Random Musings, Observations, & Gripes

This blog entry is a bit of a departure from the typical bucolic scene I typically try to paint with my words in most of my past blog entries. This blog will explore random snippets of life over the past couple of weeks, living here in my adopted city of Bangor.

First, let’s delve into the Folk Festival.

When I was a kid, like most kids back then, I looked forward to the annual Broiler Festival in Belfast. It was the highlight of summer school vacation. As I recall, there was no admittance fee, or any parking fee. This meant whatever amount of money I could wheedle out of my father, from my savings account, I spent on the midway. Later—this time of the year—we would usually hit the Union Fair, and begrudgingly pay the $1/per person admittance fee, park, and then run wild until the $20 in my pocket had burned a hole and I was destitute, yet filled with cotton candy, doughboys, and little trinkets/souvenirs’ of my escapades. I was happy, and my parents figured that the money was well spent for the entertainment that I received in return.

Last weekend, my son and I decided to go to the Folk festival to take a gander, people-gawk, and enjoy a fair on the beautiful waterfront. It was a glorious day, warm and sunny, with a slight breeze off the water. We cruised around looking for a place to park. There were plenty, if one wanted to pay anywhere between $7-$20. Even the parking lots of commercial businesses and stores were getting in on the action. The street parking within a mile radius were all stuffed, naturally, so we spent a “fair” amount of time looking for a spot—refusing to pay to park. We finally found a spot—not too far to walk—about 3/4 of a mile—no sweat, but I was griping about it, I told Hank,

“Damn money-grubbers, I can see why businesses might refuse parking to anyone other than customers…that makes sense, but these guys are ignoring their paying customers to suck money out of anyone willing to pay, to plug up their parking lots, to go to the fair.”

We strolled past all these businesses, who were damn near drooling as the pile of cash grew in their grubby little hands and their parking lots filled. They might as well closed their business for the day. We got to the “entrance” of this public park to find a booth where the “suggested donation” was $10 per/person, and for this, one received a little yellow sticker, indicating that you were not a cheapskate and donated to the cause. On the surface I thought this was “fair” enough, but when I thought about it, I realized that the vendors, within, were paying handsomely to have their offerings on display, and our “donations” to have the privilege of spending money on them—in a public park—was another money-grubbing venture.

We did what any indignant person would do in this situation.

We smiled and said thank you as we paid our hard earned money, then went and soothed ourselves with a cold beer at th’ Dog.

It helped….a little.

As I sipped my beer, I pondered this, and I remarked to Hank,

“You know, most families are out, on average, $60 bucks before they even get to the first booth at the fair. There may not be any money left for French fries…that aint right.”

This insulted my blue-collar mentality. Like many things that have morphed over the years from affordable entertainment, to “if we do this, something else aint getting paid, or bought, this week”, many of us are faced with a tough choice in the pursuit of having fun with the family. Examples: Going to Fenway or Gillette for a game has become so ridiculously expensive for many of us, that it has become something to plan and save for. One cannot afford to spontaneously jump in the ol’ van and grab a ticket outside the park upon arriving, find your seat, buy a frosty cold beverage, a couple of dogs, enjoy the crowd and the game, then head home, for the same price of taking your family out to a nice dinner. The problem is…it used to be that way. I have a hard time accepting that things of this nature—simple entertainment that all of us certainly deserve from time to time—has become another way of those that already have too much money, sucking what little the rest of us have, from us…with absolutely no remorse.

But, I had a plan.

After we strolled from one end to the other, gawking at the booths, the stages, the tents, and the people, stopping here and there to check out one thing or another, spending about two hours doing this, we decided we had seen all we wanted and started strolling back to the car. Once we passed the entrance booth, I peeled off my sticker, made Hank give me his and I “donated” them to a couple heading into the “fair”. I’m not sure who had the bigger smile on our collective faces.

Moving right along…my thoughts on driving in Bangor.

First, let me precede the upcoming rant with my love of Bangor, and her citizenship. Nice folks, small town attitude and sensibilities. Friendly, helpful, connected, police department, serving and protecting us as we live and work in a community that offers everything anyone would want for consumer items, and at very competitive prices. Living in Bangor has proved to be convenient, less expensive, comfortable, and it is easy to feel connected….until….

Until one drives around town.

I hate the lights. I mean, I really really hate the lights. I spend as much time sitting in the middle of the damn road, waiting for the light to turn, as I do driving. Back in Waldo, when I was growing up, the only time one spent that much time sitting still in the middle of the road was when you met a neighbor farmer coming the other way, and you stopped, in the middle of the road, astride each other, and you chatted about the weather, whether or not there would be time to get those last 150 bales of hay into the mow before the thundershower coming that afternoon. Or maybe you discussed the rising cost of fencing. On occasion, you might even crack a beer and sip it as you had this conversation, sitting in the middle of the road—one truck pointing in the opposite direction of the other.

No, we didn’t block traffic on these occasions. One of us would pull ahead enough to let the occasional approaching vehicle by, only to find that usually the approaching vehicle was another farmer, who would typically join the discussion. Ahhh…those were the days.

Remember I said I loved the citizens of Bangor? I do, but people in this town. …great people…intelligent, resourceful, happy, friendly.. people…become brain-dead angry tyrants once behind the wheel of a vehicle. I’ve never seen anything like it.

First, it’s clear that the people of Bangor have no conceptual understanding of traffic circles, or “round-a-bouts”. I follow vehicles through these and most of them stop at every feeder spoke—look both ways—and if there is an approaching car—there is total confusion. No one knows who has the right-a-way. This is in direct contrast to those damn traffic lights and multi-lane streets, where everyone thinks they have the right-a-way and will cut you off, blow through the light, change lanes for no particular reason or without signaling, all the while chatting on their cell phone, oblivious to what is going on around them. However, the unequivocally  most terrifying aspect of driving in Bangor are the people who have absolutely no regard for that sign that is planted on the end of each on-ramp to the interstates around Bangor. This sign, Teutonic white, bordered in neon red, states simply–“Yield”–it’s hard to miss, but it is highly ignored by people who barrel-ass onto the highway like a perverse Mr. Magoo, without as much as a glance at on coming traffic…going 70 m.p.h. Usually, they are too busy chatting on their cell phones to see my hand gestures or hear my profane-laced description of their entire family. I could tell you that I have this guilty perverse little fantasy of watching one of these Bozo’s blow past the Yield sign only to encounter a State Public Works snow plow, doing it’s duty and flinging the vehicle and the idiot within into the ditch like so much roadside detritus, along with the coman of snow….but that would not be nice, or very neighborly, so I don’t allow myself those thoughts…really, I don’t.

It’s insane. I wonder about the root cause for otherwise– very nice people—to have this Jekyll/Hyde grotesque transformation. I have no reasonable explanation for this, other than we have become completely desensitized while driving a vehicle, because for some reason we think we can remain anonymous while driving, hidden from everyone, and not have to be held accountable….sorta like the internet. We drivers here in Bangor have become so apoplectic, that what has transpired is a “one-upmanship” mentality. Talk about unmitigated road rage…now, we must outdo each other in being totally pissed off….while driving a potential “killing” machine at high rates of speed. Not good.

Now you can see why I like to write stories about the days of yore when the most outlandish thing you were involved in, was sipping a beer and chatting while parked in the middle of the road, out in the middle of Podunk.

Seems to make a heck of a lot more sense to me.

Mitch Littlefield

About Mitch Littlefield

I was born into a large family in the mid 1950s, in Belfast, Maine. My family owned and operated three working farms during my childhood, and the entire family worked these farms. It is these formative years, this family, those farms, and that way of life that is the background for these stories.