HOULTON - FROM HONOLULU
by Harrison Roper, Houlton,
months ago I received a surprising e-mail message from a Dr. Rodney Chang, in
Honolulu. He had found SACAP on the internet, asked for some "humane"
information on Houlton. I wrote him
a long letter, and we have shared
an extended correspondence since then.
Dr. Chang, a dentist and computer artist, has a dream - he wants to retire to an
entirely different , creative life in a few years when his children have all
gone to college. He was at first
thinking of an affordable brick downtown building in a place like Houlton - a
site for a Gallery of Computer Art, perhaps.
Searching on the internet, he found northern Maine real estate quite
him of our great satisfaction with our retirement move to Houlton 22 years ago,
of the truly dangerous winter climate, the moose and deer in the roads, and of
the excellence of Houlton's hospital, schools, churches, and people. I also told
him that our downtown, while it is indeed lovely, and made up of truly permanent
old brick buildings, and on the upswing, was essentially pretty empty of casual
pedestrian traffic most of the time.
Rodney made the trip to Maine this summer. He visited Belfast, and made some
detailed inquiries about downtown property in Bangor, getting lots of serious
and even flattering attention from city and state leadership in real estate and
in the arts. He found that the cost
of rebuilding the interior of one of of those old downtown Bangor stores in
order to have proper insurance is prohibitive, for now. Though he ended up not getting any business property, but he
did buy a cottage on the river in Bradley, where he plans to write, create, and
dream. His youngest son may well
attend U Maine Orono, especially for engineering.
wherever Rodney is, he will be creative, and make himself known to the world. He
makes up and/alters websites as a form of self-expression, and he loves to do computer
art. He calls himself
"Pygoya" on the internet. Look him up.
some empathy with Rodney's retirement dreaming. When Marilyn and I moved to
Houlton in 1982, we, too, had done some research (we subscribed to the Houlton
Pioneer Times for a year - the internet did not exist) and it seemed just
right for us. The whole town
looked, to our "Philadelphia eyes", very attractive - livable, stable,
and affordable, too. There was the hospital, library, churches, nice-looking
streets, and stores. We could walk downtown, and parking was never a problem.
We even thought there was a college here!
for music-making in the area have been beyond my wildest dreams. I actually got
to play regularly in a string quartet, teach violin, playing and conduct an
orchestra, play in a band, compose a lot, and hear my music performed.
Marilyn has a harp, made locally by Jay Witcher, a world-famous
instrument maker, and she plays regularly in "Houlton's Heavenly
Harpers", an ensemble of 12 or so grandmothers joined frequently by at
least 6 children. This may well be one of the country's larger groups of harp
in suburban Philadelphia, looking
at Houlton with "Philadelphia eyes", the prospect of living in this
area seemed to us like heaven - clean air, lots of woods and fields around, room
to have a big garden, small-town conveniences and friends, and no rush-rush
traffic to contend with. Anticipating
the move, I could feel my soul relax at the prospect, and all of that has proven to be true.
I hope the
Rodney Changs, with their "Honolulu eyes", will have an equally satisfactory experience with their
"little bit of Maine". Rodney
is amazed that some Mainers do indeed hunt wild moose and mount their heads on
the wall. I told him about spring black flies and floods, and assured him that
summer and fall will be lovely on the river.
In the winter they can visit friends in Honolulu, or stay home and enjoy
winter sports and chickadees like we do, and all the year long create, and
write, and dream as they wish.