The Times Tom Friedman Draws The Wrong Conclusions

It’s a race to the bottom. There will always be someone who has less and is willing to settle.

I read Tom Friedman’s op-ed “The Do-It-Yourself Society” in Sunday’s NY Times. His observations are correct. His conclusions are not. He sees, as I do, technology increasing productivity and competition. He misses what happens to the other two people when one person does the work of three!

No one looks upon FedEx, VOIP or the Internet in general as evil. Yet to many people they are. Technology has radically reduced the worth of many human endeavors!

Before technology shrunk the world we only competed against ourselves. We only competed with people looking for the same standard of living. No more. We’re now competing against people willing to live at a much lower standard than ours… which is still higher standard than their current one!

It’s a race to the bottom. There will always be someone who has less and is willing to settle.

Today it’s the Chinese. As their standard of living goes up and individual Chinese want more they’ll be undercut by someone else.

We have become a Walmartized world. We are driven by price and not much else.

Technology and advanced industrial processes have removed much of the advantage of craftsmanship. Until recently the best good were handmade. We now mass produce well made goods.

Our cars, our cellphones, our washing machines are better than ever while cheaper than ever. Our American labor has been priced out of the equation. If it’s made here, it’s made with fewer people. If it’s labor intensive it’s made where labor is cheap and plentiful and pliant.

I could easily do my weather job on three or four or more stations in three or four or more markets! I suspect some day I will. Technology removes the barriers.

I remember sitting in front of a TV in Bangor, Maine watching Jim Kosek doing the weather. He was in State College, PA working for AccuWeather. He was much better talent than what could normally be afforded in Bangor. Few watching knew he wasn’t local.

It’s already happened in radio. There are fewer local radio shows than ever. Many stations have no local programming or no programming produced by people who work solely for that one station.

What makes this awful is our society’s long standing tradition of valuing people based on the individual work they produce. We just don’t need as many people to produce what we need. From a goods and services standpoint we’d do just fine today with a significant portion of our society sitting on their collective hands.

Unfortunately, in our society if you’re unemployed or underemployed you are deprived!

Without jobs people have no purchasing power and no benefits. They can’t be the consumers that drive demand. And yet, in many cases, their lack of a job is the fault of our technological age and not themselves!

The Luddites were weavers, put out of work by the mechanical looms of the early industrial revolution. They protested by destroying the new mechanical looms as if destroying them would make them go way.

Recently I’ve had Luddite moments. Wouldn’t it be nice if the efficiencies driving people to the curb didn’t exist? My Luddite dreams are no more practical today than they were for the Luddites.

Our society and way of life is rapidly being dismantled. We can’t stop progress. It’s bigger than we are!

What we have to do is find a way to better distribute the gains of a world where the work of individual humans is less important. I don’t know how to do that, but I think about it constantly.

Until we rearrange things individuals have no choice but to try and be that one who does the work of three. None of us has a real choice. Slow down and you’ll be trampled.

Bob Lacey’s Surprise Birthday Party

Bob was heading to the apartment with his younger daughter ostensibly to get a gift from some friends, It wasn’t until he opened the door that he realized something was up.

Bob Lacey gets surprised!This is what’s meant by whirlwind, right? Twenty five hours after arriving in Charlotte I’m sitting in the departure lounge at C2 waiting to leave.

The reason for my trip was to celebrate Bob Lacey’s birthday. Bob and I have been friends nearly forever having worked together at WSAR in Fall River, MA and WBT in Charlotte.

Bob and SheriBob’s been going to work in the same building on Julian Price Place (the only building on Julian Price Place) since 1971. That’s an amazing accomplishment spanning three different facets of broadcasting. For the last 15 years Bob and Sheri Lynch have been on-the-air in Charlotte and 60 other cities.

Dedicated blog readers (is there such a thing–really?) will remember Bob visiting me last weekend. He had no idea there would be a party for him upon his return to Charlotte nor that I would be flying to Charlotte on the plane after his! In untypical Geoff-style I was quiet… hint-less.

Bob and MaryI arrived in Charlotte and met his girlfriend Mary (literally met her for the first time at the airport) who shuttled me around the city as we took care of last minute party preps. The party itself was held in a beautiful condo apartment in the Myers Park section of the city (rub your thumb and the two adjacent fingers together in the money symbol).

Bob was heading to the apartment with his younger daughter ostensibly to get a gift from some friends, It wasn’t until he opened the door that he realized something was up.

The party was filled with Bob’s friends and co-workers and, of course, Mary. Another former WBT, WSAR alum, John Lambis, drove in from Atlanta.

You never know if the guest of honor is truly surprised at a surprise party, but I think so. He certainly looked shocked.

Bob and GeoffWhat do you get someone reaching his 60th 30th birthday? Among the most memorable a ‘mocked up’ cover from AARP Magazine with Bob’s photo and Bob oriented pull-quotes replacing the actual Bruce Springsteen cover. I gave Bob a book of photos from our Maine “mancation” a few years ago.

Charlotte’s mayor, Pat McCrory, declared the day Bob Lacey Day and read a very un-mayoral, funny, proclamation. You’re not going to see this one quoted in the newspaper!

All things considered a very successful trip. I’m glad I could share the moment.

Blogger’s addendum: While driving to-and-fro we passed a sleazy looking motel by the side of the Interstate.

“Oh my God,” I blurted, “I used to live there when they were apartments!”

I’ve been gone from Charlotte a very long time. A lot has changed.

J’Accuse–Some Of You Probably Know My Evil Stalker

The Internet isn’t anonymous. In order for data to be sent to a computer the server must know its IP address. So, when this person spewed on my website it was in my logs.

Someone doesn’t like me. OK–that’s an understatement. Of those who don’t like me someone is being pretty mean about it sending me a stream of vile emails and blog comments. It’s been going on for a while.

Not only have I been the target, so has a co-worker and some other people (more on them later).

I know who it is. It’s pretty obvious. I just don’t know why–what I ever did to this person to deserve his wrath?

I suspect some of you reading this know who it is too. You connect the dots.

This weekend he sent comments to my blog from a McDonalds on Mansfield Avenue in Norton, MA. That’s right by I-495. Today it was from a Barnes and Noble in Farmington, CT. That’s what you’d expect if someone in Maine was coming here for a visit or vacation.

Most of the time his stuff has come from the Bangor area of Maine.

How do I know? The Internet isn’t anonymous. In order for data to be sent to a computer the server must know its IP address. So, when this person spewed on my website it was in my logs.

Facebook is a little more problematic. Well, it was until I found out the originating IP address in Facebook mail is hashed within the message and it can be pulled out. With that little tidbit I found a mean and nasty email sent to a co-worker via Facebook came from a RoadRunner account serviced from Warren, ME, between Portland and Bangor.

Earlier web comments came from another Maine RoadRunner account and from a business account serviced by MidMaine.net

Our miscreant has a variety of pen names he uses, creating and discarding Gmail accounts at will. The most interesting to me are: Fishers4, Dick Fishamajig and JackHammer1968.

Fishers4 and Fishamajig would imply this is someone who knows something about fishing. The 1968 might be his birth year.

One of these pseudonyms appears on a bulletin board sending the same “good wishes” to a former KC-101, Country 92, disk jockey. Maybe our boy has a radio connection?

I know who this is. I have all the pieces except why. I’d rather not go to the police and lodge a case for harassment, but I’m getting to the point where I have no choice.

As I said in the beginning–some of you know this person. Maybe it’s time to put a hand across his shoulder and give him some wise advice. You’ve been caught. Stop.

Bob Lacey Brings His Vacation To Connecticut

If he keeps the rest of his vacation as tightly packed as this first day, he’ll have no vacation.


My friend Bob came to Connecticut to spend a day. We weren’t going to squander it!

He left Charlotte, NC Saturday morning and was here by mid-afternoon. It didn’t take long to drop-the-top on my car so the two of us could head out. We hit the Glenwood Drive-In, a local dog house, before turning south to the shoreline.

Bob grew up here. He likes to go back to those places he remembers as a kid–especially the shore. We took I-91 south to I-95 then turned east&#185. We drove over the Connecticut River and exited on Route 156 in Old Lyme.

Old Lyme is an interesting place, because there are really two Old Lymes… at least to me. There is the beach area of Old Lyme with the Miami Beach Association’s plot of sand flanked by some loud beachside bars. There’s also the more quiet, more traditional Old Lyme. The homes aren’t as special as the care taken of them. In that way it reminds me of Greenwich or “The Flats” area in Beverly Hills. It’s quite beautiful in an understated way that can only be achieved when the construction in your town is mature.

We crossed back and continued up river to Essex. This is another picturesque New England community on the Connecticut River. Most people know it for its scenic railroad with steam engine rides up-the-river.

While Bob perused a gallery on Main Street, “Clicky” and I staked out the street, looking for photos to take. That’s where I ran into “W,” the dog. I held the camera very low to the ground and snapped away. It was too low for me to look through the viewfinder. I’m getting better at these low point-of-view shots, but still wasted most of what I took because the top of the dog’s head was out of my frame!

Down the street was a pretty town park which sloped to South Cove, on the river. Right in the middle a wedding party was posing for pictures. It was a spectacular day. I wonder how much angst the bride had hoping the forecast would come true?

Our evening ended with Helaine joining us for dinner at Lenny’s in Branford. Bob and I had the “Shore Dinner.”

As we drove home I saw I’d put over 100 miles on without going much of anywhere.

Bob left after breakfast on Sunday morning. He was on his way to Maine for a week with his grown son, Christopher. If he keeps the rest of his vacation as tightly packed as this first day, he’ll have no vacation.

&#185 – Though I-95 runs mainly east-west in Connecticut, it is marked north-south. To go east, follow the signs for north and vice versa.

Foolish Moves I’ve Stopped Making

I am an impatient driver. I drive too fast. Right turn on red was made for me.

I also take advantage of a little known law: “left turn on red.”

Stop laughing. I’m not kidding. Here’s what Wikipedia says:

In most areas of the United States, it is also legal to make some left turns on red. In all cases, the road being turned onto must be one-way. Making a left-turn on red from a two-way street is legal in only five states: Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington. In Washington, freeway on-ramps are considered one-way streets for the purposes of the left turn on red law.

Pretty cool, huh? And, it makes sense. One way to one way left on red is no more perilous than right on red.

There’s one particular left on red I often make. It’s at the intersection of College Street and South Frontage Road (Rte 34) in New Haven. I’ve been doing it for years to the amazement of passengers, including my own skeptical family. It only saves a few seconds, but who cares? That’s not the point.

I happened to stumble upon an article about left on red tonight. It was serendipity… and being the ‘left on red’ man, I read along.

Left turns on red are prohibited in the states of South Dakota (unless permitted by local ordinance), Connecticut, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and in the District of Columbia and Guam.

Really?

I am so embarrassed! And, I am so relieved to learn about this by reading, as opposed to learning about it from a cop!

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

We just subscribed to Netflix. Helaine and I are not a huge DVD watching couple, but we thought this might be an interesting experiment. We’re on the plan where you get one movie at a time, with a new one as often as you send the old one back.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated was at the top of our queue and came yesterday. With me currently alone, the timing was right. This film is a documentary and Helaine’s not usually inclined to see docs.

I originally became aware of this film on my way home from October’s trip to Maine. While I drove, and Bob tried to sleep, I listened to director Kirby Dick being interviewed on NPR.

The premise of the movie is, the MPAA movie ratings (The G, PG, R and NC17) are arbitrarily assigned, in a system which benefits big studios and penalizes independents. Dick also concludes homosexual sex is much more harshly treated than similar heterosexual sex acts.

The movie was shot after Dick had already come to a conclusion. That’s not to say he was wrong. It just isn’t an evenhanded presentation. He’s looking to justify his conclusions, nothing more.

The board that assigns the ratings is secret. It’s rules are secret. Everything about the system is secret. And, this secrecy is portrayed as a smarmy kind of underhanded cabal.

The movie goes out of its way to unmask the people involved, using private detectives. I understand the point and method, but I felt these people had their privacy unfairly invaded. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive here, but I felt uncomfortable watching the detective work in progress.

After all, Kirby Dick’s problem is with the MPAA, not their employees.

A few quick notes before I end:

I found the interviews with directors, specifically John Waters&#185, Matt Stone and Kevin Smith, fascinating. Forget wanting to meet your favorite stars. The interesting people in Hollywood direct.

Also, in a Q&A session from the SXSW Film Festival that’s part of the “extras,” I felt there was gratuitous closeup B-roll of Harry Knowles, proprietor of Aint It Cool News, a movie fan site. Harry never asked a question, nor was he identified. Why shows him… and show him again?

Before the film was released, but after the Q&A, Harry wrote:

Kirby Dick’s film is genius. It completely reveals the hypocrisy of the system, and pulls back the curtain to reveal a sacred set of lies that the industry’s “wizard” had been operating behind.

Harry’s words would mean so much more if he were a totally dispassionate bystander. Did they really have to kiss up to him and cast doubt on his imparitality?

Netflix asks you to rate the movie you have just seen (so they can better recommend other films). I gave this doc 4 of 5 stars. If there was a 3.5, I would have given it that instead.

Glad I got it.

&#185 – Could he be any more weird… even if he tried?

It’s On The Way

I’m so excited. The setup for the photo book from Helaine and my Southwest vacation was done Sunday night. Helaine took a look, asked me to remove one photo, and off it went to Shutterfly.

There’s a thirty minute grace period before the order is finalized. During that time, I changed another picture.

Here it is Tuesday, one day later, and Shutterfly says it’s on its way to Connecticut.

I’m so excited. If this is anything like the book I made from my Maine trip, it will be well worth the effort… and with 51 pages and a few hundred photos, there was plenty of effort.

Photo Time

I tried to catch up on some loose photography today. The four photos (of 325) I wanted to keep from my Atlantic City trip got tweaked in Photoshop and then uploaded to a photo finisher.

Some of my friends print their own photos. My friend Peter, near Atlantic City as it turns out, has printed some gigundo photos which hang on his wall and look great. I’ve never been that lucky and I’ve read it’s no cheaper to print at home.

Anyway, any time I’ve ever tried to print something ‘critical’ it’s always taken at least two tries! I’m saving myself cash and grief by waiting for the postman to deliver my photos.

Getting the Atlantic City shots out of the way was simple. The big job is the one I’ve put off since October – our Southwest vacation photos.

My goal with those was to print a photo book, like the one I did for my ‘mancation’ to Maine with my friend Bob. The problem is, there are just so many photos and many of them are pretty good.

No photo gets printed ‘as is.’ Every shot needs some tweaking, though I’m trying to keep it at a minimum for this album. Instead of Photoshop, I’m relying on Picasa, the free photofinishing software from Google. Picasa can sharpen and adjust levels at the touch of a button.

Unfortunately, some shots have tiny marks caused by dust on the camera’s sensor. It’s a real problem in first generation DSLRs, though now solved in most modern cameras. Photoshop is the cure, which just adds another layer of complexity to what I wanted to be simple.

I’m through 13 pages in what I anticipate will be a 30-40 page book. It is tedious work. If this comes out anywhere near the last one, it will have been worth it.

Once the book is done, I need to pick 5-6 shots to enlarge. I have claimed the two walls that make the hallway to the attic stairs for my gallery. It’s beginning to fill up nicely.

I’ve been through these pictures many times and I continue to discover shots worth looking at. Often, I’ll play with them just to play. It’s amazing how you can change the look and feel of a photo with the right tools on your computer.

My photography hobby has turned into a lot of fun. I can see why so many people are hooked and throw money at it for all sorts of neat equipment.

What I don’t understand is how people were able to get good at it before the digital era. To me at least, good photography demands practice. That’s one reason I have no qualms shooting 325 pictures, mostly in one afternoon and evening in Atlantic City, to get four I’ll keep.

With film this would have been a prohibitively expensive undertaking. On top of that, by the time the prints were back I’d have forgotten exactly how the shots were set-up.

I am the un-Luddite.

Do Predictors Forget?

I make weather forecasts every day. My forecasts only go out a week or so, but the first few days are the most important and the ones people remember. I don’t make long range forecasts.

When I’m wrong, especially on critical days, people remember. When you make long lead forecasts people tend not to remember as much.

AccuWeather press release: “The Northeast is staring down the barrel of a gun,” said Joe Bastardi, Chief Forecaster of the AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center. “The Northeast coast is long overdue for a powerful hurricane, and with the weather patterns and hydrology we’re seeing in the oceans, the likelihood of a major hurricane making landfall in the Northeast is not a question of if but when.”

Did AccuWeather’s release affect anyone? It came out 3/20. On 4/2 USA Today printed this AP article:

PORTLAND, Maine (AP)

The Photo Book Is Here

My photo book from the Maine vacation came in a few days ago. I am totally blown away.

It is 5×7″ with a soft black cover. The 25 pages contain 69 photos, ranging from full page to six on a page. It is a bound book.

I brought the book to work and started passing it around. The response was amazing for two reasons.

First, everyone who looked at them liked my photos, which was nice because I think I’m getting better as a photographer.

Second, nearly every one who saw the book was amazed something like this could be done by an amateur! That’s the part that blew me away. Nearly every photo site advertises this functionality, yet few people realize it can be done cheaply and easily.

I originally started on Winkflash, but found the interface clunky&#185. I moved over to Shutterfly, which was much easier to operate. That’s where I completed the book.

There is one pain in doing this. You have to upload all your photos. Uploading takes significantly more time than downloading!

I wanted to use full size files wherever possible to maintain quality. I uploaded over 120. You really can’t tell how many you’ll need until you get going.

My suggestion is to do the uploading while you eat dinner or sleep.

Once the photos were online, they were available to drag and drop into templates. I chose different templates for each page. This created the structure of the book; how many photos would be on the page and in what physical alignment.

Some templates allow for text, which is a good thing. I used a very casual font, reminiscent of a felt tipped pen, and kept my captions short.

The minimum book size is 20 pages. I got to 20, but still had plenty of photos I wanted to include.

I really had no idea how it would all turn out. It wasn’t until I had the book in my hands and began thumbing through that I realized what I’d stumbled upon.

OK – how much? Believe it or not, the book was printed and shipped to my home for less than $20. Amazing.

It took over a week to get here via the ‘standard’ ground shipping. OK, I’m cheap. So shoot me.

Helaine and I are getting set for a trip next week which is more like an adventure… a photo adventure. I can guarantee there’s another book in my future.

Blogger’s note – Before I wrote this entry, I sent a fan letter to Shutterfly. I wanted them to know how happy I was with my photos and how few people seemed to know about producing these little books. As a thank you, the person who wrote back credited my account with a coupon. I have no idea what the value of that coupon is.

Since I’m writing something nice about Shutterfly, I think it’s only fair to reveal my gift.

&#185 – I did have some 5×7’s and 8×10’s printed at Winkflash and they did a very nice job for very little money. Since they’re nearby, in Rhode Island, the photos came back in a few days.

Shaking With The Next Door Neighbors

I was in Maine a total of four days and yet I’ve picked up new next door neighbors – Kay and Skip, also at the foot of Lawler Lane.

Hi

We had our first earthquake that I can remember for a long time this morning. Some of you that live in Maine might have felt it.

Those of you who don’t it is a weird thing to go through. Skip thought it was thunder, but then when our building was shaking that was scary.

It registered a 3.5 which isn’t to bad, but enough to scare you. How lucky we are not to have such bad things in this area. So many people don’t realize how lucky we are.

Hope everybody is doing well. We are doing the best that we can right now.

Love ya all,

Kay and Skip

Here’s the official rundown from the USGS.

Meanwhile, a week and a half ago, I would have been there. I’m not sure whether that makes me happy or sad.

Last Photo Entry… For Now

This will be the last I talk about my Maine photos. It’s starting to bore me, and they’re my shots!

Yesterday I complained about Winkflash’s process for designing a photo book. I was hoping their software wasn’t the same as everyone else’s… and it wasn’t! Sorry Winkflash – on this one you lose (though, as you’ll hear, I did give them some business). I went instead to Shutterfly

What is it with photo processor names? Along with the two I’ve already mentioned, there’s Snapfish. C’mon. We’re being put on, right?

These were the best names available?

Shutterfly’s web based software is similar to Winkflash’s, but works much more quickly and efficiently. There are also more choices to customize the photo book.

Actually, there were too many choices including page and cover color, layout and text. More choices means it takes more time. I also have a tendency to become more insecure, worrying I’ve done something stylishly stupid.

The biggest problem switching to Shutterfly was uploading my chosen photos again! Even with high speed Internet access it took a few hours.

I am pleased with my finished book. At least I’m pleased with how it looks online. In the past I’ve found the printed version of photos always looks better than what’s on the screen.

My 25 page book, with at least 75-80 pictures (most pages feature multiple pictures), will cost $19.26 shipped. Not bad.

Having finished the book, I looked to print a few 8×10 and 5x7s. I couldn’t believe Shutterfly’s prices. They were much more than what I had seen elsewhere.

Since the photos were already loaded at Winkflash, and their price was much more reasonable, I ordered the singles there. My 5-5x7s and 3-8x10s were $8.41 out the door (and since they’re coming from Rhode Island the wait shouldn’t be too long).

You might be wondering how I got to these two companies to begin with? The answer is Picasa.

Though I process my photos with Photoshop, let me go on record recommending Picasa if you deal with digital photos.

Picasa is one of those Swiss Army Knife programs which does a lot of different things. It will pull photos off your camera to your PC. Then it acts as a file manager to let you see what you’ve got on your hard drive.

You can easily (I mean without a manual or reading the directions) sharpen, brighten, crop and enhance any photo. If you burn your photos to a disk, Picasa will add a slide show function that plays right off the CD. It also handles the upload to a photo processor or blog.

Did I mention, it’s free and from Google?

Now comes the last step in vacation photos – waiting.

Photo Book – Isn’t It Easier Than This?

After taking all those photos in Maine, I thought it might be nice to put them all together. In the past Helaine and I have had 4×6 inch prints spiral bound together. I wanted something a little more ‘produced.’

I’ve been playing around with Picasa (which doesn’t do anywhere near as much as Photoshop, but is perfect for most digital photographers… and free), which offers to upload your pics to a few photo finishers, some of whom produce photo books.

Hey, why not? I’ve seen Apple’s ads where Macs produce beautiful little books. Can’t my PC do it too?

I saw photo books offered on Winkflash, one of Picasa’s vendors, and uploaded my stuff. We’re talking hundreds of megabytes – a major undertaking.

Last night, and then again this morning, I began to put it together. Now I’m done.

I’m not finished. I’ve just had it! Frustration is the best word I can use without this becoming an adults only blog.

I suppose a downloaded software application, where I could do all the assembly on my PC and upload the files later, might be a good idea. Winkflash attempted to do all the manipulation online – a Web 2.0 application. The execution’s just not there.

The interface is slow. Sometimes photos don’t center up. Once I’ve moved a small photo, I can’t easily see it at its original larger size. That’s a necessary proofing tool.

I will try again, but elsewhere. I’m not saying Winkflash is bad or has poor quality. All I know is, for me, the user interface is awful.

I was hoping the picture book would be on its way to production by now. Instead, I’m back at square one.

Two Parts Of My Maine Story I Forgot To Mention

I’ve posted a lot of photos and written a lot of prose about my Maine vacation. There were, however, two interesting events I haven’t talked about. They’re not good or bad – just weird.

The first happened as Bob and I were driving in the car, late one evening. We had the radio on when we heard a commercial for Diva’s, a club in Bangor.

Diva’s was advertising for dancers… adult dancers! Though I thought I’d already heard everything, I was wrong.

I changed the station. The same ad ran a minute later.

My second Maine moment was equally weird. I was watching TV on Monday. Of course, the lead story was the 5th anniversary of the 9/11.

As a national package ended, the camera came up on a young anchor team. They looked serious and sincere. He turned to the camera and talked about how he remembered 9/11 – how shocking it had been.

Then he said he was in high school at the time! Uh huh. He’s anchoring in Bangor, but was in high school for 9/11.

It’s all much too weird.

How I Became A Maine-iac

Here’s the setup. I had vacation time I needed to take (and there’s more where that came from). So did my friend Bob from North Carolina. Neither of us wanted to spend much money, but he had a plan.

If we went on vacation to Maine, he could do some work for a radio station that carries his syndicated morning show, and we could visit Maine on the cheap. Anyway, he loves Maine and is very attached to the radio station in Bangor where he’s been heard for 10 years.

We made our plans, such as they were.

We’d drive up to Maine on Sunday and stay until Wednesday. I needed to be back in time to hand off the camera, “Clicky,” to Helaine and Stef who were going to a concert.

In return for Bob’s on-air visit, the station would arrange a place for us to stay. This was the first in what would be a string of incredible luck and good fortune that marked our trip.

Bob flew up from Charlotte, and we left midday Sunday. Though my car’s a convertible, you can’t drop the top when the trunk’s full – and it was full. That’s OK. Our 415 mile, six hour fifteen minute, trip was a little long for that much wind noise. And, as it turned out, once we got to Maine, the top stayed down!

We drove through Connecticut, into Massachusetts and then onto the Mass Pike. We exited near Worcester and then headed northeast into the Merrimack Valley and New Hampshire. From there, we paralleled the coast, without seeing it, on I-95.

Maine is a big state. Once you’re north of Portland, there is little but trees to see. We watched for moose!

Off the Interstate, we drove east toward Mt. Desert Island. It sounds foolish when you first say it, but it’s pronounced “deh-ZERT.”

The topography of Mt. Desert Island was set into motion as the Earth’s tectonic plates collided to form mountains. It’s only in the last tens of thousands of years that the true lay of the land was set by the advance and retreat of glaciers.

It’s an island – you expect to see water. There’s more than you expect! The island was scoured by glaciers, which formed lots of lakes, harbors and Eastern United States’ only fjord!

Our home was in the town of Southwest Harbor. More succinctly, it was on Southwest Harbor.

Because of the shape of the harbor, it has wide tide swings. High and low tide can sometimes be separated by 10-15 feet! For the tidally deprived, that’s a difference in depth. The actual water’s edge can, and does, retreat by hundreds of feet.

Our landlord/hosts were Mary Jo and Rhonda. They own the house we were in, one next door and another home well inland. They could not have been friendlier or more gracious.

Let me stop here and say, everyone was friendly and gracious. This wasn’t because I’m TV-boy, or because Bob has been on the radio for a decade. People on Mt. Desert Island and everywhere else we were in Maine were just nice.

The perfect example came later in the trip. We were on a tiny island – only 75 full time residents. I was in the general store looking for Chapstick. No luck. As I was about to walk out, a woman approached me, handed me one, and said it was in her purse, unopened.

I offered to pay for it, but she said (and this is an exact quote), “It’s my good deed for the day.” To me, that one sentence typified Mainers.

Our house was interesting, in that it was bigger inside than out. Built like a boat, it had slightly low ceilings and no wasted space.Upstairs there were three bedrooms. The two Bob and I used each had large picture windows that opened onto the harbor.

The bathroom was compact as well. I wouldn’t have mentioned it, but I’ve never been in a shower so small you had to be under the water at all times.

After unpacking, we headed to Cadillac Mountain. Cadillac is inside Acadia National Park, and at 1,500 feet above sea level, offers an amazing view in all directions.

While we waited for the Sun to set, we looked around. The air was clear and clean and richly blue. Below us were Bar Harbor and a number of coastal islands. Holland America’s Amsterdam was leaving port, continuing its New England/Canada itinerary.

We left the mountain and drove into Bar Harbor. With only 5,000 or so permanent residents, it is definitely a tourist town. However, don’t think honky tonk.

This is Mt. Desert Island. There are no 7-Eleven’s, McDonald’s, Starbucks or any other franchise or (shudder) big box stores. It is 1950s America as depicted on sitcoms – all white (97.88%), all Christian, all industriously hearty.

We had to get up early (for me) on Monday. Bob was going on the radio from a natural foods supermarket over 50 miles away. This would be the beginning of the “Fatiguing of Geoff.”

Getting up early is no problem. It’s the getting to bed early part I can’t hack. Day-by-day that took its toll.

The appearance was Bob’s. I was just an appendage. Still, I was impressed with how he handled himself and the genuine affection of the listeners who came by.

On Sunday’s arrival I had discovered my laptop’s PC card slot was no longer functioning. That meant no Internet! There was, however, an Internet Cafe in the market. This would be my only time online during the vacation.

It’s tough to remember each and every thing we did, and in the proper order, but we visited nearly every inch of the island and its three main towns: Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Northeast Harbor.

We also ate lobster. I’m not talking one meal here. We ate lobster twice each day – lunch and dinner.

Lunch was a lobster roll. Think chicken salad on a hot dog bun, but substitute lobster for the chicken! Dinner was boiled lobster.

It doesn’t take long to understand lobster is a major employer on Mt. Desert Island. It’s not some ‘photo op’ touristy thing. You see men, and at least one woman I saw, scurrying about on stubby lobster boats nearly every time you see water.

Lobster buoys, the makings of the prototypical Downeast Maine photo, are everywhere. Yes, they’re hung on walls and piled on docks, but any stretch of water deep enough for lobsters has hundreds, sometimes thousands of traps marked with buoys.

Though surrounded by water, Mt. Desert Island is not a bather’s paradise. The water is too damned cold, even during the height of the season, when it’s in the low 50&#176s!

Even if the water was warmer, there is only one sandy beach – Sandy Beach! The rest of the coast is speckled with large rock outcroppings, and crashing surf.

We spent part of one afternoon at Sandy Beach and Thunder Hole – both are in Acadia National Park. Thunder Hole is a natural rock formation which, when conditions are right, produces 30-40 foot tall columns of sea spray accompanied by thunderous booms.

Though Hurricane Florence was passing off to the east, and we came before and stayed through high tide, Thunder Hole was silent.

On Wednesday, our last day, we took the mail boat past the Bear Island Lighthouse to Islesford on Little Cranberry Island. This tiny community has a permanent population of 75.

At first, I thought it was neat to be an interloper in their little society. Then I thought, do they feel as if they’re zoo animals on display? Wherever reality lies, I felt welcome and I loved the island!

It is small enough to transverse on foot. Bob and I followed an unmarked road to a lonely stretch of rocky beach. We turned around and walked, cross island, to an art gallery.

It didn’t take long to figure out there was something strange about the island’s vehicles. Most homes had a car or truck parked outside – a very old car or truck.

When the island’s tiny, your car’s engine will never wear out. However, the exterior is another story. Exposed to salt air 24/7/365, the finish dims and sometimes rust pokes through.

This was a great trip with a great friend – a guy I met my first day as a professional broadcaster, over 35 years ago.

The trip itself was better than the sum of its parts. Yes, Maine is spectacularly beautiful – possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.

It was more beautiful because the Sun was strong each day, the temperatures mild, the stars very bright. I might not have enjoyed it as much if it hadn’t cooperated with me. Still, that’s an outcome I didn’t have to worry about.

I shot over 1,000 photos on this trip. Some of them illustrate this entry. There are nearly 180 more in my online photo gallery. I hope you get a chance to take a peek.