Free for (f)all

Enjoy the season’s best, at no charge
By NICHOLAS SCHROEDER  |  September 12, 2013

It’s been an awesome summer, with great fun and great weather. As fall arrives, perhaps the budget’s a little tighter than anyone had hoped, but we know there’s lots of great energy, and tons of fantastic fun still to be had in what may be Maine’s best season of all. Here are highlights of things that won’t cost you a dime, for every week from now until Thanksgiving.

Week of September 16
As students settle into your dorm rooms and pore over syllabi, know that the domain they’re currently inhabiting — the institution of American higher education — is a hotly contested territory in American politics. The film Best Kept Secret, screening Thursday, September 19, at the Portland Public Library, distills this issue to one poignant tableau. It concerns a public high school teacher in New Jersey struggling to secure a spot for her pupils — who are autistic students of color — in “the real world,” while battling deficiencies in funding and structural support. The film surely raises more questions than it answers — which is fine — and gives a moving, true-to-life appraisal of the fallout that comes from severely diminished public funding on both sides of the playground. 7:30 pm at 5 Monument Sq. 207.871.1700.

It’s never too late to discover yourself and make statements, and really, what better one could you make than here? At a public assembly in Lincoln Park, local organizers and activists rally under the banner “I Am Another Maine Man Against Violence Against Women.” Sure, this one’s for the boys, but only because vocal, active men are a valuable and bizarrely underrepresented ally in the ongoing struggle against institutionalized domestic violence. Very little contact info here; just show up in Lincoln Park at noon on Thursday, September 19, at noon.

While the city contemplates selling a real public park, at least we can celebrate the progressive/weird international holiday Park(ing) Day with style. Every September 20, the city’s artists, activists, and craftspeople have come by the habit of transforming a metered parking space into a miniature public park. The possibilities are endless. I believe eight were secured last year in Portland, and while the city has set no limit on this year’s reclamation, it remains to be seen how many participate. No doubt some heads will roll. Visit parkingday.org for more information.

Week of September 23
The writer Nicholson Baker lives in quaint South Berwick, yet enjoys international renown for his books, which have taken on, among other themes, a middle-aged divorce’s near-destructive obsession with poetry (The Anthologist), a pacifist’s take on World War II (Human Smoke), and a belletristic venture into fantasy-smut (House of Holes). It’s the lovable and occasionally dolorous protagonist from The Anthologist, Paul Chowder, whom he revives for his new novel Traveling Sprinkler, in which Chowder, newly 55 and estranged from his girlfriend, rediscovers a love of music. Disguised as a loner novel, Baker’s book is a love story for the enduring world of ideas. September 26 at 7 pm, Longfellow Books, 1 Monument Way. 207.772.4045.

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