The Valentine Phantom speaks

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Now that you’re all dug out from the snow, get ready for more. Here’s footage of a snowy Portland from above.

Note to people on Valentine’s Day dates tonight: There’s a parking ban downtown starting at 10 p.m.

What we’re talking about

We hung out with the Valentine Phantom — The phantom — or bandit — is the anonymous folk hero in Portland who has been covering the city in red hearts each Valentine’s Day, for 41 years. The city’s version of Cupid has been notoriously hard to track down. Each year, local media are left with a lot of cool photos of the phantom’s work, but so far, not a lot of insight into how it gets done.

Until now.

BDN Portland’s Kathleen Pierce tracked down the bandit and spent the evening following his/her/their exploits around the city.

“Most people are dying to be in the paper. This is the opposite. This is not ego-driven,” the bandit told us. “It’s not about how we do it; it’s why we do it.”

Here’s a sample:

The first stop was Rufus Deering Lumber. As the sun set over Portland Harbor and snowplows were the only activity in the Old Port, a banner was hoisted onto the 162-year-old Commercial Street building. …

It wasn’t a perfect execution — the banner was lopsided — but time was of the essence. The bandit had miles to go before sleep.

The phantom worked in shifts, even breaking for food and a beer, and had volunteers who appeared spontaneously to keep the phenomenon alive.

The phantom powered mysteriously through the city. Access was granted. Doors opened as if by magic. Seeming to pass unobstructed, locked gates and doors unlatched.

If a plan was foiled on the fly, the phantom nixed it fast. On Monday night, a target at Baxter Academy went awry and ended before it began. No matter. Onto the next.

Read the full story here.

Here are a few photos from social media of the phantom’s latest work

Fake news, racism and an unfinished bridge: A Portland soldier’s story — Troy R. Bennett’s latest dive into old Portland features a soldier who was born here and later served in a Manila outpost after the Spanish-American war.

Brown started keeping a diary as he traveled to the West Coast and continued writing all throughout his time overseas. A rare book now, it gives readers unvarnished access to Brown’s raw thoughts, and keen memories, of his adventure.

How unvarnished? Well, Troy writes, “In his journal, he calls the Filipinos lazy and stupid. He freely uses the N-word, describing black soldiers. On March 8, 1900, he wrote how he, an enlisted man, could not bring himself to salute his superior, African-American officers.”

Inbox: Pingree wants to investigate Trump’s Russia ties — U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office says she is “co-sponsoring legislation to create a bipartisan, independent, outside commission to fully investigate Russia’s influence on [President Donald Trump’s] administration and the 2016 election. … [T]he Protecting Our Democracy Act (HR 356) will provide Americans with much needed answers to President Trump’s relationship with Russia and hold him accountable for jeopardizing national security.”

Here’s the latest on Flynn, from the New York Times.

WEX joins Maine’s billion-dollar club — The South Portland payments company reached $1 billion in revenue last year for the first time — joining L.L. Bean and Idexx, the Press Herald reported. Here’s a GIF in honor of the milestone.

As Maine’s population ages, nursing shortage looms — Jackie Farwell and Christopher Cousins report:

Without action, Maine will face a shortage of 3,200 registered nurses by 2025, according to new projections released by officials from DHHS and the University of Maine System and nursing organizations.

Tweet of the day

From Patrick Whittle:

Screenshot 2017-02-14 18.26.36

The Big Idea

‘For so many Americans, Obamacare offered career freedom. A repeal could take that away.’ — From Vox:

I spend a lot of time talking to Obamacare enrollees like Hoover: people who struck out on their own — left a job, started a business, went back to school — after Obamacare. They felt empowered to do this because in the reformed individual market, insurers had to offer everyone coverage — and couldn’t charge sick people more.

And now, many of them are already beginning to rearrange their lives around the law’s uncertain future.


Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the editor of BDN Portland. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.