April 07, 2020

Anecdotes; Pizzas provide cheer

Ever wonder what Mormon missionaries do when the weather is this bad? They don’t deliver Utahan bags of salt, that’s for sure. Two brothers, dressed in black trench coats, sat reading the Bible over breakfast at Pat’s Pizza in Orono. They had been out talking to people on the street, spreading the Word and trying to save souls. One thing is certain: They weren’t ringing doorbells.

“I imagine knocking on doors would be less than friendly at the moment,” said one through a bright smile.

And he wasn’t the only one smiling yesterday. Families, students and townies packed into Pat’s, where a large generator allowed stoves and ovens to do their hot work. The day before, the restaurant served 1,500 pizzas — about twice as many as on a usual Thursday and about the same number as the busiest day of the year. But yesterday’s commitment to business wasn’t about sales, said Bruce Farnsworth, manager at the restaurant and son of Pat himself.

“People have come to depend on us,” said Farnsworth. “Pat’s has always been a civil shelter. People know that unless there’s something extraordinary, we’re always open.”

In fact, if you called Pat’s yesterday, you’d hear an urgent waiter answer the phone with: “Pat’s. We’re open!”

While some patrons ate by candlelight in a back room, others filled every seat in the main room, where the air was filled with a greasy steaminess. Four teen-agers sat in a booth, the table cluttered with french toast, eggs, doughboys, coffee and sodas. The food wasn’t as hot as usual, they said, and there was no hash, but it beat playing board games in the cold and fighting with their parents at home.

“My mom kicked me out of the friggin’ house,” one of the girls said derisively. “She decided to be the dictator of natural disasters.”

Down the road in Bangor, every limb-clogged street in the city presented a picture of crystalline fragility by Friday afternoon.

People wandered their neighborhoods in cars and sleds, on foot and on skis, surveying the damage done to their homes after four straight days of ice buildup on trees and power lines.

Many of them busily snapped pictures, some for insurance purposes, others simply to record the perverse natural beauty as a memento of a week they were not likely to forget for a long time.

Tall trees everywhere were reduced to towering, gnarled spikes as their lofty canopies toppled under the weight. Some looked as if they had been split by lightning, while others appeared to have been smashed flat by a great weight from above.

Ted Taylor, whose yard at the corner of Buck Street and Webster Avenue looked like a small-scale logging operation, spent the morning cutting up one of the two trees that had crashed against his roof the night before.

Taylor, wearing a hard hat and a carrying a chain saw, said he had just come home from work at noon Thursday when the first limb snapped.

“It was a 10-inch limb, and when it fell it shook the whole house,” Taylor said, as several neighbors roamed his property to help with the cleanup. “It was so loud that a Bangor Hydro crew heard it from down the street and came up to help.”

Like many people in Bangor, the Taylors broke out their camping gear and opened their home to a few less-fortunate relatives for the evening. Huddled by the fireplace, they listened to the gunshot sounds of trees snapping in the night and wondered what their house would look like by morning.

“It’s a mess here right now, but we were lucky,” Taylor said, managing a smile as gazed at his crushed wooden fence and a growing mountain of brush. “I’m sure there are people with bigger problems out there.”

Although most streets remained passable, Mary Lou Ricci found out that driving beneath the icy, overhanging branches could be risky business. Ricci, who also lives on hard-hit Buck Street, was out with her son trying to find some kerosene when a thick branch crashed onto the roof of their van.

“My son and I looked at each other and I could see he was scared,” Ricci said. “But we were lucky it didn’t come through the windshield.”

Robert Gammons, who lives at 623 Ohio St., said that the city’s abundant box elder maple and silver maple trees are the most susceptible to the severe strain of heavy ice. And Gammons should know, not only because he’s a professional forester but because a huge box elder maple happened to be resting precariously against his roof as he made his observation.

“It hasn’t done a lot of damage yet, but taking it down is going to be real tricky,” said Gammons, one of the few lucky Bangor residents who never lost electrical power throughout the four-day siege. “The worst part about these trees is that they also make lousy firewood.”

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