Jake Sawyer’s Story

photo/The Fuge

Jake Sawyer’s Story
The life of the legendary biker, bodybuilder and bad-ass

by Cliff Gallant

Editor’s note: This is the epilogue to our 12-chapter serialization of Jake Sawyer’s life story.

When I told Jake that the epilogue I was working on would be the end of his life story, he exploded.

“The end of the story?” he exclaimed. “We left off last time with me coming back to Portland from Colorado in the mid-1990s. I was only about sixty years old then! I’m seventy-nine now! You think that was the end of my life story? Don’t you think a few things might have happened in the last twenty or so damn years?”

“OK,” I yelled back, “let ’er rip!”

“Yeah, here we go!” he roared, punching his fist in the air in his customary way. But after a couple attempts to get started, Jake quieted down and sat looking at the floor, chuckling to himself. “Now that I think of it, I guess I had calmed down a bit around that time period. I can’t think of anything to tell you that was in any way wild and crazy.”

“Oh, no!” I said. “The moment I’ve been dreading!”

We both had a good laugh over that, but then he proceeded to set me straight. “Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t like I was reborn or anything. I was still raising hell all over the streets of Portland and down around Lowell, when I went to visit my Hell’s Angels brothers, but I wasn’t involved in anything that was going to earn me a long prison sentence. Earlier in my life I’d developed the bad habit of laughing a long prison term in the face, but now I dreaded the prospect. You have to understand that from age 29, when I was sentenced to Folsom Prison for the Hell’s Angels ‘suicide charge,’ I did a total of fourteen years, seven months, and twenty-one days in one house of detention or another, with about two and a half years of that spent in solitary confinement.

“The years I spent living alone on a mountaintop in Colorado had given me the time away from society I needed to kind of get my head together, and I had no desire whatsoever to ever return to a jail or prison cell. I hadn’t turned into someone who was anywhere near normal, but at least I wasn’t a friggin’ bomb ready to go off, like I was before.

“As I have stressed to you throughout our little talks, my friend, physical exercise and turning others on to the benefits of physical exercise have always been at the very center of my being, no matter what the circumstances. So it should come as no surprise to you that I made my living during the time period we’re discussing by training people. I didn’t have any interest in owning or managing any kind of health club, so I trained a select clientele at the Portland YMCA, and was compensated very well by my friends for that. Along with my personal clientele, I also trained anyone who happened by and needed help. I worked with many Somali and other newly arrived immigrants who couldn’t afford to pay me anything, but lack of sufficient funds has never deterred me from training someone. Their desire for self-improvement was more than enough incentive for me, and I’m happy to say that I enjoyed more than ten years of training people at the YMCA and met a lot of outstanding people.


Island life

“I experienced a wonderful little interlude in my life around the year 2000. One of the very affluent friends I was training invited me to take a trip with him to the island of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, just south of Puerto Rico. Tortola is a tropical paradise: lush green landscape, ideal temperatures, and a laid-back way of life that I soon got very accustomed to. There was a buzz of goodwill, kindness and natural joy about the place that made me feel restful and secure, like I didn’t have anything to prove — I could just relax and be myself. After a few leisurely weeks, my friend was ready to return home, but I told him I had decided to stay and might never leave. He just gave me a little smile, like he’d seen the change in me and wasn’t at all surprised.

“Tortola is a relatively small island and you’re bound to come into contact with all of the inhabitants before very long. The residents are made up of a few thousand of the native population, mixed with a large number of well-heeled part-time residents and tourists from around the world. I naturally gravitated to the native population, but also managed to make some good friends among my fellow whiteys.

Jake (at left) with Dr. Robin Tattersall (right) and unidentified friend at the Cutting Edge Gym on Tortola in 2000. photo/courtesy Jake Sawyer

“Prominent among the many fascinating people from around the world I met on Tortola was Dr. Robin Tattersall, who was a world-renowned British reconstructive surgeon — commonly known as a plastic surgeon — who’d taken up permanent residence on the island many years earlier and established his practice there. Dr. Tattersall was a very dynamic individual. He had been a male model and appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine, and was also an extremely skilled yachtsman who had represented the Virgin Islands in a number of Summer Olympics sailing events. His wife, Jill, was also a very accomplished person who wrote a very well-known travel book entitled, Memories of the British Virgin Islands. The native population was extremely fond of her, because of her deep love of Tortola, and they were in awe of Dr. Tattersall, because he treated them with the kind of consideration they didn’t expect from important white people, including making his high-priced general medical services available to them at no charge.

“Shortly after my arrival on the island, I began training people at the Cutting Edge Gym, where Dr. Tattersall and his wife worked out, and it wasn’t long before I became the personal trainer to them and another doctor and his wife who were friends of theirs. The four of them hung on my every word, which I’ve always liked, of course, and they paid me very well, which was also very nice, so life was good.

“Hollywood movie stars, prominent politicians, and jet-setters from around the world came to Dr. Tattersall’s ‘Purple Palace’ salon and medical treatment center. The doctor was very clear about the absolute need for confidentiality, so I am not at liberty to name names. But let me just say that when I turn on the TV today, I often see prominent entertainment personalities who don’t look a day older than they did fifteen years ago, when I met them on the island of Tortola. Dr. Tattersall was extraordinarily good at what he did, and the evidence of that is on wide public display to this day.

“As much as I enjoyed the company of people like Dr. Tattersall, I’ve never been entirely comfortable in high-society situations, so I ended up living out in the jungle with a group of about twenty Rastafarians, and became very close to them. We knew we were kindred spirits the moment we encountered one another. I was the only white guy in the group, but that mattered for absolutely nothing. What I had going with my Rastafarian brothers was the closest I’ve ever come to what I experienced with my Hell’s Angels brothers. It got to the point where I had to force myself to leave the jungle to go train Dr. Tattersall and his friends.

“There is an aspect of life on Tortola which anyone who’s been there, male or female, will inevitably comment on, and that is the extraordinary beauty of the women there. I definitely wish to make note of it as well. My special friend while I was on the island was a vision of a woman, named Tracy, who I knew loved me beyond question and made me feel it in every way. She was about thirty years younger than I was, so we weren’t going to elope or anything, you know, but I knew she loved me. She was far too beautiful and full of life to hang with only an old white guy — even me! — though, and every night about 9 p.m. I’d look around and she’d be gone. There wasn’t any question of what she was up to, so I started calling her Tracy True Love, just to tease her, and she’d giggle and tell me how much she loved me.

“I might’ve stayed on Tortola for the rest of my life, but one day I got a call that my father was in the hospital dying, so I immediately returned home. As you know from what I’ve told you, my father and I were two very different individuals, but, in the end, I loved him very much and was deeply saddened by his passing. Funny, but on the trip home all I could think about was that time when I was six years old and gave that toy truck I liked so much to the Salvation Army so they could melt it down to make a bullet to shoot up fuckin’ Hitler’s ass. I told you how confused my father was by the intensity he saw in me, but what I didn’t tell you was that that toy truck had been handed down to my father from his father, and it hurt my father to think that I would part with it for any reason. So, there I was, feeling bad about something I did when I was six years old. Man, we live a long life, and every bit of it counts, you know?

“Anyway, I left Tortola after almost a year there and never returned. Got involved in my former life, I guess. But, hey, you never know — I might make it back there someday. Tracy True Love would only be about forty now, and I know damn well she’s still absolutely beautiful. I’m sure we could make arrangements similar to what we had before.


A land-speed record

“I have to tell you about one off-the-wall antic I got involved in before we wrap up here, just so you won’t think my testosterone count had sunk completely out of sight. It involves me setting a land-speed record that I’m reasonably sure still stands, at least for the State of Maine, and maybe for someone in my age group anywhere. It took place around the year 2008, when I was in my late sixties.

Jake on his Boss Hoss in 2001. photo/courtesy Jake Sawyer

“A friend and I had attended a motorcycle show a few years before and I had acquired a Boss Hoss bike that was one brutal piece of machinery. It could wipe out any bike it came up against, including the most highly customized-for-speed Harleys. A Boss Hoss motorcycle is a Corvette engine on wheels. When you sit on it, it’s like you’re straddling a tornado. The speedometer goes up to 120 miles per hour, but after I did some tinkering that 120 m.p.h. seemed somewhat slow. I’d learned how to customize a bike for speed in my early years as a Hell’s Angel, but the kicker this time was that I converted the fuel system so it could accommodate airplane fuel, and that increased the engine capacity considerably. Anyone who knows about this kind of thing will tell you that it would take a pure fool to straddle an engine with that much horsepower and attempt to ride it when it was revved up to full capacity. So up steps Jakey boy, grinning away.

“After we did some serious reconnoitering around the Southern Maine area, a friend and I decided on a five-mile rural stretch of road up on Route 113, just outside of Fryeburg, to see what that customized Boss Hoss would do. We arrived at six in the morning, when the traffic would be light, and I had my friend station himself with a timing gun at the two-mile mark, because I knew that’s the distance I’d have to travel to get up to maximum speed, and I’d need the additional three miles to get slowed down enough that I wouldn’t go barreling through downtown Fryeburg.

“After about a mile, the speedometer was buried, and I was at 147 at the two-mile mark — twenty-seven miles per hour over the maximum speedometer reading. Good, but not good enough, I said to myself. I knew I could go faster, but the problem was that I literally could not stay on the bike. I have a very strong grip, of course, but the air pressure was so strong that it was actually tearing my leather jacket, and I knew if I went any faster my whole body would be whipped off the bike and pieces of me would be strewn across the tops of the trees lining the road.

“So I had my friend use Gorilla tape to tie my hands, arms and torso to the bike, and I revved the thing up for a second go. He was extremely concerned, because my clothes were already in shreds, and my friggin’ face already had all kinds of little cuts and pock marks all over it, but I just knew that damn bike could go faster and I had to prove it. Vroom-m-m! I was off! I had warmed the bike up in the first run and I could feel the difference. I knew I was up to at least 150 by the mile mark, and the next mile was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life! As I went faster and faster, my field of vision became more and more reduced and I had the sensation of passing over into another dimension of time and space! I was looking into the face of death, but just kept pumping that airplane fuel to that big black monster of an engine, and as I went by the timing gun at the two-mile mark it clocked me at the astonishing speed of 171 miles per hour!”

At that speed, I quickly calculated, one could get from Portland to Lewiston in about four minutes and thirty seconds. And this, I thought, is the kind of thing Jake did when his life finally calmed down.

From left: Jake with old friends Eddie Griffin and Harold Pachios in the 1990s. photo/courtesy Jake Sawyer


Jake Sawyer Stories

Over the past year that I’ve been writing Jake’s life story, many people have approached me with their own Jake tales. I’ll begin with an account related by one of his buddies from the early Martin’s Health Club days: Ronnie Damon, a former Navy Seal and retired South Portland Police lieutenant.

“I got a lot of guff from my fellow police officers about associating with Jake,” Ronnie told me. “Hey, the guy had done time in major prisons for multiple felonies and he was openly involved in what everyone knew to be illegal activities all the time I knew him. I sure as hell didn’t condone anything he did, but he was wise enough not to discuss any of his illegal activities in my presence, and I counted him as my friend.

“One time I was at a bar drinking with a bunch of my fellow officers and they started razzing on me over my friendship with Jake. I set the whole room straight: ‘There’s one thing I know for damn sure about Jake Sawyer,’ I said to them, ‘and that is that he will never, ever let a friend down. The man has got your back, period. If some shit came down involving most of you guys, you’d be in the friggin’ toilet pissing your pants! But Jake would be out there right behind me! Absolutely no doubt about it!’

“I was an undercover narc and did a lot of detective work over the years, and we relied a lot on snitches, of course, but we could never get Jake to cooperate to any degree at all,” Ronnie continued. “He’d laugh in our faces. Truthfully, I loathed being in the presence of snitches myself. Hey, if they were snitching on their accomplices, they’d let me down someday too if I ever trusted them in any way. Once a snitch, always a snitch. The irony is that I hated snitches as much as Jake did, and we became great friends!”

Another friend of Jake’s from the Martin’s Health Club days is Marty Joyce, a very successful businessman who hosts a lawn party at his home every August for a group of guys from the old gym. Collectively, this group has more state and national bodybuilding and weight-lifting titles than I could list. They’ve been gathering on Marty’s lawn for 45 years, proving that the only thing stronger than their bodies once were is the bond between them.

“It would be hard to exaggerate what Jake meant to us at the time,” Marty said. “I was a college student with no money. I had nothing but great desire to work out and develop my body, but that was enough for Jake. The bond that developed between the group of us is due in very large part to Jake. I’ve been very involved in the business world over the years since, and have been around quite a bit otherwise, as well, but I would have to say that Jake Sawyer is the most intriguing individual I have ever met in my life. There’s a certain code he lives by, and he will be true to that code come hell or high water. You don’t want to get on his bad side — that’s for damn sure. But if Jake counts you as his friend, he will be there for you to the very end, and you can take that to the bank.”

Jake (far right) with the antique hot rod that he claimed was in “Rebel Without a Cause,” in 2001. photo/courtesy Jake Sawyer

I got a very interesting e-mail from Barbara Chassie, a long-ago girlfriend of Jake’s. “I dated Jake for a while back in my outlaw days, before I got my act together and went to law school,” she wrote, “and ol’ Jakey boy left quite an impression on me. At the time we were dating he drove a black antique hot rod around Portland that he said was in the movie ‘Rebel Without A Cause.’ Who knows if it really was or not, but it looked like it was, and the car became part of the Jake Sawyer legend that he crafted with such care. There was no other car around like it. The cops would see it and issue a Jake Sawyer alert, but unless he did something really outrageous, they were kind of afraid of him and left him alone.

“Jake was an outlaw, an outlaw’s outlaw,” Barbara continued, “but he was not a dumb criminal. He came from a classy background that he was rebelling against, evidently, and he has a near-Mensa IQ. He definitely did not fall into the outlaw life because he was a dumb shit who had no other options. He chose the life he lived, and he loved living it.”

Barbara referenced an episode that corroborated a story I heard from Tony Caterina, a lifelong resident of Munjoy Hill. “I didn’t see this myself,” Tony began by saying, “the story was told to me by Pete Riccitelli, the very well-known Portland boxer of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Pete told me that he went with Jake one night down to the Maine State Pier to help him push stolen cars into Portland Harbor, but Pete got very alarmed when one of the cars wouldn’t sink and remained highly visible as it floated down the Fore River. It was one of those Nash Ramblers that people said looked like an upside-down bathtub. The thing floated down the Fore River like a damn barge, and, to make matters worse, Jake had neglected to turn the ignition off and the red brake lights and directionals were flashing! The police had to see it, and they did!

“Pete said he started to high-tail it when he heard the police sirens, but Jake just stood there and said, ‘I guess I should’ve turned the ignition off, huh?’ Pete said he was amazed that Jake didn’t seem to be alarmed in the slightest way about what was happening. After he had made his getaway, he said he looked back and saw Jake casually strolling off the pier and stopping to take one more look at the blinking red lights floating down the river. Apparently the police didn’t recognize him because it was night, and who would expect whoever dumped the car to still be around watching the show, anyway?”

Here’s a story sent to me by longtime Portlander Tom Watson. It took place about 10 years after the car-dumping incident just described.

“Some buddies of mine and myself were out for a night of drinking and we saw a Harley with a six-pack hanging off the handlebars out in front of a bar,” Tom wrote. “I was more familiar with the local scene than my buddies were, and I knew it was a trap set up by Jake Sawyer, so I told them they sure as hell should leave the damn six-pack alone, and luckily, they did.

“We could hear a band playing inside the bar, and when we went in there’s Jake, sitting up front with his legs spread eagle and his boots plopped up onto the stage. He had his arms around two women, one on each side, and every so often he’d tilt his head back a little and they would take turns giving him a drink of beer. When the band finished playing a song, Jake jumped to his feet and hollered, ‘You guys are fucking great!’ Then he turned around and faced the crowd and yelled, ‘Everybody start clapping right now!’ Just about everybody else immediately complied, but some guys at a table behind us just sat there smirking, and when one of them yelled, ‘Sit down, you fucking drunk bastard!’ Jake got a very amused look about him, like he couldn’t believe his good fortune. After getting another swig of beer from one of the ladies, he walked over to the guy’s table very calmly and picked him up from around the waist and swiveled him around and tossed him high up into the air so that he came down ass-first and bounced off the dance floor a couple of times. After that, Jake just glanced over at the other guys at the table and they started clapping for the band with a great deal of enthusiasm.”

Here’s one from Eddie Emmons, a longtime friend of Jake’s who lives in the same building that Jake lives in today.

“Jake and I were living out on Peaks Island together some years ago and some rich woman had her house broken into and her stereo stolen, so right away everybody on the island thought of Jake. At the time, the Peaks Island police force consisted of one kind of burly Portland cop who stayed up over the fire station. When I told Jake that I had overheard the cop talking about how he suspected Jake of stealing the stereo, Jake immediately marched over there and banged on the guy’s door and yelled, ‘I don’t steal peoples’ stereos, I steal huge amounts of marijuana and very expensive automobiles! But if I were to steal peoples’ stereos, I’d steal them from every rich son of a bitch on this island and pile them all up in front of this friggin’ fire station and we’d have a bonfire they could see from the Old Port!’ After that, of course, the talk around the island about Jake stealing the woman’s stereo kind of died down.”

Jake once mentioned an incident that took place when he was working on the construction of the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant up in Wiscasset, in the early ’70s. The story was so unbelievable that I really wanted to get it corroborated, but because the incident occurred so long ago, I worried that I’d never locate an eyewitness. After a lot of thought, Jake came up with the name Leon Dudley, and after a meandering search I found a number for Leon, who lives in Old Orchard.

“You better believe I remember what happened!” Leon, who’s nearly 80, exclaimed when I got him on the line. “Jake and some other guys and myself were working on the third floor of the atomic power plant, getting ready to lower some machinery down into a six-yard-wide hole in the center that went all the way down to the bottom. Jake was walking backwards, guiding a forklift that one of the other guys was driving, and he fell over backwards into the hole! We were all horrified as hell! We all knew that Jake was this wild character that had been in all kind of scrapes and made it out alive, of course, but we also knew that no human being could possibly survive that fall, especially because there were tall steel rods sticking up from the bottom!

“We were all so stunned we were frozen in place,” Leon continued. “Everyone was very fond of Jake by that time, but we all knew, beyond any doubt, that this was the end of the line for him. I definitely did not want to see what I knew I would see when I looked down into that hole, but somehow or other I managed to get myself over to the edge and look down, and there he was! Alive! Hanging onto the first-floor railing by one hand! That he managed to catch onto the railing was amazing itself, but that he was able to do it with one hand and was strong enough to hang on and pull himself up is absolutely astounding! I’ve thought about it many times over the years! Believe me! I have!”

Here’s Jake’s account of what happened during the fall. “When I fell into the hole I was terrified, of course, but, somehow or other, my reflexive reaction as I was falling was to jackknife my body forward, like when you do a sit-up, and my fingertips just grazed the second-floor steel railing. Time definitely does slow down when something like that is happening, and in the split second from the time when I missed the second-floor railing to when I got to the first-floor railing, I felt the presence of my guardian angel. When I told her how much I wanted to live and made a tremendous lunge for the first-floor railing, she smiled and guided me to it. All I know is, somehow or other, by some miracle that I am deeply grateful for to this day, I managed to latch onto that railing and hang on! Oh, my word! I squeezed that steel railing so hard I’m sure my fingerprints are still embedded in it!”

The last story about Jake comes courtesy of the boxer John Webster, who gave me a great picture of him and Jake together in the early ’90s, and a story to match.

Jake (at right) with boxer John Webster and Webster’s manager in the 1990s. photo/courtesy Jake Sawyer

“After my father was killed in a car accident in the late 1980s, Jake was like a father to me, man,” John began. “He saved me from a life of crime and made me into somebody, and I’ll always be grateful to him for it. I started hanging around a neighborhood garage where a bunch of tough guys worked on their cars, and it didn’t take long before I had some very unsavory friends. Jake hung around there a little, and he could see that I was trying to be a tough guy, headed down the wrong road, and, without a doubt, would end up in a cell sometime in the near future. So one day he came up to me and said, ‘So, kid, you think you’re tough, huh?’

“Of course, I was nothing but a mouthy little punk at the time, so I asked him what the hell it was to him. All he said was, ‘Shut up and get in my car and I’ll take you someplace where you’re going to find out how to fight, who to fight, and when to fight them.’ So I got in his car and he took me to the gym that was set up in the basement of the Griffin Club, in South Portland, and that was the day my education began. There were two very rugged black guys from Brunswick Naval Air Station who boxed in Eddie’s gym, and when I put on the gloves against them, they proceeded to beat the shit out of me. I kept coming back to the gym, though, and they’d pound on me every time, but after they saw that I had the necessary desire and motivation, they started to ease off and teach me a thing or two, and the rest is history.

“I turned pro in 1992 with Jake in my corner, cheering me on. He didn’t know much about boxing, which he admitted right away, but he sure as hell knew how to motivate people. He’d get me so pumped up I’d feel like I couldn’t lose, and even if I did lose I’d know damn well that I’d put every ounce of energy I had in my body into it. I fought all through the rest of the 1990s and compiled a very respectable record. Then, in 2004, I fought in Germany for the International Super Middleweight title. Well, I got knocked out in the first round, but that’s how it goes. I had given it my best shot, and win or lose, I was somebody.

“After I got my life together and got on the right road, all kinds of good things happened in my life, including becoming a master mason, which has provided me with an excellent living. Right now I’m working in Portland on the expansion of the Asylum nightclub, on Center Street.”

That’s the spot where Jake first worked as a weight-trainer, where he donned a white Ben Casey smock to concoct the potion he called California High Protein. The brick building across the street from there is where Jake had his first job, sweeping floors and taking out the trash at his uncle’s clothing manufacturing business. After you’ve talked with Jake Sawyer about Jake Sawyer for as long as I have, you see his footsteps everywhere.

“Here’s the rest of the story, man,” John continued. “This past September I made a comeback at the Lewiston boxing arena [the Colisée], at the age of forty-seven, and beat a guy about fifteen years younger than me. I saw my first professional fight there about twenty-five years before, with Jake. Joey Gamache, the great boxing champion from Lewiston, was fighting, and I got very inspired by him, and six months later I was fighting there.

“I had to get myself up for that fight last fall, man, big time, and I kept thinking of all the things Jake told me about going straight for it, hard and fast, with all you’ve got, and that’s what I did. The crowd gave me a standing ovation, and while I was prancing around the ring, celebrating the victory, all I could think of was how wild Jake would have been.

“I’m asking you to give Jake a message for me,” John said. “I’m going to retire this summer after my last fight, which is going to be held at the Lewiston [Colisée], and I’d love to have Jake in my corner, just like he was when I made my professional debut twenty-five years ago. If you would convey that message to him, I would sincerely appreciate it.”

“Hell, yes!” Jake yelled when I relayed the request. “I’d love to be in John’s corner! I look forward to seeing him go out a winner!”

Jake in the Rocky Mountains in the 1990s. photo/courtesy Jake Sawyer

The Cemetery

Jake prefers to stay home and avoid the limelight these days. He spends his time reading (mostly historical novels), watching cable TV documentaries, and, of course, exercising. His current routine is to work out with weights and a Nautilus machine for two hours one day, one hour the next. One day when I arrived he had just finished bicycling eleven miles up a steep incline on the Nautilus machine. “For the last few miles my legs ached so bad I thought I was going to cry,” he said, “but I had set my goal at eleven miles, man, and that was it. I made it, too!

“Physical exercise empowers one in life, sir! That is the grand news I am attempting to introduce to the individuals in my building who attend the exercise classes I periodically conduct in the rec room. I get them moving around and laughing and it brings some light into their lives!

“I have been extremely fond of my friends here, and when I hear that one of them has become the victim of a bully, I search the offending individual out and bash his fucking lights out. That’s it. Period. I hate fucking bullies. Some people work out to feel better, some people work out because they want to look better, or maybe live longer, but with me it’s so I can fight better and annihilate bullies and snitches. I’ve told you that all along the line, sir, and it’s as true today as it ever was.”

When Jake does step out, there’s fluttering and fanfare all along the way, and it’s obvious that he enjoys the hell out of that. And he still has an occasional adventure. We have time for one more story.

I crossed paths with Jake on the street last fall and asked him what he’d been up to. “Had a little fun up to the Eastern Cemetery the other night,” he said. “I sometimes wear my long, navy blue Revolutionary War lieutenant’s dress coat and tri-cornered Ethan Allen hat and go there to visit the graves of my ancestors and those of renowned Portland people from the past. When I’m there I feel like I’m walking on holy ground. I know I have told you that my ancestors were among the first settlers of this area — that an ancestor of mine ran the first ferry between South Portland and Portland, and that Sawyer Street, in South Portland, is named after another ancestor of mine, so I won’t bother to tell you all that again.

“Anyway, there I am, wandering among the tombstones in the moonlight, and I hear some kind of activity down at the gate. It turns out to be a nighttime guided tour of the cemetery. Supposed to be real spooky. I just keep wandering around, but the tour guide sees me and walks a little ways toward me and yells in kind of an angry voice, ‘You’re not supposed to be here! The cemetery is closed! You’ve got to leave right now!’

“Fuck him, I thought. No prissy looking civilian is going to tell me I can’t visit the graves of my ancestors anytime I want to. So I yelled, ‘Welcome to the Eastern Cemetery! I’m so happy to see so many of you this evening!’ I took the guy’s tour away! The people all brightened up and started to walk towards me! The guide immediately set them straight, of course, then he yelled over to me, ‘If you don’t get out of here right now, I’m going to call the police!’

“Of course that scared the hell out of me — ha! I just kept poking around, and before long I hear sirens, then see the blue lights. Two black-and-whites, one with a dog in the backseat, and a large medical van, all for an aged Revolutionary War vet. Now, a normal person would just walk over to the gate at this point, have a civil conversation with the police, and it would all be over. Here’s what I do. I start bobbing up and down around the gravestones, like I’m trying to elude capture, and by the time they entered the cemetery they were already trotting after me. They even left a guy at the gate so I couldn’t escape.

“So, what could I do? I ran for the four-foot-tall stone wall on the Mountfort Street side, vaulted up onto it, then jumped down onto the sidewalk and ran like hell towards Munjoy South. The police weren’t far behind me, and I could hear the dog barking his head off, so I ducked into Munjoy South and hid in someone’s doorway for a moment, where I took off my Ethan Allen tri-cornered hat. I slung my Revolutionary War lieutenant’s coat over my arm, then stepped back out into the pleasant night air, climbed the well-worn path on the nearby grassy embankment, and strolled casually up Monument Street, enjoying the nighttime view of the Munjoy Hill Observatory that one is afforded from that particular vantage point.”


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