Category Archives: Mainly Maine

A Cleansing Visit to Bath, Maine

Our trip to Maine concluded with a stop over in Bath, where John planned to visit a cousin that had laid roots at the Robert Plant Assisted Living facility. But since he didn’t want me to grow bored, I decided to take a walk back towards the town and he would pick me up after the visit was over.

The distance from the Plant home and the center of Bath was long, but there was much to keep my attention. Namely the existence of a huge ship yard and several ships being constructed in said yard. SAM_0553SAM_0560SAM_0559SAM_0555

It’s not nearly as impressive of course as the idea that people who live along this road get to see this every single day and I’m sure some of them probably consider it wallpaper after a while. But you got to take some local pride in the fact that your town ostensibly has an endless source of tax payer dollars. I mean as long as there is till an ocean to patrol, this ship yard appears to be as recession proof as the plumbing trade.

The photos can’t even do it justice, so I implore you to make a trip to Bath as soon as possible and don’t forget your towel. (you also may want to keep a respectful distance from the fences leading into this place as security might be justifiably concerned. There are plenty of areas to take a picture of this place from without seeming suspicious.)

John caught up with me about a half hour later and we went for a proper walk into the center of Bath. There we found a nice second hand shop where we proved the theory that we could find L.L. Bean merchandise for way cheaper than if we had bought it at the actual outlet store. When I told the owner of my attempt to bolster tourism for Brunswick she busted a gut and so if anyone can find me hilarious, they have to be okay. Among the items decorating her shelves was a parcel box from none other than Selfridges Department Store.

Later in day, we visited the Patten Free Library, or rather, I visited the restroom of the library while John sat outside. That should not be taken to mean that I only consider a library a place to empty my bladder, but as I did not have a library card for Patten, nor was my NOBLE card useful in the Maine location, there was very little else I could partake of inside the actual building. But outside, Patten’s campus is truly impressive.

There was a little pond with a statue that I spent some trying to get a great photo of. Oh and before you accuse me of being perverted, keep in mind that this statue is in full view of the public and therefore no more obscene than anyone who read this and actually had the one-track thoughts of which I accused them. SAM_0562

For the record, while the statue and the little red bridge were charming, it was the hundreds of tadpoles populating the pond that really held my fascination. Tadpoles in every stage of development swam in the little pond and as far I could tell, swam free from the fear of predators. Although I imagine a blue heron or some other predatory animal gets the jump on them now and again, I found a new respect for the Patten Free Library as a place where such animals can flourish. SAM_0566

In fairness, however, I would not have known of this ecological gemstone had I not been in dire need of the Bathroom.

Your Comfort Inn

I promised them a review. If I got any hits this week because they checked up on my blog for a review of their motel, which I didn’t post, then I owe them that much.

This is an especially special post, because by now my family will have gotten the hint that John isn’t just a guy I happen to know in Salem. He’s certainly not just a guy who would take me to meet his family two states away, so I definitely hope that when faces meet, my family can respect the fact that their eldest son, brother, cousin, and however else I might be related to them, can respect that this was something I realized long ago. John is just the first person that I have been in a serious relationship with and I don’t want to have to keep tip toeing around the bush.

If his family can accept him than mine can accept me. If mine can’t accept me, well, I’m in a different city and state now, so it won’t matter. But I’m happy for the most part and that should be enough for them.

So kudos to Comfort Inn for making us feel comfortable sharing the same bed.

The first thing to remember is that I love the cold. John loves it warm. If I were to sum up how different we were in this respect, it would sound something like this. At the motel, the industrial strength air conditioner was like sleeping on a cloud in heaven. When we went to bed, John was concerned about getting a head cold, which would ruin his day, so we compromised. I switched the air conditioner to fan mode and we both slept comfortably that night.

When we arrived at the motel, I had some trouble figuring out the little coffee machine. It was like some proto-Keurig with individual pod-like things for single cups of coffee and I had to call the front desk for instructions. I do believe it was the GM I spoke to at this particular location and he had already busted a gut at my particular style of humor, so I already knew he was a great guy and he was a huge help the entire time. I really need to start remembering people’s names, because all of the staff were amazing and I wish I could give a shout out to the ones who made the biggest impression on John and I.

When I first saw that continental breakfast the next morning, I began eating like a tribute to the Hunger Games minutes after the reaping. Eggs, sausage, waffles, fruit and cereal. It’s very possible that if I wind up having to choose a last meal, the Comfort Inn will be the ones cooking it. (Although I doubt that will make it into the advertising, but if future forensic investigators comb through this blog, I hope they’ll consider booking the post-conviction vacation at your lodgings on the basis of my recommendation)

A great experience over all and let this blogpost serve as my five star review.

I’ll Have Triple Trouble Food Allergy Sundae

After watching Cilantro in concert, we parted company with John’s family and decided to end the evening with an ice cream sundae.

There was a small shop just up the street from the park and the first thing I noticed was a number of specialty sundaes for under six dollars. Well, my eyes immediately fell to the peanut butter fudge ice cream, with the peanut butter sauce, covered with nuts. Below that was a sign that said, “If you ordered this knowing you have a food allergy, you’re too dumb to live”.

Let me throw out a disclaimer in case anyone gets offended by that last statement: That sign didn’t exist. But when I ordered the sundae, I assured the server up front that I did not have a peanut allergy, to which she, in good humor replied, “Thank you for letting me know.”

All joking aside, they have to be secretly wondering who is ordering that sundae in the hopes of scoring a major lawsuit somewhere down the road. The owner of the Turner Fishery franchise loses sleep every night, so you can bet this small town ice cream shop does too.

John and I walked up the street a ways and found a nice bench. While we ate, we looked at the shop fronts. there was nothing majorly out of place for a street within walking distance of a college campus. You had the standard beauty parlor with the 80’s window décor, a pizza place, and a second hand clothing store called “Upscale Retail”. Upscale Retail had a touch of the artistic as their window boxes had a piece of foam holding twenty empty wine bottles in place in an aesthetically pleasing fashion.

I know there was exactly twenty there, because when a woman stopped to take a closer look inside the shop (it was closed) I counted them quickly. From the intensity with which this woman tried opening the door only to settle for gazing in through the glass, I realized she was not a local and therefore not familiar with this shop’s hours.

“John,” I whispered. “I’m about to have a little fun.”

John nodded and when the woman took a step back from the store I said, “Well hello there. Have you been in that shop before?”

“No,” the woman said. “I’m from Tennessee.”

“Oh well, funny story, the owner of that shop actually opened for business twenty years ago. And ever year to celebrate their success, they opened up a bottle of wine. That’s why they decided to do that art exhibit to celebrate.” I gestured to the bottles and the lady from Tennessee, noticing for the first time, had no reason to doubt the sincerity of my improvised BS.

I never once let on that I was joking. But we did have a good conversation. For example, she expected us to have a negative opinion of Tennessee and I pointed out that I would never make fun of The Volunteer State. Besides, no one’s state is above reproach. Vermont had a eugenics program going on in the 1920’s, so we’re definitely not winning awards in the human decency contest, even if we did score a couple of major victories in the last two decades.

I could have also pointed out that the very first (and only) lynching to ever take place in New England happened in Northern Maine, but that is a story for another day.

Sir, Topsham Sat… Yeah, that was a stretch. Here’s my account of our brief visit to Sea Dog Brewery.

John didn’t want to go to Byrne’s super early, so the plan was to arrive fashionably late and stop somewhere for drinks. By drinks, I mean, soft drinks, which should not have been as difficult as it turned out to be.

Sea Dog Brewery is a Maine company with several locations and I’m told that otherwise it’s not a bad place to eat. But apparently, only ordering drinks rates you very low on the priority list for the waitresses who are serving you. It’s funny, because I thought that treating every paying customer like you appreciate their business is a good way to encourage future patronage, but who am I to criticize?

In all fairness, they did seat us pretty far from the counter.

In all fairness, they did seat us pretty far from the counter.

Compare that to the service at Byrne’s Tavern and it’s a huge contrast. That lady had a ton of customers at one table alone and she still managed to outshine not one, not two, but the three separate waitstaff employees we interacted with at Sea Dog. And she had a considerable amount more to bring us, but I have no doubt that if someone only wanted to order a soda or a beer, she would have been just as attentive.

Better to Byrne Out than to Fade Away

As I’ve said before, family gatherings can be stressful. Growing up, I had visions of big family reunions. Barbecues in the backyard, cousins and aunts and uncles from all corners of the globe getting together and having a good time. At times the reality was everything I wanted and more so whereas others were just me and a long stream of an internal mantra going, “Don’t judge me, don’t judge me, don’t judge me.”

To my own family, I have finally reached a point where I can honestly say that I love them and will do everything in my power for them, but I will no longer seek or require their approval. In return, I will continue my policy of not judging them for their decisions and giving them the same love and respect I ask for.

That being said, any encounter with a new group of people is going to have it’s ups and downs. Meeting John’s family in Brunswick was one such example. I’ve already met a number of the people within his social circle to varying degrees of success. But these are the people who share a chromosome or two on the genetic level and he is still very much in contact with some of them.

We met at Byrne’s Tavern, an Irish themed pub located at the train station where the Downeaster  from Boston stops.

Not to be confused with the Downeaster Alexa.

Not to be confused with the Downeaster Alexa.

Instantly I was at home with all of the kitsch and the decor but especially after the Reuben sandwich with mashed potatoes came out. There was a short debate over whether or not I would be comfortable sitting where I was or moving to another seat so I could better talk with… more people. I was already sitting at one end with two of John’s relatives and I had made a great effort to shake everyone’s hand before the ordering began, so I didn’t see any real advantage to changing seats just yet. After all, I knew exactly one person in this group, so there was an equal chance of impressing and/or offending everyone no matter where I sat. Fortunately it was more of the latter than the former.

I think the moment when I really endeared myself to everyone was later on at a concert in the park. The band was Cilantro and they began the season very nicely, I thought. Probably not as good as Salt and Pepper, but definitely less abrasive than the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Now that I have assured my place among the band’s collection of voodoo dolls, let me move on to the story of the Twins.

Sitting a short distance from our semi-circle of folding chairs was a family with their two year-old twin boys. After a short period of time, we began chatting with the parents, asking them how old they were, etc. Then I chimed in with,

“You know what they say about twins?”

“What” The mother asked, apprehensively.

“There was too much awesome for God to put in one person.” I replied.

“Wow, thank you!” The mother said.

The father said, “That’s seriously the nicest thing anyone has ever said. Usually we get comments like ‘oh no, double trouble’, etc.”

It might have been windy and a little chilly in the park that day, but I think the temperature got ten degrees warmer. All I could do was smile and say, no problem. But however awkwardly I might have behaved in the tavern, I think it would be an effort to disappoint John’s family after that brief exchange between myself and two parents who were genuinely grateful that a complete stranger didn’t pass judgment on their children.

L.L. Beantown

For the longest time, I thought LL Bean was a mail order company, like The Swiss Colony, because I had only ever seen catalogues. I don’t know if anyone in my family ever ordered from them because I can’t think of a time when there was an overwhelming need for a pair of disco survival boots.

Now that I have visited an outlet location in Freeport, Maine I am not sure who their closest competitor is. Would it be Orvis or Dick’s Sporting Goods? Orivis is an outfitting company that specializes in outdoor activities and camping accessories whereas Dick’s Sporting Goods includes such activities among their stock but is not limited to that particular market. On walking through the massive store I still couldn’t tell you, but my overall impression of a place where a $40 dollar shirt is considered to be on sale is that their main demographic is upper middle class families that drive a camper out into some vaguely rural area, leave a mess at their campground and wonder why they are attracting bears.SAM_0526

For the record, this is not a class-envy rant. If someone has done really well for themselves financially, they should be able to spend money on whatever they like. And there are times when you don’t want to cheap out on clothing, like when you want a really nice tuxedo for a prom or a suit for a wedding or some other social occasion. Clothes don’t make the man, but a man can definitely feel more confident by wearing something nice and long lasting. And yet I am the sort of person who needs to feel smart as well as good looking, so when I find a really nice shirt or pair of khakis at a thrift store for way less than the original price in a store like L.L. Bean, I will gleefully brag about it.

This jacket for example: Me, me, meTen dollars at The Goodwill and it would have cost me somewhere in the 100’s at L.L. Bean. That definitely goes in what I like to call “The Win column”, but as I said, to each their own.

What’s funny is that later that day, I got to meet John’s cousins and it was they, not I, who made the observation that you can find the L.L. Bean collection at any thrift store. The very next day, when John and I stopped in the town of Bath, we found several such items in a thrift shop that I will talk about in greater detail in a later post.

Still, L.L. Bean wasn’t entirely boring. SAM_0519SAM_0521

While John tried some items on in the fitting room, I went exploring. There were a few things that caught my eye, including a large river aquarium that contained many species of trout. There was a little observation bubble that allowed kids to get a “fish eye” view of the aquarium and I immediately envied them, but the pictures were enough to satisfy me. (Pictures of the fish, not the kids, just to clear up any confusion)SAM_0522

Before going into the store, we had dinner at a restaurant across the street known as Linda Bean’s. What’s funny is that I hadn’t even noticed the outlet store until I had jokingly told John that Linda Bean must have been the less successful sister of the Bean family. Then we saw the store from the balcony of the restaurant and I immediately resented my lack of attention to the world around me, not that the store would be on a quiz later or anything, but I also didn’t know that the restaurant and outlet store were both named for the same person.

The food was great, except for one criticism: When I say well done on my burger, I mean that the cow should not be able to give milk while I am eating it. Since I have eaten prodigious amounts of undercooked turkey and chicken, I finished the burger without complaint but other stomachs will not be so ironclad and all it takes is for one person to get sick before beans become the only dish you can legally serve.

When we crossed the street to go into L.L. Bean, I got a little mischievous. There was a store greeter who I guessed to be in her late thirties, possibly mid-forties, and I asked her, “Do you guys have any Bear Grylls stocked?” I’m thinking the actual survivalist, and the joke implies that many variations of the man might be packaged and ready to purchase for the savvy outdoorsman.  But the greeter was confused by the question and either didn’t catch the playful tone in my voice, or actually thought that I was referring to a line of grills because she replied,

“Well, we have grills in the camping section.”

Okay. It wasn’t my intention to make fun of her, so I good naturedly withdrew my remark and went about my business. During the aforementioned exploration of the store, I found a pocket fire starter, which was a part of – you guessed it- the Bear Grylls collection. I yanked it off the peg and proceeded to find John, and we both had a good indoor laugh at the store greeter’s confusion.

Now I did conceit that that this was the only item I found in the entire store that had Bear Grylls’ name and photo on the package. So it stood to reason that there wasn’t a terribly huge selection of his things being sold at this particular L.L. Bean. However, if you work in a store that even remotely caters to the camping and survival crowd, not knowing who Bear Grylls is would be like working in a car parts store and not knowing who Henry Ford was.

Again though, I can’t criticize the store greeter too much. Even if a ten year-old once survived in the woods because of what he learned from watching Man Vs. Wild, it’s not like he’s the patron saint of L.L. Bean. That title falls entirely to this guy:SAM_0517

The Garden of Circumspection

The first leg of the Maine trip was to Kennebunk. Not to be confused with Kennebunkport, which was further along and I was actually glad we weren’t going there because I had to pee really badly. If we went all the way to Kennebunkport I would have been forced to water the bushes, so I am glad that the two friends of John whom we were about to meet were in Kennebunk.

My relationship with John has been a study in stepping outside of my comfort zone. I’m not a social creature by nature and any social skills I appear to have developed in my life are there in reserve for when I need them. Going to parties, meeting people I would not have otherwise sought out, and other fun encounters are anomalies in my life and whatever the outcome, each instance has had some long term benefit, even if that benefit is having to be on my toes at all times and ready to stand my ground.

Even my own family gatherings have had an element of stress to them, as I try hard not to step on toes. So it’s no small surprise that when John informed me that the people we would be meeting were Christian Scientists, I informed him that he would be doing the heavy lifting during these visits. I respect and appreciate anyone’s belief system, having some ideas of my own that many would dismiss or find unusual, but I don’t know how much further outside of my comfort zone I can step than when I am entering the home of someone who believes that appendicitis can be healed through prayer. The Boys and Girls Room 2Boys and Girls Room

So while the lovely lady of the house, whom I will refer to as Susan for the purposes of this post, gave us a tour of her home, I kept my mouth shut, my hands behind my back and let John do all of the talking while I did all of the listening and the following. The only comments I made were of specific items that they were talking about so that I wouldn’t appear rude or unappreciative.

Susan had an interesting collection of VHS tapes, which she was getting rid of in favor of her growing DVD collection. She even had a movie with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead, which I don’t recall the title of. It caught my eye because John and I had finished watching season two of Sherlock the night before.

Really, once we were outside and admiring the garden, I was much more comfortable sharing an observation or two. For example, in spite of the existence of Susan’s cat, this little guy Alvinseemed perfectly at home beneath the porch of the house.