Karma kicks off on World Fair Trade Day

By Timothy Gillis

PORTLAND – Local residents can celebrate World Fair Trade Day by visiting Karma Fair Trade, on Brighton Avenue. Karen Burnell, the shop’s owner, is thrilled about her new space, and looks forward to Saturday’s event as a chance to showcase her business, and provide much-needed support for craft-makers all over the world.
Her shop, which carries ninety percent fair trade items and ten percent “non-profits with a purpose,” is nestled next to Don’s Trading Card Center and Rosemont Bakery. Karma Fair Trade is a return to the old neighborhood for Burnell. Now living with her family in Windham, she grew up around these streets, she said. In fact, her parents live just around the corner.
An example of the purposeful non-profits is hand soap from Nashville made by women in a two-year program that offers housing and support while they are recovering from domestic violence or drugs. Another item not listed as “fair trade” that she carries is Pooh Paper, recycled paper made from elephant dung. The hope is that by making the living animal more valuable than a poached one, people will be more likely to let it live.
The vast majority of her stock is even more pointed to a human end. She is proud that her sales support the people who make them, in some of the most depressed areas of the globe. She has twenty-five suppliers – some deal in only one product, like baskets, and others deal with only one country, say Guatemala. She also carries work by six local artists, creating such crafts as purses and stained glass.
“Twenty-five percent of the dollar you spend here ends up with the artisan,” Burnell said. “It may not sound like much, but in their economy, it can be a good income. I wonder what Target gives back to the people who make their products.”
Fair Trade provides artisans an opportunity to earn a vital income and improve their quality of life by establishing a sustainable market for their handcrafted products, according to http://www.karmafairtrade.com, her store’s website. Some of the principles of fair trade include “paying a fair wage in the local context,” “providing healthy and safe working conditions,” and “engaging in environmentally sustainable practices.” The site also touts fair trade as a policy that offers “equal opportunities for all, particularly the most disadvantaged basket-makers.”
The business is also preventative medicine for helping poorer people combat so many of the ills that are associated with their living conditions: drugs, prostitution, and human trafficking.
“In my mind, it’s all connected to ending to ending human trafficking. If you help out people in poorer countries – they’re the ones that traffickers target,” Burnell said, adding that human trafficking is second only to drug trafficking in terms of an international business.
Burnell started her business about five years ago, out of her home, garage, and car. She did home parties for people. She’s excited about now having store space, and especially amped about the area of Portland she’s moving into. Her shop’s been open since February, but she wanted to have her grand opening coincide with the World Fair Trade Day, this Saturday, May 12.
The day will be celebrated in diverse places and cultures across the globe. Various events are organized in more than seventy countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and Pacific Rim, according to the World Fair Trade Organizations (WFTO) that have pioneered Fair Trade for more than five decades and are leading the organization of the international day.
At her opening Saturday, she plans raffle giveaways people can enter to raise money for two causes – Not for Sale, an organization that fights to end human trafficking, and Love 146, which is an aftercare facility in Thailand for children who have been rescued from trafficking.


Barry Crashes Portland Club

PORTLAND – The buttoned-down crowd at one of the city’s private social clubs was regaled recently by the writer Crash Barry. In a sprawling talk that featured several excerpts from “Tough Island, True Stories from Matinicus, Maine,” Barry kept the dinner guests spellbound with his trademark tales of drugs, death, and shenanigans from Maine outposts.

Steve Luttrell, president of the Portland Club, welcomed Barry by saying he was proud to have him speak there, and that he’d been following his writing for years. Luttrell, also editor and publisher of the Cafe Review for all its twenty-three years in existence, knows something about the balance between art and entertainment. His poetry journal published Charles Bukowski’s last poem before his death.

Most club members were on-hand to hear Barry speak, including Bill Dow, five-time president and long-time member, and Dave Michaud, who has been with the club for one month and works on the website. Dow is not related to Fred Dow, who founded the club in 1886.

Early members, who it was all-male and quite conservative, might have been shocked to hear Barry, author of “Sex, Drugs and Blueberries,” a novel about the OxyContin epidemic in Washington County, and “Marijuana Valley,” which is the “True Story of a Secret, but Legal Marijuana Farm” due out this fall. Barry, as if to emphasize his oeuvre, began his talk by getting high. A medicinal marijuana patient, and a licensed provider, Barry self-proscribed some pot in an herbal concoction were the marijuana leaf is steeped in alcohol to pull out the medicinal qualities. He used this liquid form to highlight the different ways the drug can be delivered into the system.

“It’s great that I can say this in a place like this,” Barry said, taking in the stately decor of the Portland Club’s dining room. “That I have a card from the state to smoke and grow pot.” Crash then opened a suitcase and removed a dropper bottle and drank a dropperful of THC “tincture.”

He said he likes to start speeches off with references to marijuana for two reasons. First, to promote “Marijuana Valley,” his book coming out in October, and second, to help people understand the medicinal value of pot and other herbs, especially as an alternative to popping pills.

“Get high, and realize the medical benefits for MS, Crone’s Disease, Sickle Cell Anemia, AIDS… it helps with loss of appetite associated with chemotherapy. There are different delivery systems, and different strains for different ailments.”

The marijuana economy is in great shape, according to Barry, with one-quarter to one-half a billion dollars in untaxed weed. It’s $300-$400 an ounce from local, legal growers at a dispensary. The street cost is up to $500 an ounce. “You can make $20 an hour trimming pot in western Maine,” Barry said. “But you get paid in pot. I heard two guys talking about putting money in escrow to pay taxes.”

Twenty years ago, when these stories originally occured, Barry was stern man on a lobster boat, living on Matinicus Island, what he calls a “microcosm of America,” twenty miles off the Maine coast. “It was so small that right away you could tell who the drug addicts and the wife-beaters were,” he said. There were only fifty year-round residents, and nine ferry trips a year. The seclusion gave him a rich reserve of stories, but it seems time and distance have made it possible for him to tell them. “I’ve been lugging stories around for a long time,” Barry said of “Tough Island,” currently #4 at Longfellow Books. He touted the bookstore’s loyalty to local writers, pointing out that ten of the top twenty books at Longfellow in 2011 were by Maine writers.

In addition to his confrontational style, Barry also has a sensitive side. He said he discovered the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, and bought the rights to one of her poems – this one regarding Matinicus – to include in his book.

Some of the stories he shared dealt with violence, adultery, and death. But each blended a mix of poignancy and pathos with the grim details of island life. He told of Vance Bunker, who shot at Weston Ames and missed. Chris Young laughed at him, so Bunker turned and shot Aims’ half-brother in the neck. They had molested his daughter’s lobster traps, and had been harassing them all day, so Bunker turned violent. “That’s not the Vance I know. Not the way the media portrayed him,” Barry said. “I know. I’m in the media. It’s hard to get it right in 400 words and a ten-second deadline. I’m not advocating that you shoot someone, but sometimes you have to take the law into your own hands.”

His writing sometimes causes confusion with readers. “I’m accused in fiction of it being me, and in non-fiction of making it up,” he said. “Regarding ‘Tough Island,’ everyone said, “Bullshit, man. That didn’t happen.”

Tough Island is non-fiction, but he did change some names. “For the assholes, I changed their names. But the nice people, I kept their names in.”

He told about the island’s first and only suicide and an awful gossip he called “Mary Margaret.” He ran into the real-life basis for her his reading at the Portland Public Library. “Imagine if an evil character from your non-fiction shows up at your reading,” he said. He didn’t know she was there, until after the event, but he was happy to hear she was deaf and didn’t catch the sound of her own voice as he read her in character.

A common theme to many of the tales is the rugged nature of individuals in an industry so often marked by tragedy. Just a few days before Barry’s talk, Earl Brewer, a fisherman off of Boothbay, was found dead in his boat. “You see a boat drifting, or a boat going in a circle. The call goes out on the radio, and a brother, son, or best friend goes out and hauls the last traps,” Barry said. “I’ve handled corpses a couple times before but I can’t imagine anything tougher.”

One such incident avoided being fatal because Barry was there to save the fisherman. Barry acted out Captain Donald’s near death, when he was caught in a trap’s rope and hauled overboard. Barry, while reading, collapsed on the Portland Club’s dining room floor in a show of grand drama, or perhaps the tincture kicking in.

Ghost-hunting at Portland High School


Students from the New Media program at Portland Arts & Technology High
School (PATHS) spent last Friday night looking for ghosts at Portland High School. The class is taught by David Beane, and teamed up with the Maine Paranormal Society (MPS) to conduct this paranormal investigation.

The project had students on their toes, creeping around corners at Portland High, which is the second-oldest continuously running high school in the country. But the main goal was to show them what it takes to create a TV show, like the spook search hit called “Ghost Hunters” on the ScyFy channel. “Whether the students realize it or not, this is more about showing them how much work goes into producing a half-hour show than anything else,” Beane said.

The TV show features The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), and the Maine Paranormal
Society is an officially recognized affiliate of TAPS. “We’ve always wanted to investigate Portland High School,” said Jason Steele, MPS co-founder. “The school’s long history, combined with many stories of paranormal activity, makes it a natural location for us. The fact that we get to work with the New Media students is an added benefit. We’re training the next generation of ghost

“We did a ghost hunt two years ago, but it was a real home job,” Beane said. “We were going to do it last year when I busted my leg – nine screws in my knee from a dix I took on the ice.” Beane, whose neighbor is in the MPS, combined efforts to plan this year’s event.

The class was divided into two groups – hunters who would look for episodes of paranormal activity, and producers who would gather the evidence, through videography and sound recorders, and interview members of the MPS. The groups would switch halfway through the night, so each student could sit on both sides of the camera.

Greg Mikkelsen is a chaperone and parent of two ghost-hunters. His son, Josh, is a junior at Deering High School. “I wanted them to look at the old railroad building on St. John’s Street. There’s definitely something going on there.” Mikkelsen used to do maintenance work there, fit-ups for new tenants, and had hoped the MPS crew would choose the site for their search. “There was a massage therapist there. She went up in the elevator instead of down, and her dog freaked out. After 2 am, that’s a pretty spooky place.”

Greg was on the hunt two years ago with his son, Jonathan, then a student at Portland High School. He likes the class, and thinks it has served his sons well. Jonathan is now a student at Southern Maine Community College, where he is still working in media studies. “This class inspired him.”

The ghost-hunters at MPS had a few rules for the students. “Relax and have fun. If you’re looking for ghosts, you can’t find them. And no running. If something makes you uncomfortable, just walk away,” Luke Jackson said.

Jacob Richards, a PATHS junior from Gray/New Gloucester, said he loves the way the media class is designed. “It’s independent. You get to do what you want to learn.” Richards recently attended an open house for colleges, and is interested in pursuing media studies at the New England School of Communications in Bangor.

“Everyone walked out of there a little bit spooked,” Beane said from his classroom Monday. “We had some flashlights on the library table, and in response to some questions, the flashlights turned on. I was the closest to them, and looked under the table but couldn’t see anything. I don’t even know how to describe it. Some students said they saw faces in pictures they took, but I want to wait to see them on high resolution monitors.”