Posts Tagged ‘Portland’
It was certainly a music infused weekend, complete with Lollapalooza in Chicago and, more locally, Portland’s much anticipated Mumford & Son’s, Gentlemen of the Road stopover show.
I’d been anticipating the day for months and it lived up to those expectations in many regards. The music and the stage set blew my expectations.
The organization of the event, pretty standard for Portland. The lines for everything from the bathrooms to the beer to burgers, overwhelming and a little disappointing. Probably because most of us Portlanders don’t typically wait, whether it be in traffic or long lines. One of the benefits of living in a small city in Maine that most of us take for granted.
A common think spot of mine, the Eastern Prom, was packed with over 15,000 people. A place where I’ve found silent, solo refuge over the past few years was everything but, but a site to behold never-the-less.
Mumford & Son’s opened with the highly popular, yet never officially released song, “Lover’s Eyes:”
(note: to avoid about a minute and a half of eager Portland fans, skip to about 1:45)
While I’ve been listening to this song over the past year on YouTube, I thought it would be appropriate to share it for those of you who have yet to hear the tune and have never heard Mumford & Son’s preform live. It truly gives you chills to hear them play. For a less powerful version but with less crowd screaming, search YouTube.
This song represents all that is Mumford & Son’s: increasingly powerful vocals & music and an unbelievably talented group full of many different instruments and sounds that create one of a kind and touching music experience that most everyone, despite typical music tastes, can appreciate if not fall in love with.
To read more about the show, check out the Rolling Stone article.
This photo was taken of Casco Bay from the Eastern Promenade last Saturday. It’s a pretty standard shot which many of us Portlanders have come to take for granted in a way.
Last Saturday was one of those perfect kinds of summer days where there is very little humidity, the breaze off the ocean is perfect. Sailboats are littering the bay and keeling at a perfect tilt. They are experiencing a truly scientifically perfect moment. Everythign is aligned to move that boat at a perfect speed. Man is harnessing a natural force to make something go. It’s a beautiful site.
I post this photo not because of its uniqueness, but because this was a perfectly peaceful kind of moment. Sitting in the shade on my old, ripped duvet covert I was very much relaxed. Everything was just calm. It was the kind of Saturday you only see depicted in the park in silly romantic comedies. But apparently they do exist!
And yet, I’m already so far away from this moment. My life is currently in a limbo sort of state. I’m caught between two different worlds. The one I’ve lived in and known for 25 years and the one I’m about to discover in 5 weeks time when I sell everything I own and move to San Francisco to start a new life.
You can imagine that as a high-intensity, go, go, go- kind of person, finding time to relax and enjoy the little moments does not come easy. Especially in a time when so much is changing. The list of things I have to do and people I have to say goodbye to before I go gets longer every day. It’s making it that much more difficult to enjoy the moments I have left here.
This picture is a good reminder, though! It most certainly makes me remember how important it is to recharge. To get the little joys out of life, the summer breeze, the cool shade, the smell of fresh cut grass. To really let those feelings engulf me do wonders for my mental state, which, in turn, makes all the “to-do-list” tasks manageable.
So I share this lovely summer photo to remind you, and myself, that it’s all about balance.
Try this…next time it’s a nice summer day, go sit in the shade. Not the sun. It’s a totally different summer perspective.
This past Saturday, I had the entire day off! A rarity in my life for the past 6 or so years working in the “industry.” You can imagine my excitement and my need to not let a moment un-enjoyed pass. We spent the day at the Farmers Market in Deering Oaks park and then went to the beach for a picnic, finishing off the perfect day with some cold beers and grilled, grass-fed chicken. This past Saturday in itself is another reason I want a 9-to-5 job.
Anyway, I took some photos for the Sustainable Food News facebook page and thought I’d share on my blog as well. I love the Farmer’s Market in the park on Saturdays. No one is unhappy. Apparently shopping local and organically really puts people in a good mood. I agree!
I’m a firm believer in that good things happen on Tuesdays. Waking up to a nice cup of coffee and a good conversation was only proved my theory. Soon after, however, as I set out to start the day’s writing, things got REAL good. I received a link to this article…
“One of today’s hottest folk rock bands has agreed to play on the Eastern Promenade this summer in what’s expected to be Portland’s largest outdoor concert – other than July 4th celebrations – in years.
The State Theatre, which is promoting the event scheduled Aug. 4, anticipates that more than 12,000 people will attend the “Gentlemen of the Road” concert featuring the British band Mumford & Sons.
Organizers hope that the daylong event, on a Saturday, will spill over into the rest of the city by nightfall. For the “after concert party,” smaller, indoor venues would host the local musicians who will be opening acts for Mumford & Sons.
Portland’s City Council approved the concert proposal Monday night by an 8-0 vote. On the advice of its attorney, the council stipulated that the State Theatre agree to a contract detailing conditions that must be met to protect the public’s safety.” ~Dennis Hoey, Portland Press Herald staff writer
Key words and phrases I like from the lede of this article: Eastern Promenade, summer, outdoor concert, Mumford & Sons (DUH!), daylong event, spill over into the rest of the city, “after concert party,” smaller venues, local musicians, approved…proposal…by an 8-0 vote.
I don’t think I need to point out how HUGE this is for the city of Portland as a whole. But it is HUGE! I think it’s awesome that the city passed this with an 8 to 0 vote. This is going to really put Portland on the map in terms of music and is going to be GREAT for tourism.
I’m a huge fan of big music events but living in Maine often creates the travel to these events difficult, or even often financially impossible for me.
I love summer. I love being outside. I love music. I love Mumford & Sons. I love our local bands. I love the local aspect about this whole event and I love that it is being applied to music.
Remember that profile piece I was working on? I think I referenced it a few weeks back. Anyway, I wrote a profile piece about Susan MacMillan and her business, Fixtures, and sent it to a publication’s editors for consideration.
While they are intrigued by the subject and are considering featuring Susan in some form or another, they would prefer to assign one of their contracted writers who knows their specific style to do the piece.
Now, I’m trying my very best not to be angry or bitter or flat-out depressed but it’s difficult at times. I got the news last Friday and every time I see the email in my inbox it stings a little. It has taken all I have to try and block out how great it felt when I was done with it and the gushing sense of pride and confidence that came along with it.
At the same time, I’m trying to remind myself that I should embrace that sense of accomplishment I felt after writing it. Just because the story isn’t going to be published does not mean I shouldn’t be proud of it, right?
It also GREATLY helps that Susan has been so supportive and this endeavor has strengthened our relationship and created potential future business opportunities.
Today, I sat down stared at the email. Read it and reread it. Then I set out to write a response. Sure it would have been easier to just delete it and forget about the whole thing, but I was taught to be better then that. To have a sense of etiquette and class even when you’re not getting what you want.
Further, at the end of the day, I understand the editor’s decision. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but now, I’m not an editor of a successful magazine am I? The publication has a reputation to uphold and they are set in their ways. While I think it wouldn’t hurt to give other writers a try and branch out in style, that is not the trend of the magazine and ultimately, I do respect that.
Anyway, while my blog is not the outlet I was aiming for, it is still a place to share my writing. Below you will find the profile piece I wrote. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Not Just a Toilet
It is 9 am on a Monday morning and I am meeting Susan MacMillan, owner of Fixtures…Designer Plumbing Showroom, a high end plumbing fixtures business, at Becky’s Diner. She is just arriving to Portland in her BMW wagon from St. George, the place she calls home about 90 miles away. Taking off her overcoat and sliding into the red vinyl booths at Becky’s, Susan is put together wearing a stylish dress, tights and boots. She orders coffee and one poached egg. Before we start she excuses herself and answers a phone call from a client.
“Oh! Black garnish, really?” Grimaces Susan. “Eww, I’ve never seen that. But yeah! We can get you the parts, I don’t care if you bought it from me or not.”
This brief moment epitomizes Susan. A woman committed to class and dedication to customer service and design, yet a true Mainer who can call the atmosphere at Becky’s home.
Susan pays the utmost attention to detail. Whether it’s her outfit, her state-of-the-art showrooms, now in Portland and Rockland, one of the properties she has renovated, or how her daughters’ college dorm room is set up, aspects of design go into her every move.
“I’ve built [Fixtures] all around customer service,” says Susan. “I’m very, very customer service oriented. That’s what sets us apart from really any other business.”
Susan takes pride in her high end plumbing fixtures showrooms but is humble about all there is to learn. She recently went on a design venture to Paris, France where she exposed herself to design outside the “plumbing world.”
“In order for us to be successful,” says Susan. “We need that broader based design knowledge that customers can’t get somewhere else. When we are looking at tile, when we are looking at light, we can give that educated experience. It’s not just a faucet or a toilet.”
Why designer plumbing fixtures?
Twenty-two years ago in 1990, she and her husband, Andy, started AM Plumbing & Heating, Inc, a plumbing company based out of Portland, that later moved to Rockland. Andy is namely responsible for the plumbing company.
“When we wrote the business plan 20 years ago for AM Plumbing, I had a high end show room in mind,” said Susan. “The idea was that when it got close to ‘retirement age,’ I would open a designer plumber show room, leave my career and start a new one with Andy that would allow me to focus on what I loved doing- design. It just happened earlier.”
Eight years ago her youngest daughter, Emily, was diagnosed with type one diabetes. Susan made the choice to leave her marketing career and open the high end plumbing fixtures show room she had planned for retirement.
“I always wanted to focus on design someday,” said Susan, who graduated with a Bachelors in business administration and a minor in marketing from USM in 1992. “I loved design.”
True to her nature, Susan rolled with the punches, and decided to turn the space she and Andy had recently bought in 2002, the old American Legion Hall on Maverick Street in Rockland, into Fixtures…Designer Plumbing Showroom.
“We renovated the whole building,” explains Susan. “There were 20 layers of cigarette smoke, but really great charm to the building.”
With Andy’s “plumbing talents” they were able to install 20 working shower heads, 8 working sinks and a Whirlpool tub in the elegant space that was once the bar where the old, class-act, blue collar men of the midcoast would mingle under clouds of smoke.
That year, Susan and Andy were awarded a Commercial Building Expansion award from the Rockland/ Thomaston area Chamber of Commerce for the renovation of the legion hall.
This was not the first property she and Andy had ever renovated. In 1992 they started AM Properties LLC with the intention of buying and remodeling old properties before releasing them out into the high end rental market.
As well as the showroom renovations Susan and Andy have done, they have also acquired commercial, residential and vacation rentals throughout the midcoast Maine area, Portland and Florida. Susan attributes much of her design knowledge from the remodeling work she’s done with these properties.
They bought their first property in 1993 in Rockland while they were still living in Portland.
“We had no plans to move there,” says Susan. “Business wise, we started to pick up more property there.”
Around the same time, they bought two houses as well as a building “compound” on Atlantic Street once owned by Standard Oil Co. Both Susan and Andy have a talented eye for seeing the possibility of a space, as was evident when, much to their daughter’s, Alex and Emily, excitement, they dreamed up the idea of putting a pool in where the old oil storage tanks were previously located.
“Business was growing there,” says Susan. “I was offered a position as Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce for the Rockland/ Thomaston area. It seemed like it made sense to move back to where Andy was from, I had always vacationed there too.”
In 2000, the MacMillans moved to their new renovated “compound” on Atlantic Street.
“The building market was just beginning to take off,” Susan recalls. “The real estate bubble was happening then. Everyone was buying, everyone was building. That change coincided with the bust in the housing and mortgage bubble.”
Susan talks about the need for a showroom in the Rockland area that focused on a high end market and attributes much of her continued success in the down economy to her target market.
“The last four years have just been a struggle in the sense of when you compare it to the first four years, you opened your doors and you instantly had business,” explains Susan. “Fortunately we had those years to build up a reputation….there’s still work happening, still people who have money, still renovating.”
At the end of 2011, Susan decided to bring her talents back to the larger market area of Portland. Her second showroom started in conditions that had 180’d compared to her first showroom.
“I figured it’s a good time to expand- in a down market,” explains Susan of her move. “I could position myself and build up my reputation and customer base and then when things pick up, we will have already been established.”
Lucky for Susan, her eldest daughter, Alex, had just graduated with a bachelors degree in Art and Art History from St. Michael’s College in Vermont and was moving to Portland just as the showroom was coming about.
“I can remember Alex playing in my home office pretending she was me talking on the phone with my glasses on,” Susan reminisces, smiling. “She learned how to talk to people, how to listen to people, and she also really cares about doing a good job no matter what, which is the basics of customer service. I’m so lucky to have her.”
Susan does not necessarily have hopes to turn Fixtures into a family business, though her youngest daughter is going to be assisting her mom in the Rockland showroom and her sister in the Portland showroom over her college summer break.
“My goal for my daughters is to develop the skills and knowledge base to work in any other company or develop their own businesses,” says Susan of her daughters who are learning the back office management as well as customer service skills from their mother. “They are very strong, independent, intelligent young women. This is just another tool for them later in life.”
Loyal and dedicated, as Maine girls go, Susan has conquered the world of business and design while always putting her family first. She is not afraid to put on paint-stained jeans and tear down walls or bump elbows with high end designers in Paris, she’s mastered a balance to life, that oozes with design intelligence.
I currently have three story ideas and one profile piece that I’m trying to get published. As I mentioned in my post about the pitching process, it is sometimes discouraging thinking my work hasn’t really gone anywhere despite the hours I’ve put into it. Each week on my days off I try to dedicate most of my time to writing and/or managing one piece while working a little bit on another. This keeps my attention and enthusiasm level up for all the stories, though it may make the process move a bit slower.
While the final reward is publication, the process of getting there, i.e. finding story ideas, arranging interviews, looking up facts and information, writing a pitch, researching publications, exhausting connections and sending out countless emails, is what makes it so rewarding. The writing is obviously my favorite part, and the part that comes easiest.
One story that I devoted a little more time to today is the Valpo Surf Project. The Valpo Surf Project story started several months ago on a First Friday night. December 2, in fact. First Friday is the monthly art walk held on the first Friday of every month in downtown Portland. Art galleries open their doors from 5 to 8 offering up free hor d’oeuvres, wine and beer.
My roommate Jackie, who had been catching up with some friends from up in the midcoast, had been asking me if I would attend this fundraiser a friend of ours was putting on. With intentions of hitting First Friday anyway, I thought why not? It’d be a nice to support some midcoast locals in their endeavors.
My roommates and I headed down to the student art auction fundraiser the Valpo Surf Project was putting on in the old photo store. We caught up with some friends we knew from Thomaston, one of whom was Wiley Todd, one of the founders of Valpo. While filling up our glasses with cheap red wine, he briefly told me a little bit about his organization and what his routine consists of: travel, surfing, warm weather, working with kids, etc. As someone just a year younger, I was awed and in envy.
A few days later I sent Wiley an email about my story idea for the Valpo Surf Project. More or less, I wanted to find out more details and write a feature story on him and his partners. Maine surfer boys are a unique breed as they have to be willing to search out waves and often brave freezing cold waters. Wiley and his friends are an even rarer breed in that they took their surfer passions all the way to South America and then figured out a way where they could help out a third world country and still spend a lot of their time surfing in warm weather. Genius.
After the holiday season, around the beginning of January, Wiley and I had our initial interview where we enthusiastically exchanged questions and replies. I wrote up a pitch. Then, with some of Wiley’s suggestions, found some national surfing publications that I thought might be interested in the story. After sending out my pitch and receiving only a few lackluster responses with no real leads, I decided to take the story to a local level. While you never know what the turn around on a pitch could be, I’m at the point where I’m assuming the story isn’t going to be picked up at any of the publications I’ve pitched thus far.
I saw Wiley out just briefly Saturday night, he was hoping to get on a flight to Chile in the morning. It really made me eager to get his story published in some outlet or another. So, today, with hopes of recharging my enthusiasm and theirs for the piece, I got back to the basics and did some research and more pitching. I also put a call into one of the other founders to do another interview. I think it’s important to keep writing the story even though no one has committed to it yet.
Another long work weekend with little sleep has come to an end. I went out Friday night… andddd Saturday night…this weekend in search of a cure for those midwinter, boring blues. Friday night was one of my girls’ birthdays that luckily coincided with a Mallett Brothers Band performance at the Big Easy, or as many a Portlander calls it, the “Big Sleazy.” The Mallett Brothers Band, led by local red-haired, hellion brothers are a local band of all good things country, rock ‘n’ roll and folk.
While sipping a post work glass of champagne out of a coffee mug, I change from my work clothes to my Led Zepplin tee, tight blue jeans, hipster wedges, scaly cap and rain coat. With a leftover caffeine buzz from work and excitement to be going downtown on a Friday night with good friends, we brave the rainy weather and head to Market Street.
Upon pulling up in front of the venue, Ash and I beeline it to the door. We head past the group of sweaty smokers lingering outside laughing and shouting in the rain/snow falling from the cold February night sky. As we enter we awkwardly await to pay as the door guys who are standing in the entrance to the venue are accidentally ignoring any new comers. They’re that into the music.
After paying our $8 cover fee we walk in only to be hit with a wave of heat and humidity from sweaty, rainy bodies and the smell of stale beer. The place is PACKED and everyone is swaying and stomping to the beat having a good time. Ash and I are instantly lifted. We head down to the busy bar and anxiously await our turn to get some cold ones. We chat a minute with the birthday girl and finally, a beer in each hand, we head out to the dance floor.
Upon entering the zoo that is the dance floor, I instantly wish I had worn my boots. However, I never miss out on an opportunity to reel and rock to some good music. Three inches taller, I dance my way, avoiding drunken, swinging elbows and spilling drinks, to the front. It is in this space that I am happiest, lost in the music slowly slipping further and further away from a dull night at work.
To love the Mallet Brothers is somewhat of a cliche in Portland. Maybe it’s because of their fame or the fact that many a girl is “in love” with Will Mallett, singer/songwriter/guitarist and Cosmopolitan Magazine’s “Maine Hottest Bachelor” of 2011. Cliche or not, I too infused with beer and excitement, cannot help but fall for the band and their live fast, play hard attitude. As such true Maine boys, they are thrilled to be playing for such a local, fan-filled crowd. The enthusiasm goes back and forth, from band to crowd and the intensity of the music and the dancing increases.
The raw voices belting out lyrics about small town life, heartache and trucks mixes with rock ‘n’ roll guitar over country and folk beats. The crowd is hugging, kissing and dancing creating an atmosphere of winter blues relief. How can you dislike such a feel-good band? As a girl from the midcoast who grew up partying in trucks and falling for hardworking blue collar boys, I surely can not help but have a soft spot for these dingy tee shirt, trucker hat wearing rockers.
Check out some of their music, here.