One of the best things about pets is that they make great ice-breakers with strangers. When I struck up a conversation with Missy Shupe about her four-year-old boxer, Mabel, I wound up having one of those “small world” experiences. Mabel, who was acquired from a rescue organization for boxers, keeps Missy company at her delightfully fun shop, Board Silly Puzzles & Games, in Old Orchard Beach. It’s one of a handful of businesses that stay open during the winter. Missy opened the shop three years ago when she and her husband, Ken, moved to the town. Ken is the code enforcement officer there. I told them about how I was a transplant from New Jersey. I then learned that Missy’s grandfather was born in the 1880s in Jersey City, the town where I worked for nearly 20 years. He ran Ewing’s Pharmacy – long gone by the time I arrived there. Missy has old photos and documents that she’d like to donate to the city, but didn’t know who to contact about it. I’m curious now to see the photos to see if I can figure out what street the pharmacy was located on. They’ve been packed away in boxes since Missy and Ken moved. Tomorrow I’ll make some phone calls to see if the public library or the Jersey City Museum would be interested in acquiring the historical items.
Archive for January, 2008
When I was a girl, my friends and I would periodically go on “lost rides.” We would take turns calling out directions like “three blocks east, eight blocks north, one block west.” We’d tally them on a piece of paper until we had a dozen or so, then we’d mount our bicycles and pedal off to find out where we’d wind up. Today I decided to go in search of a photo by doing an automotive version of a lost ride. I gave myself an hour for the adventure so that I’d be back home in time to watch the Michigan State basketball game on TV. I’m still new enough to the area that I only know the major roads. So I drove along until I reached a street I hadn’t been on before and then turned down it to see where it went. Several times I was taken back to roads I was familiar with. I continued taking turns, but hadn’t seen anything that made me want to stop and take a picture. Then I realized I had chanced upon the road in Cape Elizabeth that leads to the Portland Head Light. I’ve only been there once before – last Memorial Day when my friend Danielle was visiting from New Jersey. It’s a beautiful lighthouse that has been photographed countless times by Mainers and by tourists. It was worth a look-see. It wasn’t the lighthouse, though, that caught my attention. As I drove up the hill, I saw that a nearly full moon had already risen in the sky, even though it was only 3:30 in the afternoon. It was glowing palely over a bank of white clouds. I took some shots with the lighthouse in the frame, but it dwarfed the moon and made it almost invisible. I chose to focus only on moon and clouds. When I got back in my car, I turned on the navigation system and let it guide me home. I arrived in time for the tip-off.
For a Sunday morning walk, I ventured down to Old Orchard Beach. Six months ago the streets were jammed with cars, bikes, and pedestrians making their way to the beach, the shops, or the amusement park. But in January, it’s a ghost town. There are a few couples plodding along the sand, but that’s about the only sign of life. Most of the waterfront shops are seasonal and have been shuttered with signs that say, “See you next summer.” There are, however, neon lights glowing at Lisa’s Pizza. Standing at the window, waiting for his order is a man in a business suit. It’s such an incongruous sight. The usual mode of dress in this town is bathing suits, T-shirts, and flip-flops, not that I expected to see anyone dressed like that today. I stand in the corner and take a few frames before approaching him. I learn that his name is Rick Ouellette and that in retirement he has taken up substitute teaching. And, of all things, he is currently substituting for the photography teacher at Biddeford High School. It turns out that he used to own a plane and ran his own photography business, Ace Aerial Photos. Our chat is short; Rick’s wife is waiting in the car for him to bring lunch, and he ducks out the door to join her.
As a single mother of three, Mary-Anne Martell worked a number of odd jobs to keep her family clothed and fed. At one time she was a welder, then a bean factory worker, and later ran a catering business. This circuitous route took her to law school, and she credits her diverse background with giving her the ability to relate to people from all walks of life. Although she has been a practicing attorney for 12 years, last April she purchased her own building to work from. Mary-Anne says it was a huge step for her. She and her boyfriend, Scott, worked tireless hours to renovate the formerly private home in Westbrook into offices and made plans for their eventual retirement. But last summer her longtime love was taken ill. His condition was so serious that Mary-Anne suspended her practice to stay by his side. Two months later Scott passed away. Mary-Anne had to pick up the pieces and begin rebuilding her life and her business. In October attorney Kristen Kaleo joined Mary-Anne’s practice. On January 10th, they gathered friends to celebrate as Craig Perkins hung the sign for Seacoast Law & Title over the front door. “Scott would have been the one to do this,” says Mary-Anne, “so it was an emotional event for me. I needed to have the people closest to me here. They believed in me and have stood by me every step of the way.” The group stood in the snow and drank a toast of champagne as the sign was lifted. Cheers to you, Mary-Anne.
It has been so bitterly cold today. The thermometer in my car readslightly above zero this morning as I headed to my business networking meeting. I wish I had put on some thermal underwear beneath my slacks. I’m so glad I don’t have to be out shooting today, as I would have during my newspaper days. But in addition to building my freelance business, my goal this year is to re-establish a daily shooting routine. Now that I’m back home and warm, however, the motivation to go out in the deep freeze is dwindling. I look out the front window and see two pairs of house finches perched in the blueberry shrub, taking turns flying back and forth to the bird feeder. I’ve spotted my subjects for the day. Throwing on a jacket, I grab my camera and headout the door. The sound startles the birds, and they flutter away toward the tops of the pine trees. Well, I’ll just stand as still as a statue, and they’ll come back. After 10 minutes or so, there is no sign of the finches, and my hands are getting numb. I’m about to go back inside when I look back at the shrub. Hidden among the branches is a red-breasted nuthatch, feathers puffed out against the cold. He is waiting for me to leave so he can have his turn at the feeder without having to jockey for position with the finches. I snap his photo and then oblige him by retreating inside.
Ah! Thirty-six degrees outside — now that’s more like it! I think I’ll go snowshoeing. There’s a nature trail at the end of my road. It winds through some wooded areas that used to be home to Native Americans and through open fields that were, at one time, part of a golf course. Now the area is a wildlife sanctuary owned by the town. I’ve walked the path a few times in the spring and fall — I’m not outdoors-y enough to brave getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes in the summer. I love the solitude there; it gives me the feeling that I own the place. I’m usually annoyed by evidence that others have been walking through “my property.” Even though it’s a public place, I perceive them as trespassers.But today I’m grateful to see prints in the snow — boot prints, pawprints, other snowshoes. Steps that have trod the path a hundred times, that know where the trail lies, even though it is obscured by a foot of snow — steps that show me the way. Welcome intruders.
A new day, a new year. Today should be filled with the auspicious, but it has been occupied by the ordinary. By laundry and house cleaning, mostly. But while there was still some daylight outside, I wandered out to take my first photograph of the year. There has been a heavy, wet snow falling for the past couple of hours. Spruce trees along my street are groaning under the weight of it. I’m surprised that the branches of the pine trees in my back yard haven’t started snapping off. I nipped down to the Scarborough Marsh for a quick look-see and photographed some white birch along Pine Point Rd. I spotted some birds paddling around the river — common loons I think, but it was hard to tell for sure without my binoculars. High tide will arrive in another two hours. I wonder what it and the new year will bring.
Wintry greetings from the great state of Maine. Yesterday’s gray gloom has been replaced by crystal blues and blinding whites as the sun glints off the snow and ice. I can barely see the road through the glare. But driving home along Route 1, my eye is caught by a flash of color. I pull a U-turn and stop by the Scarborough Marsh to photograph an American flag, planted by an anonymous someone, flapping in the stiff breeze, standing at attention, beckoning us to salute.