Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bizarre air rage case results in plea of "very guilty"

A Bangor hearing decided the fate of a Siberian-born artist last week, in possibly the strangest case of air rage that I have ever heard of, involving soap drinking and ankle biting, among other things. The Bangor Daily News reports:
Woman pleads ‘very guilty’ in assault
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The Siberian-born woman who mixed prescription drugs and wine before drinking liquid hand soap and attacking flight attendants didn’t just plead guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court.

“I plead very guilty,” said Galina Rusanova, 54, of London in her pronounced native accent.

Rusanova pleaded guilty to three counts of assault on three flight attendants on April 29 and was sentenced to time served, or 22 days in jail. She admitted pushing a purser, kicking one flight attendant and biting the ankle of another. In a plea agreement with prosecutors, the more serious charge of interference with a flight crew was dropped.
“Please believe me, it was a mistake,” Rusanova told the judge. “If I had imagined the result would be so bad and so dramatic, I never would have mixed pills and wine. I’m sorry and ashamed. This is so embarrassing at my age.
Rusanova, who lives on government disability support in London, went to Los Angeles to meet a man with whom she had been communicating on the Internet. Her fear of flying apparently led her to mix pills and wine, according to court documents.

She does not remember what happened but does not dispute that prosecutors could prove their case against her, her attorney, Matthew Erickson of Brewer, told the judge.

Rusanova told Kravchuk that she suffered from severe depression and had been without her regular medication while being held without bail at the Somerset County Jail in Skowhegan since her arrest.

She told the judge a short version of her life story. Her father, Rusanova said, was murdered in 1970 when she was 16. She went to work in a factory to help support her sister and mother, who died of a heart attack a few years later.

Rusanova did not say how she came to work in theater and radio in Russia, the career described on her Web site. She also published children’s books there before moving to London in the late 1980s and becoming a British citizen.

About seven years ago, Rusanova took up painting. Her Web site showcases her portraits of people and wildlife, but she told Kravchuk on Thursday that she had not painted in more than two years, since the death of her sister.

Rusanova also said that while she has been in jail in Maine, her dog died in London while in the care of a neighbor.

Read the full article here: [Source]

Friday, May 22, 2009

One man's trash...

One of Maine's favorite painting heroes has an interesting story attached to the recent auction of one of his almost-lost pieces, over at MPBN:
The works of celebrated 19th century painter Winslow Homer, including his iconic images of Maine's coast, can fetch small fortunes. But one of his paintings spent time in an Irish dump before it was found and years later, authenticated as the real deal. The watercolor was scheduled to be auctioned off today by Sotheby's in New York for about $300,000, but at the last minute got pulled off the auction block . To tell us the unusual story of this painting -- a painting very different from the Homer works we know and love -- we have Thomas Denenberg, chief curator of the Portland Museum of Art, which houses the Winslow Homer gallery.

For those stuck at work and unable to listen, here is an article about the abrupt change in route of the painting, over at the London Eventing Standard: click here.

As DownEast.com comments, "Given Homer's fixation with painting seascapes — both tranquil and raging — it's ironic that the missing Homer painting should be, er, netted by a fisherman." [Source]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A lady he is not!

From the Portland Press Herald, page 8, March 20, 1951:
History From Our Files
100 Years Ago Today

We are Informed that a number of boarding houses of the Laconia Company in Biddeford have been entered recently and the trunks of the boarders broken open and rifled of the money they contained. It is thought the thief was a man disguised in female apparel. The losses are females who have labored hard in the mills.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ambassador for the bees

The folks over at keepMEcurrent.com have posted a great story about South Portland's only registered beekeeper on their site:
City's sole beekeeper gets to work
By Linda Hersey
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND (May 6, 2009): South Portland resident Phil Gaven placed a mail order for honey bees in 2008 and set off to share with neighbors the exciting news that he planned to keep a backyard hive and harvest the sweet rewards.

But then a homeowner in Gaven's densely developed Willard Beach neighborhood raised concerns that her young son might be allergic to bees.

Gaven quickly put the word out to friends and associates that he needed to find a surrogate home for his brood – and fast. A colony of Russian bees and a queen would be arriving any day.

It turned out not to be a problem. Brett Bigbee, an avid gardener who lives nearby, soon volunteered his yard, though the two men had never met.

Bigbee, who grows vegetables and has a few fruit trees, wanted to reap the benefits of having pollinating bees without the responsibility of tending to them.

Just like that, Gaven was back in business as South Portland's first and only registered beekeeper.
Today Gaven is the only resident to register a backyard hive. He is required to meet numerous conditions on the setup of the hive and care of his bees. But it is worth the work, he said.

"I always thought that was an interesting and unusual pastime. A couple of years ago I read at length about the plight of honeybees and colony collapse disorder and decided I would like to be part of the solution," said Gaven, a first-time beekeeper.

Gaven, who refers to himself as the neighborhood bee ambassador, has had early success with his unusual pastime.

Last fall, he collected 29 pounds of goldenrod honey from his hive, although veteran beekeepers had cautioned to expect a much smaller harvest, if anything at all, when starting a new hive.
Ross Little, who lives near Gaven, describes his friend and neighbor as "a remarkable man." Little said he uses Gaven's honey in his tea.

"It's the best honey I ever tasted. Phil is a good friend, which makes it all the more special."

Little admits that he thought "Phil was over the top and nutty as a fruitcake" when he first proposed the idea of keeping a beehive.

"I thought it was a crazy idea. Here we are living in this densely packed neighborhood,” he said. “But Phil made it work."

Gaven said he is discovering new uses for his honey all the time, explaining that it has anti-bacterial properties. Some people say that honey works as well as Neosporin ointment for scrapes, he said.

Bigbee works in his garden just few feet away from Gaven’s hive. He pays the honey bees little notice. "I guess you would say we respect each other," he said smiling. "We give each other space."
Gaven notes that fellow hobbyists joke that beekeepers develop their pastime because of the bees and quit their hobby because of the honey. A healthy hive produces an abundance of excess honey.

"I probably have a little honey almost every day," he said.

Gaven said one of his most enjoyable roles is showing his hive to visitors. "I like when newcomers come by to visit the hive and we stand around, as Yeats put it, 'alone in the bee-loud glade.' ” The bees come and go and pay very little attention to us."

Read the full article here: [Source]
Bees are good friends to have. We need them! A big thank you to Gaven and all the other devoted beekeepers in Maine who are lending a helping hand to our bee brothers.

Those interested in learning more about beekeeping in Maine can visit the Maine State Beekeepers Association website at www.mainebeekeepers.org. Find out about attending a session of Bee School and more! Join the bee brigade! Bzzzz!

Photo (c)Michelle Souliere.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

EVENT: Salt Institute opening

The rumor is that one of the radio stories is about the Allagash alien abduction, and that there's a possibility one of the other stories is about a witch who lives on Peaks Island. Whoo! Sounds tasty! Also, word from someone who saw a preview of it this past week is that "it looks awesome"!

WHEN: Opening: Thursday, May 21st, 2009 from 5:00 to 8:00pm. Exhibit continues to be available for viewing through June 2nd during gallery hours, Monday-Friday 9:00am-4:30pm.
WHERE: Salt Institute, 561 Congress Street, Portland, Maine
COST: Free and open to the public.
FMI: www.salt.edu or call (207)761-0660

Featuring the work of:
Alex Malmude :: Alix Blair :: Amanda Waldroupe :: Anna Schechter :: Autumn Caviness :: Briget Ganske :: Bryan Thomas :: Caitlin McDonnell :: Casey Atkins :: Catherine Spangler :: Caty Enders :: Cheryl Rau :: Claire Harbage :: Dan Gordon :: Denise Sears :: Erin Calabria :: Jess Sheldon :: Julia King :: Karin Brown :: Katie Fuller :: Keith Lane :: Mimi Schiffman :: Molly Graham :: Natalie Jablonski :: Rebeca Beeman :: Rob Korobkin :: Samuel Allison :: Sarah Danson :: Shane Perry :: Willa Kammerer

Maine likes film! It's official

From the West End News this morning -- GOOD NEWS!!!
Filmmaking Bill Passes Tax Committee
Friday, May 15, 2009

The Visual Media Productions bill - LD 1449 - which would give filmmakers more incentive to make their films in Maine, passed the Taxation Committee on May 14th with a unanimous “Ought to Pass” vote. The bill now heads to the House and Senate.

The film version of "Bag of Bones" by Stephen King is hoping to film in Maine this summer - if the bill is passed and the incentives are attractive enough. It is set in Maine, the director & producer want to film it here, and King wants it shot here.
"Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout just won the Pulitizer Prize for fiction, and it is set in a Maine town. The last Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel set in Maine, "Empire Falls," was made into an HBO film, and it was the last big feature film production shot in Maine, in 2003.

Other films shot in Maine include Message In A Bottle (1999), starring Kevin Costner, Paul Newman, and Robin Wright Penn. A 130-year-old house at 97 Danforth Street, just down the street from Victoria Mansion, was remodeled and used in the movie as Penn's Chicago townhome.

The skating scene in the movie The Preacher's Wife (1996), starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, was filmed on the pond in Deering Oaks Park in Portland.

Photo from IMDB.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dana Carvey has a go at us

The first thing I thought when I saw the Dana Carvey Show videoclip of Skinheads from Maine was, "If only that was the way it was..." and then I thought, "Wait a minute..."

I guess we've got the more traditional type, as well as this kind. Dang it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The coffee brandy quality of life?

The Westbrook Diarist's blog has a great quote from Mallory Shaughnessy, coordinator at the Maine Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse, about coffee brandy and gauging the quality (or quantity) of snowmobiling each season.

John's post includes a quote to an interview on MPBN's Maine Things Considered that I think I need to go listen to now.

Allen's Coffee Brandy is a Maine obsession. For a few years now, on the side, I've been collecting local colloquial names for coffee brandy drinks.

Now might be a good time to post some of them, and see who else has a few handy to throw in!

  • A & OK -- a reference to Oakhurst milk (OK) and the legendary Maine softdrink, S & OK Soda*

  • Gorilla Milk -- which the Urban Dictionary relates to the way the drink raises the Stupidity Factor, but which I have heard relates to the appearance of the ladies drinking it (I know, not very friendly)

  • Sombrero

  • The Champagne of Maine

  • Fat Ass in a Glass

  • Liquid Leg Spreader -- as described by the Mainah Glossary blog

  • Biddeford Martini

  • Liquid Panty Remover

  • Anyone else have some other nicknames to add?

    *: S & OK Soda is tasty stuff in a variety of flavors. I used to pick up packs of the bottles when I was in Presque Isle up in Aroostook County visiting my inlaws, and haul it back to Portland because it's much harder to find down here.

    According to commentator "bullmoose" on the BevNet.com site,
    S&OK is a small regional bottler in Bangor, ME. S & OK stands for Stanley & O'Keefe. It was bottled by the Butterfield Bottling Co. in Great Works, ME (now part of Old Town,ME). When I was 8 to 10 years old I used to go to a friends house after school. It was always fun because he had cases of free S & OK soda in his cellar. His name was Gregory O'Keefe(his Grandfather was the O'Keefe in S& OK. There were many
    flavors available and we would try them all as well as "test" flavors that were never released to the public.I remember Birch Beer, Chocolate Soda, Fruit Punch,Sassparilla, Pineapple, Lemon soda, Lemon-Lime, Grape, Orange,Strawberry,Raspberry, Cream soda and Root Beer. The rights to bottle S & OK were purchased by my mailman and his son & law. At first they bottled it in the Stillwater, ME (part of Orono,ME) shopping Mall, then the bottling was moved to Bangor. It is stll available I believe.
    The Washington Post has a lengthy and serious article on the subject of Maine's love of Allen's:
    A Bittersweet 'Champagne of Maine'
    Potent Coffee Brandy Is Top-Selling Liquor but Is Linked to Alcohol Abuse
    By David A. Fahrenthold
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, January 9, 2006; A03

    PORTLAND, Maine -- The dark-brown liquid that some people call "the champagne of Maine" tastes, to the uninitiated, like equal parts alcohol, sugar and coffee-pot slag. It puckers the cheeks, coats the tongue with syrupy sweetness and leaves a mouthwash feeling on the lips.

    This is coffee-flavored brandy. It is one of the odder stories of American imbibing, the number-one-for-20-years-running liquor obsession of Maine.

    The caffeine-infused spirit, largely unknown outside New England, is a staple at house parties, mill town bars and urban street corners here -- popular enough that a Bangor newspaperman once suggested putting it on the back of Maine's state quarter.

    On the other hand: "I've thought, in more than one case, that you can put it on someone's headstone," said Erik Steele, an emergency-room physician who works at four hospitals in rural Maine.

    In this state, it turns out, everything that is both fun and tragic about alcohol is embodied in the same intensely bittersweet drink.

    "People are addicted to coffee brandy here," said Barbara Dacri, executive director of a Portland-based treatment center called Crossroads for Women.

    Compared with those of other states, Maine's totals of chronic and binge drinkers are not terrifically high. But officials say alcohol remains this state's most readily available and widely destructive drug, cited by 59 percent of those seeking substance-abuse treatment here.

    And in Maine, officials say you can't talk about alcohol for long without talking about one particular brand: At last tally, the best-selling bottle of hard liquor in the state was the roughly half-gallon container of Allen's Coffee Flavored Brandy. The No. 2 seller was . . . the liter-size bottle of Allen's.

    According to the state, Allen's sells 98,000 cases of its 60-proof spirit a year -- more than double the second-best-selling spirit. It has been Maine's favorite for two decades.

    "We're very grateful to the consumers of Maine," said Gary Shaw, a vice president at M.S. Walker Inc., which makes Allen's by combining coffee extracts with "neutral brandy" at its plant in a Boston suburb.

    At Raena's Pub in the northern city of Bangor, bartender Carrie Smith said she can easily spot the brandy drinkers.

    "Bleached-blonde, teased hair. . . . They always play the 'Redneck Woman' song" on the jukebox, she said, describing the typical drinker who orders a "sombrero," or Allen's mixed with milk. Smith said she once saw a woman dump her cocktail on the head of a beer-drinking man who referred to the drink by its nickname, "fat ass in a glass."

    Mainers say Allen's is sometimes favored by vagrants, who like its low price, or by teenagers, who mainly like beer but sometimes choose Allen's because it lacks the burn of other hard stuff.

    But, in the world of coffee brandy drinkers, women seem to be the core customers.

    One recent afternoon at a halfway house run by Crossroads for Women outside downtown Portland, all but one of nine women had a story about coffee brandy, and she wasn't from Maine.

    The others in the living room talked about how they would pour it in morning coffee, hide it in a Dunkin' Donuts cup, or take it to school in a water bottle. How, in Portland's housing projects, its nickname was "gorilla milk" because it turned people into animals. How the milkshake taste of a sombrero drew them in and the coffee buzz kept them going.

    "I can drink coffee brandy for 24 hours," said Amy, 38, who like the others asked that her last name not be used. "And the caffeine and the booze even each other out."

    "You can down 'em," agreed Catrina, 26.

    Lori, 28, said she remembered her mother drinking Allen's when she was growing up, and smiled at her own memories of the syrupy drink with a kick. "That initial warm from drinking," she said, relishing the thought. "It's like, 'Whew!' "

    But soon after, another idea stopped her: "My kids, that's what they'll remember me drinking."

    The story of brandy's influence is also written in the state's police logs, where the drink and in particular the Allen's brand have shown up in connection with crimes both odd and heartbreaking.

    In 2003, a woman from Penobscot dug up the ashes of her boyfriend, then later explained, "I never would have done that if I hadn't been drinking Allen's," according to a report from the time. A year before, a man from Bangor had been discovered asleep in a stranger's bed wearing stolen pink underwear; he explained later that he had consumed a half-gallon of brandy.

    One of the most notorious incidents involving coffee brandy occurred in 1997, when a drunken driver with a half-empty bottle in his car plowed into a car at a Maine Turnpike tollbooth. A woman and her daughter in the other car were killed.

    Police say they notice the drink showing up in less newsworthy incidents all the time -- on the kitchen counter during a domestic-violence call, in the car of youths caught shoplifting liquor. Officer Ryan Reardon of Waterville, Maine, said he has encountered coffee brandy so many times that he can find it with his nose.

    "Just by smell, you can tell someone's been drinking it," he said, asserting that the sickly sweet, alcoholic odor emanates from the skin.

    Thomas J. Connolly, a defense lawyer in Portland, said he believes that the combination of caffeine and alcohol in coffee brandy makes it worse than other liquors: "It's like an ideal food for crime."

    "It keeps you awake, it keeps you going, it keeps you sexualized," said Connolly, who said he has heard a client explain, "I was drinking Allen's, and then I was in the blackie" -- blacked out.

    Many officials in Maine don't agree. To their minds, there is nothing particularly sinister about the makeup of Allen's or any other kind of coffee brandy.

    The only thing these drinks are, they say, is popular.

    "If it wasn't Allen's, it would be something," said Steele, the emergency-room physician, who is also chief medical officer for a regional hospital chain. "Alcohol itself is the problem."

    Another article here, at the Portland Press Herald, and one by Bill Trotter over at the Bangor Daily News.

    Mainer finds oldest unfound geocache!

    Mike Marino shared this story on our mailing list, and I figured there must be a good number of you out there reading the blog itself that would like to hear it too. Read on!

    An adventure like no other involving Mainers, treasure and the sea.
    Guest post by Mike Marino

    Just read the story about Letterboxing and it was good, but if your readers really want to read about an adventure involving Mainers I have got one for you.

    As with so many other things I’m not the most interesting part of the adventure. Ask me about the paranormal and even though I’m the Co-Director of the Bangor Ghost Hunters, I’ll tell you to talk to our members, they have some real cool stories. I’m a fireman and an investigator, ask me about fires and I’ll send you to talk to some of your local old timers in that field.

    I am also a Geocacher. Geocaching is a world wide sport/adventure involving hidden treasure, riddles, puzzles, and codes that make the *Da Vinci Code*, *National Treasure*, *Indiana Jones* look tame.

    It is said that geocaching involves billions of dollars of high tech military equipment orbiting space to find Tupperware out in the woods. What it is really, is an adventure that takes you all over, finding treasure. There are over 4,000 caches hidden in Maine. Sometimes the treasure is history, like caches placed near historic places. The treasure can be the sights seen from hidden bluffs. Some caches are hidden in forgotten abandoned ghost towns in the woods of Maine. Some have gold and others just a log to sign.

    Probably in the last month you have been within 50 feet of a hidden cache, and you never even knew. They are placed in the city and at rest areas, turnouts, islands and mountain tops. There are all kinds of different caches too. Some are virtual, where you need to take a picture of you and your party and answer a few questions. Some are mystery caches where you need to figure out a puzzle or riddle to find the container and sign the log. Go to geocaching.com to find out more. Look me up: Ekidokai

    On May 2, 2000, at approximately midnight, Eastern Savings Time, the great blue switch controlling selective availability was flipped. Twenty-four satellites around the globe processed their new orders, and instantly the accuracy of GPS technology improved tenfold. Tens of thousands of GPS receivers around the world had an instant upgrade. Now, anyone could precisely pinpoint their location or the location of items (such as this game) left behind for later recovery. How right they were.

    On May 3, one such enthusiast, Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, wanted to test the accuracy by hiding a navigational target in the woods. He called the idea the "Great American GPS Stash Hunt" and posted it in an internet GPS users' group. The idea was simple: Hide a container out in the woods and note the coordinates with a GPS unit.

    The finder would then have to locate the container with only the use of his or her GPS receiver. The rules for the finder were simple: "Take some stuff, leave some stuff."

    On May 3rd he placed his own container, a black bucket, in the woods near Beaver Creek, Oregon, near Portland. Along with a logbook and pencil, he left various prize items including videos, books, software, and a slingshot.

    He shared the waypoint of his "stash" with the online community on sci.geo.satellite-nav:

    N 45° 17.460 W 122° 24.800

    Within three days, two different readers read about his stash on the Internet, used their own GPS receivers to find the container, and shared their experiences online. Throughout the next week, others excited by the prospect of hiding and finding stashes began hiding their own containers and posting coordinates. Like many new and innovative ideas on the Internet, the concept spread quickly - but this one required *leaving your computer* to participate. The game is now know as geocaching and there are many more caches to find.

    Now to tell the story of the oldest unfound cache in the world, which was found by a true life Indiana Jones and fellow Mainer, Stephen Smith. Stephen and his wife Carole are geocachers that have found 600-plus caches. They started making plans for a cruise back in January 2009, not intentionally to find the oldest unfound cache in the world, but when you’re a cacher you tend to look for caches in the general vicinity of where you will be.

    They decided to book a cruise that would take them to Belize. Looking around the area he discovered two in or around the port, but then noticed one that was out on an island 20 miles off shore. He had to look again because it had not been found since placed on 1/6/2001. He couldn’t figure out why no one had found it yet and decided to look into it further. Reading the on-line description and logs for the cache he uncovered the reason.

    The cache was not really hidden on the island -- it was in the hands of the caretaker of the island. To find the cache you would have to catch up with the caretaker when he wasn’t out on a fishing expedition with clients. He then made many inquires and found out that the caretaker had died. Hopefully the owner of the island had the cache now.

    After many more calls to the people that had placed the cache, and the owner of the island, he made plans to meet the owner of the island and set up a time to meet him. On the cruise ship Stephen realized that the ships time did not match up with island time and calls at $9.99 a minute from the ship had to be made to make sure the appointment could be made. He was assured it could, but only felt slightly certain, as Stephen didn’t speak Spanish and the owner didn’t speak English very well. Stephen and his wife arrived in Belize, and he had to make his way to a fishing co-op and charter a boat to the island.

    Stephen only had a couple of hours to charter a boat get to the island that was 20 miles off shore and get back. Carole didn’t believe that they could make it out to the island and back in time to catch the ship, so she stayed on board to at least tell everyone what had happened to Stephen if he didn’t make it back in time. He was prepared to have to find a way back to America on his own with a few dollars, a credit card, and his passport.

    He managed to find an old man who agreed to take him out to the island. The boat was an aged 20-foot fiberglass skiff, with old fashioned hand-on-the-engine steering. No seat pads, no lifejackets. The fisherman spoke very little English.

    First he needed to get gas, which Steve paid for. Off to the docks. Got there and no one was available to get the gas. Time lost. Further down the coast to another fueling station. No one there. Captain off to find someone. Time lost. Finally he comes back with someone to get gas. They start out to sea and the boat stops. The fuel line had come undone from the tank. Watching his watch and wondering what did he get myself into. Fuel line put back on, pulling the rope, still no starting. He thinks his wife had the right idea.

    Finally they get going and he heads out to sea, in the wrong direction. Steve tries to explain with his GPS where he needs to go and how little time he has. Between the two of them it is decided that it is easier for the boat to go along the coast and then out to the island. Finally they get going in the right direction and he is satisfied, but still not convinced he’s going to get back on time.

    According to the cruise ship's Captain, the swells were 6 feet, but that day as they hit each wave, sending the bow up and then hard down, it seemed like 20 foot. It didn't take long for his butt to feel very bruised and a couple times his neck even took some whiplash damage. Thoughts go through his mind, no one really knows where he is and he might die out there.

    They get within a couple miles of the island and there are a couple of big fishing boats anchored, which they head towards. They offload a passenger and all the supplies, and lose more of his precious time. They head out again and he can see the island, all of maybe a quarter mile long, covered with mangroves and not much sand. Then it is discovered that there are many salt water crocodiles. The other passenger even graciously showed off a scare left by one of the crocks as it took a chunk out of him. Now he thinks that they will never even find his body.

    Skirting the edge of the mangroves they come into sight of several shacks with a beautiful wooden dock connecting everything, and a more modern cabin boat anchored a couple hundred feet out. When they get to the dock, the camp owner greets him. One of the friendliest people he had ever met, he seemed more anxious for Steve to see the cache than Steve was. As they got to the cabin, the owner interrupted a visiting class of high school students and teachers from California studying marine biology, and asked Steve to explain to them what geocaching was, and why he was there.

    After a short class on Geocaching 101, he was lead into the backroom. There it was. A plastic 1-quart container with a locking snap top. The find of a lifetime, the oldest unfound cache in the world. He says he had a smile as big as the world. The old owner insisted Steve look at each item. The owner was excited too, and took pictures of Steve as he took one item, left one item, and signed the log. As he left, not once did he look at his watch, as he thought he would get depressed thinking about the long trip back to the United States and Maine.

    The ride back was quicker, but no smoother. The sight of the cruise ship coming into view was a nice sight even thought it was still 10 miles away. He got back to the dock and made it back on board with very little time left over.

    What a grand adventure by one of our own.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Letterboxing = fun!

    That irrepressibly rascally journalist, Mark LaFlamme, is at it again. This time, he leads us over hill and dale throughout Maine to find weird things buried in odd places. Typical!

    I'll let him speak for himself, since he does it so well. Good fun!
    Mystery, nature, art and treasure intersect in letterboxing
    Mark LaFlamme , Staff writer
    Sunday, May 10, 2009 05:00 am

    I'll be honest with you. I didn't expect to find a treasure at the base of the tree in the forests of Westbrook. Why would I? The landscape showed little of man's influence. There were trees of all varieties and sizes. There was a babbling stream that sounded like it suffered hiccups. There was a blanket of last year's leaves on the ground, all soggy and dead.

    When I scooped away a mound of wet pine needles and stuck my hand into the hole, I expected one of two things: a reptile would bite me or a tree spirit would grab my fingers and pull me down into some Tolkien world where I'd be forced to slave for Keebler elves.

    Instead, I found a plastic box. This was the heretofore fabled Millbrook Trout, a collection of items left in this secret place a year ago and visited by dozens since.

    There is something chilling about holding knowledge about a hidden treasure out in the wilderness. The box itself becomes iconic. Inside are things a stranger planted after stealing into the forest on a different date and under different circumstances. Clawing into the contents of the box is like treasure hunting and time travel. It feels mystical, almost forbidden.

    But it's not forbidden, it's letterboxing and it's catching on. A mix of scavenger hunting, navigation and art, some say it derives from the ancient custom of leaving a rock on a cairn after reaching the summit of a mountain. The more recent version began in England in 1854 when a Dartmoor National Park guide left a bottle by Cranmere Pool with his calling card in it and an invitation to those who found the bottle to add theirs.

    Now thousands of people are venturing into woods or back alleys, clawing beneath rocks, crossing streams, braving hornets, sweeping craftily away from the eyes of non-letterboxers and following sometimes vague clues in a quest to get a stamp in their letterboxing diary and to leave a stamp of their own.

    Around the country, it is estimated that 25,000 letterboxes - each with its own theme - have been placed. As of this writing, 1,778 of those are in Maine and I went searching for a dozen or so of them.

    In Saco, I had no luck at all. In the hunt for the Bogart in Lilac, I was told through online clues to drive a road named after an American president, stop before a "blind drive" sign, hike a trail and either walk or wade across a stream. Only there was no "blind drive" sign on any of the presidential streets including Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson, and so I never laid eyes or hands upon the letterbox stashed in July 2006.

    In Yarmouth, confidence was restored. It was night when I went searching for the Royal River Letterbox, which had remained hidden in plain view for six years. I carried a flashlight in one hand, a baseball bat in the other (in case of zombies or letterbox pirates) and followed the instructions carefully. There. On the right. Five brick circles marking the end of my journey. A short distance away, under a rock that looked like any other, another box with another treasure inside.

    You will notice that I'm vague in my descriptions of these journeys. Among the code of conduct of letterboxing is the obvious rule that the presence of the boxes themselves should not be revealed or hinted at to those not involved in the sport. Leave no trace of your own presence. This is a society of such secrecy and nomenclature, it is worthy of a novel by Dan Brown.

    In Lewiston, I went in search of a five-part letterbox series in the theme of "A Nightmare Before Christmas." Part of the clue was written like this: "There is a place where some play, some walk, and some eat. As you pass the wooden welcome sign on the right, take a breath of fresh air, enjoy the sounds of the various birds and crickets chirping. Now, we are ready to begin our journey..."

    Enjoy the sounds of nature my ass. I overshot the first clue, stumbled on the second in a hollow log by pure fluke, had to backtrack through the forest. A group of kids playing basketball eyed me as though I was a madman clawing at trees and roots. One of the letterboxes had been scavenged from its box, ruined by elements, tossed across the forest floor. I could not read the contents of the box or apply my stamp (mine is a palm tree until I can get one fashioned in the shape of a bat) to the book therein.

    My wife, whom I bring along as a cheap GPS unit, wanted to continue on. I wanted to quit. And here it was revealed that in the language of letterboxing, I am something of a slackboxer, described thusly: "The practice of accompanying one or more letterboxers on a letterbox quest but not participating in the reading or deciphering of the clues, identifying landmarks, reading trail maps or otherwise participating in the letterboxing hunt."

    Yet, there is a soft addictive quality about the hunt for things left by strangers, and I came back. In Auburn, I went on two searches, both around Lake Auburn. In one, six paces from the corner of a rock wall led me to the bounty I sought. At another, eight paces toward Lake Auburn led me only to a stack of rocks and some animal bones, which in itself is a treasure.

    Those of a rational mind will tell you that the joy in letterboxing is obvious. Get exercise by hiking trails and climbing over fallen tree limbs. Commune with nature. See places you would not normally see and sharpen your mental acumen.

    Me, I have a motorcycle, which means I don't like hiking. And communing with nature means flying over my handlebars into the puckerbrush.

    No, I'm all about the weird connection to strangers through trinkets left in secret places. The thrill for me is in the cloak and the dagger, of being one of only a handful that's in the know. Here is the nine-to-fiver's chance to play Robert Langdon or Indiana Jones, dodging low-hanging branches and bad clues instead of spears. You can search across the world or in your own backyard.

    Letterboxes are everywhere. And I can find nine out of 12 of them.

    To explore similar pursuits in Maine, go to http://www.geocachingmaine.org/

    What the heck is geocaching? Click here.
    What the heck is letterboxing? Click here.

    Watch out for falling moose!

    Photo by Vilseskogen, used under the terms of Creative Commons.

    A very intriguing report from the Kennebec Journal. ONLY IN MAINE!

    Thanks to Jean K. for spotting this gem!
    'A moose fell from the sky'
    Submitted By Larry Grard,
    Staff Writer
    on Tuesday, May. 12 at 1:15 pm

    CLINTON -- The moose that “fell from the sky,” in an observer’s words, landed on its head and quickly died.

    The yearling bull nearly took a man with him after it fell from the Interstate 95 overpass onto Hinckley Road.

    Shirley Bailey, assistant town clerk, got the frantic call shortly after 8 a.m. today.

    The caller was driving along the road when he saw the moose fall.

    Bailey recalled his comments: “I was driving under the bridge on Hinckley Road and a moose fell from the sky.”

    The man was “a little shook up,” Bailey said. “It was quite frightening, I guess.”

    Minutes later, the Waldo County Sheriff’s Department took a call of a young bull moose on I-95, not far away in Burnham.

    More here at the Lewiston Sun Journal.

    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    EVENT: Psychic Self-Defense class

    WHAT: Seminar on Psychic Self-Defense
    WHEN: 6:00pm on Saturday, May 23rd, 2009
    WHERE: Unicorn Cove School of Metaphysics, 795 Main Street, Westbrook, Maine, in rear studio space
    COST: Suggested donation of $60 which may be paid online in advance or at the door
    FMI: call (207)347-5686, or email info[at]unicorn-cove.com

    For those who are curious, here are some more sources about Unicorn Cove:

  • Portland Phoenix interview

  • Ahura's website

  • Unicorn Cove TV commercial

  • Lewiston Sun Journal article

  • Lakes Region Weekly article

  • ------------------------------

    Unicorn Cove School of Metaphysics will be hosting it's first public seminar on the subject of psychic self defense taught by Ahura Z. Diliiza, paranormal investigator, exorcist and owner/headmaster of the school.

    The event is slated to take place at 6:00 pm on Saturday, May 23rd in the rear studio space of Unicorn Cove School of Metaphysics on Main Street in Westbrook, Maine.

    In this seminar Diliiza will teach those attending about the meaning of psychic self-defense and how to protect one's own energy. Topics covered will include: the definition of a psychic attack and how to know if you are being attacked; practical methods for protecting your energy; myths about paranormal investigation; how substance abuse leaves a person open to psychic attack; how fear and guilt weaken us; the myth of "sleep paralysis" and how to keep yourself safe while you sleep; and demonic possession: what is and is not a possession. Questions during the seminar are welcome and encouraged.

    Diliiza, who has been instructing in the metaphysical arts for over 20 years, opened Maine's first School of Metaphysics on Westbrook's Main Street in July of 2006. He teaches classes in mysticism, astrology, psychic development, paranormal investigation and dream interpretation as well as several forms of martial arts, dance and a variety of other disciplines.

    In addition to classes, Diliiza also offers telepathic readings and services such as paranormal investigation and exorcism, healing, counseling and his own form of music therapy called Vibrational Frequency. Many of his classes and some services are offered by donation.

    The seminar will take place on Saturday, May 23 at 6:00 pm in the rear studio space of Unicorn Cove School of Metaphysics on 795 Main Street in Westbrook. Admission is a suggested donation of $60 which may be paid online in advance or at the door. Coffee, tea and refreshments will be available following the event. Live streaming online coverage of the seminar may be available for those who cannot attend in person.

    For additional information, please visit Unicorn Cove online at www.unicorn-cove.com.

    Friday, May 08, 2009

    Gorham Times Blotter rules!

    Okay, here's some good blotter fodder for the past week from the Gorham Times!

    Douglas Street caller reported finding footprints around their residence. It also appeared that someone had been peeking in their windows.

    South Street caller advised that their child was at the library and one of their child's friends set his hair on fire.

    Western Avenue caller reported they had found a gun in their mother's drawer and wanted to know if it was registered.

    State Street caller wanted to speak to an officer regarding the Do Not Enter sign and their customers entering the wrong way.
    Caller reported their vehicle was "broken into" sometime during the night or early morning as they found a paper clip in the ignition when they went to leave for work.

    Murray Drive caller reported that their spouse has been receiving unwanted sex messages and comments on their cell phone and they wanted the messages to stop immediately.

    Read full Blotter here: [Source]

    Out of the mower & into the phonebooth

    The man who once took a record-breaking 2,801 mile long lawnmower ride from Old Orchard Beach, Maine, to Los Angeles, California, is at it again.
    Life in a phone booth -- and he's no Superman
    Posted by Barbara Hijek on April 13, 2009 04:15 PM

    Everybody needs a goal, we guess.

    Otok Ben-Hvar's has to do with a phone booth.

    On April 1, he climbed inside a 1940s-era phone booth with wheels.

    He had everything he'd need to live inside the red, white and blue booth until his 72nd birthday on April 29. reports the St. Petersburg Times.


    He wants to set a Guinness world record for the longest time spent in a phone booth.

    He's probably up to it.

    He once drove a lawn mower 2,801 miles from Maine to California.

    He was a U.S. Army paratrooper, played Santa Claus in Moscow and became a greeter and dancer on cruise lines.

    What the heck. Here's hoping the old dude makes it.

    We'll know on the 29th.

    Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, as Ben Garcia, Ben-Hvar has a long and weirdly wonderful history. His name change honors the Croatian island of Hvar. The reports of his lawnmower riding alone are legendary: "Hitting speeds of up to 35 mph, Garcia wore out one engine as well as five pulleys, was ticketed for driving too slowly near Austin, Texas, and had a minor fender-bender with a Jeep outside Twentynine Palms." [Source]

    The St. Petersburg Times reported on his remarkable life story in 2003, including some of his connections to Maine:
    Through the 1980s, he also became a motel owner in Maine, suffered a string of heart attacks, and landed in the Guinness Book of World Records - twice.

    The first time was for "the longest lawn mower drive."

    The 1988 book states: "Ben Garcia drove a rebuilt AMF lawn mower powered by an 8-horse-power Briggs and Stratton engine (he replaced it twice), 2801 miles, 4,507 km, across the United States from Old Orchard Beach, Portland, Maine, to Los Angeles, California, in 38 days from 6 Oct.-13 Nov. 1986."

    The purpose, he explains: "To trim the nuclear arms race."

    In pictures, he's bundled in a coat and scarf on the mower, an American flag flapping in the wind behind him. He's trailed by a mobile home on a four-lane highway.
    Ben-Hvar can't understand why he's still alive. Many of his friends have died. Innocent lives were snuffed out by terrorists. Yet, with all his heart attacks, including one that resulted in a death notice, he is still alive.

    "He feels so blessed by God to have survived everything he has," said columnist Tom Weber, who has written countless pieces about Ben-Hvar over the years for the Bangor Daily News of Maine. "He has just a pure passion for life."

    Ben-Hvar can't be stopped. "When it comes time I'm on my death bed, and I've been there many times," he said, "I don't want to think, "Heavens, I haven't done enough.' "

    For the full article (highly recommended): [Source]
    Ben-Hvar, also known fondly as King KuKu, has his own website at www.kingkuku.com, where he pledges his loyalty to his subjects. The photo shown here is from that page -- please note the Portland, Maine setting of the KukuMobile in front of Enterprise Record's old location on Congress Street!

    Here's to folks like King Kuku!

    Thursday, May 07, 2009

    EVENT: York paranormal lecture

    From Seacoastonline.com:

    Presentation on the paranormal set for May
    YORK, Maine — Join Isabeau Esby, a psychic medium, and Andy Kitt,
    founder and lead investigator of Seacoast Paranormal Research Group,
    from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, May 15, for a haunting discussion at the
    York Library.

    Kitt invites you to discover what possibilities may lurk in any home,
    business, or graveyard and learn what a ghost is and if it is different
    from a spirit.

    Esby and Kitt lecture on spiritualism and paranormal activity, and with
    a team of investigators test the validity of claims of paranormal
    activity across New England.
    Thanks to the HauntedMaine mailing list for pointing this one out!

    Friday, May 01, 2009

    Rowdy canoeists ruin river?

    Imagine my surprise and amusement to read this sentence on the WCSH TV-6 website: "The Fryeburg police chief is promising to bolster patrols along the Saco River, which is known for rowdy behavior of some canoeists." Rowdy CANOEISTS? Somehow this doesn't seem compatible with my mental image of lazy paddling on sunny waters.

    However, there seems to be a long history of battles between those who want to enjoy the Saco River in peace and those who want to whoop it up.
    The article mentioned above was posted earlier today, but this has been going on for a long time. Remember, legend tells us that it was rowdy guys in the summer of 1675 that caused the Curse of the Saco River to be passed down over the next three centuries and more. Might it not be good to pay attention to the warning signs, fellows?

    The images here show the sharp contrast between the natural beauty of the Saco River and the use which partiers put it to. Please note the goat being held up by the riders of the typical example of a Saco River party barge. I really don't want to know what they were doing with the poor thing (click on photos to see larger version). Photos are from the Saco River Recreational Council.

    Things are coming to a head, between the addition of the new patrols and the announcement a week ago of a lawsuit being levied. The Lewiston Sun Journal reported on April 24th that "a 28-year-old New Hampshire man has sued two Massachusetts men and a Fryeburg campground after he was seriously injured by a water balloon in 2007." Again, this sounds laughable. But the details tell another story. Try imagining this: "In the incident on Aug. 12, 2007, Nelson was struck in the eye by a balloon that had been fired from 67 feet away. He suffered a broken ocular bone and lacerations to the face and was later flown to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston." [Source]

    Yeah, ow! Big time. Not so funny. Not at all.

    The Saco River Recreational Council (source of all the photos shown here) has been fighting for years to make the river usable for all those who want to enjoy it, and are the ones funding the new patrols. For those of you curious about the history of this controversial river use struggle, here are a few more past selections to set the waters of thought and discussion flowing.

    Back in 1989, the New York Times reported on what happened when the state tried its hand at quelling the trouble: "The State Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that armed state officials who were trying to stop illegal and rowdy conduct on the popular Saco River in southern Maine had no right to set up a ''riverblock'' last year to stop and search canoeists there. [...] Agents from the State Department of Public Safety and the State Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife set up the riverblocks on three weekends in 1988. [Source: New York Times, "High Court in Maine Outlaws Riverblocks," Wednesday Nov. 29, 1989]

    In 2001 trouble continued to plague the area, resulting in more complaints, and taking an especially tragic turn with a drowning death. The Portsmouth Herald detailed the troubling events in an August 1, 2001, recap of the season:
    Them crazy canoeists
    By Associated Press

    FRYEBURG, Maine -- It is an annual problem on the Saco River rowdy, intoxicated canoeists vandalize campgrounds, argue with locals, and leave piles of litter behind.

    This year's spate of alcohol-related incidents, including the drowning death of a Massachusetts man, have some residents renewing the cry for a crackdown on such behavior.
    In July, police were called after swearing, drunken canoeists climbed ashore to a boys' summer camp in Fryeburg, then physically threatened the counselors who asked them to leave.

    Only days later, members of another intoxicated group were angry about fees charged for a campground threw picnic tables into a bonfire and shoved a park employee.

    Last week, Edward Landry, 35, of Somerville, Mass., was found drowned in the river by several kayakers. He had been camping with about 14 people on the river and had been heavily drinking, said Mark Latti of the Maine Warden Service.
    The Saco River became a hot tourist spot for paddlers about 15 years ago, and a handful of alcohol-related incidents occur every summer.

    But authorities say rowdy drinkers are a tiny fraction of the paddlers, who primarily come from other parts of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.
    Read the full article here:[Source]
    Five years later, the author of the View from New Hampshire blog had the following to say after a river trip in 2006:
    There was a constant flow of canoes down the river, and most of the beaches were densely packed with tents and people. Some of the people were quite rowdy and unpleasant. It seems like the river is more heavily used each year. We still had a great time, and probably going earlier or later in the year would avoid a lot of the crowds. [Source]
    I would say things haven't gotten much better. We'll see what happens this summer.

    Evergreen Cemetery death needs ID

    UPDATE (5/11/09):
    For those who were touched by this story and wish to pay their respects, the obituary was published on the Portland Press Herald website on Sunday. Click here to read.