Of Ghosts & Guests
By Colin W. Sargent
“Lady Gaga, meet the ghost of Lucky Lindy” ran like quicksilver through my brain when I heard the lady in question had chosen Deering Oaks as the perfect place in Maine to make a speech.
That’s because famed aviator Charles Lindbergh made that same unusual choice of venue when he came to Portland on July 23, 1927.
Why connect these two figures (beyond the certainty that both loved to shoot their mouths off, based on significant achievements they made in other fields?) Can the living and dead occupy the same space at the same time? Should we appreciate more than just what’s in front of our eyes? I think it’s more a matter of loving Portland on both the “real” and the “fantastic level,” as the Rev. Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon says in Night of the Iguana.
As for the real level, consider: According to USA Today, 400 people came to hear Lady Gaga speak about abolishing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military.
Now, resonate that against the fantastic level: Twenty-five thousand crowded into the Oaks to hear Lucky Lindy in the same spot in 1927, with electric amplifiers set up so everyone could hear every word that came out of his mouth. His hot button? “United support of U.S. Air Mail.” Of course, the Lone Eagle was having a fabulous year. He’d just become the first human being to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in his iconic monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis. For that matter, Portland was having a great year, too. Lindbergh was the celebrity chosen to open the doors of the brand new, posh Eastland Hotel. (A fragrant tidbit I learned on Maine Memory Network: When Lindbergh was about to fly away–having landing on Old Orchard Beach–he tossed a piece of seaweed into the air to determine wind direction.)
No matter your flight level, real or supernatural, it’s a good idea to know which way the wind is blowing.
We’ll have a chance to experience the same kind of mystical duet this winter while watching the Maine Red Claws play basketball at the Exposition Building. While our new, charismatic, 6‘-11“ center Magnum Rolle, from Freeport, Bahamas, is dunking the basketball, I’ll be cheering for him on the realistic level while still spellbound by the ghost of the great Paavo Nurmi, who will be running rings around him “on the fantastic level.” Nurmi, the greatest of all Olympic distance-running champions, came to run here on February 9, 1925–lapping the field in the 3,000-yard run at the Exposition Building.
Shouldn’t Nurmi’s spirit be with us, too, while we’re watching Magnum Rolle? Don’t all of Nurmi’s nine gold medals count for anything? Isn’t it time for us to admit there really was a world before we were born?
We asked the Red Claws if Rolle himself believes in ghosts, and they said, “being new to the area…Magnum [is] not comfortable participating in the ghost story.”
Smart choice. It’s best to know the ghosts around here before you take them on.