There are nights in Lewiston where it seems like no trouble could ever befall a single soul clutched within its tender embrace.

Lovers glide along sidewalks hand in hand. Children play on grass turned gold by the sun’s fading light. Every person you pass on the street has a song upon his or her lips and a warm greeting to gladden your ear.

Dogs stop barking and go quietly to sleep. Wee ones, too, succumb to yawns and are carried off to their beds. It is good dreams for all on a night like this: the love and goodwill of the city is so thick and warm you can wear it like a blanket.

Ah, such tranquility; such an easy calm has descended with the dusk.

And then some fool pulls out a gun on Bartlett Street and, like that, the spell is broken. Suddenly, the night is alive with the echo of gunfire, the high horror of runaway screams and the authoritarian wail of police sirens coming from all directions.

A few blocks away, a car careens out of control and slams into a pole, bringing down wires. The driver, perhaps emboldened by the sight of all those cops heading in another direction, jumps out of the wreckage and trots to the nearest bar to start a brawl.

A few streets over, a formerly peaceful card game has turned unruly. Now tables are being overturned, chairs are being hurled and knifes are coming out. The dogs are barking again and a burly man is bleeding all over his straight flush. During the course of the fray, two men are hurled out of windows, an old woman has tumbled down the stairs and the guy with the knife is beaten unconscious with a George Foreman grill. The newer one, with the digital timer.

From somewhere up on Pine Street comes the violent sounds of breaking glass. Somebody offers a bark-like scream in response to it and a car alarm starts blaring as if in protest. Now there are dogs barking up and down Pine Street, as well, and the soft silence of that earlier peace is so far gone now, it’s hard to imagine that it had ever been there at all.

When the city of Lewiston changes moods, it does so abruptly, loudly and without the courtesy of foreshadowing.

You have to feel bad for the poor late-beat news reporter who was so lulled by the abject serenity of earlier hours that he thought he could kick off and go home. Now he is racing toward the shooting on Bartlett Street only to hear of an even-bigger, more newsy brawl at a downtown club.

Not to mention the little old lady in a heap on the stairs and the dude with the George Foreman shaped dent in his skull. What to do? Where to go? And more important, how in heck did Lewiston’s tender embrace turn to such savage horror so quickly?

I may be taking some liberties with the facts here, but I swear to you, not much. I honestly wondered — and have wondered for many years now — if there is any city in the world as stark raving unpredictable as Lewiston. I dare say this city is downright arrogant about its refusal to be forecast in any way.

There are days on which mayhem crackles so steadily across the airwaves the police scanner grows hot to the touch. These are the days when the madness begins at breakfast, grinds on through lunch and shows no sign of relenting come the dinner hour.

And so with the daytime news team sweat stained, breathless and exhausted with all it had to cover, I come swaggering haughty and cocksure into the newsroom, ready to take on an eventide version of the day’s wildness. I crack my knuckles and pull a fresh notebook from the cabinet. I lace up my best running shoes, fetch deep breaths and prepare to duck bullets, blades and George Foreman grills until midnight and beyond.

Darkness falls. The scanner has lost its red hot glow and when it crackles again, it is only a report of a cat stuck in a tree or allegations of jaywalking on outer Main. I wait. And wait and then wait some more, listening to the sweet song of the crickets that have replaced the sounds of screams and burning rubber and shattering glass.

I went out and bought Kevlar underwear for THIS?

Every year, the police come out with crime stats showing Lewiston is a perfectly ordinary place where crime runs in hills and valleys just like anywhere else. What those numbers do not show is the manic nature of the city’s many mood swings.

Who can explain why a city so restless and wicked at lunch time chooses to be sweet and serene come the dinner hour? Who can explain how on a broiling hot night with a full moon on the first of the month with a fresh pack of gangsters shipped up from New Jersey the city can be so sedate, while on a random Thursday damp with cold rain it turns into a Jerry Springer highlight reel downtown?

If only the Farmers’ Almanac could forecast the many moods of Lewiston the way it forecasts the weather. If it looked deeply enough, it might find some of the same folk wisdom applies.

Frost on the north side of a pumpkin? A sure sign that some fool is going to get shanked outside a Lewiston nightclub.

Caterpillars growing extra stripes? You can count on a pharmacy robbery for each stripe, and a home invasion if the critter curls into a ball.

Squirrels building nests way up high in the trees? That’s because they do not want to get strafed by gunfire, like that time on Bartlett Street.

I won’t even tell you what it means if an acorn falls into your bird feeder in October. You’d be shocked. Shocked, I say!

It’s all very scientific.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: