Monday, April 29, 2013

Some Maine Pictures (August 2012)

These are from a two day trip I took to Maine with my two older sons last summer. I have actually passed on putting up pictures from some other excursions I have taken lately, as they didn't lend themselves so readily to narrative.

Especially now that I only have so many years left of life, and the summer seems so short when one has to go to work every day, I try to pack in as many outings and trips during July and August as I can. By around the 10th of August however my wife has usually had enough of driving and dragging the younger children around everywhere and listening to their fighting, and doesn't want to go on any more complicated excursions than a last day or two at the mountains or the beach. I had four days off however, and as I was visibly restless at the prospect of spending them at home, it was decided that I would go somewhere and take the two older children if they wanted to come. It was sad at first that not everyone was coming, since I never go anywhere without the entire family, though once we got going I slowly acclimated myself to the unusual dynamic, and in truth not having all of the little ones opened up some possibilities, such as going to visit sites or restaurants, that we would not have had had they been there. Besides which, we were only staying away one night.

1. Backdoor Entry Into Maine. Most tourists and other visitors arrive in the state via the somewhat more glamorous Piscataqua River Bridge on I-95, or perhaps the US-1 Bridge nearby with its view of the elegant skyline and ships of Portsmouth. This is on US-202 passing from Rochester, New Hampshire into Berwick, a route I take sometimes if I am going to Portland and points further north. 202 is a rather unattractive road that goes past a lot of shabby auto repair and salvage yard type places, as well as the well-worn French-Canadian towns of Sanford and Biddeford, which I have some familiarity with as my high school teams used to play against these towns in my long-ago day.

2. We Stopped First in Portland For a Couple of Hours. Monument Square. You can't see it, but we are looking out from in front of the Public Library. Things have changed a lot in the nearly quarter of a century since I lived there, of course, as everywhere has. Life has gone on without me, and without missing me too much, which would not only have seemed impossible in 1987, but the thought of it would have broken my heart. I really felt at home there, and now it is like all of that is gone and a totally different city has been erected in its place.

3. We Decided to Take the Tour of Longfellow's Childhood Home, Which I Had Never Done Before. You can't see the house very well in any of my pictures, as the trees blocked any view with which my camera would have been able to fit the whole edifice in a single shot. This is both a literary site and a 1966 Encyclopedia state highlight for the whole family, so my motivations to go there could not have been much more primed. I enjoyed the tour, as I enjoy any experience now that involves human interaction without beeping or flashing lights on a screen, and the house is a worthy attraction, though I have to admit that if you only have time to visit one Longfellow house, the one he lived in as a successful poet and Harvard professor in Modern Languages on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Mass. is the livelier and more extravagant experience of the two. The Portland House is owned by the Maine Historical Society, which maintains an exhibit space in the visitors center next door, and they had a small but engaging exhibit on the history of the Central Maine Power Company which I also liked, as it recalled me to the "old" (pre-1990) times, of which I am grown so fond in the ruins of my middle age.

4. This is Supposed to be My Old High School (if the picture displays). I loved this place so much when I was there, but now it just looks like a building, albeit a somewhat nice one, that I have no connection to whatsoever. I don't feel like it belongs to anyone else either in the way that I perceived it as belonging to me and my schoolmates at the time. I had very romantic ideas about it, and about the whole city of Portland, that if they were not illusions, and I do not think that they were, wholly, have not carried through in the same characters at all to the present.

My 25th reunion is coming up in June. You may recall I didn't have an especially good time at the 20th and hardly anyone remembered me, but I am still considering going because I have so few opportunities anymore to get out without my children and go to a party where there is drinking and people dress up a little and that sort of thing. For this same reason I am going to my company's annual employee banquet in May, which I have never gone to. I think as long as I don't try to be overeager to ingratiate myself with people, can find something to wear which will be presentable without making me look awkward or not striking the right note, and can maintain extremely modest expectations, I think I could have a good time.

5. Boothbay Harbor. This was the primary destination. If you remember I noted in my account of my viewing of the movie Carousel, much of which had been filmed in this town, that I had never been there and that I ought to go sometime in the summer. That was the inspiration for the trip. The town didn't really strike me as looking like the one in the movie, and there were no references to the film anywhere in any of the local tourist literature. Not that I needed that, but it had informed my expectations, to a certain degree.

6. Photo-Op at the General Store. If you don't have a boat docked there or a vacation home that your family has been coming to for a hundred years, the town is kind of a walking around, shops and restaurants kind of deal. Pretty enough, but not substantially different from Kennebunkport or Ogunquit or York or some similar more upmarket Maine beach town, other that Boothbay Harbor is actually located on an inlet and there is not a beach right near it that I am aware of.

7. Bowling Alley. Taken Through a Window. This was closed and inside a building that gave no indication of opening up again anytime soon, to the public, at least. I think it may have been some kind of private lodge.

8. The Guys Were Able to Amuse Themselves For Several Hours By Walking Around the Docks. I am fortunate in that these older children at least are not helpless in the face of potential boredom, so long as they are kept fed.

9. This Picture Isn't Showing Up, But I Think it Was Supposed to Be Me at Dinner. Believe me, it is no great loss if it doesn't come out in the final post.

10. Dedication (Reversed?) on the Maine State Liberty Bell at the Capitol in Augusta. These 50 replica Liberty Bells were gifts, I believe from France, that were given to each of the states around 1950. I have developed a minor interest in seeking them out if I happen to be near a state capital (that is where most of them are located, but not all--the one for New Jersey, for example, I believe is in Perth Amboy) because the Maryland bell happens to be on the campus of my college, and though I did not take much notice of it there, when I began hanging around the state house in Concord, I noticed that the Liberty Bell they had on the front lawn was the same as the one at school, and this made for sentimental associations, and so on. So I think I have seen five of the bells to date, the others being Wisconsin and Connecticut. Of course I have also been to the actual Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. That is of no moment, but this paragraph seems incomplete without noting it.

I deleted my Liberty Bell picture in trying to fix the alignment of my paragraphs, which have gotten messed up. I am not at home so I can't put it in again at the moment. Maybe I will go back and do it later, or maybe I will put in a different Liberty Bell picture. But probably I will do neither.

11. James G Blaine House (Governor's Mansion), Augusta. James G Blaine was Maine's best hope, probably for all time, for having a president, being the Republican nominee in 1884 and losing to Grover Cleveland in a pretty close election. He actually was born and grew up in Pennsylvania, but his wife was from Maine, which is how he ended up there, though not because he was a layabout with nowhere else to go, but through his talent and the impressions he was able to make on important people on short acquaintance who made it worth his while to move his family there.

Apparently the governor actually lives there. There is an official governor's mansion in New Hampshire, but no governor has deigned to live in it in the entire time I have lived here. I don't know whether they use it at all for receptions or other grandiose affairs. I have never been invited to one in any event, and whenever I drive by it it looks as if it is just sitting there empty.

12. It Was Sunday, so the State House Was Closed. This was disappointing, as we are all fans of state houses, but unfortunately it could not be helped. I guess we were lucky that the Liberty Bell was outside, which is not always the case.

13. Looking Up at a Tree near the State House. It looks like a pine tree to me going by the bark but I am probably wrong.

14. Back in Boothbay Harbor. This is the Restaurant We Ate Lunch at the Second Day. They had lobster for $10 a head, which traditionally is cheap in a restaurant, though last year the lobster catch was supposedly abundant, so prices were low. I would have preferred to get something else as we also had lobster the night before but the boys were gung ho to have it again, and they wanted me to join them in this revelry, and I think to get the $10 deal you had to order 3 lobsters anyway, so lobster it was.

15. Inside the Restaurant. This would be in the cabin part of the ship I think.

16. Child #1 Getting His Crustacean. It looks like we got a pizza too. Interesting combination.

17. Tourist Trolley. Farewell to Boothbay Harbor. It is just far enough away and not possessed of any singularly compelling enough attractions that there is a good chance I won't make it back there again. I suspect it is the kind of place that if you make a connection to it when young, or come to it in adulthood as your first, or among your first, vivid experiences of a Maine seaside town in summer, that it will always retain some meaning for you. But as I already have several such places, and have for a long time, I was not evidently susceptible to this effect. Or perhaps I am too old and finished to receive such impressions anywhere anymore.

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