After Jason Flesh (yes, that is his real name) graduated from Colby College in 1999, he thought about becoming a doctor, like both his parents. "But when managed care started telling doctors they could only spend fifteen minutes with each patient, I realized I had to find another path," he says. So he spent four years at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. Now he has his own acupuncture practice in a three-room office just a stone's throw from the Maine Mall in South Portland.He is also the president of the Maine Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. His patients seek relief from all manner of ailments, including back and joint pain, digestive disorders, thyroid problems, hepatitis C, colds, allergies, and emotional disturbances. As for pain — Flesh winces at the word. "They aren't really needles," he says, "more like filaments about as thick as two strands of hair. And they don't hurt. They tingle."
By day, Erin Forbes works at Planet Dog, the pet products company in Portland, but at home she lives on planet bee — aka Overland Apiary — tending to about three hundred thousand honeymakers. She and her husband, Scott, started keeping bees as a hobby two years ago, and now they sell honey exclusively to the Rosemont Grocery in Portland. They are using organic methods to ward off the tiny mite that has been wreaking hive havoc throughout New England. Right now, the colonies — named for bee birthplaces like "Tuscany" and "Moscow" — are insulated for winter with tarpaper and homasote, and the bees are all huddled together, shivering to keep toasty at ninety degrees. "I wish we could just bring them inside," Erin says, "but Scott won't let me." So they've set up an observation hive, and they watch them through a pane of glass the way the rest of us might watch TV.
"I started fixing clocks when I was ten years old," recalls Alexander Phillips, of Bar Harbor. His dad wanted him to be a concert pianist, and he did go the Mozart route until he was twenty-four. "But then I traded in my tuxedo for a shop apron," he says. "In New York City, I climbed lots of tower clocks — Quasimodo in the belfry." One-time clockmaker to stars like Leonard Bernstein, Jacob Javits, and Brooke Astor, Phillips now restores and repairs your grandmother's heirloom — or your boss' Patek Philippe — surrounded by more than one hundred tickers in a shop on Bar Harbor's Main Street. "I still look forward to each gong," he insists. And even though nowadays it can be cheaper to buy a new quartz wristwatch than to pay for repairs, his backlog is growing. "Never say 'take your time' to a clockmaker," he warns. "We hate to be rushed."
Okay, so you bought that dog the kids wanted, and now it's chewing up the sofa. Chances are, it just needs to take more walks. Candace Kuchinski will be glad to throw on her coat, maybe pick up her umbrella, and get the job done. She started Boneheads, her Thomaston-based dog walking business, to supplement her income as a freelance photographer after noticing that her own black Lab, Sadie, behaved much better when she flexed her muscles in the fresh air. Kuchinski charges fifteen bucks for a brisk half-hour walk, or twenty-five for what she calls " an adventure" up a hiking trail or along the beach. "When I take dogs outdoors," she says, "they get both physical and mental stimulation." Smelling things, she tells owners of her two dozen canine clients, can improve an animal's
They used to be called rub downs. Now the latest in equine circles is shiatsu massage, and a lucky horse can get one from Jessica Hall in Old Orchard Beach. "I learned it from a trainer who used massage on a horse with so much nerve damage it was going to be put down. It fully recovered." More traditional trainers, Hall admits, are skeptical about the benefits of massage, but she says horses love it. "Their heads go down as soon as they feel your hands, and they start sighing."
In a sunlit studio in Westbrook, Nancy Reynolds teaches Mainers of all ages to parry and thrust. "This is an ancient art form," she reminds them, "and it is also a science. You are not here just to win. You are here to learn grace, form, and position." Attributes, she hopes, that carry over into everyday life. Reynolds discovered fencing when she was about ten, living in New Jersey. "The kids next door were taking fencing lessons, so I did, too," she says. She can remember thinking, "I'm a fencer. Not a cheerleader, not a dancer, but a fencer. And I'm a girl." At forty-five, time is apparently on her side. Last July, Reynolds placed seventh for her age group in a national fencing competition. The youngest of her fifty students is nine. The oldest is sixty-five.
Ben Coombs takes some heat plying his trade. Each morning he stokes up a furnace in a former bakery building in Portland and, usually with an assistant, turns molten glass into solid commerce. Vases. Glasses. Bowls. Or bigger installations, like glass walls and avant-garde lighting. "It's art," he says, "but it's also an action sport. It takes teamwork, and you can't hesitate." Business is heating up in more ways than one, with commissions for glass walls and lighting in trendy restaurants. But competition for tableware, Coombs says, is tough. "You can get gorgeous bowls in Wal-Mart imported from the Czech Republic for a ludicrously low price." Still, after more than a decade of intensive training, he says, "I'm unqualified to do anything else."
After sailing around the world, Alan Fouts was at loose ends, so he embarked on a new course he calls "better and worse than drug addiction." Getting his helicopter pilot license, he claims, was the easy part. "The hard part is making money at it." So he bought an old chopper, parked it in front of the Tamiami airport in southern Florida, and consistently undercut the competition until they hired him and bought his bird. Now he's using his skills to help save lives in Maine, flying severely ill or injured passengers to hospitals for the Union-based Lifeflight medevac service. "I guess I could double my money flying for corporations, but it's nice to contribute something to the world," he said just moments before leaving on a mercy mission.
Running a bed and breakfast isn't so different, Rob Welch believes, from being the principal of an elementary school — a job he held in Westbrook for twelve years before buying the Pleasant Street Inn in Rangeley. Both schools and inns, he figures, are all about hospitality. "You make people smile," he says. "That's the whole point." It helps to have a cache of family antiques, an array of carpentry and computer skills, a wife who teaches full time in the local school district, and a genuine desire to have breakfast with people you have barely met. "We've had guests from Tobago, Iceland, Germany — you name it. Also from small towns down the road," Welch says. "We just about break even, but running a B-and-B isn't a way to make a living. It's a way of living."
Joe Faustine, 17, and Trevor Bostic, 16, met about three years ago, when they discovered that they shared a passion for throwing things. And catching them. The duo — dubbed Pandemonium — now teach other people to juggle various kinds of balls and sticks, and they also perform for community gatherings and birthday parties. They practice incessantly after school, sometimes outside Red Dragon Toys, Joe's dad's toy store in Brunswick. "Trevor can juggle seven balls or five clubs," Joe says admiringly. "I can juggle six balls or four clubs."
For a lot of coastal dwellers, kayaking is a way to wash away the stresses of the workplace. For Peter Casson, who runs the kayaking school for Eastern Mountain Sports in Portland, a kayak is the workplace. Paddling around Casco Bay, he teaches hundreds of kayakers — beginners to experts. "I love to see faces explode with joy," says the transplanted Brit, "especially when they venture beyond their comfort zones."
When David Hallee's dad was little, he was summoned by an addled relative who had forgotten his name. "Boy," she yelled from the porch, "come here." The name stuck. Boy Locksmith became the family business in Waterville. "My job," Hallee says solemnly, "is to restore and improve the security of people and their possessions." That could mean anything from putting in a fancy electronic security card system to swiftly changing the locks after an eviction. About 5 percent of Hallee's time is spent answering calls from frazzled motorists locked out of their cars. Once, Hallee says, the culprit was a cur. "He was locked in there and stuck his paw on the button in the door, and he was growling like crazy." Business has been static over the past few years, but seems to be picking up lately. "Maybe," Hallee says, "we are all just feeling less secure."
As the new owner of Portland-based Matchmaker, as well as several similar online dating services in New England, Ron Cater fans the sparks of romance using psychological compatibility tests. "We do the assessments, and we will show you photographs, but no videos. We make the connection, but you decide whether to make the date." Eighty percent of Cater's business comes from baby boomers. "They tend to be busy professionals who wouldn't look for relationships in bars," he says. "They pay people to clean their houses. Why not pay people to make introductions?"
Until coming to the United States in 1991, Helena Hudson taught kindergarten in Brazil. As a new immigrant in her thirties, she didn't want to go through the teacher-certification process. "But I adore children," she says, so she became a nanny. "I teach them a little Portuguese if I can." She cares for two active children five or six days a week in Cumberland, and then she drives home to the log cabin she shares with her husband on the Saco River. "I get Sundays off," she says. "Life is good in Maine."
As a kid, Kate Aldrich fooled around on the trumpet, the French horn, the drums, and the piano, but when she started singing opera, she knew she had found her true calling. "I think opera pulled me in," she says, "because it's such a complete art form — sound, visuals, dance, and literature all coming together to tell the story of human experience in a few hours." Already a hit at Maine's PortOpera, the mezzo-soprano made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera this fall as Maddalena in Rigoletto. "It's easy to make a living doing this," Aldrich says, "but harder to plan. There isn't anything to protect me if I ruptured a vocal chord and had to retire, but I have contracts through 2010." So until then — fingers crossed — she shouldn't have to go back to waiting tables.
Portable Toilet Vendor
This past summer, Bill McKenzie's employees cleaned 575 toilets. Just in one week. Based in Albion, AAA Portable Toilets (so named to get top billing in the yellow pages) has been answering nature's call since 1980. "There are a lot of construction sites out there, a lot of fairs, a lot of sports events, a lot of weddings," he says. And all those people need somewhere to go. After they do, McKenzie sends in trucks with vacuum pumps and sanitizing spray hoses. Drivers refill the waterless hand cleaner, then head straight for the closest wastewater treatment plant or for the company's sludge site. It costs about $150 to get rid of a thousand gallons of the stuff, but after paying his workers about thirteen dollars an hour, McKenzie says he turns a tidy profit. And the toilets in his house? "My wife cleans them," he admits.
On a typical Saturday, after a full week of wiping noses and putting on Band-Aids as an elementary school secretary in Pembroke, Bonnie Hunter drives the van she calls "the world's smallest quilting store" right back to school to teach patchwork. "All that sappy stuff you hear about quilting is true," she says. "It really does bring people together, whether they work on group projects for their churches or stitch together computer-generated family photos." But you won't see any of that high-tech stuff on her own Web site. "I'm a traditionalist," she explains. "Nothing too modern."
You won't find any farm quite like Idleknot anywhere else in New England. On just eight acres in West Falmouth, Elwin C. Hansen grows 150 tons of rutabagas. Ranging from off-white to violet, these high-yield tubers bring in the lion's share of the farm's income, and 90 percent of them end up in the produce sections of Hannaford supermarkets. "My father figured it out," Hansen says. "He was rich one year and poor for three growing potatoes. But with rutabagas, we can make a pretty steady living." His wife whips up a mean rutabaga surprise, he adds. "She makes it with eggs."
He's only twenty-four, but Jordan Smith, a graduate of the Maine College of Art, already owns a company called Rocksmiths. You want a stone wall, a winding garden path, or maybe even a granite waterfall? He'll show up with his dog, chisels, hammers, and a strong back. That's how he subsidizes his other line of work — sculpture. "I keep twenty-five to forty tons of rock in my studio," he says. "My mom was an art teacher, so I've always liked making things. What I like about stone is that it kind of tells you how to shape it."
At twenty-six, after a stint in the navy, a bunch of travel, and four years of construction work, Gene Bahr felt old. "My body already felt worn down," he recalls, "I needed to stop being a human workhorse." He turned to a lifelong interest — taxidermy. "Don't say I 'stuff' things," he pleads. "I mount them. Deer, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, bears, and birds — all indigenous to Maine." Once a fish specialist, he's now taking a new tack. "Each fall I would have a freezer of dead fish and I would think, there are legions of sophisticated anglers out there, but hardly any trophy fish left in the water." Instead, Bahr wants people to buy his carvings, and throw the fish back.
He spends weekdays running the catering end of Amato's sandwich shop in Portland, but when the high school and college baseball season rolls around, Kevin Joyce puts on a different uniform and heads for the diamond. "I used to be a catcher — the best position in baseball," he says. "I learned to really watch the ball, and that comes in handy for an umpire. I just love it, and the money's not bad, either." High school umpires can make as much as fifty bucks a game.
VIP Bus Driver
If you happen to take one of those cushy motor coaches to Foxwoods or maybe Niagara Falls and you see a guy at the wheel with a shock of wild white hair and a big smile on his face, you may be getting a ride from the ex-president of Portland's Mercy Hospital. Howard Buckley's second career started out as a prank by fellow Mercy exec Tom Gruber, who arranged for a VIP bus, emblazoned with the words "Happy Birthday Howard," to take his chum on a ride around Portland. Knowing of Buckley's childhood dream to be a bus driver, Gruber's gift included a brief driving lesson in a vacant parking lot. Apparently, Buckley showed talent, because the owner of VIP badgered him to become a driver — for real. Now he relishes climbing into a bus a couple times a week and cruising down America's highways. "The best part of the job is meeting great people and working for a great company," he says. The only downside? "Finding a parking place in Boston."
"Wormin's a dying industry," Milford Peabody laments. "It kills my back, and it doesn't pay as much as it should. I tell kids not to do it, to go to school, find a real job." Peabody worries that he and his fellow diggers will lose their livelihoods to Maine's aquacultural worm farms. But until then, he says, he'll pull on his waders, grab his work hoe and bucket, and dig. "There's good parts to it," he says. He can make ninety dollars in a few hours if he brings back about 750 sea worms for Moosabec Bait on Beals Island. "That leaves me the day free," he says. Free, maybe, to look for other ways to turn a buck. "When I don't dig worms," he says, "I scrape periwinkles off the rocks. Now there, that's something where you really have to know what you're doing."
Jim Doble plunked on his first xylophone at a workshop given by New Age musician Paul Winter. "It was all wood — made completely of two-by-sixes," he remembers. Now Doble makes his living creating artful percussion instruments in Union from wood, slate, glass, and copper. He sells them at craft shows and through the mail. You can also find his handiwork on school playgrounds and in children's museums. People get hooked on xylophones as soon as they touch them, Doble says. "They think, 'wow, I didn't know I could play anything. But I guess I can.' "
In her drive to become a first-class yodeler, eighteen-year old Megan Burnell, of Standish, knows she has some big cowboy boots to fill. There's Jewel Clark, daughter of the late country music legend Slim Clark. There's Betty Cote, of Lewiston, and Flo Hooper, of Auburn. But Megan's introduction to yodeling came from a younger singer — LeAnn Rimes. "When I was about ten I just listened to 'I Want to Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart' so many times I almost wore out the CD," Megan recalls. She's won competitions at the Down East Country Music Association and works summers singing at Funtown Splashdown USA. "I'm studying classical singing at USM," she says, "but I want to make it in Nashville."
Let's say you need a zipper and you can't find it at the mall. Your favorite jacket is busted or you're whipping up a gown in an unusual shade of teal. Why not take a trip to David Burnham's basement in Lewiston? "I bought this business ten years ago from a friend," Burnham says, "after I retired from Bath Iron Works." Problem is, not a lot of people know about his vast inventory. "Too expensive to advertise," he says, "and I'm no good at Web sites and all that." Still, customers have found him from as far away as Kentucky. Tent makers rely on him. And despite the ubiquity of Velcro, Burnham notes that for all-around reliability and longevity, you can't beat a zipper.