Artillery in the parking lot

By David Grima | Jul 09, 2020

The concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street, where I am forced to live: it seems you either love them or you hate them.

Every now and then I receive suggestions intended to make the towers more visually appealing, as if they were not already quite perfect. Usually, the reader in question (for it is they who speak) think that all we need is a few pots of paint to convert the somber gray structures into something phantasmagorical.

I am not really sure why this idea of painting the towers comes up so frequently. I think it has something to do with the committee we had in the Lime City recently that adopted as its constitution the contestable idea that Rockland might possibly be improved beyond its current state of near-perfection.

But I never object to hearing from readers, of course. After all, I live only to serve them. And the most recent communication on this subject, this time from Citizen Name Withheld, will give you the general flavor of the ideas that usually drive it all:

“Since you are forced to live in the concrete towers in the South End, I was wondering if you could get someone to create a mural for the towers to improve the look of that area. They are currently a real eyesore. It would be wonderful for Rockland to have some local artists design something historical that would represent the history of Rockland Harbor and surrounding Town. Maybe a contest for best designs would be cool.

“Because you live there, I’m sure you would welcome any improvements.”

To which I replied, after choking on the suggestion of an eyesore:

“Thanks for reading my weekly nonsense; I think that makes seven people who do that!”

(It’s always good to suck up to readers, generally speaking. As I say, they do pay my wages. But sometimes I detect a certain stiffening of my spine when this particular subject comes up, and not to overlook the suggestion that I live in an awful place. So, I decided to make a modest stand in favor of rust and rot.)

“Dear Citizen Name Withheld, this is not the first time I've heard that suggestion about painting the concrete towers, although it makes me a little unsettled to think about it. I hope it does not offend you to hear that I like them as they are, in all their glorious ugliness and decay.

“The trouble, in my opinion, with people who want to throw paint around in Rockland is that they seem to adore kindergarten colors like pink and light green and sickly yellow and pale blue. Too much time watching Sesame Street when they were children, I suspect. That's my idea of a genuine eyesore.

“If there were a plan to paint them to resemble the walls and turrets of an ancient castle, such as the one whose grounds I used to walk through when I was a boy going to school, that might be worthwhile.

“With gratitude to my seventh reader, etc.”

(This brought a reply, something that is not always forthcoming when I have been so severe in my opinions, and therefore I am doubly grateful to have received it.)

“I agree with you about the primary colors. I was thinking about real art like ‘The Rockland Panoramas’ by Samuel Fuller and E.E. Finch. I saw them in a newsletter from the Farnsworth.

“However, I like your idea regarding the turrets and walls of an ancient castle. That would be a sight to behold.”

What is mildly interesting to me about this exchange is that, for the first time, I find I have admitted there might be a worthwhile way to decorate the towers, having so far firmly stood my ground against that point.

Perhaps I was getting all sentimental about my long-ago childhood, and perhaps the mental image of Ye Olde Castle flashing quickly through one of my brain’s many soft spots also softened my normally stony heart? Perhaps.

Or maybe it was the dear reader’s reference to art in the Farnsworth which gave me some tiny hope that not all would-be tower decorators (or desecrators) simply want to toss around pots of pink-elephant paint, causing Rockland to resemble a land conceived through the cocaine-tinted periscope of a Yellow Submarine.

* * * * *

Overcome with hunger, and finding ourselves far from home, on Friday we succumbed to the all-too-human desire to eat out.

For those suddenly concerned that we might have been infected by many others, I will report that we ate in Augusta, a so-called capital city located some 45 minutes or so west of here.

It was slightly nerve-wracking, and we were asked to write our names and telephone numbers on the back of our check, in case a subsequent outbreak of Plague require us to be tracked down and burned in an incinerator for reasons of public health.

As ever, the main question that haunts me is whether Maine is so relatively free of the disease that we can afford to take a wild chance like this every now and then; or whether Maine is only relatively free because so few of us are willing to take dangerous risks.

Which is it?

* * * * *

On that fine point of philosophy rest so many arguments now going on nationwide. After all, many states south of here have begun already to regret rushing to re-open their public gathering places, because the rashness of their decisions has immediately been followed by unpleasant increases in infections across America.

No wonder the Blessed Lord Prez Reginald K. Trumpleton (may he live forever) has dithered so much on what course of action to suggest. No wonder, therefore, that the federal government seems to have lost so much standing in the eyes of the people, for all it has done is to insist each state make up its own mind on the subject. No wonder, then, there seem to be 50 various approaches to one problem.

We all know (I hope) that it was the deliberate intention of those often-quoted Founding Fathers to prevent what they called “mob rule” in America. For “mob rule, read “government by the majority."

This anti-democratic urge, which as enlightened 18th-century gentlemen they highly believed in, is why they created the Electoral College. Its job was to help prevent a majority of the people having their own way at the ballot box, in case that way might contradict the preferences of the traditional governing group.

No modern country, sincerely respecting the wishes of its citizens about how they would be governed, would dream up an Electoral College today. We seem to be stuck with it. Also with the equally dubious idea that all states have to vote separately, even when the stated goal is alleged to be a single nation under your preferred deity.

While of course rejecting the absolute and totalitarian corruption that rules China and Russia, I think the decision by most modern democracies to have some form of unified majority national government has given them the tools to more effectively fight the Plague.

Here, it too often seems that all we have is feuding states in our present predicament. Why, we are even in the awkward position of having the borders between some states half-closed to residents of others.

Have we forgotten how Vinalhaven’s first reflex when the Pox broke out this spring was to try and prevent any of the remaining 320 million Americans going there? State government had to gently point out they have no such authority, and never had. Yet so many problems arise, all for the want of a sensible single national approach.

What next? Fortified drawbridges guarding our southern border at Kittery? Cannons in the concrete towers, or artillery in the parking lot at the Home Depot citadel, to guard against Vinalhaven? Heaven forbid.

Come on, Lord Trumpleton. Much as we love you, surely you can do better for us than this?

Or perhaps you can’t.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at


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Comments (1)
Posted by: Paul Chartrand | Jul 10, 2020 08:17

I like the idea of a drawbridge in Kittery painted in bright kindergarten colors in a mural of lobsters, whales and dolphins all living in peace beneath said bridge on the Maine side of the river. Your colorful opposition reminds me of a long ago newsprint battle with a Courier columnist who opposed an erstwhile parents group on their choice of primary colors to brighten up an actual kindergarten building in the now famous South End. I do agree that more recent downtown murals lack a bit of something. Or is it that they have too much of something else?

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