Labor Day Holiday: Day 1

Today I decided to go against my strong feeling to by a small motorbike, and I bought a small truck instead. It is awesome. Fun to drive. Ugly. Sporty? My first drive was up Interstate 95 to Waterville to look at a Kennebec dinosaur (an old factory along the Kennebec River). Today is also the first day of my 5-day Labor Day vacation. I asked if I could work any of the days I was scheduled off, but the KJ doesn't like to give over-time hours unless it's necessary. This will be my first Labor Day as part of a union, Communication Workers of America, District 1, Local 643. It's kind of like my first Veterans' Day as a veteran, My first Valentine's Day as a valentine, my first Canadian Boxing Day as a Canadian boxer.
(It was only a month ago today I came to Augusta for an interview.)

Walking in Augusta

Here are some pictures I took while walking to work. I have worked 9 days straight. Last night I got a beer on the walk home and sat on the porch and drank it at 1am, before I went to sleep. I watched a van hit a telephone pole and just drive away, while right next to a police car cruising in the opposite direction. The cops had trouble finding them ironically. They went the entire way around the block, and it took some drunken dude from the Edwards House Inn to run out in the middle of the street and whistle at the sheriff to point out where the guy had parked and turned his lights off. I saw the driver come up from the parking lot behind the Edwards House Inn and run into the housing across the street. I could see a man in a wheelchair getting out of the sliding door of the pulled-over vehicle. I heard a girl from the van call his name. "Chris!" or something? Then I finished my beer and went to bed.


Tides in Augusta Maine

One of the most unique things I've found about Augusta (and one of my favorite things), its river has tides. The Kennebec River is one of the strongest pieces in the identity of all of the towns along it, from Waterville, and then Augusta at the northern-most navigable width of the river, to the salt flats around Merrymeeting Bay. I still don't have a car, so I only know this through word of mouth and through reading the paper.
Everyone who's from here remembers a time when mills crowded both sides of the river. Now they are big rusty carcasses lying between pine trees and the Kennebec. Like dinosaurs or elephants that starved to death and eventually died by the drinking hole. But there are some good things sprouting out of the death of the industries here, like more of an emphasis on state education. This is the first year it became mandatory for all graduating students to take the SATs.
The loss of factories took away a lot of jobs, but the river is becoming cleaner. It seems like local agriculture and smaller farms are seeing a bright spot (at least better than Pennsylvania), because there are so many farmers' markets. Of course, a lot of people going to these farmers' markets are single people driving giant 4x4 pickup truck/nearly tractor-trailers.
There are a lot of strange things to see in Maine, so far I think I've seen very little. I was sitting by the Kennebec today writing postcards. You could see the river flowing north on the edges, and being pulled south in the center, strange. I think the fountain in downtown Augusta has got to have the cleanest tasting water of any city fountain I've ever drank from. Not the usual dirt flavor. But some of the people walking around here might make you think something is in the water. It's interesting.


One Man's Farmers' Market, Another Man's Wal-Mart

Augusta has an awesome farmers' market. They have a few a week in different locations, but I went to the one a half block from where I live on Water Street. It is on the site of an old mill. Across the river there are remains of another mill that hasn't been operating in a long time. The city approved a plan to build a pavilion for this market in particular. The farmers' markets in the area really make Augusta attractive.

Lunch w/ Chuck

Yesterday I went to an event at work, that I heard was supposed to be for new employees, called 'Lunch with Chuck.' It is a lunch with Chuck Cochran, President of Blethen Maine Newspapers, the company that owns the newspapers I work for. About 10 people attended and I was the newest employee by far. I had been there for 8 days, the next employee had been there for 6 months, and most had been with the company well over a couple years, one woman for 27 years! He seemed like a really nice guy, well-informed, interesting to talk to. We talked a lot about the direction of newspapers. Why mid-sized papers like the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel are fairly stable compared to larger papers.
Main points about the declination of print newspaper subscriptions:

1) THE INTERNET- because the population in more rural cities like Augusta have a lower percentage of younger people than larger cities, we are not hit as hard by this. (However, the obituaries are filled with canceled subscriptions.)
2) NO TIME- During the 'lunch' a woman from circulation mentioned that many of the people who cancel their subscriptions simply have no time to read the paper. Parents sharing more work and domestic roles have less time to sit down and read the paper. (So they say, I wondered how many of them make time to sit down and watch television for 3 hours every night.)
3) ENVIRONMENTAL CONSCIENCENESS- People have become more environmentally conscience. They don't like to use paper. I am pretty conscience, but I still like tactual paper reading, even though I get a lot of my information on-line.

Chuck also gave an example of when multiple factors come into play, making it worse for print circulation. When someone who doesn't have time to read the paper, sees untouched issues piling up in the recycling bin, they think about the money they've spent on unread papers.
I say stop watching television, get out a pen, and sit down with a newspaper and take note of what is going on. Drink some iced coffee while your at it. Recycle, repeat.
Chuck also mentioned that, today, people have the opportunity to get more information from the internet, so Blethen Maine Newspapers is working on expanding through their web presence, MaineToday.com


Reminds Me of DC, Augusta

A couple of places here in Augusta remind me of DC, the Capitol Building reminds me of the Capitol Building, and the Old Federal Building here, reminds me of the Old Post Office Building in DC. Yesterday at work, I explained how it seemed like a lot of middle-aged people around here don't like me. Many are very short, and ill-mannered with me (I kind of like it). One of my co-workers, Andy said they can probably tell I'm from out of town. "Really?" I said. I guess that's another thing that reminds me of DC, or anywhere I end up, people always think I'm from out of town. My accent is from nowhere. I have no hometown. I feel very American though. I guess DC is as much of a hometown as I've ever had, it's the capital of my home. America. (In other news- large grapefruits are 2 for a dollar at Shaw's, the local supermarket.)


Augusta, A Dozen Days

I have been in Augusta for a dozen days.
I have been in Augusta for a dozen days.
I have been in Augusta for a dozen days.
For a dozen days,
for a dozen days,
for a dozen.
For a dozen days I have been,
for a dozen days I have been,
for a dozen days I have been in Augusta.
In Augusta. In Augusta. In Augusta. In Augusta.
In Augusta. In Augusta. In Augusta. In Augusta.
In Augusta. In Augusta. In Augusta. IN AUGUSTA.


Life-Altering, Augusta

Yesterday it was hot as Hades here! I couldn't believe it. I just moved 500 miles north and I was sweating like crazy. I think the sweat destroyed my $9 Casio F-30 (made in Thailand), which I purchased only a month ago from the HIT WHOLESALE MART on 14th Street in DC. So I went to BIG LOTS on my way to work and got a $5 Athletic Works AW130 (made in China), which I like better because the date is readily available on the face of the watch. I also bought a new pair of New Balance shoes (made in the USA). And from a story that ran in the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel I found out that New Balance has 3 factories in Maine. On Friday one of the factories in the local town of Skowhegan had an accident resulting in the minor injury of an employee. They closed down for a day to investigate the factory's 130-year-old structure, which lead to the mishap. Man! Maine is old as Hades! (Makes me feel young.)


Car Search, Augusta

I have been searching for a car since I arrived in Augusta, Maine over one week ago. Most of the cars I've looked at have been sketchy, probably because of my price range- cheap. Every car in Maine is rusty, and the cars I am looking at are the rustiest. Last night my hopes of finding a cheap, reliable car were renewed. While walking home, I saw a 1996 Hyundai Accent for $500. Of course I can't get in touch with the people. The numbers says call after 6pm. The next day I won't be at work at 6pm is Saturday! Maybe I'll just get a new pair of shoes.


Fiction Writer Finds Following for Violent Vigilante Series

Last night, aside from proofing the papers, I wrote my first headline and did a partial layout of the entertainment page. I'm not sure, but I think I'm picking up on this stuff pretty quickly. Also, one of the maintenance workers speaks Moroccan Arabic, so I am able to talk to him a little bit. Maybe I'll pick something up. There are a couple area music festivals, one local and one in Bangor. I can't get to them though because I don't have a car. Best to start slowly I've learned- the (not too) hard way.


Walking Home Nights, Augusta

I ate a mango yesterday morning . Before work I realized that was all I ate so I went to Arby's for the first time in years. I ordered the 5 roast beef sandwich special, and they gave me a free drink "because it's so expensive." Because I finish all 5 sandwiches the manager gave me a free giant roast beef sandwich to take with me. I walked it home with me after work and saved it for breakfast this morning. I am still looking for a car. Not that the walk is bad, it's only a half hour. (Which seems unheard of in Maine.) If anyone wants to sell me their car at a reasonable price I will pay for your bus ticket back Ssuth or west. A one-way bus ticket is only $59 from Augusta to DC. Come and see me over Labor Day. I have 5 days off!


First Day Off in Augusta

Yesterday was my first day off from the KJ. It came directly after my first day of work. I sorted some things out, decided I probably won't get a vehicle for a while until I have saved a little more money to open up my options. I drank some beer on the porch of the Edwards House Inn, while my closest friend here, Michael, listened to some Irish music on my i-Pod. We communicate okay for speaking different languages, he speaks Haitian French. He is up here working construction from Haiti. We walked Across the bridge to Lou's Discount Beer Barn. I got some beer, he got some PiƱa Colada mix. I kept trying to tell him in the store that he needed to buy alcohol to put in it. But gave up and when we left he told me that alcohol wasn't good for him, so he just drank the sugary mix. We sat there for a couple hours watching the traffic, people, and the old abandon Edwards cotton warehouse across the street. I did some laundry and found out the dryers don't really work. Write soon!


First Day (Night) at the KJ

My first day at work was great. I went into the human resources department and they went over my benefits. I watched a video on sexual harassment. Completed a test on work safety. For some reason the girl at the gas station even gave me a free coffee when I took a little break. (Probably my lack of harassment.) When I got to the newsroom I dove right into proofing. First, proofing the printouts. Then making corrections and placing the ads on the network. And finally, readying the pages for output. I was happy to see a copy of the Journal in the lobby of the Edward's House Inn this morning. And I could see the tangible efforts of my new job. "Awesome!," I mean "Wicked!" (That's what everyone says up here.)

Damon's, Augusta's Mom & Pop

On the way to my first day (night) at work, I stopped at Damon's. It's a local pizza and sandwich place about 300 feet from the Kennebec Journal. I got a chicken, bacon, spinach wrap. It was awesome, an actual chicken breast fried on the grill. Then I went to work. When it was time for my 1/2 hour union-regulated break I went back and got the small Greek salad and a bowl of chili. Also awesome. And the two customers ordering after me bought the last two Kennebec Journals on the rack.


Augusta's Reading List

I stopped into the Kennebec Market today to see what kind of coffee they had. Not very good, which is strange for up here. I started talking to Pete the proprietor about the different papers he sold. He had a Bangor paper right at the top. He said the views were more conservative than the Kennebec Journal. I told him I could see that, the people being further away from civilization- you would think they would be less informed. (I guess I am stereotyping.) Then, since I didn't get any coffee, I said "Nice to meet you, I guess I'll be back when you have something I want to buy."
"Okay," said Pete.
On the way out I noticed the Boston Globe, then The New York Times.
"Ahh, The New York Times, I guess you do have something I want. Wow, I got the last one. Geez, how many of these do you sell," I asked.
"That's the first one I've ever sold," said Pete.
"What! Kind of tells you something about the people around here," I said.
Pete said nothing.

China King, Augusta's Buffet

Here's a local food review:
I went to the first buffet Chinese place I've been to since I vowed never to go back to the City Lights Cafe in DC. The China King, 57 Western Ave, Augusta, ME 04330, was one of the strangest Chinese buffets I have ever been to. It was staffed with what appeared to be authentic Chinese people, but their accents were not. I began to wonder if they even knew Mandarin. I asked for tea. It was the blackest tea I'd ever been served at a Chinese place. I soon switched to ginger ale. The plates of meat were good. I ate chicken, pork, and string beans. They were all great. Then the woman brought me some beef. Terrible! Chinese places, please don't use corned beef and try to make teriyaki beef out of it!! Before I left another party ordered tea, they took one sip and rejected it. The most mediocre part- my fortune: "Practice makes perfect."


Breakfast w/ the Dead

This morning I had breakfast with some of the most enjoyable citizens of Augusta. It's not that everyone here is a jerk. They are all very happy. They all stop when anyone, anyone, anyone comes to a crosswalk. I guess I just don't have much in common with the majority of the people yet. I met some great folks at the coffee shop in Hallowell, which the town itself seems to be filled with good people. My future workmates were great when I came up for the interview, and I imagine I'll be doing a lot of outside-the-workplace activities with them. I think maybe there's too much of an interest in driving here. Maybe that's it? (Even though I'm in the market for a car.) They don't have enough sidewalks around Augusta. I had to walk along the berm of the highway to post this blog, out by WAL-MART. And I realized, maybe it's because of the weather or something, but Augusta doesn't walk enough! And it shows. I thought I might be moving to a land of tough mountain people, not to a land where many of the people resemble mountains themselves. I have also learned that kayaking does not count as a form of physical exercise up here. There are plenty of folks with kayaks on the roofs of their vehicles that make me wonder how they would ever fit into their kayaks. I did get a good tip about kayaks and other products though- Buy local! Buy Maine! As in L.L. Bean, everything has a lifetime warranty.


Hubbard-less Library

I have been going to libraries to publish my blog. Most of the libraries in this area are old churches. Yesterday, I was looking for the Hubbard Free Library in Hallowell and I asked some one while we were right in front of it. I thought it was a church. I came back today to post this, and some poems I wrote last night about Water Street whilst sitting on the porch of the Edwards House Inn.