At 7:32 pm on August 29, 1965 I entered this world, this country, and this great state. For it is at that moment, at St. Joseph's hospital in Bangor, that I was born the second of five children to Max and Clara Hammer.
You will not be at all surprised to hear that I do not remember the details of this event.
I grew up for all but four of my childhood years in Orono, graduating from Orono High School in 1983 and the University of Maine at Orono (USAA National Scholar, #1 graduate in the College of Arts & Sciences, All-Eastern United States Division I Athlete (relay) in 1988.
I went to college an extra year because I was rather track and running obsessed in those days, and wanted to use up my full eligibility after sitting out a year from athletics upon transferring to UMaine (which was much less expensive and where my father was on the faculty) from Bates College, where I had also done quite well.
I loved and feel great affection for both schools.
In 1988 I accepted an offer to attend graduate school in Philadelphia at Temple University, which - although I would never have guessed it at the time -began a span of 16+ years until early 2005 when I lived out of state.
Although from a young age I had at a deep level always felt fortunate to be from Maine, I think that it was during the adult years away from the state (I had also lived in upstate NY for around four years of my childhood) that the power and the draw and the intensity to my spirit in regard to – for me – what it means to be in Maine took deepest root.
In early 2006 I began the pieces that comprise this work. That followed a November 2005 incident in which I was struck by a pickup truck while a pedestrian in Bangor and seriously injured (29 days at Eastern Maine Medical Center followed by the better part of a year on crutches). During this time I feel that my life became deeper, and I hope that my writing became deeper as well.
Sometimes I guess things in life can be mixed blessings. Lemons from lemonades kind of thing.
I like to think that who we are as individuals is influenced by our surroundings, and our family and friends and experiences to be sure, but that there is an element intrinsic also to our beings that transcends even all of these in regard to marking who we are.
I believe that there is - or can be - great authenticity and even power at the individual level, but that there is remoteness and shallowness and even loss when we do not forge deeper meaningful positive ties and connections with others and our larger world.
I want the best for our state, realizing that I am but one out of over a million presently calling Maine home. I love Maine, and it saddens me some of the things that we have collectively experienced and still face. I believe that Maine and Mainers have a collective strength (perhaps quieter in nature than some places) and decency that can propel Maine to prosperity and leadership in the most broad (as well as fundamental) aspects of those terms. I believe that there is a yearning in the human condition, wherever we live, to have had an impact in this life and to have done something real. When we do accomplish, in moments or accumulated in larger pieces, such real successes, that is, I believe, an awakening to our potentials that is (if you will allow this notion) somewhat timeless.
I hope fiercely for an end to wars, and poverty and lack, but no less so for a cessation of mediocrity in any aspect over which we reside and bear some control. When we think of others that have made a difference in our lives, I want to live in a world in which it means something in regard to the sincere efforts that we have made.
That they have been noticed and built upon.
I believe in the saying that "to those to whom much has been given, much is expected". Much of this book holds to a high standard (if not account) our leading elected officials - and all of us really - towards together defining and accomplishing our better sides and our realistic ideals. "This Great State" is a researched and also theoretical testament to directions in which we may be taking ourselves and those in which we are being led. It is a reflection and an examination of what we are doing with our lives and our state.
It is, in any parts that may resonate if they do, a call to action in regard to meeting our collective challenges with courage and integrity. Of many voices, and a world in which sometimes asking a better question (and holding strong in the demand for a better answer) is enough to make at least a dent of real progress in an often difficult world.
To me, I would not be who I am (whatever that is!) - not even close - if I was not from Maine.
Maine is a great state. And - only if you agree - I want us together to make it, extend it, preserve it, and grow it, so much greater.
If the book touches you to reach out to others to work on common problems, and fosters constructive dialogue, then I will have considered it a success.
Copyright (c) (1st Rights) 2008 by Alex Hammer. All rights reserved.
Editor's Note: The Magic City Morning Star will be publishing selected chapters from the book, authored by Alex Hammer.
- To read this major investigative study of Maine's top politicians - 208 pp - online, in .pdf format, click here.
- To purchase the book, click here.