Friday, July 30, 2010

Not Quite What I had in Mind...

This is not what I'd planned for my 100th posting to GAG. I wanted to write something 'fun', to celebrate my first 100 on-line articles. But GAG is about grumbles as much as it is about grins... and something just made me grumble, BIG TIME.

A few days ago I wrote a letter to the editor about the regularity in which the online comments of industrial wind opponents disappeared from the sites of several of this state's leading newspapers. The comments which were removed were always good ones, filled with the FACTS which-- if known by Mainers-- would cause some massive forced changes in Governor Baldacci's energy policies and goals.

But I didn't send it. After composing it, I read a letter to the editor which was written by someone who was against industrial wind and all its attendant negative impacts. The newspaper had printed it, which was encouraging given the paper's previous editorials and articles promoting "Big Wind". I hesitated. I decided to give the news media in Maine another chance to prove they were unbiased.

Besides... I figured I didn't stand much chance of seeing such a critical letter published, anyway.

Below, in italics, is another letter I wrote a few days ago. I've written dozens and dozens of these. Approximiately half of them have been printed. I emailed the letter to the Kennebec Journal, whose parent company also owns the Morning Sentinel in Waterville. Two days ago, the Sentinel called to confirm my identity, and so I had a feeling the letter might get published.

Apparently, it did. A friend emailed me a note, stating that a friend of HIS emailed him the link to the online version of the letter I wrote. But when that link was accessed, there was no letter. Instead, a little note popped up, that said: Sorry, the content of this story appears to be missing.


I've said it with increasing regularity. We are up against a state-sanctioned industry which is very powerful. When there are millions and even billions of dollars to be made, those who stand to lose that money will employ whatever means necessary to ensure that they retain control of public opinion.

I can't swear that my letter disappeared off the Morning Sentinel's site due to its anti-wind message. Just like I can't be sure that our best and most convincing online comments were removed because we spoke the truth in a reasonable and convincing manner. I can't swear, and I can't be sure...but I am an intelligent woman, and I've seen the writing on the wall. We average citizens who are taking a stand to oppose the development of our moutains have a huge task in front of us. We are at a disadvantage, but that simply means we have to dig our heels in and fight that much harder.

Somewhere out there is an ally. Somewhere there is an important person who will lend his or her name to our cause and help us defend this region, its inhabitants, a way of life, and even...our pocketbooks. Then maybe-- just maybe--we'll be on an even footing with the Wind Industry. When that day comes, we WILL win this effort. If we ever meet on a level playing field, we'll have the advantage. Because, we are armed with the FACTS about industrial wind.

In the Morning Sentinel (Waterville, ME) July 30, 2010

I speak with strangers every day. People who are unknown to me stop by my office and I have meaningful conversations with them. We might discuss the weather or the price of gasoline—something innocuous to break the ice—but it usually takes only a moment before I am learning about their families, their histories, their hopes and dreams.

Folks come to the western mountains of Maine because we offer something they can’t
get elsewhere. We are friendly and open and are good neighbors, yes. But it’s not only the citizens of Maine who attract visitors; our beautiful natural resources compel them to visit. Often, those same treasures induce them to stay.

Our Administration and Legislature have made a terrible mistake. They’ve paved the
way for Maine’s iconic mountains to be permanently altered in order for a misguided
plan to be implemented. Land-based industrial wind energy plants are not good for
the environment; not for the high-terrain eco-systems which would be ravaged, nor
for the earth’s atmosphere, despite the fact that proponents often cite wind turbines’ contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gasses. They are financially unfeasible, and are only made possible by huge tax-payer subsidies. They cause health problems for residents who live within two or more miles. The energy they produce is intermittent, unreliable--and isn’t needed in our state. We already export power, and that which these turbines produce will not stay in Maine.

Three hundred and sixty miles of turbines on our pristine ridges, and 500 miles of new, high voltage transmission lines to carry the power out-of-state--it simply doesn’t make sense. We already have what others long for. Why would we sacrifice this bounty for a plan so ill-conceived?

I speak with people every day, and I listen. They want what we’re lucky enough to
already have.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The 99th Post in the 11th Hour...

Wow. It was almost one year ago that I created Grumbles and Grins on the advice of my marketing coach. In the last 11 1/2 months I've written almost 100 articles to post to GAG. Some of them were simple, foolish, silly things designed to bring a smile to my readers. And a few of them were serious, and were intended to make people think about issues which are important in today's world.

In August of 2009, I was not yet embroiled in the effort to stop mountaintop industrial wind. Truthfully, I knew little about it. And when I was first told that Angus King and Rob Gardiner were going to put a "wind farm" on Highland's mountains, I thought it was most likely a good idea. After all, I believed what I'd heard and read in the media-- those words which the administration and the wind developers hope the public will take to heart and accept as truth. Words like 'renewable' and 'green', and phrases like 'reduce our dependence on foreign oil', 'strengthen our national security' and 'help reduce global warming'. What was not to like?

And then, in October, I went to a meeting at the little one-room schoolhouse in Highland Plantation and listened as Rob Gardiner outlined Independence Wind's plans for Stewart, Witham and Bald Mountains, and Burnt and Briggs Hills. More importantly, I listened to the questions asked by those in attendance. And I recorded the forum, too, so that I could have a record of all that was said.

I began to have concerns about the wisdom of such a development. So did many others. Folks began to read up on the problems surrounding other wind developments, both here in Maine, and around the globe. One month later, the Friends of the Highland Mountains was formed in a small living room in Lexington Township; the tiny community adjacent to Highland Plantation. For me, this was a 'first'. I've never been officially involved in any 'activism', per se. I've always voted. And I've always made an effort to educate myself on that which was to be decided in the voting booth. I had always encouraged others to exercise their right and responsibility to 'have a say', and I'd written a few editorials when an issue seemed to warrant a bit of extra attention. But I'd certainly never waged an all-out campaign like the one in which I am now involved.

Why am I doing this? It's certainly not because it's enjoyable. I sometimes think I'd rather get a poke in the eye with a sharp stick than to be doing what I'm doing. This type of effort is all-consumming, because the opposition has money, power and influence. They also have very few scruples. But scruples are something which the Friends of the Highland Mountains DO have. It's easier for us in that regard. Because, you see, we have the FACTS on our side. In order to even scratch the surface of this important issue and get the facts of the matter out to the people of Maine, it takes a tremendous amount of time and resources, and committments from many, many people. We've been so fortunate with our human resources. Many folks from around this state have joined together to protect our natural resources, as well as our wildlife, our quality of place and life, our economy... and our right to 'have a say'.

As an American, I was incensed when I realized how much information was being kept from me and my fellow citizens. I was enraged as I discovered the amount of corruption that is imbedded in my government. And I was appalled at the amount of disinformation and downright lies which were being floated to THE PEOPLE in the hopes that we would accept those lies and roll over quietly. Our administration and the Wind Industry do not want THE PEOPLE to have the cold, hard facts about the misguided and expensive plan to erect 350+ miles of massive wind turbines along Maine's beautiful and unique high-terrain areas.

For if THE PEOPLE knew the truth, they would stop their plan in its tracks!

So, that's what we've been trying to do-- tell the truth. We've written letters to the editor, and articles for magazines. We've gone out into the surrounding towns and given out written information, DVD's and links to other resources.

We've also spoken with some of the gubernatorial candidates and three out of four of our congresssional delegates. We've been trying to educate the general public on the science and economics of Industrial Wind. The facts say: IT DOESN'T WORK. The facts say there are very few redeeming qualities to industrial wind, and that the negative impacts far outweigh the positive benefits. You've heard me say it all before. Ad nauseum. But because our opposition spreads half-truths and sugar-coated tales of the salvation of our planet through wind energy plants, we have to work even harder to debunk those standard tag lines. We have to be tenacious. We have to be committed to being in this for the long haul. And we have to be brave.

This isn't a game. And we aren't selfish people. If anything, I am convinced that our membership is made up of many selfless people who give up their time and money-- and sometimes, their peace of mind-- to do what we believe is RIGHT. What we are is a group of people who are fighting to spread the facts-- the TRUTH-- about this and other industrial wind projects, before our mountaintops are altered and our way of life is gone.

If you are not yet convinced that industrial wind development is a mistake for Maine, I encourage you to contact me at or call me at (207)628-2070. I would be happy to share what I've learned from experts in every field pertaining to this topic. Rest assured, there will be no pressure. I believe-- and have found-- that every citizen who has been empowered with the facts agrees that the governor's plan is a colossal mistake for the state of Maine. Only those with some kind of a financial stake hold out for 'wind'... and I understand that. I don't like it, but I understand it. Whichever way you lean, you have the right to factual information, and I encourage all citizens to make up their own minds, from a position of knowledge.

My next posting will be my one-hundredth. How wonderful it would be if it was an article announcing that LURC had denied Trans-Canada's application to develop the high-terrain ridges of Sisk, in our Boundary Moutains, which cast their wild and unspoiled shadows over western Maine's Chain of Ponds!

Cartoons courtesy of Windtoons.
Photos courtesy of ME.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Making a Soft Purse out of a 'Roo's Rear

Jack was the very first friend I made in Australia. He honored me deeply by giving me a wonderful and touching review of my first published novel, Grumble Bluff. I emailed him a ‘thank you’, we chatted back and forth for a bit, and before I knew it, I had a best friend who lived 10,000 miles away. Sometimes, we click with a person in a way that can’t be explained. Sometimes, it seems as if we’ve always known a person.

I’ve always known Jack.

Not only was he my first friend in Oz, but he was the catalyst for all the other mates I’ve made Down Under. I won’t go into the convoluted strings of events that led me to each of my Aussie friends, or the amazing coincidences which brought us together. But even though Jack has never met my wonderful friend Larry (and they only live an hour or two apart), I never would have found my Quasi Aussie if it wasn’t for my pal Jack. That, in and of itself, is enough to make me grateful for all time.

I was sad on the drive home today. I’d just spent two hours with my ninety-four year old grandmother, who is getting very, very tired. The moon is also full, and those of you who know me well, know I’m a woman whose moods are affected by the lunar cycles. Add to the mix the fact that I only slept for two hours this morning, and you’ll understand, perhaps, why I was feeling a bit melancholy.

My son Eli has been waiting for a package to arrive, so I thought while I was going through town, I would take a quick detour to the Post Office to see if it had arrived. To my delight, there was a parcel for me, instead.

I knew what it was—in part, anyway. I placed it in the passenger’s seat and grinned all the way home. Jack knows me well. Too well, it sometimes seems. And the box contained a gift that he knew would make me smile.

Once home, I didn’t even take care of the groceries before I was tearing into the package. There, to my delight and amusement, was a ‘roo scrote pouch’. That’s right! I am now the owner of a genuine Kangaroo bag!

Oh, don’t go all sour on me! It’s a wonderful gift to get from Australia. Hey, if nothing else, it shows great thrift, and my pal Jack is nothing if not tight. He is, like me, a cheap son of a gun. The man carries a shoe horn in his pocket just so he can get into his wallet. Naturally, he would be in favor of using every last bit of an animal, leaving nothing to go to waste. (Forgive me for being curious, but I’ve a yearning to know how the contents were used…)

Yep… I have a soft and seamless pouch which once contained the family jewels of a marsupial from Oz. That is—in my opinion—just too cool for words! But since I’m a writer, I’ll make every effort to express them, anyway.

There was a surprise in the parcel. Not only was Jack my first friend from the southern hemisphere, but one of my very first GAG postings was about Australia’s cane toads. Contained in my box was the tanned hide of a Bufo Marinus, a creature which was introduced to Australia to kill the crop-damaging cane beetle, but which rapidly became one of the leading non-native, invasive and destructive pests on the continent.

How exciting! The little bugger looked just like the photos I’d seen! And he smelled very toady, too! I opened the letter that accompanied my gifts, and absorbed the words scrawled in Jack’s distinctive (and fairly wretched) handwriting.

“What!?” I looked up at Josie, who was hovering over my shoulder as she and Eli watched me behave like a tot on Christmas morning. “Jack sent the cane toad for YOU!”

She pulled back in mild revulsion.


“Yes, you. Dang it!”

Relief flooded her expression and she patted my shoulder.

“It’s okay, Mama. You can keep it.”

“No… no! It’s gift for you. And that’s nice! Jack says every teenager should have a cane toad purse.”

She fidgeted. She could see the potential for an active social life going down the tubes.

“Tell you what. How about… we share it?”

“Deal!” I grinned and snatched the cane toad and the kangaroo scrotum off the table before she changed her mind. The first ‘turn’ was mine. Josie can have the next twenty years. By then she, too, will think it’s ‘cool’ to own the processed hide of a lethal amphibian.

To some of you, the value of these gifts might not be apparent. But the Aussie friends I’ve made have become a vital and valued part of my life. Any little bit of their homeland that is shared with me makes me feel closer to them, and that’s important, for there aren’t many places on this earth that are much further away than that vast continent.

I shall treasure my scrotum, and ‘our’ Bufo Marinus, as ugly as the bugger is to look at. And I will keep them safe, so that they last a long, long time. The trick will be to keep them out of reach of Stevie, Eli’s tom cat, who took an immediate liking to the ‘roo pouch, particularly. He really, really wanted to gnaw on that kangaroo skin. Idiot cat. He simply doesn’t know how to treat fine leather.

I do.

Thanks, Jack. For the gifts and the grins.


Top photo of a kookaburra copyright by Jack Ramsay

Aussie Customs Gives the Green Light

It's three thirty in the morning, and I'm winding down... getting tired from a long night's work. But I wanted to share the notes I received from Australian Customs before climbing into bed for a couple of hours of shut-eye. My day starts in two and a half hours.

As you know, I want to mail my friend Larry the cell phone which I 'terminated' for him. I emailed Customs to make sure it would be acceptable to ship it across their border. What follows is our correspondance. They gave me the green light, and I'll be mailing Larry's cell phone to him when I go to work in a few hours.

It's a happy ending, I suppose. For Larry and me, but not for the cell phone.

And now, I have a new poem to write...

Dear Australian Customs,

My name is Karen Bessey Pease and I live in the United States. I have several good friends in Australia, and one of them has just left me after a month-long visit to my home in Maine. When he arrived in New York, he realized that his Aussie cell phone didn't work here, so he purchased a new one. Upon arriving up here in Maine, he discovered that due to our mountains and the rural nature of western Maine, he almost never had any decent cell phone reception here, either. For the whole of his visit, he was constantly piqued at the fact that he would have to climb a hill or park in a certain area in order to be able to call out or receive messages. I teased him about it unmercifully, and we began to plan the demise of his 'mobile' once he was through with it. It became a big joke and source of amusement for us.

We decided I should shoot it for him (but only AFTER I used the remaining prepaid minutes-- he's so tight he squeaks when he walks!) We discussed what I ought to use and discarded the .22 (too small for satisfaction) and the .44 (a bit of 'over kill'). Finally, I decided to use a World War One Luger, thinking that it was only fitting to have a 100 year old weapon 'get the best' of today's tool of 'modern technology'.

Anyway... I have destroyed my friend's cell phone and I wish to mail it to a souvenir. Before shooting it, I removed the battery so that there would be no hazmat issues. My husband was worried that by mailing it to Larry, I would get on some 'list' due to the fact that the phone has two obvious bullet holes in it, and your agents would see them if the package was opened. Since 9/11, the world has changed, and perfectly innocent things such as this can sometimes take on different connotations. I told him that I would list what was in the package and also include a note to you to read if you opened the parcel, but he asked me to contact you FIRST, before posting it. My own Postmaster said that as long as the battery was removed and I stated honestly what was in the box, that it 'shouldn't be a problem' but my husband is more cautious than I, I suppose. Thus, this email to you.

I will attach photos of the cell phone, which is exactly what will be in the box (along with the aforementioned letter). Oh, there will also (maybe) be a black bra in the package, too. (Another funny story between me and my Aussie). Do you foresee any problems if I mail my friend his punctured cell phone? It is a harmless souvenir of a wonderful visit. I've been sad since he left last Tuesday, knowing that I may never see him again, and I would love it if he could have this reminder of the laughs we shared over his 'f***ing mobile from this third world country" (as he liked to tease). Heh... just writing that made me miss him...

Please let me know if this is acceptable. I suppose I should be cognizant of what I send across your borders. Last year I mailed some potatoes to my friend (Ali g), and you 'confiscated and destroyed' them and sent us a lovely letter explaining why. I never, ever thought of a potato as a 'seed', and felt like an idiot for mailing them to Oz. (This is an apology, 10 months after the fact...) However, that occurence DID cause me to write a poem in jest of the 'affair' and my friends got a good laugh about that-- so something was salvaged from the fiasco. (I'll attach the poem for the heck of it, too. It's kind of cute and was a big hit with Aussies and 'Yanks', alike.)

Thank you in advance for taking the time to consider my request. You may email me, or call me at either of the numbers listed below.

Yours Truly,

Karen Bessey Pease
252 Spruce Pond Road
Lexington Twp., ME 04961
(207) 628-2070 home
(207) 340-0066 cell


Dear Karen

Thank you for the very entertaining email. I'm not aware of any restrictions on importing mobile phones with bullet holes in them but I'll find out for you. I have forwarded your email to another area for comment, and we will contact you again soon.

I don't want to spoil the poem but it would have been AQIS ( Australian Quarantine Inspection Service) who seized the potatoes, not Customs. They are the authority that deals with plant, animal and food products.
Thank you for your email .

Jill P.
Senior Customs and Border Protection Officer | Customs Information and Support Centre | CE&CS Australian Customs and Border Protection Service Customs House, 10 Cooks River Drive, Mascot NSW 2020


Hi Jill!

Wow... that would be really hard to rhyme, wouldn't it??

But... I'm a writer, and now I'll have to give it a shot (no pun intended...)

Thanks for getting back to me. Mr. Pease will be thrilled (and I say that with mild sarcasm... he wasn't very excited to discover I'd already had my hand slapped over potatoes...)

Australian Quarantine Inspection Service, hmmm? I'll have to see what I can do with that...

Thanks again. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours truly,


Hello Kazza

there are no restrictions on importing a phone, whether there are bullet holes in it or not.

If the bullets are still in the phone that will create some problem.

Ian Pearse | Senior Customs and Border Protection Officer |Customs Information and Support Centre | CE&CS
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
Customs House, 10 Cooks River Ave, Mascot NSW 2020


Hey, Ian! Excellent news, and thank you! Nope. The bullets are in a bale of hay, the casings in my coat pocket.

Perfect. I will package the cell up when I go to work this morning and will include a copy of this letter, just in case the parcel is opened once it arrives Down Under.

Thanks again. I know Larry will get a charge out of having the cell returned to him in its present condition.

Big smiles from Maine!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Can you hear me now?

The cell phone had to die.

Upon arriving in New York from Australia, my friend Larry realized that his Aussie cell phone wasn’t compatible with America’s transmission towers, so he purchased a new one for his month-long stay. Then he flew to Maine.

Poor Larry. In the first place, he was visiting the western mountains of this state. Mountains and cellular telephones do not equate to a marriage made in Heaven. My friend Larry spent half of his time emulating the television actor who made famous the question: “Can you hear me now?” The other half, he spent marching from hilltop to rise to boulder to anthill, trying to find spots where he could get a strong enough signal to make or receive calls. His frustration was somewhat amusing to watch, but his running commentary was hilarious.

“It’s like a third world country, here!”

“This is a gawd***ed piece of s***.”

“Is your 'mobile' a Verizon? They’re f***ing useless!”

And when he wasn’t ragging about the reception or the poor customer service from the company, he was lamenting the fact that he’d been promised he could make overseas calls from his phone—but he couldn’t. Not in actuality. His idea of ‘overseas’ included friends in Australia, Switzerland and Thailand. Verizon’s notion of ‘overseas’ included Guam and Puerto Rico and Canada. Hehehehe… I’m sorry. But that’s too funny, and I had to apologize to Larry for snickering at him, too.

Seriously, though… since when has Canada been considered ‘overseas’?

My friend blamed Verizon for the fact that he couldn’t reach his friends in Switzerland, so I offered to let him make the call from my land line. He checked the number programmed into his cell and then dialed it on my office telephone.

Nothing. Just a recording telling him ‘this call cannot be completed as dialed’. Gawd***ed piece of s***…

I simply had to intervene. I knew that Switzerland was still a viable country, and that it had to be possible for him to call his friends.
My country’s honor was at stake! If he could call them from Oz, then he could CERTAINLY call them from the United States!
I checked his number and dialed. No luck. I called an international operator.
Aha! Larry had programmed the numbers wrong when copying them from his Aussie phone to his new, ‘Yank’ cellular! Smugly, I dialed and handed him the receiver. It was obvious, the man needed a woman in order to make it in this particular third world country…

Regardless of the fact that he had programmed his numbers wrong, the cell phone was still a piece of odious offal. It was just one step above being completely and totally useless. And it became the running joke. The symbol of all that is wrong with this country, and with progress and technology and even--I think-- religion! For every time he used the ’bloody’ thing, he called upon the Lord. His words were so “holy”, in fact, that I dare not repeat them!

We decided that the only cure for his “cellulitis” was death. The “mobile” had to die.

But how to wreak vengeance? I considered dropping it off the Onawa Trestle, to be smashed upon the rocks 156 feet below. But, that would have been littering, and there could have been contamination from the battery, besides. So, I suggested the next idea to pop into my head. We should SHOOT it!

Larry liked that idea. He chuckled, nodded sagely, and said, “All right.”

But he needed the phone (just in case it worked) until he was ready to fly home, so we decided that I would be in charge of administering the coup de grace. But! Larry is a frugal sort, and he made me promise to use up the remaining prepaid minutes on the phone (as if I could actually CALL anyone on the bloody thing!) before taking it out to the practice range.

We discussed weaponry.

“What should I use?” I asked.

“What have you got?” he lobbed back.

Well, I don’t have a whole lot, but I DO have a family spread across the state. Surely we could come up with something that would deliver a satisfactory result!

“A .357 Magnum?”

His brow furrowed.

“A twenty-two?”

He shook his head. Not enough bang for the buck.

“A forty-four?”

His eyes lit up. Now THAT would make an impression! Larry liked that idea, and his friend Dave concurred. A forty-four it would be.

And so, we had a plan. I would take possession of the cell phone and put it out of its misery-- after Larry departed and after using up the remaining $25.00 worth of pre-paid time.

Larry left.

I used the phone to make a few calls.

And then… the .44 I intended to use wasn’t available, so I had to improvise. I decided to use a World War One era Luger 9mm semi-automatic. I thought it was only fitting to pit a 100 year old tool against a modern, technologically advanced one.

The antique won.

And now, I am going to ship the cell phone back to Larry as a souvenir of his stay in this ‘third world country‘. Of course, there is the small matter of Australian Customs. For those of you who follow this blog, you’ll know that I caught heck from them once before, when I tried to send my friend Ali g some Maine potatoes. The offending spuds were ‘confiscated and destroyed’ and I suffered no small embarrassment when my Aussie friend received a notice from Customs informing him of the termination of my home-grown potatoes.

Mr. Grumbles has insisted that I contact Australian Customs and request permission to mail the telephone to Oz. He thought I might be considered a ‘person of interest’ if I simply mailed a phone with two bullet holes in it across international borders. I argued a bit. After all, what danger do I pose? I’m one of the sweetest, most law-abiding women I know! And what danger is there in a hole? The battery is sitting here on my desk, ready to be used in my own phone if needed, and disposed of properly when my cell has lived out its useful life. There is nothing ominous about this cell phone. If anything, it’s a cause for laughter-- at least, to Larry and me, it is.

But I conceded to my husband’s wisdom and worry, and I’ve emailed the Customs office in Sydney, explaining the situation and asking for their guidance. I’m sure I’ll hear back from those valiant officers once the morning shift comes on duty.

In the meantime, here it sits; a device designed to make life easier, but which caused my Aussie endless irritation. In the beginning, that is. After he’d cussed it out and vented his frustration, and once I began to tease him about it, it became a source of amusement and of bonding.

I don’t have Larry anymore, but I have some wonderful memories of laughter and tall tales and shared experiences. He’s off traveling in Europe and Asia, and I can’t even call him to tell him I’ve kept my word. I used up his precious pre-paid minutes, and I’ve put his cell phone out of its (and his) misery. I hope that when he arrives home in Australia, his souvenir from Maine will be waiting for him at the post office. And then, I hope he’ll call me on his Aussie cell phone.

I’m just dying to hear him say, “Can you hear me now?”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Driza-Bone-- the Coat, but not my Eyes

I can’t believe he’s gone. I can’t believe I could become so attached to someone after knowing him for only a month. I’d written letters to him, yes. And spoken to him on the telephone when he called from Australia… but I met him for the first time just four short weeks ago.

It was hug at first sight.

Larry is a good guy. A really good guy. I believe I’ve mentioned before that I’m pretty adept at “reading” people. I can tell a lot about a person’s essence by shaking his hand and looking into his eyes. “His” eyes are blue, and clear as a September sky. I glimpsed a few cirrus clouds low on the horizon, but they were wispy strands that I, myself, am familiar with, and so I was at ease.

We have much in common. We share similar philosophies, and we differ—respectfully—in stance on some important issues. Larry isn’t afraid to voice his opinion, and neither am I. That trait we share made for some stimulating conversations. And a whole month full of laughs.

Larry gave me a great deal. I’d never eaten a scallop until he ordered some for me in a restaurant in Greenville. I’d never eaten in a Kentucky Fried Chicken, either, until he pulled his rental car into the franchise in Waterville.

I hadn’t visited Togus-- my own state’s Veteran’s hospital—until I accompanied my friend to Augusta.

I’d never received a parking ticket… until I bragged about it to Larry. I’d never owned a sapphire, either. He didn’t even know they were my birthstone until he gifted me with the jewelry and I told him so.

I’d never been to Shirley, Maine—but now I have a dozen new friends in that tiny town. I’d never been to Rockwood, either, or Blanchard. I’d certainly never had a meal cooked for me by a man and served with nonchalance and a smile… just like that was a perfectly natural thing to do.

And I never had a really cool coat. Now… I do. Larry gave me his DrizaBone riding coat on his last day in Maine. It’s a little big, but not by much. And it is something that he really loved, which makes the gift extra special.

That’s what my mate Larry brought, and that’s what he was. A gift. And I miss him dreadfully, already.

But isn’t this a really cool coat?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The High Price of Bragging

I should have known this would happen.

I was taking a road trip with my friend Larry, who is visiting from Australia. As we drove up Route 15, headed to Shirley Mills and then to Greenville and Rockwood, I noticed that Larry kept glancing down at the speedometer. Assuming that he was having a hard time converting ‘miles per hour’ to kilometers, I asked him what was what.

“Well…” he drawled. “I can’t be gettin’ a ticket here. America and Australia have reciprocal laws, and they’d add points to me license at home if I did that!”

I pooh-poohed his concerns, and then thought I’d do a little bragging.

“Hmmmph! Well, in 30 years of driving, I’ve never gotten a ticket! Not even a PARKING TICKET!”

Larry glanced at me in amazement.

“Geez! You’re a good girl, aren’t you?”

I smiled smugly. Yep, that’s me. A ‘good’ girl.

You’d think I would know better than to make such a foolhardy statement.

But really… who knew you were supposed to put money in those foolish things posted along city sidewalks which look like observation binoculars, anyway?

Yeah. You guessed it. Not three days after bragging about my impeccable driving record, I had to go to Portland to meet with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. Her office is, of all places, at the Portland Fish Pier. Suffice it to say that by the time I’d driven up and down Commercial Street, in and out of full parking lots and back and forth in front of the waterfront, I was getting flustered. The downtown area was packed with people, flooded with vehicles, and oozing heat and humidity. The air conditioner was not working in my truck, either. I was hot, and I was bothered, and I was lost… so when I saw that twelve foot long parking slot open up, I pulled my twenty-one foot Dodge into it and thanked my lucky stars for the opportunity. I gathered my belongings, locked the truck, and started hoofing it, determined to find Pingree’s office on foot.

Seriously… who knew you were supposed to put money in those things, anyway? I never guessed. It wasn't until I returned home that I realized I'd received the ticket... at first, I thought some civic minded person had given this country gal a map to the city of Portland, politely tucked under the wiper blade of my pick-up. It took the eagle eye of my teenaged daughter Josie to discern that there was an ominous message on the other side of the map...

I think it’s only fair that I blame Larry, my quasi Aussie, for the blight on my record. After all, I never would have bragged about my perfect driving record and jinxed myself if I hadn’t been so intent on impressing my friend with my perfection…

Aw, heck. Okay, so the fellow from Down Under is blameless. I’ll concede that it was my own boneheadedness which resulted in the ticket. And to show my maturity and my ability to take responsibility for my own actions, I’ll try to look upon the positive aspects of the day.

I got to meet a U.S. Congresswoman. As I roamed the Portland Fish Pier looking for her office, I learned how to fillet a tuna. And a pollock and a hake, as well. I made friends with seven urbanites who tried to guide me to my destination using hand-held computers which were no bigger than decks of cards. And I discovered what eating ‘al fresco’ meant. According to Larry, it means ‘sitting in the middle of the bloody sidewalk’. So, the day wasn’t a total wash.

Besides, all is not lost. I’m going to fight the ticket. I mean, that was just plain rude! Charging a woman who is lost and sweaty and red-faced and tense a whopping $15.00 because she didn’t know she had to pay for parking ‘al fresco’ is inhospitable, to say the least.

And after all… I’m a ‘good girl’! You see… I’ve never—not once in my 30 years of driving—ever gotten a ticket for speeding!

Affectionate labeling of photo in this blog posting is courtesy of my good friend, Tom Olds, of Jackson, Maine.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Pressing Matter

The Friends of the Highland Mountains held a press conference in the State of Maine room at Portland City Hall on Wednesday, June 30th. The purpose of the gathering was to officially release our DVD, ‘Save the Mountains of Highland, Maine’.

We wrote up a press release and faxed and emailed it to every major media outlet in the state of Maine; television stations, radio stations and newspapers. We chased the written announcements with telephone calls—member Jonathan Carter made the original calls the night before, and I followed up with reminders the morning of the DVD's release.

More than a dozen of our members took time out of their busy lives and drove the long distance to southern Maine to stand together for the event. I was humbled. Whenever I mention a need—in this case, a simple, public showing of support—the Friends (who are truly ‘friends’) never let me down. More importantly, they never let the mountains down, or each other.

I don’t have experience in the public arena, so I don’t really know if success was achieved by the number of media that showed up for the press conference. There were two television stations, ABC and NBC, which cover a large portion of the state, and a radio station, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, which also has a far-reaching audience. What constitutes ‘ample coverage’ eludes me, but I was somewhat contented. I handed out informational packets and copies of our DVD to each reporter and cameraman, and then-- we were ‘on’.

Jonathan introduced us and our DVD. He has 25 years of experience dealing with the media, so that seemed to be a good idea. I then spoke for approximately five minutes. My statement is pasted in, below. Following my words, we showed our twenty-five minute video… a documentary that details our struggle to protect the five mountains of Highland Plantation, Maine.

After that, it was over. We packed up our computer, and the power point projector and screen and left City Hall. The other members of the Board of Directors and I walked to the offices of the Portland Press Herald (which did not attend the press conference) and to the Associated Press office and delivered our packets and copies of our DVD. After that, any control that we had of the situation was out of our hands.

My statement to the press, June 30, 2010

Good morning. `My name is Karen Pease, and I’m a member of the Friends of the Highland Mountains. I’d like to thank Jonathan Carter of the Forest Ecology Network, who, along with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, the Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power, and many other organizations, is standing with us in our effort to protect the mountains of Highland Plantation. Today we are releasing to the press a DVD which we’ve created, and we hope that you will dedicate 25 minutes of your time to watching this production. In the DVD we have outlined our concerns regarding the industrial wind development which Angus King and Rob Gardiner propose to construct atop Highland’s five mountains.

In the months since Highland Wind LLC first submitted their permit application to Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission, I have read reams and reams of material pertaining to the topic of Industrial Wind. What I have learned has astounded me, and some of it comes from the developers’ own permit application. I learned of the serious negative impacts to our environment and its ecosystems. I read of high, low and ultra-low frequency noise and shadow flicker, and its effects on humans who live in the vicinity of wind turbines. I’ve spoken with people who live in the shadow of these energy plants and I’ve received first-hand accounts of what they are dealing with. I’ve talked with wildlife biologists who are deeply concerned about the effects of fragmentation of habitat, abandonment of homes and nesting sites, and deaths resulting from blade collisions. I’ve paid attention to economists, scientists and physicists who have nothing to gain and much to lose by speaking out… and they are saying: Mountaintop Industrial Wind in Maine DOES NOT DO what developers promise. It is unreliable, intermittent, is not proven to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, and… it is very, very expensive. Expensive to electrical rate-payers, expensive to the tax-payers who are footing a large percentage of the cost of these projects through government subsidies-- and it will no doubt negatively impact our economy, which is driven in large part by tourist dollars and the real estate market.

I realize that as good reporters, you will go to Mr. King for his comments on the DVD, this press conference and our intention to stop his Highland project, so please let me say this. Mr. King has been known to give statements which are not grounded in facts. He has been quoted as saying that our only complaint is the visual impact of these turbines. That is not true. He knows that is not true, for I wrote him a personal letter stating our concerns.

As stewards of this earth, and as conscientious individuals, we are attempting to protect our natural resources and our quality of place and quality of life. Mr. King might trivialize our concerns about the effects of the noise, the shadow flicker and the lights. But he has also been quoted as saying that you “cannot hear a truck from more than a mile away”. In regards to the turbine noise, he has repeatedly said “a half-mile is about right. Hear them for miles? Never!” He trivializes the fact that the dwellings within a half mile of his proposed project are nothing but ‘summer camps’. He completely discounts those people who own them, and he has no idea what future plans the owners have for their unique properties. There are many standard lines which this developer uses to make light of our concerns, and I hope that you will take them with a grain of salt. He and his partner stand to make millions of dollars from this project, and they would like the public to discount us. I hope you will give our words credence. We are trying very hard to be factual. We want the people of Maine to know the truths regarding mountaintop industrial wind.

We in Maine ALREADY HAVE what millions of Americans crave—abundant and beautiful natural resources. Our mountains represent a way of life--and a way of making a living. It is unconscionable to expect us to sacrifice our natural resources to satisfy another region’s electrical needs. This DVD is one way in which we are attempting to educate the Maine people about the impacts of a misguided plan. It is our hope and our intention to protect these natural resources which stand at the gateway to the Bigelow Preserve and the Appalachian Trail.

Thank you for your time. We will be available after the DVD to answer any of your questions. And if we do not know the answers, we will do our very best to find honest, factual, truthful answers for you.

Thank you.

In addition to my statement, I am going to include the story written by the AP reporter, Dave Sharp. He couldn’t attend the press conference, but he read my hand-delivered statement—perhaps even watched the DVD—and called Jonathan on his cell phone before I’d even jigged my over-long truck out of the too-small space in the municipal lot. Mr. Sharp chose to write a different story. Something that had less to do with the Highland mountains and our group’s very real concerns about the negative impacts of a 48 turbine development on those pristine ridges. Please note the focus of the story… a story which was picked up by media outlets across the state, and even nationally.

Carter, King clash over wind power project
By The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine — A former Green Independent Party candidate for governor exchanged charges of greed and hypocrisy Wednesday with a former governor who’s promoting a 128-megawatt wind power project in Somerset County.

Building 48 wind turbines in Highland Plantation would require blasting of 1.6 million cubic yards of rock and dirt, decimate fragile alpine terrain and generate visual and noise pollution all while failing to reduce greenhouse emissions, said Jonathan Carter, director of the Forest Ecology Network.

Former independent Maine Gov. Angus King, one of the Highland Wind LLC business partners, said the project carries an environmental impact but that it’s more benign than oil, gas, coal or nuclear power. It would create enough clean energy for about 54,000 homes, or all the homes in Franklin, Piscataquis and Somerset counties.

King also took a jab at his former political foe in the 1994 gubernatorial race, saying the environmentally minded Carter was supportive of wind power until a project was proposed near his home.

Carter, who lives about 3.5 miles from the turbines, responded by calling King a “mountain-slayer and a profiteer.” He said he’s not against wind power, but he’s against large projects that destroy mountaintops: “Industrial mountaintop wind, wherever you put it, is a disaster.”

The war of words began with a news conference at Portland City Hall by the Friends of Highland Mountains, which has created a DVD outlining its opposition.

Carter described the construction of wind turbines on mountain ridges as “Maine’s version of mountaintop removal.” And he said there would be no reduction in greenhouse gases because carbon-emitting power plants would have to be kept running and on standby for times when the wind isn’t blowing.

Furthermore, he said the turbine towers with blinking lights would be built in the face of the Bigelow Preserve and could be seen by hikers on the Appalachian Trail.

“I’ll buy him a bus ticket to West Virginia, where they’re tearing mountains to the ground to feed our fossil fuel addiction,” King retorted. He said there would be a “1-to-1” reduction in greenhouse gases because existing plants would be throttled back whenever the turbines are in operation.

He said the remoteness of the site is part of its appeal. He said there are only two vacation homes a half-mile from the turbines and that other homes are at least a mile away, reducing the impact.

Maine is the leader in New England when it comes to wind power, with 432 megawatts of wind power either in operations or under construction. Large projects already in operation include TransCanada’s Kibby Mountain, First Wind’s Mars Hill, and First Wind’s Stetson I and Stetson II.

Central Maine Power is beginning a five-year upgrade of the power grid to make it more reliable and to increase capacity for future wind power projects.

As you can see, the AP reporter chose to focus on Jonathan and Angus; two men who were pitted against each other in the gubernatorial race of 1994. The two are old foes, and the reporter decided to exploit an ancient controversy rather than devote the majority of his coverage to our battle to save our mountains. To many, the fact that we received such broad coverage was a good thing, no matter what the focal point was of the story. To others, disappointment ruled the day. We'd had high hopes... hopes that thousands of Mainers would learn of our struggle against big money, influence and power. We hoped that they would hear about our concern over a financially wasteful plan which, if implemented, will cause serious damage to our environment, its ecosystems, our wildlife, and our people.

But we can't control the media nor can we dictate what they choose to report. What we can do-- what we WILL do-- is learn from our mistakes. We can and will also continue to take our message to the people of Maine, and we will speak of this issue armed with facts. Science and economics tell the story, no matter what sub-plots the news media puts forth for readers' consumption.

We were surprised today, and some were momentarily discouraged. But the Friends of the Highland Mountains is made up of some cool, tough, dedicated individuals who don't despair when we hit a bump in the road. Instead, we tighten our seatbelts, shift into low gear, and increase our power. We'll get where we need to go. It might take us a little longer to arrive, but we WILL save the mountains of Highland Plantation, Maine.

And by the way... Angus' statements sound good because he puts just enought truth in them to make them believable. But they can and will be factually refuted. He's coasted along on star power and some lingering popularity, but I think the people of this great state are waking up to the truth... and they WANT the truth. The WHOLE truth.

And NOTHING BUT the truth.

We can help them discover it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

No Worries

Well, I’ve had him for two weeks, now. My Aussie. Larry.

My first task involving his visit was to pick him up at Bangor International Airport. In spite of the fact that I can get lost trying to find my own birthmark, I amazed myself by driving straight to BIA--in the middle of a torrential downpour, no less! I arrived early. His plane arrived earlier. Naturally. Of course it did! And so… even though I was ahead of schedule, I was late. And soaked to the skin. Since I’d hoped to make a good first impression, what else could I expect?

I learned the plane had touched down a few minutes before I arrived, and since there was no one hanging about the lobby looking like they were lost or waiting to be picked up, I had the airline employee page him for me. I looked around the airport and within seconds, I spotted him. Big, burly, blond-white curly hair and beard, with a big duffel bag thrown over one shoulder, he came walking across the floor, straight at me.

I’ve got to tell you-- that man gives the best hugs you can imagine! Big, all enveloping, arms-wrapped-around squeezes. Larry actually picked me up off the floor.

I thought I’d killed him. Before a single word passed between us, I was convinced I’d done him in. Laid him low. I was already trying to figure out how to ship him home in the most economical fashion; in a casket, or an urn?

Most of you know me, right? I’m no stranger to these parts… you’ve seen me around the neighborhood since 1967; in the store, the post office, the bank, the restaurant. You can attest to the fact that I’m no string bean. I’m more like one of those zucchinis which was overlooked in the garden until it was of ample size to feed a starving village. The kind of zucchini you have to transport in the back of your pickup when you smuggle it under cover of darkness to your neighbor’s porch, knowing they’d never accept such horrendous bounty by light of day. That’s right… I’m an over-grown, over ripe zucchini.

I wondered briefly if the man was blind. Seriously… who would take one look at me and say “There’s a gal I’d like to heft!”? But he’s not blind, and he’s extremely intelligent, too. I just can’t figure it out.

Good Lord, I thought I’d killed him.

We picked up a rental car for him and I made my first confession. I didn’t know how to get from the airport to my parents’ camp in Elliotsville, which is where Larry’s been staying since he arrived on June 20th. But he took the worry away by making a simple offer. He’d lead the way. You can’t see my embarrassed grin, but it’s a big one. He drove straight to Guilford, a town which is familiar territory to me, and then he followed me from there to the Hill Place. Larry didn’t make one wrong turn, nor hesitate at a stop light. He even used his blinkers well in advance of each turn so that I’d have time to quell my panic and move into the proper lane.

Yeah, I’m still grinning. And let's not forget: The man drives on the wrong side of the road and sits in the wrong side of the car when he's Down Under!

The man is as laid back as they come. Nothing seems to rile him, or worry him, or make him tense. We even got lost once--up by the airport in Greenville--but my mate stayed calm and unruffled. He didn’t get irritated as I laughed at him in a “welcome to MY life” kind of way when he stopped the car to ask for directions. He uttered not a single "Bloody hell".

“No worries,” he said.


You see, I DID worry--and you know I did, for I shared those fears with you, my friends and followers. I was sure Larry would take one look at me and want nothing more to do with me. I was afraid that my actual presence wouldn’t measure up to my long-distance persona. Perhaps it doesn’t, but I’ll never hear that from my friend Larry. He is the perfect guest, and a wonderful pal. Calm, unhurried, slow to excite; he exudes a peace that is contagious. When he hugged me and lifted me in the airport, I could very well have given the man a myocardial infarction. But he wouldn’t have blamed me, I don’t think. As his heart stuttered to a stop, Larry would have said, “No worries.”


(You heard me, right? The man stopped to ask for directions. Heh… I’ll take an Aussie off your hands, any day!)