The Tale of Reggie And The Speechless Sportswriter

Reggie Jackson during his glory days.

Reggie Jackson during his glory days.

There he stood, standing on a street corner, waiting for a taxi — or perhaps a limo; that would be more of his style — to roll up to the curb and take him away.

There I stood, just feet away, looking at him; knowing full well who he was yet unable to bring to myself to say a single thing.

For the first time in my life, I was speechless.

Reggie Jackson — Mr. October — was standing there just feet from me and I couldn’t say a thing.

It was November 11, 1988, and Reggie and I had just exited the Wang Center in Boston where we had both attended “An Evening with 9, and Friends” — a charity hosted by the greatest hitter who ever lived, Ted Williams, benefiting the Jimmy Fund.

My boss back in those days was Bud Leavitt, executive sports editor of the Bangor Daily News and a long-time friend and fishing buddy of Ted Williams, and Bud had invited me to attend the event, hooked me up with a ticket and a chance to meet Ted after the show.

Needless to say, the lifelong Boston Red Sox fan in me jumped at the chance.

Funny thing about the Wang Center, though. When you walk inside there are two places you can go. Down to your seat, or up to seat.

I was seated in the upper-section and enjoyed the night immensely. It featured a variety of guests that was stunning and awe-inspiring.

As Ira Berkow wrote in the New York Times, “The friends of Williams, introduced one by one and ‘interviewed’ by David Hartman on a stage set like a fishing cabin, included former teammates like Dom DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr, rivals like Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller; Tommy Lasorda and Reggie Jackson; John Glenn, who was Williams’s squadron commander as a fighter pilot in the war in Korea; Tip O’Neill, the former Speaker of the House from Boston; Bud Leavitt, a Maine sportswriter and longtime fishing pal of Williams, and Stephen King, the writer and a New Englander, who represented baseball fandom and Williams fandom.”

One of my favorite moments of the night was Lasorda trying to convince the crowd that Williams wouldn’t be able to .280 if he played in the present day. Of course, the punch line was Williams was “70 years old” in 1988.

When the night finally ended — which is when Bud told me come down to the stage to meet up with him and Ted — I headed forward a life-long dream.

That path, however, is never as easy as you might seem and I quickly find out that when you’re walking down to the Wang Center after a show half the crowd is walking up to leave.

In other words, I swimming against the tide.

It felt like five innings had passed when I finally reached the stage and found John Henry Williams, Ted’s son and a former suitor of a good friend of mine’s sister. We spoke briefly and when I asked where his dad and Bud had gone, he pointed to the far end of the stage.

With the crowd no clear, I made a bee-line toward that area of the stage, running into former Red Sox Johnny Pesky (I found him to be rather stand-offish and rather jerky, despite his reputation of being beloved and super fan friendly) and Rico Petrocelli, whom I spoke with briefly.

My chance to meet Ted Williams, however, had slipped out the backdoor — gone forever. Six years later, Bud Leavitt — the fan who gave me my start in journalism when I was only 18 years old — died of cancer. Fourteen years after that, Ted would be gone, too.

As I walked out of the Wang Center that night, I was disappointed. My chance at meeting a true piece of history slipped from my grasp.

I stepped out into the Boston night air, walking onto the sidewalk adjacent to Tremont Street. My brother-in-law at the time was supposed to be picking me up and as I waited, I looked to the corner and that’s when I saw him standing there.

Reggie Jackson. Like me, he was waiting for his ride.

I wanted to say hello, introduce myself, talk about Ted and baseball. Sure, he was once a member of the New York Yankees, but he was baseball royalty.

I didn’t move. I just looked at him and said to myself, “Holy shit, that’s Reggie Jackson.”

I’ve interviewed plenty of Major League Baseball players over the years. NFL players. NBA players. Olympic Gold Medalists. Twice I’ve had the honor of being in the presence of the United States of America and I’ve shaken hands and talked to Al Gore when he was Vice President.

Only one person has ever left me speechless.

Reggie Jackson.

This ghost bounced up from my past this morning when I read an Associated Press story that Reggie went ballistic on a fan in Cooperstown, dropping some foul language after being asked for an autograph in a restaurant.

It made me think, What if I had struck up the nerve to speak to Reggie that night in Boston, 26 years ago?

Stars as bright as that shine bright under the spotlight, but outside of their given stages they can be downright curmudgeonly or straight-up assholes.

A fan in Cooperstown — who might have deserved such treatment, according to the AP report — found out by hard way.

Not me, though?

I was left speechless once in my life.

The night I saw Reggie Jackson standing on a street corner in Boston, Mass.

Maybe fate had me on the right side of silence that night. Or, maybe not.

I’ll never know.

 

 

A VIEW FROM THE LAKE: A Clash Over Staying Or Going — It’s Almost Time To Go

As those punk rock legends from London, England once asked, “Should I stay or should I go?

They also said, “This indecision’s bugging me” and I feel them at this time of conflict.

As I sit here on the porch of this cabin tucked at the bottom of a Maine hillside, over-looking Green Lake, I know my time here is coming to an end.

I can have the camp through Sunday, if I so choose.

Or I could leave today and begin the six-hour tarred journey back to Fairfield County, back to the hustle and bustle and of the 203 where, for the next few days, I can sit and bask in the cool air-conditioning, crash on my couch and catch up on my HBO shows, and just chill for a few days before heading back to the work grind come Monday … or Tuesday.

Like I said, “This indecision’s bugging me … Should I stay or should I go?”

Most of you who have been following this blog this week, as I’ve offered up “The View From The Lake,” are without a doubt doing your best Jackson Browne impressions and, as a collective group spread far and wide, harmonizing in high-pitched voices, “Won’t you Staaaayyyyy … Just a little bit long longer.”

But I’m not sure I want to. I’m feeling as if my time is up here and it’s time to return to my Humble Abode, to get away from the fish-less fresh-water lake that is in front of me, and head back to the salt-water bastion of the Long Island Sound … which also has no fish, from my experience.

I came home to get away from “home” and I did just that.

But it’s time to go.

Once upon a time, Green Lake was me … as I laid out in an early post, this water means a lot to me and will forever hold a place in my heart.

Today, though, I’ve come to realize it’s no longer the draw it once was for me.

I can’t drive eight miles for an iced coffee when I can walk two blocks for a Green Mountain coffee, 80 percent coconut, 20 percent hazelnut, and the best bacon, egg and cheese sandwich in the world from the Lighthouse Deli.

I’ve heard enough boats buzzing across the water this week to last a lifetime. I actually miss the hum of my tires rotating across the I-95 asphalt at 65 miles per hour.

Growing up in Orrington and Bangor, I’ve never been a country boy; never claimed to be one, never wanted to be one. Yes, I’ve been hunting (twice) and ridden a snowmobile and an ATV — Hell, I’m not a city-slicker by any means.

I’ve spent the last six days in this tiny spot some people would call Paradise and it’s been nice.

I’m glad I did it and I am thrilled to have caught up with the people from my past that have always meant so much to me.

My vacation bucket list is almost complete (I must find a way to get to McLaughlin’s Seafood today because I swear on the life of every lobster in the ocean, Connecticut seafood is the worst of its kind) so it just feels like it’s time.

I’ve got two more people I hope to see and I hope the gods of fate deal me a hand that allows that to happen.

Then, it’s time to go.

Rise and shine on Saturday morning; Destination “Home.”

A VIEW FROM THE LAKE: An Angel Reminds Me I Can’t Live With Regrets

The author surrounded by two of the the strongest, most amazing and beautiful women he has ever known.

Surrounded by two of the the strongest, most amazing and beautiful women I have ever known.

We were sat at a table for six, yet there was only five of us, catching up on old times and reliving long-ago memories while creating at least one more new one to carry into the future.

The empty seat was far from vacant, though, and I think we all knew that.

An angel was there with us. In spirit. In our hearts. Forever.

As I sit by the lake on this Thursday afternoon, though, my heart aches in a way I never expected. The loss of 20 years of memories has finally caught up with me. Deep inside it has created a vacancy, a void that pokes at me every time I think about what might have been.

In the nearly two decades since I left the state of Maine behind, I’ve made memories that I do hold tight and dear and will cherish for all of my tomorrows.

But in the aftermath of a simple meal — of seeing loved ones so near and dear to me again after such a long time apart — I can’t help but question, “What if?”

What if I had never left? What if I had come back sooner? What if I never come back again?

There are people in your life that will never become less than what they are — special in every which way possible.

The Carleton family of Carmel, Maine, will never fully comprehend what they mean to me; perhaps just as I will never understand what it is I might mean to them.

They are, simply put, the greatest family I’ve ever had the honor to know.

Lee and Sandy; Joline, Lisa, Robyn.

I was only 19 years old when Lisa won my heart and as she drew me into her fold, her family accepted me as one of their own.

When I needed a place to lay my head, I knew there was a place for me.

When I needed help and could turn in no other direction, they were there.

When I needed to feel loved and cared about, they were there.

Always and forever … until they weren’t.

Cancer took Sandy away from her family way too soon. Yet to look at Joline today is to see her mother — in her eyes, in her face, in her inner strength, in her patience and tolerance for other people. They both epitomize everything that is good in a world that every day seems a little bit worse. Knowing Joline has so much of her mother in her makes me love and admire her even more.

Lisa Carleton is the one who brought me into her family's fold and while I miss her every day, I am so thankful for that.

Lisa Carleton is the one who brought me into her family’s fold and while I miss her every day, I am so thankful for that.

Tragedy took Lisa away a few years later, the day an airplane fell out of the sky. She was one of 110 people who were snatched away from their loved ones over the Florida Everglades that day, and without lessening the loss of 109 other souls who were aboard, the loss of Lisa was a devastating blow to everybody who knew her — family, friends, acquaintances.

Just as there was something special about the entire Carleton family, there was something extra special about Lisa, an intangible that drew people to her. People loved her and she loved people. She loved life and people loved live even more because they had Lisa in theirs.

I know I did, but over time it didn’t stop with Lisa. Their family became a part of me. Even as worlds separated us by the passage of time and growing up, growing apart, there was a bond between us that would never waver.

I remember the day my son was born and I learned that Robyn was in the next delivery room, ready to have her first born as we prepared to have ours.

Autumn and Sam. I always thought it would be funny — if not fateful — if they someday ended up together, but alas through 22 years of life that has never been in the case. (At least not yet).

When I left Maine nearly 20 years ago, I physically left the Carleton family behind me, but I have always carried them with me.

I would see a camper and it would trigger a memory.

I would hear the phrase “coming out of the closet” and it would bring forth a memory that goes down in the family’s history of me literally coming out of Lisa’s closest on a night when I wasn’t even supposed to be in her bedroom. (And yet her parents still loved me).

I hear songs to this very day and I can’t stop the tears from welling up in my eyes.

After spending just a few hours with Joline and Robyn upon this return — this vacation to the place I once called home — I found myself cherishing that moment, just hours long, more than ever.

Yet today, I regret the 20 years of missed memories that my chosen path has cost me. Or cost us.

You can’t live life with regrets — Lisa would be the first one to tell me that; and we all know it — but I can’t help how I feel.

Thankfully, after too much time had passed, it took a man named Mark Zuckerburg to bring us back together and I’ve been able, from afar, to be a part of the Carelton’s world again.

It’s vastly different in so many ways, yet it’s exactly the same in terms of their love for one another and the strength they have all shown, no matter what the world throws at them.

Instead of succumbing to the devastation of losses so great, ones which would destroy lesser families, they have moved forward with an even deeper love and appreciation not just for each other, but others outside the family, as well.

Instead of letting an evil masked man tear apart their world, they put their focus on a princess whose strength and zest embodies everything that is good and whole about this family that I care about so much.

And as I write this, sitting lakeside, I know I have to leave them again. And it’s not easy this time.

Leave this place. Leave this state. Leave them.

Driving away from them on Wednesday night was hard enough because of the emotion and feelings it brought forth, but soon I will be driving further away and the Carleton family — while forever in my heart — will be in my rearview mirror, with me staring back and wondering if any other memories will ever be made.

They have filled a big piece of my heart for more than 30 years of my life, but it is only now that I realize how empty part of my heart became without them.

I know they have each other and some angels watching over them every day, and for that I am grateful.

And I hope they always know that with every breath I take, and every morning I’m blessed to see another day, be it here by this beautiful lake, or back down amidst the hustle and bustle of lower Connecticut, they will forever have all my love and respect, and I can only dream somewhere down the line we have more memories coming our way.

A VIEW FROM THE LAKE: The Legend of The Train-Hopping Brotherhood

A set of railroad tracks lead away from Center Drive toward the rest of the town of Orrington.

A set of railroad tracks lead away from Center Drive toward the northern side of the town of Orrington.

Legends, they say, become even bigger over time and if there is one thing I’ve learned over the last couple of days it’s that me and my two best friends created a little bit of a legend in these parts while we were growing up.

Twice this week the words “jumping on trains” have been uttered in reference to me and these two friends, bringing forth instantaneous flashbacks of how indestructible and stupid we all were in our younger years.

When I was in third grade I was given to me, by the Gods of Fate, the two brothers my own mother would never be able to pop out.

Jody and Robbie were a year ahead of me and a year behind me, respectively, in school and they lived just about 200 yards down the road from the house where I grew up. Thus, through a love of sports, a love of exploring our neighborhood and a growing love for each other we became fast friends.

In time, we were like brothers; they in the literal sense and me, of course, as the brother from another mother.

If I wasn’t staying at their house, they were staying at mine. Their mother became my surrogate mother, feeding me, fixing me, making sure I got to and fro on certain days when we went places.

For the better part of the next 10 years we were all but inseparable.

Their family had moved twice within our little town while my family moved just once, but the way things worked out we wound up being separated by a set of railroad tracks — a route that would cut our journey to and from each others’ houses almost in half.

In wasn’t that one of us was suddenly from the wrong side the tracks. In fact, the tracks led directly toward each other, instead of driving us apart.

We could walk the road or we could walk the tracks.

And, sometimes as the late great movie icon Dalton from “Road House” once said, we could ‘Take the train.”

If the timing we worked out just right, a train might come by and if it was going in the right direction, we could hop a ride.

Yes, you read that right, we were young and foolish enough to jump onto moving trains as a mode of transportation between our respective houses.

Thankfully, bicycles soon became our main mode of transportation and shortly thereafter we all got our driver’s licenses and our worlds were allowed to expand further than we could have imagined.

Upon arriving in Maine last Sunday, the first person I caught up with was Lois — Robbie’s and Jody’s mother.

I hadn’t seen her in perhaps 15 to 20 years, but she had run into my own mother during certain shopping excursions and word always got back to me that the next time I returned home, I better stop in and see Lois or there would be hell to play.

Hence, she was my first stop coming home.

We laughed over many of the old times of my growing up years and “the trouble we caused” as kids. Thankfully that trouble wasn’t too bad and, more thankfully, we never got caught.

That’s when she admitted she had learned in her later years that us boys would occasionally hop on a train and go for a ride. We were modern-day mini-hobos — at least if you considered the mid-to-late 1970s modern day, which we did back in then.

There were plenty of trains to choose from back in those days as the big paper mill down in Bucksport, the town adjacent to the humble little hamlet we grew up in, was always receiving deliveries and then shipping things out.

Trains were a common sight back in those days; unlike today as the recent closing of the Bucksport mill has sucked even more life from the state I once called home.

Today, the train tracks leading from my house toward their house is overgrown with weeds and tall grass; trees and bushes sending their branches outward to hover over the rails.

I didn’t think much of the train hopping after that — at least not until Tuesday night when I stopped by Robbie’s house to catch up with him.

Sitting on the front porch of the house Robbie shares with his own family, he suddenly looked up at his stepson and said, “This is the guy we used to jump on trains with.”

The legend really did live on.

The best part about growing up with friends like Robbie and Jody is that time doesn’t separate the bond we formed as boys growing up together.

For the two hours, I spent with Robbie — stealing him from his family for a beer at a bar in Bangor — it was just like old times and we didn’t miss a beat.

Lots of Laughs. Sharing memories. Remembering what our dreams were and how we ended up where we were.

Time did nothing to corrode our relationship, our enduring friendship; nor the love we have always had for one another.

It was noticeable from our first embrace to our final handshake and I noticed as I drove away from Robbie’s house on Tuesday night that I already missed him.

Robbie and Jody will always be my brothers — if not in blood, then from formative bonds of everything we went through and everything we know about each other.

We jumped onto moving trains together.

That’s what brothers do sometimes.

 

 

 

A VIEW FROM THE LAKE: A Place That’s Always Been A Part of Me

Jenkins Beach on Green Lake, the place where it all began.

Jenkins Beach on Green Lake, the place where it all began. (Photo courtesy of jenkinsbeach.com)

As I submerged myself into the water of Green Lake, it felt so familiar to me; like an old friend embracing me and asking me where I had been.

It has been close to 30 years since I dipped my toes into these waters, but as I waded out deeper and felt the water rise up my body, a flood of memories rose up with each and every step.

As a child, I had come here with my family, to Jenkins Beach — the family friendly portion of the lake. I remember the long walk from the parking lot to the beach, the hot sand underneath my bare feet, the plastic pail and shovel at my side, ready to build a sand-castle I could only hope would go 100 feet high.

I remember the dock that extended out from the left side of the beach, and the boats that would roar out onto the lake from the far side of its wooden planks. Roped inside to the right was the  beach area, and on the right side of the dock was a metal slide that would whip laughing children straight down into the water. It also allowed the perfect launching pad for those ready to cannon-ball their friends once they emerged from beneath the surface.

Up the right side of the beach was a row of small cabins — mostly yellow in color, if I remember right — overlooking the shore of the lake as they disappeared into the distance.

Today, I’m spending a week at one of those cabins — though mine is much farther up shore from where Jenkins Beach-goers still enjoy a family-friendly time.

I have come here this week for one reason, hidden in the guise of my vacation.

I could have gone anywhere, you know — New York City again, Washington D.C. again, Boston again, North Carolina again.

But instead I chose Green Lake in Dedham, Maine.

Again.

Thirty years later. That’s three decades to you me.

I have come here for all the reasons you go on vacation. The rest. The relaxation. The escape from the real world.

But I’ve also come here to dance with ghosts and think back to a time when life was so vastly different and my whole future was still an unknown journey ahead of me.

I’m trying to enter this next portion of my life with a healthier outlook on things: Physically, mentally, meta-physically.

On Monday, as I lay on my back in the waters of Green Lake, feeling the fish nibble at my legs, feeling the pockets of cold water rush past me always followed by the soothing warm water rush that rolled by next, I looked skyward and remembered everything that this lake meant to me so many years ago.

The Diet Pepsi Girl

My freshman year in high school, I fell head over heels in love with a girl named Theresa Lawlor.

There was just one problem, though.

Theresa Lawlor didn’t know I existed.

Lawlor

Theresa Lawlor, right, didn’t know I existed, but she has become one of my favorite Green Lake memories thanks to the Summer of 1981. (Photo courtesy of gobrewerwitches.com)

Well, that’s not quite true. She did know I existed because I was the dumb kid who rode his 10-speed bicycle eight miles from his home, all the way to the Dairy Queen where she worked just to order a Fudge Brownie Delight.

I had first set sights on Theresa during the fall sports season. We were both cross country runners, though we went to different schools.

I attended John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor. She was a junior across the river at Brewer High School.

The first time I saw her in her Orange and Black uniform I was smitten. Hell, for a 14-year-old boy who didn’t know the meaning of the word smitten, I was in love.

She was small in stature with short dark hair and she could run like the wind. If I remember right, she was the second-best runner on a very good Brewer High girls team which won the state championship in the fall of 1980.

I could only run well with a tail-wind behind me.

It didn’t matter, though. I had a better chance of winning a state championship cross country race than I ever had getting her to notice me in a boy-girl way.

But, the first time I saw her working at the Dairy Queen, I knew I’d be back.

It was, looking back on it now, perhaps my first battle with addiction. But, was I hooked on the fudge brownie delights? Or perhaps it was longing for another smile from the adorable Theresa Lawlor.

But I digress.

That’s who Theresa was and how she caught me eye, but it was the day I saw her at Jenkins Beach on Green Lake that jumped out at me yesterday after I had jumped into the proverbial deep end.

I was there with friends — including some Brewer High students, who personally knew Theresa — and she was there with some of her friends.

In a bikini.

Now needless to say that shouldn’t surprise anybody since we were at a beach, but let’s remember I was this now 15-year-old kid who didn’t exist in her mind, but I had always seen her in an orange singlet with black shorts, running by me in a matter of seconds, and suddenly here she was in a bikini.

Oh my heart!

That day, laying on the beach, Theresa Lawlor was drinking a Diet Pepsi.

That was also the day I started drinking Diet Pepsi for an entire summer. (If I had known about stock portfolios back then I would have suggested buy, buy, buy!)

These days, I’d probably be considered a stalker, but in the innocence of the early 1980s, I was nothing more than foolish kid in love with a girl who didn’t have the time of day for me, except for when she waited on me at the Dairy Queen and would give me that smile and say, “Thank you” and “Have a great day.”

Little did she know, just by seeing her, I already had.

So, Theresa, thank you — for the memory and for the summer of Diet Pepsi, because who knows how much weight I would have gained that year if not for cutting back on my sugar intake.

The Jersey Girls

Part of the tradition behind Green Lake is if you go enough times over the years you graduate further up the beach.

As a family, you go to Jenkins Beach.

Once you have your own mode of transportation, you go to Violette’s Landing; which is where the high school and college kids would hang out each and every summer.

It was the cooler place to be.

The view from the beach at Violette's Landing at Green Lake.

The view from the beach at Violette’s Landing at Green Lake.

Now Violette’s Landing was vastly different than Jenkins Beach. It didn’t have a dock that rolled out into the water off the shore. Instead, it had a float complete with a slide and a raised diving board that was perhaps 25 yards out into the water.

This was big kid territory, without a doubt.

During the Summer of either 1982 or 83 — my word, age does a number on the memory’s filing system — me and my buddies befriended two girls who hailed from New Jersey. They were also the nieces — or was it granddaughters? — of the family that owned Violette’s Landing.

They were close to our age, so for most of that entire summer, we had new friends to visit every time the sun would become too much and we wanted to cool ourselves off.

And every time we went there, we would see the girls — not just new friends for the summer, but feeling like old friends, as well.

Of course, all these years later, I couldn’t tell you their names. Their ghostly images in my head fade in and out of view as I try to even think back to what they looked like. Nothing is there, but I know they were real.

And I do remember they made that summer something special, right down to the very special good-bye kiss I got to share with one of them before they returned to New Jersey for good.

It’s been more than 30 years since that summer, but it’s a memory that has never left me, a ghost that can still come back to dance with me from time to time.

More than 30 years ago, we frolicked in the same water I was floating in on Monday morning.

The Red-Headed Girl

Once you start to grow up and break free from the bonds of home you find that you have this freedom to make decisions. You do what you want, when you went, how you want and sometimes those decisions lead to something epic.

And I mean Epic.

One night — perhaps in the Summer of 1985 or 86? — I had one of those nights at Green Lake.

This wasn’t a beach night. This was a party night at a camp on the southern-most tip of the lake.

Names will be withheld to protect the innocent — and perhaps the embarrassed — but in summary three girls invited three boys to one of the girl’s family camp.

The three boys brought alcohol (none of us were of age yet) and a good time was had by all.

It was one of those nights where stories are told decades later and everybody involved can give a knowing nod as to what transpired in the glowing light of a camp-fire, and under a moon that glistened off the lake.

For me and red-headed girl who became my friend that night, we’ve popped in and out of each others’ lives ever since.

In the immediate aftermath of that night, I would visit her at home, where her parents — like all parents when I was a teenage boy — hated me.

A year or so later, she stopped by my apartment unannounced and we caught up with each other again.

A quarter of a century later, we found each other again through that God-sent/Devil-built thing called Facebook, and we’ve been stayed in touch for the last half decade.

On Monday afternoon, hours after I had pulled myself from the familiar waters of Green Lake, I sat on a picnic table overlooking the lake with the red-headed girl at my side.

She won’t fess up to it, but she looked as beautiful as she ever had. Me? I still need a strong tail wind to walk fast.

We watched as her own two children — her oldest right around the same age as she was when I first met her — climbed into a canoe and rowed away from the dock and out into the water.

We talked — not about that night on the other side of the lake; that was from another lifetime — but about today and tomorrow and what lay ahead for both of us down the road.

I’m hoping this week and this lake can give me some answers, which is part of the reason why I picked this place to get away.

She was on her own journey and, hours later, it was time to leave.

As the red-headed girl and her two kids drove away from the camp, I went out to the porch and looked over the vast expanse of water.

Once upon a time this was our lake. I think it belongs now to our memories.

I honestly don’t think I’ll ever set foot in Green Lake again before I leave it behind one more time.

A VIEW FROM THE LAKE: Sunday’s Arrival and Monday Morning’s Musing

The front porch of the camp I'm renting on Green Lake in Maine this week.

The front porch of the camp I’m renting on Green Lake in Maine this week.

As crazy as it sounds, the thing I noticed the most as I made the long drive home from the 203 to the 207 was the trees.

In a world where everything is supposed to be feeling smaller, they were bigger, standing larger than life; changing the way I used to view things.

The ride from Portland, Maine, to Bangor has always been a boring one. Trees to the left of me, forests to the right, I’m stuck in the middle with them as my car whizzes northbound faster than ever courtesy of a speed limit of 70 miles per hour.

I first noticed the difference when I hit Augusta, when I spied a glance toward the Augusta Civic Center and found it wasn’t there. Well, I assume it was there, but once upon a time you could see it above the tree line.

Not anymore.

Driving through Waterville, I could always look to the right (or the left, depending on if I was driving north or south) and I’d be able to see a steeple from the Colby College campus. On Sunday I looked and saw green. Well, trees of green.

I literally couldn’t see the steeple through the trees.

Finally arriving in my “hometown” — the humble little hamlet of Orrington, Maine; population 3,000 when I called it home — I almost missed my best friend’s parents’ house because of how high the trees had grown in front of it.

Sure, I’ve grown, too, but everywhere else I’ve gone through life things seem to get littler.

New York City — which has always seemed to me to be the biggest city in the civilized world — has gotten smaller with each and every visit. The last time I went to Boston, which once upon a time had felt huge, suddenly felt so cozy.

Stay away from Maine for 20 years, though, and you find things really are getting bigger.

The trees. Go figure.

• • •

One of the reasons I escaped to Maine for the second week of my first-ever “double vacation” was to clear my head, rest my soul and do some writing.

That, I hope, includes daily updates here at the “October Weekend.”

All I need on a Monday morning in Maine.

All I need on a Monday morning in Maine.

I’ve always said this isn’t about you, the reader, but about me and thus I’m sure I”ll dance with a few ghosts here as the week goes by and I try to make it the full seven days I’ve shelled out the big bucks for.

Upon arriving at the camp, which is tucked away along the shoreline of Green Lake in Dedham, my initial reaction 15 minutes in was simply “What the hell am I doing here?”

There is no television. (Well, there is a television, but there is nothing but static since there is no cable TV and no antenna attached to the top of it.) I came in knowing I wouldn’t have ESPN or CNN or HBO — but no Channel 2, 5, 7 or 12? Oh dear.

The renter told me he had a shoe box full of DVDs tucked away somewhere inside the camp, but they are nowhere to be found, perhaps pilfered by a previous renter. Must have been a helluva selection. I’m guessing “The Lake House” with Sandra Bullock.

I do, however, have my phone and iPad and when I must hear the noise of something other than a boat speeding across the water, or a bird calling out from the trees (which I’m sure are bigger here, too), I am safe in knowing that the next episode of “Broadway Empire” is only a few gigabytes away.

I have no timetable here in Maine, not this week. I do have a list of people that I want to see and hope to see, and a couple of other plans that I hope to undertake, as well.

And, as I said, I want to write.

Maybe I’ll write a lot because, Lord knows, there are plenty of big-ass trees in this state all of a sudden to put the Internet out of business and keep newspapers alive for another good decade or two.

If only people could walk away from that Internet and actually buy a newspaper, that is.

But I digress.

There is a reason I am here — a reason I picked this place and this lake, which is a part of me and who I am today — and I’m sure I’ll get to that in another post.

For now, though, there are a few things I need to do before I get around to doing the things I want to do.

I hope the sun is shining where you are. And I hope there are less ants.

The Silence Of Summer

Hoops

Eight years ago, when I moved into the Humble Abode that I have called home for longer than any other before, I found myself living in amidst a bastion of sports noises; sounds that were simply music to my ears.

Outside my bedroom window, the boys would be in the batting cage every morning, ripping into pitches over and over until the callouses on their hands were sore. Ping … Ping … Ping … Ping.

It was my alarm clock, my reminder that the world was alive and it was time to get out of bed and join the fray.

Later, in the afternoon and early evenings, I would hear the repetitive sound of a basketball striking the pavement, knowing the boys had invited friends over, the hoops had been lowered to eight feet and a massive game of Dunk Ball was going on in the driveway underneath me.

I never knew who won or who lost, only when a foul was committed as the offending player would body check another into the garage doors, shaking the building, my apartment included.

But I never cared.

How many times in my own glory days was I out in a driveway in Orrington, Maine, playing the same games with my friends, competitive to the end?

Out back, just behind the cabana, is the swimming pool and year after year, the summer months were filled with the splish and splash that you wondered if Bobby Darin was taking a bath. Friends, family, countrymen — lend me  your pool; I’ve come to cannon ball Caeser, just to bury him.

It was just a few short years ago that the boys finally grew big enough to climb up on the fence and then onto the top of cabana, leaping high and far into the deep end of the pool.

Teenage daredevils to the highest degree.

Pool

The sounds were pure joy. Sports. Friendship. Family. Summer. Life.

This summer, the silence is deafening.

The boys — who are actually my landlords’ two boys — are pretty much grown now.

One is off in Utica, N.Y., playing in a summer college baseball league, prepping himself for his sophomore year of college baseball; the other is working his tail off this summer to help pay for his final year in college.

The batting cage was long ago packed up and put away. The basketball hoops stand erect at each end of the drive way, silent tributes to games and memories gone by. The pool is blue in color and — perhaps — blue in sadness that it doesn’t get the action it once did when everybody was young and summer meant having fun and playing games.

This summer — the Summer of 2015 — is silent outside the Humble Abode; the latest change that, as I grow older and the fall season of my life becomes more clear, reminds me that so much is changing around me.

I don’t like it, but I’m helpless to stop it.

An basketball sits out on the lawn, yearning to be played it. But the boys are busy. They’re growing up.

Life is changing and they’re building their future.

Life is moving forward and it is doing it silently.

But, like I said, the silence is deafening.