How To Train Your Christina

In our September issue, we were doing a piece about life imitating art, and in particular, Andrew Wyeth’s art. Wyeth used the Olson House for inspiration for quite a few of his paintings. We had sent our photographer to try and match some of the paintings that he made with her photographs. While doing all of this research into who owned the rights to specific paintings and how we were going to in touch with them, the Associate Publisher showed me a previous article that had to do with Andrew Wyeth–the Christina parodies titled “It’s Christina’s World… We Just Live in It.”

After looking through the article and searching for more online, I thought to myself, why can’t I do one? So over the next few days I worked on a few variations. My ideas ranged from a chocolate bar taking over the house in the distance to a herd of unicorns. The one that ended up in the magazine I titled ‘Christina’s Hollywood.’ Another one, ‘Christina’s Dragon,’ I’ve posted with this blog entry.

As an intern at Portland Magazine, there are often opportunities to be taken–you’ve just got to take them! You’ve got to say, “Hey, I can do this,” and then actually do it. I think that is pretty cool myself.

— Ariel Martin

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What I Did Last Summer

When I found out I’d gotten the internship at Portland Magazine, I was ecstatic–not only did this mean my dreary internship search would end and that my back-up plan, teaching swimming lessons at the local pool, would escape implementation, it meant that I got to spend the summer in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Having spent every summer of my happy childhood here, I breathlessly anticipated warm days of walking upon the beach and fantasized about wearing summery business-wear, linen blouses and all. I remembered every aspect of those brilliant summery youthful days of squirt-gun fights and kayaking, but apparently, there was one thing I forgot. It’s May. And it’s still really cold.

Instead of wearing a lovely summer dress to my first day of work here, I wore instead a thick woolen dress with tights and boots. Weirdly, my dream summer was starting off like a Scottish winter. Despite the weather setback, my first day was great. With my head still stuck in the customary end-of-spring-semester urgency, I plowed through my assignments and left feeling efficient and excited.

There’s something great about having a job, about the sense of purpose that comes from working with other people towards a cohesive goal, in my case, next month’s issue of Portland Magazine.

As an intern, I’ve done a lot of odd jobs around the magazine: fact-checking, copy-editing, securing photo rights, et cetera. But I guess what reaches me about all these little jobs is how they feed into page after page of material, merged and blended with the work of authors and graphic artists and photographers and quotes: those captured snippets of everyday people and celebrities. I am now part of a literary conglomerate, where every page of print implies room upon room of people working the phones, the streets, the computer keyboard. It’s really incredible to think that what you read, whether you are a serious reader of Portland Magazine or someone who flips through it from time to time in waiting rooms and hotels, is actually the testimony of a city parading itself before you.

Like the hard-earned sun of the Portland, Maine, summer, each triumph–in my case each new issue–is the shining product of cold, grey days like my first day.

–Jacqueline Leahy

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Meet the Elliotts

Last month when Portland Magazine’s 25th Anniversary issue came out, I took the day off from my job at a local bowling alley to aid in distribution. Walking around the Old Port with 50 lb boxes is not usually my idea of a great time, but it’s part of the internship. I was on my last stretch, Exchange Street. I looked down at my checklist of places to stop and drop off magazines, and Hark! Mount Desert Ice Cream! The shop got its start a few years ago in Bar Harbor, where I went to college, and some of my old classmates are running the shop on Exchange. I popped in, and my friend Claire was behind the counter. The ice cream shop was empty. I handed her the magazine and stopped for a bit to chat about a mutual friend’s birthday party and the anthropological value of MTV’s The Jersey Shore.  A man and a woman walked through the door, so I respectfully stepped back from the counter so that they could peruse the frozen dairy delicacies.

The patrons looked very familiar, and at first I had trouble placing them. They were both wrapped up in winter coats, hair blown every which way in the cold wind and freezing rain that had alternated throughout the day. The man had dark sunglasses with green rims, but I knew his face! It was Fred Armisen from Saturday Night Live–and coincidentally a little show called Portlandia, which is about the other Portland. And who was the woman? I knew her too. Khloe Kardashian! Well, not actually Khloe Kardashian, but an eerily accurate impersonator, also from Saturday Night Live– Abby Elliott!

I’m a pretty cool-headed person, but I was so surprised running into these two in the Old Port, that I instantly turned into a thirteen-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. I started giggling–not just a surface giggle, but a full-body giggle, where your stomach is trembling and you think that something really weird is about to come out of your mouth, so you clench your jaws so hard that your eyes start to pop out of your head a little bit. I took a deep breath and calmly said, “I’m sorry, you two are so funny. Can I take a picture with you guys?” They politely agreed, and Abby, who had just tried a sample of something probably very delicious, asked where she should put her spoon. I requested that she showcase it in the photograph, and she obliged. I handed them a copy of the magazine and popped outside to call my editor, Karen.

The phone conversation went something like this:

“HI. UH. KAREN. IT’S JEANEE. I’M IN THE OLD PORT AND I WAS IN AN ICE CREAM SHOP AND THERE ARE TWO CAST MEMBERS FROM SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE IN THERE AND I AM DEFINITELY GOING TO ASK THEM QUESTIONS BUT I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO THROW UP SO I HAD TO COME OUTSIDE FOR A SECOND SO I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW.”

“Jeanee? Are you okay?”

“YEAH. YEAH YEAH.”

“Are they still in the ice cream shop?”

“YES.”

“Go ask them what they’re doing in Portland, what kind of ice cream they got, you know, who they’re visiting. Go get a quote.”

“OKAY. I’M GOING RIGHT NOW.”

…and I hung up.

When I turned around, Fred and Abby were walking out the door of the ice cream shop. They started heading down Exchange towards the waterfront. There was nothing to do but run after them down the sidewalk, still clutching 20 lbs of magazines, a clipboard, and a pen.

I quickly apologized for chasing them around the Old Port, asked a few questions, and then promised to stop following them around yelling about desserts and smiling like Gary Busey (see photo for evidence). We parted ways, and I dropped off a few more magazines before heading back to the office. For a few days, it was mentioned that my photo and might become a Flash; as we did more research and found that her grandfather, Bob Elliott, lived in Harpswell, it became bigger deal and was slated for a Chowder, which was pretty cool. Abby has family in Brunswick–whom she was visiting before I bumped into her. Her dad, comedian Chris Elliott, and granddad, radio humorist Bob Elliott, both own houses in Harpswell, one of which is Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith’s original resort home. Bob lives up here year-round, and the rest of the Elliott clan visits whenever possible.

And wouldn’t that make for an awesome story? Three generations of hilarity, just up the coast? So I started stalking the Elliott family.

We contacted Abby through her publicist, who was very helpful and set up an interview for us within a week and a half. We got Bob’s number from a mutual friend. And Chris? Bob called him and asked if he could give us his number. Bob was incredibly patient and helpful throughout the few-weeks-long ordeal and really brought the Elliott family story together.

Before each interview, I did research. I watched trailers for Abby’s new movie, The High Road, and every recent episode of Saturday Night Live I could drag out of Hulu and other regions of the Internet. I watched Groundhog Day over and over and over and over and over… I watched Eagleheart, Chris’s new live-action television program on Adult Swim. I listened to old “Bob and Ray” clips and watched Youtube videos of the two in action. It was pretty fun research and was particularly easy to practice at home on my couch with a fistful of cheap pilsner.

After I completed all three interviews, Colin, Karen, and I sat down to talk about formatting. We put the questions and answers together in a style and order that would tell a story to our readers about a place that is very special to Bob, Chris, and Abby. After countless hours of research and editing, it’s in print this week! Who knew toting magazines up and down the streets of the Old Port would result in a forty-page clip!

Jeanee E Dudley

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Last month, Portland’s Merrill Auditorium exploded into applause as the final notes from the chorus faded into a delicate decrescendo. As a musician for the last 15 years (flute and piccolo), I was secretly hoping the uproarious applause from the sold-out, 2,000-person-capacity concert hall would be enough to warrant an encore from Portland Symphony, which for 80 minutes had performed John Adams’s “Fanfare for Orchestra: Short Ride in a Fast Machine,” John Williams’s “Suite from Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and the entire 7-movement “Op. 32: The Planets” by Gustav Holst.

Having never heard The Planets performed in its entirety, I felt as though I had transcended upon a unique opportunity. When I mentioned to one of the ushers that I had never heard the entire suite live before, his response was: “Oh, me too! I have chills just thinking about it.”

The Planets Suite, opus 32 is a 7-movement orchestral suite scored for 4 flutes, 2 piccolos, alto flute, 4 oboes, bass clarinet, 4 bassoons, contrabassoon, 6 French horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, tenor tuba, timpani (2 players, 2 full sets), percussion, 2 harps, celeste and strings.  The suite itself was to have astrological meaning instead of astronomical, which is the reason Earth is not included. “The Planets then, is a work about the human experience,” said Mark Rohr, bass trombonist for the Portland Symphony Orchestra. “Not the cosmic.”

Movement one, “Mars, The Bringer of War,” is the most recognizable. The sound of the strings being beat with the wood on the bow and relentless drumming evokes the feeling of an ominous military persistence.

Movement two, “Venus, The Bringer of Peace,” is a sharp contrast to the urgency of “Mars,” introducing a sense of calm by solo violin. The response melody is followed by solo oboe. The piece as a whole, while serene-like and peaceful, is the very essence of the Roman goddess Venus: “feminine yet tame and without wiles.”

Movement three, “Mercury, The Winged Messenger,” is my favorite movement and in my opinion, one of the most difficult pieces to perform because of the syncopation between instruments: should you be a quarter of a beat off the mark, it throws the entire piece out of sync. A metronome is the musician’s best friend with this piece in particular.  As the scherzo for the suite, the music flits back and forth between the instruments. It feels as light as a cosmic butterfly.

Aside from the composer’s intentions, it’s hard to avoid the spirit of the god Jupiter. This Jupiter has no thunderbolts to throw at mere mortals, but a wink and an all-knowing smile. Movement four, “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity,” is a piece sounding of celebration. Selections of it are best remembered as being performed at the royal wedding of Charles and Diana, while the second verse was performed at Diana’s funeral.

Movement five, “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age,” is a serene and deliberate piece. It sounds as though the audience can hear Saturn approaching in a steady gait from a distance.

Movement six, “Uranus, the Magician,” is somewhat reminiscent to “Mickey the Sorcerer” in Fantasia. An ominous opening with a playful ending.

“The ethereal opening of ‘Neptune, the Mystic’ [movement seven] brings us to the outer reaches of Holst’s astrological cosmos, and the destination of the suite: the physical world is left behind and we reach the inner workings of the mind. Holst’s portrayal is unsettled, ever searching; the contradictory aspects of human nature are not reconciled here. But perhaps, as the goassmer strands of the wordless chorus drift back into the infinite silence from which they came, they are transcended,” said Mark Rohr.

–Taryn Crane

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Getting Through the Winter Blues

Maine summers have great renown and, as many of our editorials have shown, draw people from all over the country.  But what about the winter?  Frigid December days see snowy streets and ice-armored trees here in Portland and throughout the state.  There are lots of ways to keep the cold at bay – sampling chowders at local restaurants and settling in with a book by the fire, but in order to really enjoy a New England winter, not just make it through, one has to find a way to get out in it and have some fun.

Though, I’m a transplant to Maine, I am a native New Englander and subsequently a skier.  I grew up on the slopes of Loon Mountain, Waterville Valley, Killington, Cannon, Wildcat, and even Sunday River on occasion.  A break from snow sports, necessitated by serious schoolwork, is now coming to a close and I am looking forward to getting back on the slopes again.

Maine’s got big resorts like Sunday River and Sugarloaf and more intimate mountains like Shawnee Peak and Lost Valley, and several others besides.  Come the end of the semester, I’ll be busting out, and dusting off the old 200’s, waxing down, and bundling up.  I’ll be starting small at Lost Valley to get back in the snow-saddle so to speak.

So whether you ski, ride, cross-country, snowshoe, or simply sled, getting out in the snow – and making the winter fun – is the best way to carve though Maine’s longest season with a smile.

-Joshua Lobkowicz

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Lost in the Fog

Recently, I saw my first show at Longfellow Square, where the band Punch Brothers brought down the tiny house with their blistering bluegrass licks. The curious title of their latest album got me to wondering, what exactly is an “Antifogmatic”? I decided to investigate.

As it turns out, the term antifogmatic refers to a 19th-century bracing morning beverage—typically made with rum or whiskey—meant to stave off any ill effects of inclement weather. Picture an old-timer lobsterman cracking an egg into his warm whiskey drink to steady his resolve before heading out on the water in blustery conditions.

Word around town told me when mixing whiskey with breakfast, Silver House Tavern should be consulted. Silver House opens its doors at 6 a.m. catering to early-risers like fishermen and lobstermen. So I called down there to talk antifogmatics with the bartender. To my surprise, she was familiar with the term “antifogmatic” and confirmed that yes, “Dahlin’ you can get an egg in your whiskey.”

So the next time a Nor’Easter comes blowing in you’ll know where to find me.

–Betsy Schluge

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The Little Horse That Could

I fell in love with horses when I was 5 years old. My parents finally gave in to my unrelenting pestering about riding lessons when I was 10, and I think they were hoping it was going to be one of those pastimes that I eventually grew bored of and outgrew. Who knew I was embarking on a 20-year love affair? I’ve never owned a horse in my life (unfortunately) but I’ve always dreamt of doing so. I’ve even tossed around the idea of adopting a mustang from the “Wild West.”

I learned yesterday that Portland Magazine sponsors a mustang that was corralled in the West. Publisher Colin Sargent admitted that he isn’t as “horse crazy” as I am, but he has spent some time in the saddle.  One of the many things I didn’t know about Colin is that he has an interest in horses.

Meet Reno Blue, the plucky 13-hand (roughly 4-foot-tall) mustang from Ever After Mustang Rescue in Biddeford.

Reno arrived in Maine in 1983 as a “little horse from out West” that rescue director Mona Jerome gentled and trained.  He has eventually become a permanent resident and evolved into the rescue’s Ambassador. The rescue group aims to place horses in forever homes, not send them to a home and then have the animal move 25 times in a lifetime.

Unfortunately,  the forever home for this little horse was just not coming up; an adult is too large to ride him, and a child would eventually outgrow him. But, Reno’s small size made him the perfect size to travel with and far less intimidating than the average Mustang that stands anywhere from 15- to 16-hands high (there are four inches to a hand). His beautiful blue roan coat color is popular among Mustangs, and rescuer Mona says that everything about him was perfect to be an ambassador for the breed.

So far in 2010, Reno has traveled to the Beacon Street Festival in Biddeford and given pony rides at no cost. He has traveled to Camp Sunshine in Casco to the children with life-threatening illnesses.  He participated in the 2010 Chalk Walk in Biddeford, and at Ever After Mustang Rescue’s Mustangs in Motion event, a free seminar at the rescue that promotes the breed and informs the public of how useful a mustang really is.  Reno does a lot of pony rides in the course of a year, and he enjoys it.

With Portland Magazine’s monthly contribution and support, Reno’s hay and grain is paid for, which ultimately takes some of the stress off the rescue and allows Ever After Mustang Rescue to rescue other horses.

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The Hunt

“Go forth and hunt,” were Assoc Pub Jesse’s parting words as he handed the property listings to fellow intern Betsy and turned back down the stairs.  “Hunt” is exactly right.  Here at PM you never quite know where a story might take you, but since the content of the mag is current and interesting, the research needed for stories to materialize is as well.  Sure, a lot of messages are left in voice mailboxes and emails are sent to individuals I will never see, meet or even hear back from but the hope is that they will promptly get back to us so the proverbial ball can continue to roll and an article can get done.

While researching a piece on 2010 world series MVP Edgar Renteria—who it turns out played some minor league ball here in Portland for the Sea Dogs and who has joined an elite group of ball players to hit game-winning/World Series-winning hits twice (the others being three Yankees:  Gehrig, Berra and DiMaggio)—I was told to “go forth and hunt” for high-resolution photos of the four.  Being a baseball fan myself, this was of great interest to me; in fact, I had been following the 2010 World Series quite closely, rooting against the San Francisco Giants who had knocked my Philadelphia Phillies out of the playoffs in the NLCS.

Going into it, I assumed that contacting and finding anyone associated with the New York Yankees willing to help a guy in Maine find images of possibly the three greatest Yankees to ever sport the famed pinstripes was unlikely.  The feeling I got while dialing up the Yankees’ corporate offices that can only be described as an utter disdain for the organization who probably have the financial resources to recruit the Pope and who offed my Phillies in the 2009 World Series.  There was an insecurity, a resentment, that reared its ugly little head while dialing those numbers that was uncomfortable to say the least.  My inner Phillies fan was on high alert.

Luckily, as it turns out, the Yankees weren’t the right people for the images; they don’t own any images of anything Yankee before 2002.  I kept my composure and some very kind people in the Yankees’ media relations department pointed me toward the Baseball Hall of Fame for possible images.  I smiled, almost lost it and, while biting my lip, thanked them for their time and consideration, wished them all a good day and hung up the phone.

When I envision the Baseball Hall of Fame, I see quiet people functioning with prodigious attention to accuracy and detail in a place of greatness and grace.  When calling the Hall of Fame I felt like I was entering a sacred place where one kept their voice as low as a whisper like at the MET or took their shoes off as if entering a temple or shrine.  This is a place where the Baseball gods rest and mortals like myself can come to admire them.

I introduced myself to the gentleman the Yankees had pointed me toward who seemed interested in what I was doing and willing to help in any way he could.  He explained that he would have the images I needed for the story.  So he took down my email and promised them within the hour.  While it crossed my mind to pick the brain of the gentleman at the Hall of Fame about contemporary baseball scandals involving steroids and performance enhancing drugs, I didn’t figuring it to be an appropriate line of questioning.

So the Gehrig, Berra and DiMaggio images were promptly sent to my inbox as promised and he said I would have to contact the San Francisco Giants for the Renteria images.  So as it turns out the gentleman at the Baseball Hall of Fame came through on a promise and kept his word.  Trustworthy.  Ahhh, if only he could promise me that the Hall of Fame would only consider ball players who were trustworthy and who play the game with the grace and greatness of such players as DiMaggio, Gehrig or Berra since I always want to feel the need to whisper at the Baseball Hall of Fame and not gawk at players inducted that were cheaters.  Don’t take that away from me.  May it always be that shrine or temple.

It just goes to show that when asked “to go forth and hunt,” you never know where you might end up.

–Michael Morris
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What’s in a Game?

When was the last time you gathered around a board game with a group of friends?  For most people, that question is answered in the span of years.  For me, it is only every 6 days ago.  Wednesday night is game night.  It has been for 4 years now and I hope it doesn’t change for more than that.

So, does this mean I’m suffering from a prolonged state of regression and I am attempting to relive my childhood by getting together with other adults and playing Battleship?  Of course not (maybe a little). The games that come to mind when people think of board games are the classics: Monopoly, Life, Stratego.  But there are more.  There is a huge, and growing, industry of board games—designed for adults—with rich themes, plenty of strategy, and more fun than–well, a Barrel of Monkeys.

Here’s a taste of what is available, beyond monopoly:

Puerto Rico: The players are plantation owners in Puerto Rico in the days when ships had sails. Growing up to five different kind of crops: Corn, Indigo, Coffee, Sugar and Tobacco, they must try to run their business more efficiently than their close competitors; growing crops and storing them efficiently, developing San Juan with useful buildings, deploying their colonists to best effect, selling crops at the right time, and most importantly, shipping their goods back to Europe for maximum benefit.

Agricola: In Agricola, you’re a farmer in a wooden shack with your spouse and little else. On a turn, you get to take only two actions, one for you and one for the spouse, from all the possibilities you’ll find on a farm: collecting clay, wood, or stone; building fences; and so on. You might think about having kids in order to get more work accomplished, but first you need to expand your house. And what are you going to feed all the little rugrats?

Twilight Struggle: In 1945, unlikely allies toppled Hitler’s war machine, while humanity’s most devastating weapons forced the Japanese Empire to its knees in a storm of fire. Where once there stood many great powers, there then stood only two. The world had scant months to sigh its collective relief before a new conflict threatened. Unlike the titanic struggles of the preceding decades, this conflict would be waged not primarily by soldiers and tanks, but by spies and politicians, scientists and intellectuals, artists and traitors. Twilight Struggle is a two-player game simulating the forty-five year dance of intrigue, prestige, and occasional flares of warfare between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Intrigued?  These games are fun, interesting, complex, and provide a wonderful way to spend an evening with friends.  Are you a better farmer than your peers?  A shrewder trader?  A greater political leader?  Finding out is half the fun.

The above games are the top 3 (as rated by users) on www.boardgamegeek.com – a wonderful and thorough resource for researching games. That said, they are a bit “heavier” on the board game complexity scale.  If you would like to dip a toe in, so to speak, some lighter fare includes:

Ticket to Ride: A set-collecting game (think, rummy) about connecting major cities by rail.

Carcassonne: A tile laying game (a bit like a puzzle, but with points) about a developing medieval countryside.

Settlers of Catan: Primarily a negotiation game and hand management game (trade the limited goods you have collected to your friends for what you need) about settling an island and building a town.

If you are interested in trying some of these out, there are local stores which can accommodate you, some—specifically Crossroad Games—host game days where you may come in and play and, essentially, try before you buy.

Crossroad Games, Standish  www.crossroadgames.com

Game Geeks, South Portland, www.gmgeeks.com

Casablanca Comics, Portland, www.casablancacomics.com

Finally, should gaming scratch an entertainment itch for you there are local meetups and gaming groups to connect with and should you become consumed by the hobby—yes it can become an obsession (I’ve heard)—there are conventions each year around the country that cater to dedicated gamers.

BGG.con, sponsored by www.boadgamegeek.com, is one that many in the gaming community specifically look forward to.  It’s too late to go this year as it is starting today—don’t worry, they’re saving me a seat.  But if this hobby grabs you like it did me, I’ll see you there in 2011.

And as with all games, remember:

“When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning’  -Dr. Reiner Knizia (Game Designer)

-Joshua Lobkowicz

(game images and descriptions provided by www.boardgamegeek.com)

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A Snippet from Portland’s Traditional Music Scene

Wednesday night is Celtic Night at Blue, Portland’s most intimate music venue.  Go check it out!

This past Wednesday, a trio of talented performers were there.  Three sisters, Mia, Ariel, and Shoshana Friedman, performed an assortment of folk instruments (fiddle, cello, and banjo) and sang beautiful a capella arrangements.  Focusing on traditional Appalachian and New England tunes, original songs and innovative instrumentals, they have a wonderful, upbeat and soothing sound.   For those interested in traditional music, they are quite an inspiration!

Check them out: http://www.ariandmiafriedman.com/ and Blue online for upcoming shows at www.portcityblue.com/

–Adam Chittenden

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