The dude worked Lisbon Street like he knew his way around. Like he owned the place, in fact. He wore a shiny leather coat and his hair was neatly groomed. He ducked into a specialty liquor place and emerged with a bottle of wine. A few doors down, he slipped into a health food restaurant, chatted up a few people and came out with a sandwich that had kale dangling over the sides.
So far, so good on Lisbon Street.
Up the street and on the other side, our man walked boldly into a boutique and came out a few minutes later with something that had been boxed and wrapped. Something frilly, maybe. We just don't know.
He whistled as he walked. He nodded and smiled whenever someone passed him on the sidewalk. He juggled his wine, sandwich and possibly-frilly present with finesse. A moment later he was gone again, into a flower shop this time. He reappeared 10 minutes later, this time with a bright bouquet to add to his armful.
Off he went, this dashing fellow, toward the parking garage around the corner.
What followed was a deep, journalistic debate.
ME: "How could that guy get so much stuff done? There's nothing down here."
WIFE: "You haven't been paying attention. There's plenty down here these days."
So a day or two later, I went off on my own, breezing down Lisbon Street and jotting in my notebook a list of things to do there. Restaurants? There are several. Curios shops? Plenty of those, too.
A flower shop, a smoke shop and a clothing store later, I had one notebook page filled with Things I Found on Lisbon Street. Impressive. But absolutely nothing compared to a list of things formerly found at Lisbon and Main streets by one Anita Stone.
She's 76 years old and she's been thinking a lot lately about Lisbon Street. The way it was when she was a kid, when she was a teenager and when she was an adult.
"It was great," Anita tells me. "There was so much to do down there. My sister and I used to hurry on Saturday morning because we wanted to go shopping with our mother. We lived on Summer Street and we walked downtown. The sidewalks and stores were always full. We always met people we knew."
When she was 15 years old, she got a job in a food store. Later, she would take a bartender's job at one of the clubs. In 1953, she got married and what do you know? Lisbon Street was still Lewiston's buzzing beehive of activity.
"On Sundays, we use to bring the kids downtown. We'd park the car and walk all the way up and down Lisbon Street. They would look in the windows. There were people walking all over the place and they would stop to talk to the kids."
Hard to imagine, isn't it? Men wearing ties and hats strolling in the area of Lisbon and Main at all hours. Women in dresses and kids running from store to store right there on Lower Lisbon.
You hear about it all the time. People who have been around for a few years will get to yammering about how Lisbon Street used to be and you'll nod politely and think: "Old folks. They sure get some funny ideas about the world."
So Anita produced a list that puts mine to shame. It's two sheets of paper with writing on both sides. On her list are the many places and things that used to occupy space on Lisbon and the streets around it. A few I'd heard of and many I had not.
Peck's, Woolworth's, The Strand Theater, Blackie's, the Brass Rail, Kresgee's, Montgomery Ward, Stekino's Restaurant, Lewiston Hardware, the Empire Theater, The Sheraton, Ward Bros., Purity Restaurant, Stekino Bowling, Mohegan Market, Butcher Boy, The Holly Hotel.
And on it goes until it sounds like she's describing a different city altogether. New York, maybe, or Paris.
It's hard for someone like me to wrap his head around, because by the time I came along, the Lisbon Street List looked like this: bar, bar, head shop, bar, bar, lawyer's office, bar, empty building that smelled like pee.
And shortly after, Lisbon Street was even less than that. The bars folded, the good restaurant burned down and everything in between seemed to blow away. The buildings were cleared out to the point where it seemed like even their memories were swept into a dustpan and discarded forever.
But not for Anita Stone, who complains of a dwindling memory but who can rattle off her own recollections with a flourish.
"Peck's was a huge clothing store and this is where Santa came every year," she says. "This is where all the children came to tell their wishes. They had a big fishing pond where the kids would fish for a gift. It was beautiful."
Beautiful, she says. Lisbon Street!
So, there's the Lisbon Street of Anita Stone's memory, Lisbon Street of mine and whatever it is that's blooming down there now. Is it a genuine resurgence? Or just another twitch before Lisbon Street rolls over and dies again?
Beats me. A lot of people, including that wife quoted above, will tell you that Lisbon Street is coming around. The days of muggings and brawls and hard drinking have vanished for good and Lower Lisbon is returning to something that resembles its former glory.
Far be it from me to suggest that they are wrong. I misread things like this five times before I'm even out of bed in the morning.
But I should tell you this: The fellow with the flowers and wine, the smile and the frilly, wrapped present? He may have looked like a Renaissance man from the waist up, but down below, he was wearing bright blue pajamas and combat boots. Pajamas and combat boots, right there in the middle of town at the brightest hour of the day.
I don't know what's going on down there these days, but I can tell you this: There's still plenty of Lewiston left on Lisbon Street. The character that made it famous has been there all along.
* Public service announcement or something: I'll be hosting a live "Ask Me Anything" chat at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, on the Sun Journal website. To participate, go to sunjournal.com/laflamme. Please be gentle. Or don't. Whatever.
Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. You can virtually stalk him with your Lisbon Street memories at firstname.lastname@example.org.