Monthly Archives: May 2016

Westminster Allie and Owen

Ann and I took Friday off and visited a business in Massachusetts that will help her put the finishing touches on the recipes she has been developing over the past 10 years.  Salves, balms, creams and tinctures.  All organic and the best for a myriad of ailments and preventative care.  More on that soon.

D3T_2839From there, we drove to Wachusett Valley where Ann’s sister Maureen and young family live.  We watched her daughter Allie Asadoorian at softball practice.  I took photos of the players and coaches, including her father Derek who is the head coach.  It’s a travel team she plays for.  Allie is the smallest by far and one of the youngest in the league, but one of the top players from what I could see.  Allie and her brother Owen had run me ragged in the back yard prior to practice.  In their makeshift ball field, we played wiffleball and tossed the football around.  After practice, we got an ice cream as the sun set on one of the best days Ann and I have had in a long while.  Life is good.  They headed home and we zipped across the street to the package store and got some libation.  Headed back to our motel in Leominster.  It wasn’t so super.  Clean enough, but quite a rough clientele.  Ann was wiped and didn’t even crack a beer.  She slipped under the covers and watched a show on her iPad.  I enjoyed a few Wachusett Larry Imperial IPA’s and watched TV.  We don’t have cable at home, so I couldn’t let all these channels go to waste.  Two hours later Ann woke up and I was gone.  She wondered if I was in jail, the hospital or talking somebody’s ear off someplace.  She called and I told her I was enjoying a stack at Denny’s around the corner.  When I strolled back after midnight, it was quite interesting the characters I passed, and no less than a half-dozen questionable people sitting in front of their rooms.  Cars were coming and going quite frequently.  Didn’t take me too long to figure out what was going on.  I locked the door, pulled the curtains, kissed Ann and  put my headphones on and hoped I would see the sunrise.

Despite my paranoia and wild speculations from the previous night, the sun rose and we skulked out of the room, in short sleeves no less.  We sauntered over to Starbucks for a vacation like treat and enjoyed an overpriced, overrated cup of Joe.   Walked to a Market Basket and stocked up for lunch and snacks, checked out of the motel with a number of issues and drove to Westminster to visit the relatives at their home.  After a short visit, Derek and Allie left to meet a girl who wanted to try out for their travel team, Central Mass Voodoo.  Ann and Moe went for a walk.  In a foreshadowing of what was to come later in the day, Owen beat me in extra innings with his speed on the bases and putting dents in the wiffleball.  Maureen drove around to show us the quaint town, Wachusett Mountain where I once skied 25 years ago.  They would be leaving early for Owens game and some errands, so Ann and I took off and got me some much-needed shirts and pants and I splurged for a wicked nice pair of North Face hiking boots.  The treads on the ones I have been wearing are like drag racing slicks, so it was time.  That and the dog even walks away from them when they come off my feet at night.D3T_2526 D3T_2542 D3T_2638 D3T_2643 D3T_2706 D3T_2814

I was thoroughly impressed with the facilities, coaches, parents and spirit of the youth league Owen plays in.  Everyone was having fun, there was awesome coaching and mentoring, and sportsmanship was paramount.  It was only one game that I observed, but I could tell winning wasn’t everything like some of the leagues my kids have played in.  Youth sports at it’s finest.  Owen played great, and his team won in extra innings.  We said goodbye and headed home.  After a three hour drive, I was tired but wired.  So here I sit, pounding the keys while the bits and bytes download.  Click here to view more photos

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Lewiston fire highlights monumental day

fire teaserMy schedule was full before I walked into the newsroom today, but looked easy enough. But before the end of it, breaking news had me hustling, huffing, puffing and fearing for my life.  I thought I might have a heart attack as I jogged, walked and waddled up the crest of a hill on Pettingill Street in Lewiston to find out the house on fire was still a couple hundred yards away.  It’s three hours later and I am drained after the adrenaline rush of the fire and push to get photos from the fire, a track meet and lacrosse game out before deadline.

I came to work at 2 pm to meet with editors and designers about our Sunday feature for this weekend. The one we had been working on for several weeks had fallen through.  It happens.  The main subject got cold feet after several interviews and a compelling story on a hotbutton issue.  We decided to bump up our Memorial Day package, which included a piece on the new memorial stone being etched at Collette Monuments.  Bruce and I go way back and he had promised me a month ago that he would let me know when they would be etching the names on the monument.  It was set for 3:00 today.  I knew getting everything shot and back before deadline would be tight as I had a track meet in South Paris that started at 3:30.  No worries, but I had a lacrosse game back in Lewiston at 6, so I knew I had to shoot and scoot at the track meet.  So I called Bruce and asked if they were working on it yet to buy me a little more time.  He said to come on over.  I blew off the rest of the meeting with the editors picking entries for the Maine Press Association annual contest and headed to outer Sabattus Street and through the construction gauntlet on the way.

Don Collette was picking off letters from the template before sandblasting.  colletteMy stomach still hurts from the deep belly laughs from his jokes and sense of humor.  “It’s the glue.” he half-jokes.  It was nearly 3:30 by the time I picked up a cheap iced coffee at Cumby’s and headed to South Paris.  While shooting the meet, I talked to a few Lewiston athletes who went to the prom with my son Chris this past weekend and coach Paul Soracco about Isaish winning the 800 at this past weekend’s Big 10 championships.chris  I got a great shot that I thought would be awesome at the top of our front page.  Long and thin with some text in the sky.  Later I found out the meet did not have a story.  They don’t like to tease without to just a photo package without a story.  But I did have some other pretty good photos that got great play on the front of the sports sections, so I can’t complain too much.

Runners take off at the start of the 100 dash during Tuesday's track meet at Gouin Field Complex in South Paris.

Runners take off at the start of the 100 dash during Tuesday’s track meet at Gouin Field Complex in South Paris.

Lewiston's Billy Bedard flies to the air on his second jump that won the long jump during Tuesday's track meet at Gouin Field Complex in South Paris.

Leavitt’s Billy Bedard flies to the air on his second jump that won the long jump during Tuesday’s track meet at Gouin Field Complex in South Paris.

Lewiston's Taylor Chamberlain jumped to a first place finish during Tuesday's track meet at Gouin Field Complex in South Paris.

Lewiston’s Taylor Chamberlain jumped to a first place finish during Tuesday’s track meet at Gouin Field Complex in South Paris.

Edward Little's Lauren Berube clears launches over the bar during the pole vault event at Tuesday's track and field meet at Gouin Field Complex in South Paris.

Edward Little’s Lauren Berube clears launches over the bar during the pole vault event at Tuesday’s track and field meet at Gouin Field Complex in South Paris.

When I got to the lacrosse game at Lewiston High, it was nearing the end of the first quarter.  I wasn’t having luck getting any good action, except one of my former neighbor, Roman Dennis.  But in the back of my mind I could hear one of the mothers I know, who also has a son or two that plays say to me when we met walking our dogs; “Can you try to get a photo of somebody besides Roman.  He is in every time.”  I thought, no problem, I have plenty of time.

Lewiston's Roman Denis tries to get control of the ball as Brunswick's Jack Hladky puts the pressure on him during Tuesday afternoon's lacrosse game in Lewiston.

Lewiston’s Roman Denis tries to get control of the ball as Brunswick’s Jack Hladky puts the pressure on him during Tuesday afternoon’s lacrosse game in Lewiston.

Just then I heard sirens.  I know the sound of firetrucks, and they were going hard.  It’s someting I have honed over the years.  I did a 360 degree scan and noticed a big black plume of smoke.  I started running….jogging and walking fast as I had the weight of the big lens on my camera, plus the weight of my girth flabbing around.  I called the newsroom as I hustled to my car.  Pettingill Street in Lewiston I was told.

When I got to the scene, I noticed our web guy, Larry Gilbert Jr. with his phone.  “Periscoping?” I asked.  “Yep”  We had that covered, so I thought we were good, but he was at the front of the building and I could tell the fire was concentrated in the back.  I ducked behind a few buildings and found a neighbor hosing down the grass that had caught fire.  He had no shoes on. I thought that strange and fired off a few photos.  I then decided to go LIVE on Periscope as I knew I had better stuff than Larry, so I pulled out my cell phone and started recording.  I am sure the video was a little shaky as I was still panting from my near heart attack induced run to the scene.  It got a little wobbly when I started shooting still images for print as I was shooting video with my camera.  periscopeMulti-tasker am I!  After getting images, I thought about the next element.  Victims.  I have found through the years that many people are ok with talking about what happened.  Or they tell you to screw off, or worse.  It is usually pretty evident before I even identify myself and ask.  Often I see the hate in their eyes or realize they have lost a pet or loved one, or just overcome with emotion.  I back off.  But John Goddard looked like he wanted to talk.  I asked if he wouldn’t mind me recording his story.  He obliged and we streamed his recanting what happened.  I have much more to tell, but I am tired and promised Justin I would buy him a beer at the Goose.

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Drugs, guns and politics

Pick your poison.

I got a taste of all three last night and am craving more, fear the worst, but hope for the best.  My drug of choice for the last 35 years has been the high I get from the adrenaline pumping in my veins when the shit hits the fan.  Breaking news, technical difficulties, innovation and moments of enlightenment mix together in a physical and cerebral intoxication.  It’s why I still chase that high every day.

 Working an assignment, at the Ramada, where I have memories that span decades, I listened to our governor conduct one of his town hall meetings.  Say what you want about the guy, but you have to give him credit for speaking his mind, taking punches, punching back and standing up for what he believes.  He needs some upgrades on his verbal filter, and we don’t see eye to eye on many issues, but I do agree with him on a few things he brought up last night.  Especially when talking about the heroin crisis, and whatever the next drug du jour will be.  Everyone with children is afraid. Those who have lost good kids who battled drug addiction can relate.  It is a growing problem that won’t go away unless we take drastic measures.

LePage is against equipping law enforcement with life saving drugs for overdoses.  He cited an example of a Deering High School student that has overdosed three times, but was saved with the antidote.  The third time, he was able to go back to class.  From a high that nearly caused him to die, to being able to go back to class in a matter of minutes.  What lesson does that teach.  It is a reflection of our political and judicial climate. Drastic changes are in order.

LePage wants to bring back the death penalty.  I’m not so sure that is the answer, but am on the fence with this one.  However, he did touch on something that makes a lot of sense to me.  If somebody almost dies because of a drug overdose, they need serious help.  And there is not a substantive system in place to deal with this and so many other atrocities that are becoming prevalent in society today.  Habitual drunk drivers get off time after time until they get behind the wheel and kill somebody.  Spouses that abuse their mates with little fear of serious consequences.  Repeat offenders that time and again walk away with a slap on the wrist.  But a guy growing too much pot goes to jail for more time than a father that abuses his child? Isn’t this absurd?  There are so many layers of bureaucracy that our legal and justice system has become stagnant and ineffective.  Sweeping changes have to be made.  But how?

Photos from Wednesday night's town hall meeting in Lewiston.

One current example that was touched on last night seems simple to fix on the surface.  LePage vetoed equipping public safety with Narcan (Naxoline) because it gives users a safety net with few consequences.  He points out there is no current working system in place to treat and rehab addicts.  There are plans for a new facility, but it is a drop in the bucket.  Instead of wasting time on so many stupid bills that are sponsored each session, why don’t our elected officials work together drafting meaningful resolutions?  How about: if we equip law enforcement with Narcan with the caveat that when the situation is so dire that it must be administered to save somebody, the addict, no exceptions, is immediately whisked  away to a treatment facility.  Sure there will be complications, failures and lawsuits.  But, it is fare better than bringing them back from the throes of death and simply sent on their way to do it all over again.  Or just let them die? How can we deny a proven life saving tool because of politics.  It seems like a simple answer, but like always, lawyers, lobbyists, and civil rights groups will make it impossible to get anything meaningful enacted.  Our jails, hospitals and state run institutions are not currently equipped to handle treatment required at this time. And it would take forever to write bills, equip facilities and train staff.  So it is used as a political football and leverage on other issues with nothing resolved or enacted in a timely fashion.  I think the political quagmire is part of the reason so many Americans are rallying behind a presidential candidate that scares the crap out of the other sector.  A vast majority of Americans are fed up with the status quo and want drastic change at any cost.  It’s a scary situation no doubt.  There are solutions if our elected officials focus on the real issues and not concern themselves with self preservation and party politics.  Our founding fathers must be rolling in their graves.

I was putting together a gallery of photos from the town hall meeting back in the newsroom when a call came over the scanner that a pharmacy had been robbed by a white male wearing a ski mask with a skull or some type of skeleton on it.  I was having problems uploading the photos to the gallery.  I was looking for a workaround and troubleshooting, but nothing was working.  I used to get frustrated, angry and stressed.  Now I see it as a challenge and excited when I figure something out, but was ready to throw in the towel and go home.  If a technical glitch causes me to miss deadline or the print or online product goes without my photos…..so be it.  If it is FUBAR and not my fault, oh well.  Sometimes I screw up, like last night when I lost a memory card with an assignment on it. That one is on me. But life goes on and today is a new day, with new mountains to climb, or a swamp to wallow in.  It’s my choice.  Over the years it’s become a wicked easy decision.

Everyone in the newsroom was hearing the scanner traffic, but were not sure where the robbery was.  I had picked up enough to figure it was either CVS or Rite Aide on Sabattus Street.  It was raining and dark.  I was not worried, my new camera is awesome in low light, especially if nothing is moving.  The guy was long gone and the cops would be inside for a while interviewing staff and customers.  We were on deadline, so a scene setter from the parking lot would suffice.

Police interview customers and staff at the CVS store on Sabattus Street in Lewiston Wednesday night.

Police interview customers and staff at the CVS store on Sabattus Street in Lewiston Wednesday night.

I took the newsroom laptop and boogied out the door.  LaFlamme was on the way I was told. I won’t embarrass him by telling you he went to the wrong location, but when he finally arrived shortly after me, he ducked out of the rain and into my front seat.  He was impressed that I had created a bucket for the story and photos, and was ready to push the photo and his yet to be written story online.  “How are you connecting to the internet, their WiFi?” asked my intrepid colleague.  He was flabbergasted that my phone hat a built in hot spot that I used to connect to the internet.  We cobbled together what we knew and sent the link to the copydesk for them to check over and publish.

I got home in time to watch the  TV news and log on to my computer to see if our stories of the govenah or robbery had generated any social media traffic.  I opened Facebook and did a quick scroll to catch up on what people were blithering on about.  I de-friended a dear friend that I just could not stand seeing any more photos of what she was cooking for dinner ever night.  Had a laugh at another who posted they were going home because a plane circling downtown frightened him.  But was horrified by the scenario that went through my mind when I read a couple of comments on the pharmacy robbery.  Two guys were boasting about being prepared for just such a thing by always having their gun with them.  I wondered what they would do if they were there.  Would they pull it out only if the robber started shooting, but do nothing if there was no imminent danger.  Or would they try to be a hero and accidentally kill an innocent patron?  The what iff’s started.

My son carries a gun.  I have in the past, but choose not to now.  I believe, and am comforted that there are many out there that are trained, of the right mindset, and able to make rational judgement calls that have and will no doubt save lives and stop crime in the future.  It makes many criminals think twice about pulling out a gun.  However, I am just as afraid to be shot by some knucklehead who thinks he is Dirty Harry or Walker, Texas Ranger.  Can of worms for sure.

 

 

 

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