I’m Finally Proud to be from Maine

I’m rarely proud to be from Maine. I see it more as something that just happened. On my mother’s side, her relatives arrived from Canada three generations ago to work in textile mills and shoe shops. On my father’s side, I think it was either four or five generations, mostly from Ireland, who first arrived in Boston, then came up to Maine looking for a better life. I could have just as easily been born in Massachusetts or New York had those families made slightly different decisions, or I could have been born anywhere in the world if my parents didn’t feel the need to stay so close to family.

I left briefly several times, living in Boston, Providence RI and Tokyo for several months each when I was much younger, but I always ended up back here. Part of me always felt disappointed in myself about my retreats, but through recovery and lots of therapy, I learned that I needed the security blanket that being near my parents always provided. In many ways, I still do.

One of my biggest complaints, whether I was 22 in the late 1990s or 44 today, is that lack of choices that comes with living here. Yes, if you’re an outdoorsman, it sounds like there are a myriad of opportunities to scratch that itch, but I’m not an outdoorsman, and it seems to me that there is outdoors in every state. Maine has more trees per acre than any other state. Big deal. Outside of the cocoon of downtown Portland, Maine doesn’t have an endless supply of interesting, independent businesses. It doesn’t have a bevy of dining choices or cultural opportunities. Even many of the biggest chain stores don’t come here and quite often, those that do don’t survive. I was waiting for 20 years for a Krispy Kreme to come here, and when two were opened in Maine in 2018, they survived about 9 months. Despite far superior donuts, you don’t go against the morning coffee monolith of Dunkin’ Donuts.

That coffee example is another thing I’ve not liked about being here – people are labeled as fiercely independent, but seem to mostly think with one mind. You get your coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, you hate the New York Yankees and despite the hype, you rarely eat lobster. I used a photo of a lighthouse to lead this article because that seems to be the stereotype so many have of us. I’ve never been in a lighthouse, nobody lives in a lighthouse anymore and I can tell you the names of exactly two. Mainers mostly don’t care about lighthouses, yet if Google the word “Maine” it’s almost the only thing that comes up in the images category. There are pockets of true independent thinking here and there, and the sameness can change depending on what part of the state you’re in (keep in mind that by square miles, Maine is as large as the rest of New England combined.)

I am very proud however, in how most of our elected officials, businesses and residents took the Coronavirus seriously from March 11, the first time Donald Trump admitted it was a problem in the evening address on television. My son was only in school two more days, and all of the non-essential businesses were closed within the week. My wife, who ironically works in health care, was furloughed a week after that. Patients just weren’t seeing their doctors if it wasn’t an emergency.

Mask orders came immediately, we were social distancing very conservatively before it became in vogue and people took the orders to stay at home and stay away from family and friends seriously. We also urged out-of-staters to stay away and put a 14-day quarantine in place for those from away.

Most of the northeast, whether hit hard like New York or Boston, or hit mildly like we were in Maine or Vermont, took serious precautions. Yes, it pissed off some people and business owners, but those in power held firm. Never did it seem like a political statement. Even when Donald Trump started shifting and making this a conservative vs. liberal issue did most people in the northeast make it about that. Sure, there was our cranky former governor trying to score political points demanding our governor do this or that, but I think he just saw his opportunity to make a few headlines. He shut up when it was clear no more than a couple hundred people were going to support him.

I remember watching the cable news channels as how to handle the virus was becoming political, and that’s when I really stopped following closely. I have never been able to understand how people can so quickly detach from common sense in the name of supporting their own little political tribe. I think they look to these tribes to be convinced what they should think and don’t apply common sense. If they did, many of these state leaders, like the governors of Florida, California and Texas would not have rushed to reopen. They would have listened to their health experts who warned the peak hadn’t happened there yet. But, they wanted to show how business-friendly they were and that they knew what was best for their residents.

I’m not going to start railing against Donald Trump. If your common sense doesn’t tell you that he has mishandled this crisis and misinformed the citizens and world of what is happening, you’re coming from a different place of logic than me, so I probably can’t convince you otherwise.

Here are a handful of maps that Vox.com put together that tell the real story of what is happening:

So what do we learn from this map? It shows only the positive progress that is being made in the fight against COVID-19. Any state that is not light blue is doing better than it was either one or two weeks ago, and in most cases, both. Beyond just the northeast, you’ll see that northern mid-western states which had a vocal minority demanding the states be reopened — but officials who refused — are doing the best. Also, while the majority of the states doing better are blue states and led by Democratic governors, this is not the case across the board, underscoring this is not a conservative or liberal problem and it isn’t about a conservative or liberal solution. It’s a virus. It doesn’t care who you vote for.

This is where the “Too many tests equal too many positive cases” of many virus deniers falls apart. Obviously, you’re going to get more cases in more populated states. You’re obviously also going to get more positive cases if you test more people. That’s simple math. However, you can make things equal by working on percentages. If only 100 tests are given and 5 are positive, it’s a 5% infection rate. If 1,000 tests are given and 50 are positive, it is still only a 5% infection rate. Once again, in this map, you’ll see that the infection rates are higher in the south and west — the states that reopened without any plan, in defiance of public health experts.

Here’s another one that shows where the cases are increasing without regard to total population. It only takes someone with vision who is five years old to recognize that purple and hot pink are bad, and off-white and light pink are good. This is about as solid a map to teach the Mason-Dixon line as anything I’ve seen.

Yeah, I’m usually not proud to be from Maine, but when I look at these maps, it’s nice to know that our leaders have exercised common sense in handling the virus. They put public health ahead of small business profits. They put public health in front of the renegades who didn’t like masks. They put public health in front of all else and like the governors and other public health officials of states around us, the results are hard to argue with.

Maine just opened dine-in service at restaurants and it’s still very strict. There are still lines outside of certain stores and while mask restrictions have eased, many stores demand you have them, and many residents have them anyway. Gyms, nail salons, tattoo studios and several other “high risk” businesses still won’t be open for a little bit… and while I’m itching to get my yearly tattoo, I can wait for the greater good.

If you’re in one of these hot zones, I don’t know if your leaders are going to see the light and start relying on serious data instead of their political supporters to make common sense decisions. You may just have to self-quarantine and take care of yourself, exposing yourself to people who have no common sense as little as possible.

I’ve seen a lot of people who had that “the virus isn’t going to get us” mentality, for whatever naive reason they had, later go on TV and lament how stupid they were, or how they lost a loved one because of not taking the virus seriously. Over 120,000 in the US have died of this. Compared to the entire population, yes, it’s a small number, but if one of those people was a beloved friend or family member, the only number that matters is theirs and it doesn’t matter who they voted for in the last election.

Finally, I’d urge you not to get distracted. While cases of COVID-19 are higher than they’ve ever been, conservative cable news stations are dedicating far more time to Southern statues being torn down. This isn’t happening nearly as much as they’d have you believe and not a single statue has caused hundreds of deaths daily. Do not be distracted by cable news stations trying to play on your emotions. The riots and looting are long over, even if they show old videotape. COVID-19 is a serious health risk. Do not be distracted.

Please, my friends in the states where things are the worst, take this very seriously and take care of yourselves.

The First Draft of the ‘Porn During the Pandemic’ Book is Basically Done

I was asked to write a mini-book by my publisher and to make it 10K to 20K words 15 days ago. Since then, I have interviewed 19 people, some at great length and written 28,961 words. My short days were 8-10 hours and once the interviewing was mostly done and it was just writing, the days got longer. On Saturday, I wrote 9,735 words over 15 hours and yesterday I wrote 8,224 words over 14 hours.

I think I’m going to start reading it later today, but I needed to give myself at least 18 hours to kind of get it out of my head so I could start at the beginning with a fresh set of eyes.

I’m still looking for another porn addict who has successfully navigated the pandemic (Rollie, you fit the profile? If so, drop me an email), a cam model who has retired, and a therapist to talk a bit about healthy sexuality. If you’re any of these people…let me know.

I actually think more than my other books, this one best shows my ability as a journalist and writer. While I do tell this story in the first person as a narrative thread, there’s a ton of research and a pretty deep dive into analysis of statistics. I wrote on here at the beginning of the year that I think some of Pornhub’s reporting is faulty, but I really lay out my case in this book.

I also interviewed a bunch of cam models, which is something I’d never done before. I’m usually on the side of telling people it’s not healthy to watch them or participate in them, and I still believe that at my core, but I met a really interesting bunch of people, almost all of whom I would think could be, or could have been, my friends in real life when I was younger. Having them talk about the more technical end of their job and what it means to their real lives off-camera was something I haven’t read much about. It’s the longest chapter, probably because in many ways, I found it to be the most interesting since it was my first time tackling that subject.

I think writing this book has been very good for my mental health. I’ve kind of been wandering aimlessly the last several months, even before the pandemic, uninterested in the freelance/ghostwriting I was doing and unable to get up and excited for a new book idea I have — which I still think is great, but it’s not the time for it yet. And then I have another book idea for after that, which is even more exciting, but I’ve got to get them done in the proper order. Nonetheless, I didn’t need to hustle for money because I was doing OK and nothing was stoking any fires of passion for my work. Turning out a well-researched 30,000-word book in two weeks has changed that. If gave me a burst of much-needed adrenaline. I think it also helps that in these two weeks, the weather has got much nicer and I can sit outside in shorts most days. That helps my demeanor a lot.

I believe the hope is that the book will be out in late June, but with the slowdown in production, I have a feeling that July is more realistic. With the way states are acting about the epidemic, I’m sure it will still be around and make the book still relevant in the moment. If not, I think it will always be an interesting look at how this time caused people to act in ways they otherwise wouldn’t.

During the creation of the book, I got another piece of very cool news that should be a big boost to me professionally, but I have also signed a non-disclosure agreement that says I can’t announce it for a little while. They haven’t given me a timetable, but I think it will be July or August on this one.

And, as always, you can buy my first two books from Amazon. The most recent book is on sale at the moment, 27% off the regular hardcover price and 19% off the softcover. No idea how they get those figures. You can see that book HERE.

All right, time for lunch, a little sunshine and some editing…

I Was Wrong About the Severity of This Crisis, And It’s OK to Admit That

Time and perspective are funny things. I see these yahoo 22-year-olds on the beach in Florida, screaming “Coronavirus come and get me! Nothing’s gonna stop my partying!” while ironically holding a Corona beer in their hand on TV. I have to admit, at 22, I probably would have been that yahoo.

As somebody who was a journalist, I know that the story is usually never as good or as bad as the “civilians” (as we called them) think it’s going to turn out. When the newsroom scanner sounds an alert and I’d hear a dispatcher say, “Engines 1, 4, 7 and 10 and Ladders 2 and 4 to…” and I’d grab the portable scanner and head to my car, I still knew that 19 out of 20 times, just as I started to drive away, the dispatcher would come back on the scanner and say something like, “Cancel all except Engine 4. It was a toaster fire and the tenant put it out. All except Engine 4, stand down.”

I’d still rush when they first said something, because 1 out of 20 times, it would turn into a massive fire, but even on the toaster fires, you’d see people who listen to their scanner at home show up at the scene. They chased scanner traffic the way I did, but they were doing it for fun, not work.

I think some people live for doom, but as a kid, I remember seeing a documentary about the 1972 Munich Olympics where a bunch of Israeli athletes were kidnapped, held hostage and killed. Sports commentator Jim McKay was cast into hard news reporter duty and after the athletes were killed he said, “When I was a kid my father used to say ‘Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.'” I thought that was poetry and have lived my life by it. For every 9/11, Oklahoma City Bombing or Bay Area Earthquake, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of stories that never live up to their billing.

COVID-19 still may not live up to its billing, but it’s looking more and more like it will and even if there are not the casualties that are expected, we’re still looking at an economy that has been kicked in the gut and a springtime full of rituals that will never be, like baseball season and college graduations. Life is forever changed, no matter the body count.

But, on March 6, which seems like it was 38 years ago, I wrote this blog entry. While I think it still makes sense in the context it was written and when it was written, I have no problem admitting I was ultimately wrong. My take on things was incorrect and I was hoping and being optimistic that statistically, things would fall the way they usually do.

I wish our President would just say that once. I neither hate, nor love Donald Trump. As I’ve phased my following of politics way down over the last six years, I’m aware of what both liberals and conservatives say about him, but I don’t know who is exactly right because I don’t do the research and have diverted my former passion for politics toward things I can actually have an effect on in my daily life. The best I can tell, nobody cares about Trump, they care about what they think her represents, so his shortcomings are overlooked, or overblown, depending on who is speaking.

But I am watching the virus coverage on TV. The reality is, he is on videotape saying a lot of things similar to what I was saying two or three weeks ago. I think that, like me, he’s lived a life of mostly optimism and seeing things ultimately turn out for the best. I’m sure his money hasn’t hurt him in getting his way and preferential treatment. Like me, he has an obvious streak of narcissism and control issues. I truly do not believe he was trying to lie or misdirect the public. I believe he was hoping for and expecting a different outcome. But he was wrong, and we have it on video, just like you have me in writing. Denying it now just looks bad.

One morning in December 2012, when I was a City Councilor, the weather was horrible in the morning, yet they didn’t call school off. After bringing the kids to school in absolutely nasty weather, I posted my belief the school system was wrong in having classes that day to Facebook. Forty-five minutes later, the superintendent called me. Twenty minutes after that, the newspaper called me. The story was actually picked up by other newspapers in Maine in communities who were smart enough to call off school. It was amusing that my opinion of the weather was front-page news, but it was the surreal world I created for myself back then.

I know the superintendent learned a lesson that day. You err on the side of caution. I don’t think I do that enough and I believe Donald Trump probably doesn’t do that enough in his personal life, but he’s got to do it as the leader of the free world. I just wish he could say he was wrong because everybody would move on from the issue and deal with the actual important news.

I was wrong. I hope that people didn’t make their decisions strictly based on my opinion, and I think it’s obvious I changed my tune in the last week. If the last six years of recovery have taught me anything, it’s OK, and actually healthy to admit when you are wrong. For any person who looks down on you, there are five people whose opinions of you improve because of the ability to admit your shortcomings and learn from them.