There is a strange problem in Portland. As an outsider I have heard talk of how Portland is a burgeoning food city. Until moving here I had thought the same. There are murmurs that there is some kind of group think at the least and at worst a conspiracy afoot in the Maine food scene. I have been to my fair share of restaurants here, some of the supposed best restaurants in all of Maine. Personally, I’m not blown away. Not even close.

Champagne restaurants with ‘Highlife’ food

I’m going to call out Five Fifty-Five because it’s a great example of this. A quick list of gripes: salty hosts, ‘retirement home’ decor, overpriced “just okay” food, clunky menu. We walked in – admittedly – early to our reservation to an empty waiting area and told to wait. An understandable circumstance as it was still early in the night and unorganized. An older (see: wealthy) couple walked in behind us soon after, were seated quickly, and without a word to me and my wife. The two hostesses bumbled on the computer some more and we were finally seated in a nearly empty restaurant. I’m not tied up in decor, but if you wish to portray an image and your attempt falls on its face, it must be said. Five Fifty-Five’s decor is sparse, save for awkwardly placed bottles of ‘Dom’ and oddly placed lighting. The menu is printed and put together on a small obnoxious clipboard. A cute idea if done properly, but seeking out any information besides the first page is a trail of wits and patience. I’m not sure what to say about the food but that it was simply alright. For the money, it was atrocious; under-salted soups without dimension, seemingly unseasoned cuts of beef, tired-and-overdressed platters, and laughingly tiny desserts.

Real food is just that

I will contrast with my favorite place in Portland: The Porthole. It’s about attitude, ultimately. The food is fresh as humanly possible, the specials are interesting and familiar (ie: Cinnamon roll french toast, dressed up ‘fish’ omelets). Not just this, but they are good, real good. They aren’t a greasy spoon (Miss Portland, Becky’s) or pretentious wanna-be foodies (Hot Suppa). The former has its place and are good at times as well as serve a wider audience. The dishes at the Porthole are clean and simple – greasy when they need to be, perfect pancakes, correctly made eggs, but there isn’t fuss. Nothing is overdone – heck the bathrooms don’t even have doors.  They have a hulking chalkboard with an ever-changing array of specials, which are always stellar.

Another favorite is Portland Lobster Company – simple name, straight forward food, and only open while the season is. My last example of ‘right’ food is a place that exemplifies ‘real food’ mantra, but carries a theme while doing so is the tiny Mike’s Deli. Great meat, fresh veggies, an overwhelming menu, really nice staff – a theme done right.

Overhyped, pretty great food

Something else that happens here is anyone that ‘does it right’ and is one of chosen ones gets thrust so far into the spotlight their names are like lore and you’d think it would be hushed around campfires. These restaurants include Duckfat, Ottos, and Fore Street.


These likely exist in other cities, but Portland is the only city I’ve seen where talk and fixation finds it self caught in a feedback loop of mediocrity. Great food should be celebrated not a collection of buzz words.

It’s been a few months since I’ve cut ties with ‘the bridge’, so I feel its safe enough for me to air grievances and for them to go completely unnoticed. Most likely, I could have kept pristine records of who did what, when and it still would have flown under the radar – mostly because of my boss.

A blip of background: I’ve been a nerd my whole life; it has come and gone in waves of social stability here and there, but more to the point – I’ve been into PCs, “the internet”, for nearly all my waking memories. This doesn’t necessarily make me an expert, but someone with a grasp on things.

At [this job], my superior admitted to me that she had never really payed much attention to “the web.” Thats right. A person who worked in retail at countless stores across the eastern seaboard becomes a buyer then a couple years later gets placed as a web director. Her understanding of the net was more akin to a confused old lady who’s grandson stuck a laptop in her mitts and let her go to it. The resources she used were utter shit and full of group think, buzz words, and mind-meltingly bad web design. How were we supposed to beinteresting enough to drive sales if those are our information pools? A company whose customers exist as decrepit shut-ins, retirees, and their children?

The name of SYW is a misnomer, a lie, a fallacy, a faded passing memory of what the shop used to stand on. There isn’t a single thing made at this ‘workshop.’ Most of their product lines were shopped out overseas (see: China & India) – improper knock offs of the same American made products they had carried for years. Sure there were a couple staples they’d be crazy to move overseas, but this tilted the business in a strange way. It did so because the move wasn’t done a decade or so ago, it was only in the past year or so. A couple of years and still shaking out horror stories, still fresh and top-of-mind. Tales of cargo ships dropping to the sea floor with a back order, the dissolving of a long-time line because the new cheaper items were – shockingly – poorly made, and tales of child endangerment at the factories. Not only are they losing customers on quality, but also in a market and demographic where American made products are coveted, they had cut back.

The business was in a death spiral – driving away long time customers, unable to pull new (see: young) customers, and slumping morale.

It was not the right fit – between the “you can’t post that” red tape, not getting the guidance I asked for, and moral issues selling what equated to garbage.

There is a game in the iTunes app store called Tiny Tower. It’s a cheesy, simple, 8-bit game where you build a pencil thin tower and pull in working stiffs to both live and work in a place where only one person can ride the only elevator there.

The lesson learned in the game is this: every person, no matter how shitty their skills, have a dream job.

I am 26 years old and I don’t have a dream job. That is, unless you count retirement a dream job. Stay-at-home dad, is that a job?

I’ve been thinking for a while about some of the people I’ve known. I haven’t been a great person and wanted to highlight some of the people I should have treated better. Maybe I’ll learn something about being a better person by these reflections.

Andrew had always been one of those side-liners. The guy’s house everyone met at. Where night games of capture the flag and ghost in the grave yard would originate. The kid with the cool basement, all the fun toys, new game systems, a pool. Had a lot of the things the rest of us in the neighborhood didn’t have. His family wasn’t affluent or flaunted their money in gross ways – they just tipped the money scale enough for themselves that they could afford a bunch of cool shit for their kids. I think a lot of it had to do his parents not ever giving up hope for their childhood.

His father had a model train set setup in their basement, a small line, but something a guy that wishes to grip his youth like a warm teddy bear would have. There were train whistles, CB radios, handmade fm-receivers, scopes, a smattering of Garfield paraphernalia, a big old tv (the kind with massive clunky speakers attached), a pool table, all in their basement. A Pop filled a fridge. It was a haven for kids and we used this to its fullest extent. Lots of hide and seek, plenty of games of pool where the games ended with whipping the balls against the rails and themselves.

My friend though was more than a basement. He took most of my shit, one of the few who was my friend when I didn’t have any, almost always available to hang out; he was accessible. Andrew took more abuse than he should have from all of us, and more so from me. He was a steadfast friend of mine and I don’t feel like I ever gave him the credit he deserved. Because if someone is still your friend after you write “die you poo” on his garage door with face-paint makeup, they’ll put up with nearly everything.

I haven’t talked or seen the guy in years, but I think about my life a lot and he always seems to play  a supporting role. He’s a decent person and hope he’s doing well. Andrew, if you read this: I miss our endless hours of sitting next to each other silently, while playing different games.

Yeah, so this is still not getting the attention it needs. Drove to NY and back on the 31st. We’ve got about three more months until our “new roommate” arrives. I am looking at becoming 1099 contractor and have already picked up a client. Planning a series of posts. More soon. I cannot keep letting this waste away.

I’ve ridden my bike to work now for a couple of years. It started in Macomb, where I took a summer in at Wal-Mart riding my bike ~4 miles one way. It was a nasty, heavy cruiser with thick sluggish tires and 10 jittery speeds. The rides were always uneventful, heat dragged across my back licked at my shoes. The nights were punctuated by country folk in their pick up trucks and a nineties coupé or two. The ride took me past a graveyard set atop the biggest hill in town, forcing me to look and soak in my mortality.

In Chicago I walked the first year. I became acutely aware of my feet once again, soreness was the usual as a waiter, flat feet doesn’t help anything. Second year in the big city and we moved north, distancing myself from work enough to where biking was an option. It was the first year that I do not remember well enough to say how long I rode to work, but I’m sure it wasn’t year round. Spring broke and I wasn’t ready to get back on the commuter packed trains again. My third year in Chicago saw soaring 90 degree days, heavy downpours, and unbelievable wind gusts that pushed like thick jello though the cavern streets. It was the winters, where night-time seemed to stretch all day – bookending my waking hours, that were the best. The only fear was of a horrific ‘dooring’ or left turn negligence.

Nothing compares to the real fear I have nearly every day. There is something primal in this new fear. A fear so rich and full, I found something out about myself, a horror that grounds and invigorates. I am unsure of the exact problem, I am not afraid of the dark, nor of the woods – but the two together, in a snarly, old wood. The mind runs in rapid images of hidden preteens with rope, small diseased woodland critters, deer with an ax to grind, a bear or two, and a guy ready to pounce on your commute home holding a back with nails impaled though it. I race through the tall open wooded areas, blow past the overgrown shrubs that seem to only grow in blind turns, grip the handlebars extra tight behind the industrial park where my screams would be drowned out by the rumble of diesel engines. I race my heart beat, pumping my legs hard and try to focus on the podcast playing in my ears – loud enough to hear, but not enough to drown out a trailing ravage animal or the rustle of a beast. My freedom lies in at an angled intersection where a pizza chain and a townie bar/restaurant sit across from a long row of natural gas storage tanks.

I enjoy it and dread it – a juxtaposition of emotions I can’t avoid. My new ride ends with a breathtakingly beautiful view of Portland from the Casco Bay Bridge and a hill to my neighborhood. The beast has moved off my back as I roll up the street and carry my bike back inside.

All in a days work.

So I know I said I’d try to write a post a day in September. Didn’t happen – at least I got some writing done. That is better than just leaving this a barren wasteland because I wasn’t sure what to post. But I’ve made beer, trying to stay connect on Facebook and Twitter – which can seem like a bit of a hassle sometimes, using my camera more, reading more about beer, hanging with my cats and of course spending time with ma lady.

Been spending time worrying about being a father. I’m sure everyone goes through worrying if they are ‘ready’ or they’ll be a ‘good’ dad. A daunting task to bring an individual into being.

In beer news, I’ve got the Cranberry Wheat Ale through its first stage and now I’m just waiting for a container of apple juice to empty so I can use the glass jug it comes in. My plan: Break the 5 gallons up, 2 -1 gallon batches, and 1 three gallon batch. I want to buy frozen cranberries try it solo in one batch, just adding cranberry concentrate, and for the three gallon batch doing both. I have no clue on ratios so I’m sort of shooting in the dark here. I have read 1lb of cranberries per gallon, which is possible – but unsure on the concentrate. The bitter is kegged and ready to drink. It’s sweet up front and lots of citrus with a smooth bitter end.

I swear, I’ll write a story soon instead of these uninteresting ‘life’ updates.

Yes, I know. I’m behind on writing. As usual life gets in the way. Lis’s father was in town for a long weekend, we had another ultrasound, I worked Sunday afternoon, all this and more! Found wild hops on an island though so that was neat. It suddenly became fall in a couple of days and the chill is a bit shocking.

I’ve run out of time. Until later.

In fifth grade, we were told one day that we were going to have seperate girls and boys Olympics. The classroom next to mine joined up with ours and the sexes seperated. We were going to watch a video as the girls were going to have their olympics. This video?

A horribly awkward, “for young children” sexual education video. The male teacher from the adjacent class was stern on keeping things undercontrol, snickering to a minium, and no talking.

It was tough going for a group of fifth graders to keep it together as girls in the next room screamed and cheered on their peers as the box placed at the front of the room squacked “dick” “penis” and “falopean tubes.” My memory tells me kept our composure but I know myself better and sure there was hushed whispsers.

But this is not the focus of the story.

The following day we came in for our go at the games. They were what I can only equate to hastenly thrown together repoductions of tradional olympic games. There was a few of them in all, but I remember one in vivid memory.

The game was discus. We were given a couple of white paper plates and a row of desks created a path and distance markers for the throws. The ‘strong’ boys in class were whipping the flimsy pieces of paper making for short and floppy flights. I leaned over to a friend of mine and told him that they were doing it all wrong. It wasn’t about being a brute. The idea that all off the other kids were missing was that it was about floating them down the field.

I watched a couple more desperate attempts to get the Dixie plates to reach past three feet and they all were seemingly hurled at the ground. My name was called and I stepped up and smiled graciously at the lengthy teacher. I gripped the edge of the plate like a Frisbee and lofted it into the air. It floated, wafting in the silent air as the type A grunts in class watched bewildered, high above the four feet line, lower by the six feet and rest at the nine foot scrawl of masking tape. Everybody went nuts. The muffled sound of the girl’s sex ed video was finally drowned out by the cheers of my classmates and I drew back again for my second throw.

The following afternoon I stepped up on the podium and raised my huge golden chocolate bar above my head and basked in my only first place win of my childhood.

In the micro-verse that is early middle and late elementary school there are few girls to choose from, most of which were based out of proximity. My sister had a friend named Shelly. Even at a young age I could tell her face was broken and jagged. Strange angles gave way to muted expressions and rigid skin. In my entirety of exposure to women, school but mostly television, I knew what ugly was. Shelly was it.

In the haze of childhood I cannot remember which summer it was that I was forced into relations with Shelly but I remember it was short lived. My sister wanted to kiss my friend Johnny, a much older best-friend of mine, mostly because of that fact alone. The new couple devised that my first french kiss should involve someone who knew a thing or two about them. The train wreck, Shelly, knew a thing or two.

Her and I sat at the top of the stairs and I questioned her on the physics of it all to delay the inevitable: my tongue would have it’s first visit into a mouth besides my own, and it was into this creature’s face.

The moment was short and forced. I rammed my timid and sloppy mouth against hers, she and I sword fought with our tongues chasing each other around in there for what seemed for too long. I was over it maybe too quick and sat back looking at her timidly, wondering to myself who I would be able to use my newly christened skill with. Her twisted face broke into a smile looking for a reaction.

My sister called up from the living room down and behind us, “Did you kiss?”

This allowed me an opening to move away and not deal with the scrawled maw of my kissing concubine. I answered with an awkwardly cheerful “yeah!”

Shelly and I sat and went over the details of what I could do to improve and “what most girls like.” The bottom of the stairs and the front door where more interesting and kept the conversation going to placate the girl on my left.

Later, Johnny and I left to play video games and talk in private about how awesome kissing was. I tried to blind out the fact that he was talking about my sister and I was talking about the one girl everyone knew to be fiendishly gruesome. It was the last time I was left kissing Shelly and the last time he kissed my sister.