Admit it. If you passed through downtown Portland earlier this week, you glanced up at the iconic Time and Temperature sign, rolled those eight letters around in your brain while you waited for the stop light to change, and drove away stumped.
Ben Bornstein and Nate Bergeron feel your pain.
“It’s tough sometimes,” said Bornstein, 25.
“We have basically eight characters to work with,” chimed in Bergeron, 35.
Ah, but therein lies the fun. Not to mention the never-ending community service that has helped 65 non-profits strut their stuff (“STRT STUF” in sign speak) since the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein (also known as BENS DAD), began renting the sign four years ago.
“BLUE STKG,” for the record, is shorthand for the “Bluestocking Film Series,” which will be held this weekend at the Space Gallery on Congress Street.
And what is the Bluestocking Film Series?
According to its website (http://www.bluestockingfilms.com), it’s “an exclusive showcase for provocative, well-produced films that feature complex female protagonists driving the narrative and leading the action.”
Try saying that in eight letters.
“It’s near impossible,” conceded Bornstein, who along with Bergeron, controls what is without a doubt the most watched message board in all of Maine.
It all started when Bergeron, the law firm’s marketing and public relations director, decided “CALL JOE” was a more effective pitch than the previous “CALL 1-800-WIN-WIN-1″ used by the firm in its ubiquitous TV ads featuring the lawyerly-looking actor Robert Vaughn.
(True story: Many of Bergeron’s and Ben Bornstein’s contemporaries think Vaughn, best known for playing super-spy Napoleon Solo in the 1960s TV series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” actually is Joe Bornstein.)
Around the same time, Bergeron heard that the sign, which has flashed over Portland since 1964, was without a tenant. He envisioned “CALL JOE” blinking 24/7 along with the time and temperature over Maine’s largest city (what a GR8 IDEA) and called CBRE/The Boulos Co., which manages the 80-year-old building for its New York City owner.
“We had ‘CALL JOE’ up there in a matter of a week,” Bergeron recalled. “It was an opportunity and we jumped on it.”
It was also a chance for the elder Bornstein to regularly STEP BACK and HELP OUT non-profit organizations that have a lot to say but lack the resources (NO CASH) to effectively say it.
“Not to be schmaltzy about it, but we’ve been blessed with a wonderful law practice,” Joe Bornstein said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “My wife and I feel quite strongly that we want to give back to the community (THX PTLD) any way we can.”
At two words no longer than four letters each, the sign shout-outs make Twitter’s 140-character limit look like a novella.
Some have been no brainers: “BOAT SAFE” for National Safe Boating Week, “BIKE SWAP” for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s Great Maine Bike Swap, “ART WALK” for Portland’s First Friday Art Walk, “DINE OUT” for Maine Restaurant Week …
Others require a little effort: “DON8 LIFE” for National Donate Life Month, “RUN4 BBCH” for the Barbara Bush Children’s hospital’s annual Color Run, “WALK 4HRT” for the American Heart Association’s 2014 Summer Heart Walk …
Then there are the truly befuddling. Imagine the possibilities for “SM DAY,” which heralded Social Media Day on June 30. And good luck with “ACOG PLAY,” which promoted a play by the after-school organization A Company of Girls.
“I remember thinking, ‘What on earth is that?’” recalled Ben Bornstein, who just completed his second year at the University of Maine Law School (LEGL EAGL). “The people at A Company of Girls knew what it meant, but nobody else did. So it really didn’t do them any good – let alone that people everywhere are going crazy trying to figure it out.”
Enter www.portlandtimetemp.com, a blog Bornstein now authors to solve the riddles when they arise and simultaneously steer the curious to the organization’s website 4MOR INFO on the event being publicized. Atop Bornstein’s blog entries are photos by local photographer Corey Templeton and anyone else who comes up with a NICE SHOT.
Take the postcard-perfect sunset that served as a backdrop for “EAT OTTO.” The message connoted the five-year anniversary for Otto’s Pizza, which may have raised a few eyebrows considering Otto’s is a for-profit business and normally would be ineligible for sign status.
But that changed via what Bergeron calls a “work-around”: In exchange for 50 pizzas delivered to clients of Portland’s Preble Street social service agency, Otto’s got its name in lights.
“Turns out, Joe and Otto have something in common: They both love the Preble Street organization in Portland,” Ben Bornstein explained in the blog.
The rules also can be bent occasionally to recognize an individual. Last month, after the sign had been reserved for Pride Portland!’s Southern Maine Pride Parade and Festival, Portland Fire Department Capt. Michael C. Kucsma Jr. died of a heart attack while scuba diving with friends.
Following a hectic series of back-and-forth phone calls between Bergeron, the elder Bornstein, City Hall, parade organizers and the building manager who inputs the message from her first-floor office, “LGBT PRIDE” was replaced with “CAPT MIKE” during Kucsma’s wake and funeral. Then, just in the nick of time, it was switched back for the parade.
“It worked out perfectly,” said Bergeron, who managed the crisis while driving to a wedding in Vermont (PROB SLVD).
Back at the Bluestocking Film Series, founder and artistic director Kate Kaminski considers it “totally cool” that Bornstein and Bergeron considered her two-day event Time-and- Temperature worthy – even if “BLUE STKG” takes a little deciphering.
“We thought about ‘BLUE FILM,’” Kaminski said. “But that might have given the wrong idea. We thought, ‘What can we do that will not imply porn and still get our message across?’”
NICE CALL, BLUE STKG.
Considering all he’s doing for GRTR PTLD, the last thing Joe Bornstein needs is a PR MESS.