Tag Archives: opinion

How To Be A Good House Guest

My poor, neglected blog! 

I’ve been missing in action due to a swarm of house guests.  Some were invited, others weren’t.  Some stayed a short time while others lingered on until I began daydreaming about ways to bodily remove them from my island paradise.

I think there’s something about owning a four bedroom home on an island seven miles off the coast of Maine that attracts those looking for a “cheap” vacation.  Cheap for them perhaps, not cheap for the hostess.

I think most of my visitors, family and friends alike, are considerate and helpful while others (namely those who chose to stay for weeks on end) were less than considerate and way less than helpful.

At long last, the house is close to empty, the steam has ceased pouring out my ears, and I can think clearly once again! 

In the name of all that’s holy or otherwise, I’ve compiled a list of considerations… just in case you’re someone’s house guest in the future.

1.  Wait for an invite.  While this may seem obvious to most, it never ceases to amaze and irritate me when people arrive uninvited and unexpected.  Yes, I have four bedrooms but perhaps those bedrooms are filled with invited guests.

2.  Get off your butt.  Okay, so you’ve been invited or perhaps you descended like a swarm of locusts.  It’s not your hostess’s job to cook, clean up after you, pick up your soggy towels, or replace numerous spent rolls of toilet paper.  Help your hostess; she needs it!

3.  Restrict your visit to a few days, a week at most.  Hey, even I can tolerate the uninvited when the house is already full.  For a few days.  House guests, like fish, begin to stink after three days.   And for heaven’s sake, let your hostess know how long you will be staying. 

 I tried to sound light hearted when I asked an uninvited relative, “So, how long do you think you’ll be in Eastport?”

The answer? 

“Oh, I haven’t decided yet. Three or four days.” 

She stayed for two weeks.  Just how many times does your hostess need to ask before getting a definitive answer?  Once and only once, please.

4.  Be considerate.   Considerate of water, food, electricity, your hostess’s patience….at times I’ve had as many as 11 visitors staying in my home.  Contribute some food, offer to cook, whatever! 

Remember your hostess will be paying the bill for your vacation for months after you’ve gone home.  Water is extremely expensive here on the island and filling an extra capacity washing machine with three extra rinses for your shirt and a pair of socks is not only crazy, it’s downright rude and wasteful.

Keep in mind your hostess may have to attend an unexpected event. True story:  I had to attend a funeral the other day and was made to feel guilty (yes, guilty!) for attending.  Guilt aside, I attended. 

5.  Thank your hostess.  Especially if your arrival was unexpected.  ‘Nuf said.

As an afterthought to this list:  consider presenting your hostess with a bottle of wine; after the guests have departed and the dust has settled, she just may need it.


Maine Small Island Post Offices On The Edge?

The other day I received the September issue of The Working Waterfront, a monthly publication about Maine islands and waterfront areas of Maine.  In their words, the free monthly newspaper covers “just about anything connected with this coast and the lives of the people who live and work here.”

While reading an article on an artist’s collective in Machias, I happened to notice a small article of sorts reminding us of the plight of small island post offices and how buying stamps directly from these small post offices helps to keep them in business.

Consider Cliff Island:  fewer than 60 year round residents according to a Cliff Island website.  Or Monhegan Island, sitting twelve nautical miles off the mainland with somewhere around 75 residents. 

 You can just imagine the moaning and groaning at USPS Headquarters about keeping those post offices open.

Sutton Island recently lost their mail delivery system.  Mail was brought by ferry and left in a trash can marked “US Mail”.  Apparently the Postal Service was concerned over lack of security so now residents of Sutton Island make a two mile ocean journey to collect their mail. 

 Just imagine spending upwards of three hours to pick up a pile of store flyers and unsolicited credit card offers. 

So aside from a jaunt to Cliff Island or Monhegan (which sounds great to me by the way), how can you help keep these vital post offices alive?

Buy your stamps by mail, of course.  I borrowed heavily from the coupon in The Working Waterfront (I hope they don’t mind) and have included their list of island post offices complete with zip codes.

Take a minute to cut out the coupon (link below) and order a book or two of stamps from a small post office on one of Maine’s multitudinous small islands:

Cliff Island     04019              Swan’s Island     04685

Long Island    04050              Cranberry Isles   04625

Chebeague     04017              Isle au Haut        04645

North Haven   04853              Islesford            04646

Islesboro        04848             Monhegan           04852

Peaks Island    04108             Frenchboro         04635

Click here for the ORDER FORM(buy stamps by mail order forms can also be found at your local post office). 

One more thing:   if anyone on these wonderful islands cares to have a weekend guest, be sure to let me know;  I’ll pack my bags and buy my stamps in person.

What’s The Motive?

Warning:  Rant ahead!

I was visiting an elderly neighbor today.  He’s a shut-in and always happy for company; he even leaves a door open so my wandering cat, Midge, can pay a visit. 

 While discussing the current events here in Eastport, he mentioned a neighbor who has been driving him nuts.

“The problem with Patty is, whenever she does something nice for me, she has to let everyone in town know she did it,” he lamented.  “She’ll bring me supper and then I am hearing from half the neighborhood about how she ‘takes care’ of me; as if I can’t feed myself. ”

He stared out the window for a long moment and added, ” It’s embarrassing.   Why does she do it?”

At first I thought he was asking me why Patty feels the need to shout her good deeds to the world (or to whomever will stand still long enough to listen), but as I sat on my neighbor’s couch I realized what he was really asking me:   Why does Patty bring him supper? What’s her motive?

Does she do it to help out an elderly shut-in or does she do it so she can try and focus the spotlight on herself for another day?

A lot of us do nice things, good deeds, perform the proverbial ‘random acts of kindness’ because it makes us feel good inside.  We do it for the happiness it brings someone else and we expect nothing in return. 

People like Patty have an entirely different motive.

I know someone else who does the same manoeuvre.  Recognition is the name of the game with these types of “do gooders”.  Volunteer work brings on a long and involved conversation where she explains how she really doesn’t have the time for it,  but the organization in question just can’t get by without her help.

  After it’s done, she’ll tell anyone within hearing distance (and she’ll raise her voice expressly for those standing just outside of hearing distance) about the number of hours she put in, the amount of money she raised, the number of people who benefitted from her generosity. 

 Just ask these types what they’ve been up to lately and they’ll blow their own horn for hours.  Naturally, they save the world single handedly.

We all know someone like this.   Who knows, perhaps some who are reading this will recognize themselves.

For those of you who recognize yourself in this rant, ask yourself the next time you are signing on for yet another charitable cause, what’s your motive?

On behalf of those of us who do kindnesses for others and remain silent about them:  we don’t want to listen to you, we don’t want to tell you how wonderful you are, and we are getting just a wee bit tired of patting you on the back when you’ve already sprained your arm patting yourself on the back.

If you find yourself repeating the same self-congratulatory litany to your friends, family, and neighbors, then you aren’t performing your heroic feats for anyone other than yourself…think about it.

Bring Home The Troops, An Interview With A Downeast Protester

courtesy Ann Cornelison

courtesy Ann Cornelison



For several years Eastport has seen a dedicated group of people who stand in front of the Post Office, good weather or bad, to protest the war in Iraq.  Their numbers range from 7 to 12 on average but there are others who stand vigil in a more impromptu fashion.  Visitors and residents alike have been known to jump in and join the protest.

Their vigils, held every Saturday morning,  are peaceful and can attract a fair amount of attention.  Although these men and women are omnipresent,  they really caught my attention of the weekend of July 4th.

With the USS Hawes in port and thousands of locals and people “from away” swarming downtown Eastport, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to protest the war in Iraq on the most patriotic day of the year, in arguably the most patriotic city in the country.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with Ann Cornelison of Eastport and ask her about protesting the war in Iraq.

LDE:  What exactly are you protesting?

AC:   The invasion and continued illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq by the US, which is responsible for the death or maiming of countless citizens and soldiers.

LDE:   How did your protest group start?

AC:   David Gholson [Cornelison’s husband] and I were in St. Stephen [Canada] before the US first invaded Iraq and were inspired by the people who held a peace vigil right at the little park as you cross into Canada. We sent out a few emails to see if there was any interest in this area.

LDE:  How do people react when they see you protesting?

AC:   Occasionally, since we’ve been [protesting] at the Post Office, an individual will express, in some way, their disagreement. Sometimes they are civil. Sometimes they are not. We try to be polite and non-confrontational with all of them. It is, after all, their right to express their opinion, just as it is ours.

LDE:   And July 4th weekend, how was it to protest the war in Iraq on a patriotic weekend?

AC:   It was so quiet downtown this year. In years past there have been more
people downtown and so we got more response from both sides. Generally, the people who
react negatively to us on the 4th weekend are not from here, and they don’t really want
to have a conversation with us — they mainly just spout meaningless drivel that I assume
they’ve heard on right-wing radio.

LDE:   What are some of the reactions you receive?

AC:   One fellow backed up his van from the stop sign as he drove down Washington Street, rolled down his window and called us, over and over, “Stupid God damn idiots.” That wasn’t exactly a conversation.

This past Saturday the same man crossed the street, heading north on Water Street, and waited until he was almost past the corner and almost past our peripheral vision even, to say, “Shame, shame, shame.”  Once again, not a conversation.

Last week a local man approached us to ask if we’d be there on the 4th weekend. When we said
that we would, he expressed dismay. We responded by telling him about the veterans, both from
here and away, and the uniformed (and not uniformed) Navy personnel from the ship who have, in years past, approached and thanked us for what we do.

 He continued to argue, and I repeated the bit about the uniformed Navy personnel who had supported us and he replied, “Must have been the gay ones.” I guess I’m just glad he said “gay” instead of something else.

LDE:  Do you get any positive feedback?

AC:   All the time.  Whereas we used to get about 90 percent positive response from the people who respond at all — I’d say now it is more like 99 percent. Eastporters, people from away, tourists, students, veterans, all sorts. 

One fellow who lives here admitted that he’d voted for Bush twice and felt so ashamed and thanked us for being there. My feeling is that we need everyone at the table, not just those of us who opposed the invasion from the get-go.

On one of the first Saturday mornings, when we started standing at the Post Office corner, I saw a former next-door-neighbor approaching the building. At the time her son was either preparing to go to Iraq or was already there. (When we first came to Eastport, I think he was in 7th grade and his little sister must have been in the 2nd.) It was especially important to me to find out her attitude about what we were doing — if she had any negative feelings, I wanted to be able to talk to her and explain.

Well, I didn’t have to. In spite of the fact that her only son was in the service (and in harm’s way), she said in no uncertain terms, how much she opposed (and still does) this “war” and she thanked us for standing vigil. Every time I see her now, I check in to see if she’s changed her mind but no, she still supports us.

LDE:  How long do you plan to continue your vigils?

AC:   Good question. I’d say “until the US pulls all troops out of Iraq.”  I don’t know what the others [protesters] would say.

LDE:  What do you hope to accomplish?

AC:  We are realistic. We know that our action is not going go cause the president to change his wrong-headed thinking and to bring the troops home. As some of us say, “We cannot NOT do this.” If we are able to publicly demonstrate what so very many people in Eastport think, but maybe do not feel free to express, we are happy to do that.

 We are happy to show that freedom of speech does not belong solely to those who agree with those in power. We are proud to be part of a strong thread of people who are doing this same thing [protesting] across the country and across the globe. We hope to remind people that, in spite of what their evening news shows do not show them, that the war continues and that people are still dying.

LDE:   What is your reaction to “Support the troops”?

AC:   I think the phrase is over used, especially by those who think it is the opposite in meaning to Bring The Troops Home.  My sign says: “Support the Troops – Bring Them Home NOW.” Others might think that “the troops” have the right and the duty to refuse to serve, but I think that’s a topic for a private conversation and not a public peace vigil. My aim is to be a reminder to people but not to overheat them.

LDEIs it safe to assume you are a Democrat and voting for Obama?

AC:  Yeah, I’m a Democrat. Always have been. Don’t know about the others [protesters]. I was undecided between Obama and Clinton (and gave them both some money) until after the Texas debate when she went so negative. She lost me completely then. I know he isn’t perfect. No one who gets this far in politics is pure. But he speaks to young people and seems to be recognizing their previously untapped value as citizens that I think may help save this country.  I hope so.

LDE:  How do you think Obama would change the course this country is on?

AC:   Oh, I think he will disappoint people, because there are so many hopes riding on his presidency. His image has been blown up so much, he can’t help it. I don’t think he will get us out as fast as some folks (wishfully) think he will. I think this next presidential term is a lose-lose for anyone. The Bush administration has ruined the presidency as well as everything else it has touched, and it will take more than 8 years to fix that. But I think he can help turn us around. Whether it can make a difference, well, I don’t know. I’m a pessimist.

LDE:  If you could say just one thing to President Bush, what would it be?

AC:   There is no shame in admitting you are wrong and doing something to
right that wrong. Remember the tenets of AA, George? The shame and the crime is continuing
that wrong, in continuing to be responsible for all these lives being lost. That shame rests on your head, and it brings shame to every citizen in this country. You have decimated the
reputation, the economy, and the future of the United States and I do not know how you can live
your life so blithely, without any doubts. Shame on you.

Many thanks to Ann Cornelison of Eastport, Maine for sharing her views with Living DownEast.  Protesters interested in joining Ann and the others in their peace vigils can meet in front the Eastport Post Office (corner of Washington and Water Streets)  Saturday mornings 11:00 until 12:00.  To read Ann’s rememberance of fellow Eastport protester, Ed Earley, click here.


Hey Uncle Sam, want to buy an island?


Eastport, Maine is the eastern most city in the United States.  It’s an area rich in history and was governed by Great Britian from 1814-1818.    Eastport is comprised of several islands:  Moose Island (where the city of Eastport is located), Carlow, Matthews, Dog, Goose, Spectacle, and Treat Island.

Treat Island  (rather, half of it) is currently for sale.  $799,000 will get you your own island paradise….that you get to share with the US Army Corps of Engineers.  Since 1936, the USACE has been operating an exposure station for concrete durability testing, but I digress.

Treat Island was settled after the Revolutionary War by one of George Washington’s staffers, Colonel John Allen.  A settlement sprung up and there were some fifty houses, a school and Colonel Allen’s store.  Benedict Arnold did business at Allen’s store.  The remains of all these historical gems, plus the remains of a fort and earthworks battery, are still visible out there on Treat Island.

Here’s an idea that has taken shape in my mind:  the US government already owns a share of Treat Island, why not ask them to purchase the rest of it?

A living history museum along the lines of Plymouth Plantation (located in MA) could be constructed.  Rebuild the houses, the school, the store and the fort.  Designate it a historical site.  Hire locals as actors to reenact daily life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  How did these Mainers make their living?  What were their lives like on Treat Island? 

Build the community and bring on the tourists.  There are scows (large, flat bottomed boats) that are used to carry visitors between Eastport, Campobello Island (Canada) and Deer Island (Canada).  A ferry service has started  to run passengers between Eastport and Lubec, so transporting tourists wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, be a problem. 

With approximately thirty four acres, Treat Island could offer visitors a chance to experience life in the Downeast Maine of centuries past. There could be hiking trails to explore and since it’s an island, there are beaches to comb.

So what do you say, Uncle Sam?  Invest in a piece of Maine history, invest in Eastport’s future.  We’ll be waiting to hear from you.