Skip to content

Friday morning in Dover-Foxcroft

This old mill is still used as a home and garden store.

This old mill in Dover-Foxcroft is still used as a home and garden store.  

 

Dover-Foxcroft is a quintessential Maine town which might be the reason it was immortalized in a 1960’s comedy record.

Perched on the edge of the great forest, the town is split by a river, features a busy Main Street with a wonderful old movie theater, a full-service gas station and more than one pizza parlor. It has a population of about 4,100 people.

There was a "Beware of Dog" sign on this old mill. It looks like they still use it for cutting logs.

There was a “Beware of Dog” sign on this old mill. It looks like they still use it for cutting logs.

Dover-Foxcroft also boasts the remnants of its milling past.

One old mill is currently under reconstruction and will be used for housing.  Another is a busy home and garden retail store.  The third mill I stumbled across, an old woolen mill and dam, is part of a barely active historic district.

All three mills are very picturesque and make me wish I could sit down at riverside and paint the scene.

Nothing about the town made me want to laugh.

Still comedian Bruce Courtney McGorrill recorded his routine in front of the Dover-Foxcroft Junior Chamber of Commerce back in 1964. He turned the recording into an album called “Saturday Night in Dover-Foxcroft: A flavorsome collection of DownEast Stories.”

It’s hilarious.

The "Saturday Night in Dover-Foxcroft" was recorded in 1964,

The “Saturday Night in Dover-Foxcroft” was recorded in 1964,

My friend John back in Minnesota found the album on the Internet and sent me a copy earlier this year. John went to school in Maine and his family summered at a  “camp” near Boothbay Harbor. He’s spent enough time in Maine to understand its humor.

And McGorrill nails it.

I’ve never heard of McGorrill and I don’t know if he’s still around, but it would be easy to call him the Garrison Keillor of DownEast Maine. He has a keen eye for the quirky, a mellow and homey delivery; and is a master storyteller.

He jokes about lobster fishing, going off to Boston and potato farming. One bit, called “A Cow and A Car,” got big laughs in 1964 and would get laughs in 2014.

Maine changes very slowly – to both its credit and detriment. The fact that 50-year-old stories still ring funny and true only serves to illustrate its adversity to modern life.

But that’s what makes Maine such a charming place.

And why spending a Friday morning driving around Dover-Foxcroft makes me want to buy an old mill.

No joke.

An old Woolen Mill dam site in Dover-Foxcroft.

An old Woolen Mill dam site in Dover-Foxcroft.

Drinkin’ with Nate: The Biddeford Blowout

Jen and I stopped at my drinking buddy Nate’s place in Biddeford a little early last weekend. It looked like no one was home.

Still the door was wide open. We knocked and did the “Hello? Hello?” thing.

No answer.

So we walked in.

We found Nate in the recliner watching TV. Things were exploding. It was kinda loud.

“Where is everybody?” asked Jen.

“I dunno,” said Nate.

We soon learned his roommates Liam and John, both big bikers, were out on a ride. His “old lady” was in the shower.

“What are you guys doing here?” said Nate.

It was Memorial Day weekend. It was time for a party.  It was time for some drinks.

Nate likes to drink. I’m not sure what he drinks anymore. Whatever washes down the Cheetos. Nate likes to drink and eat Cheetos.

The party moved into the backyard. There were rockets. There were hula-hoops. There was ice cream. There were more drinks. Then we trespassed at the abandon house next door. The place was trashed. Nate said he used to party with the neighbors. Then they left. Now their pool fills up with rain water.

Jen and I crashed at Nate’s house that night. We got up around 7 a.m. Nate was already up. Still had his hat on backwards. Still had on shorts and a t-shirt. For all we know, he never went to sleep.

The whole gang headed to the Palace Diner for breakfast. It’s in an old train car near the Biddeford police station. Waiters with tattoos. Loud music. An alcohol license: Bloody Caesars.  Allen’s n’ Cream. Coors.

Nate didn’t eat much but he had more drinks. It was 10 a.m.

Then we headed to the beach. Things got crazy.

First Nate refused to get out of the car. He just wanted to crank the tunes. So we left him with John and went down to the surf. Was Nate hitting a wall?

Nope.

Nate showed up five minutes later like someone put jet fuel in his Harley. He ran down to the water, jumped in the waves, got real loud and then went off to relieve himself in a nearby wooded area. When he came back he jumped in a stream, rubbed mud on himself and started rolling around in the surf.

“It’s going to be a rough ride home,” said his old lady.

It was time for a bath, the recliner, Legos and “Star Wars” videos on the TV.

H

A

P

P

Y

M

E

M

O

R

I

A

L

D

A

Y

Nate gettin' crazy before drinks at the Palace.

Nate gettin’ crazy before drinks at the Palace.

Memorial Day & meeting Maine music royalty

Dick Curless recorded 22 country chart hits in the late 60s and early 70s.

Dick Curless recorded 22 country chart hits in the late 60s and early 70s.

I just met the June Carter Cash of Maine — the wife of a country music star — in a place that still sells classic old record albums.

And to me, at least, it helped deliver the true meaning of Memorial Day.

Here’s what happened:

Shortly after attending the downtown Bangor Memorial Day parade, I wandered into a nearby antique store with a friend. Being music fans, we quickly migrated to a small section for vinyl records. Maybe six bins full of blues, rock, jazz and holiday albums.

In the Maine music section — which included maybe 10 albums — I pulled a record by country singer Dick Curless. I showed it to my friend. “Here’s one of the biggest artists to ever come out of Maine,” I said. “He had some big country hits back in the 60s.”

It’s true. Curless was born in Fort Fairfield, Maine in 1932. He recorded the top 10 country hit “A Tombstone Every Mile” in 1965. The song is considered one of the greatest truck driving songs of all time. Famous for wearing an eye patch, Curless toured with Buck Owens and released 17 albums in the next 10 years. He died in 1995.

My friend supplied a polite “Hmmmm” and continued to browse the jazz bin.

Then an older lady — who just seemed to appear next to me — made a shocking announcement.

“He was my husband,” she said.

I was stunned. My friend was stunned.

“Dick Curless was your husband?” I said. “Wow.”

Her name was Pauline and she looked like she could be Carrie Underwood’s grandmother. She wore a crisp white collared shirt, glasses with substantial brown rims, and short salt & pepper hair that looked as if it had been styled an hour earlier.

I asked Pauline about the eye patch, where Dick grew up, and how long he continued to perform. She answered all my questions. I told her I was from Minnesota but lived in Maine and collected Maine music.

“Dick and I would visit friends in Minnesota,” she said. “They had a place on 10 mile Lake. We really enjoyed it there.”

Pauline said her husband’s music is hard to find and she told me about another overlooked but successful Maine musician: Bill Chinnock.

She even wrote his name down for me.

After that, Pauline left the store. I’m not sure she was with anyone.

As my friend and I walked back home up a steep hill, we talked about our chance meeting with Maine music royalty.

“How did that just happen?” asked my friend.

“In the record section of all places,” I said.

Later, when I searched the Internet for a Dick Curless biography I made a discovery: Memorial Day, May 25th, was the 20th anniversary of his death.

Now maybe our encounter with Pauline was just a coincidence. But maybe it was something else. Perhaps Pauline was drawn to the record bins to catch a glimpse of her husband, in his prime, on the cover of his life’s work. It seems like a natural thing to do on that day, and in my opinion, more fulfilling than a cemetery visit.

And then she stumbled into a couple of younger guys still interested in his music 50 years after it was recorded.

I hope Pauline appreciated our meeting. I know I did. It got me thinking about the real reason we celebrate Memorial Day: A time to honor those who have gone before us for who they were and what they did on this earth. It’s honest, emotional and a powerful truth.

Something you can hear in most Johnny Cash or Dick Curless songs.

Help me! I’m a bad cook living in a seafood state

The seafood counter at the Union Avenue Hannaford supermarket.

The seafood counter at the Union Avenue Hannaford supermarket in Bangor, Maine.

Maine seafood is so good I wish I knew how to cook.

Before we moved to Maine, seafood was only a treat. It was something you ate occasionally at a fancy restaurant – like prime rib or top sirloin. We never bought seafood at the grocery store or served it for dinner. Baked haddock or grilled salmon just seemed too exotic and too expensive for a weekday supper call.

But things are different when you live less than 50 miles from the ocean.

Jen loves seafood and says she could eat it every night.

I like seafood, but it has to be good seafood.

Hey, one of my favorite meals of all-time was seafood. The meal was close to 20 years ago in Galveston, Texas with my cousin Janell and buddy Keith. We spent a day on the beach and stepped into the closest restaurant we could find. No Yelp. No Zagat. Just pure luck. We ordered a seafood feast. It tasted like the fish, crab and lobster jumped across the beach, into the kitchen and onto the grill. Fresh. Clean. Spectacular.

Sadly, most midwest seafood tastes like it took a semi from the beach, crawled into the kitchen and was wrestled onto the grill by a janitor.

Not in Maine. Maine, like Texas, is a seafood state.

With Jen’s strong encouragement, I started buying seafood at the grocery store. Breaded haddock or cod usually, something to fry up quickly on a Thursday night. It tasted good.

Then I started buying fresh fish. Pollock. Salmon. The stuff they catch down the road. I learned how to make an egg batter, roll it in bread crumbs and bake it – yes, bake it in an oven – at 425 degrees for 12 minutes.

Delicious.

I’m still working on my fish dinners. Making them better. I’ve developed my own tartar sauce. Added poppies or sesame seeds to the bread batter. Even grilled some mahi-mahi the other night.

But I could still use help.

If you have some tips for serving fish let me know. Leave a note in the comment section. I’ll give it a try.

It would be a shame to waste all this good Maine seafood on bad cooking.

The Joker, Jim Dandy & the All Roads Music Festival in Belfast

It’s a 64 second blast of pure energy, bombastic angst, raging testosterone and uninhibited fun.

It’s rock n’ roll.

The All Roads Music Festival May 16 in Belfast, Maine featured some of the best independent music talent in the state: Lady Lamb, the Mallett Brothers and Spencer Albee, to name a few. But for me the highlight was watching three kids barely out of high school set off a rock n’ roll bomb in the basement of a former elementary school.

The group is Jim Dandy:  Two guys. One girl. A guitar. A bass. A drum kit. Maybe six chords and 100 words –  at least seven of them not suitable for print in a family blog.

Jim Dandy is punk to be sure, but a good punk band can do something more to you than loud guitars and screaming. Kurt Cobain knew that, so does Billie Joe.

Music is at it’s best when the performers don’t care about money, art or current trends. They just want to have a good time and impress their friends. It helps if a band has a little charisma, working chemistry and knows the rules before they smash them to pieces.

I first saw Jim Dandy play an unsanctioned show in a parking lot during a now defunct Belfast music festival two years ago. They ran an extension chord out the back door of an old downtown brick building, plugged in a PA and played for about 30 minutes. The crowd grew to 50 people before the teenagers ran out of songs.

If I remember right, the group ended its performance with a hilarious version of “Coconut,” a 1971 hit novelty song by Harry Nilsson.

As I walked up to the Waterfall Arts building Saturday afternoon, where Jim Dandy was scheduled to perform, a rumble leaked from the chain link covered basement windows. It was a Jim Dandy sound check. The song was a cover of another ubiquitous 1970s hit: “The Joker”

Wow.

These are kids born at the dawn of the Internet. They don’t listen to the radio. They don’t have turntables. How do they know about Steve Miller and why would they bother playing his silly old song?

Well it turns out “joker/toker” rhyme and wolf whistle guitar part wins over a crowd no matter the age. The song turned into a giant singalong for both the old and young in the room.

That’s how good rock music connects the generations.

Following the first song in the Jim Dandy set, the singer shouted out: “How does it sound, ma?”

“Yahhhhh” yelled a blonde woman wearing a red & black checked shirt. The next song started and she was lost in a tornado among the kids on the dance floor.

And for 64 seconds you get to be 20 years old again.

That’s rock and roll.

River clean-up in hazmat suits

How did these Peace Panties wind up down by the river?

How did these “Peace Pants” wind up down by the river? (Photo by Buck Johnson)

 

I’m sure passing drivers thought Sponge Bob had been convicted of a crime and sentenced to pick trash down by the river.

But it was me.

Last weekend a Brewer civic group sponsored a River Clean Up Day, and while we live in neighboring Bangor, I joined the folks next door in litter mission along the nearby Kenduskeag Stream. But first there was a stop at Ocean State Job Lot.

We needed work gloves to protect our hands from broken glass, rusty nails and, yes, used needles.

We also discovered we needed something else: Hazmat suits.

“Well, they’re only $2,” I said, as neighbor Kristin tried on an over-sized white cover all. She looked like a snowball.

Down by the stream my yellow hazmat suit came in handy: It battled the snags and scrapes as I plowed through underbrush and crawled below a bridge. It warned drivers as I wandered along the shoulder picking up bottle caps, lighters, old t-shirts, plastic bags, tobacco tins and dozens of 32-oz Styrofoam cups (with straws) presumably tossed by passing motorists.

It also helped me locate Buck as I climbed out of a ravine. He was sported a yellow hazmat suit too, as he lugged multiple used tires out of a ditch. He looked like the Gorton’s Fish Stick guy at work on Pit Row.

In all, we spent about three hours down by the stream that morning. We collected nine 25-gallon plastic bags of trash, seven car tires, a mangled safety cone, a steel cable, a television set and a broken crack pipe.

“It took us longer than I thought to find that thing,” said Ben. He had e pulled it off the river bank shortly before noon.

In the end, we jammed the back of  my truck full with trash and went off to look for the official River Clean-Up Day dump site. We were so loaded down I had to put the old truck in low.

It was enough to make Sponge Bob cry.

The Hazmat Team poses with a full pick-up truck. (Photo by Jennifer Moore)

The Hazmat Team poses with a full pick-up truck. (Photo by Jennifer Moore)

 

3 Acadia Landscapes & A Dining Room Still Life

Snow on the shoreline at Jordan Pond, May 7.

Snow on the shoreline at Jordan Pond, May 7.

A visit from Keith generated some wonderful pictures of Acadia National Park so I thought I’d share them here:

• There were no people but lots of snow at Jordan Pond on May 7. This is one of the most photographed scenes in the park and, during high season, this shoreline is packed like a Wal-Mart check out line on Black Friday. Amazing to have the place all to ourselves.

• The payoff for climbing the Beehive Cliff jungle gym bars and scaling its narrow ledges 500 feet above Sand Beach is a visit to a small lake called “The Bowl.” That’s Champlain Mountain in the background.

• Somes Sound is the diet soda of fjords. A valley on Mount Desert Island flooded by the sea, just not deep enough to qualify for a Norwegian fjord so they call it a fjard. Whatever, Sergeant Drive is the place to be at sunset.

• The Oxford American food issue recently published a wonderful table setting photo by Matt Armendariz. It inspired me to take this picture in our dining room.

The Bowl, Champlain Mountain.

The Bowl, Champlain Mountain.

Sergeant Drive sunset on Somes Sound.

Sergeant Drive sunset on Somes Sound.

Daisies in a dining room. Bangor, Maine

Daisies in a dining room. Bangor, Maine

Revisiting Montana's Historic Landscape

30 Years in the Big Sky Country

RoadsideArchitecture.com -- the companion blog

roadtrips & posts documenting vintage signs, statues, buildings, and more

Outside In Duluth

Outdoor. Kid. Fun.

Digital Storytelling | University of Minnesota Duluth

Featuring student work from the University of Minnesota Duluth Journalism program.

Laura's Birding Blog

What happens when a Twin Cities townie follows his wife into the woods?

Outdoors with Sam Cook

Exploring the North Woods

365 Days of Birds

Duluth, Minnesota based birder / photographer. Sax-Zim Bog naturalist.

Mark in Maine

What happens when a Twin Cities townie follows his wife into the woods?

Ed's Big Adventure

He farms! He writes! He paints!

Zenith City Online

Celebrating Historic Duluth, Western Lake Superior & Minnesota's Arrowhead

Perfect Duluth Day

What happens when a Twin Cities townie follows his wife into the woods?

Time to play b-sides

What happens when a Twin Cities townie follows his wife into the woods?

Digital Nomad

Travel Dispatches from Robert Reid

SUBSTREET

history under ground

Czechesotans

What happens when a Twin Cities townie follows his wife into the woods?

Little Brown Mushroom

Little Brown Mushroom

Penobscot Marine Museum

What happens when a Twin Cities townie follows his wife into the woods?

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.