Hey all. Gerry Boyle here. And I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about today until I was reading the newspaper last week and saw a drug bust—bags of Oxycodone, stolen handguns, felons with outstanding warrants. That’s no big deal but one of the bustees had a home address of Bellevue Street, Winslow, Maine.
I smiled, not because of the guy in question, but because Bellevue Street is one of my favorite spots in my corner of Maine. In fact, I wrote about it in an essay included in an anthology called A Place Called Maine, edited by Maine’s poet laureate and anthologist, Wes McNair, and published by Down East Books. I was pleased to be asked to contribute. I’m very proud of that piece of writing and that I share a bit of space with writers whose work I deeply admire: E.B. White and Carolyn Chute, Richard Russo and Bill Roorbach, Richard Ford and Monica Wood, and McNair himself.
This book is an absolute gem, which I say, not because I stand to benefit if you go out and buy it (the contributors received a flate fee), but because the collection captures the spirit of Maine in such a wonderful way. Want to know what this place is all about? Read these essays. Then come visit and find your own hidden treasures.
But back to Bellevue Street, which I describe in the essay thusly:
Bellevue Street is a side street shaped like a wide letter U. Both ends poke out across from St. John Catholic Church, which is one of the anchors of the community today, but probably was even more so when the mills in Winslow and Waterville were running full tilt. Back then Winslow and Waterville were populated mostly by French-speaking immigrants from Quebec, many of whom manned paper machines and looms and, when their shifts were over, walked home to places like Bellevue Street.
On the longer stretch of the street there are houses on only one side. They’re tenements mostly, with wooden staircases on the outside walls, glassed-in porches, a single-family house or two mixed in. The houses have seen better days, and when I stopped last time, there was stuff piled on porches, beside front steps: a cockeyed gas grill, broken easy chairs dusted with snow, bicycles whose riders had grown up and moved on, unidentifiable objects shrouded in blue tarps—the way you store things when you don’t have room indoors, where the houses stand shoulder to shoulder.
Bellevue Street has a belle view, of course. From its bluff in Winslow, the street looks out over the Kennebec River and the city of Waterville. There are aluminum playground benches where you can sit and look out at the milltown vista. Eagles fly by, coursing up and down the Kennebec, reminding you that you are just a blip in time.
In the essay I note a few of the landmarks I can see from the bench. I include a block where a woman was murdered, stabbed by a neighbor. I wrote about the case way back when but I bring it up there, not to stray into crime writing, but to put it in context. People come. People go. Sometimes, once in a great while, they get killed.
But I really bring this up because it reminded me that I may be crime writer who lives in Maine but, like the rest of this on this blog, I’m really a writer who writes about crime. And Maine. And my fascination is with both, not necessarily in that order.
My guess is that many crime novelists and mystery writers, including my colleagues in this enterprise, have a piece of writing of which they are particularly proud—a descriptive bit, a few lines of dialogue, an essay, an entire book—that has nothing to do with crime at all. Indulge us if we want to share some of that here.
Writing, after all, is what we do.
Great piece! I tended to turn to your work first thing when you wrote for the Morning Sentinel. You’ve always had the ability to take what, for most news people, would have been a paragraph and pull me into the more complex human story behind it.
You’re right about favorite pieces. I’d say it was, for me the essay honoring my late neighbor in Chelsea that I called Sam’s Ghost which was published in the now defunct Wolf Moon Journal.
I love this as well Gerry!