Friday, July 29, 2022

Insight: Revisiting loving memories of the past

It’s funny how something small and insignificant can take you back to a time long since passed. That’s exactly what happened to me recently and jump-started my memory of days gone by.

Marge Bartlett with Ed Pierce in 2001.
Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, our family would spend a lot of time with my mom’s friend, Marge Bartlett. The Bartletts lived across the road in Rochester, New York from my mom’s uncle and as a teenager, Marge would ask my mom to babysit her son, Jimmy.

Marge was always humorous and kind and never had a bad word to say about anyone or anything. She loved to laugh and smile and was a wonderful mother whose home was filled with love.

She was married to Bob Bartlett, a glassblower at Kodak who always seemed to have a twinkle in his eye. He’d frequently demonstrate glassblowing in his workshop for my brother and me. He was a genuine craftsman and loved his work.

Along with their son Jimmy, the Bartlett’s youngest son, Kenny, was just a few months older than my sister, and that further deepened the bond between my mom and Marge. They would babysit for each other’s children on Friday nights so the other couple could go to the movies or have a night out away from the kids.

When Jimmy grew up, he went to college for broadcasting. He got married and moved to Massachusetts where he became a radio station manager and worked for the legendary sportscaster Curt Gowdy. His brother Kenny then went off to college and my sister graduated from high school and got a job and her own apartment.

That left my brother Doug and I as the ones who received the lion’s share of the attention from Marge and Bob Bartlett.

When we would visit their home, Bob seemed to have a never-ending cache of chocolate chip cookies in a jar on his kitchen counter and would ask me what I was learning about in school. Our discussions while sharing chocolate chip cookies and the questions he would ask me about my history classes seemed to spark a curiosity in me that eventually led to my career asking questions as a journalist.

Marge, on the other hand, knew precisely what a kid wanted most when they visited her home. She’d open the freezer door to her refrigerator and out would pop a small vanilla ice cream cup with strawberry or chocolate on the bottom. Of course, she’d provide the small wooden spoon to scoop out the treat.

During every visit that my brother and I would make to the Bartlett home, the freezer door would open and yet again, we’d sit on the floor in front of their black and white console television set, eating ice cream with a wooden spoon while watching an episode of “Rawhide” or “Hogan’s Heroes” on a Friday evening. I cherished the time we spent there and adored the warm hugs and encouragement that Marge and Bob would offer to us, telling us they envisioned us growing up to become movie stars, astronauts or NHL hockey players.

We also came to love their dog, Thumper, an affectionate overweight beagle whose bark sounded like an ice chest being dragged across a hardwood floor.

My brother and I did grow up and graduated from high school. I went off to college and my brother launched a career in business. My parents remained close friends with the Bartletts.

In 1982, I was serving in the U.S. Air Force in Arizona when my mother called to let me know that Bob had suddenly died from a heart attack at the age of 68. Heart disease ran in their family and the Bartlett’s son Jimmy had died of a massive heart attack at the age of 40, leaving behind a young wife and a daughter.

Through the years, whenever I returned to my hometown, I would make it a point to stop and visit with Marge. And it was like time would stand still when I did. The home I once considered to be so large was really tiny with an addition on the back that Bob had built for Marge’s mother, Sue Coleman.

The cookie jar was still on the counter and every time I’d go to see Marge, she’d open up the freezer door to the refrigerator and ask if I wanted an ice cream cup.

By this time, Marge was in her mid-80s and was losing her hearing. She also suffered from dementia and would forget to pay her electric bill. Her son Kenny or relatives living nearby would step in and pay the bill for her to keep her lights on.

Before my final visit to her home in 2001, her son Kenny implored me to see if I could talk her into moving into assisted living. I did ask and she told me she had lived in that home for 70 years and wasn’t going anywhere. Marge died in her sleep at the age of 90 in 2004 the night before Kenny’s daughter’s wedding that she was so looking forward to attending.

Last week I saw some of those ice cream cups with strawberry on the bottom at the grocery store and it reminded me of those bygone days. What I sure wouldn’t give to go back there once more. <

Andy Young: Searching for sympathy, but finding none

By Andy Young

One hot afternoon last week I pedaled over to the local post office, intending to mail a package. Looking for shade, I parked my bike under a tree. Not 10 feet away from me, parked next to the curb, was a red BMW with the motor running. No one was inside it. I’m not sure how long it had been there, but it wasn’t until I had gotten off the bike, had some water, removed my helmet, gloves, and sunglasses, gotten the package (and my wallet) out of my backpack and arrived at the front door that a man sauntered out, climbed back into the car, and after a few seconds (presumably to change the radio station or readjust the thermostat) blithely drove off.

Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays was recently 
 a robbery victim when his Rolls Royce was broken
into by a thief. COURTESY PHOTO
Selfishness and disdain for the environment aren’t crimes. However, given the current heat waves and droughts currently plaguing nearly every country in the northern hemisphere, maybe they should be.

I am opposed to crime.

I don’t approve of armed robbery, extortion, or pyramid schemes. I heartily condemn credit card fraud and identity theft. I’m anti-shoplifting, anti-blackmail, and unalterably opposed to all violent crimes. I decry child abuse, spousal abuse and elder abuse, particularly that last one, as it becomes, with each passing year, the specific type of abuse that I myself am most eligible for.

That established, it would seem to follow that my heart would go out to victims of evildoers, and it almost always does. But every so often I learn about a situation where, try as I might, I cannot conjure up any sympathy for the target of a lawbreaker.

Take the case of 24-year-old Kahlil Eugune Mathis, who was recently arrested by the sheriff’s department of Jacksonville (Florida) and charged with stealing $650,000 worth of jewelry from a Rolls Royce belonging to Wander Franco, a major league baseball player for the Tampa Bay Rays. Security camera footage shows Mr. Mathis, wearing dark clothing and a mask, approaching Mr. Franco’s car with a wrench, and subsequently running from the scene carrying a safe full of valuables.

Among the stolen items: a $70,000 gold and diamond medallion spelling “FRANCO 5” (his uniform number) in green and blue lettering; a $300,000 gold- and diamond-encrusted chain and circle medallion with a “W” in the center; a $200,000 rose gold Cuban link chain; a $44,000 Rolex watch; a $5,000 gold Tom and Jerry necklace; a pair of league championship rings, valued at $20,000 each; and a $60 safe containing all that jewelry.

I don’t feel I have the right to dictate to other people how they should spend their money; after all, I know how I’d feel if someone tried to mandate how I use mine. However, in spite of the fact that Mr. Franco was clearly the victim of a crime, I can’t help wondering if anyone really needs all that bling. Is it wrong to conclude that Mr. Franco is a tad selfish? If he is, there’s good news: he’s only 21 years old, so he’ll have plenty of time to outgrow it.

I had an odd thought after reading the story about that robbery: since he’s currently on the injured list, I wondered if maybe if the guy who left his car running outside the post office last week was Mr. Franco himself. It probably wasn’t, though. There's no reason why he’d have been in Maine. Plus, the fellow who got in that car looked a lot older than 21. And besides, what self-respecting, gold-chain-wearing professional athlete would be seen driving something as cheap as a BMW? <

Friday, July 22, 2022

Insight: Strange and unusual cat behavior

Gracie the cat lived to be the age of 16 and loved to catch
water drips from the bathtub faucet. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Ed Pierce Managing Editor

I confess that I don’t know very much about cats or cat behavior but having had several cats as pets through the years, I do know strange and unusual animal behavior when I see it.

For the most part, I’m a dog person and although the cats I’ve been associated with have been great, they have at times exhibited odd and quirky habits that can only be described as aberrant.

The first cat our family took in was when I was in high school. A young woman from our neighborhood knocked on our door carrying a box of Siamese kittens and asked if we would like one. Up until that point my mother and father were opposed to getting a cat because my brother had hay fever, and they thought the car hair would aggravate that.

But both my brother and I were able to talk them into taking in this adorable kitten. He quickly became a favorite and got along well with our dog. So much so, he loved to gulp down the dog’s food when the dog wasn’t around.

As the kitten grew, so did his quirky habits. He loved to fall asleep on top of the sofa and from that vantage point, he was able to look out the window and watch the birds flying by. But it also spelled trouble for anyone choosing to sit on the sofa as he zealously defended his territory by grabbing and biting anyone’s head who dared to sit near him. 

He also took great delight in seeing how far he could fling cat litter away from his cat box. Flying pieces of cat litter were a sight to behold and reminiscent of Jack Nicklaus hitting out of a sand trap on the 16th hole whenever he visited his cat box.

When I was in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, we took in a small kitten we called Benson. He was a grey tiger-striped little fellow who was curious about everything. For some reason, he loved to eat paper and was known to climb and to claw furniture to his own amusement.

I quickly learned to stash my important military papers in a safe location upon arriving home as he once ate three copies of my temporary duty orders that I left inadvertently on our kitchen table.

He also had another unusual habit that drove us crazy.

My wife and I had purchased a brand-new plaid sofa and love seat for our apartment and within six months, the armrests of both pieces of furniture were in shambles.

Even though we provided him with a scratching post set up in another room, this cat would slowly torture us by jumping up on the armrest, yawning, and then vigorously strapping his claws as much as he could get away with before we chased him away from doing that. It became a ritual for him, and we tried everything to prevent him from doing it, including covering the armrests with vinyl. It made no difference to Benson as he’d knock the vinyl off and soon the armrest fabric was shredded and reduced to stuffing.

He wouldn’t bother any other furniture in our apartment, just the armrests of the sofa and love seat.

Another odd trait of Benson was he would climb up on my chest while I was sleeping and whack me in the nose on weekends until I got up and fed him. It never happened during the week, just on weekends. It was like he had some sort of internal clock that mandated this strange behavior every Saturday and Sunday morning.

The other cat I’ve had was a tiger-striped beauty named Gracie. She was 2 when I rescued her, and she soon had to have surgery to rebuild her bladder after suffering from bladder stones. The veterinarian prescribed pills to give her after her surgery and said we should wrap her in a towel to try to give them to her.

That proved to be near-impossible, and she kicked and fought being given a pill each time she was supposed to have one. It was like going to war using hand-to-hand combat.

Gracie was frightened by dogs, and she chose to stay upstairs in our townhouse when our dog was downstairs. Once when we were at work, the dog hopped over a baby gate separating the upstairs from the downstairs and chased Gracie under our bed. The dog became stuck and when I got home, Gracie was sitting on top of our dresser and all I could see was the dog’s tail wagging underneath our bed.

It didn’t take long for us to catch on to Gracie’s most unusual habit. She’d wait in the bathroom until we took a shower and then sit under the faucet and try to catch the water drips in her mouth. This game went on for years and continued as we moved from the townhouse to seven years in one home, a move from Florida to New Hampshire, and then from a home in New Hampshire to another in Maine.

Cats are gorgeous creatures and make fine pets, but I much prefer dogs. <

Andy Young: Travel tips from one who knows

By Andy Young

Maybe it’s the haunting refrain of Barney the Purple Dinosaur chanting a certain mantra inside my head, but I can’t help feeling I should have brought back something more from my recently completed trip to the Pacific Northwest than refrigerator magnets, t-shirts for the kids, and a Bigfoot-spotting guide. But since “Sharing is caring” is a registered trademark of the Salvation Army (Really! I looked it up!), and I can’t afford the legal Dream Team Barney retained for his ongoing trademark infringement battle, from this point forward I’ll need to use alternative phrasing.

But if apportionment is indeed generosity, what better gift(s) to bestow than some of my vast knowledge of all things travel-related? I am, after all, a demonstrably seasoned sojourner; in addition to my recently completed journey to America’s left coast (my second such foray in the last quarter-century), I’ve also now flown on airplanes three times in the past 21 years.

My initial helpful hint: when you’re visiting Sequim, Washington, don’t refer to it aloud as SEE-quim. It’s pronounced “Squim.” The same goes for Yachats (YAH-hots, not YATCH-chats), Oregon. Mispronunciating either of those places will immediately identify you as an out-of-towner, and no one wants to spend their vacation hearing derisive (duh-RICE-siv) jeers of “Look at the dumb furriners” ringing in their ears.

Next up on my “allocating is magnanimous” list: an important warning regarding the enjoyment of America’s most beautiful roadways. U.S. Route 101, which runs nearly the length of the West Coast (from Tumwater, Washington to East Los Angeles, California; I looked it up), has accurately been designated as a scenic highway. My sister and I traversed 25-ish miles of it (after several hours on I-5) on our journey south to Yachats and decided to take it all the way back to Washington on our return trip. And here is what we learned from doing this: even the loveliest byway is significantly less picturesque in the dark. In fact, once daylight is gone many scenic roads, particularly those one is unfamiliar with, can become twisting, terrifying avenues of death! 

Bottom line: stay off scenic highways after sunset. You’re better off on the interstate, or better yet, camping out in the woods, since most Sasquatches are vegetarians (I looked this up too, and two of the five random Internet sources I consulted speculated that it might be true).

Speaking of frightening, do not under any circumstances attempt to take a motor vehicle over the Astoria-Megler Bridge, a span which crosses the Oregon-Washington border high above the Columbia River. It’s 23 miles long, 7,000 feet above the river, eight feet across at its widest point, and features daily crosswinds that average nearly 85 mph. (Note: I did not look any of this up; I just estimated.) Numerous pedestrians get blown off the bridge each year, and it’s so far above the river that some of yesterday’s helpless victims are still falling as you read this.

One other helpful tip regarding air travel: unless you believe in miracles, do not fly standby on the eve of a summer holiday weekend and expect there will be an available seat on any connecting flight to Maine. You have a better chance of walking on water.

I, however, got the one remaining standby seat on a JFK to Portland Jetport flight on the Thursday before the July 4th weekend. Not only that, the “layover” between the red-eye I took from Seattle and the against-all-odds completion of my airborne journey home was just an hour!

How did I accomplish this? It was easy, actually.

Because it just so happens that I do believe in miracles! <

Friday, July 15, 2022

Insight: My five most influential books

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

A few weeks ago, a college student conducting a survey asked me if I could name the five most influential books I’ve read during my lifetime.

Having read hundreds of books through the years, I found the question to be enormously challenging, especially trying to whittle the field down to just five. I had to think hard about what books I’ve read and then if I should deem them as influential or not to shrink the field down further.

I discovered that some books on my list were merely for entertainment and others were read so I could learn more about a particular topic or reference or they were mandatory for a high school or college class.

This was a significant challenge for me, but after rattling five books off the top of my head quickly for the survey, and then giving it more thought, I came up with my real list of the five most influential books that I’ve read in my lifetime and why.

I did not list any from my extensive collection of Classics Illustrated comic books as a teenager, anything from the Hardy Boys series, CliffsNotes Study Guides, or The Bible just to free up more space. All books on this list are in no set order of significance.

** “The Boys from Brazil” by Ira Levin. I read this when I was in the U.S. Air Force in Germany in the 1970s and couldn’t put it down. It held my interest from start to finish and I found it to be amazing storytelling with some unexpected twists and turns along the way. It was suspenseful and everything I looked for in a great read. A film adaptation was later made starring Laurence Oliver and Gregory Peck, but for me it didn’t match the intensity and intrigue offered by Levin’s novel. 

** “Captains and the Kings” by Taylor Caldwell. I read the first chapters of this book in a Reader’s Digest condensed novel on a bookshelf in a relative’s home and found it to be worth buying the book when I found it a few years later in a library book sale in the early 1980s. The story of an Irish immigrant to America in the mid-1850s appealed to me as did his quest for relevance as he became older and the patriarch of a successful family. I liked Caldwell’s descriptive storytelling and ability to make you empathize with her characters made this worth the time I spent reading the book.

** “Tuesdays With Morrie” by Mitch Albom. I read this in 1999 when I was recovering from cancer surgery. A friend had recommended it and I knew of Albom’s work as a sportswriter and columnist in Detroit in the 1980s. What I didn’t know was how impressive a writer he is and how this book would take me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. It’s a simple story about a series of visits a journalist makes to his college sociology professor who is dying. Albom’s book reminds us that we all need to slow down and enjoy our lives because the clock is ticking and none of us are here forever. Morrie’s approaching death makes him appreciate life even more and it’s a lesson that we can all take to heart.

** “Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich” by Mark Kriegel. I saw this book at a bookstore and being a huge fan of basketball, I knew that it was a must-read for me. I first became aware of Maravich when he played in college at Louisiana State in the late 1960s and he stood out because of his floppy socks and uncanny ability to score from anywhere on the floor. What I didn’t know about Maravich was his struggle for acceptance from his perfectionist coach and father, his strained relationship with his alcoholic mother and his battle to recover from a devastating knee injury that should have ended his superstar career in the National Basketball Association not long after it had started. I loved this book because it made me admire Maravich for his humanity, not just another star athlete.

** “Light Years” by James Salter. I was assigned to read this novel in a college English class and found it to be elegant and moving. It’s a portrait of a flawed marriage over two decades and includes the peaks and valleys along the way as it barrels toward a divorce. The story is told without judgement or blame and features rich characters trying to survive the disappointments we all must deal with in life and navigating interactions with those they love. I found this book to be captivating yet profoundly sad in many ways. Loved Salter’s descriptive writing and how he presents the story and lets the reader gather their own conclusions about the characters.

This list could have gone on and on and it was difficult to winnow it down to just five books that have stayed with me through the years. I suppose I could be described as someone who is interested in learning about what it is to be human and how it relates to my own life.<

Andy Young: Andres Rodriguez and the silly souvenir

By Andy Young

My favorite professional baseball player of all time was an infielder in the New York Yankees farm system who never played regularly for any team he was assigned to. In four years as a pro, he never hit a home run. Not even one.

Andres Rodriguez gave an unexpected
autograph to Andy Young before a 
Florida State League baseball game in
But 30 years ago this week Andres Rodriguez helped me preserve a memento of what was, at least briefly, the most memorable moment of my life.

I was doing radio play-by-play for the Vero Beach Dodgers of the Florida State League that season, and during batting practice prior to most of our 17 games with the Fort Lauderdale Yankees, I’d exchange pleasantries with Rodriguez, a friendly, outgoing Dominican who seemed even more eager to learn English than I was to improve my pidgin Spanish.

I’m not sure how we first met; it might have had something to do with the fact that, from my perspective, Rodriguez’s body was more similar to mine than any other professional athlete I’d ever encountered. He was generously listed at 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, although my guess was that he’d probably been wearing a pair of 10-pound ankle weights when he stepped on the scale.

For me the second game of a July 17 doubleheader was just another of the 135 Dodger contests I’d broadcast that summer, until the bottom of the second inning. That’s when, with one out, Yankee center fielder Jovino Carvajal lifted a high foul ball behind home plate that was headed … straight for me!

Anyone familiar with baseball knows foul balls hit back toward the press box are potentially lethal; one look at the wall behind my head in the Fort Lauderdale Stadium visiting radio booth, which featured several baseball-sized holes in it, would confirm that. But this particular foul ball was, as it approached, actually coming down from the top of an exceptionally gentle parabola. I was wearing a headset at the time, so I reached out and caught the ball, two-handed, on the fly. It was just like picking an apple off a tree; there wasn’t even a hint of a sting in either hand.

But how to preserve that magic moment in time? Then it hit me: I’d get the actual ball autographed by the pitcher who’d thrown it and the batter who’d hit it. The first part was easy: Dodger pitcher Jason Brosnan happily signed it for me on the team bus after the game. But getting to Carvajal was going to be a challenge. Not only did I not know him, but his grasp of English was even more limited than mine was of Spanish.

That’s where my slender hero came in. Before the next night’s game, I sought Rodriguez out and explained, in my best halting Spanish, what I wanted: Jovino Carvajal’s signature on the ball he had hit, Brosnan had thrown and I had caught.

Andres smiled, indicating that he’d caught most of my meaning, and led me to Carvajal who, after exchanging some rapid Spanish sentences with his teammate, agreeably put his signature on the ball. I had my treasured, one-of-a-kind trophy.

But then came something I hadn’t anticipated. “You want me to sign too, yes?” Rodriguez shyly asked.

There was only one appropriate response, which was: “As I matter of fact, yes Andres, I do!”

Even when I worked in baseball, I recognized autographed baseballs for what they are: spherical dust collectors that require a glass or plastic case in order for them to retain their perceived value. I never understood why anyone would want such a silly item.

Until the very moment that I asked for one myself. <

Bill Diamond: Share your experiences with Maine’s child protection system

By Senator Bill Diamond

On Wednesday, May 18, I joined fellow legislators, foster parents, childcare providers, and family members of murdered children to speak up in support of child protection reform.

We gathered together in front of the State House as the Government Oversight Committee met inside to continue their investigation into Maine’s child protection system. It was a powerful event, and one of the only times I'm aware of that people with firsthand experience with the system came forward to speak out in such a meaningful way.

Our message was clear: We want to collaborate with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) about how to make things better and safer for all of Maine's kids. Attendees brought homemade signs to urge DHHS to be transparent and work toward reform, and to memorialize kids who have died.

Among those who stepped up to the microphone to address the press was Victoria Vose, grandmother of Maddox Williams, one of the children who died in the summer of 2021. Maddox’s death and the deaths of several other children over a short, months-long span – including 3-year-old Hailey Goding, 6-week-old Jaden Harding, and 1-month-old Sylus Melvin – began the latest push in the fight to reform Maine’s child protection system.

Last summer’s spate of deaths led me and other legislators to request that the Government Oversight Committee authorize an investigation by the independent Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA).

The GOC agreed to authorize this investigation, which has focused on oversight of child protection services and the efficacy of DHHS’s efforts to determine if a child is safe in their home. The ongoing investigation has kept the spotlight on this issue and the pressure on DHHS, even after the Legislature adjourned this May.

At their most recent monthly meetings, the GOC has spent hours speaking with DHHS officials, asking questions and gathering more information to help them direct the next steps of OPEGA’s investigation.

Periodically, the GOC allows the public to comment on what the Committee has learned from DHHS or OPEGA. In my opinion, these public comment periods are some of the most useful parts of the GOC’s work.

We won’t be able to make meaningful change without hearing from those who have witnessed gaps in the system firsthand – be they childcare providers, foster parents, teachers, doctors, law enforcement, families, or anyone else. Many of the people who participated in May’s rally at the State House have testified in front of the GOC, and their bravery has encouraged more and more people to do the same.

The GOC next meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 20, and they will be holding a public comment period at that time.

If you have a perspective on Maine’s child protection system to share, I strongly encourage you to testify. You can catch up on what the GOC has discussed at their recent meetings by visiting their YouTube channel at (Due to technical errors, there is no video record, only an audio record, of the GOC’s June 15 meeting, which you can find by visiting

If you are interested in testifying, please feel free to reach out to me, and I would be more than happy to help you understand the process and how to sign up.

Improving our child protection system is everyone’s responsibility, and I’m hopeful that as more people find the courage to step forward and share their stories we’ll finally be able to create a more transparent and robust system that truly protects Maine kids.

If you’d like help signing up to testify, please reach out to me at or call my office at 207-287-1515.

You can also visit to sign up to receive my regular e-newsletter and keep up with the latest developments on this issue. <

Friday, July 8, 2022

Insight: My Father’s Abominable 1960s Playlist

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Growing up in the 1960s I was forced to endure what I considered to be some of the strangest and least appealing music of all time that came out of a lone dashboard speaker in my father’s 1962 Chevrolet Impala.

His eclectic musical taste ran the gamut from cowboy yodelers to finger-snappin’ crooners who warbled on about everything from lost love to being deeply indebted to the company you worked for. He seemed to take great delight in playing his appalling tunes for myself and my brother as he drove across town or went to see cousins who lived out in the country.

This musical persecution was further extended when we moved into a larger home that came equipped with a radio intercom system and with a simple flick of a switch, he could pipe all his favorites through the speakers in our bedrooms waking us up each morning for school with his loud “hillbilly” early 1960s country and western selections.

Through the years, I compiled a group of his favorites that we were subjected to and even though decades have passed, I truly continue to detest some of these songs, although I have mellowed somewhat over time to a few of them. When I hear them today, I realize they are classics and think of him whenever they air on the radio. Those include more mainstream popular songs he liked such as “Fever” by Peggy Lee, “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles, “She’s Got You” by Patsy Cline, and “This Guys In Love With You” by Herb Alpert.

Without further ado, the list goes as follows and if this type of music is your cup of tea, it’s nothing personal when I say I find many of these songs sheer torture –

Dishonorable Mention: Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons,” Stonewall Jackson’s “Waterloo,” Ned Miller’s “From a Jack to a King,” and Jack Greene’s “There Goes My Everything.”

And the countdown goes like this –

#10. “Don’t Go Near the Eskimos” by Ben Colder. A novelty song gone terribly wrong. Ben Colder was actually the alter ego of actor/musician Sheb Wooley who also gave us the “Purple People Eater” song.

#9. “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton. Was written originally by a school principal in Arkansas to promote student interest in history. Probably the only song about Andrew Jackson to ever be played on the radio.

#8. “On the Wings of a Dove” by Ferlin Husky. A religious homage to God sending doves to Earth as a symbol of his love for mankind. I never liked Husky’s twangy interpretation but did enjoy the song when it was sung by Robert Duvall in the film “Tender Mercies.”

#7. “Wolverton Mountain” by Claude King. Played constantly in the 1960s, this is about a mountain man who zealously guards his daughter from anyone who would try and court her affection. Shlock at its worst.

#6. “Mountain of Love” by David Houston. Dreadful drivel in my opinion and everything I came to loathe about 1960s country music. It’s about a man who buys an engagement ring but the girl he wants to marry isn’t ready to settle down. Not the same tune as Johnny Rivers’ “Mountain of Love” hit.

#5. “Peel Me A Nanner” by Roy Drusky. A hard-headed chauvinist ponders why his girlfriend ran off with another man. He claims to have tried to indulge her every whim but laments “it all added up to a big fat’ nothin.’ Last night you ran away with him.”

#4. “Hello Walls” by Faron Young. Perhaps the single most-played country song of all-time. Willie Nelson wrote this about a man who comes home to find his woman has left him and he is alone and singing to the walls. He also croons to the windows and the ceiling while postulating that she’ll never return.

#3. “Flowers on the Wall” by the Statler Brothers. Overplayed and overhyped as one of the greatest country tunes ever. This song was used in the film “Pulp Fiction” in the 1990s and actor Bruce Willis sings along to a line of it in the movie. Willis also used that same line (“smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo) in the film “Die Hard with a Vengeance.”

#2. “Mule Skinner Blues” by The Fendermen. If you love yodeling, this one’s for you. It’s hideous caterwauling about a down-on-his-luck mule skinner and should be banished permanently to the annals of bad ideas and distasteful music.

#1. “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” by Little Jimmy Dickens. The passage of more than 60 years has not diminished my dislike for this one. It’s all about a cheapskate who sees a beggar on the street and only gives him a penny, then finds a $100 bill when his clothes come back from the laundry, and he tips the laundry clerk 10 cents. He takes a taxi and tells the driver he’s in a hurry and when the driver gets a speeding ticket, he’s ticked off about having to wait for his change for the fare.

The songs on this list should only be played when trying to make hostage takers surrender. <

Andy Young: Making the right choice

By Andy Young

When I received a text message from my sister, who I had just visited in Olympia, Washington, informing me that she, her husband, and their son all had COVID, it occurred to me that perhaps I too should get tested for the scourge that has, in one way or another, changed the lives of virtually every American over the past two and a half years or so.

Oops. It seems I’ve brought a little something extra back from my trip to the Pacific Northwest.

So how does one best react to a positive COVID test?

One method is to combine resentment (This is so unfair! I don’t deserve this! Why couldn’t this happen to someone who does deserve it, like the grouchy lady at the motor vehicle department, the guy who cut me off in traffic, or the cheaters on the Houston Astros?) with feeling sorry for myself (Why now? I don’t want to quarantine! It’s my summer vacation! I work hard all year for this. Why can’t this happen at some more convenient time, like on a rainy week in March, or during the dead of winter, or on the day my colonoscopy is scheduled? And the days are getting shorter! This is so unfair! Oh, woe is me!) and assigning blame for my horrible plight. (It was my neighbors! It was my co-workers! No, it had to be that guy I sat next to on the airplane; I knew he didn’t look clean! It was the airline; that plane was filthy! It was the airport; it was even filthier than the plane! It was my sister! It was her family! It was her neighbors!)

A second method of dealing with my current situation is to put an attitude of gratitude to work. This would involve reminding myself that prior to this one positive test, I had gone more than 28 months without even a sniffle, and that the vast majority of my friends and colleagues have been unaffected by COVID as well. It’s also worth noting that I have reliable access to food and potable water, and can consume those necessities in a comfortable, safe and secure home. I have family nearby who are not only capable of seeing to my well-being, that they are willing and eager to do so. I live in an area that allows me to go outside periodically and get some fresh air without endangering others.

I have access to technology that allows me to communicate regularly with friends and family without putting any of them at risk. I have a stack of books that I’ve been wanting to read, and now I’ve got the time to do it. I can cook at my leisure, and I’ve got plenty of alcohol wipes and similar cleaning materials that can disinfect any and all utensils once I’m done with them. I can do laundry as needed, and I can use this temporary “found time” to prepare for the six new classes of high schoolers I’ll be meeting for the first time this fall.

Plus, I can even put my thoughts into writing and get them published in a major metropolitan newspaper, assuming that I consider Windham, Maine a major metropolitan area. (Which, for the purpose of keeping a positive attitude, I currently do.)

So regarding my reaction to a positive COVID test, my choices are, if I understand them correctly:

A) Employing an exhausting and toxic combination of anger, self-pity, and finger-pointing, or

B) Counting my many blessings, using this unexpected “time-out” productively, and realizing that before long this too shall pass.

I choose option B. <

Friday, July 1, 2022

Insight: Traffic jams turn me into jelly

An accident slowed traffic to a crawl along I-84 near
Waterbury, Connecticut last weekend. COURTESY PHOTO  

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Through the years my attitude about driving long distances has changed significantly. Used to love to sit behind the steering wheel and roll down the highway for hours. Now it’s become a chore I’m not crazy about.

Last weekend my wife and I drove from Maine to Danbury, Connecticut to see our new grandchild. We left our home early Friday morning and headed down the interstate for what normally is a short trip any other time of year.

But even traveling early in the morning, traffic began to become congested around the York Toll Plaza leaving Maine and did not get much better as we crossed New Hampshire and entered Massachusetts.

Somewhere approaching Worcester in Massachusetts, an accident near our exit left two of three interstate lanes crawling along at under 5 mph. This snarl persisted for several miles and wore on my patience.

We finally navigated through that mess and proceeded to get on the Massachusetts Turnpike, another heavily traveled thoroughfare brimming with construction delays, another accident, and a multitude of black SUVs all seemingly headed in the same direction.

Having to answer the call of nature, my wife asked if we could exit right before Connecticut to find a restroom and I obliged. The rest area along that exit ramp was a popular spot for travelers featuring a McDonald’s restaurant, a gas station, and a Dunkin Donuts. 

Leaving the parking lot, I observed a car trying to get back on the highway nearly get sideswiped by a tractor trailer while a third driver went around them and almost took out a truck driver walking in the parking lot toward the McDonalds.

Getting back on the turnpike was rather tricky as there were multiple signs with arrows both labeled “Connecticut,” but I guessed correctly apparently, and we were back enroute to our destination.

Before getting on I-84 to Danbury, we had planned a stop in Middletown to see my brother, who had moved there several years ago.

Traffic on the way to Middletown was no picnic. A dump truck had broken down in the right lane approaching our exit and a line of cars as far as you could see were stuck behind that vehicle attempting to go around it.

Fortunately, I noticed that snarl and moved over into the other lane, avoiding that logjam. But to my chagrin as we passed that mess, it happened to be the interstate exit that we needed to reach Middletown.

So, I quickly had to take the very next exit and consult “Siri” on my iPhone for an easy route back to where we needed to be. I find “Siri” to be helpful, but it also consumes an enormous amount of my phone’s battery power.

We were able to find our way to Middletown and it was now approaching 1:15 p.m. so we texted my brother and asked if he’d meet us at a restaurant for lunch. My wife and I spent about an hour with him before another lengthy “Siri” consultation and re-route to get us back to the right highway we needed for Danbury.

Cruising down I-84 headed south, the 47-minute estimated travel time turned into more than two hours as a highway wreck near Waterbury put us back in crawl mode, and back to traveling under 5 mph in bumper-to-bumper traffic for miles.

Of course, along the way there were vehicles whose drivers could plainly see flashing signs reading “Accident Ahead” but decided to ignore them and speed along in the left-hand lane until out of room and then chose to cut into the right-hand lane to proceed further slowing traffic. This procession went on and on and the afternoon kept slipping away from us.

What was supposed to be a three-hour ride to Danbury was now nearing six hours, taking away the hour we spent having lunch in Middletown.

Finally clearing the accident in Waterbury, we navigated to Danbury only to find that the directions to our hotel I was using were not the greatest. Therefore, it was back to another consultation with “Siri,” and I received a notice on my iPhone of just 20 percent of battery life left.

My wife and I were relieved to find the hotel, checked in and then we were back off to see our new grandchild, and it was back into heavy rush-hour traffic to get there. I missed the highway ramp that I needed and had to pull a U-turn at the next exit and head back in the right direction. We arrived where we needed to be at 5 p.m., about eight hours after leaving Maine.

The visit was much too short, but after an hour getting lost trying to find I-84 in Connecticut for our trip back home on Sunday morning, we were happy to arrive back in Maine safely four hours later.

I’ll admit I’m not always adept at following directions and I’m not as enthused about driving long distances as I was years ago, but we ultimately got to where we needed to be, albeit after many long delays.

Navigating through traffic jams is not my cup of tea and turns my brain to jelly. <

Andy Young: Forty-nine down, one to go

Andy Young visits Sequim, Washington while
on vacation this week. SUBMITTED PHOTO
By Andy Young

My sister Carol is my favorite sister, and not just because, as she would undoubtedly point out, she’s my only sister.

Some time ago both she and I had jobs involving frequent travel around North America. At one point, likely at a Thanksgiving or Christmas family get-together, one of us (probably me, since inventing competitive situations seems, then as now, like more of a male thing) suggested that perhaps we should race to see who could visit all 50 of the United States first.

Both of us were already more than halfway there, including some tough-to-acquire (for an east coast person) ones like Alaska (me) and both Dakotas (her). It seemed like a fun idea, and the stakes (no money; just bragging rights) were sufficiently low to assure that no one (okay; me) would attempt to cut corners.

My sister laid down certain rules for our contest, which included a couple I wasn’t crazy about. Specifically, merely arriving in a particular place didn’t count; you had to either stay overnight or eat a meal there to be able to officially check off the state in question. That put my claims to Utah (plane layover in Salt Lake City) and Iowa (touching the pavement on the Council Bluffs side of the bridge that crosses the Missouri River from Nebraska) at risk, but at the time that didn’t seem like much of a problem, particularly since shortly thereafter I secured a job that required driving to Butte, Montana. 

By the end of that summer I had added, in addition to Montana, Minnesota, both Dakotas, Wyoming, and Idaho to my list, and legitimized my previously sketchy (by Carol’s standards) claim to Utah.

By the time 1997 arrived the score was tied, 48-48. But situations change, and the arrival of five children (two hers, and three mine) necessitated not only some adjustments regarding employment, but, in both our cases, a certain state of permanency that hadn’t been a factor back when each of us was relatively footloose and fancy free.

So now it’s a quarter-century later, and neither of us had added to our respective totals of four dozen states visited. One of the two places remaining on our “to see” lists is the same, but I still needed Oregon as well, while she has remained Alaska-less. But Carol and her husband recently relocated from Vermont, their longtime home, to Olympia, Washington, and have made it clear to family members that they would welcome any and all visitors.

And since the teaching job I’ve held for the past two decades allows me some extended time off each summer, I was the first to take them up on their generous offer.

So out to Seattle I flew, where I was picked up in the dead of night at an airport only about a thousand times as large as the Portland International Jetport. And after one lovely day in Carol’s new home, we got up the next morning and drove, in her car, down to Oregon. And yes, we stayed long enough to enjoy a meal there.

Forty-nine down, one to go.

Naturally I plan to return Carol’s generosity, and should I get transferred to Alaska (a prospect about as likely as the Pope converting to Islam) my sister knows that I will be pleased to take her all around my new home state, or at least arrange for her to enjoy a meal and/or stay overnight there.

But I’ll also be redoubling my efforts to drive to that so-far-elusive 50th state. And if I ever find a bridge that goes to Hawaii, I’m there! <