Tuesday, October 31, 2006
This Huddle House is clean, and since the town is small everyone knows everyone. I'm a stranger but won't be for long. They already recognize me, after having eaten there only three times.
The place is full of characters. This morning the short order cook stood in front of the griddle, order tickets fluttering above the in the air conditioning (yes we still need it), steaming plates lined up in front of her, hand on hip, other hand flipping hash browns (the shredded kind) and singing along to Shania Twain on the radio.
The District Manager came in, and the two got to talking. It's Halloween today, and around here that's a big deal. The cook noticed the Manager wore orange socks with pumpkins, and he said, "Oh yes, I have over 200 holiday socks. All kinds. A special three drawer chest to put them in. I love holiday socks." After a second he said, "I love the holidays. At Christmas, I put up 10,000 lights. My electric bill goes from $140 to about $400."
"So you really get into the spirit of it," said the cook.
"Oh, yes! Halloween is my second favorite holiday!"
"What's the first?"
"Christmas. And third is Easter."
An interesting holiday sandwich.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Here are additional developments.
So Mr. Carroll knows that his involvement with the emergency dispatching services petition overturning a unanimous council vote would be a conflict of interest. He admits to making a phone call to town office inquiring about it.
OK, Let's back up a few days, now. For the background, the truth and the heart of the matter.
Mr. Carroll had actually sent a note to town office written and signed in his own hand, received by Town Manager, forever making him the initiator of this petition process.
Then Councilor Skip Crane spoke with County. Uh-oh.
After the confab with County, Mr. Carroll suddenly decided that his father should pick up the petitions. Mr. Carroll Senior was a Gray ambulance driver. Donnie's stance now is, 'Who, me? Oh, goodness no, I am not involved. Otherwise, it'd be a conflict of interest, you know.'
So the 'Let's Protect Carroll Family's Dispatch Jobs' petition process stinks already. If we are being kind, we can say Donnie forgot about the note he wrote. In his own hand. With a pen.
Otherwise, the straight face test says: Donnie Carroll started this thing with a conflict of interest, continued it with a lie, and perpetuated the process with eager petitioners bent on protecting his personal turf to the detriment of 7,200 taxpayers. Oh, yes, Mr. Carroll's brother is also with Gray Fire-Rescue. Me-smells a wee bit o'blarney. Or maybe a pile of it.
It’s rural, and that means lots of animals. On my outing, I saw baby sheep, cows, deer, geese, fighting cocks tethered in their mini-quonset huts, goats, turkey vultures, hawks, an eagle, and horses. It’s glorious to see so much life, during the day.
At night, it’s a different story. A friend of mine, Gray farmer Dick Wood, made me laugh with this phrase: “The city folks come here to be among the farms and say ‘isn’t it pretty.’ But as soon as I come around with the perfume wagon, they start to squawk.”
The perfume wagon, colorfully, is manure, and is a natural part of rural living. The animals used for agriculture stay within their pens and on their ranches, but the wild animals don’t. Sometimes the two worlds collide. When that happens, you’ve got roadkill.
Driving along, I see the results of plenty of tragic accidents between cars and animals. The worst, of course, are the doggies and kitties that didn’t make it. I resolved that when I drive home from my friends’ house at night, I would not take the back roads, and stick to the highway, where there is more traffic and less, slightly less, chance of running into or over something live.
Because man, it’s dark. There are no towns between my friends and my apartment. There are no streetlights. There is no ambient light from anywhere, except the stars. While the main roads are well-maintained, the back roads have no stripes or fog lines to guide a driver.
Well, inevitably, last night it happened. I was tootling along at a cautious night time 40 miles an hour when a possum shot out from the left side of the road. I didn’t know they scoot along so fast! And I was the only car on the gol’darn road. I jammed on my brakes, but it was too late. I ran it over.
This was the first thing I ever ran over, and I hated that ‘THUNK’ sound. While I was relieved it wasn’t a cat or a dog, it still meant hurting a living thing and that hurt my heart. Getting used to it won’t be easy. But the reality is, being in a rural area means the clean and the messy, the nice and the smelly, the births and the deaths.
In other words, in all its sorrow and glory, life.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
A small Honda zoomed up and a woman got out and opened the library doors. The other car-waiting woman laughed as I came in, she said, "It's the case of the lost keys!" Oh, so that was it. They didn't have the keys. The woman pointed to the Head Librarian, who it turns out was the one who had zoomed up. She said, "I wish I had a camera!" The Librarian was in PJ's, robe, and slippers. The be-robed librarian was the only one who had the keys, and when she heard the library had not opened on time and no one else had the keys, jumped in her and zoomed over, not stopping to dress but her only thought was to serve the patrons.
Cut to the afternoon, beading bracelets at a jewelry shop with two friends and the proprietor of the store. We were talking about the place down the road called "Snug Harbor" which features a gate, a Confederate flag, and two military trucks painted in camo parked out front. "Sure, he's a survivalist," the jewelry proprietor said. "He visited this store when I first opened up and told me about his AK 47s. He said if I stepped one toe on his property he'd shoot me."
We gasped and laughed and said 'Well I guess we won't be turning around in his driveway.' The jewelry lady said, "He strings razor wire across his driveway every night."
From the Librarian in PJs to the Razor Wire Survivalist...this town has it all.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Here's the pony at my apartment saying hello this morning, which dawned cool and windy. The leaves change, but do not get as vibrant. It's still gorgeous, though.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Mr. Carroll is Executive Director of Southern Maine Emergency Medical Services(EMS). One can say either he is intensely interested in the issues around emergency management because he is a samaritan...or he has a vested interest for himself and/or his friends.
Do you think they will get 750 signatures?
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
It appears that there is a petition to overturn the council vote to outsource dispatch to Cumberland County. Petitioners need approx. 750 signatures then the council decision will be held until a vote in the next municipal election.
The Gray Town Charter Article IX describes the process. The charter is available online at www.graymaine.org click on 'town council' then on 'town charter'.
The politics of the politically disaffected angry recall folk are destructive. They are fight-a-holics in the extreme. (I cannot claim that apt turn of phrase. It is the anonymous person on the new Gray Maine blog that used to be run by Tinman.) I would much rather see citizens working with, or persuading respectfully, than railing against. Don't they ever get tired of fighting?
Like from people who can't take no for an answer and spend their time with pointless recalls, angry audience rhetoric, hate blogs, and ineffective persuasion.
How refreshing it'd be to have a group of people who though they were dissatisfied with an outcome worked respectfully and positively toward their desired outcome. A fine example of citizen intervention was the Rt. 100 rezone group, who worked tirelessly for two years and never raised their voice, never started a recall, never tore down-- but instead worked within, and eventually prevailed. I so respect that kind of citizen engagement with government.
Because the hate-posse is so negative and therefore has been unsuccessful to date, and since they have ignored the positive methods and subsequent success of the Rt. 100 folks, and since they have such heartburn over the Council's County Dispatch vote, here are some helpful tips for advocating for your position with elected leaders. It comes from a website discussing youth health. Some tips I deleted in the interest of space, and I put the tips I think need the most attention on top. "Be professional, Tell the truth, and Do not create enemies." Good advice!
Chapter 6. The Art of Persuasion: Getting the Support of Opinion Leaders and Policy Makers. General Tips for Advocacy
Be professional. Be professional in both dress and manner. Avoid criticizing other leaders, public figures, or organizations.
Tell the truth. There is no faster way to lose credibility than to give false or misleading information to an opinion leader.
Do not create enemies. It is easy to get emotional over strongly felt issues. Be sure to leave the relationship with the opinion leader on good terms to permit working with him or her again. Do not argue heatedly, and never threaten a leader. Even if he or she opposes this issue, the opinion leader could be a strong supporter on another!
Make a specific request.
Be gracious and respectful.
Monday, October 23, 2006
I gave him a tour of my apartment and when he saw the lump under the covers on my bed, I said, "That's my cat." He was astounded that a cat would get under the covers and sleep there all day. "Isn't she breathing her own carbon dioxide?" he asked. Yes, and for the life of me I don't know why Abby doesn't asphyxiate.
So, dad approves! Tonight we're going out to eat at a nice Italian restaurant in the city with a couple of friends. Best of all, late in the day we finally figured out how the car's GPS works. 'Approaching exit, turn right' the well modulated female voice says. We both laughed at the amazing-ness of how the car knew where we were, and a little unnerved when it stopped letting me program it once the car was underway ("Driver may not program while car is in motion, press enter to have passenger continue...") Scary. I programmed the GPS for the airport so he should be all set for tomorrow's early morning departure for the big airport.
Onward, spaghetti with carbonara sauce awaits!
Sunday, October 22, 2006
I was no fan of either of those blogs, but the Graymaine blog by tinman was poisonous and immature. I defend Tinman's right to speak freely and to create such a forum, but I am happier to defend his or her right to stop speaking so hatefully and to erase the poisonous evidence.
Goodbye graymaine blogspot and hopefully the next blog that surfaces, if one does, will be a more mature and informative.
My beautiful cat, Abby.
Horses in the misty morning fog across the street from my apartment. The brush on the field is just now starting to turn reddish in the fall coolness. It's sorghum, I found out. Though the cool weather was fleeting, it will be 82 degrees for the next few days. Soon to return, I am sure.
There's this house I pass on the way to the Post Office. The owners have decorated their lawn with about 20 small pink flamingoes. They looked cool the first day they were up, it really looked like a flock had just landed.
But the next day there came a cool wind, blowing some over. Now when you drive by, about 6 of them are laying on their sides among the ones that are standing. Unfortunately, the tableau now looks like the fallen ones are dead. Flamingo carnage of the highest order. I am not kidding, I've driven by there about half a dozen times by now since the windstorm came, and every time, it looks like the of Jonestown of flamingoes.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
The town center park had been transformed into a fun-looking festival grounds. The gazebo in the center of the green was adorned with corn husks and ribbon. Morning dew damp hay bales were arranged amphitheatre style around it, and the guitar led quartet "Eternity" was singing old timey gospel music. Leather dressed dads with little kids in tow, toothless grandpas, young moms with cell phone to ear and chasing after scooting toddlers wound their way in and among the hay bales.
Every few minutes Papa's Little Choo Choo with laughing kids in the caboose would chug by and toot, drowning out a few gospel song lyrics. A young teen aged boy dressed against the cool air in camouflage gear, cradled a small boxer pup inside his partly unzipped jacket. The boxer's head just poked out and the teen caught my eye and we smiled. A four year old girl atop a sequin-saddled pony laughed, her father holding her tightly on the saddle.
The School of Dance held a demonstration on the lawn and parents and kids of all ages thronged the space three deep, applauding heartily at each class's 2 minute demo. The kids got such support, even the shiest ones smiled and kicked their steps with confidence after a few minutes.
Funnel cakes were selling like hotcakes. These concoctions are dimpled light pancakes, fried and sprinkled with confectioners sugar. A doughboy with crunch. Ribbon potatoes were also popular. The vendor pokes a potato on a spindle, which twirls it against a knife, spiraling it completely, then the ribbon of potato is quickly deep fried. It comes out looking like a necklace of potato chips.
It was such a great day and everyone was in such a good mood...the music, families, children laughing... "Money cannot buy what I feel" Eternity sang in one of their tunes...and it's true. Sitting in the sun among a friendly townsfolk enjoying wholesome Saturday, money cannot buy what I feel.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
I had run a business in Maine, The Monument Newspaper, and paid my share of taxes on it. I was also owner of various properties and paid my share of property tax, owned vehicles and paid excise tax, I'd gone to college in Maine and earned both my undergraduate and graduate degree in the state. I was a teacher in Maine, worked other retail and manufacturing jobs. It's a struggle to live in Maine- everything is expensive. Food...gas, fuel, rents, taxes. Everything. And the pay is low.
Then I sold my business and moved to Georgia. What a difference! I had not realized how much of my money went to the Maine Government until I moved away and experienced the difference.
A common myth is that the southern states, particularly Georgia, lag in their commitment to and delivery of quality education. That the New England states far exceed them. I have not found this to be the case. For example, average teacher salary in Georgia is: $42,210. In Maine, it's $36,250. Since Georgia's goal to reach the national average was adopted in 1995, the average teacher salary in the state has risen from $32,291 to $41,023 in 1999-2000, an increase of 27 percent (compared to 14 percent for the nation) and in 2006 is now over $42,000.
In Maine, one works and works and works and pays a lot of taxes for the privilege. Most of your paycheck goes to pay taxes and to the government, and with lower salaries and higher taxes that means more struggle. To top it off, Maine government spends $6,988,554,697 per year...and this does not include local spending, like for education.
Maine Cigarette taxes are 122% of national average, $1 to the national average of 45 cents. Gas is 15% higher than the national average, property taxes rose 5.2% annually OVER inflation from 1987 to 1997, which was the fastest increase in the nation. Maine has the seventh highest top income tax rate in the nation. "Top" in Maine means if you make more than $16,500. Overall, Maine has the highest state and local tax burden in the nation.
Georgia, on the other hand, has a state income tax 1% lower than Maine, 4%. Income tax rates go from 1 to 6%; in Maine they go from 2 to 8.5%. You get the idea. Maine is expensive, other places are less expensive to live. That means less struggle, more disposable income. Higher quality of life.
TABOR is all about spending limits in government. It is NOT about cuts. There are no cuts. Spending increases are even allowed, at 3% per year. Taxes and fees in place are allowed but any future increase of taxes and fees would require a 2/3 majority to pass by any governing body, and a majority of the voters.
TABOR is about limiting spending of Maine's runaway government and increasing citizen input on future increases to spending. It's your money they are spending, after all. And that is something that Maine government forgets. It's not their government, and it's not their money. If I was still in Maine, I would vote for TABOR. It makes sense.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Anyway, here's another thing I'm noticing. God and Jesus are main topics of conversation. Like the grocery store clerk who invited me to her church. People are just as likely to talk about how Jesus figures prominently in their life, or how the hand of God is working in them, as they are to talk about horses, cows, and the weather.
It's something you don't hear up north. Religion and the celestial aspects of life are kept under wraps, and talking about them up there will likely get you some funny looks and people slowly edging away. If you do hear a conversation outside of church, it's probably a whispered one. Here, it's the opposite. At a consignment antique store last weekend, I heard the proprietor and a farmer talking happily about how Jesus was working in his grandfather's life and also helped the farmer after his grandfather passed away. The store owner was agreeing, and chipped in with her own story. Their tone was confident, excited, and joyful.
Jesus is here, and 'round these parts, He lives in the hearts and minds and lives of the people who embrace Him. And if you don't, you are invited to.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
I have two questions: how can an artist become more organic than using actual skin? And, where does he get it?
It's nice to acclimate to being a private person again. It's also interesting to note the body changes as I smooth into a new life.
For example, as I leave the apartment, for the first time in almost 7 years, I do not have to load myself up with work-related materials before leaving. I always made sure to have with me in hand my camera, notebook, and a pen or two. My left hand was always carrying those three items with my right hand closing the door as I crossed from private space to public. How strange to leave the apartment unencumbered, both hands free! And I had not realized that I had trained my body to react differently as I left the one space and entered the other.
As I left the library yesterday, a woman and two teens where un-potting mums in front of the building in preparation for planting them in the nicely landscaped front garden. I reacted to the sight by reaching for my notebook, while my brain said 'volunteer story'! That happens a lot. I see things happen and my body tenses and reaches for the camera or notebook and my brain starts to organize the story as I approach. It always takes a few seconds for me to realize that I do not have to do that any more.
Apparently my brain and body had inculcated itself into a watchful, tense, observant mode, and my brain was always ready to see a story and leap on it. It's really nice to slow down, and to buy tomatoes from the tomato man parked outside the post office without having to think if it was a story. Or to see the hay tractors trundling up the highway without having to wonder if the hay production was better this year as opposed to last. Now I can just enjoy the hay.
It's true that all towns are the same, with the same issues and concerns no matter where you are in the country. I notice that Falmouth had an issue with a town employee transporting alcohol in a town vehicle and in our county, the Selectmen this week determined to create a policy outlining the same thing. The Selectmen here just voted to enforce time limits on speakers, after hearing people wander off subject too many times (A citizen describing Washington crossing the Delaware apparently had kept the Selectmen transfixed last meeting). In Gray, time limits will be set up for speakers at council meetings.
Here is one piece of news from our county that I never have heard anywhere though. The 2006 tax bills will not go out until 2007, if that. I guess when the Selectmen fired the tax appraiser for spending $4 on the county credit card for making a personal purchase, and have been fighting about who to hire ever since, that they forgot the rule that no tax bills can go out unless there is a certified appraiser in place. Oops.
I think I will adjust very well to being a private person again, noting these things for my own self and not having to balance them against whether they would make an informational or interesting story for the people. What will I do with my time?
Thursday, October 12, 2006
There was also a sign at the edge of a field listing the Ten Commandments. In case you and your passenger were in the middle of an argument as to which Commandment was number 6 and which was number 7, you could stop and read all ten on this helpfully placed sign, which was done up in a shape to replicate stone tablets.
A handpainted sign on plywood, nailed to a phone pole in the middle of a hay field, "Okras are not peppers."
And poignantly, an elderly man standing on his front lawn was hammering a 'for sale' sign onto his bass boat...his walker propped against the bow.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
The streets all have three names. "Mama B Drive," Harmony Bog Road." An exception to what seems to be the norm is "Chicken Alley". This last one is actually a cute little drive between historic brick buildings in the middle of town.
Y'all is as ubiquitous as 'ayuh'. As in, "I heard y'all had a killing frost already." Down here we have apples right through to Nov 21. The fruit season goes like this: Blackberries June 1-July 30; Blueberries June 1-Aug 15; Cantaloupes June 1-Aug 20; Muscadines (whatever they are) July 1-Nov 1; peaches May 8-Aug 25, Strawberries march 1-July 1; and watermelons June 25-Sept 1. There's lots of others too, of course, my favorite being figs. My friend has three fig trees which this year bore fruit for the first time. Picking figs was a first for me.
It's a little bit cloudy today but if the sun peeks out later I'll take a video of the area and post it.
Wikipedia says phylogenetics "In biology, phylogenetics (Greek: phylon = tribe, race and genetikos = relative to birth, from genesis = birth) is the study of evolutionary relatedness among various groups of organisms (e.g., species, populations) etc.
It was interesting to create freely in a medium that usually restricts creative liberties in the written expressive form. Same with journalism. Freeing up from a particular medium's constrictions is exhilarating. Writing creatively in science is an inspirational juxtaposition. So is, for example, the genre "creative non-fiction." I always enjoyed writing editorials because it offered limited liberation from the constrictions of strict journalistic writing.
Anyway, here's my haiku, a poem that contains three lines, with syllables in pattern of 5-7-5.
Coral, grows real slow
Beautiful colors rise high
Boat prop, the end is real quick
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
"Current Publishing wins 26 journalism awards"
SCARBOROUGH (Oct 10, 2006): Current Publishing newspapers received 26 awards - 10 of them first place - at the Maine Press Association’s annual fall conference Saturday in Bar Harbor. Awards went to Current Publishing’s three newspapers that were members last year – the American Journal, the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly and the Current...
Congratulations!!! As former owner and founder of The Monument Newspaper, now under Current's umbrella since it merged with the larger company in May 2006, I am so proud of you and for you. Current Publishing, keep up the good work.
Monday, October 09, 2006
These are my neighbors. I like them because though they are intensely curious about me, they are polite about it. They stare at me, but they don't take any photos. And truly, after a few minutes of staring, they get bored and they move on. What a concept! And they keep their crap on their side of the fence. Good neighbors. Real good!
Saturday, October 07, 2006
I was surprised about the laundromat. I've been thinking about it since yesterday. It's a little building on the corner where the one and only traffic light is. There are banks of double washers and dryers, tables for folding, and wheeled baskets for unloading your wet clothes. A change dispenser and a machine for soap. The only thing not there was an attendant. The doors are propped open with a rock and you just go in do your laundry, and leave. Cool.
I went into town this morning and said hello to a local store owner and got the scoop on retail and merchant doings in town. Apparently three more stores are coming, including a year round holiday shop, a coffee shop and a florist. Three more stores just about doubles the current retail commerce.
On the first Saturday each month, Jose the famous bread maker sets up his bread wares on a table outside the herb shoppe. Apparently his breads, cookies, muffins and cakes are famous in these parts. They did look wonderful. I bought a kalamata olive boule for my friend and a muffin for myself, in addition to having a nice conversation on this beautiful morning.
And best of all, this day dawned crisp and clear. Not hot!
Friday, October 06, 2006
When you go from bureau to bureau, it's gridlock. To get a checking account, you need a state driver's license. To get a license, you need a postal mailing address. To get a postal mailing address, you need a license. Sigh.
After pleading on bended knee, I got the PO box and then I could go ahead and order utilities, go to the licensing bureau and get a license (photo: not bad, time spent: under an hour) and then I could go to the bank and establish an account. The license was required for the checking account thanks to our friends in Homeland Security in these Post-911 dayz.
I bought a car: a 1987 Honda that despite its cigarette ash laden dog hair carpet is remarkably zippy, in good shape, and gas efficient. Hey, I bought gas for $1.99 the other day! I've been cruising on a half tank for a week now, and loving every fuel-efficient mile. And for a paltry $35, I found an "extreme car detailing" place that made the thing look like new. It is so clean it squeaks.
For the miles do rack up when you're in the country. The mover guy arrived Tuesday as scheduled, but as he got out of the truck, he said with hands on hips, "You are out in the middle of NOWHERE!" True enough. But the roads are in great shape and I am zipping around from here to there organizing all the details you take for granted when you have an already established life. Like, hey, all my clothes are dirty and where's the laundromat? The grocery store? The registrar of voters? Which bank do I choose? Is this pizza place any good? (It better be, there are only two restaurants in town).
My phone is not hooked up yet, which makes calling from place to place to check on the status of my utilities' installation a challenge, but the phone is key: for, you see, I will need to access the internet through dial up. No DSL or cable goes by my farm road, and won't for at least another 6 months. Maybe. I am accessing e-mail and internet at the library now, which is eminently doable, but there is a time limit, and my penchant is to be online for, like, 24 hours a day. Nothing like dial-up to make you break the habit and go outside for once.
And the weather has been sunny and in the low 80s since I got here last week. There are tomatoes, butterflies, greenery, heat, sun, and lots of birds. There's a heron that lives in the pond across from my window. He make a racket every morning, which I love. Even describing it sounds like a romantic spy movie: 'The Heron Squawks at Dawn.'
There's a small farmer's market on Saturday mornings, and I hear through the small town grapevine that there will be a guy selling fresh bread this week. Sounds like the place to be. And what could be better than sitting outside in the sun on a bright weekend morning chatting with friendly neighbors, buying fresh bread and grabbing a cup of coffee at the cafe afterwards? Mmm, welcome to the south.
Oops my time's up, but next time' the library's open, I'll be back with another snippet. Thanks for reading and enjoy the weekend.