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The nastiness factor

There's a swarm of nastiness in the crisp fall air. Similar to the common cold, nastiness isn't life threatening. It does however, drag on, often leaving a bothersome trace to remind us it existed. ladd-natalie copy

Some call the lingering fall-out of nastiness grudge-holding. Others call it an unfortunate isolated incident, and still others call it plain old BS. Reaching epidemic proportions, nastiness has descended in unbecoming and verifiable ways.

Like many fine-tuned restaurants, the place where I serve has always been an environment of teamwork and camaraderie. Fondly calling longtime co-workers my Creative Consulting Team, i've leaned heavily on them for opinions, expertise and differing perspectives. For years, we've had each others' backs, pitching in when one of us has an emergency, or in my case, an actual date when I'm not paying.

We switch shifts as a matter of course, pick up a table when another server is weeded and do whatever we can to help each other out. Such is the perk of being on a team of professional servers, most of whom are friends outside of work.

In and of itself, being a team player isn't exclusive to the hospitality industry. What makes it so notable for us is, as non-management people, we're free agents. Having used that pop-culture jargon before, it means we rely primarily on our own prowess for the best tips possible. Sure, working in a place with a good reputation and established track record is key. Sure, we need the kitchen to be on the ball, the dish dogs to be sober and our host to have a handle on the reservations. For us to make maximum bucks, the maintenance guy has to keep the restrooms spotless and the curb appeal has to have, well, some appeal. Yes, we need people in other positions to do their jobs proficiently, but the ticket to making great money (for the house, too, let's not forget) begins and ends with ourselves.

What all this means and where the nastiness seeps in is when someone on the team drops the ball, even if it isn't intentional. One of my good friends, who works in a schmancy Old Port bistro, concurs with the nastiness factor.

"Wow, things are hard at my work, too," she said. "I've been rotating weekends with this other server for almost a year now and all of a sudden, he wants to work all of them. Our owner is like, 'you two work it out,' and this guy won't back down. No one else wants to get involved and there's all this new tension. We've never had this kind of stuff. Maybe it's the Mercury retrograde crap you wrote about last week. I made fun it."

Figuring nastiness is strictly a human condition, I caught a dose from outside the workplace when my blue-eyed Yankee's fan and I were treated poorly by a fellow customer at everyone's favorite slice joint. Sidling up to the bar as the bartender was reciting the choices, we leaned in so she wouldn't have to repeat herself. Forgetting the list midway through, the bartender checked it again and began speaking to all three of us at once. Thinking it was a community information sharing session, I asked a question about one of the slice's ingredients.

Facing me with a condescending sneer, "She was talking to me," the guy snapped loudly. Instantly uncomfortable, I tugged at the sleeve of my Yankee's fan saying something about the guy being rude. Feeling bad for the bartender, we left, but not before making a note to stop back and overcompensate her soon.

That tidbit of nastiness was harsh because it happened immediately after we walked out of another trendy Congress St. spot. Seeing two empty bar stools from the street, we walked into the hopping place and sat down. The host came over in a tizzy and started wiping the bar frantically. Not uttering a syllable, he gave us a look that could kill. Wondering if the stools were reserved or if the host was just busy, I looked to the bartender for an answer.

"Wow, we must be in trouble," I inquired jokingly.

Instead of replying, "Oh, it's fine," or "'I'm sorry, I think people are waiting for those seats," he, too, said nothing at all. Instead, he threw his hands up in the air as if to say, "Don't ask or look at me." The whole thing was downright, you guessed it, nasty, and we left for the aforementioned pizza place.

Trying our luck one last time, we landed at Shay's on Monument Square where other customers, and the staff as well, were great.

No stranger to displays of bad behavior or entitled inconsideration, I promise I'll get off my soap box as soon as the triple hit of nasty-itis passes. That'll be when my friend's weekend shifts start rotating again, and life on both sides of the bar gets back to friendly.

(Natalie Ladd is a columnist for the Portland Daily Sun. She has over 30 continuous years of corporate and fine-dining experience in all front-of-the-house management, hourly and under-the-table positions. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 01:09

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The record of Susan Collins

The media that most citizens rely on to inform us about candidates' positions and what they believe should be done to improve our lives has only done a mediocre job. Too many of the articles treat elections like horse races or sporting events, reporting which candidate has raised the most money and reporting the many polls that sample voters for months before the election. libby-robert-new

This year in Maine we have been overwhelmed by the coverage of the race for Governor and very little has been reported about the real issues that will face all of us going forward. We have been inundated with insult, bluster and misrepresentation of the facts.

Meanwhile a race for election to the United States Senate has largely gone underreported. Although candidate Bellows has asked for several debates with Senator Susan Collins, there will be only one debate. The campaign has been waged by press release in the most part and the media have primarily reported the positions of each side. This race might be crucial to the immediate future of our country. Electing Republican Susan Collins could make her party the majority party of the Senate. If Mitch McConnell is re-elected in Kentucky, he could become the majority leader of the Senate, and that would have a profound effect on the continued gridlock of the national government.

Having served for three terms in the U.S. Senate, Senator Collins has a considerable record of accomplishment and partisanship. Though portraying herself as a moderate, she has a strong record of supporting her party's positions. Her ads announce her record of never missing a roll call vote, but don't examine the effect of those votes or the tens of thousands of committee votes that shaped legislation. The ads point to ratings by lobbying groups but don't examine which votes were used to create those scorecards and which votes went under the radar. Senator Collins is an advocate for the construction of the Keystone Pipeline which will have the principal effect of bringing billions of barrels of tar sand oil from Canada to be refined in the Gulf of Mexico and transported primarily to Asia.

Senator Collins has called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Law and she endorsed the candidacy of Governor Paul LePage which suggests she doesn't believe Maine should expand Mainecare to take advantage of the ACA federal funds and medical jobs that would be provided. When Senator Cruz and other Republicans shut down the federal government last fall, Senator Collins voted with them and against a funding continuation that did not include modification to the ACA. She claims leadership in the compromise to fund the government and to remove a tax on medical equipment providers; now she holds up other senators that quailed to the medical equipment providers lobby as evidence of her courage. She claims that President Obama was responsible for the sequestration that shut down the government, a view that no independent observer has supported.

She voted for the Blunt Amendment that was added to a national transportation funding bill, an amendment that would give employers the discretion to deny medical coverage to employees in circumstances with which they disagreed. Senator Olympia Snowe was the only Republican Senator to vote against the Blunt amendment.

She has consistently voted against Disclose Act legislation that would require all major political donations identify the contributor.

She proposed reductions in the mandatory rest period for truck driver regulations of the National Transportation Safety Board which disappeared when the fatal crash involving a WalMart truck and a limousine with passengers Tracy Morgan and his friends. She stated the regulation led to more daylight driving when traffic is heavier.

She supported the Bush-Cheney military policies including enhanced interrogation. She is a staunch supporter of the Patriot Act and the Foreign Surveillance Act and as ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee she was principally involved in the largest pork barrel bureaucracy in the federal government. She has frequently voted to filibuster against administration appointments that would increase environmental and financial regulation. She voted to confirm Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Alito who are outspoken opponents of the Roe v. Wade decision. She has voted against increasing the minimum wage and equal pay for equal work provisions.

Does she support building missile defense systems in northern Maine? Does she support creation of a national park around Baxter State Park? Does she support Net Neutrality policy at FCC? Does she support nationwide GMO labeling? Does she favor commiting U.S. Ground troops in Iraq and Syria? Does she support travel bans on commercial flights from West Africa?

If the Senate changes to a Republican leadership, the sensible provisions of the EPA proposal to reduce fossil fuel emissions will be delayed by at least two years. We can not afford that delay. One debate is not enough.

(One Man’s Island columnist Robert Libby of Chebeague Island is a teacher, writer, organic gardener, executive director of the Maine Center for Civic Education.)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 01:09

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Take-aways from the debate

The take-aways from Wednesday night's gubernatorial debate were pretty much what you would expect from me. LePage won. Cutler performed well. Michaud, well, let's just say he is a good guy. rayrichardson-ray

A couple of observations are pretty unusual. Would anyone expect there to be a battle over abortion, and the Republican on the stage was not included? Eliot Cutler attempted to paint Congressman Mike Michaud as a johnny-come-lately to abortion rights for women, and Michaud was doing his best to say he has evolved on the issue over time and now fully supports the right of a women to abort her baby.

The debate then turned to the issue of gay rights, and, again, Eliot Cutler attempted to paint Michaud as a johnny-come-lately on the issue of gay equality. Again, this battle was waged with the Republican on the stage not being included. Michaud, who is a private man and always has been, missed an opportunity here.

Michaud could have and probably should have turned to the camera at that point and shared his personal story. Democrats have long been great at using personal stories to connect people to their public policy ideas, or their philosophy. The Congressman missed an opportunity to connect with people who may have reluctance at electing a "gay" governor.

One of the more bizarre exchanges for me seemed to be Congressman Michaud suggesting that visitors from Africa should be on the federal Medicaid program. Admittedly, it was hard to follow his logic, and since he had his facts wrong anyway, I am not sure what the takeaway should be.

Here is what happened. Earlier this week, a Portland area hospital held a patient for observation over concerns about Ebola. Once cleared of concern, the patient was released. Governor LePage commented on the issue and concluded with something to the effect of are they here legally?

Pat Callaghan of WSCH 6 moderated the debate on Wednesday and asked the Governor to explain his concerns. The Governor said that people could enter the country in one of several ways. Some came with a health screening and others did not. He wants to make sure that a health screening is a part of entering our country.

Congressman Michaud took issue with the Governor's statement and that is where the bizarre part came about. He said that the Ebola patient in Dallas, who ultimately passed away, was initially turned away from the Dallas hospital because he did not have insurance. Let's start there.

The Congressman is simply wrong and I suspect he knows better. The Ebola patient was not turned away due to a lack of health insurance. The patient was released over sloppy practices and a lack of intellectual curiosity on the part of the medical team that evaluated the man. When they asked him for his social security number, he stated he was from Liberia and visiting family in the area. That should have gotten someone's attention based on world events, but it did not.

They gave him a prescription and released him. He was NOT turned away for a lack of insurance as the Congressman stated in the debate. It simply is not so.

After making his errant statement, he immediately turned to Governor LePage and said that the Governor had turned down the ability to provide health insurance through MaineCare expansion so things like this do not happen, or something to that effect as his voice trailed off.

I guess I am confused. The man was visiting family. He was a guest in our country from Liberia. Is the Congressman suggesting that visitors from other countries should get Medicaid (MaineCare) coverage?
I doubt it. Even the most un-reasonable liberal in Maine is not pushing that idea, and Michaud is not an un-reasonable man.

So what was he doing with that string of statements? He was trying to plant a seed. He tried to make a connection between Ebola, something many Maine people on all sides are concerned about, and the fact that Governor LePage had denied MaineCare expansion, thereby making us more vulnerable to the Ebola virus ... or some such non-sense.

The bottom line is, he made it all up. Either he did not know the details about what happened in Dallas and just winged it (irresponsible); or worse, he made something up about a person's personal health details to score a political point. Regardless of which one is correct, or if there is some other outlandish explanation about why he did not know the details of a well known event ... what he did was bad form and he is better than that.

I will close with this. I understand that we have many of our citizens in poverty. I understand that we need to focus on how to lift them from their circumstances. We spend over a billion dollars a year in Maine on poverty programs, so obviously, we are focused on them.

What aggravated me about the debate was the lack of substantive discussion about how we grow a prosperous economy. The lack of economic vibrancy has driven our young adults from Maine because they see greener pastures elsewhere that do not yet exist here.

Over the last 40 years, we have witnessed our public school enrollment drop about 27 percent from its peak in 1977. Raising the minimum wage and enslaving a person to MaineCare, a program that requires you to remain in poverty to continue to receive it, will not bring our young people back who want to come home and raise their families.

We have seen the creation of 22,000 plus private sector jobs under the watch of the LePage administration. It is a start, but it is not enough.

We MUST stop focusing on how small Maine can be and start focusing on how tall we can be.

Let's face it. A vibrant economy will bring people to Maine and the economic doldrums experienced under former Governor John Baldacci will drive people from Maine. We need to fix this NOW!

(Ray Richardson is the host of the Ray Richardson show, heard weekday mornings from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on the flagship station 1310AM News/Talk WLOB in greater Portland and the LOB Statewide Lobster Radio Network. He can also be found at wlobradio.com and rayrichardson.net.)

 

Last Updated on Friday, 17 October 2014 01:12

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Halloween parade returns from the brink

As reported by Anthony Zeli in the latest issue of The West End News, the annual West End Halloween Parade is back on after being canceled in September.

West End resident Wynne Wirth and City Councilor David Marshall (who lives in and represents the West End) met with city officials this past Wednesday to finalize things like permitting and the route of the parade. The route will be shorter than in years past, but promises to be just as much fun as any other. shorr-chris

The parade, which had been run by the Shoestring Theatre for over 30 years, has become so popular that the burden of finding enough volunteers and raising enough money became too much for the relatively small theater.

In recent years the parade has drawn hundreds of participants, and they aren't just coming from the West End. With people coming from all over the city, this is truly a community-wide event.

Wirth and Marshall are in the process of finding musicians and artists, and organizations like Youth in Action and Learning Works are chipping in as well, but volunteers are still needed to serve as crossing guards and funds are still being raised to help cover the costs of permitting and police officers.

Said Marshall on Thursday, "I'm really excited to be part of the Halloween tradition this year. I'm looking forward to volunteering to help make it work."

He continued, "The parade is a cultural and artistic tradition, it started over 30 years ago and largely through the efforts of volunteers it's been a great success. It's a mixture of kids, teenagers, and adults so it's a good group of people. A lot of kids from the neighborhood march and all kinds of artists participate in the parade, but there's also hundreds of people who are standing along the streets and on their front steps to watch the show go by. So there's a lot of families out for all that. It's just a great way to bring community together and have a good time."

The plan for parade marchers is to gather on Halloween at the Reiche School Playground at 5:30 p.m., and begin marching at 6:15 p.m.. Costumes and musical instruments are encouraged, hopefully they'll be a lot of the homemade variety for each (think goblins and zombies using upside down buckets for percussion).

Now that's my kind of party.

For anyone interested in volunteering or donating, contact Dave Marshall at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Wynne Wirth at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

(Chris Shorr is a lifelong Portlander who works on a lobster boat, advocates for the marginalized and downtrodden, and occasionally ruffles feathers in City Hall and Augusta. He blogs at tides.bangordailynews.com and writes this column for the Weekend Edition of The Portland Daily Sun. Contact Chris by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

Last Updated on Friday, 17 October 2014 01:12

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The elusive sustainable house

When I first bought my home, I thought I got a pretty good deal, but accepted that it needed a lot of work. Drafty capes built in the late 1940s were simple structures. Considering the three additions prior to my acquisition, its potpourri of construction was anything but sustainable. Halkias-Telly

And while that buzzword, "sustainable," has grown in cache, I've muddled along for quite some time making improvements from small to major.

But hold on: What exactly is "sustainable," anyway?

I put the question to a number of professionals in the field, and to simple homeowners who are trying to improve the energy efficiency of their surroundings. Many see it as fostering lifestyles which can be sustained indefinitely without depletion of resources, deterioration of ecosystems, or loss of biodiversity.

That's all fine with the big words. Still, in plain English for the rest of us, a sustainable approach would seem to be one that's responsibly conceived, efficiently implemented, durable and long-lasting, free of detrimental effects to society or the environment. This could relate to a manufactured product, an assembly line, a business philosophy, or a community.

My house needed all the help it could get, and despite my engineering background, new tricks had overtaken the old dog. But that shouldn't stop a homeowner from research and self-education.

Energy efficiency was first on the list, as heating oil prices and electric rates climbed in the last decade. Simple measures like replacing old appliances and light fixtures and bulbs were no-brainers.

Some internal projects took priority, such as ripping out overused rotting hardwood in the mudroom and laundry room in favor of the more utilitarian ceramic tile. Still, the exterior had the greatest need for attention.

That meant getting a new roof in place of the tutti-frutti hodge-podge that was curling up overhead.

Then, all the wooden 1940s and 1970s windows yielded to insulated synthetic double hung frames. Even the wooden entry doors, metal screen doors, and their respective framework needed replacing. Not a small expense, but the first step to blocking those drafts — and changing bug screens and storm windows in the fall and spring. All with tax incentives attached — at the time those improvements were made.

Next came insulation, cellulose that was blown into the (empty) walls and attic. Not only did that improve heat retention, but together with the new windows greatly abated outdoor noise — a quality of life factor that can't be underestimated.

Then, the siding and waterproofing. Painted clapboard takes a beating, so I considered fiber cement planks. While a little on the pricey side, the materials pay for themselves in one lifetime of a coat of paint.

While that took a whopping six months to complete, it seemed the right time to address drainage issues that left water in the basement a half dozen times a year. Enter a system consisting of new gutters, ice dams, industrial grade roofs for the two porches, five drywells, and a French drain, all meant to pull water away from the foundation.

So far, so good. But when you own a house, the work never ends. Technologies and building methods, as well as the education of local contractors in all of the construction trades, means no one has to settle for quick fixes or outdated approaches.

For example, one of the best by-products of converting a decrepit screened porch to a three-season area with removable windows and screens — creatively, all with five screen doors — is winter passive heating.

On sunny days, that porch approaches 80 degrees. Opening its adjoining interior windows and door is a thermal coup, sending heat into the mudroom, downstairs bathroom, hallway, and kitchen. It has also solved the former problem of freezing pipes that run through its frame.

The one thing I've insisted on is saving up funds and paying as I go.

No project starts until the money for it is in the bank. So, it's been years in the making with much left to do. It's also why there's no debt or doubt related to any of the sustainable improvements: I've been able to witness their efficacy over time, and not go broke to boot.

More work looms ahead, some aesthetic, but most necessary to improve the home's sustainability. Even future forays into landscaping, and driveway redesign and drainage, as well as electrical wiring, are vital elements to the best use of resources – and safety.

Speaking of electricity, I'd love to do solar panels and send power back into the grid. There's a southern exposure roof over my living room and garage that would be an ideal place for them. But the government has yet to make the incentives for their considerable investment attractive for most middle class homeowners, so we'll wait on that one.

It may never be the perfect sustainable house, and no, I'm not some radically crazed tree-hugger. This is just as much a lesson in long-term economics and common sense than it is on helping out Mother Earth.

In the end, some investment as you go in matters of home sustainability can pay off big time later on, for both your wallet and nature.

Sounds like a win-win all around.

(Telly Halkias is an award-winning freelance journalist from Portland's West End. You may contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or follow him on Twitter at @TellyHalkias. He blogs at fromthestacks.bangordailynews.com.)

Last Updated on Friday, 17 October 2014 01:11

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