Portland

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Ferrets in their den, according to their mother. Groundhog Day comes next week. 

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He turned eighteen the other day. Our work is done. He's up and away now.

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Used to be, the city of Portland would set aside a time in June when people could put big pieces of junk--such as unwanted furniture--out by the curb for city garbage trucks to collect. But there are no more Big Trash Days; the service was slashed as a budget-cutting measure. Although city residents are now expected to haul their own stuff to the dump, Jacob Powers found this resting spot a few weeks ago in a couch left out at the curb.

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The old Eastland Hotel in downtown Portland has a lot of windows and a lot of bricks.

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The Grand Trunk Line went bankrupt in 1920. Cost overruns on its expansion to the West Coast stressed the company, and its route planning out west proved unfortunate, too far north to compete with the fledgling Canadian National Railroad, which eventually absorbed it. The Grand Trunk's U.S. lines were assigned to a holding company that used the Grand Trunk name, but they too declined and faded in the mid-twentieth century along with the railroad industry in general.

The Grand Trunk station in Portland, on India Street near the waterfront, was demolished in 1948.  These pictures actually show a different Portland train station, Union Station on Congress Street near St. John Street, which handled southbound passengers and freight. Union Station opened in 1911 and was demolished in the1960s to make way for the I-295 highway.

Portland lost an elegant building that day--the current Amtrak station is basically just a corner of the bus station lobby--but by all accounts, the destruction awakened people to the importance of historic preservation. And though it couldn't have been foreseen in the 1960s, when urban renewal was thought to lead to future glory for America's cities, Portland's old buildings and cobblestone streets have turned out to be what saved this town--people have learned to make money off of "quaint."

 

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Winter is sneaking up on us fast--in fact, these last couple of days here have left the impression that it's done snuck up already, and snagged us in its clutches. Anyway, here are a last couple of fall pictures, from last month. The first one is of Rye Beach, New Hampshire, by Tanja Baker. The other one shows a hydrangea bush on my street in Portland.

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Every day had a theme during Spirit Week at Deering High School. There was '80s Day, Mainer Day, and then Toga Day. But the school administration had second thoughts about Toga Day--What if those stupid kids didn't wear enough clothes underneath their "togas"? At the last minute, Toga Day was called off, to be replaced by Backwards Day. Most students chose to not get the message about the late change in plans, and they came to school dressed pretty much as the administrators had feared. Our own Hank Stein, however, chose to observe Backwards Day, all decked out in his Senate page uniform.

The seniors who were eventually elected 2009 Homecoming Queen and King are both in the toga picture. The queen, Mohdis, already has a crown, and the king, Jacob, is wearing a t-shirt labeled "toga."

At the end of Spirit Week, the homecoming football game on Friday night could have gone better; Deering got trounced by Cheverus. But I am told that the dance on Saturday night was just fine. In the picture here from a pre-dance party and photo session, Hank is once again right in the middle of everything, but this time in a black shirt and white tie.

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This is the second most stunning bit of fall on my street. It's a cherry tree I planted when we first moved into this house, and it's big enough now that I could stand underneath the branches and take this picture aiming up at the sky through a crown of glowing leaves. The picture is not turned sideways; the branches just branch off one another that way.

The first most stunning bit of fall on my street is a hydrangea down the block with leaves as pink as the flowers. I hope to get a shot of it, but in the meantime . . . you don't have to take my word for it; you can imagine it however you want.

As Octobers go, this one was so too wet to be entirely pleasant. But perhaps because of all the rain, a lot of leaves are still hanging in there. Then too, the few blue-sky days have been all the more precious.
 

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Ninety-eight winters of salt have done a number on the mortar that was supposed to be holding the bricks together on my front steps. Fortunately, I count among my good friends an experienced bricklayer who was willing to take on the project. Here you see Katrin Maldre chipping away at the old mortar, using my little old rock hammer and a fancy new chisel.

To be fair, Katrin's bricklaying experience was not extensive or recent. But one summer back in Communist times, when she was growing up in Estonia, she and her friends were sent out into the country to work on a large brick construction project. Mostly, they moved bricks to and from piles---but it's a whole lot more bricklaying experience than I can claim.. (Katrin also has a son who has an engineering degree and knows about bricks and stuff, and  who was willing to supervise this project from Estonia via Skype.)

Within an hour or two we got rid of most of the old mortar, slathered the free bricks with new mortar, and set them back in place. We broke one brick, and when the job was finished we somehow had an extra piece of brick left over. But you can't tell by looking at it.

The highlight of the job was definitely the new chisel. Note that yellow foam hand protector thing. Worth its weight in gold! Its inventor is a genius.
 

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Portland photographer Corey Templeton took this picture last summer. He says the staircase is somewhere in the West End.