I guess I should walk the walk when it comes to voting for the best parts of life and people here in Portland. Here’s my list from the Phoenix’s Best Of (to everyone outside Maine and elsewhere around the world, the Phoenix is our local alternative weekly), VOTE HERE:
Space Gallery — I’m a little biased, my wife runs the joint.
Bubba’s — I mean come on, the light up dance floor?!
Nickelodeon — That we still have a movie theater in the center of town that does deals on Tuesdays is a minor miracle.
I guess I gotta go with the Children’s Museum, which seems cool.
Alicia Eggert — She’s legit, blowing it up around the world and we’re lucky to have her here.
Nan’l Meikeljohn — Are you kidding me? The Bearded Lady? Get a better drink it town, I dare you.
Garbage to Garden — It took a bunch of motivated kids in their 20s getting together to make city-wide compost pickup a reality in this town. They’re organized and super-professional, and yeah, composting makes you feel real good.
WoolWoodandWhiskey.com — Heard of it? Good, then vote early and vote often.
Common Ground Fair — MOFGA’s OG celebration of rural living, what’s not to like?
No Tar Sands — Tons of lost habitat and still not a real energy solution? No thanks.
Maine Huts and Trails — BOOM! Wilderness.
The Telling Room — Write it in!
I’m just going to skip all the “Best Bagel/Beer Selection” — always the same characters there.
Petite Jacqueline — Write it in, then go try it. No wait and a killer deal on a beastly amount of food.
Petite Jacqueline — Write it in again! Best burger in town by a long shot, on a fresh brioche bun, topped with Gruyere? Not THAT is a $13 hamburger? Don’t even talk to me about any of the other options.
Rosemont — Jared’s got the fer real chops (pun intended). House charcuterie and rabbit hotdogs smoked out back!
Chad Conley — The consummate local journeyman cook turned no-bullshit chef at Gather in Yarmouth. Best dude in the area to work for, and not afraid to step out on a ledge, whether that means cooking pop-up dinners or putting me in charge of coming up with specials from time-to-time.
Tandem — The best thing to happen to Portland since salt air.
Portland Farmer’s Market — We’ve got not one farmer’s market each week, but TWO. Never forget that.
Pai Men Miyake — Tired of ramen yet? I didn’t think so, me either.
I’m going to skip a bunch here, the restaurant ones are always so redundant.
CLOTHING – MEN
Portland Trading Co. – One word, er… name: KAZEEM
Allen & Walker — I’ve bought an appalling amount of stuff from those guys, the place is like a museum with reasonable prices.
“Maybe I should just get a house in the woods with my family and play Monk all day.”
–Jazz pianist Jason Moran in the current issue of the New Yorker.
We’re just starting to get some buds on trees around here, which is a borderline miracle because it definitely hasn’t been warm lately. Like pretty much everyone I know I’m finally ready for the winter to be over, ready for the snow to go away and the roads to be free and clear of sand.
I’ve got the skating jones again, bad, and this video, despite its sort of reverse seasonal trajectory, isn’t helping much. It’s good to see some Thoreau-quoting New England guys tapping the source but doing their own thing at the same time. It takes a fine eye to appreciate the muted palate of winter in this part of the country, and these guys over at The Worble have it. Throw in some natural boredom killer lines, plus a little gnar in there and you’ve got a good little feature.
Be sure to check out their other videos, too. Although maybe not the ones with the cliff jumping at the swimming hole, I don’t think anyone’s capable of recovering from that kind of seasonal aspiration at this point in the year.
Do WW&W a solid and vote here: http://contests.thephoenix.com/thebest/portland/2013/votes#City
Writing’s a funny thing. We all do it, but at the same time it’s really hard to do really well. For my money, the work of LA-based writer Carson Mell is a close to perfect as it gets.
He’d probably contest that if he were to read this, but that’s just because we writers are a self-loathing lot. Then again, maybe not. Hopefully not. Because this is some art right here.
Mell’s Taratula series is just as spot on, with a kind of grotesque profundity that few people can capture, and even fewer can capture well. It reminds in some ways of early Tarentino stuff — True Romance, specifically — but minus the heavy-handed use of N-bombs and reliance on video store kitsch. Mell gets real. Real seedy. Real funny. And really real, in a very smart, very weird, very unique kind of way.
Back when the Olympics were in Lillehammer, I fell a little bit in love with Norway. It was 1994 and I was just a youngun’, but still, I was already obsessed with the outdoors. “You know, here in Norway,” an announcer on TV said at one point or another, “they say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.” At the time one of my favorite evening activities was walking out to the middle of frozen ponds, collapsing onto my back in the snow and staring up at the night sky for hours on end. Bad clothes — yeah, I could see that.
Fast forward a couple of decades and I’ve still never been to Norway. I’m sure I’d like it though, because I mean, how can you not like a place where there’s a TV show about firewood? And according to this New York Times article, this isn’t just any TV show, either. In the first place, it’s based on a book on the same topic, “Solid Wood,” that spent more than a year on the nation’s best-seller list. And like all great programming, the show has inspired some pretty heavy debate among its audience, centering mostly around wood pile density and configuration. So awesome.
‘“What I’ve learned is that you should not ask a Norwegian what he likes about firewood, but how he does it — because that’s the way he reveals himself,”’ says the author of “Solid Wood. ‘“You can tell a lot about a person from his firewood stack.”’
Yes. You. Can. Check out the article in its entirety, it’s worth a read.
Early last fall, a tragedy befell me. It was one of the first cool, crisp days of the season out on the mussel farm and I was just getting used to wearing pants beneath my Grundens instead of shorts. Everything was going great — a good harvest on a beautiful day — until I bent over to tie off the boat when we pulled into port. That was when my beloved 10-year-old double knee Carhartts gave up the ghost. Let’s just say they ripped right where it counts, the second such fissure (about 13 inches diagonally between the pockets) that had occurred since re-roofing my in-law’s about a year earlier.
So why was that such a big deal? And why hadn’t I just bought new work pants in all those years? Well, a funny thing happened since I first purchase them: American work wear brands decided that every tradesperson everywhere weighs at least a deuce to a deuce and a half. Personally, I’m not all that excited about climbing up and down ladders all day, catching my feet on the monstrous cuffs of duck cloth hammer pants (as in the MC, not the tool).
That’s why, when I saw these LL Bean Signature double-knee carpenter pants at the store in Freeport, I was excited. The cut is classic, a little high-waisted (just like your grandpa used to wear) and nice and narrow through the leg. Notice that I didn’t say “slim,” because they’re not — you need a certain amount of room for mobility on any real job, and these have just enough. My favorite thing about them is the way the double-knees extend all the way up, rather than starting just below the pocket. The look is clean, 1940s style (and yeah, I stole an image from the Signature site because I felt a little weird putting a photo of my garbage up here).
So I contacted Bean to see about getting a pair for a wear test, and about a week later a package came in the mail. And then I proceeded to chain myself to my desk for a few weeks to get some work done on my book. Granted, that’s work, but not the kind I was hoping to subject these pants to. Sure, they felt tough, and the rivets on almost every major stress point were a nice touch, but how was I to know how they’d wear and feel after a few days of pounding nails or shoveling any of the many things I’ve found myself shoveling lately?
Then, enter Nemo. In these photos, you can see what amounts to the tail end of the adventure that was the season’s most robust Noreaster. After a full two-days of shoveling off roofs and digging out cars over at my parent’s place, we returned home to find our apartment buried. I’m talking four-foot drifts, up to the windows, rapidly settling into a crusty white barricade.
So I got after it, and have since washed the pants and done a day in them sorting and packing mollusks. Here’s the verdict: these pants are comfortable, warm, and just as flexible as you want them to be. What’s more, they’re not hemorrhaging dye the way those other pants do in order to look instantly broken in. These’ll take some work to get to that point, but I’m confident they’re up to the task.
Here’s to another 10-years!
I’m privileged to have had the same best friend since I was in either first or second grade. He’s my brother-from-my-other-mother and we’re still tight after all these years. Plus, dude’s talented (yes, we’re both writers, which is weird), and this piece he just turned out for New York Times is proof positive.
In his able hands, meeting reggae great Watty Burnett in Staples on Long Island turned into: ““I do a lot of my shopping in Babylon,” Mr. Burnett said recently.” Gold! Never mind the fact that Jed stumbled upon the one dude who’s gone from working with Lee “Scratch” Perry to collaborating with Sun Araw, one of my favorite psych outfits out of LA. God! Get better, article, I DARE you!
Way back when the air was warm and the grass was green, my wife and I got to do an amazing residency at Kezar Lake in western Maine. For a week straight all we had to think about was our work: her art and my writing, and nothing else.
Focus is a rare gift these days, and we owed this opportunity to a confluence of circumstances. We somehow found ourselves alone on an expansive property, with a cabin of our own nestled into the hillside above the lake.
This place, known as Hewnoaks to the family that built it way back when, must have been a community unto itself at one point. In addition to ours there were four or five other cabins at odd intervals throughout the woods, along with a screened in pavilion of sorts, where Jenny set up shop.
At other times during last summer and fall, each of the buildings was occupied by residency guests — all of them making the most of having the time and place to create. That it so closely resembled a vacation in an incredible setting was definitely an added bonus.
The opportunity to work in this environment was part of a charter plan to set the property up as an annual residency program open to artists from all over. We were the front runners, grateful to the University of Maine, which now owns and oversees the land the structures on it, and to the crew of devoted art-enablers at Space Gallery and Maine College of Art, in Portland.
Each day, the routine was pretty much the same: wake up, feed the dog and ourselves, go for a swim, work for a few hours, have a late lunch, then work for a few more hours before watching the sun set over the mountains to the West.
We both got a lot done, and benefited from the freedom and solitude. Like all good things, the week of course had to come to an end.
By that time, the nights were growing colder, and the first signs of fall were just starting to creep in. On the last day, as I closed up the cabin, I happened to look past the porch, into the woods and up into the trees.
At this point, in the dead of winter, seeing the first changed leaves of autumn seems like a bad joke told by a someone I hope I never see again. But truthfully, back then, I was excited for fall and the change of seasons. I came home with a harbinger of things to come, an outline and the first few pages of my book, and Jenny brought a piece for what was then an upcoming show at Buoy gallery in Kittery, and has now come and gone.
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