I love Maine. Can’t help it. Maine has been my home for all of my 50+ years. Occasionally, I’ll get asked the question, “Do you think you’ll leave Maine?” Sure, there have been times I’ve thought about it, and have applied for radio jobs outside of the state in several parts of the country, but it usually comes down to me not leaving because I love this State. Plus, being born in Bar Harbor, I have this strong connection with the ocean. I’ve gotten around to seeing half of the U.S. at one point or another over the past 30 years, and though I fell in love with places like Arizona, I couldn’t live there. I need to be near the ocean.
Nine years ago, I moved from Portland back to Winslow (about 20 miles north of Maine’s capital of Augusta, in Central Maine), where I’ve spent most of my life, and where I graduated from high school in 1985. I moved back to help out my folks (my dad turns 75 this month, and my mom turns 70 in August). They, in turn, have helped me out in innumerable ways, especially when I was unemployed for two years and temping for another two.
The ocean is technically about 40 miles from here, although if I head down to Portland and Cape Elizabeth, Maine, it’s more like 75 or 80. And while the ocean is certainly within reach, I don’t get to visit it as much as I’d like or need, especially now that I’m not making weekly trips to Portland to do the little radio show.
There is a body of water here in Waterville / Winslow – the Kennebec River – which, if I’m not mistaken, is the longest river in the State of Maine, running from Maine’s largest lake, Moosehead Lake, 170 miles all the way down to the Atlantic Ocean. So, at the very least, I have a body of water to look at each day.
On April 1, 2017, Southern Maine was hammered with a foot of snow in a cruel April Fool’s Day weather joke. I remember 30 years ago, when I was 20 years old and living in Winslow – on April Fool’s Day, 1987 – when another weather-related cruel joke happened on the area – the Flood of 1987.
In the Spring of 1987, over six feet of melting snow and several inches of rain caused the Kennebec to flood its banks. My parents’ house is in the busiest road in town, not far from the Kennebec River and another river, the Sebasticook, and a bridge connecting one part of Winslow to the other.
Well, the flood cut off access to the bridge to the other part of town, and also sadly took out the nearby Fort Halifax, which is a National Historic Landmark, as it is the oldest blockhouse in the country (dating to 1754). 22 original logs of the Fort were recovered, some of them found 40 miles away, prolly close to the ocean. A year later, the Fort was rebuilt (incorporating new logs and the ones recovered).
At the time, there was only one bridge connecting Winslow and Waterville, which prompted one Maine legislator, the late Donald V. Carter, to get another bridge built connecting the two locales, as another way to reach each destination, but also prolly as a precaution if something like this happened again, which, thankfully, hasn’t happened (yet). The Maine State Representative from Winslow passed away in late 1990, I believe, about six years before the bridge he fought to have built was indeed built, and opened in June 1997 (and was subsequently named after him).
Even though I am a lifelong Mainer (or Maine-ah for those who live here), for the record, no, I don’t ski (yet; I wouldn’t mind trying cross-country skiing), and no, I don’t eat lobster (it’s too much of a pain in the ass, and the lobster meat is hard for me to chew). OMG NO! Say it isn’t so! Someone once asked me years ago, “How can you call yourself a Mainer and not ski and not eat lobster?!” Well, I’m not sure how I explained it back then, but I’m betting “Don’t have a cow, I’m not the only one. Get over it” would be a somewhat appropriate response now.
And, as much as I love Maine (though not always its politics or political leaders – much like America right now, Maine is a divided state politically – and the fact that more movies aren’t made here that should be), I’m not a fan of Winter. Never have been, save for maybe my youth when I didn’t have to give a shit about car accidents and below zero temps and falling on the ice and shoveling and injurying myself while shoveling. A couple of years ago, or as I called it, “The Winter That Wouldn’t End” (where it snowed for six consecutive months in a row), it did snow in April. I think I recall it snowing in May once. And I’m betting folks in Northern Maine have seen snow in the Summertime.
Today, for the second time in four days, it’s snowing in April. And, in a roundabout way (and then some), it brings me to today’s “song of the day,” “Sometimes It Snows In April” by Prince And The Revolution.
I actually thought of Prince and this song on April 1, 2017, when it was snowing outside my window here in Central Maine. Hard to believe that we’re coming up on the one year anniversary of Prince’s tragic and surprising passing at the age of 57, happening on April 21.
As I believe I mentioned here in the bloggy thing last year, I don’t know how this song escaped me for 30 years (it is the nearly 7-minute-long closing track on PARADE, the soundtrack for Prince’s film, UNDER THE CHERRY MOON).
On Tuesday, April 26, 2016, a few nights after Prince passed away, I had dozed off, and woke up to the TV on with THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON. An R&B recording artist by the name of D’Angelo (along with backup singers that included SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE alum, Maya Rudolph), was performing a piano version of the song.
I was familiar with D’Angelo, but didn’t really know anything about his music. But, this song woke me up from a deep sleep that night. It kinda reminded me of how I found out about the loss of David Bowie, point of fact. The song was beautiful, and I wondered if somehow it was related to Prince (they were performing it against a purple backdrop). Well, near the end of the song, when I heard the lyric, “I often dream of Heaven and I know Prince is there,” I knew. And I realized I needed to find out more about this song.
For Prince’s second film, the black-and-white UNDER THE CHERRY MOON (which he also directed), he plays a gigolo by the name of Christopher Tracy. Christopher and his brother, Tricky (played by Jerome Benton of The Time), swindle money out of these wealthy French women, which becomes a problem with Christopher falls in love with one of them (the character of Mary Sharon, played by future Academy Award nominee, Kristin Scott Thomas). Mary Sharon is due to inherit $50 million dollars on her 21st birthday, which is a huge concern for her father (played by Steven Berkoff, best known for his villainous roles in 1984’s BEVERLY HILLS COP and 1985’s RAMBO II). Christopher and Tricky end up vying for Mary Sharon’s love and affection and then $ome.
The PARADE album was much more successful than the film, being hailed as one of the best albums of 1986 by THE VILLAGE VOICE and NME (New Music Express), was certified Platinum here in the U.S., and sold over two million copies worldwide.
UNDER THE CHERRY MOON’s protagonist character of Christopher Tracy is featured on the opening and closing songs on PARADE – “Christopher Tracy’s Parade” and “Sometimes It Snows In April,” respectively.
The original 1986 version of “Sometimes It Snows In April” is a tender, gorgeous acoustic collaboration between the song’s writers, Prince and Wendy & Lisa. Once I heard the D’Angelo version on THE TONIGHT SHOW, it didn’t take me long to pick up the digital version of the original.
I don’t know why, but for days after Prince’s death, I couldn’t cry. Here is a recording artist who had meant so much to me for more than 35 years (and still does), and yet I couldn’t properly grieve for whatever reason. Well, coming back from Portland (or some other destination South of Winslow), I was listening to my special tribute mix to Prince in shuffle mode on my iPod, and “Sometimes It Snows In April” finally made its first appearance. And it was the song that finally got me. Like D’Angelo did on THE TONIGHT SHOW, it’s hard not to switch the lyrics of this beautiful, heartbreaking gem from Tracy’s name to Prince’s:
“I used 2 cry 4 [Prince] because I wanted to see him again / But sometimes sometimes life ain’t always the way… Sometimes it snows in April / Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad / Sometimes I wish life was never ending / And all good things, they say, never last…”
“I often dream of Heaven and know that [Prince] is there / I know that he has found another friend / Maybe he’s found the answer 2 all the April snow / Maybe one day I’ll see my [Prince] again…”
I don’t think I’ll never think of April the same way again, because it’ll always remind me of when Prince left this universe for another, and every time it snows here in April (and it will again, but hopefully not this year!), you can bet I’ll think of this song…