There has to be great music

What would you look for in moving to a new community? It’s an interesting mental exercise, even if you’re staying in place.

What we’re seeing when we look at Eastport is the reality of how ephemeral much of what its attraction for us remains. Quite simply, people are a big part of what makes this place so special, and most of the population here skewers toward the gray end of the scale. Who’s in the wings to step up when they move on?

Our young director of Stage East, Mark Macey, for instance, is heading off to London on the theater fellowship. It puts a dent in the scene.

For me, having a Quaker Meeting is a central factor. Ours is small, older, and spread over a wide geographic area. It’s precious while it lasts.

And, as you’ve seen on this blog, natural wonder in the outdoors is important.

Let me add to that music, usually especially in a classical vein. Eastport is especially blessed on that front.

For example, before I had even met John Newell, his influence became a swing factor in my moving to Eastport. Other family members were already on board for relocating, but I was less ready to uproot, no matter the natural wonder of the place. But then, during a visit, I saw a poster for an upcoming Quoddy Voices concert and sensed this was no ordinary community chorus. Its repertoire was much like the one where I was singing in Boston – except that we didn’t yet have a piece in Chinese. Mandarin? (Which our conductor there did speak.) I also appreciate the fact the Down East ensemble is not auditioned and was told, at a small store downtown, that they’d likely really welcome another male voice. (Whew! I can’t imagine auditioning, only the fright.)

Flash ahead to actually living up here.

During the Covid lockdown, I joined the ensemble as it continued to rehearse via Zoom. At least it kept us in shape, and I did see how much fun everyone had together. But how would we sound when the time came?

Here’s a surreptitious shot of John Newell rehearsing Quoddy Voices. We were so grateful the masks came off most of us for the actual concerts.

Quite simply, at our first in-person rehearsal post-Covid, I knew from the first two chords out of our mouths in warmup that this was home. After my first concert with the group, I especially appreciated an aside from another bass-section member, “We’re so happy to have you,” or something to that effect. It’s a much smaller chorus than my previous one, and thus more demanding.

Quoddy Voices is, of course, John’s dream and labor of love. Like my previous directors, he’s meticulous yet patient, a published composer, an excellent keyboardist, a clean conductor, and someone with fine senses of humor and delight who also genuinely cares about his singers and colleagues. (George Emlen and Megan Henderson deserve posts of their own. Note to self.)

How perfect!

But, after ten years at the helm of the chorus, he and his wife are relocating to be closer to family for much of the year.

One thing about singing together is the personal warmth people often develop. The right director can be especially admired, for many good reasons.

John will be missed, of course, and warmly remembered. Many thanks to him for all he’s given to us and the wider community.

If you want to see more of our feelings, visit the Eastport Arts Center’s Facebook site.

We do hope he’ll be back often, perhaps even singing under our next director, someone we know is also a Character in his own right.

Meanwhile, from here to September we have a gap in our Monday night schedules.

Out of the ‘50s, mostly

STILL IN COLLEGE, Hoosier central, but return to the farm at Phillipsburg to stay over during a snowstorm. Dad had picked me up at college but dropped me off for elsewhere.

Next morning, everything’s fine and I awaken hearing voices. Aunt Edna and maybe Orpha are around.

Soon I’m downtown, walking from the hilltop with a friend through a mist or rainfall. The neighborhood’s like Fairview – nice but older. We pass one house that has a shiny chrome fat-tire bicycle on the driveway, close to the sidewalk. A few blocks further on, I leave my companion and go back and steal the bicycle. Just gotta have it. I’ll get back to the farm that way.

Riding it is exhilarating! But I decide to return the bike. My companion’s bewildered, so we part again.

As I’m putting it back in the driveway (the house has changed, it’s a bungalow on a small hill surrounded by a lot of rock and patches of grass), I’m greeted by name. Someone I’ve corresponded with about genealogy. My Rasor line, which would connect me with the farm and Aunt Edna.

I’m introduced to a husband, big family, the more ramshackle neighbors.


RETURNING TO MY CHILDHOOD HOME, I can see – perhaps from a kitchen window – the roof of a church down the street – the house must be slightly higher, on a small hill.

The church was something like the fundamentalist one built on Smithville Road, late ’50s, yellow brick, but it’s the roof I notice, caving in from the middle.

I walk down the street to explore.

But then I’m with, well, doesn’t matter, their Volvo got covered in some kind of ash, a paste. I test it and begin washing it off. We’re laughing as we clean the car but I’m interrupted by someone from that church. Did he beckon us? Me?

I follow, perhaps. Unclear.

There’s a small group inside, early 20s, mulling about, sad to be losing the place. But they’re rehearsing something, and two start to dance, something fast, great choreography with lifts and twirls and then music. Soon I’m in the midst of many of them, the sanctuary opens out into an airy social space.

I’m supposed to be with the kids and you for a day trip. Back on the street, I realize you have to take off without me. What can I do? The new crowd sweeps me off.

It’s a contemporary Christian group gathered and led by a young Cuban who’s watching his dream crumble. He has followers or fellow travelers but not the financial resources to sustain it. I try to meet up with him in the crowd, but he keeps slipping away, drawn by others.

They pull him across a dark inner-city street. Traffic intervenes.

So we’re on the street anyway, big-city downtown, now full of light as we’re joyously singing and dancing. Back Bay Boston or Times Square pre-Disney, perhaps Cincy more than my hometown in its prime. Many yellow taxis, for one thing. And many smiles. We know the strangers around us would tell us our faith is unreal. We don’t care.

Then I realize I have to go, maybe I’ve seen a clock overhead, but don’t have my phone. It’s in the Volvo, wherever. Can’t call you, either. At least I have my credit card for a bus ticket, though I’m uncertain how I’ll get from the depot to the house.

You somehow appear, fully understanding. It’s not the first time I’ve left you in the lurch, but you’ve had a good time anyway.

Even so, as I awaken, I feel free, renewed, refreshed, happy, in a state of wonder and amazement.

Is dance and song and improvisation within some structure (think of that elaborate couples’ dance) what’s been missing? Plus, there’s some zesty food in the background.


We’re even part of the famed Bay of Fundy

Maybe you’ve heard of it, the place of the world’s most extreme tides, up to 53 feet every six or so hours, meaning about six feet hourly on average or up to 12-plus in certain time windows.

If you swim, you know that’s way over your head.

So here’s a little perspective.

  1. Most U.S. maps cut out nearby Canada, leaving little sense of how much lies east of Maine and not just north. That’s anything beyond Portland, essentially, yet not that far north of Boston.
  2. Typically excised from maps of Maine, the big island of Grand Manan is essentially as lengthy as Martha’s Vineyard but with much more substantial cliffs and an undeniably working fisherman economy. To get there, you need a ferry hop or two from Canada. And that’s saying nothing of its craggy inhabitants. It’s definitely on my bucket list.
  3. Technically, I dwell on one of the subsidiary waters. Fundy Bay itself is about 55 miles wide just south of here, pointing to another place renowned for its scallops. Or is that also east? In other words, Fundy’s big.
  4. The bay’s positions of Maine and New Brunswick, on one side, and Nova Scotia, on the other, act as a funnel that intensifies Atlantic currents in and out of the channel. It’s a long story but likely worthwhile for certain nerds, especially once you see how it shapes up on the dinner plate. The intensity of the record tides does have some techies well as others drooling.
  5. That leads to the possibilities of electrical generation. Mainers would definitely welcome a reduction in our electrical bill. Wind, solar, and tidal power generation are all rising as important sources.
  6. We are mused by one local craftsman who proclaims her studio the Clay of Fundy. She’s hardly alone. You’d be amused or quite critical of the range of wordplay prompted by the Fundy word.
  7. It has rivers that reverse their flow, a phenomenon known as tidal bore.
  8. The bay can report up to ten kinds of whales every summer.
  9. For water to get from the mouth of the bay to its crown can take up to 13 hours.
  10. Its ecosystem is said to rival the Amazon’s. Just ask scuba divers.


Pemaquid, out beyond the Piscataqua frontier

Call it a serendipitous trip.

My stopping off at the Colonial Pemaquid historical site in Maine during a weekend at the Common Ground Country Fair last year was an impromptu decision. I’d made a side trip to visit the iconic lighthouse down on Pemaquid Point in midcoast Maine and saw a roadside sign and thought, what the heck, on my drive back.

After all, the settlement had some connections to early Dover, as I note in my new book, but simply setting foot there gave me a more substantial sense of the place than as a footnote vaguely out there somewhere up the coastline.

At first, the state-managed site appears rather modest. Its small museum and nearby seafood restaurant were both closed, this being the shoulder season. But nosing around revealed much, much more, as I’ll explain here and in some upcoming posts.

It was settled by West Country fishermen, like those who were pivotal in early Dover, shortly after Edward Hilton and Thomas Roberts set up shop along the Piscataqua, so they would have shared a common culture. Notably, both sites were established before the great Puritan migration into Massachusetts Bay, bringing a much different English culture into New England.

Unlike Dover, the Pemaquid village was destroyed repeatedly in attacks from the French and their Native allies in the decades from King Phillip’s war on.

In short, English settlement was erased from Maine all the way down to Wells and York, close to Dover. I have to admit that caused me to give lesser attention to settlement much to the east of the Piscataqua River.

Still, the Pemaquid site, now in the town of Bristol, was left relatively undisturbed after the late 1700s. In the 1990s, though, extensive archeological excavations determined the shape of the village and a gave a clearer understanding of its economy and lifestyle. Today, the stone foundations and interpretative signage present some of their findings.

In those, as I’m excited to see, I got a clearer sense of how early Dover may have also emerged along High Street – today’s Dover Point Road.


SUNDAY A.M., THE TERRORIST while I hide in the little room.

A parade passes, then the Mercedes.

Two houses: furnace spewing water, boiling water in one.

I can’t find the key to the other house, where I would turn it off  – am I naked? See, I’m barefoot.

At a Confederate officers’ banquet, toasting and dancing, cheek to cheek, a broken leg.

Now I’m painting – vault.


Scratched up concrete and brick patterns of floor and walls, ceilings, then the people – children at play, etc. – a public space, now viewed from above.

Am getting ready to serve the Daily Student as executive sports editor – or my dorm room, where I arrived early – no room for my roomies.

A lost hymnal with a hot concert pianist (but he’s not religious!). Kitchen table.

My sister, flowers or a meal.


DEER JOSTLING IN THE NIGHT WOODS as I gather stones in a pool of street light to pot bulbs to force open in mid-winter.


THE PANIC WHEN I SAY it’s never going to happen – the Children. Then marriage.

(In the gut, when I whisper.)

Just what the hell is Self-Realization, Swami Jnana?

While attempting to clasp objects, I am annoyed to find there are long thin strands of hair in the way. They’re growing from my palm and tangling in the object. It’s more a sensation of something awry, actually.


I HEAD AN ARMY UNIT AND have a young spoiled recruit or draftee who won’t accept discipline or follow orders. He soon has his attorney accompanying him everywhere. “Shut up!” and he keeps talking.


AT THE SCENE OF A PLANE CRASH – helping with the body bags (curiously like valet bags).


A CORNER OF THE CHIMNEY IS GONE, chomped away by a flying creature. The house itself is a huge flaking gray monster with two heads and forty paws. From the compound eye of its center stare forty children, each in some awe, while seventy-five toddlers weave in and out of the mouth.

I’m caught without a future and the past she has retracted. So this is the present?


I RECEIVE AN OFFER FOR A MASSAGE … from a male therapist. I hedge, but he promises it will be the best I’ve ever received. He uses both hands simultaneously, the thumbs like motorized screwdrivers. Incredible!


DOORBELL RINGING. I wake, realize it’s not the sound of my doorbell here.