Monday, November 30, 2009

Road Trip-Ellis Island

We spent Thanksgiving with family in northern New Jersey. Our plan was to hit NYC both Friday and Saturday and play the tourist, and we weren't disappointed. Friday afternoon, we toured the Ellis Island Museum at the mouth of the Hudson River. From January 1, 1892-1954 Ellis Island was the nation's premier immigration station. Over 12 million immigrant steamship passengers passed through its doors. They say over 40 percent of our country's population can trace a member of their family, who first set foot in this country, here. I especially enjoyed the photo essay of the deserted buildings and their contents photographed in the late 50's and 60's. Looking at the pictures, it was as if the buildings were left like a ghost town, with all the items left exactly as they appeared that last day in '54. It was a humbling afternoon moving through the rooms and great hall. As I moved from area to area, room to room, I felt that the walls held an overwhelming 'stillness' of many faces.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wall Works

It all begins with vines. In my own mind, I call this wall of a Free Street parking facility 'the vineyard'. The entire wall of the next door office building is covered with vines, berries, leaves and such. Of course, the wall changes through the seasons and really during the summer months is unnoticeable almost. As the leaves turn, it comes to life. I'm sure to most, it's not even here. To me, these subtleties in life's natural quiltwork just jump out all over the place at me.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gone South

A lot of my fine feathered friends have headed to warmer climes already. There are times I think I should follow them down, but not this upcoming month. December: it's one of my favorites. I just remembered. I've got to get myself an advent calendar for our fridge. I've opened those little doors with excitement throughout the years with my brother and sisters, then with my wife and finally these last 23 years with my wife and son. I'm addicted! Nativity scenes? Santa's workshop? Wildlife? I'll go with anything but one with chocolate. I guess I'm a traditionalist when it comes to these. As the month comes to a close, enjoy my all time favorite turkey leftover... a couple of thick, white turkey breast slices, lettuce, bread and plenty of MAYO!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Deering Window

I once spent a lot of time on Deering Street and the surrounding area. Daily I had to walk to get the car in the parking lot behind Joe's Smoke Shop. One thing really jumped out at me and that was the architecture of the line of brick buildings. Probably the most prominent attribute of the structures were the bay windows on the ground apartments. They were mostly duplexes with two units on the first floor and two on the second. I'm always intrigued walking by streets in the city at night and for a brief moment 'peering in' on another's world. Hey, call me crazy, but there's 'pull' there for me. Even these days, when I'm going to a hockey or basketball game, I'll search out this street for a parking place and stroll towards CCCC looking right and left for alien worlds in our midst. Today? No, I won't be searching out Black Friday deals(refuse to honor that tradition), but I will be off on an adventure or two. Details to follow.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tommy's Park

Here's Tommy's Park at the corner of Exchange and Middle in the heart of the Old Port. It's a small oasis of green among the brickwork with a hot dog stand or two. There are always some nice reflections in these windows too. Back a ways, the day always started with delivering papers, the Portland vs. Deering Thanksgiving game @10:30, turkey at our house, watching the Lions on TV , and then getting together in the backyard for pickup game of pigskin with the gang. Life was simple then. Today, our extended family celebrates Thanksgiving spread across the globe-- Frankfurt, Virginia, Maine, Florida, Oregon and New Jersey. Happy Turkey Day!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Just around the corner from our house, there is an old dilapidated farmhouse that has fallen into a state of disrepair. If my memory serves me on this one, I don't think it's been inhabited for the last 20 years or so. In the early eighties there were two greenhouses along side that were open for annuals and seedlings sales in the spring. But over the years, the roofs on both have fallen in. A stone wall, that I'm envious of, fronts the road, along with three pretty good size maples. There are stone steps and walkway that leads to the front door. I'm sure it was a quaint farmhouse in its time. On the way to work each day, my eye is pulled towards this site. I hope someday, someone will bring this property back to its grandeur. It could be a stunner!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


*Another bit of irony in my life came forth yesterday morning. This image was all set to go yesterday and then...
"Ah, What's up Doc?" This famous tagline of the nasty yet lovable Mr. Bugs Bunny came to mind, as I walked through the vegetables at Monument Square's Farmers Market recently. I would surmise that many of these will find their way to sumptuous Thanksgiving tables come this Thursday. Now, I don't even want to get involved in the 'discussion' of some friends yesterday, on something called Facebook, of which one tastes best: the baby-cut, plastic prepackaged, neatly trimmed, size- ready for salads, stews and dip, or these big babies. Nuff said. I know where my heart lies, and Brattcat, I did have Captain Kangaroo flashback moment when putting this together.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Our woodshed is ecstatic again. The wood is in. Finally! We burn about two cord of wood each year to supplement our main heating system. You really can't beat wood stove heat during a Maine winter or just to ward off the early morning chills this time of year. Our Vigilant stove literally saved us during the infamous ice storm of '98. I don' really complain much about moving the wood; I kind of enjoy it. There is a stipulation though; blaze orange is a must: hat, vest, mitts. That's a big change since 50's when my grandfather and his hunting buddy Uncle E- would head out into the woods seeking the elusive whitetail in their black and red checked hunting coats. I always knew it was getting close to Turkey Day when I saw him sporting this look.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I love words! I spend a lot of my time dealing with words, their sometimes strange definitions, their etymologies and their pronunciations. Cripes, one of the first sites I visit each morning is I'm not a big crossword puzzle guy, like some I know, and I drive others crazy by doing Jumbles backwards. But I do enjoy discovering just where certain words derive their origins. This week's theme is verbs, and today's word is nettle. When I look at today's picture, taken at Abacus on Exchange Street, I think of the word vase: a vessel, as of glass, porcelain, earthenware, or metal, usually higher than it is wide, used chiefly to hold cut flowers or for decoration.
1555–65; < class="ital-inline">vās vessel
n. An open container, as of glass or porcelain, used for holding flowers or for ornamentation.
[French, from Latin vās, vessel.]
Word Origin & History
1563, from M.Fr. vase, from L. vas "container, vessel." Amer.Eng. preserves the original Eng. pronunciation (Swift rhymes it with face, Byron with place and grace), while British Eng. shifted mid-19c. to preference for a pronunciation that rhymes with bras.
The different ways we pronounce the same word has a bit of an intrigue to me also, and vase is a good example. Oh well, if I can get my face out of my dictionary, I'll be able to enjoy another fine sunny day here in southern Maine.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Here's a view of a section of the front entrance way of the Immanuel Baptist Church. This beautiful brownstone church complex sits at the corner of High and Deering Streets. In a former life, I lived nearby and passed it a couple of times a day. Many times I used to venture inside to the courtyard area and take in the cascading sunshine, till an locked iron gate established to keep a few 'ladies of the evening' from establishing their trade in the alleyways was added to the front entrance. Inside, it's quite serene, peaceful and exactly what you'd expect to find in a fine old house of worship. This coming year, 2010, it will celebrate its bicentennial, having set its roots in the Forest City 200 years earlier…in 1810. It is 'welcoming and affirming', but shouldn't every church, regardless of denomination be this? Sometimes I'm puzzled and bewildered by this spinning world of ours.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Water's Edge

The edge of this nearby pond looks almost afire(ok, I think I posted the wrong shot, because the shoreline was almost orange!... sorry bout that) this morning as some sunlight tips the edges.. That seems a bit ironic to me, because each morning I drive by it these days, it has a glass-like thin layer of ice. I found this poem the other day. I like it; it reminds me of ponds I've known, fallen in and skated upon. Enjoy!
The Pond
On the back way
there are planks laid
across the swampy places,
jet black loam where water
pools in the dents,

a place on the path
I double back to
and catch myself returning
mirrored in a sheet
of water, the world

doubled back
in the glassy pool:
wind animates the leaves
and the glint shaken from them
winks flickering

in the pond dreaming
at the secret center
past the last screen
of ferns and creepers, bramble

and periphrastic
evasions this place
a steady witness for
the rehearsal of a ghostly
life in signs

and tokens, clairvoyant
the way dreams
betray us to ourselves
in a changeling masquerade

another nature
another self
to read in the face there
in the water till reflection
troubles the mirror.

By Jim Powell

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Early Walk

Near Monument Square on Congress Street sits this glassed-in METRO bus stop. It's a pretty popular spot in inclement weather and on especially blustery winter days. This autumn morning the city is stunning and bright. I used to travel by bus a lot in high school heading to the Portland Public Library, when it was located near Congress Square. I think I remember being there just about every week doing some sort of research in American Heritage Magazine for Mr. Dunnell, but that was in another life. Also rode it back and forth for a time after college, when I lived on Deering Street. Took it to work at Evergreen with my old buddy Fillinger. Man, I learned a lot about life from that ol' guy... great memories-- Doris, 'chewin' gum', leaving a leak, wonderful stories of the life in this city in the twenties and thirties and so many more images that are making me SMILE right now. Strange, how a song, a picture or a place that you stumble upon can take you rocketing back to another time in your life without any control. I kinda like that!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Apples Linger

Last Sunday I picked up all my birdhouses that are sprinkled throughout our backyard. It's become a late fall ritual for me- pick them up, clean them and make a note or two on ones that need a bit of a touch-up before they're hung again. Over the past few years, this tree has become one of my favorites here in our yard, and would certainly say it's also become a most popular visiting site for the deer that will chance to wander through the yard over the next few months. The ones that survive til November 28th, the end of hunting season around here, that is. Under this apple, there are hundreds of drops already, but I've seen no evidence of any 'visits' to the tree yet. As soon as the snow hits; however, the whitetails will be moving in for these munchies. It'll prove again that Jack London was on to something with his 'survival of the fittest' theme in his stories and books, and our tree here will help provide some of the fittest, during the upcoming long, cold Maine winter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Exchange Street and the surrounding streets are just loaded with locally-owned boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Now, I've always enjoyed taking strolls through secondhand stores, no matter what they're selling. Used clothing stores are making a big push these days, even in the upscale Old Port. Stopped into Bliss the other day, and, for me, it was anything but! Plenty of women's choices were evident, but men's ties, pants and jackets? Not so much! What's up with that? I'm always looking for a bargain, and I love to get a 'steal' once in awhile. Heck! I'll even overpay, if the 'slightly used' tie is ME, but I'd a least like to be given a chance. Maybe bliss, for me, will be right around the corner. Til then, I'll keep looking!

Monday, November 16, 2009


Just off of West Grand Avenue at Old Orchard Beach, this rising walkway heads to the water. These days, I love walking on an abandon beach this time of year. Back a few years for me, it was all about Noah's Ark, a large boat-shaped funhouse that rocked back and forth, while a loud, distorted loudspeaker blared and the infamous Jack and Jill Slide, where a wooden bucket would take you to the top of a a 50-foot tall tower on a hemp mat for a rocket-like ride down the metal slide. Once, I suffered quite a burn on my arm, when I was unlucky enough to have my arm touch the slide on the way down. Needless to say, it was a few years before OSHA. Today, they'd never let these rides 'survive' in this kid-cautious world we live in. Today, my 'ride' is just getting to the top of this rise and taking in the beauty of what's just beyond my reach.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fading Fall

This morning, after the drenching rain of yesterday afternoon and evening has ended, we wait for the sun's return. Most of the city trees have lost their leaves. Certainly the maples are long gone. Just off of Danforth Street, however, this bright golden tree is captured in some morning sunlight. Leaves- wonderful in the spring rain as their buds break forth, gently swaying and providing a welcomed respite in summer heat, so excitingly, almost 'on fire' in the fall but come the middle of November they are a curse! One of my jobs on Stevens this time of year, pre-Turkey Day, was ridding the yard of leaves. Afternoons and evenings, the overwhelming aroma was of piles of burning leaves. We raked them into the driveway or into the street in front of the house and set them on fire. That's a 'no no' today! Life was so simple back then.
In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!
-By Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

As my younger sister likes to say, "let's get motivated"! Here's an interesting placard found in the Old Port this week. It is bright, eye-catching and filled with a bit of the 'good, the bad and the ugly'. Look closely and you'll spy a piece of the past, something for today and a look down the road a ways. Pretty symbolic of our lives, as a matter of fact. We think, most days, we've got a pretty good handle on the today-- some people even make lists, to secure happiness. In my life I feel that the past is the rudder that steers me towards my goals, helps me push on when life starts closing in. I don't want to read 'yesterday's papers', but I might take a look at the photos and clippings I've saved. The tomorrow? Just roll the dice! It's really out of our control anyway. Make a plan, keep to the plan, plan for the unexpected... tomorrow never knows. Motivate yourself!
*ps. with apologies to Bratcat... I will not be attending the 'Kittens Ablaze' concert!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mural 1

If you're in a Free Street parking lot, just down from the Cumberland County Civic Center and maybe new to the city, you might be taken aback by this eye-catching sight. It's a large mural on the side of the building. It seems to be some sort of blue print that's in the process of peeling off. It's there just matter of factly. There are a few of these sprinkled about buildings in the city. I won't say it takes the sting out of forking over $5-$10 for parking, but a least it'll give ya chuckle or two as you're heading up to take in a Portland Pirates hockey game or the latest Disney on Ice extravaganza. I'll be moving some wood in showers this weekend and collecting my birdhouses before the snow flies. I wonder what it'll be like in Orlando? Hmmmmmmmmm!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


The clock from Portland's fabled Union Station (1881-1961) now resides in this enclosure at the small park at Congress Square. Made by the Howard Clock Company of Boston, MA, it was presented to the city by Maine Central Railroad after the station was demolished in 1961, amid great public outcry. Greater Portland Landmarks, the historic preservation movement, was born soon after this building's demise. I stopped by yesterday, while awaiting the start of the city's Veterans Day parade. By the way, besides this beautiful station, here's another institution missing from the our city: high school marching bands! Veterans' Day parades aren't really parades without some peppy marches of John Phillip Sousa. Yesterday, one band! Portland High? Deering High? You got me. I couldn't tell for sure. Back in the day around here, marching bands were BIG. The high schools had them; the middle schools had them; and who could forget the Andrews Sabres Drum and Bugle Corp, that traveled and won awards throughout New England. Want more people lining Congress Street from Longfellow to City Hall for these these parades? Marching bands would be a good start.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

Today is Veterans Day, a celebration first commemorating the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, when an armistice brought an end to World War I. Veterans Day is a day to remember Dad! This is one of my favorite pictures of him, a raw recruit at the tender age of 21 at boot camp. At the Battle of Anzio, during World War II, his 5th Army was surrounded by Germans in the caves of Pozzoli in February 1944 for a week, suffering heavy casualties. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the War, and Dad was there. A great storyteller, he often regaled me with stories of the this battle, the destruction of the abbey at Monte Cassino and his other exploits in Italy. He was very proud of what he was apart of in Europe. Although I never wore the uniform, I'm connected to 'The Good War', as Studs Terkel called it in the book of the same name. I was named after the Allied Commander in Italy and my Uncle Leonard(USAF), who never made it home. Happy Veterans Day!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bow Wow

City living? Country living? My struggle continues on the pros and cons of dog ownership. With apologies to Jasper and Annie, at least in the country you REALLY don't need to carry a plastic bag around with you when you go for an afternoon walk with your pooch. Maybe tiding up the backyard occasionally, but really nothing more. These dispensers are found throughout the city, and are a good thing, I guess.This one is located outside the Grill Room. They would be a good reminder to me of why, if I had a home in the city, that I didn't own a dog. Ain't no way, I'm carrying a plastic bag of dog crap around with me while I'm trying to enjoy a walk with my canine. Here's an idea: plastic Pooch-a-Potties, scattered about the city for your dog walking enjoyment. Maybe not!

Monday, November 9, 2009


From my youth a favorite tale was The Country Mouse and the City Mouse. It's a fable by the Greek storyteller Aesop, where a country mouse goes to the big city to visit his city cousin, where "we dine on cheese and fish and bread. Each night my dinner is brought to me. I eat whatever I choose. While you, country cousin, work your paws to the bone for humble crumbs in this humble home. I'm used to finery. To each his own, I see!" At the end of the story the country mouse hightails it back home, where life lacks the 'finery' but provides a much less hectic life. I grew up in a small city near the water, but have lived my entire adult life in the country and can see the 'draw' of both life styles. I really don't mind the wild turkeys running through the yard, howls of coyotes at night, the so black, so quiet, only star lit nights, the deer that come to eat the drops from the apple trees, or the hooting owl that visits the bank of spruce in January. Some say they couldn't take this life, others utter disdain for the hustle, bustle, and evils found in cities today. Me? When I visit, as I will soon, NYC, I envy the wide variety of choices when it comes to eateries, museums, colleges, the arts, and parks, but it's oh, so nice to be home again. 'To each his own' would be the moral here, I guess!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Yesterday, we took an afternoon sojourn to Portland to walk the streets of the Old Port. One of my favorite spots to walk through is Abacus, 'fine American crafts since 1971'. Don't ask me why, but when I saw this shot late last night I thought of the Stones album:"Through the Past Darkly", with their faces pressed against glass. It's been fun being with J&A these past few days... we just don't see them enough, so we have to pack a lot of laughter, wine, good food and catching up into the weekend. After 'hitting' the shops on Exchange, we took a leisurely walk up to check out the closing sale at LLBean then to the Stadium for a brew. A- and I enjoyed a 'Prelude'(Shipyard's winter beer-- out already!), while the gals just wanted a tea or an Irish coffee. No luck! Nothing hot to drink the waitress told them. Kinda strange, if you ask me. After watching 20 minutes or so of the ND game, it was back home for pasta and football.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Portland Company

Some early morning sunlight falls on the inner driveways of the Portland Company along the waterfront. It's a nine acre industrial site on the eastern end of the waterfront. Established in 1846 as a locomotive foundry to build railroad equipment for the connection between Portland and Montreal, it has quite an interesting history indeed. Today, Portland Yacht Services is the main resident, with its marina and full service yard; although there are 15 or so other tenants scattered about. Entertaining Jersey in the Old Port and keeping tabs on my brother hanging around the 'golden dome' are my plans for the afternoon.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Beachfront Property

Rain, rain go away! Well, the tourists are long gone, but these colorful retro chairs still adorn a wet deck just north of the Pier in OOB. The ocean is one of those places that I love to visit any time of year, especially in the off-season. There is always something to see. We all know the Grand Canyon and Yosemite are nice, but there are so many sites right in our 'backyards' that can be breathtaking... like the edge of the ocean on a moonlit night. This weekend? J and A from Jersey are visiting; it'll be fun. Weather report? Sunny and warmer!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Town Library

"I find television very educational. When someone turns it on, I go in the other room and read a book."
-Groucho Marx

In these days of the economic pinch a lot of libraries find themselves in dire straits. Some are closing altogether, while many are shortening their days and hours. A pretty sad state of affairs, I'd say. This is the West Buxton Library which overlooks the Saco River in a beautiful spot on the River Road near the dam. The Library's home is the former District #12 Schoolhouse (circa 1853) in the West Buxton village area.
*note: Flakes are falling outside my kitchen window... 11/5 @6:31 AM. Let the 'fun' begin!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Ya, Ya, Ya I know I'm not supposed to post critters, but I love this shot with the mix-matched walkway in the gentle rain. It's Molly, who along with Sophie, have the run of 10 acres around here. Their main job? Chase down any critters that might unfortunately find their way indoors. Along the way, they now entertain and keep us company on this trip we call Life. My long relationship with felines goes back to those happy days in Westbrook with Josie and Albert and their cat Smokey. On Stevens there was Inky, our first. Later on Coyle, I do remember that Christmas vacation when I attempted to covertly keep Saskia in my third floor bedroom. I failed, but that's another story. They've made us laugh; they've made us cry... we've loved them all! Today, I want recognize our kitties who have been with us in this old farmhouse and have helped to keep the peace. Even though there is not much peace in the house, as you might imagine, when it's 2 AM and there's a chipmunk loose in the house in January! So I simply say-- Thank You! Wiz, Mickey, Nutmeg, White Sox, Eclipse, Molly and Sophie. ALL very special in their unique ways, and along the way have left us with wonderful memories!
*Election Day result: Question 1 resoundly defeated same-sex marriage bill(in a surprise) 53% to 47% with a 56% turnout state-wide. They expected a 35% turnout. As Maine goes?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The State

It will 'live' AGAIN, hopefully not in infamy this time. It's the box office and front doors of the State Theater. I went to the movies here many times in my youth. My fondest memory was going here, with a big group of friends one winter afternoon, and sitting in the balcony with a packed house to view "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad". I do recall that the tagline was that it was the '8th Wonder of the World'. Its had many rebirths since then; its last as a music venue that pulled in quite a few 'names' including Dylan a couple of times. It was and still could be a beautiful building, although the outlook these days is pretty grim.
*For me today--- it's sort of a 'holy day of obligation'- Election Day! The eyes of the nation will be pointed towards Maine tonight to see about the outcome of Question 1... on same-sex marriage. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lots of Yellow

I happened to take a spin through Deering Oaks the other day.The early morning dappled sunlight was thrown across the park with these sticks slicing up in the yellow. It's the last stand, so to speak, of fall. By the first of December, it'll be pretty bleak in here, with just about every leaf having fallen to the carpet below. It's a fine refuge from the sometimes frantic world out there.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Today, November 1, is Theme Day in the CityDailyPhotoBlog community. Here's a home I've recently come across. It's a ceramic birdhouse that has an interesting patterned front. Can it be November already? Man, I've got work to do before, as they say, the 'snow flies'. Got to go! Talk to ya later!