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Very interesting piece in Down East Magazine about my neighborhood, Munjoy Hill in Portland, Maine.

The Hill declined along with the city beginning in the 1960s, as urban sprawl paralyzed the downtown. Except for the Eastern Promenade, the Hill had never been a fashionable place to live, but now it was dismissed as downright seedy. Boarded-up houses and absent landlords were common, and drug-related crime made walking the streets at night dangerous.

In 1979, a group of Hill lawyers, including husband and wife Ned Chester and Barbara Vestal, formed the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization to apply for city grants to improve the neighborhood. With the money raised, the early MHNO built two playgrounds, established a neighborhood Fourth of July festival, and created parent-teacher organizations at the schools. Soon a critical mass of artists had migrated east, attracted to the Hill’s sunlight and affordable rents. The Eastern Promenade Trail, completed in 1995, added to the improving vibe by establishing a safe walking path along some of the Hill’s most scenic assets. And in 2000, the St. Lawrence, a crumbling Queen-Anne–style former church, was converted into the St. Lawrence Arts Center, a theater and community hub for the creative, eclectic neighborhood that by this time Munjoy Hill had comfortably become.

Today, the neighborhood that has been known as a rough outpost for most of its life is now one of the safest and most popular spots in the city. According to Census data, the Hill’s population has increased by 5 percent from 2000 to 2011, dwarfing the city average of 1 percent. Among those residents are many more artists, self-employed professionals, and singles than the city average. People walk or bike to work more than is typical in the rest of the city. And crime has declined dramatically since the police established a community outreach center in 1995.

“The Cool on the Hill” at DownEast Magazine

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My film production company, Tasty Dude Films, is making a short film for Damnationland this year. If you haven’t heard of it, Damnationland is a yearly horror film festival that curates short horror films by Maine filmmakers. We’re incredibly proud that we’ve been asked to participate this year, and we need a little help making sure we cover all of our costs. Help us out through Kickstarter!

Donate to “Anima Sola” by Tasty Dude Films on Kickstarter

The Water in the Bay is an official selection for the Lewiston Auburn Film Fest (named one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” by MovieMaker Magazine), April 4-6. This will be the second-ever screening of the film, which is based on a story by myself, Jonathan Blood and Travis Curran, and a screenplay by me.

Tickets are available now on the LAFF website – a $19 Film Festival Viewing Pass will get you into any of the films.

Learn more about the festival and The Water in the Bay. 

The film production company I helped co-create, Tasty Dude Films, is working on a great new series for Entertainment Experiment called “Portland Music.TV.” Director/Cinematographer Jon Blood and host Jordan Handren-Seavey interview local Portland bands and film live performances. They’re putting out some great-looking and really interesting stuff – the latest episode features metal band Hessian.

Portland Music.TV on Entertainment Experiment

Ice in the ocean on Ferry Beach in Scarborough

My workplace does an annual Christmas Eve hike on the Cliff Walk around Prout’s Neck in Scarborough – a little over 4 miles, almost all of it right on the water. I couldn’t make it out on Christmas Eve last year, but I managed to squeeze in the hike last weekend. Thanks to the near-subzero temperatures, I seemed to have most of Prout’s Neck all to myself.

I’m consistently surprised and delighted by all the trails and green spaces around Portland. Portland Trails maintains a great network of trails within the city limits, while groups like Saco Bay Trails and Freeport Conservation Trust maintain trails in neighboring cities. The White Mountains National Forest is only about an hour from Portland, but it’s always good ro remember there are plenty of options for getting outside and taking in some scenery right in our backyard.

    

Alastair Humphreys is an author, motivational speaker, and adventurer. In 2011, he made a resolution (actually, it was more of a manifesto) to spend a year seeking out “microadventures.” These were all adventures that he could find in his own backyard, without completely abandoning his life and becoming an adventuresome vagabond.

“I started to think that it was possible to have an adventure anywhere,” he told National Geographic when they recognized him as an Adventurer of the Year 2012. ” That it was really just a state of mind, committing to get off your backside. If that were true, I figured you could do this anywhere.” He continued:

I decided to do the most provocatively mundane adventure that I could think of—the M25, the highway that goes around London. It’s filled with traffic. Everybody hates the road. I walked a lap of the M25. I set off in January. It was cold. It was snowy. It was physically challenging. I saw new places. I saw some beautiful places, which I hadn’t expected to find at all. I met interesting people. That week ticked all of the boxes that my four-year bike trip around the world ticked. I came back buzzing. It was quite stupid and silly, but it had been a genuine adventure.

That M25 hike inspired Alastair to embark on his year of microadventures, which he documented on his website.

I’m lucky enough to be able to live and work in Portland, Maine, a small city on the southern Maine coast. It is still, however, the largest city in Maine, and a whole lot larger than the small rural town I grew up in. The city honestly seemed quite daunting and metropolitan to me when I arrived (what with its trash pick-up, public transportation and ferry terminal). Small as it is, Portland still isn’t the country, and it’s good to have a reminder that adventure is just a few miles away.