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Story tellers swimming in tales for Deering Oaks event

On Thursday, Aug. 28, Deering Oaks pavilion plays host to the latest installment of SLANT, a story-telling initiative that offers "a good mix of people from the streets of Portland with exceptional stories," according to Andrew Griswold, director of communications at The Telling Room.
In its 11th incarnation over the past five years, the wildly popular series remains in high demand, Griswold says. Thursday's event is mainly peopled with local story-tellers, but the series has not always been designed that way.
"We did one with outside people (not from Maine) hosted by Larry Smith, from Smith Magazine in New York, the husband of Piper Kerman (the author of 'Orange is the New Black')," Griswold said. "She was going to take the stage and tell some of that story, but on the day she was working (on the story), she got word from Netflix that they were doing a series so she couldn't."
The ten-minute stories are told from the heart — no notes, no props — and this session's theme is "Wild," featuring five stories about wilderness, wildness and the wild within us, according to Griswold. Last year, SLANT took over Deering Oaks Park for the first time, with nearly 250 people turning out. All other SLANTs have been held at SPACE Gallery, which serves at this year's rain venue. The Telling Room assigned a story coach to each story-teller to help them get familiar with the experience.
Sean Wilkinson, one of the leaders at Might and Main design firm (which revamped the Telling Room's website, along with Eventide's and Hugo's), will tell about a time he spent working on a smack boat — a.k.a. a bait fishing boat. "Wilkinson was an advertising student, and decided to drop it all for a while and work on this boat," Griswold said.
Heather Perry, a photographer from Bath, has done all sorts of cool things in her life, he said. "She has worked for National Geographic, and she's an open water swimmer. Her story is about leading open water swimming trips in the Caribbean and Hawaii, and her life and love of water and photography."
Chris Bicknell, director of access and intake at Opportunity Alliance, will tell a story about being in Ethiopia when he was a kid, living across from Haile Selassie's lions.
"He snuck into a pen once and was picked up in the mouth of the lion," Griswold said. "Bicknell travels to Maine and ends up meeting Selassie's daughter or grand-daughter."
Jeff Bacon, a writer from Boston will relate a story about survivalists, people who prepare for disasters and horde the things they need to survive. And Elise Pepple, a local writer, will talk about her work as a park ranger in Alaska.
The event is free. Doors are at 7 p.m. Arrive early to claim blanket space and order snacks or dinner from a local food truck.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 August 2014 21:22

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East Cove Townhomes developers eye auto lot for residential, restaurant complex

Ron Gan says he sees Washington Avenue "as an incredibly cool place to live."
On Tuesday, the Portland Planning Board will look at plans Gan submitted for a mixed-use development consisting of a restaurant and townhouses right near his home on Washington Avenue.
Gan and business partner Jed Rathband are planning to build East Cove Townhomes, which Gan said will start at $459,000 for two bedrooms and two bathrooms, with terraces and other amenities, and options for third bedrooms and bathrooms for $500,000.8-26-14-townhomes-1
The application asks for a zoning change for the property at 145 and 155 Washington Ave., described by the planning materials as a swath on the easterly side of Washington Avenue, between E. Cove Street and Walnut Street.
"The proposed site consists of five parcels which are collectively occupied by Casale's Auto Sales," the planning material explains. The property is currently zoned Residential R-6, and Gan proposes to rezone it to Community Business B-2b to allow for the development.
"I want to walk through my restaurant," Gan said, speaking in an interview on Monday as someone who lives in the immediate neighborhood. Gan said he wants to enjoy the first floor commercial space along Washington Avenue, an as-yet-unidentified restaurant.
"The project has soul," Gan said,
"I see Washington Avenue differently," he said.
Gan lives near the end of Washington Avenue where the on-ramp to Interstate 295 channels traffic off the peninsula.
"We don't have another commercial strip like Washington," Gan said.
"I have always been drawn to it living here all these years," he said.
The planning board workshop, which starts at 4:30 p.m. in Room 209 at City Hall, 389 Congress St., Portland, is a chance for planners to review the zoning map amendment. "The site contains a 1,344 sf building, several sheds, and surface parking where vehicles are stored," the planning material explains.
"This length of Washington Ave. is zoned R-6, a residential zone, and is faced on the western side of Washington Ave., directly across the street, with the B-2b, Community Business zone. From Walnut St. to the edge of the park to the north, is approximately 740 sf and is currently the only length of residential zoning on Washington Ave. ... The purpose of the R-6 zone, which can currently be found predominantly in the East and West Ends of the city, is to "set aside areas ... for housing characterized primarily by multi-family dwellings at a high density. ..." planning staff reported.
Gan casts back to Federal Street Townhomes at 44 Federal St. as a similar project.
"This is a scaled-down version of Federal Street with an attempt to serve a marketplace that is completely underserved," he said. "We think there is a real gap in that marketplace."
The developers already have one townhouse under reservation, Gan said. He said the person who bought it is 40, married, and used to live in Shanghai. "He understands urban living more than a lot of people," Gan said.
With the zoning change and ensuing site plan review, Gan said, "We're hoping to break ground end of February, beginning of March."
The schedule is tentative, and prices could change based on the market, he cautioned, but the plan is to fill a need for housing in what Gan described as a well-rounded housing market.
"Portland is the place that has the greatest diversity in housing options," he said, challenging the common perception that Portland faces "gentrification."
Gan hails from Chicago, where he began developing properties, working in the Bucktown Neighborhood, and he said Portland has not yet experienced gentrification, the ousting of lower- and middle-income residents due to high-end development.
"Our marketplace isn't there yet," he said.
As for the commercial development as part of the townhouse project, Gan said, the introduction of a restaurant could "jump start" restaurant development on Washington Avenue.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 00:49

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Author of metric system history to speak in Portland

In a throwback to a raging national debate, John Bemelmans Marciano will be at Longfellow Books in Portland on Thursday, Aug. 28, to talk about his new book, "Whatever Happened to the Metric System? How American Kept Its Feet." He will converse with artist Seaver Leslie, who led an anti-metric campaign in the 1970s and '80s.
"I'll give an overview of the fight to go metric in the states," Marciano said, "which has been going on pretty much since the beginning of the country."
Leslie, who taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, worked with John Michell measuring ancient monuments.
"It's a whole science called metrology," Marciano explained. "An import facet of it is to regain ancient measurements from monuments, like 'What kind of foot constructed the Parthenon?' He is, I hope, going to talk about how he got interested in it. He started a periodical called 'The Footprint,' and held these wild pro-customary parties in New York City in the late '70s and early '80s — one on Battery Terminal called the Foot Ball, with Tom Wolfe there and thousands of people, a black-tie affair, the apex of the anti-metric movement in the states."
The move to metrics made more sense in a country like France, he said, where there were hundreds of thousands of different measures being used, and as a product of the French Revolution, when the rabble wanted new names to erase the past.
Marciano said the metric movement in the United States "was mostly done in by road signs (a $100 million government initiative to repaint road sign mileage into kilometers), and people hated gas being in liters."
Marciano says he'd love it if the U.S. went metric for shoe sizes, but not much else.
"There's this idea that the metric system is more precise," he said. "But any scale you have is as precise; it's a question of what it's calibrated to."
Several industries are choosing which measure to use to suggest something about their product, he noted of today's trends.
"These ideas have taken on connotations," he said. "If they (a company) are being precise, they're more apt to use grams and kilograms. The more homespun, for example — craft brewing is all about using pints" or a "growler," which is four pints.
The Portland Beer Company is the only domestic brewer in the country (that he knew of) that measured in liters.
"I guess that they're doing a European-style brewing, or that there's something more exacting about it," he said. "In farmers' markets, pints are making a big comeback, and high-end bottled water comes in liters. A German-style beer garden has everything in liters."
Marciano lives in Brooklyn, New York, and visits Maine with wife, Andromache Chalfant, and their daughter for a couple of weeks each year. He was always good in math, but preferred writing and art more early on. He was a computer programmer for a while, and worked for a newspaper before getting into creating kids' books. His new book is the third for Bloomsbury for adults. The event at Longfellow Books begins at 7 p.m.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 00:50

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Coming full circle with Lt. McGary; life-saving heroics, alpaca farming part of lieutenant’s story

Portland Police Lt. Glen McGary has served in many capacities during his 16-year career with the Portland Police Department — and his career path didn’t always follow a straight line. Alpaca farming was just one zig zag.8-26-14-MN-mcgary
McGary said he wanted to become a police officer from the age of 10 or 12. “Uncle Bobby was with the Massachusetts State Police,” and was someone he greatly admired.
After receiving a BA in criminology, McGary joined the Portland Police Department. He was the first School Resource Officer at Deering High School, was a Field Training Officer for several years, and also was a member of the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT).
McGary had extensive training as an emergency medical technician prior to becoming an officer, working with a search and rescue unit out of Bangor. He'd started with an Explorer search and rescue program. This training served him well when he was still a rookie. He was able to save the life of his partner, James Sweatt, during one of the most harrowing incidents the department ever dealt with.
Sweatt was attacked by a frenzied knife-wielding man in a dark building. McGary shot the attacker and had to grab his partner's cut jugular vein to control the bleeding until Medcu arrived to transport the critically injured officer to the hospital; this saved his life.
Sweatt was able to return to his job one and a half years later. He is now the lieutenant in charge of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), supervising detectives.
The events of that terrible evening are detailed in the book "Police Heroes," by Charles R. Whitlock.
McGary received a Valor Commendation from the City of Portland and an award for heroism from the South Portland chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, a veterans' organization. Sweatt also was given awards by the same group.
McGary worked in CID as the sergeant in charge of crimes against property for a while and was assigned to Internal Affairs as a lieutenant. He was one of the first officers to respond to the Occupy Maine encampment when a chemical explosive was thrown into the cooking tent of the Lincoln Park site in October 2011.
McGary has recently become the head of the Community Policing Division of the department. In this capacity he oversees the five Community Policing Coordinators that are spread around different neighborhoods in the city, and the Senior Lead Officers also come under his direct supervision. This job gives him a good vantage point for knowing everything that is going on in the entire city. He's very pleased to be in this new position, saying, "I love it! It's great."
McGary said, "I want to get in touch with each separate community, find out the problems, and connect with different resources to find solutions." He said that each place needs a particular focus.
One of McGary's former co-workers, Sgt. Rick Betters, was a mentor to many Portland officers. When the highly respected and very popular sergeant died at age 52 in 2009, it was a shock to the entire department.
McGary said that Betters used to talk about getting alpacas and becoming "a gentleman farmer." He said he told his wife, "I'm going to follow Rick's legacy and be a gentleman farmer." After they did some research and decided to get some of the animals
McGary said, "I built a barn and we got three; now we have four. The kids participate in their care."
He said the fiber from the alpacas after they are shorn is spun into yarn. "We sell some and give some away for gifts to family members."
McGary's first assignment was as a Bicycle Patrol Officer with the Community Policing Division in 1998, so it seems like returning to Community Policing is completing a circle. For the past few months, he's been the Lieutenant in charge of the division, getting in and out of his SUV, rather than hopping on and off a bicycle. But McGary is actually going back to working on a bicycle again for some of the time, as soon as his bike uniform comes in. He said, "The one from 16 years ago must have shrunk because it doesn't fit the same."

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 00:50

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Theater company coming to historic Mechanics Hall

Acorn Productions is joining forces with the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association, raising funds to convert the third-floor ballroom of historic Mechanics Hall into a performance space.
Acorn Productions, the 501(c)3 organization that operates the Naked Shakespeare series, has entered into a collaborative agreement with the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates Mechanics Hall, located at 519 Congress St., to complete the final stages of renovations to the third-floor ballroom space so that the venue can be licensed for public performances.8-22-14-TG-ballroom-1
"It's a new home for Naked Shakespeare," said Michael Levine, Acorn's founder and Naked Shakespeare's director. "Once the place is up and licensed, we'll be doing shows there on First Fridays."
Levine knows that Naked Shakespeare has a pretty devoted following, and a familiar brand name, "so once we get up and running, we'll get a crowd," he said. "The question is what sort of amenities we can offer (e.g. food and wine)."8-22-14-TG-ballroom-3
Under the terms of the agreement, Acorn plans to begin weekly private workshops at Mechanics Hall this fall for professional actors wishing to deepen their ability to work with William Shakespeare's text, while working with MCMA to raise the funds needed to meet required fire and safety codes in order to receive a public assembly license for the space.
"There won't be risers or seats or a stage," Levine said. "It's more designed for uses where you need a large floor space. Some of the things I've been thinking about — workshops, yoga classes, dramatic readings, staged readings, a lecture series, maybe movies — any type of interactive workshop presentation, maybe some classes in collaboration with MECA."
Acorn is moving from their theater at the old Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook.
"We loved our space, but there weren't many collaborative opportunities out there, not nearly as much as the space on Congress Street," Levine said.
Over the past year, MCMA has been working behind the scenes to make improvements to the Mechanics Hall ballroom space in order to make the space as flexible and accommodating as possible to a wide variety of uses and patrons. The nonprofit organization has narrowed down a list of work needed to receive a public assembly license to the point where a final push should allow the venue to open sometime during the 2014-15 arts season.
"Portland finds itself in the enviable position of being a city long on arts organizations but short on venues, and the location of Mechanics Hall in the arts district means that the proposed 50 to 300-person affordable and classy space should find many users," Levine said in a press release. "Over time, MCMA's ballroom venue will become a cultural, social, and educational center for its members and the community."
The folks at Mechanics Hall are excited about their newest tenants.
Thomas Blackburn, a board member of MCMA, said the third-floor Ballroom, with its
20-foot high ceilings and 3,000 square feet of floor space, is ideal for the acting troupe.
Originally built in 1859, the building initially housed the library on the first floor. The ballroom, then on the second floor, had a 33-foot ceiling.
At the turn of the century, famed architect John Calvin Stevens, a member of the MCMA, recommended moving the library to the second floor, and adding a third floor for the ballroom.
"They have held the Mechanics lecture series here for more than 100 years," Blackburn said, "as well as dances and social events." The building served as City Hall in 1866, with the city burned and offices had to be relocated there for three years.
Blackburn said Acorn and MCMA would need to raise about $25,000 for life safety code updates in order to make the space a public assembly venue.
"These upgrades include renovations to the fire escape, upgrading the fire alarm system, adding some exit signs and emergency lights, putting automatic door closers on the doors to the hall — once we've done those things, and are licensed for public use — we will host our own travel lectures," he said of the series held this year at the Woodfords' Club and previously at Catherine McAuley High School.
"It's a great opportunity for the Mechanics to form an alliance with a well-known and respected theater company," Blackburn said of Acorn's move there. "It assists them in providing a venue, and it helps us in bringing this space back to life."
Anyone interested in more information about MCMA and Acorn's renovation campaign, or actors interested in participating in Naked Shakespeare's fall workshop series, should contact Acorn Productions at www.acorn-productions.org or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Last Updated on Friday, 22 August 2014 02:02

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