A Great Week - for Me and Ten Other People
If you were miserable this past week, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to let sympathy for your plight get in the way of rubbing your face in my good fortune. I’m sure you’ll feel better after being forced to learn how much happier you’d have been if you were me.
I celebrated the 4th of July by having a late lunch at J’s Oyster on the Portland waterfront, where my wife and I watched a tourist eat her first lobster (“Ooo, it has eyes!”) and the Red Sox come from behind against the Yankees. During a Boston-New York rain delay, we moved on to the Grill Room on Exchange Street, where we were treated to one of bartender John Myers’ signature cocktails. Thus fortified, we hit Hadlock Field, where the Portland Sea Dogs’ ace, Michael Bowden, dominated the Reading Phillies for five-plus innings in what turned out to be a thrilling 2-1 Portland win. Bowden was one of three Dogs named to play in the Eastern League All-Star game on July 16 in Manchester, N.H., the others being outfielders Jeff Corsaletti and Bubba Bell.
Meanwhile, seven Mainers (or former Mainers) were qualifying for the Olympics in Beijing. Mountain biker Adam Craig, a former Dexter High School student, joined rowers Wyatt Allen of Portland, Anna Goodale of Camden and Elle Logan of Boothbay on the U.S. team.
The American squad was soon supplemented by steeplechaser Anna Willard, late of Greenwood, and Farmington’s native son Kevin Eastler, now a U.S. Air Force captain and world-class racewalker.
Finally, Portland’s own Ian Crocker qualified for his third Olympic swim team, in spite of losing to Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly.
On July 5, just about the time these three Sea Dogs and seven Olympians were done sweating their way to glory, I was settling down on the screen porch at Ebenezer’s Restaurant & Pub in Lovell to partake of an excellent lunch and as much of their selection of 800 beers as I could manage. I also got to watch a lot of frustrated people playing horrible golf on the adjoining Kezar Lake course. They weren’t the only wretches I had the opportunity to gloat at that day. I also experienced a bout of smugness as we drove home to Carrabassett Valley, passing not far from the town of Phillips, which is as closed as a Down East clam flat afflicted with red tide. Which most of them are.
Unlike that algae infestation, Phillips problems are self-inflicted. On June 28, town meeting attendees refused to authorize spending $256,000 more than the state tax limit, after which the meeting abruptly adjourned. As of July 1, there was no money to run the municipality.
Until a new meeting is held July 12, nobody’s getting paid at Town Hall, although volunteer firefighters are still on call to aid those burned up by this foolishness.
Back home on July 6, we found our town still operating normally. We also found more than a dozen of our neighbors in our backyard, where they were stacking our firewood. We rewarded this outpouring of kindness with Bloody Marys and brunch, while congratulating ourselves on choosing great friends and on buying our wood early. Across the state, dealers are charging as much as $260 for a cord of green wood, and many said they’re already sold out.
Good news for those considering heating with wood pellets: There’s an ample supply. Bad news for those considering heating with wood pellets: The stoves that burn them are almost impossible to find.
It wasn’t just a tough week for people. Animals had it even worse. From Portland comes word that the city’s pigeon population has plummeted.
The decline seems to be caused either by a 2002 ordinance forbidding feeding the birds on downtown streets or an increase in urban-dwelling hawks and falcons that eat pigeons. Or it could be that it’s almost impossible to count pigeons.
Also in sharp decline: piping plovers. According to state biologists, the endangered beach birds built only 19 nests along the Maine coast this year, down from 35 in 2007 and 66 six years ago.
Bad weather, dogs and the increase in flip-flop-clad feet pounding the sand are all being blamed for damaging the plover’s roving grounds.
It’s tough out there in the wild, but being domesticated is no picnic, either. Animal shelters across Maine are reporting more people turning in pets because they can no longer afford them.
According to the Bangor Humane Society, half the 112 cats at the shelter were given up for economic reasons. It’s even worse for horses. Rising prices for hay and feed are forcing some people to abandon their animals, but few rescue facilities in the state have the space or money to care for them, particularly if they’re older. State officials said more than 800 Maine horses were taken to Canada last year to be killed.
To help with these problems, animal lovers are proposing a special license plate to raise money for shelters and rescue groups.
To win state approval for the idea, 2,000 people will have to pledge $25 each to buy the plates. There’s opposition, though. Some politicians think Maine already has too many specialty plates, and a few of them should be retired before new ones are authorized. Of course, some animal lovers think Maine has too many politicians, and a few of them should be retired, as well.
Not everything other people did went wrong this past week. The grand opening of the new Hollywood Slots racino in Bangor on July 1 drew a record crowd of more than 9,000 people who either didn’t know or didn’t care that there’s almost no chance of beating a slot machine.
Bangor officials are convinced the $132 million complex, which includes a hotel scheduled to open in August, will boost the local economy. But maybe not the regional economy. According to the Ellsworth American, bingo revenues in numerous area towns are down sharply, with blame being put on the Bangor slots and high gas prices.
If you want to avoid having another awful week, try attending the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville.
Starting July 17, with an award ceremony for actor John Turturro, and running through July 20, there’ll be more than 100 movies on four screens. Some of them are bound to be uplifting. Or funny. Or about people more miserable than you.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.