Monthly Archives: October 2009

This fits me: ‘Born in Maine, living in exile’

There is a subtle bite to the humor in New England and Maine especially. It comes from working hard and living in a fairly harsh climate.

And Mainers suffer no fools, as you might imagine. Why should they?

There are even times when the humor is served up with such skill that a person does not realize he has been made the center of a joke until he has walked away from the Mainer who administer the dig and replayed the experience from start to finish.

Being from away, I appreciate the products found on the Maine Exile Products website, including T-shirts, mugs and alike with the message: “Born in Maine. Living in exile.”

The website home page also has a tongue-in-cheek quote from New England writer Louise Dickinson Rich that pretty much sums up the feelings of a Mainer “from away”:

“Mainiacs away from Maine are truly displaced persons, only half alive, only half aware of their immediate surroundings. Their inner attention is always preoccupied and pre-empted by the tiny pinpoint on the face of the globe called Down East. They try to live not in such a manner that they will eventually be welcomed into Paradise, but only so that someday they can go home to Maine.” – Louise Dickinson Rich. (By the way, the term “Mainiacs” is a little something Mainers call themselves.)

More Maine fun to come.


Same-sex marriage law in Maine should stand

Question 1 on the Maine state ballot Tuesday reads: “Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?”

No one “from away” is going to change any Maine voter’s mind when it comes to same-sex marriage and Question 1 on Tuesday’s state ballot. Maine voters by now have made up their minds about the issue and know which oval they plan to fill in. Mainers are an independent lot and they – rightfully so – should not cotton to outsiders interfering in their business, especially at this late date.

And perhaps I should just keep my pie-hole shut given that I do not have a vote in the state of Maine.

But here I go anyway. Gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry and be given all the rights, privileges and comforts that any married man and woman currently enjoy. This is about a civil right. This is about a human right. This is about fairness and equality. This is about what is right.

Maine’s same-sex marriage law was enacted earlier this year with Maine Gov. John Baldacci’s signature of state legislation and it should stand as Maine law. (Read Gov. Baldacci’s statement on the same-sex marriage bill, as reported by the Portland Press-Herald.) Backers of Question 1 want voters to reject the law that essentially undoes earlier discrimination and injustice.

Here is why some of the pro-Question 1 arguments do not stand up:

The education thing: The anti-same-sex marriage camp made much about how allowing the law to stand would mean that state schoolchildren would be given lessons about gay and lesbian lifestyles. It is a false statement and should not be believed. The state attorney general already has ruled that it would not have an effect on state curriculum. So let us move on, shall we.

The marriage-is-for-man-and-woman-only thing: There is no doubt that traditional marriage has been between one man and one woman. But traditions do not start out as traditions. Every tradition begins with a starting point or first event. And, let’s face it, traditions change over time. They morph and shift and sometimes they are simply lost due to disinterest or shifting ideals.

But marriage is not a tradition that is being lost due to a lack of interest. Quite the opposite, because gays and lesbians want to marry, they want to take part in a tradition that shows to the world that two people intend to be bonded for life.

Besides, what is the basis of a marriage? Is it not about two people who truly love each other and are in a caring, committed relationship to the point of wanting to formalize the bond? It is sort of like shouting to the world that two people plan to share their lives now and well into the future – but with paperwork. Does it really, really matter if the two people are a man and woman, two women or two men?

Approving Question 1 is essentially saying that two people in love cannot be together for life in a marriage simply because they were born gay or lesbian. It would be akin to determining that people of different races or social caste could not marry simply because they were of different races or came from different social rankings. Most states got rid of those laws long ago. Except in situations in which the people involved are underage or lack the mental capacity to understand the significance of entering a marriage or are already in a marriage, we as a society should stay out of legislating love.

And allowing the law to stand is not discriminating against men and women who are married, as one friend suggested. In fact, reversing the law would be discriminating against people who want nothing more than to enter a lifelong, committed relationship, just as men and women are allowed to do.

Listen, we heterosexuals have not exactly given marriage a good name. After all, about half of marriages are failures. Perhaps it is time to allow committed, loving gays and lesbians to marry to help boost the numbers of successful marriages. It’s just a thought.

The God thing: Marriage is a sacred union currently reserved only for couples made up of a man and a woman. And all other unions involving same-sex couples are viewed by many as unnatural, immoral, and even the work of Satan. I believe in God, but I am not a churchgoer. The God I know loves His or Her creations, no matter a person’s sexual orientation. Gays and lesbians believe in God. Gays and lesbians attend church and worship God. Gays and lesbians are clergy and church leaders. God is not rejecting gays and lesbians; people who dare to claim they know what God intended are rejecting gays and lesbians.

One of the early anti-same-sex marriage concerns was that churches would be forced to conduct marriages for same-sex couples. Plainly, that is addressed in the law since Question 1 reads: “Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?”

The gay or lesbian you know thing: I have been in California a quarter century and in that time I have come in contact with gays and lesbians in work and social situations. But I also came in contact with gays and lesbians in Maine before coming to California. Gays and lesbians live normal lives – they work, play, raise families, pay taxes, and go to restaurants, movie theaters and the mall – except they cannot marry.

Gays and lesbians are in every walk of life and whether a person knows it or not, it is highly likely that they have a gay or lesbian family member, friend, co-worker or acquaintance. Every extended family – and perhaps every immediate family – is going to have a member who is gay or lesbian. So a person who does not accept the idea of same-sex marriage should be willing to tell that family member – a son, daughter, nephew, niece, brother, sister, cousin, uncle, aunt, mother, father – that they should not love and marry the person with whom they are in love because the person is the same sex.

Two sides to every story: I know there are going to be plenty of people who disagree with me. I have already had a debate about this with a friend who completely disagrees. She believes marriage should be reserved for couples made up of one man and one woman. I know that there is nothing I can say to convince her that her definition of marriage is a definition, not necessarily the definition of marriage.

We will not agree on this issue. But we did agree to disagree with civility. It really is OK to debate an issue and disagree. Fortunately, for the most part, the debates in Maine have been civil for a political campaign. I would expect nothing less from Mainers.

The basics: The League of Women Voters of Maine lays it out this way on its website. The argument for a yes vote is:

• Marriage has traditionally been between one man and one woman.

• The government should not change an important tradition like marriage.

The argument for a no vote is:

• The new law allows all couples to marry. It makes sure that all couples are treated equally.

• Same-sex couples will be able to have the legal protection of marriage.

• Churches and religious organizations do not have to perform same-sex marriages.

Rejection of Question 1 means that Maine becomes the fifth state to allow same-sex marriage, but the first in which voters confirmed such a law, the Bangor Daily News reported. Voter approval of Question 1 means that people in love will be denied what others are allowed; rejecting the law would be akin to voter approval of human and civil rights violations.

The Portland Press-Herald and the Bangor Daily News have been covering this story for a while. Click on the name of the newspapers for links to the coverage.


Maine ales for that post-trick-or-treating repose

Adults looking for a treat after taking the ghouls and goblins out for Halloween fun on Saturday might consider sampling Sea Dog Pumpkin Ale by the Sea Dog Brewing Co. or Shipyard Brewing Co.’s Pumpkinhead Ale.

Frankly, I have not tried either, but I have sampled Shipyard’s Export Ale and Sea Dog’s pale ale, blond ale, Indian Pale Ale, and Blue Paw Wheat Ale, which has a hint of blueberry flavor. Except for the blueberry ale – I am not at all keen on fruity ales – I am comfortable endorsing Shipyard and Sea Dog products.

Trying a new beverage from time to time is always good for the palate. Sure, you end up tasting a few horrible brews, but you also have the opportunity to find something that will be a lifelong favorite. That is how I am with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I always thought I was a Bud Light guy – yeah, I know. Bud Light? – until I tasted Sierra Nevada in Chico, Calif., where it is brewed. I am a fan for life.

Shipyard Brewing Co. is located in Portland, Maine, and Sea Dog can be found in Bangor, South Portland and Topsham, Maine. Their products should be found at most chain grocery stores in Maine. For my California friends, Sea Dog and Shipyard can be found at most S-marts, BevMo, Trader Joe’s and other grocers.

BevMo and S-mart also carry Allagash Brewing Co. products. Allagash is located in Portland, Maine, and of the three I prefer the Allagash products; they generally are full-bodied, grainy beverages with lots of complex flavors. If you like lager and clean, crisp, light ales, Allagash might not be for you.

Trick-or-treat safely and drink responsibly.

Disclaimer: No ale was harmed in the making of this blog.

Helping the homeless in southern Maine

DownEast magazine just shared a story with its Facebook fans — “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” It is about a 4-year-old program that gives homeless people stable shelter and THEN other programs to deal with some of the reasons they are homeless in the first place. Programs for the homeless many times simply give a person or family a cot and a meal and then send them on their way the next morning; this program seems to give homeless people much more — a chance and hope.

About mid-way down the story it tells how this program costs less money than if the people were allowed to remain homeless. Some of the stories told are pretty touching.

Not sure what the photo is all about, though.


Letters from away – no postage due

I have lived in California the past quarter century, but a day does not go by that I do not think about Maine where I was born and raised. I recall the smell of it, the taste of it, the sight of it, the sound of it, the touch of it, the people of it. It is likely that I would bleed pine sap if I were to be cut deeply enough.

Why do I not live there, then? Why do I continue – at least for now – to live on the Left Coast?

Good question. I have asked the same one a million times since 1983 when I moved to Northern California to attend California State University, Chico. I went there as part of the National Student Exchange program. I had been attending the University of Southern Maine for a couple of years, but had an itch to see other places and do other things. At the time that meant moving to California.

Once at Chico State – yes, the same Chico State regularly named as a top party school – I eventually picked journalism as a career choice and for two semesters was editor of the campus newspaper, The Orion. I also was a wildland firefighter during my college days, which was a wonderful experience. For another time and blog entry, though.

I earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in social work, and then began a career working at small and medium-size newspapers. During the past 22 years, I have worked as a newspaper reporter, copy editor, columnist, assistant news editor, opinion page editor, assistant city editor, and Web site reporter. I have covered crime and baby derbies; horrific vehicle crashes and chili-eating contests; presidential campaign stops and beauty pageants; the Blue Angels and flew on the last flying B-24 left in the world. I have been to Africa, Germany and Haiti while working as a reporter.

And then there were the people, some famous, some not-so-famous, some infamous, and some just plain characters. That may be the very best part of journalism, meeting and writing about the type of people who make up our world.

That was part of the draw of staying in California, I suppose. I was doing things and seeing things and writing about things I was not sure I would be doing, seeing and writing about if I was back in Maine. That very probably is not true because I think this country has a very rich mix of people of all types, shapes, sizes … well, you get the idea.

So, for those reasons I have been “from away” to do things, see things, write things and meet people. And in a flash, it has been 26 years. I have lived “away” longer than I lived in Maine.

But for all that time, I have been a Mainer to the core. I am ardent in my love for Maine.

Please come back often to this blog to read about a Mainer “from away” and what he thinks about the native land that he still loves very, very much.