Bangor – The Place Where Changes Collide

sp2rbangor-maine-postcard-paul-bunyan-bangor-auditorium-vieAs I stood waiting for my turn at the counter, one of the two ladies standing next to me had obviously imbibed in a little too much Christmas cheer.

“Connecticut Huskies?” the older one asked.

“Yeah,” I replied, knowing she had read the words and logos on my gray hoodie sweatshirt. “I live in Connecticut.”

She looked me up and down.

“But you’re from here,” she said. “Otherwise you wouldn’t be here.”

The first here she was referring to was Bangor, Maine … a/k/a home.

The second here was Tri-City Pizza, a little hole-in-the-wall pizza joint that nobody would go to if they hadn’t lived in Bangor, Maine, and knew it was perhaps the best pizza in the city.

The two ladies in question were spot on and we talked for a bit. The older one graduated five years ahead of me from the high school I had attended for three years. I knew a handful of people from her graduating class and rattled off their names easily. A few teachers, too.

Then, I got my pizza, and disappeared into the night.

I was home, but I wasn’t.

I haven’t called Bangor “home” for almost 20 years — at least not in an official hang-your-hat capacity. That’s nearly 40 percent of my life, believe it or not.

Coming back, I barely recognized her.

Bangor has changed, I’ve been told, by people who have lived their whole lives here.

I sense that. I can feel it as I drive the streets, knowing exactly where I am going even though so little looks the same.

Technically, I didn’t live in Bangor until I was 18. I left when I was approaching 32. But this city of 35,000 in the heart of Maine was the hub of my world growing up.

Stores. The mall. My high school.

I remember going to Sears and Roebuck when it was downtown, hovering high above the Kenduskeag Stream. That was before the Bangor Mall was even an idea. The Freeses building. Standard Shoe. Zayres. Shop n Save.

Growing up, going to Bangor meant something.

There are ghosts to dance with at every turn as I drive through the city, from my formative years to the day I bid her goodbye.

A building I used to work in, gone. A bar I’ve danced at and gotten drunk in, gone. A rooming house where the most adorable red-headed girl sat on my lap in a moment I wanted to hang on to forever … gone. The apartment where I asked my ex-wife to marry? Yeah, that’s still there, with new tenants making new memories that hopefully won’t sour over time.

And that was just last night, making one roundabout trip.

It was Natalie Merchant who once sang, “And I’ve walked these streets; In the madhouse asylum they can be” and I remembered how I once knew every nook and cranny of Bangor, from border to border.

I never thought Bangor would become so distance, but over time and over circumstance, it did.

There was a time, not that long ago, when I seriously thought I’d never return.

Some of the ghosts were just too painful.

But here I am on Christmas Eve, about to make another foray out into the city I once knew so well.

The memories and the ghosts will rise up at an alarming place. Some I will embrace with a smile. Maybe even a hearty chuckle. Others, I’ll ward off best I can.

Bangor is nothing like it was when I left.

Neither am I.


A Hundred Pennies For Your Thoughts: The Story of the Dollar Bill

100 pennies for your thoughts on the story behind this dollar bill.

100 pennies for your thoughts on the story behind this dollar bill.

Everything, I suppose, has a back story to it. Some interesting, some mundane, some likely just run-of-the-mill.

People and things. Bruises and Broken hearts. Monumental nights and special days.

Even a simple dollar bill can have a story behind it. Of course, I’m going beyond the historic implications of George Washington on the front with the U.S. Seal on the back along with the pyramid and one eye, and the Mason teachings that leads us to a special National Treasure. That story has been done, thank you very much Nicholas Cage.

On Wednesday morning I came across such a dollar bill, one attached with a story I wish I could tell.

By all ways and means, it’s your typical $1 bill. It’s worth 100 pennies. Ten dimes. Four quarters. You get the point.

It was printed in 2001, a Series E bill from the Bank of Richmond, Virginia. It carries with it the serial number E32450315.

It’s 15 years old, but feels newer … likely because it sat protected for a long time, a dollar bill with a special meaning to somebody out there.

I can’t help but wonder why.

This is where the story comes into play.

Hand written on front, in black magic marker, is “2003 … To Poppa … Love, Sara + Kim … XOXO.”

Who are Sara and Kim? Who is Poppa? And why in 2003 did they feel obligated to give him a $1 bill.

It could be anything, really.

• Two sisters who opened a business with their father’s help and the day they made their first $1, they gave it to him as a heartfelt thank you.

• Two grandchildren giving their grandfather a $1 bill because one of his teeth fell out at the dinner table, and they wanted him to feel better since the Tooth Fairy doesn’t visit grown ups.

• Or, maybe it was two Oakland Raiders fans, paying back a bet to their retired father, living in Florida, the year the Tampa Bay Bucaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII, 48-21.

Like I said, it could be anything in the world, but it has a story. I know it. I feel it.

I spent the better part of my morning thinking about this dollar bill. I Googled the words printed on the front, hoping to strike lighting in a bottle. I hopped on and punched in the serial number hoping against hope to find where the dollar bill came from.

Perhaps the only way to find out is to write a blog post, and stick it in on Facebook and Twitter and hope it goes viral until somebody sees it and says, “Hey, I know that dollar bill.”

Then the real story could be told.

But I am a glass is half empty realist who knows I’ll never know the full story behind this particular dollar bill.

In my head, I’ll just have to write my own story and be satisfied.



What did you say? Listening to my body


For the most part, I feel like I’m in tune with my body. As such, my body communicates back to me pretty well.

I know I’m fat. I know I need to lose weight.

That is why I joined a gym last month.

Granted due to my scatter-shot work schedule while juggling two jobs, I’ve only been able to get to the gym on two occasions since I’ve joined, but that’s more on me than anything.


As the Little River Band said, I need to, “Take time to make time; Make time to be there.”

So at 10 this morning I trudged into my local Crunch Fitness for a free one-hour welcome-to-the-club appointment with a trainer.

As I said, I know my body.

I also know the trainers are in the gym to book training time and make money.

But, I went into this session with one goal in mind — to find exercises to help strengthen and gain flexibility in my ailing shoulders. I told the trainer straight up that’s all I wanted to do because I know I need/want to drop 30 pounds before I even considered raising my training goals at all.

My shoulders, however, are an issue I need to address sooner than later.

Playing golf more than 15 years ago, I injured my right shoulder. I don’t remember the moment, or the shot, but I remember the burning pain and sensation that followed. I was working as a freelance writer at the time and had no insurance, so with Obama-care still a decade-plus away, I never got it fixed.

The pain subsided over time, but the mobility in that shoulder has been limited since and has gotten worse with age.

I haven’t played golf since, but it’s an old injury that crops up far too often these days. In short, it now affects my day-to-day living.

My trainer, Lionel, was a nice-enough guy. Twenty six years old and in shape, he was a fan of the Boston Celtics and the New England Patriots. For a Maine native like me, living so close to New York, City, I could live with that.

He weighed me (too high, but down three pounds from when I last weighed myself), took my BMI (off-the-chart high, albeit it barely) and as we warmed up for five minutes on the treadmill we talked nutrition.

We did two sets of one minute on this rope-climb machine, including one on the hardest level.

We moved to a machine that worked my shoulders in a couple of different positions — first facing the “weights”, then facing away. Three sets of 12s and he told me how good I was doing. (Butter me up, yeah, I get it).

We worked with some free weights, doing this two-pronged exercise that was part curl, part overhead lift. Again, three sets of 12.

I was feeling the burn in my shoulders, but it was nothing too bad.

In the past, I’ve known the feeling of giving 110 percent and running until I puked.

This was kid’s stuff.

Until it wasn’t.

Then my body reminded me, I’m not a kid.

I had just done my second set using some sort of rope that provides stress and tension when the world started to go fuzzy.

My left shoulder — which is my good shoulder — started screaming at me. I asked for a moment before starting the third set.

I didn’t get full-blown dizzy, but I did get fuzzy headed. My vision didn’t get blurry, but it was hard to focus. The ears felt filled with cotton as the music that was blasting through the gym sounded as though it was suddenly being played behind a brick wall.

I never went down, but I did sit. I had to sit.

The trainer was talking and I tried to listen, but my body wouldn’t let me focus. He was almost doing his imitation of Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Wah wah wha wha … wah wah wah wha.”

The worst was over quickly, but the symptoms didn’t disappear with any speed.

As I sat, I tried to regain my wits. I told him I had eaten breakfast earlier that morning. He said it could be dehydration, though I had been drinking water through the workout. He got me a second bottle and handed it to me.

He asked if I usually worked out in a hoodie. Normally, I don’t … just a t-shirt.

“You could have just overheated,” he said. “It came on fast.”

Just like a car, I thought. One minute you’re chugging down at highway at 55 miles per hour, the next you’re parked on the side of the road swearing.

I took off the gray Hampden Academy Basketball sweatshirt I was wearing, pulling it over my head, letting the cool gym air waft over me.

I started feeling better quickly after that.

Overheating? Perhaps.

I told the trainer I was shutting myself down for the day and he understood, again telling me how good I was doing and he had no concerns over it at all. He seemed surprised how quickly it struck.

Him? Try being me.

I wasn’t pushing too hard, at least it didn’t feel like it when I was doing the exercises. It all seemed pretty tame … though my muscles were feeling it.

Feel the pain? Feel the burn?

For the record, the heart felt fine. No chest pain, no numbness or tingling, or anything out of the norm.

It’s odd that this workout and, hence, this post comes just days after I posted about the loss of a coach who died following a workout back in my home state of Maine.

It’s been almost an hour and a half since the “crash” happened I’m sitting here writing with fatigued shoulders, but everything else feels fine.

I’ll try to get back to the gym tomorrow for a nice leisurely 5K walk. The next day, I’ll try another mile or two and throw in a few of those shoulder exercises.

My body tells me to go slow into this new routine and I know I need to listen.

We have that kind of relationship.

Today, I pushed it even when it felt like I wasn’t.

But I’m listening now.

I’m listening.

Another month, another heartbreaking loss

Photo courtesy of Portland Press Herald

Will Fulford of Kennebunk catches his breath after crossing the finish line of the 84th Boys and Girls Club Patriots Day 5-Miler in Portland in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Portland Press Herald)

For the second time in a month, I sat down at my computer and discovered the heartbreaking news.

An athlete that I had covered, had written about and remembered, had passed away before his time.

Will Fulford was 29 when he died on Sunday.

I didn’t know him well. But I remembered his name immediately.

Biddeford High track coach Will Fulford died Sunday at the age of 29.

Biddeford High track coach Will Fulford died Sunday at the age of 29.

He was a runner from Kennebunk High School in southern Maine, a region I worked in for three years. He had gone on to college and become an educator and a coach, giving back to his chosen sport by coaching cross country and track at Biddeford High School, a town over from his hometown.

How many lives in his young career had he already touched, I wondered? Not enough is the final answer.

Sadly, that’s the second time I’ve written those two sentences in a month. Last month, a state away, in New Hampshire, Bryant Lausberg died at the age 27. Drug overdose. He, too, had been a teacher and a coach.

Now both are gone.

Lausberg was done in by his inner demons. Something inside took Fulford, too, though this was vastly different.

Fulford was working out at the University of New England with his wife when he suddenly had a cardiac incident, according to newspaper accounts.

When I saw who Fulford was working out with when he died, my heart sank even deeper.

Ashley Potvin-Fulford. His wife of just over four months.

I remember Ashley well. She was a girls hockey player at Biddeford High when I worked there. A great kid, one of the special ones you never forget.

Today, she’s the head coach of the girls program. Giving back. As husband and wife, they were changing the future by having an impact on those who will carry us into our next generation of tomorrows.

I can’t imagine her world right now … the love of her life gone, her future goals and dreams shattered by a sudden and unexplainable loss.

You want to find the words to explain it, but you can’t.

Words are my life, but there’s no way to explain how the world can be like this, just plucking away loved ones in random order while evil lives on and thrives.

It’s not fair. Not for his loved ones, not for the athletes who looked up to him and learned from him.

The Biddeford Track twitter site, @biddefordtrack, tweeted out, “To the coach who has influenced so many, thank you for believing in us, for pushing us, and for making us smile-you will never be forgotten.”

I hope they never do forgot him.

Let that be Will Fulford’s legacy.