BELFAST—The sound of construction can be heard in and around the two buildings that comprise Marshall Wharf Brewing and Three Tides these days.
It’s business as usual for builder Daniel Waldron, co-owner of Whitecap Builders; but he isn’t just working on the buildings. He and his wife, Kathleen Dunckel, recently purchased the brewery building and property prior to a public auction on January 29. They also purchased the brewery business and Three Tides business.
As a former employee of Three Tides and Marshall Wharf Brewing, Waldron couldn’t get the brewery off his mind. It had abruptly closed in April 2019 after floods over the previous winter had caused severe damage, according to an article in the Bangor Daily News.
“I started seriously considering buying it last June,” said Waldron. As it got closer and closer to the auction, we kept thinking, ‘how can we make this happen?’”
As a builder, Waldron eyed the buildings with a certain perspective that comes with the territory.
“I fell in love with that brewery building when I was working here,” he said. “It was an old grainery and has been standing here on the Belfast waterfront since the late 1800s and the upper levels of the building have never been touched.”
Rising tides, storm surge and climate change made the brewery extremely vulnerable to flooding, a calamity which destroyed a substantial amount of the hard work done by original owners David and Sarah Carlson. According to BDN, a one-two punch in the winter and spring of 2019 in the form of floods wiped out their stainless steel tanks that contained finished beer and then took out more smaller tanks two months later.
To be viable as a brewery in the long run, Waldron said the entire building needs to be jacked up approximately eight feet from the current first floor elevation.
“It’s been there so long it’s sinking,” he said. “Currently, the first floor of the building is 38 inches below the sea wall. We just need to get it jacked up on piers, out of the ocean’s way.”
“We do this every day,” he said, of the construction. “For me, the immediate challenge is getting the brewery and restaurant back up and running again.”
Waldron, who has been in the restaurant business 20 years as a supplement to his construction work, served as a Three Tides bartender. Dunckel is a professor at Unity College. With three children, the couple is spending every available moment to bring back the beloved brewery and bar to the way people remember it.
At the time of this interview the couple had a verbal agreement to lease the Three Tides property from the current owner with intent to purchase it in the future.
“The feedback we’ve heard has been so positive and a lot of what we’re hearing is: ‘We miss Three Tides and Marshall Wharf Brewing. We want our place back.’ And we want to give it back to them.”—Kathleen Dunckel
As for Three Tides, Waldron doesn’t need to do anything drastic.
“The kitchen needs some new equipment a potential expansion, but we’re planning on leaving it mostly the way it was,” he said.
The couple said they are working toward a spring re-opening while they work on planning, engineering and a slew of city, state and federal permitting applications for the major rehabilitation of the brewery building.
“We’ve got protections in place for flooding right now,” he said. “We’ll operate out of both spaces, until all the permits are in place and then the brewery will need to shut down again and brew offsite, so we can jack the building up.”
The Belfast community has expressed an outpouring of excitement toward the re-opening.
“David and Sarah were super supportive and the community has been off the hook since we posted the plans on Facebook,” said Waldron. “Other restaurants and brewers, such as Danny McGovern, have also reached out and given us their support.”
Jared Mahrunic, MW’s head brewer, is returning to restart the brewery. One of the biggest questions the couple is getting is: “Will the same beers come back?”
The answer is yes.
“Everything will still be branded Marshall Wharf and all of the beers that people love will be coming back,” said Waldron. “We’re honing in on what Marshall Wharf already does well.”
He said: “We’re not quite sure what capacity we’ll offer food yet It’ll be light fare, tapas to start.”
As for entertainment, Marshall Wharf Brewing has always served as an anchor for the major Belfast music festivals and harbor parties.
“I think that’s definitely on the horizon,” said Dunckel.
“We’ve already been contacted by bands and my take on that is that it’ll be a soft, subtle start as we get going,” said Waldron. “But the music side has always been a big thing for us. If we revive anything for now, it’ll probably be the Marshall Wharf beer and mussel festival in October, depending on how much beer we have available then.”
Basically, Belfast is getting the same brewery they’ve always loved back.
“Coming here after work in July or August and grabbing a pint and seeing the people you work with, people in your community and tourists hanging out, enjoying the sun down in the Three Tides beer garden on the harbor — this place has always felt like an old English pub,” said Waldron. “That’s how it’s going to be again.”
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Unlike some of the U.S. National Toboggan Championships teams who’ve sported elaborate and over-the-top costumes in the past 29 years, the founding members of Big Kahoonas— Bruce Richards, Chris Lepow and Edwin Greenrose, along with original member Bill Patten, didn’t worry too much about style. The uniform has always been a dark green embroidered sweatshirt with a fleece hat or ball cap. That’s it, Bub.
Most of the Kahoonas’ energy goes into the making of the toboggan, along with their myriad strategies to win as many of the races as they can.
But, if you want to know where the real secret sauce comes from — behold The Stupid Stick.
Shamans may need ayahuasca in order to conjure the divine—all the Big Kahoonas need is a wooden toboggan runner and eight plastic shot glasses of Dr. McGillicuddy, a flavored spirit that doubles as Prestone De-Icer window washer fluid. On the count of three, The Stupid Stick is tipped back and everyone takes a community shot of the Doctor.
Since they first started competing in 1994, when they were all about 24 or 25 years old, the Big Kahoonas have always raced in multiple heats of two-, three-, and four-person teams. As the years have gone by, the fourth member of the team usually revolves out. With the addition of Greg Sheldon this year, the Fabulous Four are ready to tackle the chute again.
Asked what keeps the momentum up to keep the team together for the 30th year, and Richards will tell you it comes right down to good old-fashioned competition—with his brother, Sean.
“My brother’s team is the Throbbin Boggins and they started a year before we did,” said Richards. “They are our biggest competitor and our partners in crime, as well. So, we can’t stop.”
The team met at Greenrose’s shop in Union last week to work on their latest iteration of a toboggan with ash slats. All told, the team has probably fashioned 10 to 15 toboggans in their racing career.
“We used to build new ones every couple of years,” said Greenrose, who is a builder in his profession.
Richards is an exterminator. “I just kill stuff,” he said.
This year, the team went all Martha Stewart and decided to cut an ash tree down themselves to make the toboggan. They finished off the design by steam bending the runners over a circular form with a steam box.
“Bruce is the one who comes up with these crazy ideas for design,” said Greenrose.
“They work!” Richards shot back.
“We’ve tried all kinds of stuff over the years, different waxes, different combination of the wooden slats, different hand rails,” said Greenrose. “The new ones seems to go faster. This one we’re working on eliminates the hand rails, so it might be a little more flexible. We’ll see if it helps. It’s funny I tell people how long we’ve been doing this and when it comes to building the style of toboggan, we are right back to where we first started in its design. Our same sled, our same finish, our same wax.”
The team doesn’t ever do practice runs, but has faith nothing will go wrong.
“We’ll probably stop half way down,” said Greenrose.
Given how many combinations of teams the Big Kahoonas have, they will be stationed at The Camden Snow Bowl all weekend long, running multiple heats. The payoff for them is about community.
“It’s fun to get together, it’s not like we hang out all of the time,” said Greenrose.
The big white trailer in the parking lot that serves as their home base belongs to Throbbin Boggins and the two teams share it well.
“We just put a Big Kahoonas sticker on the trailer to drive my brother crazy,” said Richards.
It also serves as their warming shack and makeshift bar.
“We make use of The Stupid Stick every 20 minutes,” said Greenrose. “People are always coming by the trailer to say hi. Our whole area is always packed. We have people you don’t see all year long until the Toboggan Races. All the teams give each other hell. It’s pretty good camaraderie.”
In years past, the weather has had a major effect on the teams’ racing times. If it’s frigid cold this year, that’s fine—it’s better for racing. But if it’s snowing or if Hosmer Pond is bumpy, the team members —who always roll off the sled at the bottom to avoid scarring the wood—will probably walk away with bruises the size of hematomas. That’s OK.
But if it’s raining, that’s going to be bad. Real bad.
“Because, I’m the one in front and the second you hit Hosmer Pond, the sled hits a lake of ice water,” said Greenrose. “It’s like going through a frozen log flume. The water shoots right up my pant leg. And you know I’ll be sick three days later.”
Featured on this year’s U.S. National Toboggan Championships official poster, the Big Kahoonas have a fan club, but they don’t let it go to their heads.
“Our whole name is a play on words for you know...” Richards trails off, leaving the meaning up to interpretation, but insinuating it has something to do with the particular part of men’s anatomy that symbolizes courage. “But it’s about a bunch of guys doing stupid stuff.”
For more information on the Camden Snow Bowl’s U.S. National Toboggan Championships visit Camden Snow Bowl
Kay Stephens has been writing about the U.S. National Toboggan Championships since 1999. She can be reached at email@example.com
The power of your local library card just got 70x more powerful.
As public libraries serve as welcoming “third” spaces in our Midcoast communities, there are so many new resources and programs offered that the public has access to. Only, so many people still don’t know about them.
Not surprisingly, it was Maine’s librarians themselves who brainstormed alternative ways to give more people in the state broader access to libraries. At The Maine Library Association's Fall 2018 Conference (including the Maine InfoNet Pre-Conference) librarians in attendance “expressed a strong desire to develop initiatives that would strengthen broader library resource sharing across Maine,” according to Maine.gov’s website.
That conversation developed into a pilot program called the Maine Reciprocal Borrowing Program in September 2019, which will wrap in September 2020.
It's referred to as “walk-in,” borrowing card, because if you possess a local library card, you can walk into 68 libraries around the state and check out items.
A van goes around weekly to the libraries and does delivery service, scanning the bar codes and bringing the inter-library loan items back to the original libraries. Many libraries have deliveries every week day; some libraries have fewer.
Amy Levine, director of Rockland Public Library said, “We jumped on board as soon as we knew the state was going to do this pilot program, because it’s just such a great opportunity to extend our services. People like the flexibility and the opportunity to walk into most of the libraries in the state and check something out on the spot.”
The Advantages of Having a Card
For young and low-income residents
In the past, if you wanted a library card, you usually got the cheapest deal in the town you lived in, often for free. But, that limited you to the offerings of that particular library. If you lived outside the town, you had to pay for a non-resident library card. The tiers have changed over the years, but today, a single non-resident membership in some Midcoast libraries is nearly $50, (due in part to how the library is funded by taxpayers). Still, with rents, food costs and utilities in Maine higher than the national average, choosing necessities over purchasing a library card tends to be the case.
Now, if you are a resident of Camden, Rockport, Rockland, or Belfast, you can obtain a free card and access certain unique items and collections of other libraries that were previously off limits to non-cardholders.
For college and grad students
College and graduate students in Maine, now are also finding this pilot system incredibly convenient. Colby, Bates and Bowdoin are all participating as well, so Midcoast collegiates can borrow school-related materials from the colleges, and return them to their participating hometown libraries, eliminating the need for a long commute.
Adding to the power of the card is the already existing Interlibrary Loan Service (LLC), where participating libraries use a courier to deliver library books and materials from one library to another.
“If someone wants a book, we can usually get it in less than a week, through the van delivery, if it’s not a really popular title, but if the person needs it right now, he or she can go to the library where it is available, walk in and check it out right on the spot,” said Levine.
Not everything is allowed to be borrowed, however.
“Every library has a few things off limit, and for us it’s about the devices,” said Levine. “For example, we have a telescope and musical instruments that are not available for this program.”
Steve Norman, director of Belfast Free Library, said of the new pilot program, “This is another example of how libraries work together to provide better service to the public. There was a small group of libraries in southern Maine that had reciprocal borrowing agreement for a couple of years and we also used their model as our template.”
“People who commute are especially pleased,” he said. “If they live in a town with a participating library, yet work in another town with a participating library, [borrowing and returning materials] works out very well for them.”
Norman said almost everything that a Belfast Free Library card holder can check out works out the same for a cardholder from a participating library. “They can check out everything with the exception of special equipment and kits,” he said.
For at least eight more months, Maine taxpayers and residents should put their cards to work at participating libraries and literally “check out” new resources while they still can.
Participating Midcoast Libraries
One card gets you access to all four Midcoast libraries. Find out what you can check out by clicking:
Camden Public Library
Rockport Public Library
Rockland Public Library
Belfast Free Library
Wiscasset Public Library
Boothbay Memorial Library
Skidompha Public Library
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Well, this is cool! The newspaper where I've been working for the past 7.5 years has archived all of its writer's stories. So, here's a handy reference. Click on the link below for all of the arts and entertainment and interesting happenings of Midcoast Maine going back to 2012.
CAMDEN—After all of the gifts are unwrapped, the leftovers are put away and the hoopla dies down, it’s time for the adult equivalent of that last little bit of chocolate or candy cane in the bottom of your stocking. It can be found in Old St. Nick, a deliciously frosty cocktail crafted at Hoxbill in Camden Harbor.
Beverage Director Marcus Carter collaborated on the invention of this drink just in time for the holidays.
Upon the first swig, it’s an arctic blast of peppermint, followed by the sweet crunch of candy cane and rounded out by creamy maple. Then, take a bite of gooey toasted marshmallow—the cocktail’s garnish.
It is a jolly, jolly sip—and meant to be savored, preferably by a roaring fire.
This cocktail takes a bit of preparation. First the rim of a martini glass is dipped in melted chocolate. After putting a candy cane in a Ziploc bag and smashing it down to granules with a hammer, Carter then dips the rim a second time, so the glass comes away coated with chunky, swirly bits.
“People are loving it,” said Carter. “It is a dessert drink, however, not typically one you’d start out with. People are coming in after they’ve had dinner at home and giving it a try. Or after a meal here, instead of dessert, this caps off the night with a sweet finish.”
Watch the video to see how the cocktail is made. You’ll need:
Make the cocktail yourself this holiday week or have it made for you. Hoxbill is not open on December 25, but will be open the following day.
Related: See some of our past holiday cocktails.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com
ROCKLAND—On Wednesday, December 18, a classroom in Rockland’s South School looked like a book sale with 4,600 children’s books filling every available table and box underneath.
The best part? Every single book was given away for free.
This is the fifth year educator Jenny West got to feel like Oprah Winfrey and do the “Favorite Things” Giveaway, in which every student from South School got to pick 10 books to keep and bring home.
“I started the Books in Every Nook program years ago because I’m a reading teacher here at South School and I was finding that many students didn’t have books in their homes,” she said. “So, to solve that problem, I came up with the idea of gathering new and used children’s books and then re-distributing them to students once a year.”
Not many people realize how much work goes on behind the scenes to do this giveaway. West spends her time year-round collecting books and a number of volunteers help her to set it up. “I get books everywhere,” she said. “I collect a lot over the summer from library book sales. I go to yard sales. I get books from local publishers and authors who donate books every year and then I get people who donate money for me to go out buy books.”
“In past years, we’d typically allow students take five books home, but we have 300 students this year, and with so many to give away, I’m allowing them to take home 10,” said West.
In 20-minute increments, each grade assembled inside the classroom where West explained how to select a book and how many could be taken. The reaction from the students when they discovered they could select 10 this time, was to simultaneously throw their hands up in the air and cheer or jump excitedly up and down. And then, like an episode of Supermarket Sweep, the kids swarmed the tables, looking for books that interested them.
“We carefully planned this to get the books in their hands right before they took off for Christmas break,” said West.
Asked what types of books she knows how to buy for the students, she said, “They love nonfiction. They love reading about real things, especially animals. I don’t think I have a single nonfiction book about animals left and I bought a good 300 of them.”
The older grades tend to like the chapter books and more fiction titles.
The entire room organized like a library: in fiction sections, nonfiction, picture books, chapter books, poetry, biography, even a Christmas section.
At one point a 2nd grade boy walked up to West. “Do you have anything scary?” he asked.
She instructed him to search the far table. “There’s a bunch of Goosebump books over there,” she said. Delighted, he found a couple of R. L. Stine’s best sellers.
“We’ll probably give away 3,000 books today,” she said. “At the end of the school year, we do an open house and I give away the rest then for the summer break.”
Dressed like a Christmas Elf, West said, “This is my favorite day of the year. It’s so great to see that kids still love books. The first group of students that came in this morning only to discover they could keep 10 books this time—they went wild. One little girl asked me, ‘We get to keep these forever?’”
For more information about the program contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com
SEARSMONT—Every Saturday, Bob MacGregor, founder and president of Waldo County Woodshed, can be found with other volunteers in Searsmont from 8:30 a.m. to noon, cutting, splitting and stacking wood for the benefit of other people. For the last six years, this volunteer-run, nonprofit has made sure families in Waldo county get through the winter with enough firewood to heat their homes. Last year, they gave out 170 cords worth $40,000.
On Saturday, December 9, the group held a Wood Processing Day, a volunteer event, to make it easier for families to pick up free firewood.
Local arborist, Travis Hamilton, of Arbor Tech, contacted MacGregor and asked him if he could use ‘a bunch of arborists with saws, splitters, tractors and trucks volunteering for a day.’
MacGregor was thrilled.
“We try to have several volunteer days each season, but this time, having a group of arborists who are trained in chainsaw safety come to us—that was something new,” he said. “It was a great help to have them out there working on their own without supervision.”
Hamilton arrived with his crew of five, and 10 volunteers in all put in about six hours that Saturday sawing the wood, splitting it with three wood splitters, and stacking it into wire racks.
“We cut as much wood as we could process,” said Hamilton, noting that some people who came to collect firewood for their families hung around afterward to help chop and stack more wood for others.
“People that need wood can just come and grab some in these quarter-cord bundles stacked up in these wire racks,” said Hamilton. “The idea is that if you take some wood, in return, just spend a little time fill up the rack for the next person. There’s a big pile of loose cord wood nearby.”
“I had a guy mention to me the other day, ‘If I only refill one rack, you’re not getting ahead; I should fill two racks,’” recalled MacGregor. “That’s the kind of thing I like to see as we are just a bunch of volunteers ourselves. ”
Even though there’s no pre-screening, Waldo County Woodshed has some sensible rules in place for those in need of wood to ensure that the wood distributed evenly. Those rules can be found on a pinned post on their Facebook page.
“The most important thing is to call ahead,” said MacGregor. “We have a volunteer scheduler that takes all the phone calls and directs people to the right site on the right day. By knowing how many people to expect at each site we can make sure we have enough wood and volunteers at the sites.”
You don’t need to qualify for anything,” said Hamilton. “It’s on the honor system. He’s not charging people; he’s not screening anyone. I think a couple people may have taken advantage of that in the past, but if someone needs wood that bad, Bob just says, ‘Go ahead and take it.’”
“Sometimes, we have people come each week, sometimes just enough to get them through before LIHEAP kicks in, but we just want to make sure we have enough to distribute out to everybody,” said MacGregor.
“This is the first year my crew and I volunteered,” continued Hamilton. “I would bring Bob my surplus wood from job sites. I have all the wood I can shake a stick at, literally. So, I try to give it away to people who need it, whether it’s my friends, or someone in the community.We’re a wood-rich community and people shouldn’t have to worry about staying warm. It’s important to give back, especially during the holidays. It makes us feel good that we’re able to do it.”
MacGregor said he doesn’t want to take business away from loggers and people who sell firewood for a living, so they fund-raise to buy wood from loggers and to process it, keeping everyone in business. “We do get a little bit of wood donated, but for the most part, we just prefer to buy it from loggers whatever the going rate it,” he said.
MacGregor isn’t looking for a lot of accolades. Formerly involved in the wood industry, he knows a lot of people who rely on wood heat as their primary source each winter.
“I just do it because people need help and we’re able to provide it,” he said.
Waldo County Woodshed has eight distribution sites around Waldo with Searsmont at their main yard. They will be opening another facility in Knox Count early next year at the Warren Transfer Station.
MacGregor encourages people to volunteer if they have a few hours on a Saturday morning.
“You don’t have to call ahead,” he said. “Just come out to Searsmont and we’ll find you something to do,” he said.
Donations can be made online or mailed to P.O. Box 401 Belfast. for more information visit: Waldo County Woodshed.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
A traditional family Thanksgiving may be ideal for some, but for people who don’t have family in Maine, may have strained family relations, or just don’t feel like slogging through holiday travel, there’s another way.
Friendsgiving, a decidedly un-traditional potluck dinner with friends, is how to put a fun and stress-free spin on the holiday, while staying put in Maine.
Internet sleuths pinpoint the origin of the term Friendsgiving around 2007 or 2008 to reflect an informal gathering of a ragtag crowd, e.g., the child-free, the “holiday orphans,” the coworker, neighbor or single friend who is going to be stuck with a frozen Swanson’s Hungry Man turkey dinner and Netflix. It’s all about the camaraderie, and how we get through these long Maine winters.
The best part about Friendsgiving is that it’s not beholden to stringent tradition. It can be a lunch or dinner gathering. It can even be a few days before Thanksgiving, so people can get their “friend fix” before joining their families on November 28.
How To Plan The Menu (And Divvy up the Dishes)
According to the Rules of Friendsgiving, the host planning the party is the one cooking the bird and the gravy. The most reliable friend has to bring the hors d’oevres. The rest of the guests take the pressure off the host by bringing a side dish, a dessert, and/or a specialty cocktail.
The Food Network has some ideas on this. From mac and cheese to potato chip stuffed potatoes, this is the ideal time to ditch the canned cranberry and green bean mushroom casserole. Supporting Maine’s lobster industry and the lobstermen still out there hauling this time of year is a great way to add in a side dish to Friendsgiving and here are some great appetizer ideas from the Maine Lobster Festival.
The rituals of Friendsgiving are meant to be silly and fun or meaningful to the group. It can be a themed event, like a Tom Hanksgiving or a Friends-themed Friendsgiving with Rachel’s English trifle. Arriving in your own custom headwear is highly encouraged, using materials from a craft store.
Others just all agree to arrive in their pajamas and slippers. Gather everyone around for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade which starts at noon, and take a shot every time one of the hosts says “fun” or “wow.” Here are the rules. For designated drivers, teetotalers or people adulting, do five jumping jacks instead. Board games are also a major feature of Friendsgiving as a way to loosen up guests who don’t know each other very well. Some folks even like to give thanks ahead of time by volunteering together at Heroes 4 Hunger at 6 a.m. or band together to help serve Thanksgiving dinner to others before going back to the host’s house and continuing the celebration.
Once the Friendgiving meal starts, there’s still no need to be formal. Gather plates and pillows and eat on the floor watching old favorite movies or the Big Game. Your mother would be horrified, but she’s not going to be there. Or cover the table with butcher block paper and give everyone crayons. You can even put up a homemade poster and let your friends write what they are thankful for.
There’s even a few public Friendsgivings being hosted around Maine for strangers who want to become instant friends.
Here are more tips to make your Friendsgiving a festive one!
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com
Gabby Schulz lives deep in the woods of Maine—it’s as far away from the city he can get.
As one of 10 participants on the floating artist residency in my story, Ten artists, two canoes and ten days down The Penobscot River, Schultz’s particular brand of artwork struck me. I thought I’d see photographs, poems, and sculptures at the artists’ reception (and I did, all good) but I didn’t expect to see hand-drawn comics with a biting tone.
Here’s an older comic, titled The only thing I know, that provides a window into Schultz’s mindset.
“I drew that comic while I was a working stiff in Chicago for a couple years,” he said. “Chicago is a really big city with a truly antagonistic stance toward nature or beauty of any kind. Every weekend I'd go mushroom hunting, which meant I had to ride my bike five miles to the center of the Loop, then catch a commuter rail an hour out of town, as far out into the suburbs as I could get, then bike another half an hour to the nearest green area on the map. It was hilarious to me that it took this much effort just to see grass without Roundup on it, but it was the only joy I could find out of life there. After a couple years of this ritual I did some research, and I learned the reason this one natural area hadn't been built up like the rest of Illinois was because it was the (unmarked) dumping ground for the world's first nuclear reactor. I guess this story is supposed to illustrate how desperate I was during this time to get to a place with trees instead of buildings, or plants instead of people, and how that must mean it's pretty important for humans to be outside of cities. But also it’s so fascinating and sad how hard it is to describe something so essential in any meaningful or articulate way.”
Part of his bio gives a clue into his rationale. “I've embraced ‘gallows humor,’ a lifelong friend of comics, as the only sane response to the forces hurrying our own kaleidoscopic collapse, and I see absurdity as one of our few remaining pathways to beauty and joy.”
“At this point it seems pretty self-evident that the world as we know it is dying, fast, and this can make an artist a little philosophical about what concepts like ‘obligation’ or ‘engagement’ or ‘posterity’ might really mean anymore,” he explained.
He applied for and secured a spot on the Village Canoe in August, an experience, he said that took him out of the woods and into a communal experiment with strangers, which is not always a comfortable prospect when one works alone.
“Overall it was just what I expected—a lot of paddling, some good nature communion, a little chaos, and some wonderful bonding with strangers,” he said. “The communal experience was definitely the highlight of the trip, as the group was such a great combination of different people with different focuses and interests and personalities — and yet, no one was pretentious or overbearing or unavailable or boring. We all gelled really nicely, and from what I hear that's a bit rare with a bunch of artists.
“I was very curious to find out how other artists might be processing our changing relationship with the natural world, but I'm not sure anyone knows what to do now. With the fresh awareness of the Sixth Extinction hanging over us, communing with nature suddenly feels fleeting, unreal. Any inspiration I can draw from wilderness now feels more like finding ways to say goodbye -- to the ocean, animals or plants soon to be altered forever by climate change. It makes one feel obligated to document this very special moment in our history — likely a final chapter, as I see it — but that's also a hell of a thankless job. You have to laugh to keep from crying, and luckily that's a talent cartoonists have honed for generations now.”
Out of his 10-day paddling and camping experience, Schultz created three comics for the final artists’ show; one titled Biolumes, one titled Time Capsule and one, untitled featuring a hug.
I guess the Biolumes one is pretty self-explanatory, but the Time Capsule comic was just a statement of despair on everything,” he said. “You have a wonderful trip camping on some islands, but really, how is it contributing to stemming the tide of doom? Even with our minimal impact, how can we hope to ally ourselves with the natural world instead of further poisoning it? Looking at our efforts with a wide lens, it all just feels so hopeless, and decades from now our consumptions and comforts will probably seem criminally dumb, and all our big plans to save the world is just so much comically impotent hubris. Ironically, I feel like if more people were willing to see ourselves in this way, maybe meaningful change could happen. But while holding my breath waiting for that to happen, maybe it's all I can do to at least try to make us laugh at ourselves a little.”
For more information about Schultz’s work visit: gabbysplayhouse.com and for more information about the project visit:villagecanoe.org
‘A drinking town with a fishing problem’
BELFAST—Penobscot Falls is not a real town in Maine, but it is very much a real place in the latest 3-D artwork of artist Eric Green. It’s a train set town set in 1/48th scale surrounded by buildings, tiny people, rural settings and of course, electric trains. It was constructed in a converted-attic room on the third floor of Green’s house in Belfast. Measuring nearly 14 feet across and taking up half the room, the mill town meets the ocean.
“The town motto is ‘A drinking town with a fishing problem,’ ” said Green.
Sprawling under tracks, every single building and tiny figurine, every piece of landscape and water feature have been made by hand by Green, a process that has taken three years.
“It’s only a quarter of the way done,” he said.
His plans include lengthening the track and carving tunnels through the walls of the house so that the train can circumnavigate several rooms on the attic floor. So, it will never leave the confines of this house; if anything, it will morph into the bones of the house. Very few people will be lucky enough to see this train set in person.
This isn’t just a train set; this is Green’s childhood world set in 1956, the year Green was born, on a day in October. The trees are all turning muted yellow and orange colors. Having grown up in a mill town in Maine, Green recreated in miniature the down-and-out the buildings, the depressive atmosphere of a working town which doesn’t know that the primary engine that runs it–the mills– will eventually die out.
“This is the kind of world I grew up in, that I feel so comfortable in,” he said.
“From about the late 1920s and the 1960s there was this beautiful train equipment,” said Green. “The steam engines were masterpieces.”
In this town runs historically accurate Boston & Maine (B&M) trains, box cars, and passenger cars as they hum through tunnels and above water features on both two-foot gauge tracks which interchange with standard gauge tracks.
I’ve always loved trains, but this place reminds me of my dad when we’d drive through the town underneath the tracks and get fresh bread from a tiny bakery, really early in the morning, when he was still sober,” said Green.While he admits his relationship with his father was scarred, this train set and town is a tribute to the good times they had together. A column he wrote for PenBay Pilot provides much more context to he and his father’s shared hobby of building models.
“I started building train sets when I was seven years old,” he said.
It has been a lifelong hobby that he still derives deep satisfaction from.
“There are train nuts, people obsessed with trains and I think I know why,” he said. “When you’ve had a chaotic childhood, there is something calming to the relative levelness and predictability of those train tracks. I really feel good when I’m riding on railroad tracks in real life.”
There is also something soothing to making a miniature train world piece by piece, tiny building by building.
In Green’s Penobscot Falls, there is a wee diner that looks as though it’s open til 3 in the morning; an adult bookstore, a decrepit pool room, a biker bar with two choppers out front that Green had to painstakingly craft by hand. There are two train platforms, numerous brick mill building, a hangar, even a small spot down by the bay—Hobo Jungle—where Green’s miniature bums drink and tells stories over a trash fire.
“These people want to leave Penobscot Falls,” he said of his diminutive characters.
Because he is also a writer, this town is populated with tons of back stories; each character, hand-forged by him, has a purpose and they all have a reason for being there. In the diner, for example, the cook is the bent over the hot grill and the one lone man sitting there (recalling the Edward Hopper painting) is based on a White Tower hamburger spot Green had once, while riding freights across the country, tried to patronize in Minneapolis when it closed at 1am.
The trains, with one flick of a switch, come to life and the passenger cars reveal tiny people in various poses, reading, staring out the window, while the boxcars chug along through tunnels over bridges.
“This has been an obsession,” he said. “It’s a world I want to live in and every time I go up there and spend some time on it, I’m right back in that world.”
All photos courtesy and ©Eric Green.
The Killer Convo
This blog is a is a killer roundup of all arts, entertainment, brewery & distillery, food trucks, happy hour happenings in the Midcoast Maine. Feel free to email me anything about Midcoast arts, entertainment & the creative economy.