Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Brunswick – The Musical; is MSMT paying attention?

Have you seen Chicago – The Musical?


You really should.  It’s been produced on Broadway multiple times; at MSMT here in town; and the Merrill in Portland hosted a touring company version several years ago.  It’s also been made into a movie; we own both that and the CD.  It’s a lively show, with great music and dance numbers, and unforgettable characters, including a slick lawyer, two foxy ladies, and a matron who oversees the inmates.  As the lyrics reveal, ‘tit for tat’ is part of the story line.

The opening words of the show come from an offstage announcer, who says this:


While we’re neither a musician, an actor, a composer, or dancer, we do love musicals, and have been going to them for a good 50 years or so.  So we occasionally go off on a tangent with lame-brained ideas for shows and tunes.  Last night, after attending the town council meeting, the muse came knocking, and gave us an idea for “Brunswick - The Musical.”

We’ve already got a working draft for the intro that reads like this:

“Ladies and gentlemen!  You are about to see a story of carbon footprint, diesel fumes, foul smells, bad vibrations, moral hazards, greed, corruption, exploitation, and treachery.  All the things we hold near and dear to our hearts.”

Adapting the music and casting are two of our biggest challenges, and we’re hoping some collaborators will step up to help.  Maybe a friend or two from MSMT staff would like to get involved.  We’d gladly give them first rights to debut the finished work when it’s ready for a tryout.  They can help with auditions and all the other nitty-gritty details.

Herewith some ideas for musical numbers:

All That Noise (based on All That Jazz)

Funny Money (based on Funny Honey); the words alone suggest who should perform this number, but we’ll let the pros decide.  Here’s how we see the first few lines:

      Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong.

      But he doesn’t care, he’ll string along.

Rail Block Tango (based on Cell Block Tango); we see this as being performed by the Schadenfreude Six, consisting of Wayne Davis, his acolytes Jeff Reynolds and Jim Trusiani, and others who have successful auditions.  Susan Wilson, other councilors, and former councilors are expected to vie for the roles.  The opening words will go like this:

      They had it coming, they had it coming.

      They only had themselves to blame.

When You’re Good to Mama: this number is so ripe for adaptation and casting that we’re considering a number of obvious options.  The theme is:

      Got a little motto, always sees me through.

      When you’re good to Mama, Mama’s good to you.

Razzle Dazzle; one of our favorites, and a real show stopper, sung by Billy Flynn, the attorney in the show.  The words almost need no change, and we do have a leading prospect for the role, but we’ll have to see how good he is in the audition with the pink feather fans and the leggy dancers.  Check these words:

      Give ‘em the old flim flam flummox, fool and fracture ‘em

      How can they hear the truth above the roar?

All I Care About; this is another Billy Flynn show-stopper, with words like these:

     I don’t care about expensive things, cashmere coats, diamond rings

     Don’t mean a thing

     All I care about is love; that’s what I’m here for

Cash (based on Class), which opens with these lines in our imagination:

    Whatever happened to fair dealing, and pure ethics and nice manners?

    Why is it everyone now is a pain in the ash?

    Whatever happened to cash?

I Can’t Do It Alone; we see this as being performed by the two blonde headliners, who ever they turn out to be.  They’ll have to be fast on their feet, of course, and as the old saying goes, ‘always one step ahead of the sheriff.’


Oh alright.  Enough of our stupid theatrics.  Besides, the muse just walked out the door; she only works half days.  The problem is we never know which days she’ll work half of.

Let’s get down to the business of reporting.  All the action related to the MLF and the Governor’s letter and the letter to the council took place in the first 45 minutes of the meeting.  And there were some ‘theatrical’ moments, if you don’t mind us saying.



One speaker, Jeff Reynolds, who we believe to be a NNEPRA groupie and devoted protégé of Wayne Davis, Chairman of Train Riders Northeast, asserted that the Bouchard Drive neighborhood coalition (Brunswick West NC) is a hyperventilating cabal of train haters.  Wayne was in attendance, but left the excessive respiration to others this time around.


Reynolds then proceeded to hyperventilate himself, and hyperbolize on broader subjects, like the end of railroads, Amtrak, New England, Maine, the mid-coast and Brunswick, and who knows what else, since he seemed to consider any petitioning to authorities as anarchistic, scorched earth politics gone mad.  He did have a neighbor who agreed with his lunatic doomsday scenario,  curiously enough.


Jim Trusiani joined the hyperventilation bandwagon as well, though we couldn’t actually discern what he was hyperventilating about.  Maybe he and Jeff should spend a few hours inhaling Downeaster fumes so the oxygen overload subsides.


We mentioned schadenfreude earlier while describing one of our song concepts for the new musical.  It was on display last night, and has been on display in the past at other meetings, and in other conversations and published material.

We can’t remember who triggered the concept last night; but he made a comment something like “I don’t feel any empathy for folks who bought a house next to railroad tracks, and are now complaining because trains use the tracks.”  Snickers were heard here and there in the council chambers as a result.

Any way you slice the sausage, taking delight in other’s misfortune is uncharitable, and rather unseemly in a perfect village like Cape Brunswick, where ‘community’ is a core value.  The implication, of course, is that anyone who moved next to railroad tracks should have known that a 600 ft wide, 40 ft tall industrial facility would eventually be built over the tracks.  (Reminder: commercial and industrial are not the same thing.)

The dismissiveness is bizarre on its face.  These folks have lived with trains passing by for years, and never raised a voice, as best we can tell.  We ourselves had an office that faced directly at these tracks, and was closer than any home on Bouchard, for 6 years, and were always happy to see a real train go by.  Let’s be clear; this is not the same as having an idling 4,250 hp engine park outside your window for 5 hours, where you can smell, feel, and hear it for the duration.

BTW, we’d like to ask why the MLF building isn’t being built over the MLF track area in Portland, where all the logistical and maintenance support already exists.  If the work is already being done there, building a shed over the track area shouldn’t change the environmentals, right?  And it’s not in a residential area, is it?

The comment made was akin to suggesting that if you moved near a gas station, you shouldn’t be surprised or unhappy if a refinery was planned for the site.  Or that if you purchased a home ‘on a road,’ you have no right to complain if a huge distribution center is built across the street, with diesel powered 18 wheelers coming in and out 24/7/365.  How many of you would respond to that with a shrug, saying “I should have known,” and that “it’s all for the greater economic benefit of Brunswick.”  Think back to some of the industrial park expansion proposals put forth in recent years, and the reactions they got from those in the vicinity.

Now let’s add zoning into the mix.  The neighborhood had a right, as we see it, to expect that Brunswick’s zoning ordnances would give them some level of protection from inappropriate use, though you can never predict what a Zoning Board of Appeals with stars in their eyes might do.  No matter; turns out the Feds claim to have ‘pre-emption’ authority, meaning they can override local regulations, and do exactly as they wish.

How nice.  When you think about it, how far is that removed from eminent domain action?  Have you read about Kelo and New London and the ridiculous decisions and outcomes there?

Questions for Brunswick’s Elite & Beautiful:

  • Which makes more sense for Brunswick and the earth: using a full sized SUV for personal transportation, or a Prius, a bicycle, or walking?
  • Which makes more sense for Brunswick and the earth: using Ford Crown Vic or Chevy Caprice land cruisers as taxis, or small, highly efficient, LNG powered Ford Transports?
  • Which makes more sense for Brunswick and the earth:  transporting 10-50 people between Brunswick and Portland, or Brunswick and Boston in a 4,250 hp diesel powered transporter on a limited access thorofare, or a 325 hp diesel transporter on a full access thorofare?
  • Which answers to the above ‘send the right message about Brunswick?’


We have our guesses as to how elite and beautiful Brunswick attitude leaders come down on these questions, and we’re pretty sure not a one of them will see the cognitive dissonance in their discordant answers.

Selling Vacuum Cleaners Door to Door & the MLF Siting Decision:

We remember reading years ago that the first rule of being a ‘closer’ in door to door sales (and most other sales encounters) is to get your foot in the door, and then ask which model the customer wants to buy, not whether they want to buy.


Discussing and debating the building of the MLF in Brunswick West is like the Kirby salesman asking you which model you want to order even though you told him you have a perfectly fine vacuum, and you aren’t interested in a new one.  He’s managing to get you playing in his yard with his rules and referees, instead of playing in your yard with your rules and referees.

It’s like asking animal rights zealots whether bears should be baited with Dunkin’ Donuts or Frostys Donuts?  Wait….there’s another choice.

NNEPRA and its advocates act for all the world like building an MLF in the first place, and building it in Brunswick in the second place, are unimpeachable points of view.  The hell they are.  What if green eggs aren’t needed, or any colored eggs for that matter?  And as we suggested earlier, why aren’t they selling green eggs to Portland, where there’s already plenty of bacon to go with them?


Challenging the Experts and the Advocates:

When we’re feeling especially cantankerous and grumpy, we tell ourselves that the whole idea of Amtrak passenger service to Brunswick is a fraud, based on flawed and unsupportable thinking.  Let’s not forget that passenger rail died off for a host of reasons, and those reasons have not been rescinded, any more than horses have stopped pooping in their buggy tracks.

But we’re willing to put ourselves out there with this assertion, and test the waters, so to speak.  Let those to whom it has been revealed enlighten the unwashed here at Side offices.  In the following areas, if you please:

Convenience:  Can anyone make a plausible argument that the Downeaster is more convenient that the Concord Trailways Bus?  Especially when it comes to heading to Boston’s Logan Airport and back?  Or connecting to points further south?  Have you had anyone help you with your bags when boarding or disembarking from Amtrak?  Have you had them drop you at a specific airport terminal, and pick you up there?

Price:  Let the arguments about the Downeaster being cheaper than the bus begin, but make sure you mention what kind of coupons/or nearly free rides for Bowdoin students are being factored into those numbers.  For our money, being able to take the bus directly to the departure terminal at Logan, get your luggage unloaded, and then reverse the process on the return trip make the value proposition a slam dunk.  Not to mention the free wi-fi, bottle of water, and a movie.


Value? Are you kidding? By any measure, Amtrak comes in last, reinforcing why passenger rail service died off a long time ago, except for a very few limited situations, like New York City to Washington, D.C.  And even that takes huge subsidies to sustain.

Flexibility:  Compare the ability of The Downeaster to modify its schedule, its routing, or where it stops to that of the bus.  Or to add or delete service quickly in response to changing conditions.  Or to extend its runs further up the coast, or anything else you can think of.  Can The Downeaster pull up just about anywhere in any town?  Can they call crews and tell them to fire up another train set tomorrow morning?  Do buses need multi-million dollar stations and boarding facilities to deal with passengers?  This is so not even close that frankly it angers us to have to think about it and make a case to you.

Overhead Costs:  How much did the stations/platforms in Brunswick and Freeport cost?  How much does it cost to operate and maintain them?  How much does it cost to transport crews back and forth to Portland via Brunswick Taxi vans?  How much does the “Visitors Center”, which is more realistically a “Departure Center,” cost to operate?  How much is being added to the national debt to keep the train running?


Public Subsidies & Economic Viability:

Do we even have to talk about this?

Environmental Footprint:


OK, so which looks like it has the lesser carbon footprint?  We guess we forgot that if you’re a true believer, in the Cape Brunswick sense, the numbers aren’t important, because you just know the train is the right thing to do.


Economic Benefit:  We challenge anyone to objectively prove that Downeaster service to Brunswick is a net economic gain for the town.  As we’ve said before, we continue to believe that the train is hauling more discretionary dollars out of town to be spent elsewhere, than it is hauling similar dollars into town to be spent here.  We remind you again of the ‘long term parking lot.’

Ask yourself how much a couple or family spends in Portland or Boston when they attend professional sporting events, including the fares.   You’re going to have to get a lot of people coming north to buy Danny’s Dogs to balance that out.

Adding more trains (“five round trips per day”) will just increase the efficiency of taking dollars from Brunswick to provide economic benefit elsewhere.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  It’s right up there with giving a quarter million dollar grant of public money to a local taxi company owner to boost the town’s economy.

If you think these are great ideas, let us know.  We’ve got a million similarly productive ideas.

Why We Love Trains:”

This seems like a great time to remind you that underlying the entire Downeaster business case is the romance angle.  And nowhere is it more clearly articulated than in the publication of Train Riders/Northeast.  There are any number of smitten supporters here in Brunswick, but so far, we’ve been unable to find them waxing romantic in print.

Wayne Davis, shown in this picture, is the Chairman of Train Riders/Northeast, as we noted earlier.  As the photo shows, he’s in love with other things besides Downeaster trains.  He and his associates are dependable water-carriers for NNEPRA.


We don’t know if that is a ‘selfie,’ but it is a selfie as we see it.

Ten years ago, in this newsletter, Wayne the romantic waxed rhapsodic about ‘why we like trains.’

The article begins right there on page 1, but if you’re too exhausted from what we’ve hit you with in this lengthy post, you can glory in these highlight phrases:

“the sancity of the land; a dialogue in time and space with the landscape.”

they “travel center city to center city.”  Oh yeah?   Check Portland and Boston.

“they are spirited and intelligent”

“the ride is smooth and laid back and infinitely charming”

“what do we not like about trains?  nothing.”

Sounds to us like in the opinion of some, Buddha can assume the form of an Amtrak train set, and bring peace, tranquility, self-enlightenment, and harmony wherever it should go.  As long as it stays on the rails.  And  maybe lighting the lamps from long, long ago too.

If that’s not a detached, objective, well-reasoned assessment of the value proposition for bringing Amtrak to Brunswick, and building the MLF in the Bouchard Drive neighborhood, then nothing is.

Which may be the pithiest thing we’ve written in a very long time, if you stop and think about it.


So what are we to conclude?  We could chat further about CoJo, GoJo, and all the other factors involved, but it’s probably time to close by saying it with pictures.




All aboard!  All aboard the B train!  And don’t forget to tell The Shadow to get in touch with us if you run into him; our conviction that something wicked is going on is undiminished, and we wont be happy until we know the who, the what, and the why.


No comments:

Post a Comment