Friday, May 26, 2023

Insight: Saluting an American Hero

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Bill Topham of Rochester, New York was one of the most charismatic and funniest men that I’ve ever met and yet he also was devoted to those he cared about and enjoyed sharing tales of what it was like to serve as a U.S. Army Air Service Signal Corps mechanic during World War I.

My grandparents were all deceased by the time I entered first grade, so Bill had become a foster grandfather to me and my brother Doug. Our family spent many wonderful weekends with Bill and his wife, Ida, when I was growing up and the stories that he passed on to me are unforgettable.

Bill Topham served in the U.S. Army Air
Service Signal Corps as a mechanic and a
photo processor during World War I.
Bill was born in 1890 and was 27 when the U.S. was drawn into the war in Europe. During a Joint Session of Congress on April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson had asked for a Declaration of War against Germany and many young patriotic men in America packed military recruiting offices once the war was officially declared on April 6, looking to enlist. Not wanting to serve in the infantry, Bill Topham was captivated by airplanes and enlisted in the Army’s newly formed Air Service Signal Corps, and he was assigned to Baker Field in Rochester and the U.S. Aerial School of Photography.

His duties were to keep the limited number of Curtiss JN "Jenny" airplanes at Baker Field operational so that American pilots could train on the aircraft before being sent overseas for aerial observation and photographic assessment missions of German positions in France and Belgium. The early Jenny airplanes he worked on were difficult to maintain and lacking in flight performance because of hasty manufacturing and the rush to get them to the Air Service pilots.

Topham didn’t have to travel far for duty early in the war and in fact, before enlisting, he had been hired by the Eastman Kodak Company, who owned the land and buildings where Baker Field was located. But after nine months at Baker Field, Topham was transferred to the 1st Corps Observation Group in France early in 1918 as the unit was tasked with patrolling the Toul Sector between the towns of Filrey and Apremont in Northeast France to support the U.S. 26th Infantry Division. His job had changed too, switching from an aircraft mechanic to becoming a photography technician and he was among a group of 30 enlisted Air Service specialists who printed and enlarged photographs of enemy ground positions and got them into the hands of Army intelligence officers within hours of being taken by observational pilots flying over the battlefields.

Pilots assigned to the 1st Corps Observation group flew daily missions, taking off at daybreak and nightfall as needed. The aerial photographs helped turned the tide of the war, which had been bogged down for several years as each side was hunkered down along lines of trenches and successful 1st Corps missions were able to identify movement in enemy cargo transport by road and rail and discovering sites of enemy strongholds and troop positioning.

By September 1918, Topham was part of Army Air Service observation troops that led the way to victory at St. Mihiel in France and then served at the final offensive of the war at Meuse-Argonne. The “War To End All Wars” officially ended on Nov. 11, 1918, and Topham was discharged in January 1919. He returned home to Rochester, got married, raised a family, and resumed his job at Eastman Kodak until his retirement in 1955.

One Sunday afternoon in 1962, we were visiting him, and he asked me if I had ever seen a World War I uniform. He went into his closet and came back with his olive drab green wool shirt and trousers, wool coat, his doughboy cap, and his pair of brown leather field shoes. They had been perfectly preserved in plastic wrap but did smell a bit like moth balls. He also showed me his gas mask and cartridge belt, which looked exactly like they had when he last wore them in 1919.

Over a cup of coffee with my mother in his kitchen, he regaled us with stories of once seeing famous Army Air Service Brigadier General Billy Mitchell arriving at the air base in Tours for a meeting with the commander of U.S. Forces in Europe, General John J. Pershing, and what it was like coming under enemy fire while retrieving film from pilots on the tarmac from a mission at St. Mihiel.

He described the anguish of seeing many of his friends perish in combat and the devastation of seeing a 20-year-old American pilot’s plane explode in mid-air during an aerial attack by Germans near the Argonne in 1918. But he also told me about the camaraderie of those who served in France and how they all shared a common bond of survival.

I got the word that Bill had died at age 91 on Nov. 30, 1981, while I was serving in the U.S. Air Force in Arizona. It is because of men like him that we all can enjoy the Memorial Day holiday and salute those who gave their lives so that we may continue to live in freedom. <

Andy Young: It’s not just animals disappearing

By Andy Young

Black Rhinos, Cross River Gorillas, and Sumatran Elephants are just three of the rapidly-vanishing species that are currently on the officially endangered list, and thinking about that sad fact reminded me of a memorable interaction I had a little over two decades ago.

I was on a weeklong business trip in Florida, and after finishing work for the day I headed back to my hotel in the rented car my employer had provided. As I approached the on-ramp to I-95 south I saw a disheveled fellow sticking his thumb out, and for reasons I can’t fully explain, I pulled over.

The man obviously wanted a ride. I told him I was only going south for two exits, but it turned out that where he needed to go was located off the same exit I was headed for. I told him to hop in, and off we went.

Clearly down on his luck, he wasn’t terribly specific about whatever misfortunes had befallen him. He seemed nice enough, and while what he related of his situation was regrettable, he wasn’t complaining or cursing the fates. To me he just seemed like a decent guy who had been victimized by more than his share of adversity.

He told me I could drop him off at the highway exit but doing that would have left him with a lengthy wait or a lengthy walk, so I told him I’d take him wherever he needed to go. It turned out that dropping him off in the parking lot of a one-story cinder block motel in a run-down area of town really wasn’t all that far out of my way. I offered him a bit of money, for which he thanked me. However, he refused to take it, insisting that my showing him a little kindness was more than enough.

The 20 or so minutes I spent with that man made me feel both blessed and fortunate to have everything that I did, and good about having selflessly done something nice for a fellow human being. Eminently satisfied with myself, when I got back to where I was staying, I called my wife to tell her about my day. Leading with the story of the hitchhiker, I expected she’d be impressed by her husband’s magnanimous gesture, but more likely overwhelmed with awe over his random act of kindness.

She was neither of those things. Not only was she not thrilled about my picking up the hitchhiker she was appalled and irate. She accurately pointed out that I had just become the father of an infant son. She added that I had no way of knowing whether that man thumbing a ride was on drugs, armed, an escaped convict, a violent criminal, a sex offender, or some terrible combination of those things. Had he been any of them, the consequences could have been dire.

I was initially taken aback by her reaction, but then, upon sober reflection, realized she was probably right. I was indeed responsible for others besides myself, and because of that my humanitarian gesture, while noble, was an unnecessarily risky one. When I called her back, I promised not to pick up any more strangers on the side of the road.

For what it’s worth, I’ve kept that promise. But that’s not solely because I feel any particular loyalty to my ex-spouse, the mother of our three children.

Black Rhinos, Cross River Gorillas, and Sumatran Elephants are endangered largely because of environmental factors. Other things, however, are disappearing for reasons more societal than ecological.

Like hitchhikers. I haven’t seen another one since that day. <

Friday, May 19, 2023

Insight: A saga of humiliation and redemption

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Sometimes just the scent of freshly cut grass can take me back or if I close my eyes real tight and think about baseball, I am transported through time to the playing fields behind Brookside School and my days as a Little Leaguer.

The 1964 Brighton Little League Minors Division Reds. 
Right Fielder Ed Pierce is at far left in the front row.
For two seasons in 1963 and 1964, I was a member of the Brighton Little League Reds, a Minors Division squad for 9- and 10-year-old boys. Many of my neighborhood friends were on the same team and a few kids from public school that I didn’t know, since I attended Catholic school. Our coach was Mr. Lansky, a physical education instructor and a devoted fan of Willie Mays and the San Francisco Giants.

Our first practice in 1963 was held in the gym at Brookside School in the Evans Farm subdivision in early April because snow was still on the ground outside. The team lined up in a straight row and our coach would roll ground balls to us. Our task was to use our baseball gloves to prevent the balls from getting past us and not being able to do that, the coach determined that I was probably better suited for an outfield position than to be a Reds infielder.

Within a few weeks the snow had melted, and we were outside taking batting practice in our flannel uniforms. Our first baseman, Randy Edelman, had a keen batting eye and was able to drive the ball farther than anyone else on the Reds team. My pal Billy Whitney was a slick fielder and became our shortstop while one of my neighbors, David Ronner, played third base and was our leadoff hitter. Our pitcher was my fourth-grade classmate, John Crow, who was able to throw strikes consistently.

As for me, I was relegated to playing right field for the Reds and constantly prayed that no baseballs were hit my way so I could demonstrate my woeful lack of defensive ability and awkward throwing.

Having never played Little League before, I was the worst batter in the Minors Division too. No matter how hard I tried, my strikeouts piled up. Coach Lansky had me batting ninth for most games and opposing players would yell “automatic out” at me when I stepped up to bat. The first season I played, despite encouragement from my teammates, I played in 12 of the Reds’ 16 regular season games and in every at bat that season, I struck out. The Reds team finished 6-10 and I felt I had let my teammates down.

The next year, 1964, I resolved to become a better player and as far as playing in the outfield that season, I was. At the start of the schedule, I was splitting time in right field with my classmate, Rick Walsh, but after a few games, he was diagnosed with severe diabetes requiring hospitalization. I surprised myself with improved defense, catching several fly balls hit to right field and making better throws to back into the infield, but something was still lacking whenever I stepped in to hit.

Coach Lansky had moved me up to seventh in the batting order for my second year of Little League, but I was still striking out every time up, except for the time that a pitcher hit me in the back with an errant fastball. I played in every game that year and the Reds made the playoffs, finishing 9-7 and in fourth place in our division during the regular season.

In the playoffs, we won our first two games behind pitchers John Crow and Patrick O’Herlihy, another Catholic school classmate. In the semifinals, we were trailing the Cubs, 6-2, with the bases loaded in the third inning and two outs when it was my turn to bat. I looked over at the bench at my teammates before grabbing my bat and all I saw were worried looks and Edelman, who was our catcher that year, was putting on his shin guards. I promptly struck out on three pitches.

The Reds won our semifinal playoff game over the Cubs, 7-6, and in the league championship game against the Braves, early on, I misplayed a ball hit my way and two runs scored for the Braves. We were able to hold them though and trailed 2-0 in our last time up. Ronner walked, took second on a fielder’s choice and Whitney singled him home to cut the deficit to 2-1, but Edelman popped out. Crow singled and both he and Whitney advanced to second and third. So here I was, the winning run on second base with two outs in the last inning and I’m up. Coach Lansky pulled me aside, telling me to keep my eyes open as the pitcher delivered the ball to the plate.

I miraculously swung and hit the first pitch, knocking it over the shortstop’s head and Crow raced home with the game- and championship-winning run as we won, 3-2. The only base hit I ever had in Minors Division play erased two years of frustration for me and snapped what seemed like a two-year 0-for-87 strikeout streak.

Decades later, the thing I remember the most about my Little League experience that season is being mobbed at first base for my lone hit that year. <

Andy Young: Is Lord Stanley spinning in his grave?

By Andy Young

Believe it or not, hockey wasn’t Canada’s official national sport until that nation’s parliament passed the National Sport Act of 1994. That bit of vital legislation officially declared lacrosse, which had previously been the national sport, to be the Dominion’s official “summer” sport, while hockey was deemed official “winter” sport. This confirmed that when it comes to having elected officials eager to posture and grandstand by spending time and public monies on legislation with no actual meaning (aside from getting the egocentric politicians involved some extra time in front of the cameras), the United States is not alone.

In reality there was never any question about what Canada’s de facto national sport is. Canadians still follow hockey in general (and the ongoing Stanley Cup playoffs in particular) with the same sort of fervor Americans lavished on baseball’s World Series for the first three-quarters of the 20th century, until television and a variety of other factors relegated the nation’s nominal national pastime to something to look at occasionally between Super Bowls.

Professional hockey’s holy grail is the Stanley Cup, which goes to the winner of the National Hockey League’s post-season playoffs each year. Players have spit out numerous teeth, taken hundreds of stitches, and played on fractured limbs for a chance to win the replica of the original Cup that was donated by Lord Stanley of Preston, Canada’s governor general and an enthusiastic fan of the then-nascent game in 1893.

For 25 years starting in 1942, hockey was almost purely Canadian. During that time the National Hockey League consisted solely of franchises in Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York, Detroit and Chicago. But even though two-thirds of the teams played their home games south of the United States border, in 1967 just two of the approximately 120 NHL players, Detroit’s Doug Roberts and Boston’s Tommy Williams, were Americans. Every other player in the league was Canadian-born and raised. The league’s first European player, Ulf Sterner, lasted all of four games with the New York Rangers in 1965 before, after some over-the-top brutal treatment by hyper-territorial North American opponents, he decamped back to Sweden.

The 1972 summit series between the powerful Soviet National team and a Canadian all-star squad composed of NHL players was followed more passionately by Canadians than any event since World War II. For fans on the west side of the Atlantic Ocean the series confirmed, albeit barely, North American hockey superiority. More significantly, though, it illustrated just how important hockey was (and is) to Canada’s national identity.

These days hockey is a far more international game. At the start of the current season just 41.4 percent of the NHL’s players (294 out of 711) are Canadian. There are 202 Americans; the other 215 hail from 18 different European countries.

As this column is written, four teams remain in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Las Vegas and Dallas are duking it out in the west, while in the east it’s Carolina (Raleigh) vs. Florida.

Would Lord Stanley be excited if he knew that sometime next month the cup he donated will be awarded to a team representing a place at least 653 miles south of the Canada-U.S. border, a locale where ponds, if there are any, never ice over? It’s hard to say, but if baseball’s World Series was going to feature the winner of the National League championship series between the Moscow Czars and the Beijing Wallbuilders against the survivor of the American League Championship series between the Sydney Outbackers and the Johannesburg Afrikaaners, there’d likely be more than a few Americans pining for their sport’s “good old days.” <

Friday, May 12, 2023

Insight: Echoes of wonder and gratitude

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

I find it incredibly hard to believe, but May 4 marked an important milestone in my career as a journalist. As it so happened, May 4, 2020 fell on a Monday and it was my very first day as Managing Editor of The Windham Eagle newspaper.

Dave Rampino found four different four-leaf
clovers in some grass outside Windham's
Public Works Department compound in

Now more than three years into this job, I have found it to be among the most rewarding experiences of my entire career, which will reach the 48-year point on May 16. At the age of 21 on May 16, 1975, I had a ringside seat at the Las Vegas Convention Center in covering the Ron Lyle versus Muhammad Ali world championship heavyweight fight for United Press International.

Through the years, I’ve had many memorable stories to tell and countless interviews with national newsmakers, famous politicians, Hall of Fame sports figures and renowned celebrities, but some of my favorite articles have come right here in the Lakes Region while working for The Windham Eagle. I consider myself privileged that some still consider my writing to be worth reading.

Listed in random order, here are some of my favorite stories so far while working for The Windham Eagle newspaper:

On Nov. 10, 2022, I told the story on Veteran’s Day about Windham’s Carroll McDonald, then 97, who was trained to fly the P-51 aircraft during World War II. I always am inspired and motivated to relate the stories and experiences of military veterans of that generation because it brings me closer to my late father, who was wounded in action as an Army infantryman at Anzio Beach in Italy in 1944. Following McDonald’s active-duty discharge in 1945, he returned to Windham and attended business school using the GI Bill and then was hired by the U.S. Post Office as a rural postal delivery driver, a job he worked at for 32 years, delivering mail in South Windham and on River Road until his retirement. In 1951, he joined Windham’s American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 and is still an active member today.

Along those same lines, I enjoyed interviewing Windham’s Edward “Ed” Salmon, then 91, for a Nov. 20, 2020 article about him receiving five military medals and two ribbons for his service in the United States Army in Korea. What made that a special achievement was that the medals were awarded to Salmon 70 years after the fact. He knew he had earned the medals, but he had never physically received them. An effort spearheaded by Legion Post 148 Adjutant David Tanguay rectified that situation, giving Salmon long overdue recognition for his military service.

Service on behalf of others seems to be a common theme among my favorite stories to tell. On April 1, 2022, I wrote an article about Renee Darrow of Windham, who traveled to Poland to work as a volunteer serving meals to Ukrainian refugees displaced by the Russian invasion of their nation by the World Central Kitchen. I’m also constantly amazed by the endurance and dedication of Windham’s Brian McCarthy, who year after year sets out on a bicycle ride spanning hundreds of miles, taking pledges to raise money for the 488th Military Police Company’s Family Readiness Group programs to assist the families of Maine soldiers serving overseas. McCarthy, a South Portland police officer, is a retired Army Sergeant First Class and has been undertaking his “Guardian Ride” for the past five years. I wrote about his charitable cause for the first time on Aug. 6, 2021, and greatly admire McCarthy for his kindness in recognizing the important contributions of military dependents.

I’ve been lucky to find some unbelievable stories to tell in pages of The Windham Eagle in the past three years. On June 13, 2020, I wrote an article about Windham Public Works driver Dave Rampino, who discovered a patch of four-leaf clover while parking a snowplow truck outside the public works compound on Windham Center Road. Rampino hit the jackpot and found four of the rare items after looking his entire life to find a four-leaf clover, beating the odds of 10,000 to 1 of ever finding one. If that wasn’t enough, Raymond Elementary School student Chase Street read that same article about Rampino and was inspired to look in the front yard of his home in Raymond for a four-leaf clover. Amazingly, he found a five-leaf clover. The odds of doing that are estimated at 20,000 to 1. The article about that ran in the Aug, 21, 2020 newspaper.

But of all the articles for the newspaper that I’ve written during the past three years, my personal favorite has been telling the story of Raymond’s Roberta “Bobbie” Kornfield Gordon. It appeared in the Dec. 11, 2020 edition of The Windham Eagle. She’s retired now but has been hosting an annual reunion at her home in Raymond for years of her second-grade students from a class she taught in Rochester, New York in 1966. The class reunions are proof that sometimes the connections between teachers and students are a special bond that can last a lifetime.

These are just a few of many wonderful stories I’ve had the good fortune to tell in The Windham Eagle so far. Hopefully many more will follow.

Andy Young: Every 70 years, whether they need one or not

By Andy Young

On the night he was born, his father was out playing squash with his private secretary.

King Charles III of England
As a youngster he was teased at school. Not only was he called “Fatty” by the bullies he was harassed over his large and protruding ears. His great-uncle suggested to his parents that they get their boy’s protruding appendages surgically pinned back, but because they ignored that recommendation, the lad grew to have more than a passing resemblance to Alfred E. Neuman, the fictitious but ubiquitous cover model for over 500 issues of Mad Magazine.

When he was 14-years-old, he ordered a cherry brandy at a pub. The drinking age at the time was 18. When his youthful misstep became public, his socially prominent family was sufficiently embarrassed to give the bodyguard they employed to protect their son his walking papers.

After matriculating, the young man pursued a naval career, ultimately qualifying as a helicopter pilot. He later gave up flying after botching the landing of a jet aircraft with 11 people aboard. Of the incident, he later remarked, “We went off the end of the runway, unfortunately. It is not something I recommend.”

Like many adults he has committed a social faux pas or two. One of the more awkward ones: thoughtfully sending a gift to a friend who had been seriously injured in a quad bike crash. Unfortunately, the gift was a bottle of scotch; the recipient, singer Ozzy Osbourne, was a recovering alcoholic.

His first wedding, to a charismatic and photogenic woman 13 years his junior, received international attention. However, their very public divorce 13 years later was both deflating and humiliating, and her death in a motor vehicle accident a year later poured salt into what was still an open wound.

But patience is a virtue, and this fellow clearly has it in spades. How many people end up in a career where he has to wait over 70 years for his first promotion?

Last weekend at Westminster Abbey, England held its first coronation since 1953. But the 74-year-old new king wasn’t just twiddling his thumbs while waiting to ascend to the throne. He’s met with 10 different US presidents in his life: Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon (who none-too-subtly tried to set up his daughter Tricia with the then-Prince of Wales), and every one since Jimmy Carter took office in 1977.

He was awarded $25,000 for winning the Vincent Scully Prize for architecture in 2005, but then donated it to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, noting that he and his new wife, Camilla, were “absolutely horrified” by the suffering and destruction they had seen on TV.

While in Barbados helping to celebrate the former British colony’s transition to a republic in November 2021 he publicly acknowledged “the appalling atrocity of slavery.”

He’s 5-foot-10 in height and weighs somewhere around 175 pounds. A friend to the environment, he refrains from eating fish and meat two days a week and eschews dairy products once a week as well. He usually has granola and fruit for breakfast, although he consumes boiled eggs now and again. One of his favorite meals, according to, is lamb with wild mushroom risotto. In many ways he’s an average Joe, albeit one who owns $500 million in personal assets, and has another $46 billion that’s held in trust.

It can’t be easy living one’s entire life under a microscope. Perhaps it’s not necessary (or fair) to have a nation’s taxpayers underwrite a royal family. But if there has to be a king, England (and the world) could do a whole lot worse than Charles III. <

Friday, May 5, 2023

Insight: Regrets which make us stronger

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

I recently listened to an interesting podcast on NPR’s Life Kit about personal regrets and the notion that instead of dwelling on mistakes we’ve made, we should embrace our regrets and use them as a guidepost for the future.

In this podcast, the Life Kit hosts interviewed author Daniel H. Pink about his book “The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward” and a discussion ensued focused on regrets that people expressed to the author of inaction and how they outnumbered those of action regrets by a wide margin and inaction regrets rise over time as we age. Pink classifies action regrets as deeds that can be undone, such as choosing the wrong career or purchasing a timeshare on an impulse. Inaction regrets fall into the impossible to resolve “if only” category, such as “what if I were thinner” or “if only I had invested in computer technology when I had the chance to years ago, I’d be wealthy now.”

Pinks says his data shows human regret most often falls into four distinct types including foundational regret (not saving enough for retirement), moral regret (infidelity, bullying), connection regret (I should have married her), and boldness regret (I shouldn’t have quit that job). He associates basic human characteristics with each type of regret, linking a need for personal growth with boldness regrets; a need for goodness with moral regrets; a need for stability with foundational regrets; and a need for love with connection regrets.

According to Pink, if we all take the time and examine our own regrets, it can be a significant tool to help us achieve genuine happiness and empower our lives going forward. He suggests that our goal should not be to minimize our regrets, rather, we should optimize them for our personal benefit.

All of this prompted me to think about regrets of my own and to identify them to better understand what makes me who I am and to stop dwelling on things I really have had no control over in my life.

There are some things about me I simply cannot change. With my paternal grandparents standing just 4-foot-10 and 5-foot-1, it was in my genes that I was never going to reach 6-foot in height or to become a center on a professional basketball team. But despite only reaching a height of 5-foot-7 ½ myself, I do get complimented a great deal about how thick my hair is, even at my advanced age.

Rapidly approaching the 48-year mark for my career in a few weeks, I’ve never regretted my career choice of journalism, yet I do regret my father not living long enough to see me be promoted to the editor position for seven different daily and weekly newspapers over the years since his death.

Under the heading of foundational regret, I probably should have started collecting old baseball cards sooner. Many of the cards I had as a child are now worth considerable amounts and some 1950s, 1960s and 1970s cards that I could have purchased back in the early 1980s for under $1 are now selling for $30 each and up. I also have come to regret not treating some cards with proper respect back in the day. The Topps 1965 Mickey Mantle card that I affixed to the spokes of my bike with a clothes pin because I liked the sound it made is now worth $800 or more in excellent condition.

For moral regret, I am still troubled about making fun of my high school biology teacher with my friends behind his back. He was merely trying to teach us and making fun of his looks is something that I wish I hadn’t done more than 55 years ago.

I do have a few regrets under the boldness category. I still miss my Minolta 35mm camera to this very day and am sorry I gave it to a thrift shop when I started using my new Nikon digital camera. Nothing against digital photography, but the quality of 35mm photos using that camera was outstanding. I have never regretted giving up playing the clarinet while in middle school, but I certainly wish I had kept my turntable to play vinyl records. I abandoned my vinyl records in the early 1990s in favor of CD technology and despite all odds, vinyl records are suddenly back in fashion. I had hundreds of albums from the 1970s and 1980s in my collection and now regret giving them all away.

As far as a connection regret goes, I do wish I would have met my wife Nancy sooner. We have a great life together and are happy to have found each other, but life is short and at our age, more days are behind us than lie ahead.

If examining our regret is helpful and transformative, I certainly have plenty of regrets to put under the microscope regarding my life to this point. Some of my regrets seem rather silly to me now and others I have pinpointed remain things I cannot change or redo. But exploring them does give me a better perspective about who I am.

What are some of your biggest regrets?

Andy Young: Good Karma, Bad Karma

By Andy Young

I am genuinely thankful I’ve gotten this far in life without becoming reliant on alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, painkillers, or any similar scourges. But I am not addiction-free.

I cannot pass a store where old books are sold without going in for a look. And that’s unfortunate, since my already-cluttered home needs more books like Washington, D.C. needs more lobbyists.

However, I believe in Karma, and that explains why I rarely leave an independent bookseller’s place of business without buying something. On my most recent visit to such an establishment I purchased a small, plain paperback titled, Instant Karma. because its subheading, “8879 Ways to Give Yourself and Others Good Fortune Right Now,” convinced me that acquiring it would be a worthwhile investment.

I honestly thought I didn’t need much help accumulating and sharing good Karma. Between picking up litter, contributing anonymously to local charities, donating blood every few weeks, and letting people with fewer than five items go ahead of me in the grocery store checkout line, I had previously assumed I was more or less all set in that department.

But absorbing new ideas is never a bad thing, so I opened the book and discovered that when it comes to doing good, I have a lot to learn. Who knew that “Putting a rug down for bare feet” was a karma-producer? Certainly not me, since my first conscious act each morning is donning a pair of socks.

Another suggestion I liked: “Cook with someone you love.” I’d be happy to do that, although I’d have to find a co-chef who passionately hates cheese as much as I do, since I abhor the smell, the texture, and everything else about cooked cheese.

I was delighted by the number of Instant Karma’s recommendations I’m already performing which apparently have Karmic benefits I was unaware of. “Write legibly,” “Return borrowed items undamaged,” and “Avoid hot, oily foods in the summertime” are just three examples of karma-accumulating actions the book suggests which I already perform habitually.

However, one thing Instant Karma lacks is advice on how to avoid bad karma, which, as John Edwards, Bill Cosby, and R. Kelly can attest, is a very real thing. I think the book could use a companion text, and I’m just the person to write it. My proposed sequel will list 8879 things to refrain from doing if one wishes to ward off the sort of destiny that inevitably befalls those who are sneaky, dishonest, unvirtuous, or just plain mean.

Don’t punt a chihuahua over a cliff. Don’t throw dirt on someone’s birthday cake. Don’t put Vaseline on toilet seats at the library. Don’t slash your neighbor’s tires. Don’t burn down any orphanages. Don’t pour battery acid into the reservoir. Don’t flick boogers at social workers. Don’t cheat on your spouse with a porn star. Don’t cheat on your spouse with a certified public accountant. Don’t cheat on your spouse, period.

The more I think about it, the more I believe I wouldn’t have any problem at all coming up with another 8,869 things to avoid doing if one wishes to avoid becoming a bad karma magnet.

Naturally certain quibbling nitpickers will point out that there are a few exceptions to the “What goes around, comes around” rule. For example, a person able to afford the services of the lawyers who comprised O. J. Simpson’s defense team may be able to temporarily avoid dire Karmic consequences. But to paraphrase a 1971 song that reached number nine on the Billboard Top 100, sooner or later, karma’s gonna get ‘ya.

Just ask John Edwards, Bill Cosby, and/or R. Kelly. <

Tim Nangle: Investing in infrastructure and connecting communities

By State Sen. Tim Nangle

I am pleased to share the details of Maine’s three-year transportation infrastructure work plan and what it means for our communities. The plan, released annually, outlines the Maine Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) strategy for road, bridge, and other transportation upgrades and maintenance projects.

State Sen Tim Nangle
Investing in our state's infrastructure is vital to the well-being of our families, communities and economy. It ensures that we can safely travel to work, school, and medical appointments. It also helps businesses transport their goods efficiently, allowing our economy to prosper. In our rural state, reliable infrastructure is the lifeline that connects us all.

According to the MDOT, the work plan covers approximately $3.94 billion of construction and maintenance, including 2,599 work items statewide. Among the key projects planned for our district in 2023 are crucial improvements that will positively impact Windham, Raymond, and Frye Island.

In Windham, Route 302 will undergo the installation of adaptive traffic signals at various intersections, starting at Route 115 and extending northwest for 1.14 miles to Trails End Road. Additionally, the intersection at Route 202 and River Road in Windham will be rebuilt. This $1.4 million investment in the intersection will improve safety.

Additionally, Route 202 will receive bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, including the construction of an on-road sidewalk from Depot Street to the Mountain Division Trail crossing. The Mountain Division Line will see the construction of an off-road trail or path, beginning at Bridge Street in Westbrook and extending to the Route 202 crossing near Blue Seal Feeds in Windham.

Two bridge maintenance projects in Windham include repairing curbs, rail, and posts on the Mallison Falls Bridge over the Presumpscot River. The Eel Weir Bridge on Route 35 will have the header joints repaired and the bearings and beam ends painted.

In Raymond, the Frye Island Ferry Service will receive a series of upgrades totaling $636,000. These improvements include enhancements to the ferry service between Raymond and Frye Island, reconstruction of electrical systems, and the rebuilding of the mainland ramp, apron hinge and island slip headwall.

The entire MDOT three-year work plan can be viewed here:

When you drive by one of these projects over the next year, remember that work zone safety is paramount for both the workers and drivers alike. According to MDOT, “an average of 500 crashes take place each year in Maine work zones, resulting in several fatalities. Another 200 are injured.” It is crucial that we all remain vigilant and follow the signs and instructions posted in work zones.

When approaching a work zone, reduce your speed and be cautious to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Remember, fines for speeding and other traffic violations are typically doubled in work zones.

By obeying the speed limits, staying alert, and respecting the posted signs, we can help prevent accidents, protect lives, and ensure the smooth progress of construction and maintenance projects.

The Maine Department of Transportation's three-year work plan demonstrates a commitment to investing in the state's infrastructure and ensuring the safety and well-being of our residents. By prioritizing projects that improve roadways, bridges, bicycle and pedestrian paths, and ferry services, we are not only contributing to boosting our local economies but also fostering more robust connections between our communities.

If you or someone you know needs assistance, wants to discuss legislation, or needs help connecting with a state agency, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My email is, and my office phone number is 207-287-1515. You can find me on Facebook at To receive regular updates, sign up for my e-newsletter at<