I woke up, as I do almost every morning, with a start, surprised and grateful to be alive and breathing in this third year of “it.”

I moved to the bathroom, looking back at the bed to make sure my earthly body was not still there.

Seeing only rumpled sheets, I started my day. It’s an Irish thing. Ask President Joe, he’ll tell you.

We’re Irish; we think about death all the time.

However, my day was brightened by a picture of this week’s grand ribbon-cutting on the opening of the new and improved Main Street in downtown Waterville.

I’m fond of ribbon-cutting ceremonies, aren’t you? Everyone seems so happy. Crowds gather on glorious new sidewalks, eager to see the celebrities (or what passes for such) who stand smiling with fake scissors in hand.


The practice goes back, I’m told, to the 1800s, when the railroads made it to the West Coast alive, after slaughtering Native Americans and buffalo.

My sister Rita, who was hosting a local television show in St. Louis in the late ’40s, was given the honor of cutting a ribbon at the opening of a giant new supermarket managed by her boyfriend, and was given flowers, hugs, and a year’s supply of Sanka.

A famous story circulated in my childhood world about a local ribbon-cutting affair was when Skeeter O’Neil’s saloon reopened down the street, a block from the convent, in 1932.

Of course, Skeeter had been on that corner since the Boer War, but during Prohibition (my brothers told me) Skeeter served only “tea” in the back storage room with a sign that read “Ladies entrance.”

Skeeter’s brother, Harry, by the way, was a motorcycle cop at the time, and would park his bike outside to make sure no alcohol was served.

This week, this ceremony was re-staged in beautiful downtown Waterville. Behold!


As in the proverbial debutantes’ ball, all the very best people were there, including my friends Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins.

Sen. Susan, just back from her desperate but failed attempt to get Dr. Oz elected in Pennsylvania, sliced the ribbon alongside our benefactor, Colby’s visionary, President David Greene.

With President Green’s guidance, Waterville’s Main Street is now ready for the next big cutting, where the citizens will stand and shout in unison:

“Behold, it’s the new Paul J. Schupf Art Center.”
Hit the klieg lights.
“Hurrah,” I say, “Hurrah.”

Today, after picking up my anti-aging skin cream at Walgreen’s Pharmacy, I cautiously floated down Main Street to glimpse the magical new city of the future.

The sun was shining, the air was clean and clear of dust.


I felt like one of Lewis and Clark’s foot soldiers might have when discovering the Pacific Ocean or Shah Jahan at the opening night of the Taj Mahal.

It’s been a long couple of years since this apocalyptic surgery began, watching eateries struggling, taking detours, threatening old men holding signs that demanded “STOP, SLOW.”

Now as holiday lights pierce the early darkness, I am reminded of James Joyce’s lines from his “The Dead.”

“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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