Scarborough Maine

Scarborough Maine
Looking West from deck of Bayley's Lobster Pound Scarborough, Maine, Fall 2013

Other Writing

Look Within, then Look to Montana (continued)

President Flanagan sees USM as a metropolitan university.  What is that? It is outlined in the President’s Metropolitan University Strategic Goals (MUSG) report, August 22, 2014 (  According to the report, “metropolitan universities share a deep and abiding commitment to engaged teaching, learning, creation, research, and clinical programs.”
Answers come from within.
In the September 19th Maine Voices of the PPH, Professor Lorrayne Carroll implores the southern Maine community “to support a robust and expansive USM.” Professor Carroll is a passionate and articulate writer, who also happens to be an extraordinary teacher (I had her as professor in two very rigorous English courses while I was studying at USM). 
Carroll and others such as Nancy Gish, English Department; and Russ Kivatisky, Communication Department, inspired me, as they will continue to inspire others, to reach, to dig in, to think and write critically. They introduced me to research and to the joy of discovering. These are skills for all the centuries, and they are fundamental to the mission of the Metropolitan University. 
For example, Professor Carroll was a proponent of and organizer for literacy outreach through one of her courses; and the communication department has practiced community outreach by developing relationships with area media organizations to ensure students get internships in the Portland area. This is exactly what Flanagan envisions.
If you read Professor Carroll’s piece you know now that she has a story, like many of us do. Hers is story of determination and perseverance against the odds: single mother in Maine finishes undergraduate degree then goes on to get a PhD at a prestigious school out of state only to return to her alma mater to give back. Professor Carroll wrote about her students, “I expect a lot from them; and they expect a lot from me.”
The USM community should expect nothing less.  We must have first-rate faculty that emulate the likes of Carroll, Gish and Kivatisky. Otherwise, no matter what we call it, USM or Metropolitan University, it can be nothing more than Pedestrian University at best. 
Azar Nafisi, author of the Republic Imagination asserts, “The crisis besetting America is not just an economic or political crisis . . . Something deeper is wreaking havoc across the land, a mercenary and utilitarian attitude that demonstrates little empathy for people’s . . . well being, that dismisses imagination and thought, branding passion for knowledge as irrelevant.”
Flanagan and his MUSG committee have looked at other systems in the MU movement, including “Northern Kentucky U., Rutgers/Camden U., IUPUI, Portland State U., Michigan/Dearborn, Utah Valley U., UMass/Boston, and Wisconsin/Milwaukee."  But none so closely matches the demographics of the State of Maine as does the State of Montana, and that is not on the committee’s list. Thus, look to Montana.
The answers come from without.


The Pier

 My parents grew up in Maine during the depression. My mother was from Saco; my father was from Biddeford. The Saco River separates the two.

While I don’t know where my parents met, I do know they were in high school—my mother at Thornton Academy in Saco, my father at Biddeford High School.  I like to think they met at a school dance or at the dances held in the summer at the Pier in nearby Old Orchard Beach, where Big Bands such as Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, and Duke Ellington frequently performed.

The Big Bands drew as many as 5,000 people at a time to the Pier and they performed out at the very end in what was known as the Pier Casino Ballroom. The Casino was also host to moving picture shows. By mid-20th century numerous storms and fires had shortened the original quarter- mile-long pier to 825 feet.

The Pier was a renowned East Coast destination for many. But it was the young who flocked to the dances. The Big Band sound and the stories of my parents dancing to it was something I came to know.

Over the years, and on separate occasions, my mother and father regaled me with rich, likely edited, accounts of their nights at Old Orchard Beach and on the Pier. Each of them recounted how the Pier swayed under the exuberant feet of sometimes thousands of young people dancing the jitterbug. I remember my mother’s stories about my father’s reputation for being a good dancer, and that there was “always a girl waiting to dance with him.”  She recalled the syncopated rhythm characteristic of the jitterbug and the acrobatic steps many of them used:

The really good dancers were daring. The boy would pick the girl up by the waist and swing her away from his body and then down between his legs. The girl would slide through to the other side, jump to her feet, grab the waiting hand of her partner and continue dancing. Sometimes, steps were invented right on the dance floor.

My father and some of his high school buddies spent a summer at the beach working on the Pier moving chairs to make way for the dance after the picture shows ended. They were compensated with free admission to the dances.

I hold an image in my head of my parents coming of age in the late 1930s and early 40s. I see them stealing away to the beach where summer’s heat burned their inhibitions. This is where I see them falling in love.

I see my mother and father on the Pier, where the long wooden structure with a canopied top and 
spindly legs rises out of the undulating Atlantic. I see them swing dancing, their hair and clothes drenched in sweat; youthful faces and bodies filled with a dynamic only teenagers know.  A spontaneous combustion of  frenzied bodies leavened by the syncopated rhythms of swing music and Lindy Hopping in to the steamy summer night's air.  I see my mother and father among the thousands of young men and women in the Casino Ballroom on any given summer night of their youth, each of them frantic to out-dance—frantic to out-live—the encroaching shadow of World War II.

                                 My Few Minutes With Andy Rooney 


    The High Cost of Plastic Surgery

Remember Andy Rooney, the 60 Minutes writer who broadcast often witty but cutting essays from his oversized, walnut desk?  His segment was called “A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney.”

Several years ago, I was working on an assignment for an undergraduate class, Writing Opinion: Editorials and Columns.  The assignment was to write an under 800-word column using humor.

One night, during a long bout with writer's block, Andy Rooney showed up in my bedroom.  Really.  It was 2:00 a.m., and I heard this voice ask me in its distinctive nasal tone, “Do you ever wonder why we (man/woman) need to personify things? “ 

“Wait. Andy, is that you?” I asked.  He continued, as if I wasn’t there:

“Take the Smart Car for instance.  Have you thought about what makes it so smart? Does the Smart Car know logarithms? I use to. Or what about quadratic formulas? Remember those? It's all a blur to me. Wouldn’t it be great to have a car give you advice on your 401K in the morning on your way to work while you drink the coffee it bought you for a discounted price; or wouldn’t it be great to have a car give you ideas for your next column? Maybe it could write your next column? Or pick your kids up from school? Or your laundry from the dry cleaners? Seems to me if we are going to have Smart Cars they should be able to do all those things anyway. Otherwise, what's the point?"

Two hours later I was sitting in bed working myself up to a nasal whine talking to myself and asking, “Smart Cars? What makes them so smart?”

Ok, so it was time to put Andy to bed.  I pulled the covers up over my head and compartmentalized Andy Rooney.  It worked.  I fell asleep.

The next morning I had a doctor’s appointment.  While I was sitting in the waiting room reading the paper a headline jumped out at me: Model Dies After Buttocks Surgery.

Andy showed up.

“I have an idea,” he said. “Let’s leave the smart talk behind and go after the asses out there!”

(Andy can be a little rough around the edges sometimes).  He started in:

“What’s all this nonsense about plastic surgery anyway?”  Take Miss Argentina (2009) for example. She died having her butt enlarged. I don’t get why a beautiful woman who can compete in the world with other beautiful women needed to change her butt.  I mean, what's up with that? Apparently, nature doesn't do derrieres well."

Right, Andy.  So this story stuck in my head.  I thought like Andy: Nature is clueless when it comes to marketing butts—but (excuse the pun) Man knows better? Ha!

During my research on the story, I read on quotes from a couple of Miss Argentina’s close friends who had responded on Facebook (get the artificial picture here?) with the news of their “friend’s” death:

“You couldn’t be any more beautiful,” the first friend posted.

I could not hold Andy back:

 “That’s right.  She could NOT be anymore anything.  She died for heaven’s sake.”

Then the other Facebook friend wrote:

 “You had to pay with your life.” 

Andy resumed:

“And what's this nonsense about paying with her life?  She wasn't drafted in to War or anything. I don’t know what the world is coming to when people put their lives on the line after they have have paid someone, pesos, euros, or dollars, to pump plastic in to their bodies. Or, as in the case of Miss Argentina, into their booties."

Right Andy.  She elected to have her butt enlarged. And yes she probably paid big bucks, excuse me, big pesos, for the big bootie.

“I saw a picture of Miss Argentina,” Andy said.  “I think she looked pretty good.  I was shocked to see she was thirty-eight though.  Well, maybe it's man’s handy-work again.  I say if you look that good on the front, who cares about the back.  I have an idea, from now on beauty pageant contestants should look at behinds that sit for a living before deciding on plastic surgery. I'm pretty sure they'd feel o.k. after viewing, for example, writers' butts.”

Well, Andy, had something there. I checked out the stats on plastic surgery for my article. A few years ago the staggering numbers between *1997 to 2007 in America showed, “a 457 percent increase . . . in cosmetic procedures.” In 2007 people between ages of 35 and 50 had 46 percent of the 11.7 million procedures done, but more staggering the number of people between ages 19 and 34 were coming in second with 21 percent of the total.

“That's silly,” Andy said.

In 2007 a buttocks enlargement or lift was $4,885.00.  And a lower body lift (yes break some part of your legs in order to implant something to make you taller) was $8,000.00.

“My shins are splinting,” Andy whined.  “Should we really be spending 13.2 billion a year on getting whole portions of our bodies lifted?  What are we lifting them up from? Do you know you can go on a plastication, for heaven's sakes?”

Yes, Andy, I know, and Argentina is one of the faves for that sort of plasti-scape. And don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying plastic surgery is bad.  After all, what would people who have birth defects, breast cancer, or traumatic injuries do without plastic surgery?

“Isn’t that the point?” my friend Andy quiped. “Taking something that is damaged, for one reason or another, and making it better because it got messed up and it threatens your life or at least your quality of life?”

I believe so Andy.  Yes.  That is the point.

You know, Andy, I think I’m ready to go back to the Smart Car idea for my column after all.  Maybe it knows something we don’t know.

Andy chuckled.

*Updated statistics show (according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons  Report) that in 2011 Lower Body Lifts were on the decrease in the U.S. from 7615 in 2011 to 7163 in 2012. Butt augmentations also decreased from 1149 to 858. Breast implants also showed a decrease in procedures done from 307,180 in 2011 to 286,274 in 2012. 

But, a report from (February 26,2014) reports that Americans in 2013 increased bust sizes with Silicone implants, putting breast implants procedures back up at 1% over the previous year.  And there is an increase in popularity in the U.S. for "buttock augmentation with fat grafting and neck lifts."  Apparently, buttocks got bigger at 16% over the previous year.  The American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2013 statistical report backs up the numbers.

Just sayin'.


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