Thursday, July 31, 2008

Just Do It

Grab a quart of Linda's Maine Wild Blueberries (Eddington, Maine). We bought them at Hanny's earlier this evening, and they are delish. Yessah!

Seriously, just do it.

- John C.L. Morgan

Notice to Readers

Amid the cost-cutting climate in the media, we're canceling our domain name,, and discontinuing the maintenance of that website. Since the site employed no one, no jobs will be cut.

The Westbrook Diarist blog will continue, as will as our YouTube channel Paper Television. And though we're tempted to pull the plug on our sluggish Presumpscot Watering Hole discussion board, it remains free-of-charge, so we'll keep it with hopes that one day people may actually, you know, use it.

Essentially nothing will change, except you will no longer have the option to access this blog through the Riverbank Republic portal.

- John C.L. Morgan

American Journal One-Liners

Sappi is in a competitive market for engineering interns.

Westbrook High School graduate (Class of 1942) talks about his new mystery novel.

Committee of the Whole voted 4-2 to (Cramer, Foley, Joyce, and Rielly supported; Gattine and O'Hara opposed) to refer the issue of donating a lot of land to the Westbrook-Gorham Rotary Club to the City Council.

Westbrook-based opponents of a scrap metal yard in Portland still have time to influence project.

Two taxi drivers are dueling for approval to start a taxi business in Westbrook.

New owner attempts to re-open Skybox Bar and Grill.

Planning Board approved Stroudwater Place's request to amend Westbrook's Comprehensive Plan, 6-1 (Blake, Daniel, Emery, Fleming, Isherwood, Herrick, and Reidman supported; Wrobel opposed).

- John C.L. Morgan

(Editor's Note: I mistakenly identified Planning Board member Dennis Isherwood as a 'yes' vote. In fact, Isherwood did not attend the meeting, and an approving vote was issued by board alternate Scott Herrick. I regret the error.)

Quote of the Day

"The trouble with being my age [85] is you always want to impress someone, but they're all dead."

- Westbrook High alum James Ingraham ('42), in his Q&A session with the AJ.

- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Quote, Unquote: Paul Mann

"In the span of a single generation we’ve gone from a nation that used to enjoy a walk down Main Street to a nation that drives to the gym to walk on a moving carpet."

- Paul Mann in his essay "How to Walk," which appeared in the April 2007 issue of Downeast (electronic link unavailable).

- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Siam Square

On Location: Siam Square

Buildings, like one-dimensional actors, are vulnerable to typecasting.

Take 1 Cumberland Street as an example. Before it replaced the charred Thai takeout trailer on 468 Main Street and became Kobe's Place, the last thing it was ever expected to house was a Thai restaurant. Since then, however, the former convenience store has undergone two more ownership changes (Saeng Thai House and Siam Square), yet it remains a building that matches the physique, manner, and personality (all symptoms of typecasting) of a Thai restuarant.

Unlike a boring actor who plays the same type of role again and again, though, the static recycling of 1 Cumberland is not unfortunate. It represents one of the first expansions of the international palette of Westbrook. And Siam Square--which I think is one of the most underrated eating establishments in the city--continues the legacy of rich Thai food, but has improved it with better customer service than Saeng Thai House (after a couple unbearable sit-down experiences, Saeng Thai became an exclusively take-out spot for my wife and me).

Anyway, I heartily recommend the Pad Thai, even if I always anticipate a slight giggle whenever I obey my Yankee taste buds by ordering it with zero stars.

- John C.L. Morgan

The Sportswriter: Boston Red Sox

Amid a sporting age plagued by bland and unimaginative nicknames (A-Rod, KG, etc.), the writers at Full Circuit Clout (one of whom is Westbrook's Hurdy Chadwick, which I hope is not a pseudonym) must be credited for attaching colorful and original nicknames to members of the "Boston Red Stockings Base Ball Club:"
  • "The Wonder" (Manny Ramirez: "[t]he Wonder of It All is not in the Mystic Region of Connecticut, but in the heroic beating chest of Slugger Ramirez.")
  • "The Colossus" (David Ortiz, "the one with fists as big as hams.")
  • "Lil' Hands" (Dustin Pedroia, "the pint-sized pugilist.")
  • "Square Face" (Jed Lowrie)
  • "Capt. Varitek" (Jason Varitek, "a hero whose leggings are stretched around thighs made so formidable by carrying the weight of the Bostons on his back for so many seasons.")
  • "Knuckles" (Tim Wakefield, "a veteran's veteran and true gentleman of the sport.")
  • "Nothin' Doin'" (Jon Lester, "a lad from the land of loggers, raised among the mists of Puget Sound and the timber-scented currents that blow down from the Cascades.")
  • "Ol' Aches and Pains" (J.D.Drew, "[a] double-fisted hero with talent to spare!")
  • "General" (Josh Beckett, possessor of "gallantry and grit.")
  • "High-Pockets" (Julio Lugo, who "stands at the dish with the countenance of a street urchin caught in the path of trolley car.")
  • "The Brawler" (Coco Crisp, another "pint-sized pugilist.")
  • "Yukon" (Kevin Youkilis, who is "whisker-powered.")
  • "Der Spiegel" (Curt Schilling, "the blond-and-paunchy one.")
  • "Dancin' Jonny" (Jonathan Papelbon, who is "clad in gray flannel to collect the souls of the unfortunate bats-men at the plate.")
  • "El Gordo" (Bartolo Colon, "the corpulent hurler.")
  • "Navajo" (Jacoby Ellsbury, "the gazelle of the roster.")
  • "Hoss" (Mike Timlin)
  • "The Shadow" (Hideki Okajima, "who lays damp noodle after damp noodle across the batting area")
  • "Two-Bags" (Mike Lowell)
  • "Applebags" (David Aardsma)
  • "Here I am!" (Craig Hansen)
  • "Gap Tooth" (David Pauley)
  • "Beanpole" (Clay Buchholz)
  • "Flash" (Kevin Cash)

The site, which features an awesome array of vintage photos, early-twentieth century (late-nineteenth century?) verbiage, and repeated references to the extinct Duffy's Pure Malt Whiskey (any relation to Duffy's Cliff?) is a must-read, despite the ubiquity of Red Sox-related commentary.

I mean, where else have you heard Alex Rodriguez (excuse me, A-Rod) referred to as "Slaps"?

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Palm Beach Story

Introducing Movies at Riverbank

The Westbrook Historical Society, in conjunction with the City of Westbrook, will be screening the film The Palm Beach Story (1942) at Riverbank Park on Friday, August 22.

Featuring an award-winning performance by Westbrook native Rudy Vallee, The Palm Beach Story (88 minutes) is the inaugural showcase in the Movies at Riverbank series of public film screenings in Westbrook. (Future dates and movies are unspecified, though more frequent showings next summer are expected.)

Anyway, the projector will begin flickering at 8:30p; admission is free; and seating, snacks, and bug spray are the responsibilities of the moviegoer.

The hosts will provide the whimsical movie, the beautiful park, and the snapping stars overhead.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Westbrook's Fourth Friday Art Walk also takes place Friday, August 22 from 5-8p, so this event was scheduled to dovetail with that event.

(Disclosure: I was involved in the planning of Movies at Riverbank.)

By the Book

In an article highlighting the possible drawbacks of geothermal heating systems, the PPH reports Westbrook Middle School is one of only six operators of the alternative heating apparatus who've registered with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, thereby satisfying the requirements of federal and state laws.

State officials estimate there are about 500 geothermal units statewide, so the school--which is currently under construction on Stroudwater Street--is one of the 0.01% who've fulfilled the state's registration requirements.

The piece points out registration and oversight of the geothermal heating systems is sought by state officials because of concerns that they may contaminate groundwater or private water wells.

- John C.L. Morgan

Hon. Harry F.G. Hay, Westbrook's Eleventh Mayor (1909-1910)

Triathlete Adds Hardware

Via the PPH, Westbrook resident Mike Caiazzo won the Zone Urban Epic triathlon in Portland on Saturday.

Caiazzo, who was hampered by an injured calf suffered in last weekend's Spirit of Racine half-triathlon in Wisconsin, nevertheless finished the course-- a 1.4 km (about .9 of a mile) swim in Casco Bay; a 40 km (almost 25 miles) bike ride throughout Portland, Falmouth, and Cumberland; and a 10 km (just over 6 miles) run--atop a field of 300 competitors to win his second Maine triathlon this month (he won the inaugural Scarborough Triathlon on July 14).

Caiazzo also finished as the top American elite triathlete (fifth overall) in the USA Triathlon Elite Long Course National Championship at the EagleMan Ironman in Cambridge, Maryland on June 8.

- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Westbrook Politics: July 28-August 1, 2008

Monday, July 28
Facilities & Streets Committee meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Committee of the Whole meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Special City Council meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Tuesday, July 29
Planning Board public hearing
Westbrook High School, Room 114

- John C.L. Morgan

Song of the Week

The song of the week is Alias's "Well Water Black."

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: July 20-July 26, 2008

High: 82F (July 26)
Low: 60F (July 26)
Precipitation: 2.19 inches
Sunrise: 5:25a
Sunset: 8:11p

High: 87F (July 8, July 17, July 19)
Low: 55F (July 11)
Precipitation: 4.10 inches

High: 87F (June 9, July 8, July 17, July 19)
Low: -5F (January 4)
Precipitation: 30.35 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Top 10 Local CDs: July 14-July 20, 2008

Here are the Top 10 Local CDs for the week of July 14-20, (the album's spot in last week's Top 10 is in parentheses, much like this fyi note), courtesy of the Portland Phoenix:
  1. Dead Season, "When Everything's Lost..." (1)
  2. Dead Season, "Rise" (2)
  3. As Fast As, "Destroy the Plastique Man" (3)
  4. Rustic Overtones, "Long Division" (4)
  5. Mindset X, "Thread" (-)
  6. Various Artists, "Greetings from Area Code 207, Vol. 7" (9)
  7. Cambiata, "To Heal" (-)
  8. Loki, "No Disclaimers" (4)
  9. Paranoid Social Club, "Axis III & I" (5)
  10. Paranoid Social Club, "Axis II" (10)

The list was compiled from Bull Moose Music.

- John C.L. Morgan

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Idexx Continues Strong Year

Via Maine Biz, Idexx's second-quarter net income of $39.4 million represents an 82% increase from last year's second quarter. And the company's second-quarter revenue of $280.5 million is an 18% boost from last year.

Compared to last year's numbers through June 30, Idexx's net income through June 30, 2008 ($66.9 million) is up 57% and its revenue ($529.6 million) represents an 18% improvement.

- John C.L. Morgan

(Disclosure: My wife is employed by Idexx.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Paper City Art: Percent for Art

Since 1979, the Maine Arts Commission has administered Maine's Percent for Art Program, a program described by the Bangor Daily News as a law that "reserves 1 percent of the construction funds for all state-funded building projects to provide artwork for the public areas of these buildings."

Below are the Percent for Art projects in Westbrook schools:

Sempre Avanti, Roger L. Majorowicz (Westbrook High School, n/a)

Alpha-Bestiary, Jo Diggs (Prides Corner School, 1990)

Zhen-Zhen, Natasha Kempers-Cullen (Prides Corner School, 1990)

Shooting Stars, Natasha Kempers-Cullen (Saccarappa School, 1990)

Fish Dreams and Pisces (here, here, here, and here), Lin Lisberger (Saccarappa School, 1990)

Westbrook World, Roger L. Majorowicz (Westbrook Regional Vocational Center, 1998)

Dropping the Line (here, here, and here), Thomas Nadeau (Canal School, 2000)

- John C.L. Morgan

American Journal One-Liners

Westbrook residents concerned about new scrap metal yard in Portland.

AmeriCorps volunteer talks about rehabilitating a "lawn on drugs."

Stroudwater Place's request for an amendment to Westbrook's Comprehensive Plan is the focus of a public hearing on Tuesday.

Three municipal hearings were postponed because no one was manning the television cameras.

Collision involving a bicyclist and a pickup truck is the latest accident on William Clarke Drive.

Pike's latest plans for Spring Street have not quelled critics' complaints about the company's proposed expansion.

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just Do It

Two nights removed from being boxed in my driveway by one of the Westbrook Police's squad cars and having a floodlight shone in my face for a seatbeltless turn onto Seavey Street, I figure it's a good idea to partially recycle advice shared in an earlier segment of "Just Do It:" Obey traffic laws and ensure your vehicle is inspected, insured, and registered.

In other words, do as I say, not as I do.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. The officer (I was a little too stunned by the situation to get his name) was very courteous and generous. In fact, after learning my driving record is clean--which took just long enough to give my neighbors a chance to press their faces against their windows--he ensured I would not be cutting out my name in the AJ "Police Notes." Which is a good thing because I'm still recovering from being pulled over twice within thirty minutes for an expired registration a couple years ago. Which reminds me: Just don't drive around Westbrook with a vehicle-related discrepancy after 11p.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Did You Know?

Did you know Westbrook High School's nickname, the Blue Blazes, refers to the timber industry's use of blue paint to mark trees as a way to manage forests?

It does not, in other words, refer to the common use of blue blazes to mark hiking trails. Nor does it refer to the tragic raid on an illegal whiskey production facility in the Blue Blazes region of Maryland's Catoctin Mountain in 1929.

Which is too bad because the Westbrook Moonshiners as a nickname for the nickname does have a nice ring to it.

(Update: In his essay on Scarborough's referendum question regarding its high school nickname (sorry, the link has expired), PPH sports columnist Steve Solloway opens with the backstories for a couple unique Maine mascots, including the Paper City's Blue Blazes: "The Blue Blazes are named for the mark put on trees by agents of King George III in the forest surrounding Westbrook. Only the tallest and straightest pines, suitable for ships' masts in the Royal Navy, got the blue blaze.")

- John C.L. Morgan

Prepare to be Press Released

According to this press release, Westbrook-based business Artel has been awarded a $12,500 grant from the Maine Technology Institute, which spurred a $14,775 matching grant from undisclosed sources in order to "find new market size and required design features to determine the technical and market viability or a pipette testing system that is significantly easier to use and lower in cost than the existing Artel PCS or other methods currently available." I'm not sure what that means, but it sounds good.

And according to this press release, Mission Possible Teen Center (MPTC) hosted former New England Patriots Andre Tippett and John Hannah yesterday afternoon. Tippett and Hannah, who are now both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, visited the non-profit to promote community volunteerism. And if you recall, the Patriots honored Beverly Preston, a volunteer at MPTC, for her efforts in late May.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Chef Knows Lobster

Margaret McLellan, the corporate chef for Westbrook-based Native Maine Produce, has been named the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year.

McLellan won yesterday's Blaine House cookoff with a dish described by the Kennebec Journal as "Maine Lobster purse with wild Maine compliments (sic) and pea shoot salad." And her ingredients consisted of Aroostook flour; native sea salt; Crown O' Maine carrots; Maine maple syrup; lobster from Shucks Maine Lobster (a co-sponsor of the event and another employer of McLellan); and Maine-farmed eggs, milk, butter, tarragon, and goat cheese.

- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bean-Hole Baked Bean Supper

On Location: Bean-Hole Baked Bean Supper

It's been a while since I'd attended a baked bean supper, but how could I decline an e-mailed invitation that's entitled, "bean suppah deah on saturday?" (My neighbor, the source of this invite, is from Northeast Harbor, so she can get away with Downeast humor that we citizens of northern Massachusetts southern Maine just cannot pull off).

Anyway, we attended the North Gorham Church of Christ's renowned bean-hole baked bean supper Saturday, and here are a few tips and nuggets of wisdom I'll pass along for those who dare to venture to that neck of the woods in the future:

  1. Unless you want to learn how messy you are, do not wear a fresh white shirt. By the time I stood up from the table, I was wearing red fruit punch, yellow mustard, and a brownish residue that I hope was a misplaced kidney bean.
  2. Speaking of kidney beans, the NGCoC's monthly bean supper consists of the aforementioned kidney beans, as well as pea and yellow-eye beans. And they're homemade and cooked underground in a nearby pit for about twenty-four hours. And did I mention the complementary homemade pies, coleslaw, brown bread, potato salad, and the unmistakable snap of a red hot dog?
  3. Don't spill hot coffee on your neighbor. It's often awkward enough to break bread at the elbows of so many strangers even without dumping smoldering java on their laps. Besides, the coffee pots don't advertise a warning for their containment of hot contents, so you're exposing the church--which uses these suppers as a fundraiser to pay the bills--to litigation.
  4. It's a lot more rewarding if you indulge in this Yankee tradition while displaying Yankee frugality. I recommend you pay for the $7 ticket ($3 for children) with pre-supper trips to Martini Lane and/or Hannaford with bulging bags of cans and bottles. There's just something rich about the parallelism in both actions.
  5. William Lombard, Sr. and my great-grandfather John Nason Labrecque, Sr. began the tradition of NGCoC bean-hole baked bean suppers in the mid-1970s. Not necessarily a show-stopping tidbit, but I'm still glowing with familial pride from this newly discovered fact, so you'll have to forgive the nepotism. Anyway, according to family lore, the two men began hosting sporadic bean-hole suppers after indulging in a bean-hole affair in Maine's western foothills and after one too many chicken roasts were ruined by spitting rain.
  6. Bring your appetite because it's an all-you-can-eat buffet--well, at least until the next batch of ninety growling stomachs storms through the door.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Disclosure: My grandparents Labrecque are members of the North Gorham Church of Christ and think of their monthly stints as supper volunteers as nights out on the town.

P.P.S. Check out this history of the Maine baked bean supper, courtesy of the Maine Folklife Center. Money quote from the Folklife Center's meditation on the bean supper: "When Friday night comes, it's just an urge that comes over me to start that fire and start baking bean-hole beans." Indeed.

Monday, July 21, 2008

All Things Considered

An anonymous commenter complemented my "Cautious Optimism" post with this thoughtful, er, comment that I think deserves greater notice:

There was little in the press release that actually supports the claim of a
smaller footprint, or "scaling back". The proposal still includes an asphalt
plant, an expansion of the quarry, and rock crushing and washing operations. It
could be that this latest proposal is less about compromise and more about PR,
trying to postion Pike as cooperative without actually giving up anything.
Another twist is that Pike may try to push this proposal through the planning
board without a "special exception" application. That would simplify things and
give the opponents less opportunity to defeat it at the Planning Board level.
I have not seen Pike's press release (unless the commenter is referring to the news articles). And frankly, I'm unaware of what a "special exception" application is. So if anyone is able to enlighten my readers and me about the points made in this comment--or to express a counterpoint--please post comments below or e-mail me privately at

- John C.L. Morgan

Main Street Dreamin' (a.k.a. Monday Morning Meander)

Matt Wickenheiser's article about the latest action in the Pike v. Neighbors sitch (see below) closes with this thought to consider:

[Pike regional manager] Olson said putting a new asphalt plant in at Spring
Street would allow Pike to close operations on Main Street, at the corner of
Larrabee, and on Bishop Street in Portland. Operations would be consolidated at
Spring Street, with no job losses, he said. The Main Street site is 50 acres,
and developers have already expressed interest in it, said Olson, and Pike is
open to offers for the property. "It's a chance to put a shine on the image of
the city," said Olson. "Whenever you're driving up the Turnpike, it's what you
see as the visible part of Westbrook."

[Emphasis mine]

Though Olson's comment could be construed as a veiled threat against the city (let us expand our Spring Street operations, or you won't be able to develop our chunk of visible land on Main Street), I'll take it as a friendly reminder of the second phase of Pike's plans for expansion: The sale and subsequent re-development of their property on Main Street.

On the one hand, the coterie behind Stroudwater Place could save themselves a lot of potential grief by somehow finagling a real estate exchange of their Stroudwater Street property for Pike's swath of land on Main Street. But such a move--which I think would lessen opposition to the project because of the Main Street property's previous development and its proximity to the Westbrook Crossing shopping plaza-- is obviously fraught with too many complications (the Stroudwater Place developers have already invested a lot of time, energy, and capital into the Stroudwater property; there's the big question of clean-up at Pike's Main Street digs; Pike would be obliged to sell the Stroudwater Street property for development, which would dampen the goal of conserving Stroudwater Street as it is; and thirty other pitfalls I have not considered in the thirty minutes it's taken me to write this post).

So a relocation of Stroudwater Place is, I think, out of the question.

Nevertheless, Stroudwater Place does enter the equation of what to do with Pike's Main Street property, even if it's not involved in an explicit exchange of land. There is, for example, the possibility of a civic center or a convention center being constructed on Pike's land. However, Jason Snyder and Co. have already inserted possible plans for a convention center or ice rink into their Stroudwater Place proposal. So the doubtful possibility of a civic center on Westbrook's Main Street becomes even more doubtful. Moreover, a natural fit for Pike's Main Street property would be more retail. But, considering that is the primary focus of Stroudwater Place's pitch, would retail make sense?

Essentially, whatever is proposed for development on Pike's property should be considered as though Stroudwater Place is a reality, because there could be risk for redundancy.

Anyway, these are all questions and possibilities too grand for me to tackle myself on a Monday morning, so my questions for the day are these: What would you like to see built on Pike's Main Street property? And what do you think will constructed on the property.

- John C.L. Morgan

Cautious Optimism

At the risk of sounding like a Wall Streeter parsing former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan's every public utterance, here are some quotes in the PPH's article on Saturday about Pike's plans to scrap an expansion of a quarry on Spring Street, while still maintaining its plans for an asphalt plant:

Jonathan Olson, regional manager for Pike: "We're just trying to be conscious about what would be a better proposal over there for the neighbors."

Dick Daigle, facilities manager for Idexx: "I think it's certainly going to give us pause to take a look at what they're now proposing. I think it's going to take us some time to understand the scope of what they're proposing to do. Until we do that, it would be unfair for me to actually identify a position that Idexx will take on this."

Bruce Chuluda, mayor of Westbrook: "I'm not certain how this thing affects or doesn't affect Idexx and Artel and all the other businesses down there. The mere fact that they still want to create a larger presence than they have had is something that's going to raise the ire."

Jerre Bryant, city administrator of Westbrook: It's a good sign Pike has revised their proposal, but "most of the focus that we've heard concern about is the asphalt plant and the increase in truck traffic volume out there."

Since the goal should be for Pike and and its neighbors to remain in the city, the quotes above signal cautious optimism. On the one hand, Bryant is correct that it's a good sign that Pike has introduced a compromise to the situation. On the other hand, though, the endorsements regarding Pike's announcements were less-than-ringing.

- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Westbrook Almanac: July 13-July 19, 2008

High: 87F (July 17, July 19)
Low: 58F (July 16)
Precipitation: 1.12 inches
Previous Sunrise: 5:17a
Previous Sunset: 8:17p

High: 87F (July 8, July 17, July 19)
Low: 55F (July 11)
Precipitation: 1.91 inches

High: 87F (June 9, July 8, July 17, July 19)
Low: -5F (January 4)
Precipitation: 28.16 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Song of the Week: Over a Cardboard Sea

This week's song is "Only a Paper Moon," by Over a Cardboard Sea.

And in a related note, check out this YouTube channel which has a collection of whimsical videos, including footage of the channel's presumed proprietor Tim Findlen playing with Al Hawkes's band at this year's Westbrook Together Days festival.

- John C.L. Morgan

Top 10 Local CDs: July 7-July 13, 2008

Here are the Top 10 Local CDs for the week of July 7-13, courtesy of the Portland Phoenix:
  1. Dead Season, "When Everything's Lost..."
  2. Dead Season, "Rise"
  3. As Fast As, "Destroy the Plastique Man"
  4. Loki, "No Disclaimers"
  5. Paranoid Social Club, "Axis III & I"
  6. Rustic Overtones, "Long Division"
  7. Spose, "Preposterously Dank"
  8. Dead Season, "Down Again" (EP)
  9. Various Artists, "Greetings from Area Code 207, Vol. 7"
  10. Paranoid Social Club, "Axis II"

The list was compiled from Bull Moose Music.

- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, July 18, 2008

Haskell Silk Company

Bite-Sized Review: American Silk

American Silk, 1830-1930: Entrepreneurs and Artifacts
By Jacqueline Field
(Texas Tech University Press, 2007)
326 pages

At an age (66) when most people today are considering retirement, James Haskell built and managed a silk factory in Westbrook.

Haskell, a veteran cotton manufacturer who initially relocated from Massachusetts to Maine in 1858 to snatch the cotton mill owned by the Portland Manufacturing Company in an auction (and subsequently renamed it the Westbrook Manufacturing Company), launched the aptly-named Haskell Silk Company in 1874.

As Jacqueline Field notes in the second chapter of her wonderful six-chapter case study of the Haskell Silk Company in American Silk: 1830-1930, Haskell's impetus for starting the silk mill may have been varied, but largely unknown. He may have come across an industry publication that heralded silk as the next big textile. Or, Field speculates, he may have been inspired by a new challenge or an opportunity to leave a legacy for one of his sons.

Nevertheless, though Field is unable to pinpoint Haskell's motivations for starting the company, her thorough examination of raw documents, complemented by a deep know-how of the silk industry and clear writing, enables the reader of American Silk to understand how the Haskell Silk Company functioned from its modest beginnings to its ultimate demise.

Put simply, the book's eighty-page portion devoted to the Haskell Silk Co. is a must-read among Westbrook folk, especially those living in the ahistorically-named Riverfront Lofts.

- John C.L. Morgan

Burnham & Morrill Co.

Pike Caving?

Via a PPH brief, Pike Industries is scaling back its plans for expansion. It's too soon to tell, however, if the reduced proposal will be enough to placate its neighbors, while also allowing Pike to remain in the city.

If it is, that sound you hear is the rush of air coming from the sighs of relief emanating from York Street and Room 114.

- John C.L. Morgan

(Disclosure: My wife is employed by Idexx.)

The Post of Lists, Take Two

Christopher Cooper, a columnist for the Wiscasset Newspaper, weighed in this week on the conflict between Pike Industries and some of its neighbors.

In his
column, which can fairly be described as an eye-burning rant, Mr. Cooper laments Idexx's apparent disdain for mud, dust, concrete, stone, pickaxes, shovels, hammers, wrenches, grease, grunt, and Mom's apple pie. And he complains thusly about Westbrook's possible preference for good-paying biotech jobs:

Good God, what a turn we have taken in how few decades since the frontier
closed. We are not only getting more stupid by the day, less well-read or even
interested in reading, more inclined to vote for an idiot or a jerk or a crook
or a straddler, we are getting lame and weak and soft and afraid of real work
and real things and real life.

Talk amongst yourselves.
- John C.L. Morgan

(Disclosure: My stupid, illiterate, lame, weak, soft, and fearful wife is employed by Idexx.)

Next Week: A Tour of Leander Valentine's Grave!

Proving to be the most fruitful edition of the AJ's 'Westbrook Notes' to date (see below), here's this week's advertisement for Smiling Hill Farm's participation in Open Farm Day:

Smiling Hill Farm, 781 County Road, Westbrook, is one of 115 farms statewide
participating in the 19th annual Open Farm Day 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday. The
historic, 500-acre Smiling Hill Farm has Holstein cows along with a dairy store
and ice cream shop.
Col. Thomas Westbrook, an early settler and city
namesake, is buried on the farm.
[Emphasis mine]

Um, I appreciate the new nugget of intel and all. But I'm not sure Col. Westbrook draws the crowds quite like he used to.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Did You Know? (February 6, 2008)

Edgers v. Mr. Bagelers

An AJ blurb about Rivers Edge Deli moving from its current digs on Bridge Street to a spot on Main Street in August contains this slice of Westbrook:

"At the deli in the mornings, a group of regulars sip coffee at the at the window table and talk about world politics, gas prices and cars."

On another note, considering the article describes the Rivers Edge's prospective new location as being across the street from Subway, could it also be described as being across the street from Mr. Bagel? If so, maybe the two shops' regulars will develop a Jets/Sharks-type relationship.

Main Street, after all, could use a little more finger-snapping and pirouette-fighting.

- John C.L. Morgan

It's our Whiteness, Stupid

Countering the usual annual uptick in the number of vehicles traversing the Maine Turnpike during the summer, traffic on the pike is down 1.27% this year, including a 4% drop in June.

Now, the rational reasons for the decrease are said to be a softening economy and high gas prices. To which I say, Blah! The smaller pool of visitors definitely has to do with the fact that people are turned off by our state's whiteness (and eight-foot pythons in washing machines).

I mean, a state's racial make-up should obviously be on the top of everyone's (especially those who, ahem, "resist racism") list when considering their next vacation spot.

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Reason to Visit Sanford

To risk becoming the unpaid marketing department of the Sanford Mainers, here's a newsflash: The New England Collegiate Baseball League team has invited Westbrook alum (and St. Joseph's hurler) Andrew Kierstead to pitch for them this summer. Kierstead joins fellow Blue Blazer Anthony D'Alfonso on the Mainers' roster.

It sure would be nice if we didn't have to drive forty-five minutes south to watch them compete at such a high level.

- John C.L. Morgan

Just Do It

Attend the inaugural Presumpscot River Fest this Saturday.

- John C.L. Morgan

American Journal One-Liners

City officials are re-examining the regulation of taxis following the suspension of Westbrook Taxi's license for intercity fares.

Amos Libby of Okbari, a Middle Eastern-inspired band, doesn't know how they got a gig at Warren Memorial Library.

Department of Environmental Protection may fine the Westbrook School Department for the contamination of a brook.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook by the Numbers

Here are the notable mentions of Westbrook in Maine Biz's publication Fact Book: 2008.

Fifth-highest housing occupancy rate:
Total housing units: 7,089 units
Occupancy rate: 96.81%
Percentage of single-family dwellings: 54.3%
Median home sales price: $111,000 (2000)

Thirteenth-largest municipality:
2006 population: 16,201 residents
2000 population: 16,136 residents
Population change, 2000-2006: +.40%

Exit 47 Traffic:
Average daily traffic: 9,009 vehicles per day
Heaviest month: October (10,203 vehicles per day)
Lightest month: December (7,922 vehicles per day)

Ext 48 Traffic:
Average daily traffic: 18,640 vehicles per day
Heaviest month: August (22,683 vehicles per day)
Lightest month: December (17,531 vehicles per day)

Alas, Westbrook was not one of Maine's towns treated with a thorough look-see. But the publication has information that's always interesting and often eye-opening.

- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Quote, Unquote: Charmaine Daniels

"Dirty old Westbrook. I never thought I'd say it, but I kind of like the place."

- Charmaine Daniels in an essay entitled "Ode(r) to Westbrook: A Good Sense of Place is Hard to Find." It was published in September 28, 1995 edition of the now-defunct Casco Bay Weekly.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On Location: Metro No. 4

Whenever I board Westbrook's No. 4 (for the uninitiated, that's the Metro bus line from Westbrook's Main Street to Portland's Monument Square), I'm reminded of a scene in the Oscar-winning film Crash.

In it, the rapper Ludacris's (excuse me, Chris Bridge's) character, Anthony, and his partner in crime, Peter Water (Larenz Tate), are amid a philosophical debate about the former's pride for not stealing from black people when Water hails a public bus. What follows is Anthony's conspiracy-laden scolding of Peter for having the gall to ride the bus:

Anthony: "What the Hell do you think you're doing right now, man?"
Peter: "Waiving down a bus."
Anthony: "Man, put your hand down, dawg. Are you out of your mind? You actually expect me to get on a bus?"
Peter: "No, I was hoping we could push you car around town. You know why? 'Cause we just don't do stuff like that no more."
Anthony: "You have no idea, do you? You have no idea why they put them great, big windows on the sides of buses, do you?"
Peter: "Why?"
Anthony: "One reason only: To humiliate the people of color who are reduced to riding on 'em."

The film's screenwriter Paul Haggis almost definitely did not have Maine in mind when he scribbled these lines into the movie. (We are, after all, among the whitest states in the country.) Yet Haggis did tap into a sentiment shared by, I think, most Mainers, even if we generally are less cynical or conspiratorial than Anthony: Public transportation is an act of reduction, an unchosen behavior of the less unfortunate that might even bring upon humiliation for the rider.

Which is too bad because the Metro provides a vein from the heart of the Paper City to the heart of the Forest City that yields less traffic, cleaner air, and more free time.

And did I mention it reduces America's consumption of oil and saves you money?

- John C.L. Morgan


Do you ever learn a new word in the morning and seem to hear it again--seemingly for only the second time--later that day?

Well, I sort of had one of those experiences when I frequented Holly's Super Gas on Main Street yesterday afternoon and fired up my computer this morning.

My wallet is largely paperless, so I was a little harrumphed yesterday when I was informed by the gas pumper petroleum distribution technician at Holly's that the gas station had added a ten-cent surcharge per gallon to customers paying with a debit or credit card. So instead of paying $4.05 per gallon yesterday, I paid $4.15. And the novel idea was further reinforced when I watched this Yahoo! news link about the phenomenon this morning.

Hence my opening reference to the a-name-for-this-phenomenon-has-to-exist experience of a learning a new fact only to have it slap you in the face in the brief future.

Anyway, to be fair, Holly's surcharge isn't hidden if you know what to look for (there is a small sign below the advertised price that reads 'CASH'). Nor is their .10 fee relatively outrageous or simply a cynical ploy to lure the customer inside to splurge on, say, a Hostess Lemon Pie.

Nevertheless, it still is annoying.

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hon. Seth C. Morton, Westbrook's Tenth Mayor (1907-1908)

Tale of Two Cities

While catching up on my reading, I came across this article that examines how Westbrook was able to avoid Portland's belt-tightening (read: cuts in services), while also avoiding the latter's tax increase.

A bright sign of optimism amid a day of discouraging news.

- John C.L. Morgan

Anatomy of

Tom Bell's article about Pike's controversial plans for expansion on Spring Street (see below) features a reference to WestbrookWorks, a coalition of businesses--ARTEL, Creative Office Pavilion, Idexx Laboratories, Smiling Hill Farm, and WPME-TV--and individuals--Kathy Costa, Lisa Estey, and Paul Levesque-- who oppose Pike's expansion.

Located at an eponymous website, WestbrookWorks dubs itself "a coalition for a stronger, cleaner city." And its website features a wonderful collection of background reading for the uninitiated viewer, a skimpy and one-sided perspective regarding Pike's proposed expansion, the various reasons for the coalition's opposition to Pike's expansion, a Q & A section, and a primer on how to get involved.

The best part, though, is the website's "Local Impact" section. Besides featuring a cartoonishly drafty home complemented with a list of the assorted drawbacks Pike's expansion might have on the neighborhood, this section has an embedded YouTube video entitled "Asphalt Stinks." Apparently made to protest a asphalt company's move of its "smoking POS" to Rockford, IL, the video was made by a YouTuber whose hobbies include "[d]estroying greedy corporations" and whose list of favorite books includes Economic Fascism in the 21st Century.

Ah, nothing sweeter than business-on-business violence (figuratively speaking, of course) perpetuated by the camerawork of an anti-corporate (and phlegmy) zealot.

- John C.L. Morgan

(Disclosure: My wife is employed by Idexx)


The PPH's new Westbrook correspondent, Tom Bell, wrote an above-the-fold story this morning about the latest development in the Pike v. Idexx saga.

Besides containing PR fightin' words (Pike's regional manager's take on Idexx's complaints: "Essentially, you got a new guy on the block that wants to throw their weight around."), the piece hints at an upcoming "citywide political battle" that'll inevitably drag the City's solons into the mix, even after they resisted the initial tug in March.

Between this issue and the potentially controversial Stroudwater Place, does Hannafid house enough popcorn for the inevitable Room 114 dramatics?

- John C.L. Morgan

(Disclosure: My wife is employed by Idexx)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Westbrook Almanac: July 6-July 12, 2008

High: 87F (July 8)
Low: 55F (July 11)
Precipitation: 0.17 inches
Previous Sunrise: 5:11a
Previous Sunset: 8:22p

High: 87F (July 8)
Low: 55F (July 11)
Precipitation: 0.19 inches

High: 87F (June 9, July 8)
Low: -5F (January 4)
Precipitation: 26.44 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, July 10, 2008


This will be my final post until Monday, as I've got to venture to Canada upstate New York to play Coast Guard in a wedding.

Stay cool and have a good weekend.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Business News

Honeywell Building Solutions, a Westbrook-based company specializing in keeping "facilities safe, secure, comfortable, productive and energy-efficient," performed an energy audit for the City of Bangor.

The Insurance Automation Group, a Westbrook-based company that develops insurance-related software, snatched a contract with Virginia-based Construction Bonds, Inc.

- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Department of Navel-gazing: Or, Why You Should Subscribe to Your Local Newspaper

Al Diamon, a longtime political columnist and Downeast's residential media critic, soiled his annual reflection on the state of media in Maine with an indirect reference to this site.

Identified as one of three "[i]ndependent local news sites" (the others mentioned are in Rumford and Farmington), this site is credited for picking up some of the "slack left by cutbacks in the print media."

What Diamon wrote next, however, spawned a quasi-existentialist reflection of my own: "But what’s not always clear with these online news outlets is whether their main goal is to provide news or promote a political agenda. Still, lively but slanted coverage is almost as good as the balanced-but-boring kind and way better than the incidental-and-superficial sort."

Now, I'm perhaps in the minority of online dwellars (not to mention twenty-somethings) in that I have a subscription to my local papers, the Portland Press Herald and the American Journal. And beyond maintaining a subscription out of a sense of duty (one critical commenter on the forum, As Maine Goes, remarked that the only thing worse than having a crappy local newspaper to read is not to have a crappy local newspaper to read), my wife and I are subscribers because we actually enjoy thumbing through each edition of both papers, as well as others. The ideal morning, for instance, begins with an hearty breakfast and a newspaper sprawled across the table, while my wife and I bounce stories off one another. And unlike people who seemingly grouse about their newspapers any chance they can get, I appreciate the work they are doing. In fact, I will not hesitate to affirm the idea that this site would not exist if not for the boots-on-the-ground reporting of the much-maligned Press Herald or the underappreciated American Journal.

So Diamon is correct that I did not launch this site with the primary goal of providing news, largely because I don't think I'm capable of doing all the work daily reporters do, nor I am paid enough to do so. Indeed, despite my occasional dabbling in original reporting, I initially started this site as a portal of sorts to Westbrook-related news, as well as to add commentary to the happenings of the Paper City and to spawn conversation about the politics and culture of this fine city.

- John C.L. Morgan

Should Westbrook Jump Into the NECBL?

Adam Howard's article about Anthony D'Alfonso playing for the Sanford Mainers (see below) jogged my brain about a curiousity I've entertained for a couple years: Should Westbrook try to garner a New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) team? Below are the possible positives and negatives associated with the idea:


Westbrook's social fabric would be strengthened and its civic pride boosted.
The most memorable aspect of my experience as a volunteer for the Mainers was the enthusiasm Sanford residents had for their team. Moreover, between the volunteers, the host families, and the fans in the stands, the Mainers provide ample opportunity for Sanford folk to build social capital (fancy-speak for building trust and relationships based on reciprocity) that have undoubtedly enriched Sanford's civic life.

Westbrook's range of entertainment would be broadened.
The entertainment options Westbrook offers throughout June and July can always be improved. And I personally think wooden-bat baseball played by earnest college kids potentially bound for the Major Leagues is a decent attraction for the city to offer.

Local players would be given a greater opportunity to play against good competition.
Although a majority of the Mainers' roster is made up of collegiate players from other parts of the country, they do seem to make an effort to include a couple Maine kids each year. Tip Fairchild of Lewiston, for example, toiled with the Mainers for a summer before being drafted by the Houston Astros in the twelfth round of the 2005 draft. And Portland's Ryan Reid pitched for the Mainers before the Tampa Bay Devil Rays drafted him in the seventh round of the 2006 draft. Considering Westbrook High School has a talented crop of players rising through its ranks--not to mention the solid ballplayers annually stocked at the University of Southern Maine and St. Joseph's College--another Maine-based NECBL would probably mean a couple more slots for Maine players.

Westbrook's economy may be given a boost.
It's too difficult to know if a team would yield a net a profit for city businesses, but a team would presumably draw out-of-towners to Westbrook, as well as locals. And said out-of-towners are probably not currently frequenting Westbrook businesses on a summer evening to the degree they might if such an attraction existed.


Too much competition for the small-baseball dollar.
Sure, a Westbrook-based NECBL team would have to fight the Mainers for a few fans (not to mention the Sanford team's broad nickname). But the greater competition would be that posed by the neighboring Portland Sea Dogs. Besides boasting actual professional ballplayers, the Sea Dogs pretty much target the same pool of fans by using the same sales pitch a NECBL team uses: Come out for a relatively cheap night out with the family and maybe you'll even be able to catch a glimpse of a future major-leaguer. To be sure, the Mainers have to compete with the Sea Dogs, but geography allows a greater cushion between Sanford and Portland than Westbrook's proximity to the Forest City does. Nevertheless, a bright side is that NECBL clubs are surviving by drawing anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand fans each night. Sanford, for example, has attracted between 300 and 700 fans per home game. So would a Westbrook club be able to attract that much support? And if so, would that be enough?

Westbrook's current baseball facilities may not be adequate.
Westbrook has three baseball diamonds outfitted with lights. Unfortunately, none of the three--two Westbrook Little League baseball and softball fields and Fraser Field--are suitable for NECBL play. Moreover, the two fields--Westbrook High School and Warren Field--(sans lights, of course) lack even a rudimentary grandstand and boast only skeleton bleachers. To be fair, Sanford's Goodall Park is the only NECBL ballpark I've been to, but I'm afraid Westbrook's current facilities would prove to be inadequate for the demands of an NECBL club.

- John C.L. Morgan