Maine, Red Sox: People talk ‘funny’

Sometimes, you just can’t beat being a tourist.

Susan, Ryann and I have recently returned from a trip to Great Diamond Island, Maine, and a side trip to Boston, firsts on both accounts. Older brother Paul, a CPA and tax law expert/consultant, and his lovely spouse, Linda, have a home on the island, accessible by ferry only and then via bicycles and golf carts. Life is on “island time” and centered around the Portland ferry schedule and where to get the “freshest” lobster. Some notes from that trip:

• Great Diamond Island was once the home to Fort McKinley, an active military base dating from 1891. It was decommissioned after WWII but you can still see air raid bunkers and concrete coastal artillery batteries throughout the island. At one time, during the Spanish-American War, it was deemed essential to defend Casco Bay shipping and nearby Portland. Barracks and officer’s quarters, similar to the red-brick architecture and style of what you see at our VA hospital, are now private homes with a magnificent parade ground in the center. Great Diamond has 77 full-time residents.

• Portland is a city of about 70,000 and once a year the city hosts a three-day Old Port Festival with a slew of activities. At one time, downtown Portland was a tough place with dive bars and worse. But today, the Victorian-era buildings and brick-lined streets make way for trendy restaurants, a few chic boutiques and neighborhood grocery stores which are a delight. A good place to celebrate an older brother’s birthday. Portland also has a minor league baseball team, the SeaDogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Hadlock Field is a cozy old ballpark that seats 7,300 just a few blocks from the water. Its team has a flat-out cool logo.

• President George H.W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday while we were in Maine by jumping from a perfectly good aircraft with a member of the Army’s sky-diving team.

Our 41st president has done so on his 75th, 80th and 85th birthdays as well. Some wondered why President Bush, who is now mostly confined to a wheelchair and was hospitalized last year for seven weeks for respiratory issues, would do this. The explanation from family and friends: his positive attitude about life, that a good attitude leads to adventure and joy despite age or infirmity.

Most know that president Bush survived being shot down as a pilot in WWII in the Pacific. Some also said he was sending a message, too, to those WWII survivors that he was thinking of them and to keep their chin up. It seemed like all of Maine was cheering for him. (What’s more: he jumped in red socks and in L.L. Bean boat shoes.)

• Our side trip was to Boston, primarily to see the defending World Champions, the Boston Rex Sox. Oh, we also saw some historical sites, too — the Old North Church, Paul Revere’s House, Faneuil Hall — but hey, my older bother, Susan and I caught the Sox and Cleveland in baseball’s hallowed ground of Fenway Park, built in 1912. The fans were polite and friendly, but they sure talked funny. The hometown team won that night, 10-3, and Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk threw out the first pitch.

It was one more game sitting alongside my older brother who taught me baseball and encouraged me to become a lifelong fan.

We’ve watched many games together, in some of the best ballparks, and this one was particularly special.

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