Category Archives: Family and Friends

Our View: Sen. Collins should fight Senate health care bill | Portland (Maine) Press Herald

Sen. Susan Collins says she will spend the next few days carefully reviewing the new Affordable Care Act repeal proposal, taking a hard look at an upcoming analysis by the Congressional Budget Office and considering what she has learned from her conversations with constituents in Maine.

We admire her diligence, but we think Collins already has enough information to know what she should do. This bill would be bad for Maine and bad for America, and the senator should speak out against it as forcefully as possible.

Collins’ voice has never been more important. Because of the way parliamentary rules are being applied, the 52 Republicans in the Senate are the only ones who get to make a meaningful impact in this debate. If only three Republican senators refuse to sign on, the bill will have to be renegotiated. Just hours after details of the bill were revealed, four hard-right senators said they might scuttle it if the cuts to health care aren’t even deeper than proposed.

Read more of the editorial in the Portland Press Herald.

Making resolutions as important as keeping them

We all make ’em, but we hardly ever keep ’em.

Resolutions are the genuine expression of our deep desire to mend our ways in the coming year. They are the codification of frustrating, seemingly unattainable goals of losing weight, eating better, drinking less, taking our loved ones and friends less for granted, being better at whatever. And much, much more.

I’ve written before about setting – and failing at – resolutions. There was “Resolving to avoid resolutions this year … or not,” “Vowing to be a better blogger … I promise,” and “Resolving that these will be the best resolutions – ever.” I’m not sure if that makes me uniquely knowledgeable about resolutions – or really, really not.

It is part of human nature, I suppose, to set challenging goals. That gives us something to reach for and added satisfaction when we accomplish meaningful goals. We don’t only hit the mark, we exceed it.

And even if we know that most of our resolutions never will be accomplished, the mere exercise alone is worthy of our time. It is essential that we each take a few moments from time to time to reflect on the past and present, and look to what the future could hold. It is essential as humans to find a hope in what we do and how we do it. Setting resolutions is a way to remind us of the very hope upon which we desperately depend.

We do tend to sent lofty goals, when small steps are just as effective. We can always build upon the small successes that come with small steps toward improvement. Grand changes are not always necessary. Ending world hunger and bring about world peace do not have to ride solely on the shoulders of a new year’s resolution. It is best to pick a few reasonable changes. Instead of ending world hunger, perhaps volunteer at the local food bank or offer to deliver meals to seniors and other shut-ins. Or arrange a canned food drive at your school, office or church. Instead of bringing about world peace, vow to be more tolerant and understanding in the coming year. Or even sign up for classes to become a mediator.

None of us alone can make a significant difference in the world. But each of us pulling together, doing what we can, can make great strides toward a better world. Each little effort causes a ripple effect that moves and encourages others to do little things, which moves and encourages others. A little effort will beget a little effort that will beget more little efforts that in time will merge and culminate into a significant pulse, a surge, a movement toward change. We saw that in Egypt and throughout the Middle East and we saw it in the Occupy Movement.

Frustration with a situation often moves us to make change. The Occupy Movement is about frustration – frustration in the stalled economy and the fat cats that let it happen and have profited from a diminished middle class; frustration in the political system that turned its back on everyone; frustration in unemployment, home foreclosures, the lack of affordable health care, the lack of tolerance … the lack of hope.

I’ve never been a “kick the bums out” sort when it comes to political change. Our electoral system is flawed in many ways, but it is the system we have. When we want change we must use that system to make those changes. Our voice and our vote are our weapons. But I am growingly frustrated with the way politicians – Republicans, Democrats, Independents, conservatives, liberals, all of them – disregard what always should be the core goal – the greatest good for the greatest number. It should not be the greatest good for the richest 1 percent.

Where to start when you “kick the bums out” is a particularly sticky point. After all, do you start with Wall Street bankers and lawyers? Or with Washington politicians, lobbyists and bureaucrats? Or with the leaders and shareholders of mega-corporations that would rather lay off workers and relocate their jobs overseas than to take slight cut in profits?

Perhaps we should kick them all out and start with a fresh slate, one that puts in power the people with the most to lose and gain in the future. Perhaps we should turn over the running of Wall Street, Main Street and Washington to the children who will be living in this world for the next 70 or 80 years or more. Perhaps they can make more sense of things than those currently running the show.

I don’t suppose that will happen. I can only live in my world and do what I can to make it better, hoping all the time that what I do and how I do it will cause someone else to believe that they too can do just a little bit to contribute to the whole, overall, cumulative change for better.

My resolutions are not spectacularly original, but they are mine.

Resolution No. 1: Be a better person. Not sure this requires much explanation. We tend to know when the things we say or do or don’t do hurt people in our lives. There really is no need for that sort of behavior.

Resolution No. 2: Be a better person to myself. Not sure this requires much explanation, either. This includes exercising more, eating better, drinking less, getting more rest. Pretty normal stuff.

Resolution No. 3: Travel much, much more. Much, much more. I won’t be able to afford grand trips, but I can put together an impressive collection of day-trips. I’ve lived in Northern California since 1983 and for some unfathomable reason I have never been to Yosemite National Park. Amazingly, there has been no state legislative action to kick my butt out of the state for this incredible oversight.

Resolution No. 4: Recover a least a portion of that which was lost during two and a half years of unemployment. This is “the big one,” because I doubt I will be able to regain that much at all. I pretty much have spent the money set aside in 22 years of journalism for retirement. Cashing in an IRA was a painfully necessary thing to do a year or so ago after the unemployment benefits dried up. I’m employed, but making half of what I was making when I was previously working. I turn 50 in six months and I have no idea if I will ever be able to retire.

I’m not sure I’ll remember these resolutions much past the end of, say, this week. But at least I gave the future – and hope in general – some thought.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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More to be thankful for as time goes on

Brenda and me at a sandwich shop.

Brenda and me at a sandwich shop. (Photo by Keith Michaud)

I know it is a bit late for a “thankful” blog entry, after all, people now are more concerned with camping out at their favorite stores to find the best deals for holiday shopping than they are about contemplating thankfulness.

But I am thankful for a whole lot more than I have been in quite a while.

Actually, I’ve been pretty grateful and thankful for quite a while. Even during my more than two and a half years of unemployment I was hopeful and fairly optimistic that I would eventually find a job, and grateful and thankful for what I did have. Two and a half years is a very long time to be without work and to remain optimistic in that time took considerable effort. But I did not give up. I was able to overcome quite a bit. Two years ago I even wrote that I was thankful for many things, despite my situation.

This year I am thankful for those same things, but also so much more thankful for two things in particular.

One of those things is a new job. I’ve been working now for about three weeks as the editor of the Central Valley Business Journal. It’s working out well, I think. My bosses appreciate my expertise and seem genuinely pleased that I am there. It is not my “dream job,” but does that sort of thing really exist anymore?

There is a chance that I would not have gone after or accepted that job if it was not for my girlfriend, Brenda. She is the one thing for which I most grateful this holiday season. I am very happy that she is in my life. We’ve been dating for a bit more than six months now. In that time she has been consistently encouraging and supportive and far more confident than I that I would find a job eventually. She was very caring in her encouragement. I am not sure I would still be in California if it were not for Brenda. We make each other laugh and it is very easy to be with her.

She is intelligent, bright, pretty, cute, funny, and able to laugh at herself.

She is a former teacher currently working as an aide on buses transporting developmentally disable adults while she earns her master’s degree in education. She longs to be back in the classroom and I hope that happens for her sooner than later.

She and a co-worker go to thrift stores to buy lightly worn jackets to give to people in need who cross their path. She made me tear up with pride when she told me that she could not give me the leftover roast and vegetables she had promised me because on the way to my apartment she spotted a homeless teen in need and gave him the food instead.

She is supporting her very bright, intelligent 18-year-old daughter while she earns her GED. Her son is a police officer and I know Brenda worries about him and his future. She is a caring daughter to her parents, one of whom is in the early stages of fast-acting dementia.

She has so much going on in her life, but she is able to find room in her heart for me. For that I am very thankful.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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At long last, I am going back to work

It has been a very long, winding, tumultuous two and a half years of unemployment since March 2009 when I was laid off from The Record in Stockton, Calif. It has been a very difficult time for so many people, including and especially those in the newspaper business.

But I’m starting a new job on Monday Tuesday – a 60-day trial as the editor of the Central Valley Business Journal, a monthly publication with offices in Stockton and Modesto. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and confident that this will be a good fit. I get the feeling that the Central Valley Business Journal hasn’t had true editorial leadership in some time, so even small improvements in the publication will be noticeable.

I have never been a business writer/editor before so the experience will be challenging in that respect. I haven’t been the sole editor of a publication in quite a while, so it will be challenging in that respect, as well. And I haven’t had to get up early for work in quite a while, so that will be pleasantly challenging.

I have written here in the past of the complete emotional toll unemployment takes on a person. You lose your self-worth, self-respect, and sense of self. Friends and family who haven’t been through the situation cannot truly understand what the unemployed go through, but they still offer suggestions – “You know what you really should do is …” – of actions already taken time and time again. They mean so very well and knowing that kept me from screaming just a bit. Prospective employers reject you simply for having been unemployed. And society turns an uncomfortable cold shoulder to those of us who were unemployed for so long.

My girlfriend, Brenda, has been very supportive and encouraging through the past few months. I thank her for helping me maintain my enthusiasm for, well, everything and for encouraging me at every step. She is solidly in my heart.

Long-time friends – especially Teresa, Rick, and Michele – have provided part-time work, room and board, beer and tequila, laughter, and encouragement. I do appreciate everything they have done for me in the past two and a half years. Other friends, those not so “long-time,” also have provided encouragement and even groceries from time to time. For those veggies and peppers, Kathi, I am grateful. And I thank those Facebook friends who over the years have helped me maintain my sense of humor, perspective, and sanity, who have provided encouragement, job leads, and a place to vent. Thank you.

And now a new adventure awaits! I’m excited for it to begin.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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Will write for food! … Or walk your dog!

Hey there! Hey there! I’m still trying to line up a freelance gig or two for the coming weeks. Please let me know if you are in need or know someone in need of a writer-editor-blogger-dog walker-house-sitter-dishwasher. Cheers!

Not a miner, but a 49er

Oh, boy! Today is my birthday! I am 49. That’s the batter’s circle to 50!

Ugh!

Oh, birthdays don’t bother me too much. I’ve got other things that take up my concerns, such as unemployment. I’m much more concerned about finding a job and getting back to work than I am about turning 49.

And a birthday this close to 50 is just a reminder how fast employers wrongly believe I’m unemployable, so dwelling on a birthday is just a waste of time for me. Although, having a birthday on the longest day of the year and Summer Solstice is pretty cool, and I do love summer.

But today will be just like nearly every other day since March 5, 2009, the day I was laid off after 22 years in the newspaper business – I’ll be looking for work and trying to build a network that might lead to work. It’s not much, but at my age, what would you expect.

That “at my age” was a joke, by the way. I have plenty of energy and strength and stamina to do good work and be very productive. I just need a chance.

Temperatures are supposed to reach 100 or more today so I’ll be ordering iced tea rather than hot coffee. I’ll use the coffeehouse WiFi to search job websites, gather information for the job search, perhaps pay some bills and do a few other things online.

Later, I’ll be meeting a friend for an evening of DVDs. Other than that, there really isn’t much planned for my birthday.

And that’s the way I like it.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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Thank-you note to my scouting niece

The Girl Scout Cookies are freed from their bondage.

The Girl Scout Cookies are freed from their bondage.

[I received a fun package yesterday from my scouting niece Sophie. Actually, she is my only niece, but she is in a scouting organization, so she’s also my “scouting niece.” Regular readers may recall that I have lamented in the past that the packages my family sends me from time are full of sugary treats. At my age, who needs the extra pounds. Oy! So, I made my family promise to not send me any more sugary treats. But then the Girl Scouts – well, mostly their mothers – started hitting me up to help fill their cookie quotas. So, I had to send my sister a note to clarify that in no way was my earlier dictate to reflect the Girl Scout Cookie Season. That, I made it clear to her, was not the case. Girl Scout Cookies were OK for my diet. … I have a feeling I will be gaining a few pounds in the next few days. – KM]

Dear Sophie:

I received a package yesterday that you and Mommy sent to me. Inside were very yummy Girl Scout Cookies. I wanted to thank you very, very much. I am sure I will enjoy them. Thank you.

Now, I just have to decide which cookies to start with.

Love,

Uncle Keith

P.S. Please say “Hi” to your brother Max. I miss you both very much.

A package is opened.

A package is opened.

A cookie is liberated.

A cookie is liberated.

The first bite …

The first bite …

And another ...

And another ...

Just one more bite left …

Just one more bite left …

And now my had is free to grasp another cookie.

And now my hand is free to grasp another cookie.

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Maine governor is looking more boorish all the time

Maine Gov. Paul LePage during another of his finest hours.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage during another of his finest hours.

I had planned to reserve judgment on Maine Gov. Paul LePage until he had been in office for a while longer. After all, the man just took office a mere few months ago.

But frankly – and with no offense intended to my Maine family and friends who may have voted for him – LePage is looking more boorish and less like a statesman all the time.

It is one thing to stand up and be strong, but it is completely another to bumble your way through things causing chaos and destruction, and then boldly justify your awkward ways. He is more a bull in a china shop than he is a sage owl masterfully handling the duties and responsibilities of his new job. His coarse ways may have served him well in business – I cannot see how – but it does not serve the state well for him to continue his bad-mannered, loutish ways.

From all accounts – at least, accounts that do not come from the governor’s office or are not manipulated by the governor’s puppet masters – LePage is a boob.

He has offended almost anyone with any sensibility, from the growing African-American community in Maine to women to environmentalists to workers and unions to the working poor to art lovers to, well, anybody.

I once wrote in a column describing how clumsy the mayor of Vacaville, Calif., handled a situation. An entire neighborhood in Vacaville was flooded – at the time it seemed that city maintenance practices might have played a part in the severity of the flooding – and the mayor acted callously toward some very concerned neighbors. I wrote that the mayor came across as gangly as a moose on a frozen lake.

I was wrong. That mayor was as graceful as an eagle soaring in the sky.

LePage is the gangly moose on a frozen ice.

Here are a few links to stories about LePage’s mucked-up walk through Maine politics.

Hundreds protest mural removal; artwork could land in Portland | Bangor Daily News

A picture of labor unrest: Demonstrators at rallies take issue with Gov. LePage’s order to remove mural from a state agency’s headquarters | Portland Press Herald

Governor’s decision attracts attention, repels tourist | Portland Press Herald

Mural protesters say they’ll fight governor’s removal order | Lewiston Sun Journal

Panel backs state ban on products with BPA: LePage administration now says it won’t fight ban, even though the governor still opposes it | Portland Press Herald

LePage retorts to heckler: ‘I would love to tax the rich if we had any in Maine’ | Bangor Daily News

LePage again in national spotlight over mural order; Stewart, Maddow mock move | Bangor Daily News

Of course, some Mainers – especially those who voted for LePage and those who continue to support his bumbling ways – will decry my characterization of the man who was elected by them to lead the state. True, it seems as if I am an outsider – someone “from away” – and I should not have the right to criticize the work that has been done.

Well, I will criticize it for several reasons:

My sister and her family live in Maine. It is important to her, her husband, my mother and me that my nephew Max and niece Sophie live in a state where they can continue to thrive.

My mother lives in Maine. I will never get her to move away to a warm climate in the winter. She rarely stays with my sister in southern Maine longer than a week, let alone for a long, cold Maine winter. It is where she was born and it is where she wants to be. She should be allowed to enjoy here life there.

I am a Maine native and I fully intend to return to Maine, although LePage’s antics have made me think twice about it. Maine is where I want to be; my economic circumstances keep me from it, but I will there eventually, LePage or not.

Mainers deserve better than what LePage has done so far.

I have a vested interest in the success of Maine and it does not seem as if LePage can lead a row of ducklings let alone a state.

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Visiting a much-missed home away from home

While I have lived in Stockton the past couple of years, the place I miss – not quite as much as Maine, of course – is Vacaville.

It is the closest thing to home that I have known since moving to California. I spent more than 13 years living and working in Vacaville, positioned along Interstate 80 between Sacramento and San Francisco. That location has made Vacaville a fine commuter community.

But Vacaville – a farming and ranching community and home to two state prisons long before it was a commuter town – is more than a wide spot along the freeway. It is a family-friendly city with parks and events. A fine selection of retail shops are here, too, mostly because of the freeway access. It is not far from recreational opportunities, including Lake Berryessa and Lagoon Valley Regional Park; it is not that far from the Napa wine region, either.

And the city is nestled at the base of California’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Or, at least, I believe they are part of California’s Blue Ridge Mountains. They are beautiful most of the year and when they are not spotted with brush fire.

Vacaville is a place I regretted leaving. I did so for career opportunities, which since have soured and dried up. Vacaville is a place where I would live again if I had the opportunity.

I ventured to Vacaville today, however, not out of nostalgia, but out of desperation. I have run through my Unemployment Insurance benefits and there will not be more coming unless Congress does something to ease the suffering of the 99ers, the long-term unemployed Americans who have gone through their 99 weeks of Unemployment Insurance.

I came to do the unthinkable – cash out an IRA to pay my bills for the next couple of months. I hated doing it; it is just one more sign of personal failure, I suppose. I calculate I will have enough to pay my basic expenses for the next two or three months and still have enough to cover a complete retreat out of California if I still have not found a job in that time.

But at this very moment, I am sitting at a table in the Solano County Library’s Vacaville Town Square branch in the heart of downtown Vacaville. Outside the grand floor-to-ceiling windows are Andrews Park and the CreekWalk. A gray squirrel just ran up the embankment along the walk and jumped into a redwood tree. Just a short distance away, two blue jays swept up the creek and into a conifer. People have been walking back and forth since I sat down and up on the hill at Great Wonders Playground, children are playing.

Great Wonders was built many years ago with volunteer labor and donations. It was burned down a short time later due to negligence. Volunteers rebuilt the place even better than it was before.

That sort of community spirit – building a playground and then rebuilding it just short few weeks later – is what I miss about Maine and what I miss about Vacaville.

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Skip that grande latte, click below to back a cure for diabetes

A former boss, Diane Barney, is riding in the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure on May 1 in Napa.

Those of you who are able – especially those who have diabetics in your family or know diabetics at work or the gym or wherever – should click here for the link to the website where you can pledge to back Diane in the ride. Or follow the link to find information on how to join the effort, either as a rider or by making a pledge to another rider.

The event is part of a series of fund-raising cycling events held in more than 40 U.S. states. You can find out more about the event on the website.

My kid sister has been a diabetic since she was, well, a kid. Diabetics have a wide range of health challenges, the worst of which include blindness, poor blood circulation that can lead to amputations, and even death. Diabetes is a very, very serious illness, but does not seem to garner the type of attention – especially in research funding – that it should.

Diane, now the communications director at NorthBay Healthcare Systems in Fairfield, CA, made this pitch earlier today to her Facebook friends:

“I’m riding 25 miles in the Tour de Cure, a fund-raising cycling event to help stop diabetes. Any friend who would like to pledge me can click directly to this page and use a credit card. How convenient, right? Any amount is fine – 10 cents a mile is only $2.50 – less than a grande latte at Starbucks! And it’s for a great cause!”

So, skip that grande latte and support the demise of a hideous disease. Click on this link and back Diane in the ride. Or follow the link to the American Diabetes Association website on the Tour de Cure and find a city near you where you can participate in a ride – either as a rider or a donor.

Stop diabetes in our lifetime!

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Pair of unexpected packages brightens rainy day

This Christmas card image is of Mono Lake near Lee Vining, Calif. Mono Lake, known for salinity and tufa formations, is at least 760,000 years old, according to information on the back of the card. The Christmas card, the first I received in 2010, was sent to me by longtime friends, Rick and Michele.

This Christmas card image is of Mono Lake near Lee Vining, Calif. Mono Lake, known for salinity and tufa formations, is at least 760,000 years old, according to information on the back of the card. The Christmas card, the first I received in 2010, was sent to me by longtime friends, Rick and Michele.

The foggy, rainy prelude to an even bigger late-fall storm was brightened considerable on Friday when I received two unexpected packages in the mail.

One was a lovely Christmas card from dear long-time friends Rick and Michele of Vacaville, Calif. I have known the two since August 1990 when I joined the staff of The Daily Democrat in Woodland, Calif. Rick was the photo editor and Michele was a sales representative for the newspaper. I have spent holidays and vacations with them over the years, and I was the best man at their wedding.

The front of the Christmas card showed a lake with snowy mountains and snow-covered rock outcroppings and their reflection in the water. It is a lovely image. On the inside Michele had written “Recognize this lake?” and a smiley face.

Lake? What? I know this lake? What lake is this?

I had to look on the back of the card to learn that it was Mono Lake near Lee Vining, Calif. I had not recognized the lake even though I have been to its shores and visitor center countless times! What threw me off were the formations in the water; they looked like typical rocks, not the tufa formations for which the lake is known.

Mono Lakes does not have natural outlet and is two or three times saltier than the ocean. It is a natural nesting area for California’s seagulls. Brine shrimp, brine flies and tufa are pretty much all that grow there. The iconic tufa image – very similar to the wallpaper I have on my cell phone screen so I should have recognized the lake in the first place – are more like cylindrical shafts shooting out of the water. The lake was much deeper before Southern California water districts diverted water from the lake decades ago. The briny water caused each of the tufa formations to build onto itself until each reached the surface. The water diversions lowered the lake levels, exposing the tufa. They remain exposed even now even though the diversions have ceased.

In my defense, the photo, which was taken by Roy R. Goodall of Seattle, Wash., seems to have been taken along the east shore of the lake, a section I have not explored as much as the south and southeast shores. And it has been a while since I have seen Mono Lake in snow.

No matter what, it was still a very pleasant surprise. Rick and Michele, I thank you both.

The second package was a bit more of a surprise than the Christmas card. It was from a childhood acquaintance now living in Presque Isle, Maine. Penny is the daughter of pals of my parents and they owned the cottage next to the one where my mother lives now. Penny was a class or two before me in high school and I’m guessing every guy in my class had a crush on her – girl-next-door looks and long blond hair.

This is an image of my father probably taken in June 1982. It was one in a stack of photos a childhood friend – the daughter of my parents’ friends – recently mailed to me. I am unsure who might have taken the photo or where exactly it was taken.

This is an image of my father probably taken in June 1982. It was one in a stack of photos a childhood friend – the daughter of my parents’ friends – recently mailed to me. I am unsure who might have taken the photo or where exactly it was taken.

She and I reconnected over the summer via Facebook and not very long later she sent me an email that she had come across a few photos of my father, who died in July 1991. She offered to send the photos, but deep down I really did not think I would ever see them. Do not get me wrong – I’m sure Penny’s intensions then were to send them, but I also know the realities of life. We all are pulled in so many directions that it becomes difficult to find time for family and ourselves, let alone mailing photos to childhood acquaintances.

The second package I received was not just a photo or two of my father, but a stack more than an inch thick! Nearly none of the photos have dates on them, but I am guessing they have to be from the late-1970s to mid-1980s. They show my father, mother, Penny’s parents and others from my childhood. Nearly all of the photos were taken during “down-time” – weekends at the lake or at North Woods cabins, vacations to Florida, on camping trips, and even one taken of my father coming out of an establishment called “Dirty Old Man’s Shop” with additional signage of “Adults Only.” I’m guessing they were seeking out, um, a public restroom or directions. Yeah, that has to be it.

Here my father is poling a log raft that I’m guessing he hammered together on a whim one summer day in 1983. Personal flotation device? Yes, at this feet. Provisions? Yes, in the red cup at the “bow” of the raft. This also was among the photos recently mailed to me by a childhood friend.

Here my father is poling a log raft that I’m guessing he hammered together on a whim one summer day in 1983. Personal flotation device? Yes, at this feet. Provisions? Yes, in the red cup at the “bow” of the raft. This also was among the photos recently mailed to me by a childhood friend.

There are shots of my father paddling a canoe and poling a log raft that I have little doubt he probably nailed together on a whim shortly before the photos was taken. He is sitting on a folding lawn chair perched on the log raft, a boat seat pad/flotation device at his feet, and a plastic red cup balanced on the bow in which I’m assuming was a chilled adult beverage.

Here are my parents on a small vehicle ferry. I am unsure where and when this was taken, but the date on the back of the photo says it was developed in October 1981. I like this photo.

Here are my parents on a small vehicle ferry. I am unsure where and when this was taken, but the date on the back of the photo says it was developed in October 1981. I like this photo.

There are photos of my Dad and Mom together in happier times; they both are flashing genuine smiles. It is nice to see that just before Christmas.

This was another photo among the stack. That is childhood friend, Todd, at left, and I suspect that is the back of my head to the right. We were watching my small black-and-white television, probably trying to catch a Red Sox game. The date on the photo indicates the photo was developed in July 1982.

This was another photo among the stack. That is childhood friend, Todd, at left, and I suspect that is the back of my head to the right. We were watching my small black-and-white television, probably trying to catch a Red Sox game. The date on the photo indicates the photo was developed in July 1982.

There are other photos, too. There are a few photos of my sister – wearing glasses that are far too large for her face, but were the fashion at the time. One of my Mom in a Christmas sweater; I will not comment on the fashion sense involved. There is a photo of a childhood friend, Todd, and what I believe is the back of my head watching a small black-and-white television while on a camping trip, although I cannot recall the location. It might have been at a campsite near Sebago Lake. There is a photo of Penny standing next to my family’s Caprice Classic parked near the family’s tent camper during the same camping trip. And there are several of my Dad and Penny’s Dad, Dana.

It was heartwarming to see some of the photos from my youth. It was a reminder of much happier time.

It was very nice of Penny to send the photos. It was a nice early Christmas gift. Thank you, Penny, and Merry Christmas.

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Firefighting women of Portage Lake

[My father, Louis Michaud, was a local volunteer firefighter for years when I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s in Portage Lake, Maine. I recall that he was the fire chief for a time and was in charge of fire suppression at Pinkham Lumber Mill in nearby Nashville Plantation. He worked at the mill, first in the yard, later as the dry kiln operator and foreman, and then he was in charge of the mill’s cogeneration plant. The fire suppression job came along with the territory. And in a small town like Portage in those days, everyone came running when the siren mounted on the Town Hall sounded. It was always exciting when the siren went off, often in the middle of a family meal. He would jump from whatever he was doing and drive off in his pickup to the Town Hall to jump into the fire engine parked in the hall’s basement. While attending the California State University at Chico, I was a wildland firefighter for three fire seasons. I even considered joining the fire services as a career. What I did not seem to know – at least, not until I stumbled across a story in the town’s history, “Portage Lake: History and Hearsay – Early Years to 2009,” was that my mother, Diana (also called Diane) Michaud, also had firefighting training. Other women mentioned in the story are mothers and other relatives of my childhood friends. Bea Cormier used to cut my hair and I played with her sons throughout my adolescence and in high school sports. The story that follows is in a section of the Portage Lake history covering 1970 to 1979 and was likely written by Rachel Stevens, a local woman who also happened to be my first school teacher. Her Maine sense of humor is woven into the writing. The story is on Page 57 of the history, for those of you who have a copy, and it mentions an earlier story in The Bangor Daily News, but fails to mention the date of the story. – KM]

 FIREFIGHTING WOMEN

The Fire Department in Portage was a volunteer organization, which meant there was always a need for more people to help at fires, being willing to be trained in using the equipment and showing up at meetings. At the time, many of the men who were active in the Fire Department worked out of town and were not available during the day. If a fire broke out mid-afternoon, it had a good start by the time someone reported it and the men could get away from work, get the truck and get to the fire.

A group of women, most of them wives of firemen, decided to help. They were all in Portage during the day, so they were immediately available if there was a fire. In a Bangor Daily News article about the group, Diana Michaud said, “We felt we ought to know what to do if a fire broke out.”

Bea Cormier organized the group, which included Diana Michaud, Barbara Paradis, Grace Nason, Shirley Nason, and Avis Bass. They received training from Roger Marquis, a firefighter from Presque Isle, and learned how to operate the truck and the pump. The training included use of a respirator, resuscitator, and inhalator.

Grace Nason described with satisfaction being able to demonstrate how to pop the clutch when taking the fire truck up Hayward Hill. And they put their training to good use.

The Bangor Daily News article described a Monday morning fire when there were more women than men: “Those present have a lasting memory of Mrs. Cormier’s arrival in high boots and hair rollers with axe in hand.” In an interview, Bea, Diana, Barb and Grace agreed the training made them confident. Hearing the siren no longer seemed frightening when they knew they could do something.

Every call presented an adventure. One of the first ones occurred when the information Bea Cormier received had her taking the truck up the West Road, only to have Rena Boutot race out to stop her and tell her the fire was on the Cottage Road. Bea realized with horror that she had to turn the truck around, something she had never done. Fortunately, she was able to drive through the loop at the artesian well and reverse direction.

There was the time they responded to a fire at a camp. A 100-pound propane tank in a shed blew as they were arriving, going straight up and straight down. They were all shaken, but went on setting up. Diana went back for the Jeep, the men arrived and they put out the fire.

On their way to a possible drowning on the West Road, Diana’s car hit a low branch, but she never stopped. When she came home, however, she found her spaghetti sauce burned and the house full of smoke.

This group of women provided a useful service, and was an important part of the Fire Department. They were able to get equipment to a fire and have it ready to work when more helped arrived. Because of what they did, property was saved and less damage occurred.

Maine stuff in my California apartment No. 12 – Maine Black Bears T-shirt and Fryeburg Academy sweatshirt

The other day I was wearing Maine stuff on my sleeve – and back and front and … . Well, you get the idea.

I woke a couple of days ago, had breakfast, showered and pulled on a T-shirt that just happened to be Maine stuff in my California apartment.

It is a gray University of Maine Black Bears T-shirt.

University of Maine Black Bears T-shirt.

University of Maine Black Bears T-shirt.

The university in Orono is the largest in the state system, I believe, and has a fine reputation as a state institution of higher learning and for some of its sports teams. It also is involved with research in alternative energy and providing housing – tents – for deployed servicemen and women that are more resistant to explosives than current housing.

The T-shirt was sent to me by my sister, as I recall, several years ago. I’m not sure exactly why she sent it since she and I both attended the University of Southern Maine with campuses in Portland and Gorham. (I believe there is now a satellite campus in Lewiston, as well.)

It’s a cool enough shirt, as you can see from the photo.

Fryeburg Academy sweatshirt.

Fryeburg Academy sweatshirt.

And as I was stepping out the door, I pulled on a Fryeburg Academy sweatshirt that my sister sent me a couple of years ago. Fryeburg Academy, in Fryeburg, Maine, is a college prep school and has a fine reputation. I like the sweatshirt very much.

So, I have plenty of Maine stuff.

This is an occasional multipart series of photos of things related to Maine that can be found in Keith Michaud’s California apartment. All photos in this series are shot by and are the property of Keith Michaud.

 

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Rainfall washes away much – just not memories

Rain showers soaked much of Northern California the other day. It was not enough to cause serious problems beyond localized street flooding, but it was a nice, steady, wet change of pace for a region that regularly sees summertime temperatures above 100 degrees.

The showers washed away dust and soot and grime and brought with it that cleansing smell that comes with the first real rainfall of the year, the smell that reminds us of childhood things. It permeated the air for much of the day.

It was nice.

It was refreshing.

And beyond the gray skies, it was illuminating.

Stockton needs a good washing from time to time. Stockton is a dusty, crusty, musty city and dusty, crusty, musty cities need washing on a regular basis. Otherwise, they turn to dry silt and blow away on the winds of indifference.

The water gurgled through the drainpipe just outside an opened balcony door and the sound of raindrops hitting the leaves just beyond was audible. A ping, ping, ping came from the stove vent as the drops crashed onto the vent’s hood on the roof.

Cars splashed by up and down the street. With ample time since the last major rainfall, oil and dirt had built up on the street surface. California drivers very likely had forgotten that the water from first real rainfall of the year loosens that oil and dirt from the street, causing slippery driving conditions.

And many people abandoned outdoor adventures for the comfort of homes and HD televisions and the National Football League or a movie classic.

The rain reminded me of my childhood spent in the North Woods of Maine. Why wouldn’t it? Mark Twain – or someone else – wrote about the weather:

“If don’t like the weather in New England, wait 15 minutes. It’ll change.”

Or something similar, at least.

The point is that New England weather – especially in Maine – is a fickle thing and occasionally a very harsh thing.

In the North Woods of Maine there is plenty of precipitation and there is much time spent bundled up against the weather – rain, sleet, wind, snow, and more snow. As a child growing up in Aroostook County, it seemed that rain came nearly any time of the year, even in winter if it was warm enough to turn snow and ice to sleet and then rain.

Despite being well-suited for the weather, Mainers make a sport of grumbling about it. If it rains too much, it’s bad. If it rains too little, it’s bad. If the wind blows, curses!

But we worked in it and we played in it and the forest grew green because of it. And rivers flowed and lakes rose because of it.

And the National Weather Service and the local weathermen – they were all weathermen then – were slandered and their manhood questioned whether their daily weather prognostications were correct or not.

I recall a childhood memory in which my mother is driving my sister and me north to Eagle Lake or Fort Kent or Saint Francis to visit family. Outside the very bright red Chevrolet Cheville it is raining – the windshield wipers slapping back and forth and the wheels splashing along the roadway. My sister and I are arguing over which of us will be Mom’s “co-pilot” on the trip north, along the way imagining that the car is a plane and the ornamental buttons on the passenger door and dashboard are plane controls.

Truly, neither my sister nor I were “pilots” of any kind; at the time, our young legs could not reach the car’s floorboards.

Later on, in a newer memory, I recall camping on the shores of Perch Pond with the rain coming down hard for what seemed like days. Part of the memory includes playing games in the Cormier’s sprawling family tent, part of it includes being perpetually damp, part of it recalls the thin thudding sound the raindrops made as they hit the canvas tents, part of it recalls the heavy, clinging, soaked clothing.

A memory from about the same time recalls a trip into the woods to pick fiddleheads, raindrops hitting the hood of a windbreaker I wore for the trek into the woods not far from Portage Lake. The forest was drenched. Each step brushing against the ferns and grass and small trees brought an even more thorough drenching, soaking shoes and socks and pant legs and the human legs under those pant legs.

I remember watching the splash the drops made – millions upon millions of them – in the nearby river and the sound of the drops slapping the trees above and the accumulated water tumbling from saturated leaves to the saturated ground beneath. It seemed prehistoric.

Still later, while in high school, we practiced soccer in the rain – and occasionally in the snow. The rain then did not seem to cleanse things, but to make them simply sodden and muddy and heavy from the weight of the water. Soccer shoes and socks became heavy, sweatpants and sweatshirts clung to shivering teen boys, and baseball caps worn in practice and on the sideline in a futile attempt to ward off the rain became soaked. Water and mud and grass stains infused in the clothing and the body by the rainfall.

Other memories of New England rain abound, of course, because rain is so much a part of the history of the place – the forest and the land and the water and the air – and of the people.

But rain washes away dirt and grime and occasionally flushes away things made by man and Mother Nature, but rarely does it wash away memories.

After all, memories are merely refreshed by a good rainfall on a fall day.

Maine Stuff in My California Apartment No. 8 … At least, until I consume them

Today’s photos are of a package from home and its contents.

My Mom and The Sis – probably with the fine assistance of nephew Max and niece Sophie – put it together for my birthday, which was a little over a month ago. Procrastination runs in the family. 🙂

But in all fairness to The Sis, she is a wife, mother of two very active children, Max and Sophie, and has a full-time job. She’s busy. My Mom – known as Mems to The Sis’s two very active children – is busy on her own what with grandchildren to spoil, friends to visit, bowling balls to throw, books to read, a dog’s ears to scratch, and box wine to drink.

Don’t get me wrong. It was a lovely surprise. I knew the package was coming and that it might be a while longer, so it truly was a lovely surprise nonetheless. And very much appreciated.

Here’s the package straight from Fryeburg, Maine. Well, perhaps not straight-arrow straight, but close enough.

Yes, that is me using a corkscrew to open the package from home. It was handy and recently had been used, so I knew it worked.

The package from home was waiting for me yesterday when I returned from a day at empresso coffeehouse, the coffeehouse I frequent the most. It is located in Empire Theater on the Miracle Mile in Stockton, Calif., and hence the name of the coffeehouse. I go there for the reasonably priced and reasonably tasty caffeinated beverages, friendly baristas, and WiFi I use for the protracted job search and to keep in touch with personal and professional contacts.

The package from home is opened. Inside were chocolate chip cookies, Bar Harbor Jam Company Maine Wild Blueberry Muffin Mix, Bar Harbor Jam Company Maine Wild Blueberry Jam, Captain Mowatt’s Blue Flame and Captain Mowatt’s Fireberry Sauce. Apparently, my request for “no sugar” went unheeded … again. 

Inside the package from home were three Ziploc bags of chocolate cookies, Bar Harbor Jam Company Maine Wild Blueberry Muffin Mix, Bar Harbor Jam Company Maine Wild Blueberry Jam, Captain Mowatt’s Blue Flame and Captain Mowatt’s Fireberry Sauce. Trust me on this, it is all yummy stuff and I will enjoy it all.

However – and it’s only a small “however” – I have asked several times for no more sugary treats. I’m closer to 50 than I would like and it is getting harder and harder to keep the weight off. The last thing I need is sugary treats.

To Mom and The Sis I thank you.

This is an occasional multipart series of photos of things related to Maine that can be found in Keith Michaud’s California apartment. All photos in this series are shot by and are the property of Keith Michaud.

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Maine stuff in my California apartment No. 6

Here's another Maine thing in my California apartment -- a Fryeburg Academy sweatshirt. It was a gift from my nephew Max and niece Sophie.

Today’s photo is of a Fryeburg Academy sweatshirt I received as a present from my nephew Max and niece Sophie. The long-term plan is for Max and Sophie to attend Fryeburg Academy, a private preparatory school located in Fryeburg, Maine, the White Mountains. I say “long-term” since they are not quite old enough yet to attend.

Fryeburg has a long and rich history. John Hancock – yeah, a signer of the Declaration of Independence – signed the charter in 1792 and Daniel Webster was a headmaster of the school.

Here’s Fryeburg Academy’s mission from the school’s website:

“Fryeburg Academy is an independent secondary school that serves a widely diverse population of local day students and boarding students from across the nation and around the world. The Academy believes that a strong school community provides the best conditions for learning and growth. Therefore, we strive to create a supportive school environment that promotes respect, tolerance, and cooperation, and prepares students for responsible citizenship. Within this context, the Academy’s challenging and comprehensive academic program, enriched by a varied co-curriculum, provides the knowledge and skills necessary for success in higher education and the workplace.”

And here’s a link for the school’s history.

This is an occasional multipart series of photos of things related to Maine that can be found in Keith Michaud’s California apartment. All photos in this series are shot by and are the property of Keith Michaud.

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Happy Father’s Day

I'm hanging out with Dad at the beach. This had to be some time in 1963 or '64.

For some reason, this is the only photo of my father I have stored no my computer and I’m away from my scanner just now so I cannot post another. This is a photo of my Dad and me on a beach somewhere. It has to be about 1963 ro 1964 because, well, the little guy he’s hold is me and I’ll be turning 48 on Monday.

Dad died about 18 years ago, if my cyphering is correct, but I still think of him often.

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads.

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Remembering just how very important fishing is to me and ME: Part 2

The cover of a nostalgic note card distributed by L.L. Bean suggests the way fishing can influence family culture and legacy. Children learn fishing early and carry it on to teach their children.

It takes very little effort to recollect the thrill of catching a rainbow trout or call to mind the aroma of the day’s catch being pan fried over a crackling campfire. Those childhood memories are as much a part of me as is my DNA.

There is much I recall about fishing in my youth. The excitement of catching the first fish of an outing. The delight of catching the largest fish of the day. The satisfaction of catching the biggest stringer or filling the largest creel. The sting of failing to catch anything accept a hook on a sunken stump. The smell of bog and Woodsmen bug repellant. The feel of bait in my fingers. The buzz of mosquitoes and black flies in my ears.

These are among the things I recall most.

The memory of my first fishing experience as a child is lost to me now, however. I suppose I must have started fishing more than 40 years ago and I’m sure my father or other male relative mustered up the patience to take me to Portage Lake or a nearby stream to drown my first worm. And I do not recall catching my first fish, although I’m sure someone must have helped me reel in the catch.

I remember as a child using an old casting reel and rod my father had once used. The brand name is lost with time, but I seem to recall that the rod itself was burgundy in color and the reel likely was aluminum.

I don’t think I ever caught a fish with that rod. I was a little impatient to be drowning worms without instant gratification, so I often turned my attention to skipping stones or wading in the frigid water or running in the nearby forest.

I recall rushing through chores so that I could run to a spot under the crab apple tree that grew just beyond our yard. There I would use my father’s old folding Army shovel in search of worms, the bait of choice when I was a child. Actually, there was little “choice” in it as worms were the only bait we used.

After rushing through chores and to dig worms, I might jump on my bicycle and ride down the hill to the lake in a too-often fruitless attempt to catch something.

Later, fishing became an activity that helped mark various periods in my life – fishing in the streams, rivers, lakes and ponds of Maine, surf fishing in North Carolina, going after trout throughout Northern California and in the Sierra Nevada, and fishing for salmon from the deck of a sailboat while using my own unique method.

And, after all that, this is something I simply know about fishing – people who fish are better for it. Fishing can mend fences and build bridges. Fishing can create and strengthen personal relationships. Fishing can add to family culture and legacy. Fishing can teach an appreciation for nature and patience and tenacity and hope. Fishing is so much more than a sport and so much more than a way to provide food.

Camping and fishing for a lifetime

 A few years ago L.L. Bean, the outdoors outfitter based in Freeport, Maine, produced a set of note cards and on the cover of each was a nostalgic image highlighting outdoor activity. I have gone through the box of note cards except for one and it shows a father carrying two fishing rods, a stringer of fish, and an exhausted child. Mother, hands on hips, seems a tad upset that Dad has kept Junior out too long fishing.

It is an image of a simpler time. The memories of the fishing experience will far outlast the momentary wrath of a concerned mother. And father and son will experience far more fishing experience over the course of their lives.

I remember as a fairly young guy – perhaps about the age of the youngster on the L.L. Bean note card – piling into the family car with my parents and kid sister to go to “the big city” of Presque Isle. We went to a Zayre’s department store – or it could have been a Kmart by then, I’m not entirely sure – to buy a green canvas tent, a Coleman’s white gas stove, and other camping and fishing gear.

I’m pretty sure we went off the very next day to accompany family friends, the Cormiers, into the North Woods of Maine, a vast patch of lush greenery. Some of what makes up the North Woods very probably has never been seen by man.

It was the first camping trip for my sister and me and we were tingling with excitement for the adventure.

Our father loaded the gear into the car – I think my folks had a very red two-door Chevrolet Chevelle at that time – and followed the Cormier’s light blue Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon loaded with Leo and Bea Cormier and at least most of their pack of children. I don’t recall this for sure, but the car probably towed or carried Leo’s small fishing boat filled with gear.

 We followed them down the south end of Portage Lake and turned off the pavement to a dirt road and passed a pulp mill just outside of town before reaching a gate. I’m pretty certain Seven Islands Land Company in Bangor owned or managed the land so it operated the gates where for a few bucks you could purchase a permit for entry into the privately owned timber region.

But it wasn’t a particularly secure gate – no barbed wire, electrification, or gun towers here. As I recall, after a certain hour, the gate was thrown open with the idea that whoever went through at night when the gate was left open would stop off on the return trip to settle up for the cost of the permit. And, as I recall, the seasonal job of manning the gates usually went to a local resident who typically knew just about everyone in town.

It was as much a public relations job as it was a job of collecting money for the permits, which probably never cover the cost of the gatekeepers’ salaries and maintenance costs.

While this photo was taken during the winter, this is an example of how high logs are piled on trailers to be transported to mills. The photo was taken by Diana Michaud.

Beyond the gate the dirt roads were not bad, considering. The land company and the various timber ventures worked to keep the roads good enough to keep a steady flow of trucks loaded high with pine, spruce and fir logs moving out of the deep woods and to pulp and timber mills. Today, that activity has slowed to a trickle.

This photo, also taken in winter by Diana Michaud, gives the scale of both the width and quality of the dirt roads and the scale of the logging sidings in Maine's North Woods.

When we weren’t driving by landings that stretched beyond the next bend in the road and piled two stories high or higher with freshly cut logs, we were driving through incredibly thick forests.

And eastern forest isn’t what people in the West might think of when their mind turns to forestland. Redwood, Douglas fir and other western trees seem to grow broader and taller, but the forests are usually less densely packed. In the North Woods, pine, spruce and fire grow very nearly in a thicket. A person could walk just a few yards into the forest and then not see the road or opening he or she had just left. Truly thick.

 Why go into the woods when you lived on a lake?

 Some might ask, “Why leave one lake – Portage Lake – to go fishing at another body of water?” A couple of things come into play here. First, while so-called “staycations” have been pretty popular in recent years – you can get a lot of things done, including racking up rest – it really wasn’t a vacation back then unless you went somewhere. And camping was an affordable option for families.

Second, Portage Lake is a shallow lake and a lake whose shores for years hosted various mills. Waste from those mills and the vacation and resort cabins later built there went into the lake. The water was not particularly hospitable to trout and other species native to Maine.

For that and other reasons, Portage Lake was more of a starting-off point for hunting and fishing lodges deeper in the North Woods. Jimmy Stewart and Jack Dempsey, among others, have flown into Portage Lake via seaplane on their way to finer fishing.

However, my mother recently told me that there have been some efforts to restore trout and salmon to the lake and the Fish River system. I find that encouraging.

 Where was I? Oh, camping and fishing …

 Usually on these camping trips we would stop at a picnic area at a bridge over the Fish River just upstream from the Fish River Falls. There was a small pond upstream from the bridge and a trail that went downstream along the river to the falls and slightly beyond. I remember running down that trail to get to just below the falls. If I recall correctly, the falls weren’t very tall. More of a whitewater rapid, really.  I’m guessing an experienced rafter or kayaker might have made it down the falls quite easily and been disappointed with the lack of challenge.

After a quick stop for lunch or to fish briefly in the river or in the pond, we’d drive on until we rounded a bend and down a slight incline until the thick forest opened up to a camping ground across the dirt road from Perch Pond. We kids usually got out of most of the drudgery of setting up the camp and were allowed to run off, either into the forested hill or with assorted fishing gear to the stream-fed pond. Once there we would – while trying not to hook onto the friend standing near us – cast into the water in an attempt to catch trout. If we were lucky, we’d catch a handful of the tasty fish for dinner or the next day’s breakfast.

After fishing, we children might hike around to the downstream end of the pond to look at the beaver works. If the older Cormier children were around, they might take us by boat to the dam. Beavers over the years had constructed quite a dam and it was always interesting to see what new addition had been raised and whether we might be able to catch a glimpse of the buck-toothed contractors.

To this day I can picture that pond and the surrounding area, the way a stream bisected the campground and how the outlet of that stream was the location from where we usually cast from shore to fish. I recall an old log or two where I was shown for the first time how to clean a fish after catching it. I remember the black, boggy mud near the water’s edge. I remember the steep trail behind the campground. I’m not sure if that campground is still there; I hope it is so other youngsters can learn to fish and be outdoors.

‘Secret’ fishing holes are the best

I’m not sure how we stumbled onto one fishing hole not too far from the campground. I think Leo Cormier must have known about it. We would drive a short distance from the camp, get out of the vehicle, and hike down through the woods to a slow-moving and meandering stream with large pools where brook trout collected. The water was so very clear you could easily see to the stony bottom and the fish floating in the lazy current.

We would cast into the water and if we were lucky we would fill our fishing creels in an hour with very tasty fish.

Of course, part of the problem with fishing that hole – besides battling the brush just to get there and battling the blackflies and mosquitoes just to keep your own blood – was that brook trout can be on the smallish side. We probably threw back more than we kept.

I’m not sure if that fishing hole was a complete secret, but I would like to think that very few people knew about it then or know about it now.

 Floating down the Allagash

 We had camped along the Allagash Wilderness Waterway several times over the years, usually with relatives. My mother grew up in St. Francis, Maine, just down the road from the town of Allagash near where the Allagash River pours into the St. John River, which downstream becomes the northern border between Maine and Canada. Much of my mother’s side of the family continues to live in the greater Fort Kent-St. Francis-Allagash metropolitan region. (By “metropolitan region” what I really mean is a collection of small cities and towns that are home to some of the very best people on Earth.)

The Allagash Wilderness Water is a wonderful north-flowing waterway and well worth protecting.

Here I am in 1976 fishing near the Long Lake Dam during a trip down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. I'm at left in this photo and with me I believe is Scott Collins, the brother of a childhood friend, Todd Collins.

Here we are again. From my position at the lower right portion of the photo, I suspect my line is snagged on something below the surface. That happens fishing.

Somewhere along the line, my parents decided it was time for a canoeing trip down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway before too many people from away learned of the pristine swath of thick forest and flowing river.

We went along with several family friends – the Cormiers, the Collins, and Chet Carlson.

My parents had purchased a canoe sometime before from a Quebec canoe builder and we rented an aluminum canoe to carry our family, fishing and camping gear, and provisions. It was quite an adventure. Sure, we saw other canoers and campers along the way, but it was quite out-of-the way. My hometown of Portage, Lake, with a population of about 450 seemed a crowed place compared to floating down the Allagash River.

I recall every so often we would pull in our paddles and simply float along, casting a line for trout.

One evening a few of us piled into a canoe and we poled it out to the center of the river to fish. I remember catching a pretty nice-sized trout, but I lost it when I tried to clean off some dirt. It floated out of my hand and downstream. A fish that got away.

We didn’t have much time for fishing for the remainder of the trip. A Maine game warden tracked us down to inform us that one of my father’s relatives had died. The rest of the trip was about paddling to Allagash.

We did stop for a bit at the Allagash Falls. Like the Fish River Falls, the Allagash Falls are rather gradual and canoeists, kayakers, and rafters can shoot the rapids. We portaged the gear and all but a canoe or two around the falls. A couple of us tried to shoot the falls, but we swamped the canoe. It was rather frigid, but fun adventure.

 New gear for Knights Landing

 I didn’t fish very much once I become involved in high school sports. There just wasn’t the time.

And things were pretty hectic in college, so I didn’t fishing then either.

In time, I ended up working for The Daily Democrat in Woodland, Calif., and there became friends with Rick Roach. Rick’s family owns a farm in Arkansas and he very much enjoyed the outdoor life. Still does.

The Daily Democrat was an afternoon newspaper which meant we got to work early to get the newspaper out by noon and we left the office by 3 or 4 p.m.  After a while I ended up investing in fishing gear, because sometimes after work we would load up Rick’s vehicle and drive past the Yolo County farms and asparagus fields to Knights Landing, stopping along the way for assorted bait and fried snacks. Yes, the bait and snacks often were purchased at the store from the same clerk that handled both the bait and the snacks.

We would then drive to a nearby canal and cast a line into the water. I seem to recall we were fishing for salmon, but I could be wrong. After all, I have been before. We would sit in lawn chairs – if we remembered to bring them or on the bank if we didn’t – drink cheap beer and smoke even cheaper cigars as we fished the afternoon into the evening, sometimes until after dark. If we stayed long enough and it became chilly, we would build a driftwood fire, light another cigar and open another beer.

We were fishing near Knight’s Landing on April 4, 1991, when news broke about the hostage-taking at Good Guys in Sacramento. We stuck around for a little while longer, but left a bit earlier than normal for us. Rick’s news bone was itching and he ended up joining the press corps there to shoot photos we printed in The Daily Democrat.

 Lake Berryessa, Twin Lakes and Cliff Polland

 Later, Rick and his wife, Michele, moved to Vacaville to work at The Reporter, he as the photo editor and she as the top sales representative for the newspaper. From the time we all lived in Woodland, we took annual trips to the Sierra Nevada to camp at Annette’s Mono Village outside of Bridgeport. Annette’s Mono Village is a ’50s-style camping resort, complete will log cabin restaurant. There are modern amenities, however, including an onsite store, bait shop, motel-style rooms, lodges, hookups for RV campers, restrooms, coin-operated showers, and laundry facilities. The resort is nestled in the Sawtooth Mountain range, which rims Yosemite National Park.

Annette’s Mono Village also is on the second of two lakes that make up Twin Lakes. If memory serves me correction – and memory isn’t always a good servant – Annette’s Mono Village has its own stocking ponds and the state also stocks the lake with various types of trout. Back in the day, Rick would sometimes rent a boat at the bait shop and we would go out to test our luck. Sometimes it was good; sometimes it was not so good.

A few years later Rick talked Michele into letting him purchase a fishing boat. It wasn’t large, by any means, but it was more than serviceable for Twin Lakes and at Lake Berryessa, not far from Vacaville.

Every so often during the summer Rick would give me a call – a time or two waking me up from a sound sleep after an evening spent at a local tavern – and say: “Mornin’, Sunshine! Let’s go fishin’! Let’s go slay some fish!”

Typically, I would mumble incoherently, tell him I needed to take a shower, but that I would be at his place in a half hour, which usually was more like 45 minutes. He would have the boat hitched to the back of his pickup, the boat loaded with fishing gear, fried snacks, and a freshly stocked cooler of beer. I would load my gear and we would be off, often stopping for gas before heading north on Interstate 505 and through Winters and onto Lake Berryessa.

Here's Cliff Polland with a nice fish he caught while camping at Twin Lakes near Bridgeport, Calif. The photo was taken by Rick Roach.

There were times we would stopped in Winters to pickup Cliff Polland, a long-time Reporter employee, one of Rick’s photographers, and a friend. Cliff loved fishing and the outdoors. There were fishing rods and camping equipment in very nearly every corner of his Winters home. And watercolors on the walls of fish he had painted.

Rick and I were the ones who found Cliff one day after he succumbed to illness. He is missed to this day as a friend, co-worker and colleague, and fishing buddy.

Typically, we would troll for trout up and down the lower part of Lake Berryessa, drinking beer and smoking cigars, imploring the fish to find our hooks. Some days the fish would be teaming in the holding tank. Other days we returned to order pizza. Either way it was always a pretty good time – a bad day fishing is better than a good day working.

 Jack Daniels and stripers

Rick and I went striper bass fishing in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta one weekend and brought along a third party – Mr. Jack Daniels.

I’m not saying it was a mistake, mind you. We fished and caught some fish. And we drank some beer. And whiskey.

After sunset we made it back to Rick and Michele’s home for dinner and my girlfriend at the time said to us, as we stood swaying like tall trees and a gale wind, “Y’all are snockered! What did you have to drink.”

“Us? We’re not drunk,” says Rick.

“It snell outta da bloat,” says I, referring to the bottle that we didn’t have on the boat and didn’t drink (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more). Yeah, “snell outta  da bloat.”

We kept to beer on subsequent fishing trips.

 ‘That’s on my instructional video’

 There is something to be said about fishing out The Gate for salmon.

A former colleague and her husband, Teri and Dick Gilmore, are cool people who happen to own a sailboat that for a time they moored in Emeryville, Calif.

And from time to time they invited friends onto their sailboat to motor out the San Francisco Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Potato Patch, and into the Pacific Ocean to bob around fishing for salmon and other fish.

Given the motion of the ocean, as it were, medicine was taken to combat nausea, which can cause drowsiness. Once we were fishing, the water lapping onto the hull, some of us – OK, me – usually became a little drowsy. So, there were times I would lay back for a nape with my head against the mast and the fishing pole locked in my arms.

On one fishing trip, I was on my back with my head against the mast, nodding off a bit – nodding of quite a bit, actually – when the rod was very nearly jerked out of my arms.

“Um, um, fish on!” I managed to mumble.

Somehow I was able to hold onto my rod, gather my legs under me, and begin reeling in a nicely sized salmon. I was able to pull it up to the surface and someone on the boat dipped a net into the water to get under the fish.

“Get the fish in the basket,” Teri said. She wasn’t quite up with the terminology for fishing equipment known by most as a fish net.

The fish eventually made it into “the basket” and onto the sailboat.

Here Cliff Polland and I are hamming it up after returning victorious from a trip fishing from Teri and Dick Gilmore's sailboat. I'm not sure if it was on this trip that I perfected the napping approach to fishing or on another trip. Rick Roach took this photo on his front yard.

Rick had brought along a large dowel to rap the fish on the head to reduce suffering. He missed the first couple of times and then made contact, shattering the dowel. (I later bought a Louisville Slugger T-ball bat and with model paint inserted the word “fish” between the “Louisville” and “Slugger” and we carried that bat on Rick’s boat for years.)

I caught a second salmon using “my method” – nodding off, head against the mast, rod in my arms – and we began joking that I could put together an instructional video to teach it to other fishermen.

 Things I’ve missed

 I missed out on ocean fishing with Rick and Cliff – I never seemed to have the money – although the three of us did book fishing packages not too long before Cliff died. We had visited an outdoorsmen show in Sacramento and the packages were nicely priced.

We never got to use them. I don’t think Rick or I really wanted to go after Cliff died, although I seem to recall that the fishing guide kindly extended the period in which we could go fishing after learning of Cliff’s death.

And I missed out on an earlier fishing trip to Alaska. Rick and Cliff had a great time and brought back great fish and even more wonderful stories. I regret that now more than ever.

 No river runs through it, unfortunately

 I haven’t been fishing in years and I sometimes wonder why something that has a deep, long-lasting influence on me is not part of my life today. I wish I was more like the main character in “A River Runs Through It,” someone who continues to fish throughout his entire life.

I miss fishing. I still have most of the fishing equipment I thought it necessary to buy after Rick bought his boat. What I do not have here in Stockton, Calif., is probably still in a storage shed at Rick and Michele’s Vacaville home.

Stockton is an inland port and some might think it would be a prime place to fish, especially since big-time bass fishing tournaments are carried out here now.

But not so much. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is like far too many places in this world now, polluted with the things people throw in the water or into the gutter, which eventually make it into the Delta. And now a lot of what can be caught here is contaminated with one mineral or another.

Even so, it might be time to drown a worm or two before too long.

Moose hunters hit jackpot | Bangor Daily News

[Just learned that my Mom was one of the winners! She’s been trying for a permit for 10-12 years. I’m very happy for her and may just have to make a trip home for a meal that includes much moose. — KM]

Moose hunters hit jackpot – Bangor Daily News.

Maine stuff in my California apartment No. 4

Some blueberry stuff in my California apartment -- Guzman’s Gourmet Blueberry Salsa, Captain Mowatt’s Blue Flame, and The New England Cupboard Blueberry Pancake Mix.

This is an occasional multipart series of photos of things related to Maine that can be found in my California apartment. Today’s photo is of some blueberry stuff in my California apartment — Guzman’s Gourmet Blueberry Salsa, Captain Mowatt’s Blue Flame, and The New England Cupboard Blueberry Pancake Mix. The items came to me in a Christmas package from my family in Maine. Christmas packages always contain Maine foods.

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