Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pride cometh before the fall

Our government is broken. Kaput. FUBAR! Why would I say that? Because those who get elected to do our bidding, irrespective of party, once they set up residence in the 23 square miles surrounded by reality (better known as Washington, DC), seem intent only on lining their own pockets, taxpayers be damned. If you argue its always been that way, read your history. David McCullough might be a good place to start. While corruption isn't new, there was a time when men left their homes, and vocations, to serve their term (or terms), contribute their skills and time to the commons, and came back home. That used to be the model, before our current crooks in office, turned public service into a personal ATM card.

A case in point is the indictment of Alaska Republican Senator, Ted Stevens, on seven felony counts. This is a serious blow to a minority party that is one the ropes. It also highlights how the machinations in DC are devoid of reality.

For a party potentially awaiting a November bloodbath, I hear an awful lot of clucking coming from their AM/FM radio mouthpieces. Just today, Rush Limbaugh was talking about the indictment with the same victim mentality he derides in others. Limbaugh was trotting out one of the right-wing’s tired canards, the one where all charges of wrongdoing of a good ‘ole conservative is the deceptive work of the “driveby” liberal media. Limbaugh posited that if it was a Democrat, like some Senator from one of the southern states (I’m sorry, I was driving and didn’t write it down and Mr. Limbaugh charges for access to his archived programs), this would be ignored, or downplayed.

I’m sure that other conservative commentators will be picking up this mantra, rallying around Stevens, or at least, excusing the inexcusable.

If anyone happened to be paying attention, Stevens was no political neophyte. The 84-year-old, serving his seventh term, was considered the king of Appropriations, legendary for ensuring spending earmarks for his state. His procurement of pork made him immensely popular at home—it also underscores some of the issues that some of us have with the GOP—it says one thing about fiscal responsibility, but goes out and does something entirely contrary, undermining any platform they might have to stand on when it comes to fiscal credibility. All you really need to know about Mr. Stevens, you can learn by a Google search for, “Ted Stevens” and “bridge to nowhere.” I’m linking to the excellent Washington Post article on the subject.
While many in Washington think their role is to deliver pork back to their home districts. An interesting article by Pat Toomey in the Wall Street Journal seems to contradict that idea, at least when it comes to the sentiments of the American taxpayer.

Toomey’s organization, the Club for Growth recently conducted a nationwide poll showing that voters are fed up with Washington's out-of-control spending.

Here are the particulars of the poll, from the article:

The poll was conducted in late June, surveying 800 voters. It’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.46%. Likely voters were asked the following question: "All things being equal, for whom would you be more likely to vote for the U.S. Congress: 1) A candidate who wants to cut overall federal spending, even if that includes cutting some money that would come to your district or 2) A candidate who wants to increase overall spending on federal programs, as long as more federal spending and projects come to your district?"

The results were unambiguous. Fifty-four percent of general election voters chose the frugal candidate, compared with only 29% who chose the profligate candidate. Republicans overwhelming favor less federal spending, 72% to 17%, with independents close behind at 61%. Only Democrats prefer more federal spending, but only by a plurality. Thirty-six percent of Democrats chose the more fiscally conservative candidate, with 42% choosing the alternative.

It seems pretty clear to me. Americans are sick-and-tired of politics as usual. While I have my own reservations about Mr. Obama, and his qualifications for being our next president, the hubris coming from the right will do little to change many Americans perceptions about the Republican Party.

A little humility would go a long way towards getting their flawed candidate elected in November. Instead, they continue to throw stones, while living in their own glass domiciles.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Maine's power set

I found an interesting list over at of Maine's 50 most powerful for 2008. While lists like these will always be subjective, and while I might quibble with many of the choices, I think there were some interesting selections.

Any list of Maine's movers and shakers has to have the Cianbro Corporations's Peter Vigue (#6). For private sector leaders, he would be at the top of my list.

I was glad to see former governor, Angus King (#3), on the list. From the list's synopsis, "King has laid low over the past few years since leaving office, but that is changing. With his usual brilliant timing, the former governor is on a crusade to bring wind power to Maine where he serves as a principal of Independence Wind. He serves on numerous boards, has friend in high places and is one of the first folks aspiring politicians call."

Arguably, King was one of the state's better leaders, and unlike the current governor, attempted to move the state forward, not back to the neolithic era.

Of course, there will always be those names that elicit the reaction of "who?" from readers glancing at their name/profile. All told, I knew most of the 50.

Columnist Al Diamon (#43) made the list, which was a good choice, although at 43, five places below right-wing loonie, Mike Heath (#38), I thought he could have been a bit higher.

Diamon's been at it for a long time, and arguably, there are few in the state that grasp Maine's political world like Diamon. You can find his columns in several media outlets. He also has the Media Mutt column on the Down East website. One of his recent columns of Maine's media is a worthy rendering of the past year's bloodletting at many of the state's newspapers, and how it affects the news that Mainers receive. His take is accurate, in my opinion, about the demise of many media organs in the state.

In my book, Diamon is must-reading for anyone that still cares about politics and media, in Maine.

Speaking of the media, several other reporters/editors made the list, including Mal Leary (#27), whose been covering the statehouse since the building went up. Scott Fish (#41), the editor of the busy conservative web forum, As Maine Goes, also ended up on the list.

Agree, or disagree, lists like these are always fun, and worthy of some consideration.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Scratching my itch for news

I’ve scrapped my subscriptions to both morning dailies that cover where I live, in central Maine. That’s a big deal for several reasons: 1) I’m in my 40s, and am part of the demographic that still reads newspapers; 2) I’ve been reading a daily newspaper since I was seven-years-old.

The first of my newspapers to go was the Lewiston Sun Journal, with the introduction of its inane B-Section. Developed to attract readership from those that will probably never read their daily paper—20 and 30-somethings—it prompted me to cancel the local daily that I’d been reading the longest.

While the S-J is the paper most likely to have the news and information about Lisbon and Durham, where I now live, as well as the skinny on Central Maine matters, my cancellation forced me to go back to the Portland Press Herald. Since we’ve lived in Durham, we’ve subscribed to this paper semi-consistently over the past decade, primarily during the time our son attended high school at Greely. Since the S-J doesn’t carry sports results from southern Maine, if we wanted to read about our son’s hockey and baseball results, we were forced to subscribe to Maine’s largest daily. Personally, I also preferred their Maine Sunday Telegram, to the S-J’s lame Sunday paper.

When my wife and I agreed to deep-six our S-J subscription, a year ago, we re-upped with the Press Herald, as morning coffee without a newspaper was a tough habit to break. Going into our subscription, we knew the pitfalls of the paper. No fan of Jeannine Guttman for many reasons, and aware that the paper was struggling to deal with ad revenue (which equaled less content to read) tanking, we tried to adapt, just to have a morning newspaper, fish wrap, or not.

When the paper announced its first wave of cuts, and the Monday edition looked more like a newsletter, than a newspaper, we were finished with the morning edition of the paper. We still receive the Maine Sunday Telegram—Christ, when you’ve grown up with a newspaper, Sunday just ain’t Sunday without a paper to read, albeit one that is getting skinnier each week.

I think we’ll continue to keep the paper, if for nothing else than to read what lame explanations Guttman can continue to come up with to justify her still having a job, piloting this sinking ship of a newspaper, in name only.

This morning, “Gutty” was again regaling us with her typical solipsistic drivel that’s become her MST M.O.. I almost missed her column, as the Insight section, which used to be a stand-alone, now is combined with the Business Sunday section.

Madame Ed. was getting all giddy because Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism’s (which doesn’t’ seem to be yielding a whole hell of a lot of excellence nationwide) readership survey revealed that things aren’t as bad as Guttman expected them to be. Readers are “hanging in there.” Maybe you should bake them some brownies.

I don’t want to devote any more time to Guttman, so I’ll wrap up my thoughts about newspapers in Maine. Actually, I wrote a blog post on the subject in March, so I’ll just link back to that one.
[Note: If you care to keep up with news from the good ship PPH, check out Pressing the Herald blog.]

In lieu of a local daily, what am I doing to get my news? Here are a few news sites (with two being print-based) that are my go-to substitutes for the daily newspaper.

The Wall Street Journal: The Journal has a great offer for subscribers linking the Online Journal, with the print edition, all for $99/year.

The Journal still practices journalism, with a stable of writers that can still write an article that reads like the news articles I grew up with. The Journal isn’t just for day traders, or business leaders, although, anyone who wants to stay current on the important issues of the day should be a regular reader.

The Bollard: Longtime local journalist, Chris Busby, has shephered The Bollard moving its content from web-only, to quarterly print edition, to monthly periodical. A recent article on the cruise ship industry, and its affect on Portland, by Maine author, Colin Woodard, was an example of the quality content Busby is churning out. Liz Peavey continues to write for The Bollard, with her unique travel-based articles that she’s known for. If you haven’t picked up the print edition, look for it when you make a trip into Portland.

The Lisbon Reporter/The Rumford Reporter: I lump these two online news sites together, because TRR came first, and first clued readers to the trail of trouble that leads from Rumford, to Lisbon.

A small group of local news gadflies took over the former River Valley Reporter, and made it a must read for anyone wanting some actual news from the River Valley, instead of the tired, pro-crony tripe that the Sun-Journal had been serving up for far too long.

If you follow the news trail, you’ll see that former Rumford town manager, Steve Eldridge, landed a cush job in the Town of Lisbon, and not too long ago, former River Valley Growth Council Director, Rosie Bradley, also showed up as director of economic and community development. There were other issues plaguing the government of the town, also. Since the Brunswick Times-Record cleaned house, and dumped former reporter, Michael Reagan, no news coverage of any merit was forthcoming.

Until the launch of The Lisbon Reporter that is. Now, the citizens of the town can access content online that gives them a sense of some of shenanigans that are being perpetuated by those elected to carry out their wishes.

Both sites provide news, and should be regular destinations for anyone that cares about either community, or cares to consider that similar malfeasance might be happening in their own communities. Maybe we’ll start to see many other similar sites popping up all over the state, shining some disinfecting light on small town power-tripping.

The Daily Bulldog: Bobbie and Woody Hanstein have launched their own local media beachhead in Franklin County. Bobbie, a veteran reporter at first, the Lewiston Sun Journal, and then as editor for the Franklin Journal, won several awards for her local and regional reporting. Bobbie, who heads up the editorial side, brings a strong local orientation to the news stories that end up online at their site.

For a few months, TDB was publishing a monthly print version, but costs proved prohibitive, so they are online-only.

Solid news reporting, and you’ll occasionally find an article from yours truly, usually a business-related article for the site.

Newspapers will continue to list, and probably sink at some point, unless they learn to adapt, and recognize that readers want content that is rooted in journalism.

The internet has leveled the playing field and opened opportunities up to the masses to be the media.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The bliss of Shagg Pond

After months of burning the candle at both ends, I finally had a few days (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday) for some much needed rest and relaxation.

A dear childhood friend of my wife invited us to her family camp on Shagg Pond, in Woodstock, located in northeast Oxford County. This camp, which will be 100 years old next year, is a place that gives you the sense that you are turning back the clock to a time before being harried was a way of life.

[Shagg Pond, with Bald Mountain in the background, shrouded in fog]

[Another shot of an idyllic Maine pond]

One of the best things about the location of the camp, besides the idyllic pond, scenic vistas, and great people just hanging out, was being cut off from cell phone service, the internet (s), and other intrusions that diminish the experience.

[Camp Altamerteva, on Shagg Pond]

One of the best parts of the long weekend was my wife's friend's son, George. Eight-years-old and still wide-eyed about the world, George was my guide to enjoying my surroundings. Never have I seen a child derive so much enjoyment from the wonders of a rural pond. From sharing his passion for catching frogs with me, to the joy of returning the favor by taking him on his first-ever hike of Bald Mountain, George helped me to put aside political partisanship, the worries of the world, and the cynicism that pervades our daily existence. It's been quite a long time since I enjoyed being in the presence of a youngster, but George's enthusiasm for life was contagious.

[George showing off his catch]

I'm back to the day-to-day grind of work, following the joke of a presidential race we've been given, and yes, blogging. With my return, I'm going to try to keep my memories of the past long weekend alive, and appreciate the little things, like George helped me reconnect with.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Local news

I've been meaning to put up a link to The Lisbon Reporter. An email from a friend requesting that I do so got it done.

At some point I want to get up a future post about sites like the new one in Lisbon, as well as the fine job informing the public in Rumford and the River Valley being done by The Rumford Reporter. My full-length book, picking up where Moxietown left off, will have an entire chapter devoted to local news. Moxie Matters: Life's Beginnings in a Small Maine Town will have material about the history of newspapers in Lisbon Falls (the late John Gould got his start as a local newspaperman). In my opinion, The Lisbon Reporter is carrying forward that spirit, and the great work done by Norm Fournier, during the glory days of the old Lisbon Post (1970s and 1980s).

In an era when daily newspapers in Maine are irrelevant, or quickly moving in that direction, keeping apprised about local politics, corruption (seemingly intertwined in too many communities), and the people that make local communities unique has fallen to dedicated people determined to maintain the spirit of community journalism.

A tip of the hat to the good folks at The Lisbon Reporter (and The Rumford Reporter). Keep on being the news. We're enjoying over here, on the other side of the river.

Weekend randomness

Last week at this time, we had just set up the RiverVision bivouac on Main Street, and I was signing books for the first wave of pre-parade Moxietown buyers. It seems like it was a month ago, rather than a week. My fame foray was brief, but I'm grateful for a run slightly longer than the usual 15 minutes.

Yesterday, I had workforce business that took me into the CareerCenter, located in Portland's Bayside neighborhood. For years, my work life evolved around Portland. With my work now centered in Central/Western Maine, I rarely find myself headed south (more often north and west). Portland is a great city. Small enough that it doesn't have many of the assorted negatives of most larger urban enclaves, but vibrant as hell, much more so than comparable cities most other places. It's got art, bookstores, music, great restaurants, and Tommy's Park at noontime is alway fun.

I had the chance to work some RiverVision stops in, getting the new book into indie booksellers, Books Etc. on Exchange Street, and Chris Bowe's wonderful Longfellow Books. Also had a chance to have lunch with Ari Meil, who did the great layout and design work for Moxietown. Ari's one of independent publishing's bright lights. His Warren Machine Company continues to grow its catalog, and Ari is about all the right things, including helping other publishers move their operations forward. We talked about some exciting collaborative possibilities that you'll be hearing more about in this space, in the future.

Lately, I've been thinking about where my life has landed, and how it seems like so many formerly random, or disparate areas are all coming together. For someone that spent his first 40 years trying to figure life out with very limited success, the past five years and particularly the last 24 months have been amazing, as well as personally empowering.

A case in point--Thursday, I met with a young man that is involved with The Caleb Foundation, which manages a variety of public housing, included complexes in Lewiston. Because of the demographic and racial makeup of his residents, we agreed to grab lunch and talk about WorkReady, and other matters related to workforce development.

While we certainly have areas where there is potential to partner on the workforce end, our conversation revealed mutual interests in baseball, books, music, and of all things, religion/theology. He gave me a CD of a band that he thought I'd like. They are Beverly, Mass.-based Caspian. I've had it in my CD player almost non-stop since Thursday, soaking in their post-rock bliss.

While Portland is amazing, and Maine's hub for entertainment and culture, the state's largest city isn't the only place where Mainers have the opportunity to access culture.

Waterville has been hosting the Maine International Film Festival for the 11th straight year. MIFF's been showing great indie films for the past week at various venues in Waterville. Tonight, my better half and I are going to catch Skills Like This.

Summer in Maine is too short, and I'm finally taking a brief respite between books to enjoy some of the events.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Post-Moxie musings

Back in January, when I began working on what I thought was a book about growing up in a small Maine town, I never knew I'd get detoured by Moxie, and how much fun that rabbit trail would end up being. Moxie is one of America's unique consumer products, and one I'm proud to have been able to have a hand in updating its story.

At the start, my intention was to have a full-length book out in time for the fall. Once I began working on the Moxie angle, and discovering a new chapter to add every couple of weeks, it became obvious that I had a stand along book, based on the bitter soft drink with a devoted following. The challenge then became, can I get it out in time for the Moxie Festival? We know now that the train made it to the station on time.

Small press publishing isn't glamorous. It's long hours working in obscurity to craft books that sell 500, 1,000, and like my first one, close to 2,000, which is true success in the world that RiverVision Press inhabits.

Moxietown came out like it was shot from a cannon. Before the book was released, I had pre-sold nearly 100 copies. The past week, we've moved close to 300 units.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks since I picked up my books at Walch Printing, part of Walch Education, a Maine company with a big reputation in educational products. I'm pleased that I found a Maine-based printer to do business with. They were recommended by friend and fellow publisher, Ari Meil. Ari's tip was a godsend as the price was great and the service outstanding.

Friday night, signing books at Frank's, and then, after a turkey supper at the Masonic Lodge, being greeted like a returning hero at the Lisbon Historical Society was gratifying.

Saturday, bright skies, and large crowds had our small RiverVision team hopping all day, selling books from about 8:30 am, to after 3:00 pm. At times, the line in front of our table was 10-12 deep. For one day, I got to experience what it might be like to be a semi-famous B-Movie star. You don't write the kind of books I write for fame and adulation, but when people clamor for your autograph, and want to take you picture to add to their stable of photos of famous authors, you're more than happy to oblige, even if you're lacking the qualifications for fame.

Heartfelt thanks to the great people of my hometown of Lisbon Falls. You provided a place where I could firmly put down roots, and you helped implant a love for people's stories, and the special qualities that characterize small communities. People and place is what I write about, and the place it originates from is Lisbon Falls, and the people I keep close to my heart are the people I grew up with. The town has some issues with outsiders, and people that are from town, but prefer to exploit the people of the town, rather than work towards benefiting them. That's troubling to me.

Still, I'm optimistic that things will turn out ok. Good people find a way to have good things prevail. While I don't live inside the borders of Lisbon any longer, I'm just across the river, watching, willing to lend a hand, and thankful for that special place where I was born.

In closing, I want to recognize the work that Sue Conroy did once again, along with her son Toby, making the festival happen again, for the 25th (or 26th)time. If Frank Anicetti is the Mayor of Moxietown, then Sue is the First Lieutenant, or as I prefer, the Moxie Queen. She's become a friend, and someone I respect for what she gives back to her community. Some of the scoundrels, looking to pad their own pockets, or practice old-fashioned cronyism could learn a thing or two from Sue and Toby.

It's been a fun ride, and Moxietown was just a preview. The full-length will provide a better picture of Lisbon, and the qualities that I think are important for the future success of small communities everywhere.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Moxie Fest 2008-The Silver Anniversary

No one knows for sure when Lisbon Falls became the hub of the Moxie universe. As with any subject lacking canonical authorization, conjecture becomes commonplace and verification of authenticity is more difficult.

When I left Maine in 1982, for greener pastures, only to return for better opportunities in 1987, the town had somehow become part of the story arc and epicenter of Moxie’s unanticipated resurgence.

Oddly enough, Frank Anicetti (one of Lisbon’s more colorful characters), had become the mayor of Moxietown, with his Kennebec Fruit Company (or “Kennebec’s” to the locals) serving as the world headquarters of a burgeoning movement of people that genuflected at the altar of a product, whose heyday had been the early 20th century.

When I was a kid, Kennebec’s was the place to go if you wanted to load up on an assortment of penny candy. Anicetti, a collector of the arcane, in the truest sense, also had acquired a reputation locally for stocking the bitter concoction, laced with gentian root, known as Moxie. As a youngster, I remember Kennebec’s being jointly run by father and son, both named Frank.

The Anicetti’s store has always held a timeless quality for me and many others that have ventured inside the store with yellow panels, and green trim. Entering the place from Main Street is the equivalent of modern time travel. A visitor is able to walk backwards, down that corridor of time, to an era befitting pre-WWII. The worn floor boards, the various bottles of antique Coca-Cola lining shelves near the ceiling, with hand-lettered 3 X 5 cards, inserted like flags, indicating the part of the world and time period where they were from. The vintage countertop and old-fashioned fountain, are like nothing you’d see in the 21st century. In fact, Kennebec’s seemed strangely out of place, even during the early 1970s, when my friends and I used to ride our bikes downtown, to chug a mug of root beer (an Anicetti family recipe) and buy 25 cents worth of penny candy like Hot Balls, Zotz, and other chemically-enhanced and sugar-saturated candy derivatives.

The Kennebec Fruit Company, was founded by Frank’s Italian immigrant grandfather, who brought his knowledge of fruit vending to America and Lisbon Falls, parlaying that skill into a successful business. Later, his father, would take over the business and eventually, young Frank fell into the business, a 75-year-old tradition, which he’s continued into the new century.

While some locals cast sidelong glances when discussions originate about Anicetti and his current exalted status with Moxie aficionados from away, the popularity of his store and his own personal magnetism is obvious during each summer’s annual festival celebrating the soft drink, which seems to grow every year. Now, over 20,000 people flock to Lisbon Falls the second Saturday each July, for no other reason than to watch the Moxie parade and congregate on Main Street afterwards to sample Anicetti’s Moxie ice cream, watch Moxie-chuggin’ contests, listen to music, and watch the fireman’s muster.

[Excerpt about the New England Moxie Congress, from Moxietown, by Jim Baumer, ©2008 (RiverVision Press)]

It’s been a quarter of a century since Frank Potter first came to Lisbon Falls to sign some books for fans, at Frank Anicetti’s Kennebec Fruit Company.

Potter, the author of The Moxie Mystique, had come to the sleepy Central Maine town at the behest of Anicetti, who was a fan of Moxie. Because of his love of the drink, and its history, Anicetti had struck up a correspondence with Potter by mail (remember, this was pre-Internet, when people used to write to one another).

Potter’s book was the first one to define the magic of Moxie, and help explain why this regional soft drink, which no longer was marketed or advertised, had enough staying power to survive in a world that was now dominated by multi-national corporations. Even better, the drink had a rabid enough following that when Potter came to Kennebec’s in 1982 for his first signing, several hundred fans showed up to meet him and pick up a book about Moxie.

[Moxietown author, and Moxie Boy, Jim Jansson]

That signing was the start of the Moxie Festival in Lisbon Falls, and Saturday, the town celebrated its Silver Anniversary, commemorating 25 years of the festival, and its ties to the bitter soft drink that could kindly be called an acquired taste. Better, Moxie elicits a strong reaction. It seems that people either swear by it as their drink of choice, or think it’s the worst tasting liquid they’ve ever imbibed. One thing is a surety about Moxie—opinions are never neutral about the soft drink.

Now there are probably math majors, and other detail freaks that are reading this and have done the calculations and right now, you’re scratching your heads thinking, “if Potter’s 1982 book signing was the beginning, why is Lisbon Falls celebrating 25 years of festivals. Shouldn’t this be 26?” You would be correct on most calculations of this type, but in this instance, you have to know some of the history.

The Potter story was first told to me by Anicetti, back in 2004, when I was first ferreting out local details about Moxie and the town’s festival. I had been recruited to help the festival committee with PR and marketing, and as part of that duty, I was going to freelance several articles to local newspapers, leading up to, and detailing the annual festival that attracts 20,000 to 30,000 to the town, every second weekend in July.

[The Mayor of Moxietown, and Maine humah-ist, Gary Crocker, swap stories during the parade]

[Sentiments for troubled times]

As a local, I had come to the festival most years, since its inception, and even before, when the town celebrated Frontier Days. Despite being a regular, and someone that keeps up on the happenings of his place of birth, I realized I didn’t know the history of the festival’s beginnings. Neither did anyone else in town, save Anicetti, and possibly one, or two others.

In early 2008, I decided it was high time that I get busy on a follow-up book to my first one, When Towns Had Teams. Since small towns have always been of interest to me, and since there was no small town I knew better than Lisbon Falls, I thought the community might be a good subject for a new book, one that was part memoir, local history, and I would soon find out, Moxie.

After a couple of preliminary interviews about various aspects of the town, I interviewed Anicetti, on a rainy President’s Day, in February. After this interview, which touched on the Potter book signing, the town’s connection to Moxie, and other details about the annual festival, I was now detoured from my original intent. What began as a plan for one or two chapters in my full length (Moxie Matters: Life’s Beginnings in a Small Maine Town, which is still planned for the fall), detoured into seven chapters of Moxie and Lisbon Falls, and I knew I had a stand alone book. Then, it became a mad dash to see if I could have it out in time for the festival in July.

Moxietown has been well-received. Having it ready for the Moxie Festival was well worth the intense craziness of the past five months. On Friday, signing books in the exact location of Potter’s original signing, with a line snaking back through Anicetti’s Moxie Store (the original Kennebec Fruit Company) helped me to realize that I had tapped history, and was helping to add my own touches to a story that was now over a century old.

Saturday morning, set up on Main Street, right next to parade-goers and others, looking for Moxie t-shirts, or to sample Moxie Ice Cream at Anicetti’s store, RiverVision’s booth generated its own traffic and lines. The author signed books, talked to people from near and far and when it was all finished, sold over 250 books. There were times on Friday and Saturday, when this little-known author, who writes about the Maine that he loves, got a sense, at least for a brief time, what it might be like to be a best-selling author. Even better than that, he was supported by his family, and the good people of the town that helped him along life’s journeys.

The festival’s over. Moxie fans will have to wait until next year for a taste of Moxie Ice Cream, Moxie Chuggin’ Contests, and Maine’s largest summer parade. Attendees that picked up Moxietown now know the real story behind the festival, and why Moxie and Lisbon Falls are intertwined. They also will learn about another great group of people that sometimes are forgotten, but play a central role in Moxie’s perpetuity, The New England Moxie Congress.

It been a terrific weekend up to this point, and today, it’s party time, as I get a chance to finally kick back. We’re having friends and family over to the compound for a cookout and post-Moxie party, and I’ll have a chance to enjoy myself a bit, and maybe even reflect on the roller coaster ride that’s been my life the past several months, getting another book out.

[The parade's winning float]

[The RiverVision Press crew mucking for the camera]

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Moxie in ME-Day 1/Moody's Diner

Moxie has its own history, books about its beginnings, and even a law, recognizing it as Maine’s official soft drink. With all that, Moxie certainly has to have a band of zealots and fans—the drink’s official fan club. Enter the New England Moxie Congress (NEMC).

The NEMC, or The Congress, for short, officially held their first meeting in July, 1991. They began as a small group of Moxie drinkers (and some that weren’t) that were interested in the phenomenon that was Moxie.

According to Congress historian, John Lehaney, “We’re a fairly diverse group.” Lehaney, a retired community college counselor, who lives in Missouri, travels back to New England every summer, in July, to attend the variety of Moxie events that happen each year.

Like many of the Congress, Lehaney’s passionate about Moxie and has taken it upon himself to compile a four volume history of the Congress, housed at the Matthews Museum of Maine Heritage, in Union, Maine, which is where visitors will find a sizable collection of Moxie memorabilia and other assorted Moxie-related items, including the Moxie Bottle House.

[Excerpt about the New England Moxie Congress, from Moxietown, by Jim Baumer, ©2008 (RiverVision Press)]

I was invited by the New England Moxie Congress to participate at their 3rd annual Moxie Day, at one of Maine's iconic roadside diners, Moody's Diner, in Waldoboro.

This day signifies the arrival of The Congress in Maine, as they begin four days of events, which will included Saturday's Moxie Festival in Lisbon Falls.

Congress President, Merrill Lewis, has been an advocate of Moxietown, promoting it via the group's website, and offering RiverVision Press table space today to sell books at Moody's. I interviewed Lewis for the new book, and have found him to be gracious, accomodating, as well as a tireless promoter of the work of The Congress, and of Moxie.

We had a great day at Moody's, and were treated like royalty by both the NEMC, as well as Mary Olson, of Moody's.

It was a banner day, and a great preparation for tomorrow's book signing at Frank Anicetti's Moxie Store.

[Nothing beats a stop at Moody's Diner]

[Right turn for Moxie]

[Wil Markey's Moxie Horsemobile, parked by the Moody's Gift Shop]

[Wil Markey's organ, originally built for the 1939 World's Fair]

[Don Worthen (former NEMC Prez), and Merrill Lewis, NEMC's current commander-in-chief]

While today was an all around great day, one of my favorite parts, was meeting the amazing Wil Markey, who has built several Horsemobile replicas.

Built on a LaSalle chassis, these classic automobiles allow them to be driven, while seated upon the horse mold, mounted in the center of the vehicle.

A member of America's greatest generation, Markey is a dynamo of activity, and is always eager to share a story about a horsemobile, vintage organ, of some aspect of an amazing life.

Back at you Friday, from Lisbon Falls, Moxie capital of Maine.

Moxie madness begins

I'm off to Moody's Diner, in Waldoboro, to bivouac with the New England Moxie Congress. We'll be invading the parking area, and occupying it most of the day.

This is my first Moody's experience with the Congress, so I'm not sure what to expect. Hoping to sell books and possibly see Jimm E's new alternative fuel vehicle, powered by Moxie (you can have your wind Mr. Pickens, make my alternative, Moxie!).

Last night, had the opportunity to watch my 207 segment. The feedback from the jury is that I acquitted myself well.

After spending the day at Moody's, it's on to Lisbon Falls, Friday and Saturday, and then, Sunday, we're holding our own RVP, post-Moxie bash at the compound.

Drink Moxie!!

Monday, July 07, 2008

The death of the automobile

Americans have had a century-long love affair with the automobile. Ever since Henry Ford introduced his Model T, granting motoring access to the working masses, the automobile has been interchangeable with the American experience.

Around the same time that Henry Ford masterminded the assembly line process of automobile manufacturing, General Motors was creating its own iconic brand, Chevrolet. Even today, people classify themselves as “Chevrolet,” or “Ford” people in their loyalty to the competing brands.

General Motors, as American as baseball and apple pie, is in serious trouble. With its stock price at a half-century low, GM is faced with the prospect of cutting many of its eight various brands. Rivals Ford and Chrysler have recognized that being smaller is necessary if they have hopes of surviving the restructuring of the U.S. auto industry. While some GM executives and board members have talked about the need to possibly jettison their Saab brand, much the way Ford unloaded Land Rover and Jaguar, Chief Executive Richard Waggoner has resisted.

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal by John Stoll intimates that the company’s structure, still overly heavy with mid-level managers, many responsible for GM’s recent woes, is to blame for the company’s inability to reach consensus and make quick decisions. Consequently, GM’s continued listing and Waggoner’s critics are legion.

Ironically, the company has put a great deal of import in the development of the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid. Could GM, still operating as an automotive dinosaur, see its fortunes intertwined with lithium-ion batteries?

Oil’s escalation in price will require new ways of thinking, from what our future cars look and how they drive, to possible new models of transportation beyond our current, one-car, one-person way of doing things.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fearing fear itself

"The fearmongers of both sides offer no solutions, they just want us to crouch in our foxholes and be scared."
[Comments posted on the The Smirking Chimp blog]

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
[FDR-from his first inaugural address, March 1933]

Americans are panicked. Maybe it's the 24/7 drumbeat of the doom and gloom, mainstream media, hoping that the citizenry will succumb to its bludgeoning.

Sadly, our lack of historical perspective seems to make it worse. Oil is high, gas is expensive, but at least we're not limited to buying it on odd, or even-numbered days, depending on what number your license plate ended with.

I'm planning on enjoying Independence Day, with the people I care about. I'm happy to have a new book out that's selling. My appearance on the 207 program validates my efforts on the writing and publishing side. My daytime gig is bearing fruit and I'm making a difference in helping people begin to empower their own lives.

I've never been a big fan of flag waving, or chest-thumping patriotism, but I'm going to hang out the red, white, and blue at the compound, and enjoy some deserved downtime, and offer my own silent "thanks" for the opportunities still available in America.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Small beers and small presses

I don’t know much about Small Beer Press, other than Book Dwarf dropped a reference to them, and I thought I’d Google them. Oh--they hail from Northampton, MA, best known as the setting for Tracy Kidder's Home Town.

They are a publisher of fiction and fantasy, and they appear to have a fairly substantial catalogue of interesting books, like this one.

Apparently Maureen F. McHugh is a big deal, as she uses her middle initial in her name, and also lumps mothers in with monsters, of which, given the technologically-fueled death of imagination, there seems to be a dearth of these days, other than the run-of-the-mill creations of modern Hollywood. According to the blurb from McHugh's book, mothers and monsters have become one and the same.

I liked this title because I could alter it to read, The Baum(er) Plan for Financial Independence, of which I’ve been spending some time launching.

Since I’ve spent my life evading money at all costs, I thought it time to begin laying up some resources for my later years. Not that picking up bottles on the side of some abandoned highway, in a post-apocalyptic world doesn’t sound romantic.