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Summer in Maine reminds us how good it is to be alive.
Our state is peppered with beautiful lakes, miles of epic coastline, and gorgeous mountain trails that when witnessed, makes us appreciate our paltry existence. Here, seemingly sheltered from the world and its myriad problems, many of us are lucky to breathe fresh air, drink clean water, and exist a short ways away from natural marvels. As cliche as our state motto is, life really is good here.
That’s why with our 2017 Summer Guide, the Phoenix aims to highlight the best ways to spend our three-month stint in full sun. While we’re pretty good at comprehensively covering food, art, and music events (see our other sections for the lowdown), we’re also featuring happenings that don’t fit neatly into those categories. That’s why this space is dedicated to revealing opportunities you might never have heard of, or ones that have simply fallen through the cracks, like secret summer swimming holes, road trip destinations, nautical adventures, fight clubs, athletic events, and festivals. There are more exciting ways to soak in culture and community in Vacationland than your standard backyard barbecue.
Happy summer. Spend it wisely.
Sail off into the sunset, wine bottle in hand
This summer you could literally sail off into the sunset with Wine Wise.
At 3,500 miles, Maine’s coastline is literally longer than the rest of America’s Eastern seaboard. You deserve to tour your own personal slice of it with an Italian wine in hand. And because we’re assuming Phoenix readers aren’t sailboat owners — the cheapest one we could find in the area is going for $20,000 and costs over $400 a month in upkeep — we thought you, and your wallet, would enjoy Jack Sparrowing it on someone else’s vessel.
Portland’s vineyard Wine Wise is offering Sunset Sailboat Cruises all summer long aboard their squeaky clean Windjammer. The main deck will double as a wine tasting class where sommelier Erica Archer will call to attention just how little you know about the world’s oldest libation. Attendees report walking away from this floating crash course on wine with stronger, more sensitive taste buds, and a newfound appreciation for the many islands, lighthouses, and historical sites around Casco Bay. This might be the most romantic event on our list, so if you’re significant other deserves some appreciation, dish out the cash for this allegedly unforgettable experience.
| Most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout the summer | $75 to $95 | http://www.winewiseevents.com/
Or take the cheaper tour of Casco Bay
We recommend Casco Bay Lines because tickets are cheap, there's plenty of space onboard, and it's an effortless way to see our nearby islands, many of which have excellent restaurants on them.
If the previous event proves too pricey, there’s a cheaper and much more laid back alternative that offers just as many sight-seeing opportunities.
In our eyes, boarding the Casco Bay Ferry for a blissful cruise around Chebeague, Great Diamond, and Peaks Island is the quintessential summer in Portland experience, even if you’re a longtime local. Fun fact, there are over 130 islands in Casco Bay! It’s a whole 'nother world out there.
Another perk of the ferry you’d be chillin’ on: it’s quite big, so if you’re looking to gaze out into the blue expanse of the ocean in solitude, chances are you’ll find a quiet spot to do so.
Cruises typically last 2-3 hours and are with a variety of themes, times and durations — like sunrise, sunset, and moonlight. If you want to get your party on, music cruises are planned throughout the summer with floating concerts featuring original and cover acts. And yes, there’s a cash bar on board, just in case the tunes start to grate on you.
| $16 | 56 Commercial St., Portland | https://www.cascobaylines.com/
In troubled times, become a ninja
The instructors at Discovery Martial Arts have made so many realize that their bodies are powerful. Courtesy of Discovery Martial Arts.
Maybe lounging around under the sun feeding ducks in Deering Oaks Park won’t cut the mustard for you this summer. Maybe you’re too concerned with alt-right groups mobilizing across the country, or online trolls fueling real acts of violence to get lost in carefree days of cheerful laziness. Maybe, in these heated times, you’re in need of a radical way to take control of your body and reap the psychological rewards of protection and self-empowerment.
Perhaps it’s time you learned how to kick some ass? Or rather, protect your own?
Instructors at Discovery Martial Arts are offering accessible self-defense classes for beginners (both youngsters and adults). Don’t be nervous, coaches here are very welcoming and work with you and the limited skills you walk in with. If you’re driven and dedicated enough, you’ll walk away from these classes a veritable warrior. They’ll teach you the powerful art of taijitsu and Hakken Budo Ninjitsu and strengthen your balance and physical endurance in the meantime.
If you want to feel safe walking down the street, and imbue your personality with some discipline (which seems to be in short supply nowadays), this may be the way to do it. And with the studio offering a free two-week trial for interested fighters, it’s a chance to seize the skills necessary to refuse backing down from intimidating jerks.
| PRICES VARY | 3:30 pm to 7 pm | 34 Rainmaker Dr., Portland | http://discoverymartialarts.net/
Portland’s forts are underappreciated treasures
You've seen it plenty of times from a distance, but maybe it's time you ventured inside this decrepit monolith. But we're hope you're ready for a mini adventure, because Fort Gorges is only accessible by small boat.
Chances are you’re only familiar with Portland’s historic fortifications from a distance. Take the prominent Fort Gorges built in 1858 and jutting out of the bay from its own little island; it’s impossible to miss when walking down the Eastern Promenade. What’s it like over there, anyway? We encourage you to indulge your curiosity and venture out to it, before the site falls into such disrepair that visitors are prohibited.
The eerie looking relic from the Civil War is only accessible by small boat, so your best bet of getting there is through Portland Paddle, who’s offering a 3 hour sea kayak excursion out there. Tickets costs $52 and the guides meet every Thursday and Friday on the East End Beach.
Other forts worth exploring in the area include Battery Steele (a World War II military outpost) on Peaks Island which proves perfect for moody Instagram shots, and Fort Williams (once part of Portland’s harbor defenses in 1872), which is free, and delightfully creepy inside — we recommend sneaking inside Fort Williams’ long narrow corridor and scaring the living hell out of unsuspecting tourists; it’s quite fun!
| FREE | Fort Williams Park, 1000 Shore Rd., Cape Elizabeth | https://fortwilliams.org/ |
The Portland Public Library's not just for summer reading
Summer reading lists are one habit we hope has stuck with you since childhood. But there's also much more to do at Portland's Public Library.
If you just need a quick reprieve from the hot sun (and the tourists that think Lady Monument is the most interesting thing to photograph), don’t forget that the Portland Public Library is a cool hideaway smack in the middle of town. With comfy chairs, air conditioning, and free wifi, an afternoon can easily slip away here.
Because apart from enough DVDs to fuel 3,000 summer movie nights and countless books to swing in a hammock with, the Portland Public Library also offers a number of interesting cultural happenings on an almost weekly basis. We recommend you keep their Spanish guitar concerts (first one, Torres meets Tarrega, coming up on July 11), "death cafes" (where you’ll sip tea and discuss the nature of grief the second Wednesday of every month), teen art exhibits (there’s one called Paint Your Story on July 7), and lectures on immigration and social issues, on your radar this summer.
| FREE | 10 am to 5 pm | Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Sq., Portland | http://www.portlandlibrary.com/
Delightfully deplorable headliners at the 2nd Portland Comedy Festival
What are the chances cult comedian Doug Stanhope won't break Empire's no smoking policy? Slim.
If you’re a gut needs a good busting, Empire’s a reliable place to go for laughs this summer. On the weekend of July 7th, the venue’s booked three nights worth of impressive comedic acts for their 2nd Annual Comedy Festival.
Things kick off Friday with local acts Kyle Ruse, Connor McGrath, Dennis Fogg, Casey Crawford, Nick Lavalee, and Ian Stuart taking the stage and exposing their vulnerabilities. Stick around that night until 11, for the Adam & Eve show, where performers will start to shed their clothing — no word yet on what exactly will provoke the state of undress, but we’re anxious to find out!
On Saturday, the Women of New England Comedy show takes over the 7:00 pm slot with Jess Millier, Sarah Martin, and Rachel Gendron. At 9, national opener Dan Boulger will work the crowd alongside Colby Bradshaw. The night closes with Tales of Debauchery, featuring local storytellers Mark Curdo, Peter Bissell, Spencer Albee, and Joe Ricchio.
And lastly, the biggest attraction for this comedy fest arrives on Sunday night to perform a painfully self-deprecating set. Somehow the folks at Empire managed to book Doug Stanhope (a notoriously picky comedian with a cult-like following) for a night we’re certainly not going to miss. There’s something about Stanhope’s comedy that makes you feel joyous, confused, and miserable all at the same time. However, don’t think we’re selling this act short, Stanhope’s 100 percent hilarious slinging those extremely clever, edgy, admittedly depressing jokes. Catch one of these shows for $10, or get a weekend pass for $30.
| Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | https://venue.portlandempire.com/
Sort the winners and the losers at these athletic pride events
Runners at last year's Shipyard Maine Coast Marathon. Courtesy of Shipyard.
If you’re among the group of people of that this writer will never quite understand fully — 5K competitors — don’t think you’re underserved by our righteous indignation of paying money to run. We’re here to serve you too and highlight the endurance challenges you crave to be a part of. Feel the burn!
Meet at Liquid Riot at 6 pm on June 29 for the Old Port Pub Run, which will have you asking, Can I really run five miles with this much beer in my belly?
The first big running event of the season kicks off on July 1, with Rise Up 5K, part of a string of nationwide races benefiting organizations working with immigrants. On July 8th, the 7th annual Shipyard Marathon and 5K invites Portlanders to compete for beer, swag, sweat, and glory. Gather on Thames Street at 7 am for this competitive tradition. On July 22, the sports club Runaways hosts Take the Night 5K, where runners navigate the hills of the East End and Munjoy neighborhoods in the dark. This one will be grueling, but there’s a free milkshake for those that finish. This race starts on the Eastern Prom at 145 Cutter St. at 9:30 pm. And finally, rounding out these cultural artifacts doubling as symbolic tests of social class and physical ability is the Questival Portland on August 18, billed as a race unlike any you’ve ever experienced. Placed on a team of 3-5 strangers, you’ll work with them against other teams racing through obstacles and challenges across Thompson’s Point. What’s in store for the runners is secret, but the whole shebang is meant to last 24 hours, so expect a real bid for survival. Each race offers up to $10,000 in prizes. More information at https://www.cotopaxi.com/.
Dance in the streets at on Washington Ave. and in East Bayside
Participating organizations who plan on getting down at the Washington Ave. Block Party.
Shop, drink, eat, dance, repeat. Street festivals are synonymous with summer. And in Portland, there are two new ones to welcome. July 1 marks the inaugural Inner Washington Ave. Block Party. The simple pleasures of life — music, booze, and food — will converge for an indulgent night of community building — and, if you want, straight-up debauchery. Participating vendors are basically the innovators helping to make the neighborhood so vibrant and lovely: Oxbow, Maine Mead Works, Hardshore Distilling, Terlingua, Izikaya Minato, Drifters Wife, Silly's, Cong Tu Bot, Coffee by Design, Flying Fox, Venn + Maker, Fiore Home, Portland Gear Hub, Portland Pottery, Starry Eyes, Root Cellar, Weather Furniture, Dale Rand Printing, and PhoPa Gallery.
Bayside's joining hundreds of communities across America for a multicultural street fest dubbed National Night Out. Courtesy of Mayo Street Arts.
Later in the season — August 2 to be exact — Portland joins a coalition of cities across America participating in National Night Out, a series of neighborhood festivals aimed at boosting camaraderie and trust between the community at large and the police that serve them. Our version takes place in East Bayside and starts with a parade from Mayo Street Arts. Mayor Ethan Strimling and Police Chief Michael Sauschuck invite Portlanders to gather anywhere between Kennedy Park and Peppermint Park for an afternoon of barbecues, music by Matt Meyer and Gumption Junction, and honest conversations. More information can be found at https://natw.org/.
Wanted: hard workers, history buffs, and reminders of mortality
We swear, restoring historic gravestones can be a rather cathartic experience. Courtesy of Spirits Alive.
There’s got to be a thoughtful human out there reading this that would get some kind of melancholic kick out of spending a hot afternoon cleaning historic gravestones. Someone that fancies a time spent thinking about those whose last summers are long behind them. If that sounds like you, consider joining the Spirits Alive group; they’re looking for volunteers to tag along and photograph, clean, and generally help restore the gravestones in the sprawling Eastern Cemetery and discuss the lives of the Mainers rotting beneath them. Their conservation workdays are held every Saturday 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, and it’s suggested you wear long pants to them.
| FREE | Eastern Cemetery, Quebec St., Portland | http://www.spiritsalive.org/ |
Mingle with the misunderstood: Pagan Picnic
A legitimate High Priest of Pan — the half man, half goat trickster from Greek mythology — will descend from Millinocket with his followers for the Pagan Picnic in Deering Oaks Park on July 9 when the sun is highest in the sky. The high priest is actually a dude named Phelan, and he's quite a friendly fellow!
This event’s probably a gamble, but we say go for it. Outcasts tell the best stories, and Maine’s wilderness hides some colorful characters. In all seriousness, Maine’s pagans just want to promote harmony and build bridges between communities, and we think that’s an admirable goal in 2017. Why not learn what this highly misrepresented group actually believes in and practices? Their philosophy extends far deeper than the nature-loving, horn-wearing hippie aesthetic trope you probably picture in your head. And they’ve been organized online since 1989 on the Earth Tides Pagan Network, so it’s high time you’ve said hello. Dance, hit the drum circle, and feast on fruit. The hosts promise not to proselytize, but guidance is given if asked. Pentagrams are welcome but leave your ram's head at home.
Rooftop movies at Bayside Bowl
At sunset, the view from Bayside's Rooftop Bar is even prettier. Highly recommended chill spot. Courtesy of Bayside.
After a $3 million expansion, Bayside Bowl with its 12 bowling lanes, Airstream trailer taco truck, and new scenic rooftop bar, has cemented itself as the place to hang out this summer.
The rooftop deck opens at 4 pm on weekdays and can seat up to 200 taco eaters and sunset watchers. No lie, it’s really pretty up there! It’s so picturesque that the owners have launched a series of free rooftop movie screenings all summer long. Here’s what flicks they’ve got lined up: Talking Heads documentary Stop Making Sense (June 28), Dog Day Afternoon (July 5), What We Do In The Shadows (July 12), Cool Hand Luke (July 19), The Grand Budapest Hotel (July 26), Idiocracy (August 2), Get Out (August 9), Alien (August 16), Hairspray (August 23), and O Brother, Where Art Thou (August 30).
Get out of town with the windows down: best road trips
Calling all able bodies! Hiking Mount Katahdin is basically a Maine rite of passage. Conquer the Abhol Trail this summer.
We’d be wrong not to offer you any activities outside of Portland. As nice at is here, we wouldn’t wish anybody to be stuck on the peninsula all summer. If you’re fortunate enough to have access to four wheels, these are the roadtrip experiences most Mainers cherish as honored pastimes.
The quintessential Maine roadtrip is the 223-mile drive to Baxter State Park, our summer paradise. True Mainers conquer the mile high peak of Mt. Katahdin at least once (I’ve done it three times — catch up), and the boldest among them push themselves to creep through the dangerously narrow Knife’s Edge. Not up for an adrenaline-draining hike? There’s plenty else to do, from moose-watching, swimming, fishing, rafting, and camping. This 200,000-acre wilderness park is literally in the middle of nowhere, and we love that. Drive time: four hours.
Joining the Society of Creative Anachronisms for their annual battle, the Great Northeastern War, always proves a surreal and fantastic experience.
If you drive to Western Maine sometime between July 6 and 9, and squint your eyes across the Hebron Pines Campground, you’ll think you stepped into 500 years into the past. Hundreds of ancient and medieval reenactors will be there setting up old-timey war tents, and beating each other senseless with swords and spears for the annual Great Northeastern War. It’s quite a sight to behold in 2017. For the uninitiated that can’t take part in the war games, it’s so worth the roadtrip to just watch the clash while gulping down period-appropriate mead and feasting on turkey legs. Please note, you do have to make some attempt at pre-17th-century dress in order to get in, but the hosts do accept basic tunics crudely fashioned from bed sheets. Admission is $10. Drive time: 58 minutes.
Maine’s got a lot of lakes to swim in, but if you’re concerned about leeches, ticks, and questionable water quality, then many of them prove suspect. Luckily Sebago Lake is super clean, very safe, quite warm, and an absolute delight to dive into. Open sunrise to sunset. Admission is $6. Drive time: 45 minutes.
People suck sometimes, right? If you want to spend an afternoon away from mouth-breathing humans, and instead want to share air with iconic Maine creatures like the lynx, raccoon, black bear, moose, and deer, then head over the Gray Wildlife Park. Bring some food and charcoals to start a barbecue amidst adorable critters you may have never seen so close up before. Open daily 9:30 am to 6 pm. Admission is $7.50. Drive time: 30 minutes.
The biggest festival in the state is a heaping pile of Maine stereotypes. It's also a lot of fun. Courtesy of the Maine Lobster Festival.
One big event that most tourists and longtime locals can get easily drum up excitement for is the 70th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland. About 30,000 people attend each year! This five-day extravaganza goes from August 2nd to the 6th and celebrates all things lobster with a carnival, a parade, seafood cookouts, hundreds of arts vendors, costumes, a lobster crate race, and a sea goddess beauty contest. It’s so Maine, it’s almost lame. Expect to consume massive portions of the sweet red meat that put Maine on the map. There’s also live music by way of Smashmouth, a rock band I thought only existed inside Shrek movies.
For this roadtrip, we recommend you take Route 1 North, so you’re able to soak in miles of that beautiful coastal scenery. Drive time: 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Summer nights in Longfellow’s Garden
The Longfellow Garden behind the Maine Historical Society is a beautiful and quiet refuge from any Congress St. disturbances. It's also a fantastic place to crack open a beer and talk about history.
Ducking into Longfellow’s Garden on Congress Street to escape the sun, sounds, and other annoyances on Monument Square is another time-honored Portland tradition. There amidst the chirping birds, bubbling fountains, and myriad of the poet’s beloved plants, one can find peace, even if it’s only for a minute. But what does the secret enclave look like at night? Even more beautiful? The folks at the Maine Historical Society invite you to find out during their monthly Beer In The Garden series which combines drinks, snacks, and historical artifacts (that’s got a nice ring to it eh?) for a night of smart conversation. Monthly themes and dates are as follows: July 18 – The Founding Fathers; August 15th – Botanical History; and September 19 – Historic Firearms.
| $5 | 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm | Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress St., Portland | https://www.mainehistory.org/ |
Life Happens Outside Festival
Where can you go white water rafting in Maine? Find out at the Life Happens Outside Festival.
We dig the central theme of this festival: life happens outside. It’s easy to forget in our screen-obsessed world, but it’s probably (and ironically) the one collective message we all had hammered into our heads as children growing up in Maine. Back when we played sports more and avoided digital distractions, simply being outside was our entertainment. This two-day Life Happens Outside Festival from Trails and Teens encourages today’s youth to play like we did: with rope swings, bicycles, and paddleboards. Adults can wander around the grounds enjoying live music, craft beer, food trucks, an L.L.Bean presentation, and over 40 vendors selling quality sports, fitness and outdoor adventure equipment.
| August 25-26 | $30 | Thompson’s Pt., Portland | https://www.lifehappensoutside.org/
Don’t pay for beaches, go here instead
Colony Beach in Kennebunk at sunset.
And because enjoying nature is such an integral part of summer, how could we end this feature without mentioning the best beaches to wiggle our toes into? Sadly, many of the biggest beaches with the best waves (like Popham, Old Orchard, and Scarborough) are also plagued with huge crowds, limited parking, and gate fees. But if you’re after swaths of sandy coast that are just as beautiful but free and twice as accessible, consult this list:
Willard Beach - 30 Willow St., South Portland
Pine Point Beach - Pine Point Road and East Grand Avenue, Scarborough
East End Beach - Eastern Promenade, Portland
Fortune Rock’s Beach - Biddeford
Colony Beach - Kennebunk
So if recreational marijuana is legal to own and consume, but illegal to buy, how do I get ahold of some?
I sought to answer this question the day after Old Port Fest — or rather, the moment my stash went dry. Could I acquire some online and not get in trouble?
My Internet searches didn't last long before I found an ad on Craigslist that read Peanut Chews With Delivery – $250 with Free Cannabis Gift.
That caught my attention. Non-THC candy but with a gift of an entire ounce of locally grown marijuana and free delivery anywhere in Central and Southern Maine? What first seemed like an outlandish proposition quickly turned into a pretty sweet deal.
While it's legal for me, a 24-year-old, to own up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, my only options of acquiring some are by growing it (which is not really an option for casual smokers) or buying on the black market. What's the point of something being legal if you can only get it illegally?
But it’s not illegal for growers and caregivers to just give marijuana away, thus opening up a newish gray market.
Curious, I texted the number on the ad, introduced myself, and asked if this deal was legit. I promptly got a text back confirming that it was, and asking if I was 21+ and if I could show ID.
After confirming, I asked to meet the person at the other end of the line to learn more about this legal gray area in Maine’s current marijuana law, one that caregivers in the state like Leafy Delivery are exploiting in lieu of the recreational market's failure to launch.
The contact from Craigslist, Steve, agreed to send his driver John to meet me and answer my questions about how business has been. A day later we were shaking hands and sipping coffee at a Portland Mr. Bagel.
John, who wanted to keep his last name anonymous (because who really knows how long this loophole will stay open), told me that he supplies prepared cannabis to five medicinal patients, and about 10-12 recreational users, delivering product from Waterville to Kittery.
Small-scale growers like John want their own slice of the recreational market pie, but progress on getting those rules implemented has been slow at best, and aggressive toward smaller operations at worst. John’s worried that once marijuana becomes legal to sell, monopolies will form and he won’t be able to compete with dispensaries and caregivers with more serious capital.
“We don’t know if we’re going to be able to get into the recreational market,” he says. “Dispensaries have paid a bunch of lawyers and lobbyists to sit in on these public input meetings in Augusta. They’re trying to push for an early entry into the recreational market.”
According to John, there’s a big demand for marijuana in Maine, and he expects the legal market to be worth around 220 million dollars a year. “There’s a lot of money up for grabs,” he says.
John would prefer not to be exploiting this gift loophole, “it’s a little strange,” he says. But he’s using it as a “training ground” of sorts for his foray into the potential recreational market, which he envisions is about two years away.
In the meantime, John and his free weed-delivery operation aim for maximum legitimacy and minimum sketchiness. For starters, interested peanut chew buyers have to present their ID and sign a release form acknowledging that the marijuana received is a gift, and that they won’t give the product to minors.
John calls it a “cover-your-ass document.”
Gift exchanges are done in public spaces, typically away from street corners and parking lots. During the exchange John does his best to convince the buyer to become a medicinal patient, offering to pay for the $99 certification through CannaCare Docs.
Lastly, John and his team pay sales tax on whatever candies they might have sold that year.
“People want convenience, and for now, until the market opens up, we’re giving it to them,” says John.
Upon wrapping up my interview with John, I asked to try one of his peanut chew candies, the little things that technically gave his entire operation legitimacy. John handed me a white bag with my name on it, and sure enough, there was a second gift inside with the chocolate: 3.5 grams of Black Widow. A quick whiff offered an intense aroma.
Regardless of the generic brand, those chews sure tasted delicious later that night.
After sitting in a New Hampshire jail for weeks, uncertain whether he’d be deported back to famine-stricken Somalia, Portland resident Abdi Ali received the first bit of good news after a court appearance on June 1: he may get to go home to his wife in Portland, Maine.
Judge Mario Sturla said in a bail hearing in Boston that Ali would be released after a bail of $9,000 is paid.
Ali, a legal permanent resident, was arrested by ICE agents last April in what’s widely believed as Maine’s first immigration arrest in a courthouse. Ali was in court over an OUI charge. Ali has a history of misdemeanors and petty crimes, but many in Portland decried his initial arrest as a byproduct of the Trump administration's overly aggressive crackdown on undocumented immigrants.
“Lurking at courthouses to arrest immigrants, is shortsighted and not the best way to implement immigration laws,” wrote city councilor Pious Ali back in April. “Acts like this will negatively affect the relationship between local law enforcement and the immigrant community and are not in the best interest of our community and city.”
According to stats published by the Washington Post, arrests by immigration officials rose 32.6 percent in just the first few weeks of 2017. Arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record doubled.
In a phone interview with the Bangor Daily News from jail, Ali said that he’s grateful the system has given him another chance because going back to Somalia is simply not an option for him. After living stateside since 1996, Ali considers himself an American.
Ali’s wife, Melissa Hair, has been amplifying this story by sharing it on social media and asking for the community’s help. Until bail is paid, Ali will sit in jail. Raising $9,000 for bail, and the additional $4,500 for lawyers fees is a hardship for Hair, and she’s looking to raise $10,000 through a GoFundMe page titled Keep Abdi Ali Home.
Laura Ker posing with one of her Safe Space Portland signs, designed by Jennifer Muller. Photo courtesy of @SafeSpacePortland on Instagram
In the wake of last year’s election, several “resistance efforts” popped up locally, some with the explicit intention of making marginalized communities feel more safe and comfortable in a political climate clouded with xenophobia.
One of those efforts is Safe Space Portland, which officially hit the streets last week. Laura Ker, the founder, and several volunteers distributed special designations to four Portland businesses: Hustle and Flow dance and yoga studio; restaurant Local Sprouts Cooperative; Arcadia National Bar; and Find, a vintage clothing store.
“The purpose of Safe Space Portland is for business owners and staff to have the tools and confidence to address [problematic] behaviors in safe and productive ways,” said Ker.
Other businesses have expressed interest in the signage, but would have to undergo the same training workshop from Prevention Action Change (a local coalition offering classes to counter assault, harrasement, and abuse) as the first four did. They include forthcoming Vietnamese restaurant Cong Tu Bot; fiber arts studio PortFiber; vintage clothing and art shop Ferdinand; underthings parlor Etain Boutique; and workout center Optimal Self.
Dave Aceto, co-owner of Arcadia National Bar, is proud to share that his video game bar is a safe space. He said that after tears were shed post-election, there was a need to take a public stance against the hateful rhetoric hurled at marginalized people and train his staff to be welcoming to everybody, but also be prepared to de-escalate aggressors, or just kick them out of the bar altogether.
“You should not have to give up your right to be safe just because you're at a bar, and we're happy to remind people that alcohol doesn't give you the right to be a bigot,” said Aceto. “We recognize it's difficult to speak up or to say 'no' to people sometimes and the training puts us in a better position to do both.”
Participating members of Safe Space Portland have a manifesto posted on the walls of their business, part of which reads: “This is one of many Portland area businesses that will not accept behavior that is hateful or oppressive. We say NO to violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, ableism and other prejudiced behaviors.”
“It would be naive of us to say that any business is 100 percent safe,” said Ker. “Of course, we will have to address problematic speech and behavior. We want marginalized people to know that when they walk in our business we care about them, and we will make it a high priority that they feel safe and respected.”
Bayside Anchor is already filled with residents, charging them $540 for an efficiency to $1,041 for a two-bedroom.
Avesta Housing and the Portland Housing Authority just unveiled their new 45 unit, energy efficient apartment complex in Bayside. But although we live in a time where Portland’s attempting to curb its carbon emissions, and grapple with the housing crunch, the project wasn't universally welcomed in town. The problem? Some locals consider it a big eyesore.
A sampling of comments underneath Facebook posts about the apartment complex included criticisms like: “Why, oh why must it be so hideous? It's the color of green mold.” “It looks like zip board with painters tape trim.” And “Can Portland fire the architect behind that eyesore?”
The four-story building features 45 affordable (for families earning $23,000 and $49,000 a year),energy-efficient apartments, solar panels on the roof, and a bright green paint finish. Although many have lauded the efforts of Avesta Housing and the Portland Housing Authority — who teamed up for the development to “revitalize the neighborhood" — others are griping that the construction team took the phrase “go green” a little too literally.
Sara Olson, the communications manager at Avesta Housing, explained that the color was proposed by Kaplan Thompson Architects, the designers of the building, and was inspired by the foliage along the Franklin Arterial.
“We worked closely with the neighbors and East Bayside Neighborhood Organization during the design process, and were pleased that they supported this design throughout the process,” said Olson.
Another issue the housing complex, named Bayside Anchor, has raised is that of parking spaces. According to Jay York, a photographer who lives in Bayside, the new complex was built over a 25-space parking lot, and the neighborhood in general does not have many options for street parking, forcing residents to park far away from their homes.
“Parking and views are the two topics no developer or city leader want to discuss with the public,” said York. “New housing being built without parking puts a squeeze on the availability of on-street parking. This is because the majority of people renting these new apartments still have cars. Developers claim the savings of not having to build on-site parking is reflected in lower rents. How laughable is that?”
To the critique about parking, Olson explained that there was no need to build a parking lot for Bayside Anchor because there are options nearby and that by eliminating a dedicated lot, the complex was able to keep costs down for residents. Rents at Bayside Anchor cost $540 for an efficiency to $1,041 for a two-bedroom.
Lobster made up 73.9 percent of Maine's fishing economy in 2016, according to Maine Department of Marine Resources.
About 200 economists, fishermen, and marine biologists from 12 countries around the world converged at the Holiday Inn in Portland last week to talk about the biggest challenges in lobster fisheries.
The conference, held every four years, invites industry experts to talk shop about lobster including the economics of fisheries, habitat degradation, invasive species, and the latest trapping technology. But this year’s conference had a main underlying theme: the effects of climate change.
Although the challenges lobster fisheries face internationally differ, climate change, according to several speakers at the conference, is one problem that’s global.
“We’re here to share our stories, and challenges, internationally,” said Richard Wahle, a marine scientist at the University of Maine, and co-chair of the conference. “It comes down to some basic science questions.”
Locally, researchers at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute found that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans. According to Andrew Pershing, the chief scientific officer at the institute, this has profound effects on native lobster populations, primarily with distribution of larvae, disease, and differences in reproduction and survival.
Basically, the Gulf of Maine is warming to that sweet spot that lobsters love, so scientists are seeing an increase in their populations. But is the lobster boom temporary? Warming waters are spurring their numbers northward, but climate change brings other challenges that are too early for scientists and fisheries to accurately interpret.
Pershing said that climate change alters not just the water's temperature, but also its salinity and pH level (due to ocean acidification, or the buildup of carbonic molecules in the water), all of which can affect lobster populations with increases in shell disease, predators like squid and sea bass, and infertility among egg-bearing females.
This unpredictability of future lobster populations could have a negative impact on fisheries here in Maine, where roughly 75 percent of the fishing economy is lobster.
“We have a fishery here in Maine that’s highly dependent on a single species, so the fate of that species is going to determine in many ways the economics of the coast of Maine,” said Pershing. “There’s an explosion of lobster populations here in Northern New England, but at what point are we going to start to move and tip over? Are we at peak lobster, or is that a few years in the future? We’re concerned about the future of the lobster industry.”
Portland joins the coalition of cities pledging to uphold the Paris agreement
After President Trump stunned almost every scientist (and otherwise sensible American) when he pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord last week—which pushed for countries to reduce emissions in an attempt to hold the increase in global temperature to a 1.5 degrees Celsius—many concerned progressives in local government took the matter in their own hands.
A network of 187 “Climate Mayors” wrote and signed a statement on Medium last week, which pledged to “adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.”
The statement reads: We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks. The world cannot wait—and neither will we.
As we reported last week, Portland has already vowed to get all of their municipal operations running on clean energy by 2040, but according to Mayor Ethan Strimling, the city has also signed onto the “Mayors National Climate Action Agenda,” which might spell even more green initiatives for Portland. The city will be working to revamp it 2008 Climate Action Plan with updated goals and measurements.
“Thanks for your vigilance in the face of such insanity from the White House,” wrote Mr. Strimling on social media. “Think globally. Act locally.”
Eleven developers seek bids for unused land in Bayside
A Freedom of Information Access request to reveal the identities of the 11 developers that submitted bids to buy up a big 4.1-acre chunk of the Bayside neighborhood proved unsuccessful last week.
According to city spokesperson Jessica Grondin, the information on the bidding process is being kept confidential at the request of the developers because releasing it would “prejudice the City's competitive or bargaining position in the sale of the properties.”
Judging from the buzz generated after the news broke of these negotiations, there’s a lot of local interest in the future of these former Public Works properties. Groups like Progressive Portland are keeping a close eye on any news of these negotiations and will likely be present for any public comment whenever the city schedules such a forum.
“My understanding is that the city is going to winnow the proposals and then solicit public input,” said Steve Hirshon, the president of the Bayside Neighborhood Association. “To date, one development group has approached the Association about their fairly comprehensive proposal, so we are curious about what else is out there. BNA members, individually and as a group, have been supportive of housing on the sites that could have housing, particularly opportunities for owner-occupied housing, particularly ones with incentives for first-time buyers. We also support the adaptive reuse of the "General Store" (circa 1900 brick) and the former transportation building on Hanover Street.”
Many in Portland see the sale and redevelopment of those parcels of unused land as a key part to the overall plan to ensure Bayside’s vitality in the face of growing concerns of the neighborhood’s future and Portland’s affordable housing shortage in general.
“My first concern is that the development of the area includes at least some affordable or moderate-priced housing, which is the city's most pressing need,” said Patricia Washburn, a Bayside resident and member of Progressive Portland. “I would like to see it become an area that is attractive and inviting to local people and businesses. Almost anything would be more attractive than what is there now, but I would also like to see the city undertake this process in an atmosphere of transparency so voters can have a voice in what happens to a large piece of land on the peninsula.”
According to Greg Mitchell, director of Portland’s Economic Development Department, only three of the parcels of land are considered for affordable housing, because the other ones could be contaminated with industrial waste.
A lot of eyes are on Bayside because it’s often centered around a number of conversations about local social issues, most notably the effects of climate change (as Bayside is situated at the lowest point of the city) and the neighborhood’s proximity to social services like the Oxford Street Shelter and the Preble Street Resource Center.
A sizable immigrant population also calls the neighborhood home, alongside shopping hubs like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Bayside has also seen attempts to make the area more trendy and developed, like with the opening of the Fork Food Lab and the new Bayside Bowl rooftop patio.
Big development deals such as this one have the potential to affect the neighborhoods recent problems with flooding, skyrocketing rents, homelessness, gentrification, and a lack of affordable amenities for the people that live there.
Former USM multicultural head sues college over racism allegations
Susan Hamilton protesting USM's decision to host Rep. Larry Lockman during an anti-immigration talk held last February. She's suing the college for wrongful termination.
Local activist Susan Hamilton is suing the University of Southern Maine, her former employer, as first reported by the Bangor Daily News.
Back in 2015, USM fired the former head of the multicultural affairs department over allegations that she created a hostile work environment and acted aggressively when it came to discussing and teaching social justice issues like racism, gender rights, and white privilege.
Hamilton, who is half Native American, claims in the complaint that she was wrongfully terminated and that accusations that she harassed students and staff are “absurd and baseless.”
She will be suing USM for monetary damages but the college hasn’t received a copy of the lawsuit yet. Citing the early nature of this personal case, USM officials declined to comment. Attempts to reach Hamilton for a quote were also unsuccessful, but this story will be updated.
"The University of Maine System has not been served with a copy of the lawsuit and cannot comment on the allegations,” said Dan Demeritt, director of Public Affairs for the UMaine system (and former director of communications for Gov. Paul LePage). “Furthermore, it is unlikely that the university will have substantive public comment on campus practices, engagement initiatives, or personnel matters that are referenced in the litigation."
Bree LaCasse announces her bid for city council
"I believe we must grow in a way that ensures Portland remains inclusive and distinct. That requires empathy and making genuine efforts to include a wide range of voices in the process," said Bree Lacasse.
Brightly colored campaign signs filled the space of Congress Square Park last Sunday as Bree LaCasse, a local activist, announced her bid for city council.
She’ll be running for the seat of the 2nd longest running city councilor, Jill Duson.
In 2014, LaCasse championed the fight against the city’s efforts to sell Congress Square Park and won.
The Congress Square Park issue was a wake-up call for Bree. “I’ve always had a vision of Portland as one of the greatest small cities in the world and I take action to realize that vision—from raising money for the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project to help new Mainers, to working to engage a new generation of young leaders at Portland Museum of Art, to leading the effort to stop the sale of Congress Square Park and transform it into a thriving community gathering place.”
LaCasse, who works in the non-profit and affordable housing sector, is running on a platform that calls for more transparency between the City Council and its constituents, which she believes will resonate with Portlanders across party lines.
“I want our citizens to feel heard again,” said LaCasse. “I’m a Democrat but I have proven my ability to bring people of all different perspectives—independent, green, red and all shades of blue—together around a shared vision. To make everyone feel valued and heard.”
Other issues she cares about include affordable housing, tax relief, and passing the 64 million dollar bond to repair four public schools.
“Councilor Duson chaired a special committee charged with tackling the problem of affordable housing just last year and came up with little more than a pamphlet,” said LaCasse. “People are being pushed out or leaving every day, and there is no more time to waste on half measures, foot dragging and indecision.”
As a mother of a first grader at Reiche Elementary (one of the schools needing infrastructure repairs), Bree said she was finally motivated to run for council at-large when longtime Councilor Jill Duson voted against the bond to repair all four elementary schools. “I realized at that moment, that we needed new leadership, with the demonstrated ability to listen, bring people together and get the job done,” said LaCasse. She adds that she'd been asked to run for years.
Early endorsers of LaCasse include Board of Education members, Holly Seeliger, John Eder and past Board Chair Marnie Marionne, who said this of LaCasse, ”Bree has the vision to know that investing in quality education must be a top priority to allow Portland to retain and attract middle-class families and grow our tax base. "After serving on the Board of Education for nine years, I believe it is time to have a strong champion for our schools on the city council."
Lena Faber is on the first part of an epic journey from Calais, Maine to Key West Florida depending on nothing but the power of her legs and the hospitality of strangers.
Her route on the East Coast Greenway Alliance (a bicycle friendly network of roads and trails) is over 2,100 miles long and would take her 180 hours of non-stop cycling to complete. Although this trek would prove too daunting for many, this isn’t the first muscle powered adventure Faber has ventured on.
In fact, her time in recent years has been rooted in international travel, extreme self reliance, and tests of endurance.
Faber, a journalist from Moscow, lives in the countryside of South Africa outside Johannesburg. In 2009, she took up long distance running, and her life took a dramatic turn away from a sedentary lifestyle.
“I just started running, and I couldn’t stop,” said Faber. “I wanted to push myself farther and farther. To get from point A to point B with your own power is so gratifying.”
After winning a silver medal in the World Masters Athletic running championship in California, she decided to test her stamina through hiking. In 2013, she traveled to Peru where she hiked the holy mountain of Machu Picchu (elevation 7,972 ft.) completely alone. But she couldn’t leave South America without also boating down the length of the Amazon river.
And then in 2014, she hiked the entire 2,181 mile Appalachian Trail, starting in Georgia, and ending up on the top of Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Her solitary hike earned her the trail name “Brave,” from other hikers.
But then, after returning briefly to her home in South Africa, where she teaches Russian language and literature, cabin fever quickly started washing over Faber again.
“I just wanted to leave South Africa again,” said Faber. “Instead of sitting in a restaurant or on a boat drinking beer, I took off cycling.”
She made this decision in 2015 when she hopped on the first bicycle that would serve as her primary vehicle and integral part of her athletic lifestyle. Her first foray into extreme distance cycling? Faber cycled the entire 2,415-mile length of Route 66, which she described as an “outdoor museum of Americana,” starting in Illinois and ending in California. That same year, she flew to London so she could cycle 800 miles north to the mysterious Orkney Islands in Scotland.
It was during those trips that Faber realized that she could craft an entire lifestyle around traveling, camping, and exchanging work for hospitality.
“When I cycled Route 66, I wanted to give the people I met something, however much I could,” said Faber. “It’s not about money. If you think too much about money, you’ll be miserable. So I worked for my stay. It’s the only way to truly see and understand a country and its people.”
Faber said that she tries to make the exchange between her and a potential host as easy and comfortable as possible. She carries a tent on her cross country travels and often asks locals for permission to pitch it in their backyard. Sometimes she’s offered a chance to sleep indoors, but no matter the sleeping situation, Faber makes sure to repay her host by babysitting, cleaning rooms, gardening, fixing fences, or washing the dishes.
“You can find many ways to make yourself useful,” said Faber.
According to Faber, she doesn’t have many anxieties when she’s traveling alone in strange lands, but the biggest stressor is finding accommodation.
“It scares me still because I don’t know where I’m going to sleep tonight,” said Faber.
So when Faber arrived in Calais, Maine for her latest adventure, she launched a website that might help ease her anxiety. It’s called StayOnTrailHelpOnTrail.com, and it aims to create an online network where hikers, runners, backpackers, and cyclists can connect with locals who are willing to host them in exchange for work. Think of it as the CouchSurfing, or AirBnB for adrenaline junkies.
The first testimonials on her new website are written by Mainers who have hosted Faber on the first stretch of her journey from Calais to Portland.
“I have no problem if registered travelers pitch a tent on my grass,” wrote Percy Robinson, a lobstermen from Midcoast Maine. “Maybe they'll help me on my boat when we go lobstering.”
Several Mainers hosted Faber during her 245-mile ride from Calais to Portland, but perhaps the most interesting night was when she arrived in Freeport, where she slept in a display tent inside L.L. Beans 24/hour flagship store.
Faber said she’s unsure of where she’s going to sleep as she continues forward on her next big stretch towards Boston, or if her website will take off and become successful, but regardless, she’s determined to try.
“I don’t know what I’m doing this for,” she said. “I just want to pedal. I can’t stop.”
Last week, former Green party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein visited Augusta for the Maine Greens Convention, where she thanked her supporters for "leading the charge" on progressive issues like food sovereignty, ranked choice voting, climate change, and the legalization of marijuana. She opened her speech by spurring the crowd to "keep fighting the neoliberal assault" and encouraging others to vote on values instead of fear.
Stein spoke with The Phoenix ahead of her Maine visit where she shared her thoughts on the future of the resistance, the Trump-Russia conspiracy, and liberal criticism hurled at her in recent weeks. After over 100 days of President Trump, how's the Green side looking? In Stein's words, "the battle continues." Below is an abridged version of our interview.
What was the purpose of your Maine visit?
It’s great to reconnect with Greens in Maine at a time where the Green party is really going gangbusters across the nation. So many people are throwing in the towel with the political system that has thrown everyday working people under the bus. It’s a great time to be Green. We’ve been ahead of the curve on clean energy, on nonviolent conflict resolution, on free higher education, and healthcare as a human right. The curve has caught up to us in a big way.
How do you energize people to vote for a third party?
In my experience, it’s all about just getting the word out. There is a political alternative that’s not predatory. People are so cynical of the political system right now. About 45 percent of eligible voters didn't bother to vote. Many of the other voters were voting against the candidate they hated the most.
Even (in) our so-called progressive political party, its essential core values are not what everyday people need. Getting out, talking with people, getting people a sense that when we get together we have the numbers, the vision, and the power to change our future.
Just the number of people locked into student debt alone would have been enough to win a three-way presidential race. Most people don’t see that they have a future under the current system. (They're encouraged) when they hear of a political party that isn’t funded by big banks and fossil fuel giants and war profiteers, that it’s really all about everyday people.
People are ready to stand up and take their votes back when they have nothing to vote for. But we need to give people choices.
The media fuels that binary as well, don’t you think, considering how little coverage your campaign received compared to Trump and Clinton.
In the words of the head of CBS (CEO Leslie Moonves), Donald Trump may not be good for the country but he sure is good for my bottom line.
That’s a scary quote.
It’s so true, though. The chickens have come home to roost. This president is not good for the country. He’s the toxic product of a toxic system. People have just lost faiths in the institutions that democracy depends on and we don’t fix it by demonizing the people that are standing up and saying that we have a problem. We need to get the predators out of the way.
What would you say you learned the most during your campaign? Anything useful for future Green party strategies?
I think what we learned is that if we keep our eyes on the prize, and if we build it, they will come. What we saw—especially when the Democratic party turned on Bernie Sanders—was a huge influx. The floodgates opened based on the commitments that we made to people, planet, and peace. We established the integrity, that we are not bought and paid for, we’re the one national political party that isn’t poisoned by corporate money, lobbyists, and super PACs.
We are seeing the party growing like wildfire right now.
It’s hard to keep up with all the scandals coming out of the White House nowadays. Is there a particular part of Trump and his direction that’s the most troubling to you? Do you think this whole Russia conspiracy is a dead end and ‘the resistance’ should be focusing their efforts elsewhere?
The Russia thing is a substantial distraction from the Democrats' humiliating defeat. It’s a way for them not to examine what caused them to lose the election. And the embarrassing revelations of the DNC leaks were exactly that. They rather talk about Russia than attend to what the problem was.
Had they not been engaging in sabotage and subterfuge there would be no problems. In some ways, it’s a big distraction. But it’s interesting with the apparent obstruction of justice with Donald Trump and his effort to fire Comey and interfere with the judiciary, who knows what he’s covering up. It could be collusion with Russian government or oligarchs. Trump’s done his best to pull a veil over his financial deals and history.
We need to know more about this imposter in the White House. His efforts to cover up is what is leading this forward more so than any particular smoking gun. The cover up could be worse than any crime.
This president is proving his incredible incompetence every day.
Do you think the prospect of impeachment is becoming more likely?
Impeachment is neither simple or a solution because then we have to deal with Mike Pence.
The issue here, in my view, is that democracy is under attack, and Donald Trump is a symbol of that. He’s not the cause, he’s the symptom and the disease; he makes it worse.
Our basic institutions are under attack and we should not diminish the seriousness of it. That’s what we should focus on, instead of the day-to-day melodramas.
We need to turn the tipping point into a breaking point. We can’t go back to the norm of the neoliberal democrats, which essentially is what got us into this mess, by inflicting austerity on everyday people, deregulating the financial predators, and shipping our jobs overseas.
It’s not about going back, it’s about creating a grassroots people revolution that provides us an America that works for all of us.
What’s the story behind that photo of you having dinner with Michael Flynn and Putin? Are you cozy with the Russians as the mainstream media would have people believe?
I’ve told many reporters about it, but they refuse to publish it because if any of the facts come out behind the photo it completely destroys their smear campaign. The facts undermine the mythology. That photo came at the end of a day in which I presented on a panel of diplomats, largely from the EU, in a dialogue about the nature of U.S. and Russian relations.
I went there explicitly to challenge the war-mongering going on not only by U.S. but by Russia, who had just joined in the bombing campaigns in Syria. I was there to deliver a message calling specifically for a peace offensive in the Middle East, and to tell Russia that they were following the footsteps of a catastrophic American policy. This endless war in the Middle East is making us less secure. That was my message. I thought I could deliver it personally to Putin by being at that table.
I did meet Michael Flynn. I didn’t know who he was. He introduced himself to me before we sat down. I gave him my elevator speech about the peace offensive. He was not interested, so I was not interested in talking with him. Our conversation was over in about two sentences.
I spent the dinner talking with the German former foreign minister about how we can help build collaboration for an alliance for peace. You’ve got to talk to your adversaries. I wasn’t the only peace advocate there. I was there to criticize Russia.
The media can be ruthless, that must have been frustrating.
It was actually a good sign. First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win. In one week I was attacked by Rachel Maddow and Kellyanne Conway, and I thought, ‘wow, we have arrived.’
It was nothing short of a lame smear campaign.
Speaking of smear campaigns, how would you respond to the comments that you stole votes away from Hilary and contributed to the rise of Trump?
The people who really put Trump in power were the people voting against Clinton. If I wasn’t there, even more people would have voted for Donald Trump. Maine has shown that the solution to a compromised democracy is not to silence political opposition. We need a system of ranked choice voting that makes us lead the way with our values.
We need to pass it in 50 states and include the presidential election. The minute we do that, suddenly they lose their fear campaign and they cannot try to silence political opposition, which is what the naysayers are doing here.
The votes that came in for my campaign would not have made a difference for Clinton, and there are very good studies on this from the exit polls. Over 60 percent of Greens simply would not have voted.
We have a solution, ranked choice voting.
How do the millions of Americans who voted for Trump factor into future Green strategies? How do you turn a Trump supporter into a Green voter?
It’s not hard. History tells us that people are subject to demagoguery and neo-fascism when they’re really desperate and thrown under the bus. That’s Trump’s demographic. There are some racist nutcakes out there, but we’ve always had them. What’s new here is the working people who have lost their jobs don’t have a college education. As their income and opportunities plummet, their desperation skyrockets. These are people who are truly depressed. Middle-aged white people who might be going through suicide, addiction, alcoholism.
That white working-class population has really been hung out to dry. What do they need? They need what the Green party has always been talking about and that is the right to a job. A guaranteed job at a living wage.
How would you put them to work?
We could transform our economy to address the climate crisis, solving two problems with one solution. There are jobs in renewable energy. We need to move into a peacetime green energy footing, and convert those industries. We could put the unemployed back to work with a living wage with union protections as well as health care under a Medicare for all system that ensures prosperity. Who doesn’t want that? We can do this by cutting the bloated and dangerous military budget.
This is a win-win. When working people and Trump supporters realize that they’ve got somebody on their side, they will stand up. This is the reason why Bernie Sanders would have beat Donald Trump. People voted for Trump out of desperation and because they didn't have a progressive alternative.
This biggest way people give up power is by not knowing they have it to start with.
In order to spare future generations the devastating environmental and health effects of climate change, many scientists say we must stop using virtually all fossil fuels by 2050.
If you think that’s a tall order, it is, but several cities across the U.S. — like San Diego, Burlington, and Aspen (as well as big corporations like Apple, Google, and Coca Cola) have stepped up to the plate and pledged to cut fossil fuels from their energy diet.
That includes our city of Portland, Maine, where the mayor and several city councilors presented a resolution to get the city running on 100 percent clean energy by 2040.
Jack Doherty of ReVision Energy installs a solar panel onto the roof of Maine Historical Society's offsite collections management facility in Portland Wednesday, Apr. 18. Photo By Dan D’Ippolito / Maine Historical Society
“You're going to see some significant changes in Portland over the next 10 years,” said Spencer Thibodeau, the chair of the sustainability and transportation committee who drafted the resolution — essentially a revamp of the council’s 2007 Climate Action Plan. “We need to do this.”
I’ve previewed what those changes will be in this feature, as well as some of the challenges in implementing them, but first, an important question:
What is clean energy?
One of the tricky parts in drafting clean energy policy is that people often hold different understandings of what it is, sometimes regarding renewable energy as synonymous with green or sustainable energy.
While the terms do have some overlapping meanings, there are some key differences, mostly involving the source of the energy.
For example, wood is a renewable resource, but does that mean pellet stoves produce clean energy? Not a chance.
Green energy is an umbrella term that’s mostly used for marketing purposes. A supermarket can “go green” by recycling its waste and minimizing electricity usage, but technically so can a big oil company by installing a couple wind turbines. Those in the thick of alternative energy conversations, like Frank Heller at Katahdin Energy Works, don’t have much faith in the term, as it simply means that some steps were taken to minimize a carbon footprint.
“Even energy is confused by people who don’t separate ‘fuels’ from the energy they produce and the processes they use to transform fuel into either heat or electricity,” said Hellar. “There's a lot of wiggle room as far as what clean energy is and what another person thinks it is.”
'Sustainable' is more of an economic term while 'renewable' refers to the energy source itself. Burning wood for heat is technically renewable, seeing as wood’s both natural and plentiful, but it’s not sustainable because the process of planting more trees and harvesting more wood wouldn’t last indefinitely on a grand scale.
Clean energy is derived from renewable natural sources and doesn’t produce any harmful byproducts. It comes in three basic flavors: wind, solar, and water (or hydroelectric) and Portland dreams of utilizing all three. But is that possible?
Switching out the lights
The city’s sustainability coordinator, Troy Moon, told me that the first step in any initiative is to become more efficient.
And getting Portland on track to 100 percent clean energy starts with replacing the 6,800 high-pressure sodium city lights with LEDs.
Mood said that this will drastically reduce energy consumption by potentially as much as two-thirds.
“They're going to significantly change how the city is lit,” said Moon. “We're working with a consultant contractor called 10 Collected Solutions. They'll help us do the switch out by hopefully later this summer.”
According to Stouch Lighting, a lighting efficiency blog (yes, such things exist), LEDs have several advantages over their 1970s era sodium counterparts. For starters, they have virtually no warm-up time, which is perfect considering how often public lights need to be dimmed or turned on and off. LEDs are also cheaper to maintain, easier to dispose of safely (the sodium ones tend to burn), and waste much less on energy through excess heat. They last longer too, up to 100,000 hours longer.
On top of all that, sodium lights have the worst color spectrum on the market (think that hazy, yellow glow) while LEDs open up all the colors on the spectrum with their bright, white waves. Should Moon's plan come to pass, Portland’s literally going to look more vibrant at night, while reducing the energy needed to light up the city.
The only downside to this bright future is that the start-up costs for installing 6,800 LEDs is quite expensive; replacing one bulb costs anywhere from $800 to $1,000. “We’re negotiating with CMP right now,” said Moon. “Hopefully the city will buy out all the old lights.”
Lights outside are a good start, but what about inside?
Cleaning up the electrical grid
According to ISO New England, the non-profit corporation responsible for keeping electricity flowing through six states, natural gas makes up about 50 percent of the New England power grid, nuclear about 31 percent, and renewables around 10 percent.
The organization released their annual “regional electricity outlook report” earlier this year, in which executives noted that fuel security is at risk in New England because there are concerns about the ability of natural-gas-fired generators to dependably access adequate fuel during winter cold snaps.
Graphic from ISO New England's "Regional Electricity Outlook Report." This chart shows how the source of energy for New England's power grid has changed over time.
This puts reliability at risk and drives up costs, but according to the report, so does the push toward natural gas and renewables.
“At the heart of the problem are factors that the ISO has been warning about for some time now but does not have the authority to directly address,” said board chair of ISO New England, Philip Shapiro. “Natural gas-fired power plants can’t always access adequate gas because natural gas transportation and storage infrastructure haven't kept pace with demand from the electricity sector.”
“Actions being taken or considered by the states to reach those goals, meanwhile, may inadvertently undercut the ability of the wholesale marketplace to continue delivering on its promise of securing reliable, competitively priced electricity for New England today and into the future.”
While ISO New England has been actively refining systems and market rules to integrate renewable resources, the CEO and President Gordon Van Welie said in the report that the “region is decades away from installing enough renewable resources.”
“For the foreseeable future, the region will require resources such as natural-gas-fired units that can do what wind and solar resources cannot: make large contributions to meeting regional electricity demand; run in any type of weather and at any time of day; quickly change output levels; and provide essential grid stability services.”
The experts over at ISO New England have been grappling with the same dilemma that environmental sustainability advocates here in Portland (and beyond) have been for decades: how do you balance a competitive market that relies on fuel security with meeting state carbon-reduction goals?
Solar power in Portland and beyond
Sunrise on Casco Bay. Photo By: Teresa Flisiuk.
Many think that solar has both the potential to meet society’s voracious energy demands and help lower our carbon footprint.
But while folks like Troy Moon would love to see more solar panels and wind turbines powering and heating homes in Portland, they say that it won’t overtake natural gas anytime soon.
Although building and installing solar panels is getting cheaper every year (GTM research reports that back in 2008 it cost about $8 a watt; now it’s down to half that, and still falling), solar power generates just .4 percent of America’s electricity.
“We certainly have a lot of rooftops that would be suitable for solar panels,” said Moon. “But we don't have that much open space. We don't have enough footprint in Portland to give enough solar capacity.”
And although solar technology is getting cheaper, and saves up to $18,000 in energy costs over 20 years, the upfront installation costs around $12,000, much more than the average person is willing to pay, which is why we won’t see much solar powering residential areas.
Organizations like Efficiency Maine and the Natural Resources Council of Maine work relentlessly to push policies that incentivize solar technology in spite of the LePage-appointed members of the Public Utilities Commission who would rather roll back progress. Despite the opposition, these organizations have helped over a dozen municipalities in Maine build solar arrays.
Members of the NRCM gathered at the State House in Augusta last week to rally behind LD 1373, An Act to Protect and Expand Access to Solar Power in Maine, a bill that would protect net metering and re-establishing Maine’s solar energy rebate program for small businesses and low-middle-income Mainers. According to them, more solar power in Maine wouldn’t just be a big step toward a clean energy future, but it would stimulate job growth—indeed, according to a recent Vox article, there are now twice as many solar jobs in the U.S. than coal jobs.
“Maine is at a critical crossroads on solar power,” said Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Solar power presents an opportunity to expand our economy, protect our environment, create jobs, and lower energy costs. But the PUC (Public Utilities Commission) net-metering rollback is so extreme that it includes a new tax on solar. (It's) akin to utilities charging people who use less electricity an extra fee because they dry their clothes on a clothesline. Inaction by the Legislature, combined with the anti-solar action by the Public Utilities Commission, threatens to move Maine further backward.”
Here in Portland, two big solar initiatives are nearing their final stages.
Last month, after fundraising $400,000, the city worked with Revision Maine to install over 300 solar panels to power the Portland Public Library and the Maine Historical Society. This is the first time that the National Endowment for the Humanities has funded a solar project ($300k of a $400k project) designed to support the long-term preservation of historical materials.
Zach Good of ReVision Energy installs a solar panel onto the roof of Maine Historical Society's offsite collections management facility in Portland Wednesday, Apr. 18. Photo By: Dan D’Ippolito/Maine Historical Society
The same is planned for City Hall with another solar array (first proposed in 2015) propping up on the Ocean Avenue landfill sometime this summer. It’s estimated the operation will cost the city over $1.5 million and power 3.5 percent of municipal operations.
“We would need 120 acres of solar panels to power all of our municipal operations,” said councilor Thibodeau. “That’s why we need to diversify.”
(Check out all the other ways the Portland’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee plans to reach their clean energy goal in the sidebar.)
But what about wind power?
Photo by Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen via Flickr.
Not looking good, according to Moon. He said that Portland’s not in a good spot to truly harness the free and awesome power of the wind. He’s arrived at this point after analyzing data from a Peaks Island study that built a special tower and measured the wind over the course of a year.
“Unfortunately it wasn't suitable,” said Moon. “There's not enough wind. Maybe on some small applications but not on a grid scale.”
There could be opportunities further offshore, or elsewhere along the Maine coast for wind farms, but some think, with Gov. LePage put off by the big investment, progress on it has stalled.
Jon Voight from Maine Marine Composites told The Portland Press Herald that Maine “missed a great opportunity” back in 2012 when the Norwegian company Statoil proposed a $120, wind farm project off of Boothbay Harbor but left Maine after LePage forced them to revisit the deal.
“The Governor has blocked so much policy that six years in, Maine finds itself falling behind as clean energy technology advances and other states modernize their policies to fit the new reality,” said Judy Berk from the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Challenges lie ahead
The biggest challenges to transitioning Portland (and Maine in general) into a low-carbon community is balancing costs and accessible technologies.
For example, according to Moon, the city is looking to electrify its fleet of city vehicles (only four are electric cars now), but the technology isn’t quite yet there for heavier vehicles like snowplows or construction equipment.
“It's difficult to say if we're going to move to 100 percent electric vehicles in the short term,” said Moon. “We need to be able to have enough equipment and be strategic with where we put our money.”
“How are you going to power a plow truck with electricity?” asked Thibodeau. “That technology doesn’t exist today. It will develop over time.”
So, like with most big barriers in life, the issue is money. While huge investments toward renewable energy have paid off in the long run—take Norway, Las Vegas, and Rockport, Missouri, three examples of communities powering 95 percent of their operations with hydroelectric, wind, or solar power respectively—there are still plenty of Mainers who aren’t ready to foot the initial, admittedly massive bill toward these technologies.
“We need to focus on getting the grid that runs our society to be based on clean energy,” said Moon. “But we can't do it all ourselves. There needs to be state and federal policy and action at the utility level.”
And there might be yet another big speed bump on the road to a completely green future.
Addressing the culture of consumption
Frank Heller, the owner of Katahdin Energy Works, is very much a clean energy advocate. He’s outfitted 75 homes and businesses with solar and hydropower in Maine. Heller said that there are downsides to consider when it comes to alternative energy.
According to Heller, you can’t balance cost and energy generation without factoring in consumption. How much energy are people actually using?
“This fuels policy,” he said. “Unfortunately, our energy consumption has gone up.”
Heller gave me an example of this increase with a story of a Bowdoin dorm. In 2015, it was outfitted with LED fixtures to become more energy efficient, but because the electricity usage inside was so high (the damn college kids kept all their tech plugged in), the building ending up being less efficient.
Heller said that he knows plenty of people who “live off the grid” — some in boats year-round docked in marinas — they're highly conscious and conservative of their consumption habits paying careful attention to when something’s plugged in, and for how long it’s plugged in. This lifestyle, he says, would run contrary to many people’s ideas of modern comforts, and the very nature of our culture of consumption.
“It's that kind of ethos that permeates a lot of these discussions,” said Heller. “And that's the conundrum.”
Before signing off our telephone discussion, Heller offered two more bits of cautionary advice to those gungho about clean energy: don’t rush into it without doing the economics, and figure out if your initiatives will have an actual measurable impact on climate change. Citing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which did lower CO2 emissions measurably, Heller asks, But did it mitigate any global warming?
“Nobody knows,” he said. “I've watched these fads come and go.”
Although he doesn’t believe there’s a scientific consensus linking CO2 emissions and temperature change, and keeps a little chunk of coal on his desk (true story), Heller does believe climate change is happening. He just thinks humans will be able to adapt to it without much trouble.
“There are people who sell fears and crises, and then the causality is lost in the hysteria,” said Heller. “They exaggerate these worst case scenarios.”
The issue of adapting to climate change is of course complex. While Heller's optimism may prove prescient regarding Maine's ability to adapt, we've already seen multiple reports this year of third world countries ravaged by stronger storms and higher tides. Some island nations in the Pacific, like the Maldives or the Republic of Kiribati, could literally be swallowed whole by the ocean. According to a report from the University of East Anglia, climate change puts over 1.3 billion people at risk, many of whom live in poor countries with an economy dependent on agriculture.
That’s not to say that Heller thinks we should do nothing. He does support Portland’s clean energy plan, but stressed that our society also needs to work on addressing the root cause of the issues raised in this article, primarily our culture of excess consumption.
“It would be very interesting to see how much gasoline people in Portland use,” Heller joked.
Heller shared some pretty ambitious alterations to our culture and its relationship with consumption and energy. These included installing floating housing units on Back Bay (he called it seascaping), harvesting more food from the ocean, building more hydroelectric plants on surrounding rivers, looking into tidal power, and encouraging residents to live on boats.
“A blend of constant hydroelectric/tidal power with some micro solar grids is definitely a possibility for Portland,” he said.
Whether you take the activist view, like Moon or Thibodeau, that climate change is a serious urgent threat or the cautiously optimistic adaptive approach like Heller, one aspect of the clean energy debate is settled and even bolstered by current market forces: in a planet of finite resources, utilizing renewable energy sources is the only future.
“If we don’t do what we’re doing, we’d see more floods and we’d be losing money,” said Thibodeau.
Portland’s Progress Toward 100 Percent Clean Energy:
Spencer Thibodeau the chair of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee.
It’s important to note that these goals only go toward making the city’s municipal operations (government, schools, parking enforcement) reliant on clean energy, not the residential and private sectors. But damn, wouldn’t it be utopian if every resident lived sustainably?
Create a Green Team - Ongoing
Sustainable Behavior Campaign for Employees: Not Started Yet
Foster Student Support - Ongoing
Environmental Preferable Purchasing - Not Started Yet
Educational and Informational Partnerships - Ongoing
Update Emissions Inventory - Ongoing
Conduct Public Outreach - Ongoing
Comprehensive Energy Audits - Complete
Explore an Energy Service Company - Complete
Upgrade lighting, HVAC, and water - Complete
Adopt Comprehensive Energy Policy - Not Started
Adopt Green Building Standards for City Buildings - Complete
Purchase Renewable Energy Credits - Ongoing
Explore Small Scale Solar Energy Generation (Ocean Ave. Landfill) - Complete
Reduce Fuel Consumption From City Fleet - Ongoing
Route Optimization Software - Not Started
Enforce Anti-Idling Policy - Ongoing
Transportation Demand Mgmt for Employees - Ongoing
Retrofit Streetlights to LED - Ongoing
Upgrade Pumps and Pump Stations - Ongoing
WATER WORLD | Do you care about the health of our oceans but know precious little about them? A film, titled Ocean Frontiers III, is screening this week and will illuminate the most pressing threats and challenges to marine conservation. As residents of a coastal city, it’s imperative that we discuss these issues and empower those fighting for a sustainable ocean future. A panel of regional experts will lead an interactive discuss after the credits roll, so stick around.
| FREE | 6:30 pm | University of Southern Maine, Hannaford Hall, 88 Bedford St., Portland | https://usm.maine.edu/
THEY’RE BACK | The four-piece acoustic bluegrass band Northwood return to Blue this week for their monthly residency. If you’re looking for a chill, free (leave a donation if you’re a nice person), and casual live performance paired with a burger or beer, this is the ticket.
| DONATION BASED | 7 pm | Blue, 650A Congress St., Portland | http://portcityblue.com/
Caroline Spence and Connor Garvey, two folk musicians that easily double as poets.
GET PENSIVE | The award-winning troubadour and simply lovely singer/songwriter Caroline Spence is showcasing her latest folk/Americana album Spades and Roses today. Her wispy vocals float above her rich arrangements and heavy narratives of love, loss, and existential moments. Real country music comes from the heart, and Spence seems to be keenly aware of that. She’s joined by Portland’s own poetic folk storyteller, Connor Garvey.
| $15 | 8 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland | https://onelongfellowsquare.com/ |
FRESH, YET RETRO | New York City’s a veritable melting pot of artists trying to carve out a name for themselves. It seems that Tash and Chris from the hard-hitting rock band The London Souls are halfway there. They’ve been unloading their classic Zeppelin-like riffs, Beatles-esque melodies, and decisively funky grooves since 2008, garnering praise from serious music critics and rock zombies alike. But they still do their thang relatively under the radar. Their intoxicating blend of both old and new approaches to rock-n-roll works; go see them when they play on the same bill as When Particles Collide and Midwestern Medicine.
| $18 | 9 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | http://www.portlandhouseofmusic.com/
PEDALING ART | Bike your ass over to the Portland Museum of Art this week. Why? Because apart from the fact that gazing at fine art is a dependable way to slow the tides of existential dread, there are some bicycle-related goodies outside! The Bicycle Coalition of Maine and CycleMania will be right outside the museum offering free tune-ups, a chance to win a brand new L.L.Bean bike, and a "make-a-take" art project that will make your two-wheel ride even spiffier.
| FREE(ISH) | 5 pm | Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Sq., Portland | http://www.portlandmuseum.org/
Jay Bragg, a former Portlander, is coming home to debut two new singles ahead of his first solo record in the fall.
MUSICAL JOURNEY | Jay Bragg, formerly of the “outlaw country” duo North of Nashville is coming home. He left Maine last year to set up shop in Nashville, Tennessee, evolve as a country artist, and satisfy his musical curiosity with the question: “what would it sound like if Merle Haggard wrote music with Ed Sheeran?” He’s bringing back what he’s learned from the humid heartland during this homecoming show at Empire, the same venue where Bragg released his first album 10 years ago. Welcome back! The Welterweights join him.
| $10 | 8 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | http://portlandempire.com/
KOMBUCHA ROCK | Portland’s reliable. You can expect a low-key but enjoyable brewery show somewhere in the city almost once a week. This time, the fuzzy Americana band Milk, and South Portland’s lo-fi indie rockers Million Dollar Lounge, are set to perform at the Urban Farm Fermentory.
| $8 | 8 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland | https://www.fermentory.com/
FRISKY FANDOMS | Would you ever describe the dragons from Game of Thrones as sexy? How about the Stormtroopers from Star Wars, or Caesar from Planet of the Apes? Drop dead gorgeous right? Probably not. You might think that sexy’s not often synonymous with fantasy universes (or the people obsessed with them) but the performers of the Suicide Girls Blackheart Burlesque show are here to challenge your narrow perceptions. They’re putting a geeky twist on classic burlesque with a show chock full of sultry women and pop culture references. Has this show been inspired by a teenage boy’s midnight fantasies? Regardless, we’re into it.
| $20 | 8 pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | http://www.statetheatreportland.com/
STAR IN THE MAKING | Quinn Sullivan used to be known simply as “the kid with a guitar.” That was back in 2006 when he enamored audiences on The Ellen Degeneres Show. After that, in 2007, the legendary blues guitarist Buddy Guy asked Sullivan to join him on stage during a live performance. Since that brief mentor moment, Sullivan’s amassed some impressive musical experience, from sharing the stage with the Roots and Eric Clapton to playing at storied venues like the Hollywood Bowl and the Madison Square Garden (and making even more late-night television runs). This dude’s success is inspiring; he’s been playing music over 10 years and he’s only 18! Cheer on this eager youngster from Massachusetts as he rocks the house at Aura and showcases what he’s learned from some of rock’s legends.
| $10 | 9 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland | http://auramaine.com/ |
AUDREY’S ALIVE | David Worobec’s hosting one of his whimsical and musically rich miniature puppet shows this week (he’s a trained opera singer, ya know?), a production he calls the Tophat Theater, performed, essentially, in his house. This time he’s taking on the classic dark comedy The Little Shop of Horrors. Aren’t you curious to see what the bloodthirsty plant looks like in tiny puppet form?
| DONATION BASED | 7 pm | Tophat Productions, 44 Carleton St., Portland | http://tophatshows.com/
BEER ME UP | Finally a rally people from both sides of the aisle can get behind: a rally dedicated to beer! Shipyard and the American Home Brewers Association invites you to come party with them and get an exclusive tour of their brewery on Newbury Street. Gulp down your favorite pours, learn about the brewing process, and win some prizes. Who doesn't love swag and gift certificates? ACHBA members get in for free, but you can sign up to be a member at the event, and if you're crazy about beer, or ever wanted to start brewing your own, we highly recommend you consider joining the club.
| VARIED | 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm | Shipyard Brewing, 86 Newbury St., Portland | https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/ |
OH FUNK YES | Lyle Divinsky, who’s been doing amazing things around the country touring with his outfit The Motet, is returning to Portland to join the band that helped launch his deliciously groovy career, Model Airplane. Opening for them is the Jason Spooner Band. Don’t miss the “Sasquatch of Soul,” because he’s a free funky spirit, and who knows when he’ll return to Maine again!
| $18 | 8 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | https://www.portlandhouseofmusic.com/
BLACK METAL ACTIVISM | Hey, maybe not all men are trash? The dudes at Last Mercy Emissions are hosting a hard rock/metal concert where a portion of the proceeds will go to support Planned Parenthood, a health organization that’s literally a lifesaver for thousands of women across the country. They need our support now more than ever. You can help PP (in an admittedly roundabout and totally removed kind of way) by thrashing around to the sonic nightmares of Apollyon, SIRE, Brazen Gate, and Imipolex.
| $8 | 9 pm | Geno’s Rock Club, 625 Congress St., Portland | https://www.plannedparenthood.org
SCREW PHYSICS | Gravity’s a scientific law; its effects can be observed across the breadth of the universe, influencing the movement of planets, stars, black holes and even entire galaxies. It’s truly eternal. Yet, the Earthling artists at Circus Maine don’t seem to be bothered by this mysterious and ubiquitous force. With their high-flying acrobatics, juggling, tight-rope walking, and aerial stunts, they’re basically going to be saying “f*ck you” to gravity. And it’s a delight to watch.
| $15 | 4 pm | Circus Maine, 4 Thompson’s Pt., Portland | http://www.flyinggravitycircus.com/
BEND AND BREWS | Practicing yoga’s been in mainstream Western culture for so long, it’s kind of lost its edgy hipster coolness. But if a yoga class is held in one of Portland’s most popular breweries, and is paired with a delicious Bissell beer, then it wins back some relevance points with the millennials — get with the times, older readers. Kay Cynewski from The Northeast Yogi is leading a one-hour class on vinyasa flow yoga (heads up, it’s challenging) that ends with you gulping down your favorite pour.
| $30 | 5:30 pm | Bissell Brothers, 4 Thompson’s Pt., Portland | http://www.bissellbrothers.com/
Local indie-rock band Weakened Friends (pictured above) join Old Etc. this week for a reunion show.
THE RETURN | Is it just a coincidence that some of our favorite local bands (that left us, or in this case, broke up) are returning home for special shows all in the same week? How fortuitous. This time, I’m referring to Biddeford’s cathartic indie-rock band Old Etc. They’re reuniting to play their well-reviewed, highly emotive, and majestic rock album Forever. Come sing, laugh, and cry with them one last time. Portland’s Weakened Friends, Bangor’s Wait, and Manchester’s Badfellows, are also scheduled to cause some mayhem.
| $10 | 8 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | http://www.portlandhouseofmusic.com/
VERSES VS. VERSES | If you end up having a shitty Monday (which is quite typical), a good story might help you forget about it. Stories clear up the cobwebs in your head. It’s why you should check out this monthly reading series at Blue, hosted by the Portland songwriter Chris Robley. He’s invited a solid trio of local wordsmiths to share their work during a night of poetry, prose, and music. This month’s theme is “Time: Travel,” and will have songwriter Caroline Cotter, journalist Egan Millard, and teacher Marita O’Neil, grapple with putting elegant words to this eternal theme.
| FREE | 5:30 pm | Blue, 650 Congress St., Portland | http://portcityblue.com/
GOT MILK | Over the past 50 years, New England has lost over 10,000 dairy farms, leaving just 2,000 scattered across the northeast. What happened to the farmers? What’s the general state of the dairy industry nowadays anyway? Is there a declining demand for milk? Or are there some insidious class divisions happening at the policy level? Because farmers can work for generations building a farm, and lose it all within an hour. If you care about this sort of thing, then your questions might be answered during this screening of Forgotten Farms, which will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers, Amanda Beal of Maine Farmland Trust and Dave Colson of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.
| $5 | 6:30 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | http://www.space538.org/
WORDPLAY | The Telling Room, a Portland non-profit dedicated to nurturing the powerful, yet sometimes fragile creative force that is youth storytelling, hosts their annual showcase. Each year, student writing is honored with the official release of the yearly anthology Sparks. Dubbed The Big Night 2017, this event is sure to reveal Portland’s budding, bright, literary talents.
| FREE | 5:30 pm | University of Southern Maine, Hannaford Hall, 88 Bedford St., Portland | http://tellingroom.org/
PRACTICE FIRST | Portland’s most well-known (and often quite funny) drag-queen personality Cherry Lemonade (real name Conor Leigh Tubbs) is hosting a new weekly series called “Mouth Off.” Competitors will take to the stage for a lip-sync battle while trying not to embarrass themselves in the meantime. The most convincing lip syncers won’t just take home bragging rights, but also cold hard cash! For the rest of us watching, this just sounds like a night of absurd, and likely hilarious, entertainment.
| $5 | 9 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland
SUNNY MELODIES | Brooklyn’s psych-pop four-piece Maybird team up with the grunge-soaked power pop band Sun Parade for a serendipitous night of clean, bubbly tunes. Ride the warm waves of sonic bliss these eight musicians will likely pump out with ease. Maybird will showcase their latest single, “Keep in Line,” which the DIYMag called a “contemporary, but timeless little number.” Recommended.
| $12 | 9 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | http://portlandempire.com/
DANCE FOR LIFE | Summer means Congress Square park is going to be 100 percent more lively. The warm air brings with it the return of the Portland Swing Project. The group’s core includes Caroline Cotter on ukulele, guitar and vocals, Tyler Lienhardt on fiddle and vocals, and Jed Bresette on standup bass and vocals. This powerhouse musical group exhibits a clear passion for swing music (from the 20s until today) and have earned a reputation for getting the timidest amongst us dancing and wiggling to their infectious grooves.
| FREE | 6 pm | Congress Square Park, 599 Congress St., Portland | http://www.portlandswingproject.com/
EARTHLY DELIGHTS | With school ending sessions and the temperature finally reaching 80 degrees, I’m going to officially dub next week as the start of summer. And the change of season brings a whole slew of social opportunities and cultural experiences. Our next edition of 8 Days will undoubtedly preview Portland’s first “Death Cafe” (a roundtable of folks sharing experiences with mortality), a sexual health story slam, an urban foraging workshop, pop group the xx at Thompson’s Point, weird rockers Jesus Cactus at the SPACE Gallery, and the return of Irish punk group Flogging Molly at the State Theatre. And there’s so much more; so pick up these pages next week for the full scoop.
Shaun Buck, pictured alongside this article, was supposed to be the “posterboy” for a new photography exhibition titled “Grit, Grime, and Grace,” aimed at humanizing people who use opiates and their struggle to get clean.
But four days before the exhibition’s opening, Buck was found dead inside a Porta Potty in Deering Oaks park. He had died of an opiate overdose.
Buck’s portrait, a photograph by Joanne Arnold, still hangs proudly at the exhibit, on view through May 29 at the Union of Maine Visual Artists Gallery on the first floor of the CTN building on Congress St., but with a makeshift memorial underneath it, asking others to share memories or condolences. A caption alongside his photo reads, “Do You See Me Now?”
Arnold, the photographer who captured Buck’s enigmatic expression back in November, said that his recent death ironically served to emphasize one of the exhibition’s core messages: the recovering addict community in Portland grapple with death and dying every day, but their suffering often goes unnoticed by the public.
“I wanted to make a stand and say, see, this is what happens,” said Arnold, whose work, along with Nick Gervin and Colin Malakie, makes up the UMVA street photography exhibition. “He was a great guy that was sailing smooth, but had a fall he couldn’t recover from. It's a typical experience of the community of loss.”
On average, at least one person dies of an overdose a day here in Maine. According to the Portland Press Herald, which published a detailed 10-part special report about opioid addiction titled “Lost” last March, 376 Mainers died of overdoses last year, from different backgrounds and points of life: young and old, wealthy and poor, rural farmers, coastal fishermen, and affluent suburbanites.
Arnold and photographer David Wade (who curated "Grit, Grime, and Grace") say that despite the sweeping scope of addiction and its coverage in state newspapers, the misery of those caught in it goes largely unseen. Arnold and Wade hope to steer viewers away from the “postcard pretty” image of Portland to the grim reality of the streets, where many locals struggle to get warm, fed, and clean from potentially fatal drug use.
“Portland’s not your happy, inviting, bucolic, summer-y, and touristy little city by the sea,” said Wade. “Nobody wants to see the reality of the opiate epidemic; it gets swept under the rug.”
Wade aims to show another side of Portland, one with “Grit, Grime, and Grace,” as the exhibition’s title aptly suggests.
“I'm not ignoring it anymore,” said Wade. “We have a real opiate epidemic here in Maine; it's bigger than I thought.”
The pervasiveness of this reality confronts viewers as soon as they enter the exhibition space with a banner that reads “We See You: Have you lost anyone in your life to Maine’s opiate crisis?” Underneath, dozens of post-it notes smatter the space featuring the names of those that lost their life to drugs. It just took one night to fill the banner.
“You can't just ignore this crisis and hope it goes away,” said Wade. “Maine’s billed as The Way Life Should Be, but hey, this is not how life should be.”
The exhibit features the work of Nicholas Gervin, Colin Malakie, and Joanne Arnold, who all have vastly different approaches to photography, but wind up embracing the same theme: objective, street level reality. Gervin’s a nightcrawler who roams the streets of Portland in the wee hours and with a “gotcha” style of flash photography which captures intense scenes of police arrests, house fires, drug abuses, and drunken 2:00 am brawls. One might say he covers the “grime.”
Taken on the streets of Portland by Nicholas Gervin.
Part of Gervin's artist statement reads: "Yes, life is good here in Portland, but not necessarily for everyone and certainly not all the time. Like many cities across America we have our fair share of issues that often go unresolved over the decades. Homelessness, drug addiction, poverty, unemployment, state budget cuts, an understaffed police force, overworked fire department and EMT’s, gentrification and global warming among many others. How will the greater community of Portland address these issues? The time for action is now."
Malakie’s black-and -white photographs reveal moments that don’t seem like they took place in Portland. His work embodies the “grit” of the city.
And Arnold, with her intimate and arresting portraits of MaineWorks employees — an organization that connects recovering addicts, ex-felons, and Veterans with employment opportunities — deftly embodies the “grace” portion of the exhibit.
As an Interfaith Chaplain and photographer who peers into personal, complex, and often times stigmatized experiences, Arnold says communication with her subjects is imperative. She understands the importance of conveying the difficult journey of recovery without tokenizing with experiences of addicts with her photographs.
“I get permission and build a relationship first,” said Arnold, who says she's often up at 5 am to meet with the MaineWorks group. “I don't want to take advantage of them.”
Arnold says she hopes viewers see her photographs and don’t jump to labeling her subjects as “junkies or idiots,” but instead as complex and tenacious humans who are burdened with a long and difficult journey.
“Some of these people have lost all their friends,” said Arnold. “The exhibition shows sadness and misery, but I hope it has a healthy effect.”
IN HER OWN WORDS
It’s been 10 months, since Kaylee Michelle, a young mother born and raised in Portland, last used heroin.
As a person in recovery, Michelle said that she’s used to people judging her, but often times, when they do, they don’t know her full story. Sometimes an exchange between a recovering addict and a sober person can result in a complete disregard for the complex forces that chained them to chemical dependency in the first place.
Michelle encourages those that are “quick to judge” to go see the “Grit, Grime, and Grace” and is glad that such an exhibition exists. She said it lets other addicts “know that they are not alone.”
Last Sunday, on Mother’s Day, Michelle took to Facebook to write a status — which, with her permission, I’ve reprinted below — that neatly sums up the point of this photo project and is symbolic of a recovering addict’s life experience. One who might cry out, “do you really see me?”
“You see heroin, I see low self-esteem. You see cocaine, I see fear. You see alcohol, I see social anxiety. You see track marks, I see depression. You see a Junkie, I see someone's son. You see a prostitute, I see someone's daughter caught in addiction. You see self-centeredness, I see the disease. You see a pill head, I see overprescribing of opiates. You see someone unwilling to change, I see someone hasn't connected with them yet. You see denial, I see someone hurting. You see someone nodding out, I see God showing us they need help. You see the end, I see the beginning. You see a dope fiend, I see a future success story. You see them, I see me.” - Kaylee Michelle