June 22, 2018
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Drug culture the ‘new normal’ in Bangor

Renee Ordway
By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

“There’s a man in the street naked.”

That’s what one mother who lives on Webster Avenue North heard from her young son as he was getting ready for school at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

The boy was right and, perhaps saddest of all, his mother was hardly surprised when she pulled the curtain aside and took a look at the spectacle unfolding in front of her home.

“Just another day,” she told me.

Another day when the routine of the families that live on the middle-class street are interrupted by general drug-infused chaos.

To shamelessly use an overused catch phrase, it is their “new normal.”

Three weeks ago I ran into the same mom as she stood outside her home with her arm protectively around her children as police in armored suits and guns surrounded the apartment building across the street. She was just returning home from work when police cars whipped onto the street and officers evacuated neighbors from their homes on an otherwise quiet Monday.

I try to reconcile her plight with the brilliant success of other businesses that are thriving in Bangor, despite the economy, and others that are opening to rave reviews and plenty of customers.

Just a couple of years ago I wrote a column about the number of higher-end downtown bars and restaurants that were forced to close up during the winter months due to low revenue.

Now the downtown is thriving. Even on weeknights restaurants and bars are teeming with patrons, and on weekends trying to find a place that can fit you in for dinner without a lengthy wait is a challenge.

Even as my husband and I have walked or driven from one place to another looking for a place to eat, our frustration is offset by the knowledge that people are filling the booths, tables and barstools of restaurants in a downtown that once was a forgotten and barren landscape.

“I had a woman tell me the other day that she and her husband went to five different places downtown before they could find a place to eat because every place was packed,” someone told me this week.

But the other day my teenage son and I waited at the traffic light at the intersection of Hammond and Ohio streets and watched the surreal scene around us.

“I feel like I don’t even know this city anymore,” I said to my son.

“I know,” he said. “It’s pretty scary.”

Have you sat at that intersection?

It was a little scary.

It’s a little bit scary, too, I assume, for anyone who stops into a Rite-Aid Pharmacy to pick up a prescription or a greeting card these days.

It’s a bit sad when the residents living around First and Second streets can’t begin to think about letting their children go to play in the city playground located there.

It has to be frightening for those who have loved ones dabbling or even consumed with the city’s drug scene to hear and read the reports of that drug-related triple homicide last summer.

“That’s what a city is,” my sister reminded me this week.

She’s right, of course.

So many things are going right for this city right now. There is a vibrancy that excites the newer and younger residents and a pride that is stalwart among the older residents.

But lying beneath it is an incredible, damaging drug culture that threatens it all and demands the action of both groups.

Those who are so excited about the latest restaurant opening need to be mindful of my friend over on Webster Avenue North, and those who are on First and Second streets, and those in so many other neighborhoods who are hopeful they don’t find a naked, drugged-out 20-something on their doorstep on any given morning.

It’s not a just a City Council issue or a police issue or landlord issue. It is a community issue and it is going to take some action.

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