topham and still miss his wit and wisdom every day.

He once told me to “enjoy all the little things life offers because one day you’ll look back and realize those are really the big things.”

Profound insight indeed. <