Posts tagged ‘Maine’

8 May, 2012

Know your audience.

Theme of the day:

The first hilariously this-isn’t-me piece of junk mail arrived addressed to me, from a local-ish bank (who, incidentally, is represented for their PR by a former colleague — whoops). “Cheap” bank account? Credit card? What goodies did they have in store? Well, aside from an insert advertising a “free” $100 to open a financially-not-feasible checking account with them sometime in the next eight weeks, it included a letter beginning “Dear Audrey” and which continued “Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!” and went on to describe how many couples-to-be neglect to think about the combining of finances during the wedding planning and this bank was here to save the day! Hooray! Well, No Name Bank, not only am I very much not getting married, but if I were, the first thing I would do would be to think about finances and their combination, or not.

The next instance of Know Your Audience came with the second piece of junk mail I decided to open.

This plea for monetary support was addressed to my father, but reading the envelope which announced its intention to secure financial SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL on behalf of some foundation named after some old presumably Jewish guy, I just had to open it. I knew he wouldn’t care, but sorry anyway, U.S. Government. OopsFelony.

I can’t really describe the letter, except to say there were some embarrassing grammatical errors, so here’s what happened in visual re-enactments (I apologize for the wonky quality of these scans):

The third junk mail I opened was Obama campaign mail (what a lovely infographic they included on job growth) — free sticker! — and the fourth junk mail was actually not junk mail at all, but a notification telling my mom it was time to get her car serviced. So, mom, add it to the to-do list.

13 October, 2011

Occupy Maine!

Monument Square, Portland, ME. Wed., Oct. 12, 2011.

Overcast and chilly, it was a real New England fall day. The crowd was small but dedicated, and more than willing to talk. We talked about Obama and Ron Paul, about minarchism and anarchism and socialism and capitalism. It was the most intimate Occupation I’ve attended, and though not particularly inspiring as far as the scale of participation it was meaningful to see familiar faces.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Occupy Maine felt a lot like most protests in Maine: small, ragtag, attracting passive support but lacking the overwhelming passion and dedication…

Maine is a divided protest. The daytime demonstrating happens several blocks away from the campout, lending to the public’s non-comprehension about what the Occupation is about, and the perception that it’s disorganized and lacks both comprehensive grievances and goals. Monument Square feels incomplete without tents and tarps, and Lincoln Park is a tented ghost town while its occupants are across town with signs and flyers.

I want people in Maine to care about Occupy Wall Street. Or Occupy Maine.

Monument Square, Portland, ME. Wed., Oct. 12, 2011

Maine is unique; in the event of a cataclysmic, apocalyptic political and/or financial meltdown, we are so locally-focused and so self-sufficient already I believe we will re-emerge relatively unscathed. But our insulation from potential economic disaster does not mean the issues at hand are not important. Maine is a poor state. Maine is a state with a generous welfare system. Maine is a state with struggling school districts. Though we are so self-sufficient, we are still affected by federal government policies. We are affected by state government policies, and having a pseudo-libertarian minarchist tea party governor doesn’t bode well for the future solvency of our people or our state.

We might be busy. We might be apathetic. But we shouldn’t be too busy to heed a necessary call for radical social and political change. We should recognize that, protected as much as we may be, we are not immune. We are affected by government cutbacks at all levels. We are affected by policy changes that damage and hinder the productivity of small (and) family farms and fisheries. The fights of Wall Street and D.C. are not only the fights of Wall Street and D.C. They are our fights, too. New England snooty pride aside, what happens in New York affects what happens in Maine. We are powerful when we want to be; the Buy Local campaign should be evidence enough of that. I don’t understand why we don’t want to be powerful now.

I spoke with several individuals yesterday who wanted to help but didn’t know how. With bodies, is the answer. It is always the answer. Supportive apathy, or apathetic support, is not enough. Donations with no body are not adequate. My documentation is not adequate. I know that. People, the public, want to be supportive. They know change is necessary and they want to help. They just don’t want to help enough. They don’t want to alter their comfortable routines in any way. Give money? Fine. Give goods? Fine. Give time, presence, body, mind? No, thanks, protesting isn’t for me. We are not crazy, and you know it. So join us.

Perhaps it is an inept comparison, but I fear too much apathy here could lead to an “and then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out” moment.

Change is never comfortable and it is never easy. That doesn’t make it less worthwhile.

1 August, 2011

I don’t like you.

I realized today that I don’t like tourists because I feel like I am on display.

As my sister is now enlightening me: “tourism is cannibalism.” It’s consumption of the other. I am just, you know, at work, or out running, and here they are, rattling at the cage as if I am there simply for their viewing pleasure.

27 July, 2011

Fez bringing the Morocco to the Maine.

Sadly, one of Portland’s most accessible-to-white-people vestiges of its Somali population, Hamdi Restaurant and Grocery, faded into the darkness sometime over the last several months. This is as much my fault as anyone’s; I knew of its greatness, and did little to prevent its decline.

But fear not, lovers of African cuisine. Fez, a Moroccan joint, a heaven, if you will, of stewed meats and rices and expertly seasoned everything, has sprung up to replace it.

Don’t let its lack of belly dancers, lack of decor, even lack of adequate seating deter you, oh intrepid diners.

It’s had a face life since it was Hamdi, the walls now painted bright orange, the flat screen TV playing the Travel Channel (Man vs. Food, no less), and the speakers blaring Lebanese pop (Nancy Ajram, Alissa, Haifa Wehbe style, for those who know of what I speak). The left-side segment of the building, where most of the tables and the grocery were when it was Hamdi, have been portioned off and it is for rent. Maybe the Hamdi people will be back and we’ll be able to have dueling meals from East and West Africa. The tables are decorated with nondescript salt and pepper shakers and small glass vases with purple flowers. I didn’t inspect their veracitude. It doesn’t really matter.

Despite its unassuming (to say the least) ambiance, and casually-dressed staff, and relative emptiness (the three of us were dining simultaneously with a couple, also on their first trip, though a few other parties trickled in as the nine o’clock hour ticked nearer), the food was unparalleled. As the first Moroccan place in Portland that I know of, there’s no bar to speak of, but Fez is setting it high for any successors.

I like to think I am somewhat of an expert in Middle Eastern, African, and Mediterranean food, having lived in the Levant and traveled around southern Europe. I’ve eaten at my fair share of Ethiopian and Moroccan restaurants, and have somewhat of a handle on what the food is supposed to taste like. (Still, the best Moroccan food I ever had was in Montpelier, France, where they didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Arabic — I’ve since learned the language — and we ordered haphazardly by pointing at things and parsing through French-Arabic hybrid menu items. It was divine.)

We started with the shrimp sharmoula (a North African spice blend) appetizer, and falafel tahini on a bed of lettuce (iceberg) and tomatoes with an actually sensational yogurt dressing. I am a huge falafel snob, and considering falafel isn’t exactly a Moroccan dish, I still think this was one of the if not the best renderings of the Levantine standby in Maine, with the exception of the falafel my roommate Nick makes in his frydaddy with my candy thermometer. Fez’s is not quite what it should be, but good nonetheless. It was particularly well balanced when scooped with the provided bread and a dash of tahini. The sharmoula-ed tomato sauce the shrimp was in reminded me of galayya bandora (fried tomatoes), a Syrian/Jordanian/Palestinian/Lebanese dish made with tons of garlic, spices, cilantro, and tomatoes (obviously). It was exactly how I remembered it, bringing me back to West Amman kitchens where we were unceasingly fed better food than I think I have ever had.

We were engaged in conversation with the owner, a Moroccan native who previously owned three (I think) restaurants in St. Albans, VT, and has lived up and down the East Coast with his wife and kids. He told us what they were out of (the lamb entree and chicken and beef kebab), but recommended in their stead the beef barkouk (plum, in Arabic) and the kofta kebab (kofta is a grilled meatball with spices and herbs). Dad and I ordered these, the Mom got chicken sakhan (hot, or sautéeed, in Arabic). All were unique, phenomenally seasoned, juicy, and tasted homemade. They were; the owner had launched into a description of how he grinds the beef for the kofta and mixes in all its ingredients, leaving the fresh cilantro till the end, each day.

The beef barkouk came as two large chunks of stewed beef on a plate, covered with the sweet, spicy sauce and topped with raisins and onions and some other things. It was also supposed to come with toasted sesame seeds, but he forgot to put them on, running out of the kitchen to try to rectify his mistake. “Next time.” Because, of course, there will have to be a next time. It was rich, sweet but not too much so, tender, juicy, and of incredibly balanced flavor; cinnamon for sure, but I wouldn’t dare guess what else.

The chicken sakhan was pieces of white and dark meat chicken sauteed with copious onions and spices, almost a bit citrusy, and if I had to guess I would say coriander, turmeric, probably cinnamon, among others.

The kofta (full disclosure: I make my own, but with lamb) was quite good, particularly with the tahini it came dressed with. Some meatballs were more well-done than others. I prefer the rarer ones, but all were incredibly well seasoned and despite being stuffed after one I proceeded methodically through two more. With the rice and salad, it felt nourishing, if not a particularly adventurous combination of flavors. Though I’m sure if you’re not used to to such strongly flavored patties of ground beef, you’d find them zinging and singing through your tastebuds at unprecedented velocity. Highly recommended.

Our neighbors at the table next to us had the chicken tagine which came as a leg and thigh and served with potatoes, other vegetables and a garnish of cilantro. They said it was delicious, and I’ll believe them.

And of course, we can’t forget the rice; a white basmati seasoned and spiced, complex and flavorful. It was distinct from the rices of the eastern Mediterranean which are cooked with cardamom and cinnamon, and often in chicken or meat stocks. They are heavy and nourishing. This was lighter in flavor, paralleling more the flavors you might expect with a couscous than a rice, but was rich, smooth, and utterly amazing nonetheless. It brought even more complexity to the seasoned meats, but I would have been content to just eat a bowlful with labaneh (thick Middle Eastern yogurt).

The menu also features a white bean and garlic dip as an appetizer, a selection of soups including lentil, and hilib ari, a goat stew served with rice, whose menu description reminded me, cyclically, of the overly generous portions of goat stew served over rice I used to get at Hamdi.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Fez. We’ll be back.

1 June, 2011

Concerned Citizen.

That would be me. Surprise, surprise.

 

Press Herald Letters to the Editor May 25 (do I have to blockquote it if I wrote it?):

 

I have no doubt that George Mitchell is a great man; a brilliant diplomat, a stalwart patriot and a phenomenal role model for young Mainers.

The Press Herald’s response to his resignation, though well-intended, detracts from his achievements. That George Mitchell is an intelligent man prompts me to believe his resignation is a wake-up call: The conventional style of babysitting diplomacy is dead.

Henry Kissinger, Camp David and Oslo couldn’t find a Mideast peace. Why should Mitchell be different? The fundamental problem is not lack of American effort — perhaps better to call it meddling or intervention — but rather a lack of a people’s voice in the process.

The reaction to his resignation from both supporters and detractors has one disastrous commonality: It disenfranchises the very people whom peace in Israel-Palestine most affects by putting all the eggs in the basket of international diplomacy.

Supporters (like the Press Herald) say that if peace comes, it will be because of Mitchell’s groundwork. Detractors say there is no peace now, therefore Mitchell failed.

If a peace in Israel-Palestine comes in my lifetime, it will not owe anything to the efforts of outsiders or politicians. It will reflect a collective effort between Israelis, Palestinians, Armenians, Ethiopians, even Syrians and Jordanians. It will be trans-national, trans-religious and trans-ethnic.

I could not possibly pretend to know how this will happen, but I imagine the uprisings of the “Arab Spring” are a reliable indicator.

I applaud Mitchell on his resignation from an impossible job. He has extracted himself from this downward spiral of endless, futile “negotiations,” and I can only hope that rather than speculating on various ratios of failure and success, we learn from him.

We need to re-approach our unbalanced relationships with Israeli and Palestinian “leadership” and our involvement in a struggle that means life or death — but not ours.

5 May, 2011

Mystery Maggy

Maggy, Prom?

Speechless.

Why did this never happen to me in high school? Why does Maggy get to have all the fun?

Fun fact: The request was signed ♥N+G. Friends? Two boys? Hmmm…Maggy intrigues me.

What we all want to know: did she say yes?

Spotted and phone-photographed upside down in the West End by yours truly.

3 May, 2011

Chalk

image

This is my morning commute.

29 April, 2011

If he had a million dollars

I was walking down Carroll Street in the West End (the part of the West End with huge, old fancy brick houses, not the part with poor kids like me), and there was a landscaper trimming the bushes and running his mouth, apparently to no one. (About halfway through the following monologue, I realized the “uh huh”s and “yeah”s coming from the bush were actually coming from his fellow landscaper, ostensibly trimming the backside of the bush from the cellar window hole.)

“I don’t understand those people who say they wouldn’t know what to do with a million dollars. I could spend a million dollars in one day. I mean, you could save it and spend it wisely, and live on it for a long time – but you could buy an island or a fighter jet and it would just be gone.”

(You can read it again here.)

I laughed, and immediately texted it to myself so I wouldn’t forget. Then I emailed it to Overheard in Portland and told my co-worker about it. But it also got me wondering, how much does an island cost? Or a fighter jet?

According to Google Shopping (previous Froogle, the demise of which I sorely bemoan), fighter jets can cost from $2 to $1,049 for the model/toy variety. Unfortunately, it doesn’t understand “island,” “geological island,” or “real live island” and is trying to sell me books, kitchen surfaces, and bonsai trees.

This handy-dandy resource will sell you islands from just over $30,000 (for small islands off the coast of Panama or New Brunswick, Canada) to $160,000,000 (off of Thailand).

Then again, the Dubai world map islands range in price from $6,000,000 to $36,000,000.

And, dude, fighter jets will run you at least $25 mil. So good luck with that.

(But really what I wonder is, would he still eat Kraft dinner?)

11 April, 2011

Some say we grew up in the wrong decade

It all started with a ten, no twelve, a twelve foot burning ember of marijuana floating high above a crowd. But I wasn’t alive then, and neither was my new-found 8-year-old Deadhead friend. So I guess the real story starts right here in (the better) Portland. Someone had put on the four-disc Closing of Winterland, which having bought it myself some years back, I recognized instantly by some characteristic jam or another.

Just another day climbing became an interview with a eight-year-old Deadhead and a brief revelation into the connectedness of those of us who grew up on this music, and with those who gave it to us (thanks Dad):

A: “Eban, is this your CD?”
E: “Yeah, it’s the Grateful Dead.”
A: “I know – hey do you know what year this is from?”
E: “I think it’s 1978…” (He was close.)
A: “Did you ever see the Grateful Dead?”
E: “Yeah.”
A: “Did you see them when Jerry was alive?”
E: “No – he was already dead. My dad took me to their concert, but now they’re called The Furthur.” (Sort of.)
A: “They’ve also been The Dead, and The Other Ones, and they also play solo sometimes.”
E: “Did you ever see Jerry?”
A: “No – he died when I was eight, and my Dad always told me he’d take me to see the Dead but then Jerry died and I never got to see him.”
E: “Jerry is so great. It’s so sad he died. I was so sad when he died. When you listen to their music, and you hear him, and he’s so good, but then you know that he’s not really alive, but the music is so good, it’s kind of sad and happy at the same time, you know what I mean?”
A: “I know – I was so bummed when I never got to see him. But I’ve been to so many concerts without him since then, it’s okay. When you saw Further, was it awesome?”
E: “Yeah it was so great – I saw The Furthur at Nateva and I was with my mom, and she was getting her hair done, and then they opening with St. Stephen – “
A: “I love that song!”
E: “Me too! It’s my favorite. So they played the bahbahbah bahbahbah bah bah and I was like ‘MOM!’ and I ran over there. [Mimes running really fast.] Then they opened the second set with Scarlet Begonias and my dad was in the bathroom and he did the same thing. [Mimes running really fast.] And then they closed with We Bid You Goodnight – “
A: “I think they do that a lot, like they have to.”
E: ” – yeah so they played We Bid You Goodnight and then I fell asleep while we were walking back.”

(Another funny part of this conversation was when I asked him what year he was born in and he couldn’t figure it out, but it’s pretty irrelevant to this story.)

This interaction seems quite significant in some way; the Dead were so influential, and their music so pervasive, so that not just me, but kids a third of my age consider Grateful Dead songs their favorites, can repeat set lists off hand, know the intro licks to every other song, talk about Jerry as if his death had some significant and personal impact on their lives…

24 March, 2011

Political Obfuscation and Spatial Warfare

In Maine, “our” governor is planning to waste time and effort removing a few walls with murals depicting the history of labor unions in our working man’s state. The murals are located inside the lobby of the Department of Labor. In a simultaneously brilliant and idiotic move, this blatant political obfuscation is yet another insult in a litany of dumb stuff Paul LePage does and puts him in prime position as a contender in the arena of GOP extremism laughing stock. Well, hilarious, but dreadfully scary. Running his mouth yet again about making Maine “pro-business,” (he wanted Maine to be the red light state by changing our highway welcome sign from “The Way Life Should Be” to “Open For Business”) LePage is waging a war on the labor movement, on worker’s rights, on community organizing, and on everything that is democratic and socialist and good in our state.

In the global political war for control of space (like in Israel, see Arena of Speculation for more on this), if LePage has his way he will have succeeded in wresting an important moment in our collective history from our grasp.

When we erase history, we change history, and we tell small lies. By effectively denying and dis-acknowledging a critical and formative event or era in our collective consciousness and awareness, who we are as Mainers, you rewrite history and truth for the benefit of short-sighted political goals and obfuscate and delegitimize alternative narrative and opposition. This is political warfare carried out in the name of selfish personal gain.

Paul LePage, by removing murals that depict scenes from the labor movement in Maine, is denying Maine’s rich history as a working class state and delegitimizing the role of labor unions throughout history and today. In yet another stroke of brilliance, he is planning to rename several conference rooms in the Department of Labor. The rooms are currently named after labor leaders such as Cesar Chavez.

It’s not so much the act itself but the principle and motivation behind it. The murals won’t be destroyed and the rooms can be re-re-named. But it is indicative of his disrespect for the rights of the collective, his disrespect for the rights of workers, and his complete disregard for history and the people of Maine.

He is making a play for spatial control because he knows he has no political control. Between this and his new state-owned propaganda TV show, Inside the Blaine House, his “administrative directives” are rapidly becoming symptomatic of authoritarian dictatorship, crafted to promote his personal agenda as a greedy, selfish businessman, with absolutely no consideration of what Maine people, the people who mostly didn’t vote for him, want and need.

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