Archive for the ‘Portland’ Category


a little story

April 16, 2008

So I have to admit that my little trip home to Chicago a week and a half ago, super quick though it was, made me a little home sick. Chicago was warm and sunny and full of familiar things and good friends and I was very much all, “Hey Chicago! I miss you! I’m here! Maine ain’t all that, it’s you I love!” Even the crazy wacked out scary man at the bus stop who looked like he might want to kill me dead didn’t deter me from my little moment of urban adoration.

But then I got back here, and I was all, “ok Portland, you’re cute too, even though you are totally kicking my ass right now and I’m totally exhausted, but you have sea gulls and a big bay and brick paved streets and drivers who stop for pedestrians and people who smile, so maybe you’re not so bad.”

Anyway, this is all just sort of a lumpy little intro into telling y’all about the trash here. Portland is very SERIOUS about their trash and recycling. It all had to be explained to me when I got here. All recyclables go in one big blue plastic bin – all of it – paper, cardboard, cans, bottles, and no separating. You don’t even have to clean out your cans and bottles. The city comes around once a week and empties out your bin and takes it away.

On the same day they come and get your trash, and all trash has to be in official blue “City of Portland” trash bags. No Hefty Bags for the Portlanders. These bags have to be bought specially. They’re not cheap either, a parcel of 30 bags costs about $8.00. I think the cost of the bags underwrites the cost of trash removal…

Anyway, I bought more bags this week and the new lot were gray bags – all the old bags were blue bags. No big deal, I’m thinking, they’ve changed the color. Well, last night I put out my trash, along with all my neighbors, and this morning all their trash was gone, and my little gray trash bag was still there. Rejected by the trash men.

Evidence, below. One lone trash bag sitting atop my empty recycling bin.

I call the city (the number is nicely printed on the outside of the bag) and a nice woman says, “you have the wrong color, you need to call Rite Aid and tell them they sold you the wrong bags.” So I call Rite Aid. Rite Aid calls the Person in Charge of City Trash, and it turns out they changed the color and their trash men were supposed to know this and take the gray bags, but their trash men weren’t paying attention, and now I have a bag of trash on my curb.

So – and here is why I’m telling you this story – I go into Rite Aid and the manager says, “here is the cell phone number for the man in charge of Portland trash, he told me to tell you to call him and he’s going to help you.” So I call this man, very nice man, name of Ernie – (love that) – and I say Ernie, what can I do?

And Ernie says, “don’t you worry, we messed up, I’M GOING TO COME GET YOUR TRASH PERSONALLY.”

And then…wait for it…ERNIE CAME AND GOT MY TRASH PERSONALLY. And he shook my hand and told me how sorry he was that his trash guys didn’t pick up my trash and that it wouldn’t happen again.

Ohhhh Maine, I’m sorry that I cheated on you with Chicago last week. Chicago wouldn’t have come to get my trash, Chicago would have told me to suck it.  MAINE: You have been redeemed by your trash man.


but let’s not all freak out unnecessarily

March 20, 2008

So….this is Maine. I mean, this is MAINE. Maine is supposed to be moose, and blueberries, and LL Bean and people who say “chowdah.”

It’s not really supposed to be drive-by shootings, but that is rather what seems to have occurred, just half a block down from where I am living. Last Wednesday. The funny thing is that I kind of didn’t even notice. I had to be told about it at dinner tonight by a new friend who said “you live there? did you hear the shots?”

The shots? Why, um, no. I didn’t. Apparently a very nice family was at home, just past 11pm, and someone ran by and shot bullets through their living room window. And they can’t imagine why anyone would do that and now they are moving. (Of course, I can’t help but feeling that someone in the house might just have a teeny, tiny sneaking suspicion why someone might want to shoot up their home, they might just not be telling the police about it. So I’m not particularly worried about getting caught in the crossfire myself.)

Since no one was hurt I’m allowing myself the opportunity to feel a little flippant about the whole thing – because I have to admit, my first thought was huge disappointment that I didn’t get to be a witness.  I’d be such a great witness.  I don’t want to witness anything really awful or traumatic, but a victim-less drive-by shooting would be PERFECT. I’d have near perfect recall for what the perp was wearing, and be able to tell the police which way he went, and it would be my savvy knack for detail that would wrap the case up nicely.

OHHH, and I’d get to testify. We shouldn’t forget that part.

There’s been a fad in the blogging world lately for listing the top 100 things you’d like to do before you die. I won’t bore anyone with my list, chiefly because I don’t have one, but if I did have a list then identifying a criminal on “America’s Most Wanted” would be right up there. When I lived in London I used to watch “Crimewatch UK” religiously. It came on once a month and I think it caught my imagination because in a little country like England the odds are pretty good that if you watch long enough you might actually be able to identify someone. As I came to the end of my years there my hopes started to dwindle and I got more and more disappointed that I’d never have a real reason to call the number on the bottom of the screen. My flatmate Robin was kind enough to volunteer that if it came right down to it I could call and turn him in if the crime wasn’t too terrible.  I miss him.


more tea, cause I’m hooked

March 10, 2008

I had another cup of the herb tea this afternoon, though I didn’t use the cayenne mix – instead I tried another tea that I had bought at the same time – one that is a special herbal blend originally designed for cancer patients. It sounded so good in the shop that I had to ask if regular healthy people could drink it too. It has things like cranberry, hibiscus and lemon verbena in the ingredient list, along with more than one herb I can’t pronounce or identify, and is probably what accounts for the liberal sprinkling of twigs.

I scooped out my tea from the little package the herb woman sold me (technically what she sold me is a stash, and at one point was even referred to as a ‘toke – hmmmm), and I parceled it into the all organic non-bleached tea filter bag (made from abaca pulp, natch), and as I poured carefully filtered boiling water into my Maine-made pottery tea cup (natch), and got ready to put in a twirly thing amount of organic, non-pasteurized, non-filtered “Maine-made from Maine bees” honey, I suddenly thought, I got some kind of crunchy granola living goin’ on here. And me in my Vermont clogs, too.

I should mention that when I poured the boiling water over herbs, there was a rather alarming diffusion of red in my cup…like blood seeping from the tea bag. Very CSI, quite frankly, and I can only assume it’s from the cranberry herb? This tea is now quite shockingly red, though it tastes very sweet and delicious and so far hasn’t killed me, despite its color. I’m rather contemplating a second cup, actually.

No diet coke for me, thanks, I’m drinking bloody colored twig tea. Peace out, man.

(This whole story is undone by the $22 I spent earlier today to have my eyebrows waxed at Old Port’s fanciest salon, but just pretend I didn’t tell you that part. I may be getting hippier by the day, but bushy eyebrows is kind of a line.)



March 8, 2008

So my friend the herbalist called the other night and said, “hey, did you ever go get that tea????” And I replied, yes, I did, and it was yummy.

I also told her that she must come and visit because it’s her kind of place.

It needs a bigger sign, because it’s easy to miss, but once you find it there is a feeling that you stepped into a little sanctuary from the cold and icy world. It’s not big, but there’s a little bar, and little corners to sit in, and even a guitar if you want to play a bit, and there’s a cozy room off to the side with lots of pillows, and the whole point of the place is to drink herbal tea. But not just any herbal tea – herbal tea that is mixed just for you by the owner, who will customize a blend of herbs depending on what you need. It’s such an embodiment of serenity that I just want to package up the whole tea shop and put it in my pocket. And maybe ask the owner if she’d adopt me.

It feels like an apothecary shop, with drawers and old jars all filled with herbs, and big books about herbs when a consultation is needed. It’s got a lovely smell, and sitting at the bar it’s very easy to feel that maybe life isn’t so stressful after all. I first went with a new friend from school. She chose “find your focus” tea, while I told the owner that I didn’t know what I wanted, but could she do me a tea that would make me warm? Because I’m never warm. Ever. Crank up the heat, I’m coming to visit. The herb-expert owner made me a tea that she said would help my natural inner warmth radiate down to my toes and fingers. The ingredients included, among other things, cayenne pepper, which manifested as just a little tingle in the mouth after drinking.

That was two weeks ago, and yesterday I stopped in to buy some bulk tea, same custom blend, because I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I drank the first mug. So I bought some of that, and also some unbleached tea filters, and also a second kind of tea which sounded delicious. OH, and a jar of unfiltered, unpasteurized “Maine-made by Maine bees”, organic honey. With a wooden dowel thing that drips in the honey just right. I came straight home and put on the kettle and drank my tea all afternoon while I worked. I’m having another cup now, and while it’s probably just the steaming hot mug, my fingers are finally warm and I have high hopes for my toes.



very, very bad!

February 19, 2008

Is it bad that I passed a real estate office this afternoon and thought, “maybe I should stop in…”?


It’s the Valentine Bandit, Charlie Brown

February 17, 2008

Last week the woman that I am renting this apartment from wrote me an email to tell me to make a special trip to the Old Port neighborhood on Valentine’s Day to look at all of the hearts. She wrote, “they will be everywhere, on doors and windows, and sides of buildings; it is one of my favorite special things about Portland.”

So before class on Friday I went for a walk and pretty much, I have to say, it would be impossible NOT to see the hearts. There were hundreds of them, on every shop window, every advertising board, and every door. Simple red printed hearts on xerox type paper. I think this is kind of neat – clearly the chamber of commerce sends out a picture, and all the shops print it out and tape up all the hearts. I also think it’s nice that every shop agrees to participate. But I don’t think it’s something that I would say qualifies as a very favorite thing about Portland. But still…I take a few pictures.


But then….BUT THEN….I read this article, and what do you know, now I get it.

The shopkeepers don’t put up the valentine hearts. They simply appear all over the city. No one knows who does it, and their appearance every year since 1976 is attributed to the work of the Valentine Bandit (also called the Valentine Phantom). However, there are so many, many, many of them that it has to be the work of an entire Valentine Bandit Collective. No one has ever seen him (them?), and no one has ever publicly claimed credit, but every year the city of Portland wakes up on February 14th covered in hearts. And every year people think it’s wonderful, and it’s one of their favorite things.

And now I do, too.




February 16, 2008

Hello winter. You are very dry. I was moaning about telling a friend about my allergy attacks – about the itchy throat that comes out of nowhere, the violent sneezing that comes after, etc. etc. – and she seems to think the problem might be dry air, since there is no other common denominator. My only resistance to this idea is that it’s just as dry in Chicago and I’ve never had this problem.

A phone call was placed to my friend the herbalist, who pointed me in the direction of the drugstore. Almond oil on damp skin, really good moisturizer (glycerin, no mineral oil), lots of water. I am resisting buying a humidifier, on the theory that it’s a lot cheaper to put a pot of hot water on top of the radiator. That, and I don’t want to have to carry it back to Chicago.

Tomorrow afternoon I will take a break from work to go here with a new friend. I will ask for “dry inside the nose” tea and see what gets produced.