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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Organizing lobsters

There's a new movement to organize lobster fishermen into a union. The industry must be in trouble if the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers wants to take on the long-standing Maine Lobstermen's Association. I don't have an opinion of the worth of either of these groups, but I do wonder how inside, hourly, company tool guys like IAMAW fit with outside, independent, piece-work trap guys like lobster fishermen. Also semantically speaking, something named MLA would seem to be the obvious choice to represent the economics of our lovable crustaceans, but only if it can distance itself from the main problem: that the lobster dealers - neither company guys nor independent contractors but some queasy in-betweeners - set the prices in this business. Oh, the possibilities for collusion!

On another and perhaps lighter lobster note, I was "interviewed" following publication of my lobster essay last year in PANK, and the interview is finally published.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tree rat sex

Gray squirrels are not common in our area of Maine (we have the terribly cute, feisty, chattering red kind), so I have to observe them in Massachusetts. They probably don't deserve the odium that most city-dwellers heap on them, being reasonably cute, terribly athletic, and fascinating to dogs. After all, their sins are minor: solving the barriers to bird feeding stations, and chewing their way into attics. Perhaps there are more.

Anyway, I spent a lovely few minutes at the end of an even lovelier day watching three of them in the oaks behind our house. Two seemed to be a couple. There was playing and chasing around tree trunks, which I soon understood to be fore-play; a couple of  tentative humpings; then a prolonged coupling, or what appeared to be, since the sun was going down in my face and the sight lines were not clean. Some rest followed, on quite separate branches, and that was followed by what I can only describe as snacking. They both climbed high into the tree, far out into the smallest and tenderest branches, and with their clever hands broke them off and ate the new buds. Twigs were discarded like cigarette butts.

The third squirrel? Just moved mysteriously through the trees like they always do.

Nothing earth-shattering here, just squirrel sex and noshing, but I had never seen either before, and it was a damn sight better way to spend time than surfing news sites for news of the odious marathon monster.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 15

It's supposed to be a joyous week, this unofficial start of spring when we in New England can say with some confidence that winter is finally over, when the people of Massachusetts and Maine celebrate Patriots' Day and the beginning of our country's independence, when the schoolkids have a week off. This year the third Monday in April also coincided with Tax Day and I never have felt so grateful, so willing to support our government.

The response to the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon has been overwhelming: first-responders of all kinds running towards the explosions; rides, food, shelter from citizens; dedication, security, compassion from our elected officials and our police and fire guardians. Whenever we think we live in a barbaric society, public response saves us. We live in a civilized society too.

Maybe residents of Newton feel this particularly strongly. A good chunk of the marathon's route goes through our city, including Heartbreak Hill, and few of us live more than a couple of miles away from the Hill's agonies and triumphs, few of us have never see them in person. We are also blessed with the ability to pay our taxes (indeed, we just voted to raise them for school and road repair). We are privileged in most senses of the word. Paying taxes to help ensure a society of civility is one of those privileges.

Yet the desire yesterday, even in this safe place, was to escape these cities where crowds of people attract crazies. Disasters in a rural place are mostly natural, and making a violent political or religious statement on the shore of the ocean or the middle of the wilderness is ludicrous, for only God will see you. But that desire to escape is a feeble response, purely a gut reaction, and it fades quickly. We bear responsibility for our collective suffering and need to assist however we can. And that includes the commonweal.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


I'm serenaded these days by bangs and crashes just up the shore. The cottage there was recently sold, and torn down, and now the new owners are engaging what the contractor calls "shoreline erosion control" before they build their new place.

This involves riprap (I'm writing this post mostly because I love that word), the rocks and stones placed on coasts and shores to protect our houses and lawns and golf courses and roads from the ravages of water. In this case they are huge white chunks of scrap granite - that stretch of shore will look quite sporty when it's finished.

I wasn't sure why this is necessary. The houses along this shore sit up on a small bank 25 or 30 feet high, enough protection to last many years, I would have thought. We've lost less than a foot of bank in almost 18 years, for example. But when I walked past the site yesterday, I asked the contractor about it and he said the ledge there has been crumbling and could be dangerous. Let's hope that disease is not catching.

I wonder more apocalyptically if the new owners are just being super-cautious in this era of climate change. Apparently, they are from New Jersey and it doesn't take a lot of imagination to think, considering what happened to the sandy Jersey shore this past year, that they are escaping to a rocky place that needs only a little help, however loud and glaring, to be safe.