Sunday, August 3, 2008

I'm Not From Here

This weekend Black-Eyed Susan and I rented a car and named him Bjorn. We pointed the prow of that ivory beauty north and spent the weekend seasoned by salt air, playing games, and eating all the foods we both know we ought not.

We left the city at about 2 o'clock on friday and landed shortly after 3 at Perkin's Cove in Ogunquit, Maine, to take a stroll along one of my favorite places, the Marginal Way. For years growing up around here I used to enjoy walking along this path, occasionally venturing out among the tidepools on the craggy rocks, poking around among starfish, anenomes, snails and crabs as they waited for the tide to come back in and rescue them from their temporary prisons. This day we were not so fortunate, as it seems the extent of the wildlife available was numerous snails and small, bluish little blobs that, despite their active movements, I was unable to identify.

From there we took Bjorn to York Beach, a place where I have spent many a summer and many countless brain cells. For B.E. Susan's benefit, who hadn't been around these parts since she was just a wee pup, I swallowed my local pride and consented to do some very touristy things, but which I enjoyed nevertheless. First stop was the York Beach institution the Fun-O-Rama, where we rolled some skee-ball and played a few rounds of air-hockey. Ask B.E. Susan who it is that rules at air-hockey. Hint: Me.

I was a bit disappointed by my lack of skee-ball finesse. The last time I came here was a few years ago. I had some time to kill and decided to throw a few wooden balls to pass the time. I got bored pretty quickly at the straight forward rolling of the balls, which usually only resulted in 10 points, so I got creative with my rolling and tried putting a spin on the ball. Then I tried banking them off the side rails, and what do you know about that, 50, 50, 50, 50. I had cracked the skee-ball code! I kept rolling, and the points kept scoring. The flashing light on this machine was spinning so fast and for so long, people were dropping left and right, induced into epileptic seizures by the pulsating glow. I heard a young man behind me whisper to his friend: "check this guy out, he's awesome!". Prize tickets were rolling out so fast that smoke actually began billowing from beneath the quarter slot. For a few salty moments, there amidst the lights and the din, I was a god among men.

But not this time... I fairly sucked at skee-ball, which meant that not only did B.E. not believe the above story, but now she had proof that I was full of shit. Alas.

Broken and defeated by my humiliating attempts at a game which excites 9 year-olds, we then visited a few tacky souvenir shops, where B.E. bought a coffee mug for her dad, an avid coffee enthusiast. I picked up a miniature keychain license plate with my roommates name on it, as a small thank-you for watching my cat Ocho while I was away. And then we were off to my folks' place, where we supped upon lasagna and listened, oh-so-patiently, to my Dad's long-winded gripes about our next-door neighbor, with whom a dispute has recently arisen regarding the property lines. Yawn.

We later went out to visit with some friends of mine, but it was not an easy task. Susan, born and raised in Brooklyn, is used to the occasional streetlight. They ain't got none o them fancy-shmancy streetlights in Maine. Them's for city-folk and queers. (Whoa, sorry about that! A couple hours back Down East, and I pick the accent up pretty easily. Just ask me how to say "ayuh" and you'll understand). Regardless, Susan was a little stressed out about the lack of light on dark, twisty, narrow roads. Having cut my driving teeth along them, I hadn't seen a problem with it, but that just shows how unconcerned for others I am. After numerous detours, several miles spent driving in circles, and white-knuckle angst from B.E., we arrived at the Dover Brickhouse, a classy little joint in downtown Dover, New Hampshire.

It was Monique's birthday, and it was great to see her and her husband Thor. Matty was working the door, and later Kate The Great showed up fresh from another birthday shindig with her Dojo Bros. Gazpacho, an 80's cover band, was playing upstairs, something we didn't much care for. Until, that is, we heard strains of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" coming through the ceiling. We hustled upstairs and had quite a hoot watching these guys. They did a pretty good job of the song, and at this point had been playing for hours, an impressive feat in and of itself. Susan and I were less impressed, however, by their cover of Prince's "Let's Go Crazy". You really can't half-ass that one. You gotta sell it, and it seems Gazpacho was phoning it in. In the end, a good time had by all.


After a night "sleeping" on an "air mattress," I was eager to get on the road and continue our adventure. We started out heading to Rick's All Season, another York institution. This place caters to all clientelle. The staff wears t-shirts that say "Bikers Welcome" on the back. But they also welcome tourists, locals, fishermen (that's why they open at 5am), high school truants (totally not speaking from experience here), hung-over partiers (ditto), those still coming down (double ditto), and anyone else looking for a decent no frills breakfast. The kid manning the register could not have been older than 15, and he doubled, nay, tripled duty as host, busser, and server. The service took a while, but it wasn't an impatient wait. BE Susan ordered decaff with milk, and got the unleaded, but without cow juice. Once our waitress realized what was wrong she apologized, saying "I have no excuse". I found this incredibly endearing, and it earned her and the crew at least an extra 10% tip. As far as the food, I had the "Fisherman's Special" and got all the goodies that breakfast should entail, for a good price, and coffee refills are gratis. I highly recommend this one.

Once we put me as an eligible driver on Bjorn's list, I spent a good hour and a half adjusting all his fancy gadgets just how I liked them, and we were on our way north to our destination of Portland, Maine.

Once we were settled in our yet-to-be-named motel, Susan and I headed to Portland's Old Port, where we were to catch the Ferry to Peaks Island. We found some municipal parking, secured all that we thought we wouldn't need, packed all we thought we would, and headed toward the Casco Bay Lines terminal to purchase tickets. At one point, looking down an alley, we spotted a very drunk, possibly homeless man hugging another human dressed in a full sized, furry lobster costume. It was then that we both realized we had forgotten our cameras at the car.

Fast forward to the ferry ride, each with our cameras, but without our lobster/homeless photos. We connect with a bunch of our (meaning: BE Susan's) peeps. We're all here for not a wedding, but a post-elopement celebration. I've never been to Peaks Island, so I'm grateful for the opportunity. The shindig is taking place at the Fifth Maine Regiment Memorial Building 1888, what I later learn is a summertime retreat for troops during the civil war. It's a beautiful building right on the water.

Inside is a "museum" dedicated to the men who had valiantly served the Union during the Civil War, with a fascinating array of souvenirs from the war and ephemera from the era. It was great, as I like to learn about these things. I took ample photos, including this one:

I took a lot more photos, and admittedly got a little crazy with it. Housed in this former R+R locale were portraits of heroes of the Civil War, one of which was named Horatio Bumpus. It was only later, when I used the men's room located at the front of the building that I saw the sign: "Absolutely No Photography Or Videotaping Without Express Written Consent..."

Whoops. I'm really sorry, American Heroes. You should post a sign at the back as well telling us not to pop shots. So instead of heroic military legends, here are some pics I took on the grounds of flowers:

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