Friday, July 12, 2024

The Rookie Mama: We all scream for sunscreen

By Michelle Cote

Lather up, friends; sun’s out!

I was recently reminded of the generational divide between my children and me one sunny, sticky morning as we ventured beachward for a day, and I stopped at a local pharmacy to pick up sunscreen.

The tube I plucked off the shelf was a high-enough SPF, which was all that concerned me in a pinch.

But upon returning to my awaiting family minivan and tossing the tube to my boys, I read their horrified expressions and quickly learned the SPF acronym in the moment stood for Shocked and Pretty Frightened.

Sunscreen… cream.

In a squeeze tube like the olden days.

What’s next, cassette tapes?

My boys have been so spoiled in the sunshine by the convenient spray applications their entire lives, they’d never experienced this sun protection in what I believe the traditional sense, experienced the glory of streaky NO-Ad whiteness in which ‘90s children slathered up, moments prior to the inevitable stickings-on of all the sand so we looked like breaded chicken tenders – happy chicken tenders – with smeared white faces splashing gleefully in the sea with our sparkly pink pails and shovels.

According to the National Library of Medicine, the association between sun exposure and skin cancer was first discovered in the late 1800s, but the creation and commercialization of sunscreen didn’t really burst onto the fun-in-the-sun sandy stage until the late 1970s.

Today, we know everyone’s free to wear sunscreen.

Those of us who were teens a quarter century ago – Yikes! – will remember the informally dubbed ‘Sunscreen song’ by Baz Luhrmann which bestowed words of wisdom, commencement-speech-style, to the Class of ’99 in spoken word which began – and ended – with a nod to sunblock.

Great tips beyond just frosted tips at the turn of Y2K, who knew?

But now that I have a troupe of fair-skinned mini-Cotes of my own, who rely on my husband and me for care and wellness beyond imploring they eat their veggies, we’re keeping sun protection at top of mind – and hats at top of head – so we can enjoy the outdoorsy lives in which we’re immersed.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends varieties SPF 30 or higher that are water resistant with broad-spectrum protection.

Babies younger than six months should be kept from the sun altogether.

The older circuit should use a lotion that screens out both UVA and UVB rays, applied to all skin not covered by clothing – so keep an SPF 30 lip balm at the ready for those lips – and reapply every two hours.

The FDA requires all sunscreens retain original strength for at least three years, so in the spirit of frugal living, shop end-of-summer sales and stock up on next year’s haul.

As for sunscreen types, sprays are often preferred by parents – and apparently all of my kiddos – because of their ease of application, but they are available as creams, gels, and sticks too.

The best sunscreen’s ultimately the one you’ll reapply.

And after our Great Sunscreen Debacle of 2024, it’s back to sprays for days for us.

Remember – There’s never any such thing as a ‘healthy tan.’

Any excessive sun exposure is bad exposure.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy our gorgeous outdoors with your family – Maine parks, poolside fun, gardens, lighthouses, trails, rivers, lakes and beaches await at the ready to welcome you warmly – often for free or at little cost.

Just remember to apply sunscreen generously to yourselves and your littles.

You only need an ounce, and you know what they say about an ounce of prevention.

During this month of celebrating independence, remember to not be independent from solid skin care.

Your future self will thank you.

And as my 10-year-old just exclaimed moments ago, ‘We all scream for sunscreen.’

Happy summer!

­­– Michelle Cote lives in southern Maine with her husband and four sons, and enjoys camping, distance running, biking, gardening, road trips to new regions, arts and crafts, soccer, and singing to musical showtunes – often several or more at the same time! <

Insight: A Change of Heart

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


When it comes to music, I know what I like and avoid listening to bands and singers I don’t particularly care for. This has been the case for me since I was 9 years old and first tuning in to popular rock n’ roll radio stations on a transistor radio.

Avril Lavigne performs during a
concert June 30 at Glastonbury,
England before 100,000 people.
COURTESY PHOTO
Through the years I have developed my own musical tastes and musical dislikes and as I’ve gotten older, I rarely, if ever, have a change of opinion about those on the wrong side of my preferences.

Yet lately, I seem to have had a change of heart or a reversal of my personal feelings about some music.

Back in 1979, I was serving in the U.S. Air Force in Germany and was thrilled that the base exchange store offered many of the newest releases and at a discount for military members too. Every Friday, if I saved my money up during the week, which wasn’t always easy as I was earning $360 a month back then, I could find new albums priced between $4.99 and $7.99.

Soon I had built up quite a collection of vinyl records that included many new artists that I took great pride in introducing to my friends and some better-known bands and singers from the 1970s.

Before I had enlisted in the Air Force in 1977, like many other young adults my age, I had become a fan of the band Fleetwood Mac and considered myself fortunate to have included 1975’s self-titled “Fleetwood Mac” album and the 1976 Fleetwood Mac “Rumors” album in my vinyl collection.

But being overseas and working long shifts, sometimes it was hard for me to keep up with music news from the United States. Therefore, in October 1979 I was shocked when a friend told me he had visited the base exchange store earlier that day and purchased Fleetwood Mac’s newly released album called “Tusk.” He asked if I wanted to join a group of friends at his apartment that evening to listen to the new album for the first time and I readily agreed as I hadn’t even heard the band had been working on a new album.

But from the very first song he played on the “Tusk” double album, some of us were taken aback. It was music quite different from the “Rumors” album and I left that apartment that night saying that the new “Tusk” album would take some getting used to. Through the years it never happened for me, and “Tusk” became one of the Fleetwood Mac albums I never bought.

A few years before that in 1975, I had been driving in my 1974 Mercury Capri when a song called “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” by a singer named Elvin Bishop came on the radio. I wasn’t crazy about the song the first time, the second, or the third time I heard it while driving. In fact, it seemed every time I turned on the radio, no matter what station I selected, it would eventually end up playing “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.”

It was played so many times and in so many different places that I grew to detest the song and it became an automatic reflex action of mine that if the opening refrains of Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” appeared on the radio, my fingers were ready to hit the buttons to choose another radio station. If I was shopping in a store and heard the song, I’d search immediately for the nearest exit.

By 2002, I would watch MTV on television to stay current with new performers and bands. Some of the newer singers and bands I enjoyed, while some just didn’t do it for me. Such was the case with Avril Lavigne. I thought her voice resembled what I believed was close to sheer caterwauling. I just found her music irritating and all her hit songs sounded the same to me. I told some of my friends that in my opinion she was sort of a poor man’s version of Alanis Morissette.

Like Elvin Bishop and Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” album, Avril Lavigne became just another performer on my personal dislike list, and you may think that’s the end of the story.

But since I have redone my stereo system at home and started listening to vinyl and CDs from my personal collection again, something remarkable has happened.

I saw the “Tusk” CD in a record store for $6.97 and decided to give it another listen. It’s truly amazing music and I now consider it the best of all their albums. I’m lucky to own a copy of it.

A month ago, my wife Nancy and I were driving somewhere and “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” was playing on the radio. We listened to it, and we both agreed that it’s an awesome tune.

Then last weekend I watched Avril Lavigne’s performance of “I’m With You” during a televised concert in Glastonbury, England. Her voice was truly incredible, and I must admit I was wrong about her after all.

I suppose that one is never too old to have a change of heart when it comes to your musical tastes.

Jane Pringle: Addressing Maine’s opioid crisis with compassion

By State Rep. Jane Pringle

For so many Mainers, the opioid crisis is deeply personal. Whether you have been directly impacted or not, it is almost certain that every Mainer knows of someone whose life has been turned upside down by addiction. Controlled substances, like opioids, have been a problem in our state for the last several decades, and the 131st Legislature made it a priority to tackle this growing epidemic head-on.

With hard work and continuous collaboration, my fellow lawmakers and I have enacted several measures to address every facet of this crisis. From increasing access to emergency treatments to bolstering recovery centers, we are committed to finding comprehensive and compassionate policy solutions aimed at providing hope for those who are struggling right now.

Last year, the Legislature enacted two pivotal measures targeted toward saving the lives of those experiencing an overdose. The first bill mandates that law enforcement officers carry Narcan on their person while on active duty. The second measure requires all Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers to be trained in the administration of Narcan, enabling these professionals to act swiftly and effectively when called to the scene of an overdose.

Narcan, also known as Naloxone, is an opioid reversal agent that can rapidly ease the effect of an overdose, such as respiratory distress. When applied promptly, Narcan can provide front-line workers, like EMS and law enforcement, with a critical window of time to allow for further medical intervention. Equipping these professionals with this overdose-reversal treatment has been shown time and again to make the difference between life and death for so many.

Addressing the opioid crisis also requires an approach that goes beyond emergency interventions. We must provide ongoing support for those who are in recovery. In the supplemental budget enacted by the Legislature a few months ago, language was included to give vital support to withdrawal management programs across the state. The budget appropriated $4 million to expand Medication Assisted Treatments in county jails, building upon an already existing initiative in our state prison system. It is a safe and proven “whole patient” approach that combines FDA-approved medical treatment with behavioral counseling. This course of care not only eases withdrawal symptoms and cravings, but it has been proven to reduce the likelihood of relapse, increase rate of survival and support a return to a healthy, productive life.

For many, recovery and sobriety is a lifelong journey; that’s why we enacted a measure that helps create a sustainable revenue source for Recovery Community Centers (RCCs) across the state, so that folks will always have a place to turn to when they need additional support. These organizations focus on helping individuals recover from substance-use disorder by providing non-clinical services, such as support groups, recovery coaching and skill-building programs. Individuals who utilize RCCs have been shown to have a lower likelihood of relapse and an increase in long-term well-being. This funding will help invest in long-term recovery for Mainers who find themselves in the grip of addiction.

My colleagues and I in the Legislature know that it is imperative to continue developing comprehensive policies that strengthen emergency responses and treatments as well as bolstering any necessary ongoing support for those struggling with addiction. Recent data released by the state indicates that the number of opioid-related deaths has dropped by 16%. This data is encouraging and shows that our efforts are working, but despite this success, the number of overdoses remains too high. We cannot wait for this epidemic to subside; we must continue to address it with compassion and sustained effort. We all have a stake in this, not just lawmakers, medical professionals or even law enforcement officers. We all need to be committed to putting in the work to help end this crisis, together.

Rep. Jane Pringle is serving her second non-consecutive term in the Maine House of Representatives, having previously represented Windham from 2012-2014. She is a member of the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. <

Andy Young: The best thing (s) about Newfoundland

By Andy Young

I often have trouble recalling names, but I clearly remember those of the two hikers my son and I encountered during our 11-kilometer trek along the Green Gardens Trail in Canada’s Gros Morne National Park. We correctly assumed the other vehicle in the faraway parking lot was theirs, but its Nova Scotia license plates were misleading. The two women had flown into nearby Deer Lake from Toronto, then rented a car.

The Johnson Geo Centre is located beneath the Cape Spear
Lighthouse in Newfoundland and is North America's  
easternmost point. COURTESY PHOTO 
Jennifer and Jennifer were two highlights of our just-completed trip to Newfoundland and Labrador that was memorable for all the right reasons.

Only some of Newfoundland’s terrain is awe-inspiring; the rest is merely magnificent, spectacular, and/or breathtaking. From majestic mountains to lush forests to towering cliffs overlooking fjords to barren, windswept landscapes with soil too windblown and inhospitable to support any sort of vegetation, it’s not hard to imagine what the island looked like millions of years ago. Which, as we learned at the Johnson Geo Centre (located beneath the Cape Spear Lighthouse, North America’s easternmost point), is because the landscape has indeed remained, for the most part, unsullied by humanity.

And much of humankind’s impact on the island has been erased by the sands of time. Consider L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site on the northern peninsula. It wasn’t until 1960 that archeologists began uncovering evidence there of the first Viking (and oldest known European) settlement in North America.

All along the Trans-Canada Highway, the Newfoundland portion of which runs 928 kilometers (576.6 miles), there are enormous stacks of firewood which have been amassed for the coming lengthy winter. Some have clearly been there for some time, but no slithering intruders are lurking in those piles, since no venomous snakes exist on the island.

While Newfoundland may have a dearth of reptiles, there’s no shortage of insects, and the best place to learn about them is the Newfoundland Insectarium in Reidville. The tropical butterfly garden alone is worth the price of admission. It seemed like a great place to meditate, and in fact there was a young man doing just that on the day we visited.

We could have spent a month hiking in Gros Morne but given limited time and even more limited outdoor engineering skills, we swapped our rustic campsite for three nights in a cabin with no electricity or running water, but windows equipped with bug-proof screens. Making that upgrade was by far our best decision of the trip. Three solid evenings of sleep was well worth 300 Canadian dollars.

But even without L’Anse aux Meadows, Signal Hill, Gros Morne, the Insectarium, St. John’s, Cape Spear, Terra Nova National Park, Castle Hill, and the numerous other memorable sites we visited, the trip’s highlight was unquestionably the people. It was Marcella, the indigenous interpreter at the Gros Morne Information Centre. It was Lloyd, the proprietor of the Insectarium, and Weston, his youthful, enthusiastic, and incredibly knowledgeable assistant. It was Valerie, the future ecological policy maker working at Gros Morne, who clued us in about the Bonne Bay Water Shuttle, a 15-minute water taxi ride from Woody Point to Norris Point that saved us an hour drive (each way). It was the gas station attendant along a remote section of the Viking Trail who wouldn’t let us pay for the can opener he gave us, a vital item for two travelers with eight cans of soup they planned on using for campfire-heated meals, but no way to open them.

Jennifer was right when she said, “The best thing about Newfoundland is the people.”

Or maybe it was Jennifer who said it. I often have trouble recalling names. <

Friday, July 5, 2024

Tim Nangle: Easing the property tax burden for Mainers

By State Sen. Tim Nangle

Ensuring Maine’s seniors can afford to stay in their homes is a priority beyond politics. Property taxes can be a significant burden, especially for older Mainers on fixed incomes. In response, we have enhanced and expanded essential programs to support seniors and working families.

State Senator Tim Nangle
One of the pivotal programs we've enhanced is the Property Tax Fairness Credit (PTFC). This credit is crucial for income-eligible Mainers, whether renting or owning their homes. Recognizing the need for more targeted relief, we have increased the maximum benefit for seniors by $500. This enhancement ensures the credit is more substantial for those over 65, providing a critical lifeline to our older residents.

Notably, the PTFC is refundable, meaning eligible individuals will receive the credit as a refund even if they owe no state income tax. This feature is particularly beneficial for older Mainers living on fixed incomes. The amount of the credit is determined based on income eligibility and age. I encourage you to visit the Maine Revenue Services website for more information on eligibility and the application process: maine.gov/revenue/taxes/tax-relief-credits-programs/income-tax-credits/property-tax-fairness-credit.

Another important program we've strengthened is the Property Tax Deferral Program. This program is designed to help older Mainers and individuals with disabilities remain in their homes even if they fall behind on property taxes. Through this program, the state pays the property taxes owed to the municipality, and repayment is deferred until the property is sold or the estate is settled.

During the 131st Maine Legislature, we increased eligibility of this program, broadening its reach to ensure that more older Mainers on the brink could benefit. This increase reflects our commitment to supporting the generation who has contributed so much to our community. To learn more about the Property Tax Deferral Program and see if you qualify, please visit maine.gov/revenue/taxes/tax-relief-credits-programs/property-tax-relief-programs/deferral-program

We also have specific programs to ease the property tax burden for our veterans. Veterans who have served during recognized war periods are 62 years or older, or are 100 percent disabled can receive a $6,000 reduction in the assessed value of their home through the Veteran Exemption. Additionally, paraplegic veterans who have received a federal grant for specially adapted housing may qualify for a $50,000 exemption. These benefits are one way of honoring the service of our veterans and ensuring they can live comfortably in their homes.

Another valuable program for property tax relief is the Homestead Exemption. This program reduces up to $25,000 in the assessed value of your primary residence for property tax purposes.

To qualify, you must be a permanent resident of Maine and have owned a home in the state for at least 12 months before applying. Once approved, the exemption remains in effect as long as your ownership and residency status do not change. This exemption is a significant benefit for all home-owning Maine residents, especially for those on fixed incomes, as it directly lowers the taxable value of your home, reducing your overall property tax bill.

Beyond these specific programs, I was proud to support budgets that ensure the state fully funds its share of K-12 public education and the revenue sharing program, which returns a portion of sales tax revenue to municipalities. These efforts are crucial because property taxpayers bear the additional burden when the state does not fulfill its financial commitments. By ensuring that the state adequately funds these areas, we aim to stabilize property taxes across the board, benefiting all Mainers.

For a comprehensive overview of all property tax relief programs available, please visit the Maine Revenue Services property tax relief page: https://www.maine.gov/revenue/taxes/tax-relief-credits-programs/property-tax-relief-programs. These resources are here to help you navigate and apply for assistance.

Our efforts to provide property tax relief are about ensuring that our seniors, working class families and veterans can continue to live in the homes and communities they cherish without financial strain. I am committed to working for you and ensuring that our community remains a great place to live for everyone.

Even though we are out of session, I am a resource and advocate for you all year. Contact me directly at Timothy.Nangle@legislature.maine.gov or call the Senate Majority Office at 207-287-1515. For the latest updates, follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/SenatorTimNangle, and sign up for my e-newsletter at mainesenate.org. <

Insight: Age before beauty II

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


Now that Adam Vinateri and Tom Brady are officially retired from professional football, the courtesy title of the National Football League’s oldest player has been passed on to offensive tackle Jason Peters, 42, who appeared in eight games last season for the Seattle Seahawks. In Major League Baseball, the oldest current player is pitcher 41-year-old Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros and professional basketball’s oldest player still suiting up is LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers at 39.

It tells me that in professional sports, age doesn’t matter if you can help a team win games. It’s a philosophy I developed years ago while watching professional football with my father on television.

Nobody personifies that concept for me more than George Blanda. He started his career as a quarterback with the Chicago Bears in 1949 but by 1959 he was 31 years old and was out of football and wondering what to do next. Then in 1960, a new pro football league was launched called the American Football League and Blanda signed on to be the signal caller and placekicker for a new team called the Houston Oilers.

For seven seasons, he guided the Oilers and was the league’s Player of the Year in 1961, yet at age 39 in 1967, Houston wanted Blanda to become a fulltime kicker and he balked at that, instead signing with the Oakland Raiders as a backup quarterback and kicker. That decision produced immediate results. In his first season in Oakland, Blanda led the league in scoring with 116 points and kicked two extra points for the Raiders in a 33-14 loss in Super Bowl II.

By 1970, Blanda’s heroics during a five-game span for the Raiders at the age of 43 cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players of all-time. Coming in to replace injured starting QB Daryle Lamonica, Blanda threw three touchdown passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers, then booted a 48-yard field goal with 3 seconds left to forge a tie against the Kansas City Chiefs. Against the Cleveland Browns he came off the bench to throw a late TD pass to tie the game and then kicked a 53-year field goal with 3 seconds left to hand Oakland a victory. Against the Denver Broncos, Blanda again came off the bench in the fourth quarter and ignited a comeback win with a touchdown pass and followed that up a week later by kicking a field goal as time expired as the Raiders defeated San Diego, 20-17.

At age 48, Blanda’s last game was in the AFC Championship Game in January 1976 between Oakland and Pittsburgh. He kicked an extra point and a 41-yard field goal in that game as the Steelers beat the Raiders, 16-10, closing out Blanda’s remarkable 26-season career. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

Lefthanded pitcher Jamie Moyer played 25 seasons in Major League Baseball and made his debut for the Chicago Cubs in 1986 at the age of 23. By the end of the 1991 season, Moyer had pitched for the Cubs, the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals, who released him that October. But Moyer persisted and pitched 19 more seasons in the big leagues, winning 269 games and appearing at age 45 in the World Series as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008.

Moyer’s final season came in 2012 for the Colorado Rockies where he was 2-5 at the age of 49.

Seven-footer Kevin Willis grew up in Detroit, Michigan and didn’t start playing basketball until his junior year of high school. He started his college career at Jackson College in Michigan and transferred to Michigan State as a sophomore. When he was drafted in the first round as the 11th overall pick in 1984 by the Atlanta Hawks, Willis never dreamed he would establish records for longevity in his NBA career.

He played with the Hawks for 10 years before being traded to the Miami Heat in 1994. Then in 1996, Willis was traded to the Golden State Warriors and signed as a free agent with the Hoston Rockets later that summer. After two seasons in Houston, he was traded again, this time to the Toronto Raptors. In 2001, the Raptors traded Willis to the Denver Nuggets who traded him in September 2001 to Milwaukee. Without ever playing a game for Milwaukee, the Bucks traded Willis back to the Rockets.

Willis signed with the San Antonio Spurs in 2002 and was part of their NBA championship roster in 2003. He returned to the Atlanta Hawks in 2004 as the oldest player in the league at age 42 and closed out his time in the NBA in 2007 at age 44 as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. During his career, Willis tallied 17,253 points, grabbed 11,901 rebounds and recorded 750 blocked shots.

For young sports phenoms such as the NBA’s 20-year-old Victor Wembanyama, 23-year-old MLB shortstop Gunnar Henderson and 23-year-old NFL tight end Kyle Pitts, the future may be bright, but aging does catch up with everyone eventually.

As Mark Twain once said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, if doesn’t matter.”

Barbara Bagshaw: Electricity rates going up again despite efforts by Republicans to lower them

By State Rep. Barbara Bagshaw

The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recently announced that our electricity bills will rise again in July. It shouldn’t surprise anyone – legislative Republicans and Maine’s Public Advocate have been warning Mainers about this for years. I joined with my fellow Republicans, and a handful of Democrats, to try and lower rates this past session. Special interests and the majority of Democrats in Augusta refused to listen. Now we will all pay the price.

State Rep. Barbara Bagshaw
Residential ratepayers and now many of Maine’s businesses will start paying higher amounts of what is called the stranded cost portion of your electric bill. Simply put, this is the part of the bill where you subsidize the solar panels that have popped up across Maine, even if you do not benefit from them. You may have heard it called “Net Energy Billing.”

Electricity supply rates have already increased 76 percent higher on average since January 2021. The current increase on top of that is due to misguided state policies that reward out of state solar companies at the expense of Maine consumers. Simply put, wind and solar companies are paid .20 cents per kilowatt for a product that costs as little as .05 cents to generate.

This part of our bill is not because of Versant or CMP – they are required to pass the increase from solar on to you as part of their bill. The legislature is responsible for this one because of the excessive solar subsidies mandated through Net Energy Billing and other hidden subsidy costs.

** Standard offer rates increased 132.06 percent between 2014 and 2023 because of more expensive solar required under the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

** The Public Utilities Commission says we must pay even more for solar subsidies.

** For CMP, stranded costs will go up 93 percent to $183 million.

** Versant’s Bangor Hydro District remains about the same but Maine Public – the one that serves northern Maine – is going up 60 percent.

** Some businesses will be subject to a “job-killing solar tax,” with one small business bill going up over 1,660 percent. Another medium-size business will see its bill rise from $431.56 a month to $3,494.46 (709.73 percent increase).

** Maine’s nonpartisan Public Advocate Bill Harwood says it will cost $4 billion over 20 years. In a May 12 interview with WGME, he said: “It requires CMP and Versant power to pay approximately 20 cents per kilowatt hour for solar energy that costs less than 10 cents a kilowatt hour to generate," Harwood said. "They then make up this difference by adding it to the rates charged to rate payers."

It is important to point out that I and other legislative Republicans are not against rooftop solar. It should be a consumer choice. What I am against is requiring lower to middle income ratepayers to subsidize projects that they cannot afford or do not benefit from. It is wrong!

It is an honor to represent part of Windham in the Legislature. If there is any way that I can be of assistance, please contact me at barbara.bagshaw@legislature.maine.gov .My office phone number is 207-287-1440. You can find me on Facebook. To receive regular updates, sign up for my e-newsletter at https://mainehousegop.org/ <

Andy Young: Four years of 600 words

By Andy Young

This week’s column marks the completion of four years’ worth of weekly essays for this newspaper, each of which has contained exactly 600 words. So … why 600? Why not 400, or 700, or 567, or some other random number?

The explanation goes back to late 2003, when I wrote a letter to the editor of the Community Leader, a free weekly newspaper in Falmouth. The subject was the Boston Red Sox, the baseball team New England, or at least the portion of it east of the Connecticut River, is irrationally smitten with. The Sox had just lost yet another playoff series, extending their championship-less streak to an unfathomable 86 seasons. To make matters worse, their latest excruciating defeat had come at the hands of their arch-rivals, the lordly, arrogant, and maddeningly successful New York Yankees.

In the aftermath, an overwrought Red Sox Nation blamed the soul-crushing defeat on manager Grady Little’s decision to leave his tiring ace, Pedro Martinez, on the mound for too long, allowing the Yankees to tie the game in the 8th inning. That set the stage for Aaron Boone’s decisive home run in the bottom of the 11th.

Twelve days later Little was discharged, which prompted me to dash off a letter to a local daily newspaper, the Falmouth (ME) Community Leader. In it I excoriated Red Sox fans for their overwrought reaction, and concluded by predicting Grady Little would get himself a World Series ring a whole lot sooner than Boston’s American League team would.

Naturally the Red Sox ended their championship drought the following fall. But while my letter’s publication ultimately revealed that I didn’t know any more about baseball than those histrionic Red Sox aficionados I had taken to task for their irrationality did, it also caught the attention of the Community Leader’s editor, who asked me if I’d consider writing a weekly column for the paper.

A chance to sound off in print on whatever subject(s) I cared to write about? Sign me up!

When the Community Leader went belly-up a couple of years later, I signed on with another free weekly, the Yarmouth Notes, to do a monthly column. That led to periodic pieces in an actual daily paper, the Biddeford Journal Tribune. But when each of those publications became defunct, I was left platformless.

Then I had an epiphany. As an English teacher, one of my responsibilities is convincing students that adherence to the “three C’s” (clear, complete, and concise) is what makes effective writers.

Why it hadn’t occurred to me before I cannot say, but I realized that striving for clarity, completeness, and conciseness would serve me just as well as it does high school students who care enough about their writing to put in actual effort. The first 200 or so words of every column I had written consisted of me writing about what I was about to write about. It was the equivalent of the start of my long-ago high school gym classes, where the whole point of doing 15 jumping jacks, 10 pushups, and two laps around the gym wasn’t the exercises themselves: it was about warming up our muscles for what was coming next.

After a writing hiatus of 18 months or so I was contacted by Ed Pierce, who had been running the Journal Tribune at the time of its demise. He had resurfaced as Managing Editor of The Windham Eagle, a print weekly that was attempting to grow rather than disappear, and he asked if I’d consider contributing an occasional column. The rest is ongoing history, in 600-word installments.

Like this one. <

Friday, June 28, 2024

Insight: A thief of hearts

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


An unconventional dog stole my heart 15 years ago and despite her many quirks and issues, our family loved her to the very end of her life.

Abby was a Pembroke Welsh Corgi adopted by the Pierce
Family from a Corgi rescue group in Florida. She had
been severely abused and mistreated at her previous home
before finding a good life with her new owners. 
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE

Back in 2009, my wife Nancy and I were grieving the loss of our beloved Corgi mix named Hunter, who lived to the age of 14 and was never sick a day of his life, until his liver failed and despite a valiant effort from our veterinarian, he didn’t make it. We liked the Corgi breed and applied to a Corgi rescue to adopt one of their dogs not long after losing Hunter.

Just three days later, I received a phone call from the rescue group, asking if we could drive to a city three hours away and adopt a 5-year-old Corgi in desperate need of a new home. She had been rescued from a highly volatile and abusive situation and was being picked on by other dogs in a Corgi foster care home.

When we arrived, Abby had been hiding under a bed at the foster care and was more than ready to take a drive home with us. She had trouble adjusting to her new surroundings and we had to put up a baby gate to keep her separated from our cat, Gracie, as she wanted to chase and intimidate her.

The first week was filled with trips to the veterinarian because Abby’s ears were packed with fleas and ear mites and her coat had a substantial number of ticks burrowed in under her skin. But as bad as her physical problems were, we found that her mental and emotional well-being were even worse.

The rescue organization had told us some things about her previous life, but after reading the official report, it was worse than we had first thought. Apparently, Abby had been adopted as a puppy by a violent young couple, who would punish her for barking or what they perceived as bad behavior by punching her in the head repeatedly and putting her into a dark closet.

That left the dog wary of anything coming near her head and suspicious of strangers who would come up to her on the street when she was out for a walk and wanted to pet her.

I once took her to a place to have her groomed and her nails clipped and she bit the technician, who then asked me, “Why would you want a dog that bites?” I told her I didn’t get a dog who bites, I got a dog who desperately needed a home.

The more time she spent with us, Abby seemed to mellow and come to trust us. She would sit on the sofa next to us in the evenings and even let us pet and brush her, although not on the top of her head.

When we found out we were leaving Florida and moving to New Hampshire, both Nancy and I wondered how Abby would make the transition from living her entire life in hot and humid weather to a climate with snow. That winter, we discovered Abby loved being outside in the snow and cold and her favorite winter activity involved rolling around in a snow pile upside down.

As she got older and came to realize we weren’t going to harm her, her behavior changed from suspicion to one of anxiety. She would run in circles and bark incessantly if someone held car keys in their hand and moved toward the front door. It became a daily ritual each morning as we would leave to go to work.

She would shamelessly drool and beg for Ritz Crackers. When you set down her bowl of pricey special diet dog food, it would be inhaled in under 20 seconds and then she’d start choking and we’d have to remind her to slow down while eating.

We bought her the most expensive dog bed we could find but she preferred to sleep on the hardwood floor. I don’t even want to say how much dog hair we swept up every day because of her non-stop shedding.

This anxious, high-strung dog slowly became the center of our lives and a beloved member of our family. I had a Corgi computer mousepad, a Corgi hand towel, a Corgi coffee cup and Corgi coasters. We proudly told our friends that Abby was a full-bred Corgi, just like Queen Elizabeth’s prized dogs.

One day we came home from work in 2016 to find Abby was paralyzed. The Corgi breed has very long spines and she had jumped from a stoop at the bottom of the stairs about six inches in height, fracturing several vertebrae in her spine, paralyzing her. It could not be repaired, and the veterinarian at the 24/7 emergency clinic recommended that we euthanize her to end her pain.

Afterward, both Nancy and I cried for days over the loss of Abby. We resolved to find another dog to bring into our home and that happened the next month when we adopted a rescue mixed-breed puppy named Fancy.

Looking back on our time with Abby, I’m proud of how we changed her life for the better and how she certainly changed ours. <

Andy Young: Preparing to witness history north of the border

By Andy Young

Here’s a fun fact: the last time a team fell behind three games to none in the National Hockey League’s best-of-seven championship final and then came back to win was in 1942.

The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped the first three games of the finals to the Detroit Red Wings that year but stormed back to win four straight and capture the coveted Stanley Cup. The score of the last game, which was played before a record crowd of 16,218 fans at Maple Leaf Gardens on April 18, was 3-1.

1942 was a long time ago. Gordie Howe’s 14th birthday had occurred 18 days prior to the Leafs’ Game Seven victory. Bobby Orr hadn’t been born yet. Wayne Gretzky’s dad-to-be hadn’t started kindergarten, and his future mom had just turned 7 months old.

Until this past Monday, the last Canadian-based team to win the Stanley Cup was the 1993 Montreal Canadiens. That was before the NHL's top two current Canadian-born superstars, Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon, were born. 1993 was also the last time a team comprised of all North American-born players constituted a league champion. Three of Canada’s seven current NHL teams, the Winnipeg Jets, the Vancouver Canucks, and the modern-day edition of the Ottawa Senators, have never hoisted the Stanley Cup, not even once.

This year’s Stanley Cup finals began on June 8, when the Florida Panthers, the NHL’s southernmost franchise, beat the northernmost one, the Edmonton Oilers, 3-0. The Panthers won Games Two and Three as well, all but assuring themselves of the team’s first-ever championship.

The desperate Oilers staved off elimination by winning Game Four at their home rink in Alberta. They subsequently took Games Five and Six as well, setting up a one-game, winner-take-all finale that took place this past Monday in Sunrise, Florida. By happy coincidence, my son and I were nowhere near Florida last week. And by an even happier coincidence, we found ourselves traveling through the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Like seemingly everyone around us, we were caught up in the excitement, and decided to take in the broadcast of the potentially history-making seventh game amongst locals eager to see Canada’s long championship drought finally come to an end.

Here’s yet another fun fact: Newfoundland and Labrador weren’t even an official part of the Canadian confederation when the Maple Leafs staged their comeback from three games down against the Red Wings in 1942. It didn’t become an actual province of the Dominion of Canada until midnight on March 31, 1949.

My son and I went to the pub inside the St. John’s hotel where we were staying to have a late dinner, prepared to watch the game, which didn’t start until nearly 10 p.m. local time, surrounded by a slew of hockey-mad Newfoundlanders.

There were four other people in the place when we got there, all of whom were sitting at the bar. Only one of them was actually watching the game, and he was doing so in utter silence. When we finished dinner and retired to our room after the first period, the score was tied, 1-1.

The Panthers scored another goal midway through the second period to regain the lead. A couple of minutes later, struggling to keep my eyes open, I announced I was going to bed. My equally groggy son wordlessly shut the TV off and did the same.

We woke Tuesday morning to this final fun fact: the last time a team fell behind three games to none in the National Hockey League’s best-of-seven championship final and came back to win is still 1942.

Sigh. <

 

Friday, June 21, 2024

Insight: Barking up the right tree II

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


When our dog Fancy arrived in our household, my wife and I had no clues about how to coax proper behavior from a puppy. Our previous dog had been older when we adopted her and required little training. However, this new puppy was a boundless bundle of energy, and every experience was new to her.

Ed Pierce and Fancy upon completion of
her Basic Obedience Training class in 2017.
COURTESY PHOTO
While working for the newspaper, I had met a well-respected dog trainer who offered weekly lessons in a large garage adjacent to her home that had been converted into a training facility and kennel. I asked the trainer, Carolyn, if we could bring Fancy for Basic Obedience Training on Saturday mornings near our home in New Hampshire and she agreed.

For the next four months, we spent an hour every Saturday morning at Carolyn’s studio practicing basic commands and taming an incorrigible and spirited little creature with a mind of her own.

We learned how to sit and stay, lay down and come when called. We learned how to walk properly on a leash, how to heel, and basic doggie manners when encountering other dogs nearby.

Carolyn was also a breeder of Dobermans, a type of large dog which must have seemed intimidating to Fancy when she saw them there during her training.

At first, I wasn’t sure any of this was going to work. Fancy was intensely curious and somewhat anxious. She didn’t like being put on a leash and balked the first few times that Carolyn tried to teach her something new.

She was put into a crate in the mornings when we went to work, and we hired a staff member from the school where my wife worked to come in several times a day and let her outside for a while.

The crate was kept in the dining room and somehow it didn’t take Fancy very long to figure out if she leaned hard enough on a side of the crate, she could get it to move on our wood floor. That’s how I came to regret hanging a nice jacket over the back of a dining room chair one day only to come home from work and find the jacket torn to pieces inside the dog crate by Fancy.

She also severely tattered several of the sofa cushions and anything close by she could find to chew on. My wife tried recovering those shredded cushions, but they were too far gone for salvaging. When we eventually placed the sofa by the road hoping some impoverished college student would see it and haul it back to their apartment, we were mistaken. It sat there for weeks with its ratholes, and I ultimately had to pay a junk-hauling service to relocate it to the dump.

The puppy also had atrocious table manners. During dinner, if you weren’t careful, she would jump and snatch items off your plate in a fraction of a second. I can’t begin to tell you how disappointing it is to sit down at the supper table to a full plate of food only to have a puppy leap and in one swoop grab a Sloppy Joe sandwich and swallow it whole. It didn’t matter what it was, it could be burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, or slices of toast, anything you fixed to eat was fair game for Fancy.

In discussing this bad behavior with Carolyn, she suggested either putting Fancy in a crate in another room during dinner or placing her on a leash and keeping my foot on the leash to prevent her from leaping up and grabbing food off the dinner table while we were eating. We tried the crate option first but abandoned it because we couldn’t stand the crying, loud whining, and barking coming from Fancy while we were eating. The leash idea worked better, but have you ever tried to eat a meal one-handed while holding a dog leash in the other hand?

Over time, Fancy came to love going to Caroline’s for training on Saturday mornings. She did learn how to sit, stay, heel, lie down and come and she even was able to exhibit those tasks on cue and off-leash.

She scored 100 percent on her Basic Obedience Test and graduated from Carolyn’s Canine College with a certificate and a trophy. Because that training was successful, we continued visiting with Carolyn and Fancy eventually completed Good Neighbor Training and Therapy Dog Training with her. She was able to sit quietly when surrounded by a dozen other larger dogs and not growl during her final Therapy Dog test.

More than anything, the training was beneficial for Fancy in learning to control her excitement and teaching her the correct way to behave and how to interact with people and other animals.

Fancy is now 8 and has settled down quite a bit. She loves going for walks in our neighborhood and is great with children and is very gentle. On occasion though, every now and then she feels compelled to leap and grab a burger off our dinner plate, so we’ve adapted to eating in a guarded manner and not to walk away from the table, even if only for a minute, leaving our plates unguarded. <

Andy Young: A good oh-for-three

By Andy Young

My baseball career was modest at best. After warming the bench at ages 9 and 10, I played regularly during my last two Little League campaigns, making the all-star team in my final season. Three years of Babe Ruth League ball followed, with similar results. I was named an all-star at age 15, but only because every team needed a representative, and I was judged by the selection committee to be the least incompetent player on the league’s last-place squad. I may have had a couple of two-hit games along the way, but once pitchers began throwing curveballs on purpose, I experienced a lot of oh-for-threes.

Baseball is America’s traditional summer game, and that’s relevant because on days within a week of the solstice I can leave home on a bicycle at 7:30 p.m. for a grocery store that’s four miles away, pick up bananas and a half-gallon of milk, and pedal home with daylight to spare. And that’s important, since my bike is a Wrigley Field model. Which, as old-time baseball fans inherently understand, means it has no lights.

Virtually everyone around here knows how late darkness arrives during June’s last week, but relatively few are up when the sun first peeks over the horizon in the morning. But those of us who leave for work early in the a.m. know, the unaccustomed early morning glimmer changes a few things about our daily commute.

The biggest difference involves some of our fellow mammals, specifically the ones that live outdoors. Their existence is more directly impacted by the early daylight than the lives of those of us who live and work inside enclosed structures. Normally timid animals are more brazen about crossing the road this time of year, since they aren’t discouraged or intimidated by oncoming headlights.

Which brings me to a recent incident. It was 5 a.m. and I was no more than two miles into my ride to work when, 50 or so yards ahead of me, a large deer suddenly emerged from the bushes on the road’s right side, ambled onto the pavement, straddled the yellow lines in the middle of the street, then paused to casually observe its surroundings. Fortunately, I was driving the speed limit (which rarely bothers anyone at that hour), so I had sufficient time to slow down and allow the animal to glance my way, shrug, and then canter off to continue its day.

I would have liked to exhale at that point, but not a half-mile later a squirrel scurried out of the underbrush to my left and sprinted across the road no more than 10 yards ahead of me. There was no time to stop, but the bushy-tailed rodent timed its dash well, because there was no thump, and a split-second later I saw him disappear into the weeds to my right.

I didn’t have time to pat myself on the back, though. No more than a minute later, I was picking up speed on a straightaway when I detected more motion. It was a turkey that, like the squirrel, was attempting to cross the road from left to right. And even though the confused fowl’s gait resembled a knuckleball’s path (as opposed to the squirrel’s straight fastball), avoiding him was a breeze, as I had seen him and was able to decelerate with more than enough time to spare.

Within a five-minute, three-mile span three animals had darted onto the road without warning, and I didn’t so much as foul tip any of them.

Going hitless isn’t always a bad thing. I’m still grateful for last week’s oh-for-three! <

Friday, June 14, 2024

Insight: Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


Last week I saw a list shared on social media that was compiled by a hospice nurse who spent her career dealing with individuals who were dying and later wrote a book about it. Knowing that their time on earth was dwindling, the dying passed on their regrets about their lives.

According to this nurse, the top five common regrets were not at all what she expected.

They included wishing they had the courage to live a life true to themselves, and not the life others expected of them by their family or friends. They also wished that they hadn’t spent so much of their lives working, wished they would have had the ability to truly express their feelings, wished they had kept in better touch with friends, and wished they had let themselves enjoy life more and be happier.

During a national study conducted in 2011, Americans were asked to describe a significant life regret, and the most common reported regrets involved romance (19.3 percent), family (16.9 percent), education (14 percent), career (13.8 percent), finances (9.9 percent), and parenting (9.0 percent).

It occurs to me that all the regrets mentioned above involve personal relationships and I can understand that.

As humans, we all share the common experience of living and interacting with others. Since taking our first breath, we all have been part of the routine of life, and everything associated with it. How we relate to others, however, is a choice, and so is how happily we live our lives. There are people we meet along the way that influence the decisions we make and shape our reactions and directly affect our happiness and lives.

By the time I was 15, I had already figured out what I wanted to do for a career but many adult figures in my life wanted to steer me to choices they felt were better for me. During sophomore English class, my teacher, Ruth Silverman, suggested I was a good writer and encouraged me to explore a career in journalism. Now 49 years into my newspaper career, I’ve never regretted that decision, but I do regret not being able to tell her what great advice it was.

She left the school for another teaching position after that school year, and I have no idea where she went. I’ve tried my best through the years to track her down and tell her about my life and career without success. I’ve asked the school system, former teachers at the school, and looked extensively online but have been unable to find her and probably never will.

For many years, I also regretted that I never had a chance to tell other teachers that helped me along the way how much I valued and appreciated them. However, I was able to tell my high school basketball coach Gene Monje that in 2006 and several years later, he invited me to give his introduction speech at the Section V Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Rochester, New York.

I also had a long-standing regret when I was younger about my high school music teacher Giles Hobin. His chorus class was transformational for me when I reached high school. From the first day, he treated me like an adult and inspired me to appreciate music. I wanted to thank him years later but didn’t know where he was.

In the spring of 2001, my classmate Janet Howland sent me a newspaper clipping of a Letter to the Editor he had written, and it listed his home address, which was the same as it had been for years. I sat down and wrote him a letter saying that unlike other students on the first day of college, I felt totally prepared because of teachers like him and was ready for the challenge. I mailed it to him and expected to hear back from him, but months passed without a response.

As I was getting ready to fly to Rochester to attend a wedding in late October 2001, Janet Howland emailed me to tell me that Giles Hobin had died. I was crushed and saddened that I would never have an opportunity to speak to him again. I was able to attend his funeral service with some of my classmates and as I went through a reception line meeting my teacher’s family, something remarkable happened.

As I shook his son Shawn’s hand in the reception line, he turned and told his mother who I was. She smiled and hugged me and said that she wanted to tell me something.

“Of course, Giles was thrilled to receive your letter,” she said. “It meant the world to him, and he kept it on his nightstand. He wanted to write you back but couldn’t because of his illness. I offered to write it for him, but he insisted that he would write you back, but he never got the chance to do so.”

The experience of being human means interacting with many different personalities to chart your own path in this world. I’ve made plenty of mistakes over time and have made many decisions I wish I could regret, but instead I’ve chosen to be happy and continue moving ahead.

Andy Young: Finally breaking decades-old vows

By Andy Young

When I was an intellectual teenager who knew that I knew everything there was to know, a significant number of venerable individuals, albeit armed with good intentions, kept bombarding me with unneeded “help” in the form of unwanted and often long-winded advice about life.

Andy Young's three children are shown when they were
younger. The youngest has just graduated from high school.
COURTESY PHOTO
Thankfully I had the good sense back then to not rub my omniscience in the faces of all those old fossils who kept sharing their “knowledge” with me. Then as now, most people resented youthful, arrogant know-it-alls, even benevolent ones like me who were reasonably tolerant of the ignorant adults surrounding them.

But the constant pestering of those platitude-spouting windbags was why I promised myself two important things.

One was to avoid becoming one of those tiresome old duffers who’d prattle on about the importance of treasuring every day, because time passes so quickly, blah blah blah. The other was to NEVER become one of those ancient, self-important blowhards who drones on endlessly about his aches, pains, and latest health issues.

And I’m happy to report that I have kept those vows faithfully.

Until a week ago, when the youngest of my three children graduated from high school.

The day my son and his 148 impossibly youthful classmates paraded past their proud families to receive their diplomas was perfect for an outdoor graduation. Wispy white clouds dotted a clear blue sky, and a gentle, refreshing breeze kept potentially irritating flying insects at bay. Periodic cloud cover obscured the sun just enough to keep the temperature from becoming oppressive. And those conditions weren’t just perfect for a graduation; they were also ideal for becoming lost in thought, which was why I quickly and involuntarily became engrossed in a jumble of beautiful daydreams.

I relived a day not all that long ago when our oldest was grabbing hunks of his first birthday cake with his bare hands and then attempting, with occasional success, to put them into his mouth. Then my mind conjured the vision of my three children and me throwing a frisbee in the front yard, trying to catch 100 passes in a row without dropping one. Next, I was seeing their amazingly creative, multi-colored chalk drawings on the driveway, beautiful but doomed to be washed away by the next rainstorm.

There they were, perpetually occupied with (depending on the season) kicking soccer balls with their friends, gliding down the nearest available hill on whatever object(s) could serve as a sled, or playing Foursquare with the kids across the street. I swear I actually heard their high-pitched squeals of delight as they uncovered one of the eggs a mischievous rabbit had secreted in various places around the yard, or inside the house when precipitation was in the Easter Sunday forecast. I found myself reliving trips to Connecticut to see their grandmother, or to Vermont to visit with cousins who were only slightly larger than they were. All those band concerts, sleepovers, and Little League baseball games seemed like they were just last week.

Suddenly my pleasant reverie was interrupted by the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance, and the sight of 149 maroon-gowned high school graduates marching by. Where did the time go?

Apparently those windy old geezers actually knew what they were talking about. Years, it turns out, elapse unimaginably quickly. That’s why every young person reading this should fully savor every moment of every day. Take it from me: time flies!

Now that I’ve violated one of my once-sacrosanct vows, I might as well go the whole hog. My lower back is killing me. And does anyone want to hear the latest from my cardiologist? <

Rookie Mama: Pack it up, pack it in - Let the travel era begin

By Michelle Cote

“What do they call it when everything intersects?”
“The Bermuda Triangle.”
– Sleepless in Seattle


The month of May is a Bermuda-Triangle-sort-of-firehose-to-the-face in the Cote household: A very real intersection of spring sports, opening camp, and planting our garden at the exact same time.

It’s a time of year that makes a mockery of my desire for a predictable, clockwork-like schedule, as well as a reminder that despite best-laid plans and garden beds, there are certain things that unavoidably intersect at the same darn time.

The plates must spin on, but we can give them a soft landing.

Enter the multi-tabbed spreadsheet – Today’s sorting, color-coding, slicing, dicing wonder of an answer to my hand-written lists of yore.

It would be wrong to imply spreadsheets have completely replaced lists written in my wild hand – Let’s be honest; my physician grandfather passed down enough promotional pharmaceutical notepads and pens to last several lifetimes.

I can’t pronounce the product names splashed across the tops, and no one can read my cursive shorthand. It’s like a cute little cuneiform that keeps me accountable.

But back to spreadsheets.

When you can accurately predict the unpredictable is coming for your schedule, try to take moments to plan what you can.

We’ve now entered the summer vacation season era that jumps on the heels of spring sports’ end – When I was a kid, welcoming summer meant new jelly shoes and beach towels, but today it means I’ve got to be kind to my future self and take time to plan out family travels, with the same intensity carried out by Kevin McAllister when smoothing out his Battle Plan in ‘Home Alone.’

It’s June, which means we’ll all collectively blink and welcome Labor Day Weekend.

So, get your spreadsheet planning in order if you haven’t already – Fire up a Google or Excel sheet, add your columns for dates, destination locations, check-in times, ticket confirmation numbers, website links galore.

This virtual itinerary can help you plan your travels down to the minute, and you can edit to your heart’s content as you go.

So when you’re really in go-mode, the brunt’s been done.

I first started going gaga for Google Sheets when I discovered just how fabulous a tool this proved for budgeting, from day-to-day bill pay to holiday fa-la-la-list making. I was late to the spreadsheet game – Remember, promotional pharmaceutical notepads.

But I find that planning ahead today for travels that take place months from now not only helps establish a realistic timeline, but sparks reminders of what we’ll need to pack, from beef jerky road snacks to passports.

Jerky tastes better, but getting all travel docs in order is important, too, I suppose – Updating all six of our passports was a laughably taxing exercise in coordination and preparedness.

I wanted to eat all the beef jerky after that was over.

Planning out our family’s travel and adventure itineraries early has worked well each year because we mindfully include room for flexibility and grace, as nothing goes perfectly according to plan one hundred percent of the time.

And sometimes, it so happens these unscripted memories are that which we hold dearest.

You’ve likely experienced something like this.

Those candid moments brought about because of a wrong turn taken, unexpected weather shift, or needing to improvise because of a packing fail reminds us we all need to be flexible sometimes.

Several years ago, my family and I were wandering newly redesigned streets on the outskirts of Old Quebec and found ourselves innocently – and evidently illegally – crossing a street where we believed to be a designated crosswalk. Not so.

An angry officer appeared from around a corner, chased us away, hurling threats in English as broken as this law we’d misinterpreted, and we were terrified.

It was a rainy, gray day, and we were feeling dreary ourselves, but we found ourselves across that street in another newly renovated area – a gorgeous waterfront park with a newly built public splashpad for children.

The river view, coupled with the famed Chateau Frontenac perched in the distance, was breathtaking.

We had the entire place to ourselves because the rain had kept away crowds, and the sky cleared moments later.

Then, a military marching band celebrating Quebec’s summer festival came from seemingly nowhere and encircled us, playing traditional music beautifully as our boys dashed around the waterspouts in pure joy.

I can’t make this stuff up.

So I certainly could never have planned it.

And this was only one of several Cote family moments gone awry that turned out to be so very memorable in the end – All this time later, we still laugh about that day, the angry officer, and eventual sunshine on a cloudy day.

If you set a solid itinerary that reflects your family’s shared goals, you’re designing a best-intended recipe for success.

As long as you remember to make grace-filled room for the inevitable unscripted takeaways, you’ll have your summer to remember – no jelly shoes needed.

Just don’t forget the road snacks.

Enjoy the era of adventure.

­­– Michelle Cote lives in southern Maine with her husband and four sons, and enjoys camping, distance running, biking, gardening, road trips to new regions, arts and crafts, soccer, and singing to musical showtunes – often several or more at the same time! <

Friday, June 7, 2024

Insight: Welcome to the working world

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


My wife and I recently had a conversation with a young woman who was in the middle of her first shift as a waitress at the International House of Pancakes. That discussion produced a flood of memories for me more than 55 years in the past when I worked as a busboy at a popular restaurant in Henrietta, New York.

The Cartwright Inn Restaurant in Henrietta,
New York was the site of an old stagecoach
and carriage stop and where Ed Pierce
worked as a busboy at the age of 15.
The restaurant is now closed but this
old carriage was in the parking lot there
for years. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
Starting my sophomore year of high school, my father suggested that it was time that I got a “real job” and give up my newspaper delivery route, which I had been doing since we moved to a new neighborhood when I was starting out in eighth grade. I loved being a paperboy and reading the latest news hot off the press, but reluctantly I agreed to find another job that could possibly pay me more than the $24 a month I was earning at that time.

I applied for a clerk position at Hadlock’s House of Paints, scooping ice cream at Meisenzahl Dairy, and pumping gasoline at Eddie’s Sunoco Station. Because of a lack of experience, being a few months shy of my 15th birthday and not having a driver’s license, I felt I was doomed no matter what employer I wanted to hire me.

Eventually a restaurant called The Cartwright Inn offered me a busboy job for $1.60 per hour. My schedule would be on Friday and Saturday afternoons and evenings, and for the lunch shift after church let out on Sundays. I was thrilled someone wanted to hire me, and my father said he was happy to drive me back and forth to my new job and pick me up when my shifts were over.

I got to wear a uniform consisting of a white shirt, black clip-on bowtie, black pants, red jacket, and black dress shoes and I couldn’t wait for the training for my new job to start. My duties included removing used dishes and glasses from a table, placing them in a rubber tray and carrying them back to the kitchen for dishwashing. When asked, I would assist the dining room manager in setting up tables for a large party or retrieving a glass of milk from the kitchen for a customer that the waitress forgot.

After working a few shifts there though, the luster wore off for me. I didn’t like having to stand during my entire shift. The uniform was hot and the stress of having to do everything so fast was mind-numbing. I found some of the waitresses and customers to be rude and the restaurant’s management to have little patience or regard for how they treated staff members.

The best part of the job was always interacting with the other busboys, the cooks and the dishwashers, a few of whom I knew from school. One of those other busboys, Nick Vecchioli was my classmate, and a lifelong friend. Each time I would bring a tray of dirty dishes to the dishwasher in the kitchen, one of them would spray me with the hose used to clean the dishes with. It was always a welcome cooling blast, and it made me laugh each time he did that. In hindsight, that would take my mind off the hectic serving and table-cleaning chaos going on out in the dining room.

The restaurant also had a lobster tank and sometimes when things were slow on late Sunday mornings before the lunch crowd arrived, the busboys would extract a few lobsters from the tank and making sure no managers were around, we would stage makeshift lobster races.

After working there for a good chunk of the spring and into the summer, I was on duty on a Saturday afternoon when I learned that Randall Cartwright, the chair of the school board and owner of The Cartwright Inn, would be dining at the restaurant after his thoroughbred horse raced at the Finger Lakes Racetrack. Sure enough, Mr. Cartwright showed up all decked out in a white suit and string bowtie, resembling the outfit worn by Colonel Sanders.

After his meal, he walked back into the kitchen to have a cup of coffee. Paper coffee cups were contained in a Dixie-Cup type of dispenser and on occasion, some cook or dishwasher prankster would puncture the bottom of the cups with a knife. That was the case this day and I happened to be standing there in the kitchen when Randall Cartwright pulled down a cup, poured hot black coffee into it and proceeded to take a sip. Hot coffee dribbled all over his pristine white suit and I couldn’t help but to laugh out loud.

He summoned me over and told me that I was fired and to leave the premises immediately. I tried to explain that I wasn’t the prankster, but he was embarrassed and did not relent. I had no change in my pocket to use the pay phone to call my father and had to sit on a parking curb waiting outside for more than three hours until he arrived to take me home.

My advice to teens seeking summer work is simple. Take each job seriously and it will be a launchpad for future success.

Jane Pringle: Tackling Maine’s housing crisis head-on

By State Rep. Jane Pringle

It is no secret that our state is in the midst of a housing crisis, which has been exacerbated by a combination of factors over the years that has meant building production has not kept up with demand. The result is a shortage of housing units statewide, which has had real-life consequences on Mainers from all walks of life. Many families have been unable to purchase their first home, some are struggling to find housing close to their workplaces or schools, and others are having a hard time affording their rent or property taxes.

State Rep. Jane Pringle
In October 2023, the Maine State Housing Authority released a study that sets a production target of 84,300 homes by 2030 to compensate for the current underproduction while keeping pace with increased demand. Simply put, our housing stock requires investment, and our homeowners and renters need support. Recognizing this, my colleagues and I in the legislature have taken proactive steps to prioritize long-term solutions and emergency fixes, fully understanding that the housing crisis is a systemic issue that demands comprehensive treatment.

Over the last two years, the legislature has provided substantial funds to support the unhoused population throughout our state, so more of our neighbors can have a safe place to sleep at night. We’ve appropriated more than $21 million for emergency housing initiatives and $7.5 million for low-barrier shelters. We’ve also invested in the “Housing First” model, a proven and effective strategy in addressing homelessness. This approach is both adaptable and compassionate as it prioritizes providing permanent housing to those in need without prerequisites or conditions. In addition, $2 million has been earmarked for housing subsidies for homeless students, a demographic that often goes unnoticed in our unhoused population.

We have also made significant policy strides to invest in affordable housing development, which will help make more units available in the coming years. This includes providing additional funds to the Rural Affordable Housing Program, which provides financial assistance to developers to create affordable housing in rural areas. We have also increased the Low-Income Tax Credit, a tax incentive for developers who build or rehabilitate affordable rental housing. These measures will make it easier for residents who are currently struggling to find a home by increasing the number of units available

Strengthening our state’s economy is always a top priority. One way that we can continue to support businesses while growing new industries is to make sure that workers are able to find a place to live. With that in mind, the legislature passed a bill to create the Workforce Housing Development Loan Fund, which will provide low-interest loans to support the development of affordable workforce housing.

Recognizing that a significant portion of Mainers are renters, we have also made it a priority to increase tenant protections. First, we enacted a bill that will limit fees that landlords can impose and increase transparency around “hidden fees” in lease agreements. Next, we established a commission to maximize the Section 8 housing voucher program, a lifeline for so many. This commission will investigate ways to improve access to housing vouchers and tenant-landlord relations to make the program more effective and efficient. Additionally, collaborating with MaineHousing once more, we enacted a bill to establish a two-year pilot program to support eviction prevention.

All of this legislation represents only a sampling of all we have accomplished during this past legislative session to mitigate the stress caused by our state’s housing crisis and help meet the goals outlined by MaineHousing back in October. There is no doubt that more must be done, but I am proud of the policies that my colleagues and I have enacted, and I am confident that these measures will lead to meaningful and lasting change.

Rep. Jane Pringle is serving her second non-consecutive term in the Maine House of Representatives, having previously represented Windham from 2012-2014. She is a member of the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. <

Andy Young: All about dead presidents

By Andy Young

Don’t let the headline fool you.

This column has nothing to do with those two-and-a-half inch by six-inch pieces of green paper that a few people over the age of 50 still use to purchase things. This essay concerns America’s actual presidents, or more specifically the 39 of them who are no longer living.

When June 1 dawned and Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter were still breathing, it continued one of the most unnoticed but remarkable streaks in American history.

Since the nation inaugurated its first chief executive in 1789, no American ex-president has ever died during the calendar’s fifth month. That’s 235 Mays (and counting) without a single presidential death.

There are two other months when no former president has died, but August’s and September’s streaks come with asterisks. Warren Harding succumbed to a heart attack on Aug. 2, 1923, while James Garfield (Sept. 19, 1881) and William McKinley (Sept. 14, 1901) were both felled by assassins. But each of them was a sitting president when he died, so August and September remain technically unsullied by the demise of any former chief executives.

While May remains a safe haven for America’s ex-commanders-in-chief, the two months that follow it are extraordinarily perilous ones. A half-dozen ex-presidents died in June, specifically Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, Ronald Reagan, and a trio of Jameses (Madison, Polk, and Buchanan). And the following month is even deadlier: seven presidents (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Martin Van Buren, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Johnson, and Ulysses S. Grant) expired during July.

Ironically the deadliest day for ex-presidents is July 4. Three of them (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1826 and James Monroe in 1831) have died on the nation’s nominal birthday. Dec. 26 (Harry Truman in 1972 and Gerald Ford in 2006) and March 8 (Millard Fillmore in 1874 and William Howard Taft in 1930) are the only two other dates to have marked the end of more than one ex-presidential life.

Five former White House occupants died in January: John Tyler, Rutherford Hayes, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Lyndon Johnson. Next up on the presidential death-by-month list, with four each: March (Fillmore, Taft, Benjamin Harrison, and Dwight Eisenhower) and April (William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon). December (George Washington, along with the aforementioned Truman and Ford) and November (Chester Arthur, John F. Kennedy, and George H. W. Bush) follow with three each. Two presidents died in the months of September (Garfield and McKinley), October (Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover) and February (John Quincy Adams and Woodrow Wilson).

New York is clearly the most dangerous state for ex-presidents: nine of the 39 no-longer-extant chief executives expired there. Seven more died in Washington D.C., four had their lives conclude in Virginia, and Texas, California, and Tennessee have each had three presidents die inside their borders.

The longest America has gone between presidential deaths was 26 years, six months, and 20 days, which was the time span between George Washington’s demise on Dec. 14, 1799, and the deaths of Adams and Jefferson on the nation’s 50th birthday, 9,698 days later. The second-longest death-free span was the 7,760 days that transpired between the passings of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

So, what exactly can be learned from all of this painstaking research? Maybe nothing. However, if I were a current or former president of the United States who was interested in continuing to stay alive for a while longer, I think I’d steer clear of New York and Washington D.C. for the next couple of months. <