Saturday, August 29, 2015

The new, but not so “humble” Union Street Bakery

Foodies that we are, with a particular attraction to baked goods, we noticed the appearance of a new establishment in town in the last few months.  It’s on Union Street, between Pleasant and Cumberland, in the stand-alone shop we frequently patronized when it was Tetreault’s Market.  We liked the fresh butcher aspect of that shop.

                         DSC_0211 - Copy

Ever the realist, when we saw the place preparing for opening, the Diogenes in us said “here we go again; another starry-eyed dreamer who thinks they can make a living with a 6 foot case of muffins and a coffee pot.”  We figured they’d be lucky to make it to the end of the year.

But we began to notice a steady number of cars in front of the place when we drove by it, which we do frequently.  So a few days ago, after meeting a friend for donuts and coffee at Frostys, we decided to stop in and check the place out.

        DSC_0209 - Copy

We were quite surprised, to say the least, by what we found: much more than a bakery, with 4 busy people working, and a look and feel as if it had been there for years.  A whole fresh roasted turkey was on the work-table, ready to provide the real thing for sandwiches. We expressed surprise, and the lovely Sandy, who owns the place (shown above) asked if we had patronized the Humble Gourmet when it was in business more than 10 years ago.  We said we had, and she replied that she was the owner of that establishment, which among other things, had fabulous sandwiches and baked goods.  We remembered her immediately as well.

That shop was a few doors west of the Brunswick Diner on Pleasant Street, and was a catering business besides being a walk-in lunch and bakery.  We loved their scones and other baked goods; the former, in particular, were a completely different breed – more like what we think of as a coffee cake.  They were astonishing…so much so that we went in search of recipes for something similar, but never came up with one.

Sure enough, she’s making the same scones, and maybe the ooey-gooey cinnamon buns will reappear one day.  Well anyway, we told Sandy that she needed to change the sign out front to show  they do lunch instead of just bakery, because folks like us need to know that’s an option.  She agreed that would make sense, and the next time we went by, the sign had been amended.

We told Mrs. Side about our discovery, and the next day, she and her friend stopped in for lunch, and reported they had a stupendous sandwich, and as they are wont to do, superb baked items for dessert.

We decided we’d do a post on the place, and stopped by today on our way home from breakfast, only to find a ‘closed’ sign on the screen door, but with the outer door open.  So we grabbed our camera and headed in anyway.  There was Sandy, working on a catering item….lemon curd tarts with fresh blueberries.  Turns out their regular business hours are Monday thru Friday, closing at 3.  So the usual lights were not on inside, and the array of baked goods we had seen on Tuesday were absent, but we had a nice chat and took some photos.

               DSC_0208 - Copy

Based on what we know so far, and our strong memories of the excellence at the “Humble,” as we used to call it, we’re giving it Side’s enthusiastic recommendation, and suggest you give it a try.  Be sure to say you heard about them on The Other Side.  Like the prior shop, tables are limited, but they do have other seating typical of contemporary coffee shops.

                 DSC_0210 - Copy

We expect to be noshing on a scone or two early this week, though with our luck, and this glowing review, they’ll probably be out when we get there!

Lucky for them, unlucky for us, we suppose.

Technorati Tags:

Friday, August 28, 2015

You can trust us with your health-care; we’re not like all the others…..

Welcome to the great local mystery that is our health care provider future:


We don’t know about you, but we’ve had a bad feeling about the future of Parkview Hospital (PAMC) for some time.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Side have been clients of a family practice on the Parkview campus for nearly twenty years, and this correspondent has had a specialist affiliated with the hospital that long as well.

Several years back, all of the above practitioners became employees of Parkview, which at the time, seemed like nothing more than a sign of the times.  From what we could tell, it was welcomed by the Doctors and their staffs, since if freed them from the burdens of managing a private practice, and all the paperwork associated with billing and the rest.  Their offices appeared to run more smoothly after the change in ‘business arrangements.’


When talk of a PAMC bankruptcy surfaced some months back, our vague ‘bad feeling’ escalated to something more visceral; a sense that the first of an indefinite number of dominos was about to fall.  We tried to stay our chipper selves, but it wasn’t working too well.  We’re at a point in our life where we like our health care situation to be as stable as possible, especially since we’ve become comfortable with our Doctors, and have confidence in them.


Then the bad feeling took on a more pronounced cast when the bankruptcy and proposed merger were actually announced.  We fixed our editorial ear to the ground, listening for more shoes dropping.

Sure enough, soon we had a letter telling us that our specialist, whom we had carefully trained over the years, would ‘no longer be available to us,’ whatever that was supposed to mean.

Mrs. Side, however, had occasion to visit her GP, and was told things would stay pretty much the same in their office, and the labs and such at Parkview would stay in place.  Since our GP was in the same office, we breathed a sigh of some relief.  We had heard the PAMC Emergency Room would shut down, but that didn’t cause us much concern; conversely, it sounded like the outpatient procedure facility, with which we are quite familiar, would continue to operate.

Now for more recent news and pronouncements from the newly merged operation.

First, we found this just last week (published on 20 August) here:

The hospital’s “pre-packaged” bankruptcy plan involves merging with nearby Mid Coast Hospital to form a new Mid Coast-Parkview Health System.

Since then, Mid Coast President and CEO Lois Skillings and Parkview President Randee Reynolds have made presentations to local town councils, community groups and chambers of commerce to explain their new “vision.”

The two hospital executives led a presentation and question-and-answer session Tuesday night for a crowd of about 40 at the Topsham Public Library.

Reynolds said the new Mid Coast-Parkview will streamline by moving all emergency and acute care to the Mid Coast campus, a process already underway, and turning Parkview into a walk-in clinic and primary-care center, with some oncology and lab units. (emphasis ours)

We should have known, we suppose, that as soon as the “vision” word came into play, we were in big trouble.


Sure enough, we were.  On 26 August, less than a week later, the Ostrich carried this report:


So the initial spin wasn’t even good for a week;  it had the shelf life of a baloney sandwich left out on the counter.


It appeared, judging from their ‘vision’ so far, that the newly formed entity is near-sighted.


We expect it won’t be long before they have us all cross-eyed.


Even if they’re not like all the others.  Because a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Intellectual curiosity.....


A long, long, lonnnnnggggg time ago, when your correspondent was applying to colleges, we remember being asked to write an essay describing our ‘intellectual curiosity’ as part of our submission.  We suspect it was by the Ivy League college we had the audacity to apply to.

We didn’t have paid coaches helping us through the process back then; things were pretty basic.  Having no clue what the term meant, we faked our way through something, and apparently it was enough to make the admissions team happy, because we got accepted.  Lucky for us, we think, we chose another school to attend; one my parents could afford.

Lo these many years later, we’ve come to think of ‘intellectual curiosity’ as an affliction of old age; a bad way to ruin a good night’s sleep, or vice versa, depending on your outlook.  Perhaps even a bit karmic; a payoff for indulging in too much ‘party curiosity’ during our four undergraduate years.  We’ve come to believe, though, that such experiences ended up positively influencing who we were to become.  Self-delusion, thy name is Poppycock.

Figuratively speaking, today we’re sending a microbe or two of our old age affliction your way.  Maybe it will take, maybe it won’t.  Who knows; perhaps you long ago built up strong immunity to the syndrome.  If so, we’re not sure whether to feel glad for you, or sad.


So if you’re so inclined, now’s the time to put on your facemask.

Our first item is this:  How facts backfire - The Boston Globe
And we’re not going to tell you how we came across it.  The money passage is this:
In the end, truth will out. Won’t it?
Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

While the passage says a great deal about how things work in our perfect little town, it argues as well that we should shut down Other Side.

We’ll submit that notion to our Editorial Board and ask them to take it under advisement.
Our other item is this; a book review:

We apologize for the exact reference link.  We read the item of our interest in a print journal, but couldn’t find the same exact column on the web, as the journal suggested we would.  No matter; this link contains the base premise:
In this case he reduces the overgrown jungle of debate about academic freedom in America’s colleges and universities to a lucid list of five alternative positions:
1. The “It’s just a job” school
2. The “For the common good” school
3. The “Academic exceptionalism or uncommon beings” school
4. The “Academic freedom as critique” school
5. The “Academic freedom as revolution” school
These are “ideal types” in Max Weber’s phrase.  Fish no sooner names them than he admits that in the real world the lines blur and people are inconsistent.  Nonetheless, the five-fold typology provides both a map of the larger territory and a path to specific destinations.
 It could use up the better part of a review just to explain the five alternatives, so at the risk of further compressing Fish’s compressions, I will leave it at this.  “It’s just a job” treats academic scholars as professional workers who, because they are hired to advance knowledge, need a certain amount of workplace latitude to do their jobs. This is the form of “academic freedom” that Fish says he upholds.  His position on this is consistent with his 2008 book, Save the World on Your Own Time, which I reviewed on my own time as “Night Makes Right.”
“For the Common Good” refers to arguments that granting academic freedom to professors within their disciplines contributes to self-government by militating against facile enthusiasms that can lead to the tyranny of public opinion.  “Academic exceptionalism” extols academic freedom by treating professors as people set apart from everyone else by their unusual talents and therefore deserving of privileges that are denied to ordinary people.  “Academic freedom as critique” projects the freedom of the professors beyond their disciplines to the rest of the social order.  “Academic freedom” in this view is almost synonymous with dissent.  “Academic freedom as revolution” holds that the whole purpose of education is to advance radical reform of society.

Given that we live in the presence of one branch of the Ivory Tower, we thought pondering the various interpretations might provide some diversion and amusement for you.

Or even help you sleep better.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Brunswick’s Gaga Ladies and the Romance of The Rails….

(Editor’s note: cumbersome as it may be, we ask readers to understand the term “Lady” and “Prince” to have both singular and plural meanings in our story.  The indefinite nature of each, and a way to express it would detract, we fear, from the telling of the tale.)

Herewith an allegory for Brunswick.  The story has had an inconceivable conception, complicated gestation, and problematic delivery.  As you’ll hear in our telling, if you stay with us until the end (of this tale, that is.)  We’re hoping to stop our troubled pacing over it all, and move on to other things.

Remember the movie Romancing the Stone?  That’s what came to mind as we first thought about this post.  We decided that whether we played off that theme or not, ‘romancing’ should have a leading role in our story.

Here we are then, with a love tale of sorts, symbolic yet all too real, in three parts: the romancing and courtship; the proposal and wedding; and finally, the wandering eyes and broken vows that signal failure of the union, and steadfast denial of the truth.

                   Ladies of Brunswick

Our story revolves around Ladys of Brunswick, the beguiling beauties who we sometimes use to symbolize looking for love in all the wrong places.  They have a penchant for going gaga over the ministrations of various Prince Charmings, of whom there are plenty vying for their attention.


Sounds exciting and spellbinding, doesn’t it?  And it might be so, if their swooning was fictional, instead of all too real in the sense of long-term consequences for those who must pay the price of their ill-considered dalliances.

Bare with us as we sit around the proverbial camp-fire and tell our story.

The Romancing and Courtship:

It all begins when Lady Brunswick hearing of a wandering Prince Charming seeking fair damsel to impress with great and glorious promises.  Not wanting to reveal his plans too early, and become plighted only because of these proposals, the Prince disguised himself as a Knight of community economic benefit.  Should fair damsels show interest, the Prince would ride in triumphantly upon the great steel steed called Amtrak, and sweep them into his arms.

The Prince first visited town with wondrous tales of glories to come.  Encouraged by the damsel’s fluttering eyebrows and outreached hands, he continues to beguile the ladies with his charms.

He cites the learned works of various expert professionals who promise economic ecstasy if only all will succumb to his temptations…..such as these glorious projections for the year 2015 A.D.:


and this as well….both from EDRG MDOT Study 2005:

EDRG 2005 MDOT Study snip 1

Sensing hearts a-twitter, the Prince offers further enticements of even greater economic glory from legendary wizards of TOD from far yonder lands, for generations yet to come (CNT AmtrakDowneasterOverviewofProjectedEconomicImpacts2.pdf):

CNT-NNEPRA 2008 Snip 4

…and this, which causes fainting spells among fair damsels….

CNT-NNEPRA 2008 Snip 3

The Proposal and Wedding:

The Lady of Brunswick, completely Gaga over these oaths of great blessings upon the community, convinces town fathers to gather up her dowry in preparation for offering to the Prince, whose charms have left her in his thrall.

Heart palpitating, the swooning Lady beseeches Prince Charming to show himself, and he does, aboard the great steel steed from lands to the south.

The Prince ask for the Lady’s hand with a prodigious proposal:

It includes housing for the court of the Lady:


Soon enough, the dowry is announced (…)
In 2006, the Brunswick Town Council accepted a master plan recommending redevelopment by a private entity, and the following year, JHR Development was selected to lead the project. According to the conditions for development, 1,200 square feet had to be reserved for a future train station.
The project was divided into three parts. Phase I, which included the Bowdoin College Store and the building containing the Visitors Center, offices and retail, began construction in winter 2008. They were finished and occupied by fall 2009. Station Avenue, connecting Maine and Union Streets, was also cut through the site south of the proposed buildings. Phase II began in fall 2010 when ground was broken for the 52-room Inn at Brunswick Station. An office building was also constructed, and both projects were open by late summer 2011. Phase III will consist of a residential building with office and retail space on the ground floor. All of the buildings echo traditional New England architecture through the use of clapboard, shingles, multi-light windows and gables. Through a property exchange with Bowdoin College, the town plans to consolidate its administrative offices in an existing building directly southwest of Brunswick Station.
As of early 2012, public funding for Brunswick Station amounted to approximately $5.2 million obtained from the following sources: $750,000 through the EPA Brownfields Program; $902,500 from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce; $300,000 in Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; $350,000 from Maine’s Municipal Investment Trust Fund, established by the state legislature to provide financial assistance for the design, construction and improvement of public service infrastructure and downtown renewal projects; $2.25 million in municipal bonds; and $668,594 expended by the town to acquire the property. The town government estimates that these public funds have leveraged more than $25 million in private investment by the developer.
Satisfied that he will prosper from the generosity of the fathers, the Prince prepares his proposal for Lady Brunswick.  And it is beyond everyone’s wildest imagining; the marriage is arranged and takes place.   All appears blissful.


Sadly, neither the Lady nor the town fathers insisted upon pre-nuptial agreements.  How could they, when it might risk bestowal of such wealth and blessing upon their ancient and humble village?  Lacking such assurances, none seemed to notice the breaking of the vow professed in June 2011 (
Planning for Phase III, a 16-unit condominium complex (Noble Street), is underway. The condos will feature one-floor living in a secure building with easy access to beautiful downtown Brunswick. Call now to reserve and design your unit!
For more information, please call Mike Lyne at 207-729-0166 or visit

Nor that three of the initial tenants (four, if you include Best Buy), couldn’t survive the extreme public demand for their offerings.

When romance is in the air, such trivial details get lost in the euphoria of great economic benefit wherever one looks.  ‘Rail’ spelled backwards is liar it turns out, but no once seems to notice.  Just as backwards parking spaces, evident in the plans above, have been forgotten.

The Wandering Eyes and Broken Vows:

While others may not have noticed, your correspondent was rocked back on his proverbial heels when we came across this recent news item, published here:
Five condominium buildings are proposed along the Kennebec River in Bath, on the site of the historic and vacant "Coal Pocket" property.
By Alex Lear, The Forecaster
Posted June 17, 2015, at 3:07 p.m.
Last modified June 17, 2015, at 10:29 p.m.

BATH, Maine — The Bath Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously approved the development of five condominium buildings along the Kennebec River, on the vacant site of the historic “Coal Pocket” property.

JHR Development — which has projects that include Brunswick Station and the Mid Coast Medical Group center at 108 Centre St. — received site plan, developmental subdivision and historic district approvals for the project.
Forty condominiums will be developed in five buildings of eight units each, according to a June 11 memo from planning director Andrew Deci to the planning board. The first floors will have interior parking. Two buildings will have frontage on Front Street, and two on Commercial Street, while one will be between a Sewall oil company building and the riverfront.
Observant as we are, this report caused us to become even more sensitive to local circumstances than we normally are.  So we’re going to bring this discussion to a conclusion with a ‘photographic essay’ that makes our larger point more poignantly than any words we might choose.
Feast your eyes, then, upon these signs of ‘great economic benefit,’ wherever you might look:

DSCN0547 DSCN0548
DSCN0551 DSCN0544

As much as the world, and in particular, Brunswick’s symbolic Lady Gaga, love happy endings, we don’t appear to have one here, do we?  Some ladies can be so Gaga they never admit the Prince has jilted them for another (or is it tilted?)


Like most things in our perfect little town, though, it really doesn’t matter.  Because the proof is in the pudding, not in the poetic imagery of the recipe, or the fanciful garb of the chefs.

The question we’re left to ponder is what the real ending to the story will be.