It was almost five years ago that I left my hometown of Belfast, Maine and moved to Bangor to begin a new chapter in life. I had grown up in the west countryside of Belfast on my family’s three farms, worked in Belfast in my early professional career, but then commuted to Bangor for work for several years. In the mid-90s, I joined the groundswell of folks who jumped aboard the good ship MBNA and began a career that lasted (in two separate incarnations) until 2009. In those days of the mid 90s we bought an old ramshackled farmhouse in Waldo, Maine, that happened to be my wife’s family home when she was growing up. We moved our family there and began the process of renovating the ol’girl from stem to stern. It became “the place“to hang out and socialize on the weekends for the bevy of friends and family that comprised our circle, and likewise for our three children and their school chums. We spent a fortune on food in those days, and there seemed to be the eternal backyard campfire burning in the pit I had constructed. It was not uncommon for me to walk in the door to our kitchen on a Friday, excited that it was finally the weekend, to find a strange derrière sticking out of my open refrigerator door, with its owner rooting around for food. Most of the time I would recognize the kid, one of my children’s friends, but on occasion it would be someone I didn’t recall seeing before. In those situations, it typically would go sorta like this:
“Ahem….excuse me, who are you?”.
The derrière, startled, would pucker a little, and back out of the fridge until the top half of an ever-ravenous, but as of yet unknown teenager, would appear, and around a mouthful of left-over chicken, would ask quizzically, “Who are you?”
“I happen to be the person who not only bought that chicken you’re eating in the kitchen of the house I own, but I also cooked it, and then packaged the leftovers and put them in MY refrigerator, evidently, for your pleasure. Who are you son?”
Megawatt smile from a teenager that thinks everything in life is a joke, which I envied then, and still do, “Hi Mr. Littlefield, Hank said you were a pretty funny guy…my name is….”
And so it would go. Soon Casa Waldo became a Mecca for both adults and teenagers. My refrigerator door hinges needed oiling fairly often. But, it was fun. It was fun to have such a place that everyone felt so comfortable coming to, a place they felt was an oasis in a world of strife. Bonnie said our place exuded good karma, people felt at peace while visiting, and we were doing a valuable service. Meanwhile I worried about the food budget. Evidently, people felt that all this great karma came with free meals.
Anyway, all things in life change. The kids grew, graduated from high school, moved out and started their own lives. Coincidentally, that great karma went on sabbatical and our careers at MBNA-now Bank of America- ended, so we decided to make it a true trifecta by leaving that wonderful place in Waldo and seeking divorce.
I thought it made sense to begin this new chapter in life by moving to Bangor since I had taken a job managing a commercial cleaning company there. Being newly divorced of both wife and any and all assets, I was a poor boy looking for a place to live that provided not only a mailing address but a bed, sofa, a kitchen with not only well oiled refrigerator doors, but simple things like plates, a fork and knife…you get the picture. I put an ad in the paper looking for an opportunity to house-share. It was answered and after chatting by phone, I went to meet this guy and see his place. It was located right in the middle of Bangor, just off State Street, walking distance to a little c-store, and a park. Nice. The house itself was nice enough, and the room he was letting out was plenty good sized, and he had a dog. We chatted for awhile, getting the measure of each other, and it didn’t take long for both of us to agree that this might work. I moved in that day…which didn’t take long. Over the next couple of weeks we got to know each other and each other’s personal habits and found that we shared a lot in common, had the same sense of humor, enjoyed cooking and eating…and, he had also gone through a complete life makeover himself not long ago. I was in a dark place due to the divorce and JD became a confidant and surrogate shrink…he became a trusted friend. I needed one. He introduced me to the neighbors, two divorced guys living next door, who had weekend parties with other divorced guys showing up to commiserate with one another over music, BBQ, and beverages. The next place over, a parole officer for the State lived with his lady and their daughter. Eric had a collection of some of the most exotic bottles of booze I’d ever seen, which he would taste test with me-obviously he became a buddy too. On the other side, a gal name Katie, who had three year old twin girls, lived. I loved to watch the little girls at play, so sweet.
I got lucky. I had found a new family. I discovered that this group of people spent many a weekend together, looked out for one another’s property, and offered a helping hand when and if it was needed. I owned a commercial smoker from my past endeavor of catering southern BBQ and brought it up from Belfast and parked in the yard for the gang to use. In the summer of 2011, we would plan weekend parties that included BBQ off the smoker, along with a plethora of supporting foodstuff, coolers full of ice and beer, music wafting out of the speakers on Frank’s back deck, which was perfectly centrally located, and we often entertained 30+ people. I felt much like I did in those Waldo days. Many nights, after dark, JD would set up his equipment in Frank’s backyard and we all would congregate and watch classic movies, being projected on the backside of Franks house….a neighborhood outdoor movie theater. We also would sit out street side to watch the BPD make drug bust up the street a little, several Saturday nights. We would all stand from our lawn chairs and cheer as they loaded these idiots into the backs of their patrol cars. It was a blue collar neighborhood with folks who had a live and let live attitude, unless you were selling drugs, bothering children, or trying to steal from homes or vehicles. This was different than the hayseed existence I had in Waldo, but the people very much the same…they stood together and had each other’s back. They even saved me from myself, got me laughing and enjoying life again, made me feel part of their family, and gave me purpose. I moved along later that fall, finally able to afford a place of my own, but I will always remember that year that defined my change of life, and those folks who will remain life-long friends. JD even came to work for the company I managed for a period of time, proving to be a great employee and popular with his peers. He eventually left us, chasing his dream of owning his own motorcycle repair shop, which by all accounts is doing very well. JD is very well known and liked, and he is incredibly gifted mechanically speaking, it was easy to speculate that he would be a big success in this endeavor. So folks, if you need a guy that you can trust, who will give you great value for the services he provides, who knows his beeswax, and you will become more than just a customer, you’ll become a friend…I suggest you get your butt and your bike over to PanickSwitch Cycles, located on South Maine Street, in Brewer. Tell JD I sent ya.
What I’ve come to realize by this whacky journey of life I’m in the midst of, is this: never take anything or anyone for granted, for the bottom can fall out when you least expect it. On the other hand, life is an adventure and it will be filled with amazing people and events as long as you allow them into your life.
Next up, an essay about chicken farming, and the chicken processing plants of my youth. Stay tuned.