Forty-Eight Years Late: Celts, Dubs Redeem an NBA Final That Never Was…

Coach Al Attles chats up Clifford Ray (center) and his back-up, the immortal George Johnson.

[Ed. It’s rare for the brain trust here at halphillips.net to yield the floor. It’s rare for anyone to request such a thing, frankly. But Stephen McDermott Myers isn’t just anyone. He is my former Wesleyan University soccer teammate and the man who, over the course of 15 months, helped edit “Generation Zero: Founding Fathers, Hidden Histories and the Making of Soccer in America,” available for purchase July 1. He’s also the Bay Area native who has maintained, since February 2022, that a Celts-Warriors NBA Final would provide us the NBA finale we should have enjoyed in June 1976. And here we are, poised to watch Game 5 and Garfield Heard is nowhere to be found. Esteban, the floor is yours.]

By STEPHEN MCDERMOTT MYERS
The Celtics’ meritorious, take-it-to-the-brink, close-out victory in Miami over the much-compromised Heat set the Summer’s stage and has gifted to the Hoops World and its attendant Faithful an NBA Finals “for the ages.” What’s more, the way-it-played-out timing of Hal’s triumph with Generation Zero, due for splash-like publication at the end of June, coming after the still-warm success and enjoyment of collaboration across the arc of that project’s second half~ the Senator had composed and constructed the sea-worthy hulk, bulk of his book, complete with rigging, sails, captain, crew, before my role evolved “on the natural” (as intuitively-inclined old-timers put it)~ allows me this-here one-of-a-kind invitation-dime-welcome onto his enduring web-site

Good Deal, Roundball Wheel

We played Springfield College every season at Wes, somehow a match that carried extra oomph, meaning, what with that Massachusetts town being the renowned birthplace of basketball, and home to its Hall of Fame. One year, in a cold, heavy rain on their fast and slick astroturf (only field of that kind we ever dealt with), I badly botched a sudden, real chance at an open-goal, and some righteous midfield glory. Even-Stephen could have, should have, opted for a smart, first-time, behind-the-heel flick, to set up an on-running teammate and striker… one Hal Phillips~ who played right behind me at centerback (aka “stopper”), and who might very well have finished from those momentarily-makeble forty meters. Alas, I failed in the keep calm, be creative, and quick-witted Depts., too, in that moment. The mathematics of those bald, once-in-my-footy-career errors bother me without cease to this damn day. But, “we were never as good as we thought we were.” (That’s for sure.)

Sho’ hope I don’t blow this one. (See, Anderson, Nick.) A one-off, rare-air, ripest opportunity to mix up a Berkeley home-brew batch, write poetic, talk-smack, crack-wise on thatfavorite of the very many, fecund, crazy-fun athletic corners of SportsWorld. The one faaan-fucking-tastic. (To rudely employ the league’s superb, propagandistic slogan that Bluto and I grew up with, that spot-on phrase more fulfilling than a Mars bar.) NBA Ballers are the greatest athletes in the World.

We talkin’ here, Friends, ’bout the hardwood, Time-has-come, take-home-the-Goods, make-ones’-Names intersection of Boston/New England & San Francisco-Oakland’s Bay Area/NorCal; unbridled Public Lore (of The Commons, say); and the National Basketball Association. It is on.  (Like the frickin’ Autobahn.) 

The dynastic Warriors, who badly fucking want it~ that’s killer Steph/Chef Curry, Game Six Klay, story of the league, all-time Alpha Dawg Dray-Dray;with a Poole party, Andrew Wiggins coming-out party, plus Looney tunes from one no-longer the team’s “unsung” hero; a handful of well-picked, contented reserves at-the-ready, a true team (see, two-time award-winning Exec, Myers); and Steve Kerr chaser (Coach cum conscience-of-the-Nation)…. in imperial San Francisco [that’s Gray Brechin’s masterpiece, with tell-all title, from the esteemed UC Press; the author a long-time friend + ally, hereabouts], The City at last fittingly, properly debuting its spankin’ brand-new, billion-dollar price-tag, privately-financed, water-side, sports-and-circuses palace (the pure power of mamon and the decisive post-modern realities of “real-estate”~ location location location~ having usurped Oakland’s half-century plus place and pride as home to the Dubs; “and a date next week in San Francisco”, the previous network’s facemen never tired of stating, obnoxiously, during the latter half of the Eastern Conference finals~ as everyone East Bay-relatedout here noticed) ….   

versus  

…. the absolutely badass, top-to-bottom, time-is-now excellent, shut-down Celtics, “team-of-destiny” writ all over ’em; with Udoka, Jason, and Jaylen nothing less than ascendant; plus award-winning point-guard Smart, heart + soul of the team; exemplary, record-breaking, peakHorford (riding a rare-air career-apex that may yield him the full Hall pass); an inspired, game-changing big-man, who boasts the best nickname heard in the league since Chocolate Thunder (bequeathed by Stevie Wonder, that, no less)~ [I am obliged to give a for-the-record nod to The Big Aristotle here~ but that wuz a Shaq-Daddy self-baptism, the Diesel’s auto-exceptionalism; at best, an asterisk]~ also, no small thing, he’s flying the playoff’s best hair style, Big Rob. (That ain’t the nickname. Hell, no. Hoops is better than horse-racing, and more than historic, bucolic baseball’s equal~ as befits “the city game.”) The Time Lord. Now that is a fuckin’ nickname. (Straight out of the Geeorge Lucas magic + special-effects shops, circa 1977 and their upcoming jumps-to-lightspeed shortly ahead, found to the north in Marin across the Golden Gate Bridge, embedded underground by the acre.) 

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Observations on visiting, pronouncing Bremen, Vienna, Rome, Madrid, Troy, Denmark, Calais, Peru, Palermo & Paris — while never leaving the 207

Prior to the smartphone era, when folks still read in analog fashion upon porcelain thrones, a great many Maine residents kept a Maine Atlas and Gazetteer in the privy. Published by Yarmouth-based mapmaker DeLorme, this oversized, soft-cover booklet neatly divided the Great State of Maine into 96 pages, or quadrants, each of which depicted a specific 16-by-11-inch detail at remarkable scale. Some of the best bathroom reading in captivity, and not completely idle diversion: We studied The Gazetteer so as to better familiarize ourselves with the state’s baroque topographies and place names, in addition to those potential routes that might traverse and connect them. The conditional nature of these journeys is critical to Maine’s particular mythos, of course The unofficial state motto, offered to folks from away seeking directions, spells this out pretty clearly: You can’t get there from hee-yah.

GPS titan Garmin purchased DeLorme back in 2016, along with Eartha, the massive, slowly rotating globe that still occupies three full stories inside the former company headquarters. GPS-enabled mapping applications have certainly reduced the need for physical maps of all kinds. However, the need to better know and understand this place we call Maine remains undiminished.

I’ve live here since 1992, for example, but the myriad places and oddball municipal naming conventions continue to fascinate. I’m a Masshole born, bred and proud — the Oxford English Dictionary added “Masshole” in 2015 (How do you like them apples!?). Until 1820, Maine was part of Massachusetts, where homages to a multitude of British place names remains common. This makes sense: Winchester and Boston and Middlesex were the very towns, cities, counties and regions from whence a great many 17th and 18th century settlers hailed.

Maine has its share of similarly UK-derived place names among its 23 cities, 430 towns, and 30 plantations. But the naming conventions here are more varied and bizarre. Way more. It’s possible, for example, that the founders of Lebanon, Norway, Poland, Mexico, Sweden, Smyrna, Stockholm, Moscow, Carthage, Monticello, Bremen, Rome, Athens, Troy, Denmark, Peru, Palermo, Dresden, Paris, West Paris and South Paris all hailed from these original locations. But I doubt it.

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Taking the Food-Truck Ethos Indoors

Believe it or not, this gas station/convenience store in Lewiston is home to some of Maine’s finest Mexican cuisine.

Before we ever moved to Lewiston-Auburn — Sharon and I officially arrived here Sept. 1, 2021 — we’d heard tell of El Pocho’s Mexican Grill. Maine remains the most white-bread state in the Union, and so we have long endured an acute Mexican-food problem: not enough Mexicans. Or Central Americans, for that matter. The situation has improved somewhat over the last 10-15 years, but no one was prepared for the Covid-era appearance of El Pocho’s, a killer burrito shop that just happens to operate from one half of a gas station/convenience store, on outer Lisbon Street in Lewiston.

Intrigued, I sampled a carne asada model straightaway: superb, and they press-grill the final product to create a sort of South of the Border panini effect. Great enchiladas, too. The menu is small but they do everything on it very well. It’s not practical to just show up at El Pocho’s. It’s a tiny space. There’s a bar where 3-4 folks can sit and eat, but take-out is strongly encouraged, especially in Covid times. Last month, when I was out running errands, I not-so-cleverly resolved to stop in at 11:30 a.m., when the place opened. There were already a half-dozen guys standing around, waiting for their baby chimichangas. The woman behind the counter advised me — in no uncertain terms — to go outside, call in my order, and don’t come back for half an hour.

A mile away, at the foot of College Street, a similar operation has sprouted inside Dave’s Place, a pretty grimy gas station and convenience store where another pop-up kitchen, Tina’s Thai, has similarly colonized one corner of the indoor premises. The fare isn’t quite so revelatory here, though I can vouch for the tom kha gai (the cuisine’s signature chicken/lime/ginger/coconut-cream soup) and massaman curry. A more formal Thai restaurant sits right across the street. I’m willing to speculate that a kitchen employee named Tina got into a pissing match with the owner, stalked out, and set up competitive enterprise 30 yards away.

Lewiston-Auburn, Maine’s second-largest metropolitan area (combined population: 60,000), cannot compete with the celebrated food culture in Greater Portland, home to all manner of nationally recognized eateries, including, starting in 2010, some first-rate, upscale taco establishments. But I know of no gas stations down there serving up such high-quality enchiladas or satay. And let me be clear: The burritos at El Pocho’s are without peer in all of Vacationland. I was marveling at this bizarre, down-market L-A food trend, alongside the admirable edible diversity & ferment in our new place of residence, when Sharon pointed out that these are basically food truck operations: “It’s too cold in Maine to be outside on some street corner all year round,” she posited. “So they’ve gone inside.” I think she nailed it. El Pocho’s remains so informal, it doesn’t even maintain a proper website.

•••

One the bands I play in, Bald Hill, has enjoyed a sort of monthly residence this winter at the Side By Each Brewery, across the Androscoggin River from Lewiston, in Auburn. Opened in 2020, SBE serves outstanding beer, but the canny owners there have essentially ceded the food operation to a third party: a food truck specializing in poutine. This type of relationship isn’t so unique. We play at another brewery, Fore River in South Portland, where, every time we’ve been there, a different food truck has conducted business from the parking lot. At New Gloucester’s Nu Brewery, a superb if pricy food truck, Yolk, is permanently ensconced there.

Pinky D’s still operates a mobile business; in 2021, Downeast magazine listed it among Maine’s top 5 food trucks. However, at Side By Each, the owners invited Pinky D’s to integrate one of its boxy vehicles directly into one of the brewery’s interior walls! A spectacular visual conceit that further buttresses Sharon’s observation. Through the small order window, one can spy an entire kitchen operation whipping up inventive takes on this Quebecois standard. Try the Korean BBQ poutine, and consider pairing it with a pint of Kuriro, SBE’s lovely Japanese rice lager.

We last played Side By Each in late January. Between sets I ran into Everton, a Jamaican fellow I’d met before. His brother, Jefferyton, owns an honest-to-goodness Jamaican food truck. He parks it more or less permanently beside the Caribbean Life grocery he owns with his wife at 940 Lisbon Street. To my dismay, the food-truck operation has been closed since December. When I saw him at SBE, Everton explained his father had recently passed away; he and Jefferyton had only just returned from Jamaica, where they laid him to rest. I offered my condolences — along with my hopes that the truck would reopen sometime soon.

“Not till the spring, mate,” Everton informed me. “Jefferyton closes the food truck each winter. Can you imagine standing in there all day, with the window open — in January? Not practical, mon!” We did agree there are plenty of Lewiston-Auburn breweries that would likely be eager to serve curried mutton and bone-out jerk chicken plates to young hipsters and Gen X fogies alike. Everton smiled: “It’s being discussed.”

Sitting Down with False Shepherds, over Seven Courses

Three summer’s ago, my wife and I found ourselves at loose ends for the July 4 holiday. We’d been meaning to visit Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, but upon cursory investigation, Google Maps informed us that the most accessible, southern tip of this region — where the mighty St. Lawrence River meets the North Atlantic — sits fully 12 hours north of south/central Maine. Um, Quebec City is nice, I pivoted, and a plan was hatched. We left after work, sped north, saw a moose outside Jackman, Maine, and were sipping drinks in the Hotel Frontenac bar well before last call.

After two lovely days in the Old Town, we headed further north, up the St. Lawrence to the Charlevoix Region, where we lodged at another Fairmont Hotel property, the estimable Manoir Richelieu. We gambled in the casino, played golf, and ogled a massive south Asian wedding where the bride floated in on a swing more or less supported, in flight, by hundreds of helium balloons. Honestly. That happened. We got lost in the hotel that morning and stumbled upon the ballroom where all these white balloons were being filled for the occasion.

In any case, someone at the Manoir suggested dinner at Les Faux Bergers (False Shepherds), a fromagerie, working sheep farm and locavore restaurant that serves up expensive but exquisite seven-course meals. There is but one seating each night.

Our group first assembled for drinks and mise en bouche outside, on a beautiful patio overlooking a sheep pasture. The crowd numbered a couple dozen and judging from the entirely French welcomes and introductions, we were the only English speakers there. Halfway through the meal, our outlier status became clear to our hosts. Thereafter, the chef, Maurice Dufour, kindly visited our table to personally explain each course, in great detail, en Anglais, after doing so for the rest of those assembled, en Francais.

It proved an extraordinary, if surprisingly lengthy, thoroughly Quebecois experience.

First Course
Unless we missed one — which is entirely possible, considering our deteriorative mental, physical and immunological states following nearly four hours of fine dining — our drinks and apps there on the patio constituted the opening course. The cocktail was pretty memorable: a simple-but-bracing concoction of fresh basil, cucumber, brown sugar and vodka. The appetizers: a small cut of whitefish sprinkled with sunflower seeds and cassis powder, followed by lamb mousse paté with mustard and gherkin — served on a stone. Naturellement.

Second Course
After moving into the dining room and taking our places, Sharon and I were each presented a gorgeous salad of fresh cuke, tomato, crunchy puffed rice thingies and a purple flower we took to be nasturtium (which the French call pensee, we think; after a few days in France or Quebec, I’m good to comprehend about every fourth word). All of this was served on a bed of salty caviar that had been whipped into a mayonnaise-type consistency. Fabulous. Combined with the apps, two courses would have left us perfectly satisfied. We could have gone home right then.
Wine pairing: the first, an effectively dry Sancerre rosé

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Chasing the Double-Double, from HKG to LAX and Points North

When one hears the Mission Bell on California freeways, it’s likely to be the dinner bell.

The trip had been months in the making, but it began, for me — this Great Father-Son Sampling of West Coast golf, fast food and prospective institutions of higher learning — on the outdoor deck at Trafalgar, a British-themed pub perched high above the heart of Hong Kong’s Central district.

This was April 2013. In less than 8 hours’ time, I would board a plane bound for Los Angeles, where, after 12 more hours in the air, I would meet my son, Silas, and set out for the hinterlands of California. Accordingly, I had arranged to conclude the business portion of my journey among several colleagues at Trafalgar, all of us indulging in several of the Brit-derived pleasures for which modern Canton is famous. These centered on pints of Boddington’s, Scotch eggs and Premier League football — beamed to us live from London, Sunderland and Liverpool, via satellite, then projected in turn onto the walls of neighboring buildings on Lockhart Street, in images 10 feet tall.

At approximately 23:00 local time, this night before my departure, a text came through from my wife, the fair Sharon, with whom I had been trading mildly anxious communications all evening. This was to be expected. She was poised to put her first-born on a plane, by himself, from one coast to the other where, God willing and stars aligned, I would meet up with the 16-year-old man/child and resume custodial responsibilities.

However, this particular text brought to the fore a new, altogether different level of anxiety. It read, “I’ve been reading our son’s phone…”

I put my pint glass down. Reflexively, I shared this introductory snippet with my mates at Trafalgar, one of whom, quite rightly, remarked that nothing particularly good is liable to follow that sort of opener.

•••

The essay here shares the details of a trip taken almost 10 years ago, and so it’s a modest exercise in nostalgia — for the teenage son who is today fully grown, and for the international travel we could once undertake without a second thought. Leaving Hong Kong on a plane used to be the most seamless, worry-free exercise on Planet Earth. The Central district of Hong Kong was once equipped with a train station that didn’t merely whisk travelers 30 minutes out of town to the city’s gleaming-new, island airport, one of the busiest in the world. Hong Kongers had even been so canny as to install airline check-in counters at the train station, in Central HK, so that travel to said airport might be conducted only with the luggage one carries on. The idea of this practical technology being deployed in an American city, even now, remains as far-fetched as Utah state senators forfeiting their right to carry concealed weapons on the floor of their legislature.

Today, the check-in apparatus at Central station sits dormant and, according to my HK friends, a bit ghostly. Beijing’s 2019 anti-democratic crackdown, then a pandemic, changed everything. Hong Kong’s famous bar district at Lan Kwai Fong has been shuttered, the entire Special Administrative Region utterly isolated. In 2019, HKG — one of the most efficient, elegant and busy airports in the world — witnessed 71.3 million arrivals. In 2021, the total was 1.3 million. On a single day in January 2022, an HK friend reported to me, 139 people arrived there.

Back in 2013, not even the legacy of so many smooth, creamy pints of Boddington’s got in the way of my orderly egress from Hong Kong. After passing through Central, leaving my bags to the fates there, and stopping for a bite in the United Club before boarding, I slept like a baby on the 12-hour flight to L.A. Because there is nothing that two Ambien and a glass of wine won’t cure, dull, and slip gently into a time-shrinking simulacrum of sleep.

I could see the boy sauntering in my direction from a great distance away, down the endless, straightaway sidewalk outside the International Terminal at LAX. We had traded texts upon our near-simultaneous landings, so I knew to expect him — and where. Even so, it’s disarming to view one’s full-grown son slowly walking one’s way, in such an out-of-context location, slowly magnifying in size with every step he takes, like a blond, gangly, clean-shaven, unseated Omar Sharif slowly traveling toward me from a far-off urban-desert horizon.

Could this be the fresh-faced kid my wife had outed the night before as a sex and drug fiend?

That’s not fair, not to him nor her. But the information she’d gleaned from his phone, rightly or wrongly, had included various and sundry information re. his high school girlfriend, their expressions of love/lust, and directions to iniquitous party hideaways in around our small southern Maine community. Was this boy still a virgin? If not, was he practicing safer sex than his dad had at the same tender age? Was he (to paraphrase my own betrothed) respecting this young woman?

“You need to have a long talk with your son about responsibility,” Sharon had texted me, in conclusion, that night on the deck at Trafalgar. With six days, four rounds of golf, five college visits and several hundred miles in the car together, she was right in declaring, “You should have plenty of opportunity.”

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Cultural Adventures in Historiography

Let’s get to know Charles Beard, whose intellectual connection to 1619 principal Nikole Hannah-Jones may tar him with some people, but whose story still has much to teach us. Born in 1874, Beard was perhaps the most influential American historian of the first half of the 20th century. We’re obliged to segment his heyday in this fashion because a historian’s work is famously ephemeral. Beard’s most notable work, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, prompted much academic pearl-clutching upon its release in 1913, before forming the spine of an historical consensus that lasted more than 40 years. By the 1960s, his views on colonial America were quickly falling from grace.

This waning/waxing of historical reputations, among historical figures and the academics who study them, is de rigueur. Views are routinely raised up, then built upon or debunked as new scholarship amplifies or moots competing points of view. I’d have thought the ongoing 1619 controversies would, by now, have summoned more mention of Beard, whose work similarly challenged an existing consensus re. America’s revolutionary period. It remains to be seen whether The 1619 Project — a multimedia series from The New York Times Magazine that re-examines the legacy of slavery in the United States — will experience a similar evolution. The NYT published its 1619 package in book form back in November.

This much already seems clear: No work of U.S. history has ever been so swiftly, widely and cynically politicized. Right-wingers especially have perceived electoral advantage in portraying this work of pop scholarship as a “radical left-wing” cousin to another all-purpose bogeyman, Critical Race Theory. Even the Trotskyites who manage the World Socialist Web Site have joined the fray, on the side of Trumpists, Republican state legislators, and Fox News. This potent propagandistic cocktail (whipped up by such strange bedfellows) has resulted in spitting-mad parents showing up at school committee meetings eager to wage cultural warfare. Just in time for the mid-term elections. We should emphasize that otherwise reputable historians have also objected to aspects of The 1619 Project, while carefully praising the ambitious sweep of it. That such distinguished mainstream scholars as Sean Wilentz and Gordon Wood have seen fit to kick up such a public fuss illustrates still more politicization — from the normally left-leaning ivory tower.

But what exactly is everyone so angry about? The story of Beard’s rise and fall should help us understand what’s really going on here.

Between 1865 and the First World War, historical consensus bathed America’s founding — and the so-called framers themselves — in extraordinarily gauzy light. Beard’s scholarship changed all that, for a time. An Economic Interpretation introduced the jolting idea that our patrician colonial forebears, in particular, acted not merely out of high-minded Enlightenment principals, but in their economic self-interest as well.

To cite just one example: Beard’s scholarship reminded us that many founders were active land speculators, including George Washington. We all know the British tripled taxes following the French and Indian War, in order to pay for said war: the taxation without representation we’ve all read about. To avoid another costly military conflict, Parliament also barred land speculation in the west or “back” country, across a “Proclamation Line” designed to separate colonials from indigenous peoples. The founding class, all of them wealthy white men, objected to the massive tax increase, the famous Stamp Act of 1765. But they also took great exception to this hamstringing of their land-speculation activities. 

Beard’s work, like The 1619 Project, landed like a bombshell. The founders had never before been presented to the American public as hewing to such work-a-day, bourgeois imperatives. Eventually the demonstrable truth and rigor of Beard’s perspective, vetted over the course of decades, gained significant purchase. It became central to the U.S. historical canon. Indeed, its more clear-eyed, humanistic take on the founders and their motivations also allowed future American academics, politicians and citizens to see Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton et al. more as men of flesh, blood and standard human foibles, and less as flawless, heroic icons chiseled from marble.

This shift in American historiography, this trend in writing about the revolutionary period less sentimentally, has been slow-moving. Or rather, such a process doesn’t always bend in one direction, without interruption, toward objectivity or justice. Beard’s work fell from significant favor starting in the 1950s, when a gathering Cold War induced a great many Americans — academics, politicians, bureaucrats and citizens — to band together ideologically before a looming Red menace. In the face of what was perceived to be an existential threat, many felt our historical consensus required more spotless founders to rally around. Beard’s scholarship didn’t fit so well under that sort of jingoist cultural rubric, as that of Hannah-Jones does not today.

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A Letter to My Realtor — on the Occasion of Putting My Rural Home & Community on the Market

[Ed. — In April 2021, before we put our New Gloucester home formally up for sale, and moved to the nearby, urban community of Lewiston-Auburn, our realtor, Shawn Boulet of Green Tree Realty, asked me to get him some info on the town of New Gloucester and its school system. This is potentially influential information potential buyers seek before, during and after walk-throughs, he explained. Our home was on the market only 72 hours, a fact only tangentially related to the information I provided Shawn. However, in stumbling upon the essay early in November, it occurred to me that what I wrote ably doubles as a sort of love letter to The NG and the 23 years we resided there.]

Shawn,

I’ve been meaning to get you some info on New Gloucester and the schools — to augment/complement your considerable sales skills, once this place is listed and showing. I’ll try to maintain an air of objectivity but the reality is, we bought this house completely blind and found 1) a really cool community of people here; and 2) a school system that might be the best-kept secret in southern Maine.

So, only in the last 15-20 years has New Gloucester embraced its standing as a rural/RESIDENTIAL suburb of Portland. When we moved here in ’98, that’s already what it was, but the ethos and the town government were still run by a bunch of old families and farmers who didn’t want to become North Yarmouth. That has changed. The Park and Rec scene is a good example: For years there was nothing but Little League. But the town has since realized it needs this sort of infrastructure to attract and keep families. So they upgraded the baseball/softball fields. They redeveloped the NG Fairgrounds to host youth football, soccer and lacrosse programs. The library program is superb, a community fair launched in 2006, and the trail system here is really quite amazing — something we all rediscovered during the pandemic. A big driver of all this was the development of the Pineland complex at the south end of town: There’s a YMCA there, all sorts of childcare, a farm market that sells the univrerse the Pineland produce and products, world-class X-country ski trails, disc golf, doctors and dentists offices. Quite a resource, all backed by the Libra Foundation, and a pretty lucrative tax base NG never enjoyed before.

New Gloucester will never be Gray. And that’s a good thing. Nothing wrong with commercial; it’s where Hannaford built a market 15 years ago. But NG’s aversion to that model (and the example of what Gray has become) is unlikely to change. There’s a plan to redevelop NG’s Upper Village, just north of intersection of 231 and Route 100. But that’s going to be a walking “downtown”, if it ever gets done at all. Most people are happy to have a couple pizza joints/convenience stores, Thompson Orchard, and the rightly famous Hodgman’s Frozen Custard. The only commercial in the Lower Village, the NG Village Store, is a good metaphor for the town. Go check that place out next time you’re here. It’s a quite fancy provisioner with fresh bread, brick-oven pizza, local produce, fancy beer and wine, killer sandwiches, and gourmet items galore. When it opened, we were impressed but figured it would never flourish — it was better suited to, and required a clientele from, a place like Yarmouth, we thought. Well, they can’t keep stuff on the shelves. Been open 11 years and they keep doing more, because the ever more bourgeois population of NG cannot get enough. [Note: The guy who founded it used to get stoned in my house and jump off the roof into our pool… And sadly, the Village Store has recently curbed services in light of staff shortages.]

However, the biggest hidden selling point of New Gloucester is the Gray-New Gloucester school system, MSAD 15. When we moved here, it was a bit of a shambles frankly. Well, the high school was. The two towns had failed to pass a couple school budgets in the mid-1990s, after which all hell broke loose. Teachers fled, the high school reputation suffered, and lots of better students were shuttled off to Hebron, Cheverus and Waynflete. There are still NG residents who pay to send their kids to Yarmouth and Cumberland schools, but that may be the most misguided, wasteful spend of their lives.

The grammar schools in both towns, Gray and NG, have always been very good and so they remain. Lots of local teachers really looking after local kids — as if those boys and girls are their kids. That’s the vibe. In 2004, the town passed a $10 million school refurbishment bond that really set a new tone. NG had never done anything like that before. Soon thereafter, a charter school was formed in Gray, Fiddlehead Center for the Arts & Science, for those who want to college-track their kids from Day 1 (!). We never availed ourselves of that enterprise and still don’t see the need. But it’s just more evidence of the changing nature of the populations in both towns, but esp. NG.

However, the high school is where the big change has occurred. The evolution of the town has naturally attracted more folks whose kids are college-bound, and that’s made a big difference on its own. But implementation of the International Baccalaureate program starting in 2012 has brought enormous change to GNGHS. You can read all about that program here.  Basically, it takes two years just to ramp up (and train-up teachers) so as to apply to be an IB high school. Just three high schools in Maine have been accepted: GNG, Greely, Kennebunk. Once certified, that high school must offer a 2-year diploma program for juniors and seniors. Or kids can take IB level courses a la carte, like they do AP classes. At GNG, IB exists beside the AP program. GNG had never offered this breadth of choice to kids who gave a shit about school. In terms of sheer rigor, what IB offers at GNG today puts Waynflete and Hebron and NYA and Cheverus to shame frankly. We know because 1) we looked seriously at all of them; and 2) I pointedly interrogated college admission folk on the matter, when both my kids went through that meat grinder. IB is the gold standard, and we know many NG families who sent their kids elsewhere and quietly rue that decision today.

The IB curriculum was developed by a consortium of international schools, the private schools around the world that cater to and educate the sons and daughters of diplomats and expat business folks who move around a lot and wanted a secondary program 1) that could be interrupted, then picked up at the new posting without missing a beat; and 2) that would get their kids accepted to the best colleges in the U.S. and U.K. So the program’s outlook is very internationalist, integrated between subject matter, and tough. It really puts kids to the test. When it comes to diploma candidates, however, all the grading is done off-site at IB Headquarters in MD. So, GNG kids are getting the same education, curriculum and credential as kids at Phillips Andover or the British School of Berlin, etc. For a tiny, rural place like NG, that’s a pretty massive thing. Defections to private schools have slowed to a trickle. If I sound like I drank the Kool-Aid, here’s why: I’ve seen the way it has changed GNGHS, where Sharon and I were very involved. The kids pushed each other and it became sorta cool to get onto the IB train. The IB teaching credential is hugely sought after: Teachers are coming to GNG now, just in order to secure it and boost their own resumes. GNG never sent kids to Ivies and NESCAC schools. Now it’s commonplace.

New Gloucester is no paradise. It was always too Republican for my taste, a feeling that has perhaps moved past mere distaste to genuine worry, as the country preps for a headlong collision with fascism. But that’s not an NG problem. It’s a countrywide problem… Like many small New England towns, certain NG families also feel an outsized sense of ownership over the municipal apparatus — and New Gloucester is surely an example of that dynamic. But the trains run on time here (to reprise the fascist theme), taxes are low and the town remains very well administered.

As folks do, Sharon and I met dozens and dozens of families through the public school experience here. We met dozens more in completely ad hoc fashion. It has always amazed us just how many super interesting, cool, talented people live here. I play in two NG-based bands for example. There are at least a half dozen additional bands that operate from this tiny town of just 5,800 souls. Maybe all the small towns in Maine can boast of such things or some equivalent? I don’t know. But New Gloucester always impressed us in this regard, and we’ll miss it. Though it was no accident that we moved only 10 miles north, to Auburn. The NG will always remain at the heart of our community. Best… Hal

Dress Code Switch: Golf’s Unlikely Embrace of the Hoodie

Nearly two months post Ryder Cup, I’m still waiting on broad public acknowledgement of the striking sea change we witnessed at Whistling Straits. No, not the fourth U.S. victory since 1993. I’m talking about the addition of hoodies to the official American team kit.

The advent of this landmark bit or golf couture was in fact noted on both sides of the pond, but mainly as a means to tell readers where they might order their own commemorative hoodies. This, too, is a pretty telling development: The idea that golf’s famously staid, hidebound fan base might consider wearing something so fashion forward flies in the face of history, short and long term.

Could it be that golf is actually changing with the times?

Let’s review: What golfers tend to wear has been the butt of jokes and snide commentary for more than a century. The game’s inherent conservatism was initially the source of such derision. How else to explain the extraordinary staying power of kilties? Cultural pushback focused not merely on the tweed, the coats and ties in clubhouses, but the perceived exclusivity that spawned these fashion dictates.

More recently, the game was taken to task for a slew of obvious fashion don’ts: white belts, for example — something that emerged during the 1970s, when the spirit of Greg Brady was loose in the land. Sadly, this fad has made a comeback of late. Traditionally, golf cannot help itself in this regard. Despite its “best efforts”, it seemed golf would never shake its reputation an activity for old white guys in bad pants.

I’ve been in the golf business since 1992, and one of the first things I noticed was the game’s preoccupation with dispelling not just adverse couture tropes, but others: Golf’s inability to effectively welcome new players, for example. This was code for the game’s inability to attract female and minority players — a problem for a sport that wanted to grow, and yet another vestige of golf’s conservative and exclusive history.

The problem was, most of the new player development programs — and there have been dozens trotted out over the last 30 years — were exercises in lip service. Golf wanted to sound progressive and inclusive. But when push came to shove, the establishment was happy to welcome women, minorities and juniors into the game so long as they wore collared shirts and no one was obliged to play behind them.

Enter COVID-19, which has scrambled the assumptions of institutions far bigger and more ensconced that golf. As it happened, the pandemic resulted in a wholly unexpected boom in golf participation. Just one problem: A lot of these new players, attracted by the outdoor exercise, didn’t know how to play the game exactly. They certainly didn’t know what to wear either. Or rather, they didn’t care so much what they wore. These new converts showed up in sneakers, gym shorts and hoodies — and pearls were clutched across golfdom at the mere thought of such a transgression.

Twenty-twenty proved a watershed moment for golf apparel. A pretty quiet watershed, it must be said. When a hoodie-clad Tyrell Hatton won the European Tour’s flagship BMW Championship that fall, folks took some notice. The powers that be at Wearside GC in Sunderland, UK tweeted: In light of Tyrell Hatton’s recent success and fashion statement and following discussions on this, can I draw your attention to the Clubs [sic] dress code and re emphasise that “hoodies” are not acceptable golf attire for Wearside Golf Club, no more so in fact than designer ripped jeans… Orthodox till they die up there in Northumberland, apparently.

Since that moment, however, the tide has turned. U.S. PGA Tour player Kevin Kisner was spotted wearing a hoodie in June 2021. Then the Ryder Cup was conducted, a year late, on the shores of Lake Michigan: If pervasive silence is any indication, this particular fashion statement has been completely normalized.

White America’s ability to absorb and appropriate formerly transgressive bits of culture knows no bounds apparently. As recently as 2013, the hoodie worn by young Trayvon Martin pegged him as a thug and resulted in his shooting death. Now Justin Thomas is wearing on, as part of official Ryder Cup team attire, and no one bats an eye!

One wonders whether such precipitous change would have been possible without COVID-19, the broader effects of which continue to show themselves inside and outside of golf. Were you aware Seattle-based rapper Benjamin Hammond Haggerty, known by his stage name Macklemore, has launched his own golf apparel line? He fell in love with golf during COVID, apparently, and claims an 11 handicap. His new venture, Bogey Boys, does not appear to include any hoodies, just a bunch of bowling shirts and retro designs that seem ironically garish. Nevertheless, it would appear the pandemic didn’t just reinvigorate golfer participation in the U.S. It had rendered the game a notch or two more cool.

In researching a story for Golf Course Management magazine this past summer, I chatted with an Oklahoma public course operator who saw this change happening first hand, in real time. He noted that hoodies had been THE lightening-rod issue stemming from the COVID-occasioned participation bump. 

“All these things we used to take as religious convictions are now being questioned,” Jeff Wagner told me. “Like music on the golf course and the appearance of all these hoodies. Now that has ruffled some features. That’s new, but the sentiment isn’t. I saw a guy cry once because he was so offended that someone wore jeans in his clubhouse.

“I really hope that, post COVID, we’re acknowledging that adhering to snobby traditionalism comes with a cost, especially in public golf. I’m 40 years old, a tail-end Millennial, and I think these points of concern transcend the caliber of your club. On the spectrum of industries that stand to benefit from the redefining of things, golf is top of the list. If we really want to grow the game, this sort of adaptation is part of it.”

I don’t own a proper hoodie, but I have been known to keep a red, hooded, rain-proof pullover in my golf bag. A stiff wind, I’ve found, frankly wreaks havoc with any sort of hooded golf attire. It’s a pain in the ass standing over putts with that thing flapping around back there. I had assumed this was the price I paid to keep dry. Now I realize that all along I’d been answering the musical question, “What price fashion?”

Macklemore models a few selections from his now golf apparel line.

Things He Carried: The Peculiar Consumerism of a Mid-Century Man

I try to write about my father, the original Hal Phillips, each August. It was late in that month, back in 2011, that he shuffled off this mortal coil, all too soon. Because this particular August marks the 10th anniversary of his passing, it’s appropriate to tackle a weighty subject: toe and finger nail clippers. 

My dad was never ever without clippers on his person — really good ones, the kind that unfold from a sleek and compact “resting” position in some clever way, because they were engineered in places that value elegant design and function for their own sake. Like Scandinavia. Or Switzerland. What’s more, when I think hard about the various clippers he bought and deployed through the years, I realize my dad had a somewhat strange but highly developed idea of what practical consumer items he was determined never to do without. Or that’s how it seemed to me, at the time, as an 8-year-old rummaging through the various belongings he kept atop and inside the highest drawers of his notably high dresser. 

My dad never did without a leather change purse, either. Not those cheap plastic ones but a lovely little valise-like item the size of a pack of baseball cards. Mind you, I reckon that for 65 of his 74 years on this Earth, spare change had meaning: at tollbooths, during retail transactions, or to mollify his children should they have pined for some worthless doo-dad. In all of those cases, he produced said coinage from this leather, button-clasped casing, wherein he would also keep his clippers, a new iteration of which he would acquire every 3-4 years. 

Let me emphasize again that these were top-of-the-line personal grooming devices, the likes of which one might find in a Brookstone catalog, though I don’t honestly know where he or anyone procures such things, now or then. I have a nail clipper, too, of course. I keep it in my dopp kit. I don’t know where it came from. Despite my father’s example, it has never once occurred to me to carry it around on my person. Just as it has never occurred to me that I might store my loose change in fashionable leather pouch — and I hate loose change in my pockets! 

My dad was an industrial engineer by training, so he frankly got off a little bit on the sophisticated representation of most things: a succession of mechanical pencils, for example, which complemented the 4-color pen he always kept in the breast pocket of his shirt. Like most mid-20th Century men, he wore a watch and never took it off. Ever. He was partial to somewhat bulky Seikos where the stainless steel bands folded over themselves in order to clasp.

He was a cigar smoker for many years, so he always had on his person a cool straight-cutter, which he also kept in the change purse. This indulgence obliged him to have fashion- and otherwise tech-forward lighters: I remember one that operated like a small blow torch. There was another, quite old-fashioned model — partly sheathed in a cool leather casing — that I periodically encountered while poking around in his collection of keepsakes. Today I keep it among the memorabilia and bric-a-brac atop my own dresser. 

This serial geekdom when it came to consumer electronics I also trace back to his professional background. Because he was a serious student of classical music, for example, we would always have the finest stereo — and speakers. Massive ones, from that period during the 1970s when fine speakers had to be outsized. I remember my father making a big fuss over our very first color TV, a Sony that we purchased in time to watch the 1972 Summer Olympics from Munich. He honestly never struck me as the sort of super consumer who had to run out and buy the latest of this or that. Not at all. Nineteen seventy-two seems to me pretty late to the color-TV party. What’s more, I believe we owned that Sony Trinitron for a decade, until I left for college. Thereafter, however, it seemed as though every 4-5 years, he’d eagerly invest in the next level of TV technology. Each of these upgrades was met, by him, with a sort of childlike wonder: “Look at that picture!” he’d say, over and over again, to anyone there to listen. 

I want to be clear: This was not an extravagant man. In fact, he had some real hang-ups about spending money generally. Perhaps that’s why these flights of consumer fancy stood out to me then, and stand out to me still today. My dad was an ardent golfer but played a set of MacGregor MTs from the late 1950s, until such time that I grew into them. Only then did he hand them down to me and go buy a new set for himself. When my dad was first out in the working world, during his mid-20s, he apparently bought for himself a pretty snazzy Triumph TR3, in British racing green. He quickly sold this traditional roadster, however, to help pay for business school. He met my mom during those two years in Cambridge. He had sold the TR3 as an example of “putting away childish things,” or so my mother has told me. What followed was a sober succession of middle-class VWs, Volvos and Honda Accords. I think he felt obliged to balance his naked desire for “stuff” with this more serious, understated image of stolid American masculinity. 

My father was a pretty mediocre photographer but always had a kick-ass camera. There was an Instamatic phase. My mother still has at least one carousel full of those tiny slides to prove it. Thence followed a fancier phase, starting with his Canon AE1, which became available to American consumers in 1976. One time, while rooting about in some closet, I found two of his Polaroid cameras — the early ones, from the 1950s apparently, that expanded in accordion-like fashion from thick-but-streamlined, notebook-sized shells. 

Only as I write this do I recall the mildly awkward moments when I would come to him with a find like this, to ask what it was and how it worked. First he would smile at the sight of this consumer item he’d once enthusiastically acquired but, until that moment, hadn’t seen in years. Then a different sort of emotion would register in his face: “Geez, would you stop rummaging through my stuff?” Invariably, that silent rebuke quickly gave way to his original reaction, followed by some intergenerational Show & Tell.

The Big Chill, Classic Rock and the Boomerfication of America

By the time I headed off to college in August 1982 — which is to say, by the time the lead-edge of Generation X (those born between 1962 and 1980) had finished high school and headed off to college — the classic rock radio format had already begun to dominate the FM dial.

We children of the Seventies, who’d grown up in the Baby Boomer’s undertow, did not recognize in this musical phenomenon any overt Boomer-centrism. Not at first. It took another pop cultural marker to crystalize the audio-generational connection: The Big Chill. This film, released in 1983, had plucked a dozen “classic” Sixties tunes for its destined-for-platinum soundtrack, and an intersectional light flipped on in my head: This is Boomer music! In their plenitude, they have now claimed it as their own. That’s why radio programmers have deployed it as a staple of classic rock formats.

You may have noticed I spend a lot of time working to distinguish my fellow GenXers from our next elders in the culture. This matters, to me, because I’m often mistaken for a Baby Boomer (born between 1943-1961), and I don’t want to be associated with this cohort that has so dominated and distorted the culture, the economy, the political landscape.

Accordingly, I’m extra inclined to notice all the different cultural markers that serve to set us part. “Sesame Street” is one such indicator: Gen X was not insignificantly shaped by this show, while Boomers were too old to partake of this PBS standard when it debuted in 1969. The Big Chill and its soundtrack represent another prominent bellwether. Indeed, Lawrence Kasdan’s Oscar-winner (Best Picture, 1984) did more than cement a burgeoning radio format: It reinforced ideas Americans already held about ‘60s-era culture and student activism, while cannily updating us on what had happened to all these Boomers since.

This wasn’t the first bit of cinema to attempt this specific retrospection: John Sayles’ Return of the Secaucus Seven arguably did it first (1979), and more artfully. But The Big Chill did introduce to a far broader swath of U.S. culture the intense nostalgia Boomers still held for the 1960s — the idealism, the style of communitarianism, the capacities to make change, stop wars and pioneer a youth culture.

More pointedly, the film also posited that adult Boomers were, by the early 1980s, beginning to actively sell out and abandon those ideals, economically and politically.

Having first witnessed this massive generation of Americans transition from activist-idealists to Seventies-era truth-seeking hedonists, I already associated my next elders with self-indulgence — never with any great degree of false virtue, however. Nonetheless, as The Big Chill makes evident, Boomers already recognized this burgeoning hypocrisy in themselves. Eighties America and Reaganism were about making money. Grown-up Boomers wrestled with this market/capitalist ethos for a time: Remember the blowback Kevin Kline’s character gets for owning a business, making friends with cops and selling out to some multi-national? Lovable, non-threatening Kevin Kline!

Eventually, however, Boomers bought into naked capitalism and the politics of self-interest. Big time.

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