The year passes. Things change. Some for the better. Some on the flip-side. We make gains. We count our losses. Many things tend to stay stagnant. And that can be a good thing. We are evolving even when it's hard to distinguish. For most the view of where we are going and how we're getting there, the landscape, if you will, remains the same, while our panorama is altered even without note. The experience of our last 365 days makes that so. Trying to find the ways you've changed over the year can be a fruitless search. Just live with it and push on to tomorrow. Don't try to dissect it; take my word for it. You did!
*Happy 3 years to me! Today's post marks year three in my daily posting of a piece of my life in photo and text. Thank you to all who stop by to view, read and say hi!
Dylan, Beatles, Stones, cowboys, classic author or two, a worst case scenario edition and even an old science book thrown in for good measure, that a quick look a section of a bookcase in the den. Interesting how the vertical authors are sort of sandwiched by music. Although this section really has no rhyme or reason to its placement, when I take a step back it becomes a bit symbolic of me. An immeasurable piece of my heart and soul centers around writers and music. Hawthorne's Marble Fawn holds a special place in my library, and who can forget those Sunday nights when Ed Sullivan finally streaked his outstretched arm to the left and yelled, the Beatles... to the screaming masses. I must admit, while others concerned themselves with Lennon and McCartney, it was George, 'the quiet one' that piqued my interest. And the night the Stones hit the stage, in their sweaters, as opposed to the Beatles suits and ties, I was struck by the utter aloofness of Keith, standing in a world of his own. At first glance, a seemingly haphazard placement of books, really helps reveal a bit about who I am. Now, Dylan's words and music... I'd need another page.
This is a small piece of quite a big dwelling on the Western Prom. At one time, it was a stunning, large home to a single family, a showplace. But these days, it's probably broken up into many apartments. I'm a very good dreamer. Are you? If this was our home, there would be places for our two vehicles, and then in the third bay, I could store my vintage, silver Jag. Oh ya, I don't own it yet, but it might be in my future. You know, if I ever win Megabucks, the Maine State Lottery. Oh ya, just one small problem-- I don't play the lottery. I think I've played it about 5 times in my entire life. Not really much of a gambler in just about anything. Are you a dreamer? What would you store behind the third door?
Here on Middle Street a look up is in order today. Life moves on. This block is no longer affiliated with Casco Bank or any other bank for that matter. It is a good solid building with some classic architectural design, as you can see. And in the evening, the holiday lighting in the upper windows is just an added touch of ambiance to this stretch of buildings. Once a bustling bank that serviced what was to become known as the Old Port area in the 70's, today it's lawyers' offices and such living out another life. Life moves on. Retirement on a comfy couch used to be the dream. Today, when and how to make the move is part and parcel to this dream. If indeed, it is a dream and not a minor nightmare. They say it's the next phase of your life. We'll see soon. I do know, like many today, it'll be all about 'still standing' but used in a different way. The couch will not be an option.
Nope! We're not in Colorado. Ever spend quite a lot of time around someplace, and then out of the blue see something you've never, ever seen before? I think we all have, a time or two. We're up on the Western Prom this morning in Western Cemetery, the city's second oldest cemetery with interments dating back to the late 1700's. I stopped by and caught sight of this large boulder, that I had never seen before. Now, why was this? Given the number of times I have wandered around the grounds, I sat in my truck and wondered. Had it been added? Dug up? Why hadn't I seen it before? After a few more moments the mystery was solved. They have removed the black fencing on this side of the burial grounds. No need to walk through the narrow entranceway any more to get inside. At least for now, just walk in at any point here on Vaughn Street, but watch where you walk. Years ago, it was basically an 'off-leash dog park', where dogs were apparently welcomed to relieve themselves on your relatives graves from dawn to dusk. This, along with a large number of grave desecrations years back, tended to give this cemetery quite a seedy reputation. The city is attempting to 'clean this up' in more ways then one, and so maybe a new fence along Vaughn is in the plans. Hope so. Heck, they even broke into Longfellow's family's tomb back a few years ago but interestingly found no remains. No respect at all!
It's always a special time when the tree goes up. The decorations bring so many memories flooding back. Our tree is festive this year with so many objects and colors from beyond. There are 50's era elaborate glass balls from Elenka's family tree, her mother's designed snowflakes and ice skates, my grandmother's mouse she wore on her coat, birds and birdhouses, a stack of books, mice in red dresses, cut glass ornaments with etched designs, dressed teddy bears sitting plump, angels caught in mid-flight, wooden soldiers marching in time, a swinging reindeer, a moose or two, after all it's Maine, a plastic jolly snowman once filled with candy, Santa's plump face, green ceramic trees, a small stuffed Garfield or two, magical lanterns, decorated packages, stuffed, festive ponies, a couple of small framed pictures of a kid I know well, dangling sweethearts, a snow-covere sled ready for a run and even a toy drum of yarn. White lights and seemingly countless red balls set the theme on a green field. And there you have it, the STAR of a family room yesterday that was loaded with family and good friends. A steady light snow into the evening made for a wonderful canvas to paint the day. It was the perfect tree for a perfect day. Noel!
"Long past?" inquired Scrooge, observant of its dwarfish stature.
"No. Your past."
A Christmas Carol By C. Dickens
I do believe my 'inner cowboy' had its true birth this long ago Christmas morning. I remember going days and not removing this outfit. Now, our table top NHL hockey game was memorable and entertained the neighborhood for literally months, but these matching cowboy getups that my brother and I are modeling here next to Nana's tree were the end all for me. We were just a couple of buckaroos in the bunkhouse after a long cattle drive on the range, if I recall this image correctly. It was another time and place that'll never be able to shake from inside.
It's a white Christmas Eve for us. Here's a quick look down the road at the pond and what this evening's looking like. Growing up in the 1950's in Portland, High Street was a favorite place to visit leading up to Christmas. I actually do remember the time Dad first showed me the window in Starrett's Store on a shopping trip to find a special gift for Mom. Long before there were malls sprinkled all over, if you were shopping for Christmas, you went downtown. Petula Clark was right; it was all about Downtown. The large window was on the ground floor of the Eastland Hotel. The window was filled with train tracks, tiny snow-covered villages and four or more LionelTrains running throughout the various village scenes. What really made this window enchanting and jaw dropping was the metal plate on the window that when you placed your small hand on it made the trains move and the window come alive. A visit here was a ritual of pre-Christmas for my brother, sisters and me. I could have stayed there for hours, even in the cold of the season. Got a favorite Holiday Memory? HoHoHo!
This is the front door of the State Street Congregational Church decked out for the season. This morning in the southern Maine we wake to an over night snow cover of 3-4 inches. This snow is going to be sticking around, all but guaranteeing us a white Christmas. So now it's time to check the record books. A white Halloween? A white Thanksgiving and now a white Christmas? I certainly can never remember such an occurrence in Portland. I'm sure that over the next day or so, meteorologists will be scouring the history of holiday snowfall to see if it's even on record. I say it's amazing, considering my memory recalls some years of no significant snow till January around here. Today, some last minute shopping and out to dinner with my two best buds. There's a piece of steak in my future!
Learn something new everyday, they say. I try to do this. I did today. I drive by these cattails in the Stroudwater Marsh most days when I enter the city. I grew up knowing them as cat o' nine tails. That's what Mom always called them things growing along the marshes and swamps near our house. Now, I find that the cat o' nine tails' was something altogether different. It was a type of whipping device, used throughout history in Great Britain. Flogging has quite a history throughout the world. In the song "What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor", there's a line "Give 'em a taste of the Captain's daughter" where the 'captain'r daughter' is the cat or a whip. Ever hear the expression, "not enough room to swing a dead cat in"? Right, the cat refers to the 'cat o' nine tails'... a whip if you will. I love the twists and turns language takes. And I do really wonder if Mom knew what the heck she was saying? You say potato; I say 'patattah'. You say cattails; I say cat o' nine tails... let's call the whole thing off.
I live with an artist, and that has made all the difference. I need to be around creativity to strive. That probably sounds a bit strange, I know, but it's true. There's something within my center that gets me reinvigorated seeing the artist work. The final results of the endeavor is fine, and I love looking at art, but there is something so stimulating for me about the process of getting there. I enjoy immensely reading about how writers and painters do what they do. Why writers write, and why painters paint? What drives them? What's at their creative epicenter? Many who view art just don't see that there's a process. They see the painting and leave it at that. What is creativity? Why do some get it, while others can't even see that there is a door to open there. What's the vision? What provides the inspiration? What is the imagination, and how does one get there? See what paint and a good book does to me?
The trees in Portland's Deering Oaks are big. Most of them have resided there for hundreds of years. The park and her trees have quite a history together. Long before anyone ever heard of building fairy houses, there was a year where I spent some time away from rubbing bottle caps and playing baseball during recesses at St. Joseph's Grammar School. We built our little houses at the base of trees like this. Popsicle sticks and many small twigs provided the framework for our 'buildings'. You see, I've always used my creative energy to entertain myself. Growing up, whether it was Washington Avenue, Stevens Avenue or even on Coyle Street, I often went to my room and closed the door and entered a pretty interesting world... compliments of dear, old adorable ME!
Until we bought our house in the country in 1977, I was always a city boy. The closest I got to farm life was our nighttime escapades in Mr. Bustin's neighborhood garden and our Sunday drives to 'nowhere' in the station wagon with Dad at the wheel. It was a life out there that I knew nothing about. Even as an adult, other then walking the grounds of the Cumberland Fair and the Common Ground Fairs or visiting Smiling Hill Farm with J-, I had never seen the animals that inhabit the big farm barns. It was quite an eye opening experience and that saying noting to what my nostrils took in on those visits. Although the news is filled with the demise of family farms around here, there are still quite a few barns that are still stirring at 3AM. It's a hard life. This farm always attracts by eye on the Gorham bypass.
Excuse me. I have to use... the men's room? the bathroom? the basement? the john? the water closet? the toilet? the restroom? the loo? the washroom? the lavatory? the outhouse? Got some free time on your hands this weekend? Check out the etymology of these words. You'll be amazed and yes, intrigued by what you find searching out these word origins. As for this 'mensroom', I've never set foot in a salon, ever. A saloon yes, a salon, not so much. First of all, to 'work' on ones feet is just plain weird, if you ask me. Fingernails? Don't go there, too embarrassing. Hair? I haven't set foot in a barbershop in 30 plus years, and you think I might survive a salon? I'll pamper myself for the holidays, but there are many less intrusive ways to go about it. Now, let's see the word loo has a very interesting derivative. Want to guess? Think about the number 100 and you're on the right track. Doing this might give you some 'relief'.
If you celebrate the season, it all comes down to real or artificial. Growing up, we always had a real one. I can recall many a Sunday in December heading off to the outer reaches of Cumberland somewhere, in the station wagon with Dad with an ax in the back seat. We always headed to the same area and always returned with a 'perfect' tree. To this day Elenka and I have had a real Christmas tree to decorate each December. Hey, we live in Maine, and 'it's the right thing to do'. Where we get ours seems to go in cycles, but even with 10 acres out back we've never taken down our own. We've shopped at mom and pop stands, local garden centers and most recently at Lowe's. Whether a Douglas fir, a Fraser or a Balsam, we seem to find the 'perfect' one each year without fail. Could I survive with an artificial one? No problem. I'm sure someday, depending where we end up, it'll happen. A small one sitting on a table? I'll know the score. I'll live with it. But these Decembers, when I return home a bit stressed from my day, I light the tree and ah... my worries seem to just slide away. As I type this last line or so in the family room, our tree, twinkling away with its white lights and heirloom decorations, sets the mood for my coming day... and it's softly snowing out right now. Peace!
For the first 5 years or so of living in our home, this is what faced me each winter morning at about 6:30. We had no garage, so I scraped the windshield, a bit, and defrosted as I drove along. The garage was a good investment for many reasons. The biggest? Start the truck and go, of course. On the downside? There's always a flip side to everything, you know. Garages provide one with SPACE, and I LIKE to fill space. I'm sort of a pack rat. Far from a hoarder, but I do like to save stuff. Lots of stuff. I know I'm asking for trouble down the road when we move, but the old bottles I've dug up, the pieces of a three-hole outhouse we found when we moved in, saws and other assorted tools I never use, a couple of old Subaru tires, hundreds of vintage Rolling Stone Magazines, from the 70's stored away in boxes just enticing rodents to make homes in them and lots more I just can't seem to get rid of. I wish I was like my brother. He seems to keep not much more than the essentials around. Lugging crap to the local landfill is a passion of his. And why, why, why am I so darn sentimental about things. Not just these things but EVERYTHING! It's a cross I carry; I guess. By the way, think I have issues in the garage? You ought to see our house attic. I gotta get busy!
It's pre-7 AM, and these duck backs in the distance abound in the waters of Strowdwater Crossing this morning. Walking on this frozen sea grass in the foreground reminds me of coming into the dining room on Stevens Avenue and heading straight for that big, gray iron radiator. It stood chest-high to this youngster and gave my hands, that were ice cold and beet red, comfort. I was one hurting puppy. The heat generated would give my hands relief, but it always took 5 minutes or so of painful rubbing. I never thought of putting them in a sink of warm water. That's how I do it these days. See, I'm paying for all my youthful digressions. I never get away with anything. I always get caught. I'd make a poor criminal!
Off to Merry Madness in the city tonight. It's all about celebrating with friends and shopping in the Old Port. I can do this! I hope it snows a bit.
Here's the walkway around the pond at the Oaks. A thin layer of ice has begun to form, and by January kids will be attempting pirouettes and scoring goals here. Our favorite place to throw the puck around was the swamp at the end of Mayfield. It froze over early, and by Christmas afternoon it was the perfect place to try out those new skates and sticks. There was one place that was pretty wide open, at least enough for a small rink. We'd shovel it off, put out our goals, pick teams and play till well after dark some nights. We had quite a few choices to skate at nearby, but this was close and ours, and that made it special. Most winter days, we were outside doing something. Livingroom couches, occupying our butts, were alien environments to us. And as for 'thin ice' I've skated on it a lot, just ask my friends... then and now. Goal!
This ain't no turkey! This is a shot of the street at Boothby Square in the heart of the Old Port. Streets in this part of the city used to be all cobblestone. Now, there are but a few remnants of this type of paving. Driving on Commercial Street, with its stones and all the railroad tracks scattered about, used to be quite a a task for the driver, but the sound of tires on the street was music to my ears as a kid. Amazing! What a job it would have been, back then, for someone to have been the official 'cobblestone counter' for the city. The Saturday night out with the kids always included a maneuver down double-wide Commercial on our way to the Maine State Pier and then up the Hill to Eastern Prom. If we were lucky, we'd see a train at the Grand Trunk Terminal. A fun-filled night out with four kids and it was free! Mom and Dad thought of everything.
Look what was rolling out of town early Sunday morning. Of course, I really can't say I grew up with the gang, but in lots of ways I spent a second childhood with them. Most afternoons J- and I piled on the brown couch in the den and were entertained by Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, Oscar, and the rest of the Muppets. My favorites had to be The Count and Elmo. I loved to countdown with that lovable 'Dracula wanna- be', and was there ever a character anymore innocent then orange Elmo? There was a stretch in my life where, if there was a Disney or Sesame Street show at the Civic Center, we were there. I still get my melancholy days that make long for the these innocent times.
Up early this Saturday, it's just me and Mollycakes. She's been fed, but she's still complaining. Doing her acrobatic thing, jumping from piece of furniture to piece of furniture. Often she'll just sit calmly, on the arm of the chair, as I pound away on this blog. On other mornings like today, she wants out before the morning light. Even when I attempt reason with her and remind that the 'wild things are still out and about, she scoffs and claws the rug and other items that I can't share with Elenka. You know, it's that special bond between feline and owner. Now, I can't speak for dogs(I'm not opening that can of worms today), but as for cats, I'm a staunch believe in this rule-- you venture through life and never experience the companionship of a cat, your life is a wee bit less for having missed out. Are you chuckling right now? Nonbeliever? Take a trip to your local Animal Refuge League this AM and roll the dice. You'll be amazed at what you'll find out about yourself. Gotta go. Lights up, and Molly's at the door. She wants out!
Who are you? Do you really know? Are you who you hope you are? I hear that you really never see yourself the way others do. Mirrors? Photographs? They are all about glass and reflections. I used to dislike my name, because it was too short and didn't lend itself to a nickname like all my other pals. I'm over that now. As for my face, gosh, I hated my freckles. I looked in the mirror and I just saw this funny-looking, freckled faced, little waif staring back at me. I complained to Mom. I asked her how to get rid of them. I even shared my frustration with my Aunt Mimi. She related to me some round-a-bout story, with a bottom line that freckles were where I had been kissed by angels. Sheesh! By the look at that 12 year old face, I wasn't kissed, I was made passionate love to! Oh well, I'm over that now too. These days, quite a few of the old 'dots' have dissolved. I guess the angels took 'em back! Hahaha!
Today is for leftovers. First of all here is my first turkey that I prepared myself. Well, Elenka assisted, directed, and helped out preparing the bird. Hey, those pieces of neck and giblets are plain disgusting! Pretty much the dinner was mine: turkey, mashed potatoes, squash, turnip, gravy and that can of cranberry sauce. For dessert there was homemade pumpkin pie. I think there was a glass or two of wine in there someplace, but I must admit I did not squeeze the grapes. The next day you guessed it: hunks of white turkey breast, lettuce and plenty of mayo on rye bread. To die for!
What a surprise! Out of the blue, a package arrived from Amazon last week. I had to laugh out loud when I saw the book The Story of FERDINAND wrapped in plastic. My sister in Oregon read my blog earlier in the week and did what she does so well. Sent a gift, just because. As soon as I settled in the family room, I sat back and read it to Elenka. Thank you so much J!
It's true confession Wednesday. It seemed that a rite of each summer would be that week of racing our homemade buggies, (like soapbox derby racers, but without all the rules), down college hill. We spent the week building our new models in our garage, complete with wheels taken off an old baby carriage we found in the neighborhood dump. Now, there was always the debate: build it light to go fast, or build it heavy, so with the momentum of the long hill, it would really be rolling by the time it reached the bottom. One year, we were short on wood and B- and S- said the old dilapidated building next to their house had some perfect pieces for our latest model. They went on to say their neighbor worked during the day, and we might 'borrow' a few boards. Needless to say (we were 12), the deed was done. It turned into the perfect buggie that won countless races down that hill that summer. A few years later in religion class, I discovered I had something called scruples, and I ventured back to that summer morning rummaging around in that building for wood. I guess I was a bad boy.
The funnies often get me in trouble. My funnies NOT theirs, if you get my drift. The Boy Scouts did not appreciate my 'creative knot tying' demonstration at the St. Joseph's Hall. I thought it was hilarious! I was asked not to return. Sister Joanne did not see the humor in my ring-leading the early morning 'attack' on the sanctity of her sixth grade classroom... after school for a week copying the dictionary. Whew! I told Mrs. Lyons that I had already ventured into puberty and the voice change, but she didn't believe me. My solo of "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" will live in infamy in Lincoln Junior's Room 310. I had to prove to Father Graham that I had had just about enough of his falsetto-voiced tales of exorcism. I thought my impersonation was a 'comedy-connection' riot. Needless to say he didn't see it the same way. A few of my collegiate capers were classics. Firecrackers in cigarettes, radios flying out windows, and the night I commandeered the PA system after midnight in the girls' dormitory(@Nazareth College) in a vain attempt to get a date. Don't believe me? Ask SG... he was there. Like I've always said trouble seems to follow me. I like the funnies. Do you?
The project started in 1992 by Karen and Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine with the placing of 5,000 unsold wreaths on headstones in Arlington National Cemetery and has grown in leaps and bounds since then. Last December, they placed 24,000 wreaths there, and next Saturday, December 10, they plan on laying 100,000. Today, over 84 big rigs from various locations around the country will start to make their way to the nation's capitol. A nonprofit group now assists them as they they attempt, some year, to place laurels on all 210,000 graves in this national memorial. That would be quite an undertaking, from Harrington to Arlington!.
Last night I was watching "It's a Wonderful Life" on TV and began thinking about all those holiday movies and shows that reflected a simpler time. Back then, we gathered around the set, sitting on the floor, for specials like: " A Charlie Brown's Christmas", "An Andy Williams Christmas", "Babes in Toyland", and "A Christmas Carol" among others. Our lives take twists and turns. Sometimes our futures are directed by major, life changing events, but most of us seem molded by subtle, minute nuances of our youth. How did moms and dads know this would make all the difference. This becomes the recipe for who we are this morning. Take it or leave it; the die has been cast. Enjoy the buffet!
Is there a more depressing place in winter than a lonely softball or baseball diamond? My answer to this question is: No, I don't really think so. This is Kiley Field on Eastern Prom. Most summer nights, it's very much alive! It's filled with boisterous voices, and lots of middle-age men running wildly all over this dirt infield. A couple of times each summer, I'll stop by and watch my brother play second base and just take in the wondrous views of Casco Bay. Soon to be covered with snow, summer nights can't come fast enough.
These windows on upper Forest Avenue are quite colorful and seem to be welcoming the holiday season. Besides putting our Christmas lights up in the windows in early December, Mom allowed us to coat the bottom of the windows with aerosol cans of 'fake frost'. I also recall one season where we used some sort of colored plastic paper (oxymoron?) to create a stain glass effect on them. They weren't as elaborate as these, but I bet we had as much fun. Thanks to ideas she gathered from the old Captain Kangaroo show, Mom had what seemed an endless 'treasure house' of art supplies. Good thing, because she had to entice and entertain us for hours each December.
Today, December 1, 2011, is Theme Day across the CDPB community(CityDailyPhotoBlog). With the theme this month of Action Shot, I flashed back to the old Batman TV series that ran from 1966-1968 staring Adam West as the crime-fighting crusader and his faithful sidekick Robin, played by Burt Ward. Watching it at Kendall's with the gang from Gorham, rolling and laughing for a 1/2 hour while sipping on Champales was great fun. What more can I say but... POW!, ZAP! CRASH! BAM! KAPOW! THWACK! SOCK!