Pilgrims for the Creative Economy

Alden Wilson, longtime executive director of the Maine Arts Commission, dropped by yesterday for a visit on the wide porch of the Hooper Cottage. I had contacted him in my capacity as chair of the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), in order to learn more about Maine's groundbreaking "Creative Economy" initiative. The great state of Maine, it turns out, is a national leader in linking cultural investments with increased levels of creativity and innovation in the economic sector. Alden has been a visionary and an infantryman in a long campaign, and now arts and econonic growth wonks from all over the world are making pilgrimages to Maine to find out how he's done it.

Which brings me to the Pilgrims. On the phone from Denver, I found out that Alden's mother spends much of her summer in Ocean Park, a few blocks from my family's place. During our visit yesterday, I learned that she worked for many years at Bates College in Lewiston, the home of my father's grandfather, William B. Skelton, a big man at Bates himself and a one-time mayor of the city. I suspected that the final link would be the Mayflower, given Alden's non-trendy first name. And sure enough, his family has proudly named somone in every generation after John Alden, just as mine has reverently tracked and reminded each new generation of our direct descendancy from John and Priscilla, who got the whole "Came Over on the Mayflower" thing off to a rousing start by having 10 children.

Alden Wilson, Maine's forward-thinking governor John Elias Baldacci, and other leaders are creating a new compact among creative people in the arts and creative people in business and government. Even having survived as many battles as I know he must have fought, Alden has a creator's fresh energy when he talks about the future. I like to think it's a straight line to him from the bewildered band of Pilgrims who created a new England nearly four centuries ago. And thanks to my own New England links, I will have a chance to bring some of Alden's fire back to Denver, where WESTAF is working to revitalize advocacy for arts and culture in the West through a research initiative concluding this fall.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Sea Dog

Fifi and Claire make the most of yesterday's evening sunlight at Ocean Park.

Odds and Ends

Tidbits found during an hour of wi-fi heaven at Starbucks in Saco, Maine:

A graphic on why Robert Novak walked off the set at CNN after a dig by James Carville.

News of a new way to collect customized news feeds on Google. I don't have time today to figure it out but have made a note to play with it later.

A typically articulate British dogfight over whether mainstream bloggers have a right to blog along with the rest of us amateurs.

A whacked-out but possibly brilliant analysis by Douglas Rushkoff on why terrorism is spreading and how to stop it.

For French-speakers only: My friend friend André has posted a thoughtful comment to my earlier post about the difference between Americans and French ways of expression.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Passing of a Man from Kennebunk

A shed near the cemetery of Kennebunk Unitarian Universalist Church. The church hosts an AA meeting six mornings a week in a library room lined with very old books. Today a man described a cartoon he had clipped and saved. In it, a woman is writing in her diary, "Today is the 32nd anniversary of Mabel Murphy's rude comment about my handbag." Yesterday someone offered this typically light AA trigger for humility: "I may not be much, but I'm all I think about!" The long-sobriety vibe of this meeting makes it worth the 20-minute drive from Ocean Park at 6:30 a.m.

Today's meeting was a somber and sometimes funny remembrance of Jim, a much-loved member who died of pneumonia yesterday, sober for 35 years. By the end of the hour, I felt as if I knew him better than if I'd visited last week, when he last sat in his usual chair in the corner of the book-lined room. A young man sitting near me had difficulty speaking during the introductions, and afterward I asked if he was a family member. "No, he was my sponsor," the man said.

UPDATE: "I want what you have," the man once told Jim. "You already have it in you," the sponsor replied. "You just need to let it grow." A prayer of Jim's: "God, grace me as I search for you, and save me from those who have found You."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Harvard Highway Poets

K. Peddlar Bridges, shown here after his poetry reading yesterday afternoon at a used bookstore in Saco, has two Harvard emblems on his Harley. It turns out he took some courses at Harvard Extension and proudly claims membership in the Harvard family. He is helping celebrate Biker Poetry Month in August, because the mainstream celebration, in T.S. Eliot's cruelest month of April, has lousy weather for riding a motorcyle to readings.

I liked Peddlar's poems and the story of his Highway Poets Motorcycle Club, the only one in the country for which you have to be a published poet in order to ride. The club's motto is "Ride hard, read fast."

As a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School, I had not the least temptation to consider Peddlar anything but a full-fledged Harvard man. Truth be told, I had a Harley once--a 1450 cc black Dyna-Super Glide. I was a PR exec for a gas company at the time, and I named my Harley Merwin, after my favorite poet, W.S. Merwin. I rode Merwin to writing conferences in Napa Valley and Arkansas. But compared with Peddlar, I was attending Harley Extension night school. I sold my Harley after 14,000 miles and a year of safe riding. I didn't get a tatoo. My next bike was a 50 cc Vespa. But I get what Peddlar was saying in a poem that he read titled "Highway Poets." It begins with this:

We're Motorcycle riding
Engine blasting
Line chasing
Gravel chewing
Bug spitting


Sunday, August 07, 2005

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