Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Too Harsh for the Mainers, Even in Summer

Turns out today is one of those days when having my own blog comes in handy. Following is a short essay I wrote for the bimonthly magazine published by AAA, the car people. It was to run in a reader-written column called "On My Mind," which occupies the last page of their New England edition, officially titled Northern New England Journey. It was a freebie; I just wrote it for fun. The magazine's Editor-in-Chief, an agreeable sort named Al who lives in California, happily agreed to run it if I cut it to fit their allotted 750 words. I made a few edits and it was good to go next month. 

This morning Al called and said that the local Portland editor axed the story, complaining  that it "made her cringe" and "might be offensive." A laid-back Californian, Al was perplexed by her decision, saying, "I don't know, I've never been there, but maybe those people in Maine are a little thin-skinned. " Gee, yuh think? Following is the rejected article, not worth a dime to me or anyone:

Born in Brooklyn and educated at New York University, by the time I was thirty I thought I knew it all. You could have asked me anything and I’d have an answer on the spot, or at least within 24 hours. But this is no longer true because two things happened, one causing the other: I moved to Maine and I stopped caring.

Don’t get me wrong, I still know things, but now they’re different. Like where the best seaweed for mulching my vegetables washes ashore. And how to boil a lobster alive without crying. I can shuck a clam, tap a maple tree, and snowshoe up a mountain.

Since moving here seven years ago, I’m a different person. Not saying better, just different, and a far cry from that little Brooklyn girl.

That’s good and bad. Some of the bad is that the natives in my new state are tight-lipped and aloof. They keep it close to the chest. They have family over for Sunday dinner where they likely talk badly about people from “away.” (I’m guessing, having never attended one of these dinners.) And all their clothes come from L.L. Bean, which makes it hard to tell them apart when you see them at the post office.

Mainers talk most about the weather, the black flies, and how the fish are running. As for culture, the art is mostly paintings of boats, rocks, and surf; or surf crashing on rocks with boats in the foreground; or lighthouses. The theater is amateurish and movies that open simultaneously all over the country don’t open here, finally showing up when they’re old news.

That’s the bad, and it’s not too bad. The good, however, is very, very good. The city of Portland is an up-and-coming, award-winning foodie town, with many restaurants serving the same pretentious things you never heard of in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Beside the ubiquitous and affordable lobsters, the halibut and haddock, fresher and tastier than anywhere else, fairly jump onto your plate. They are downright habit-forming.

Along with great deep-sea and lake fishing, there are scenic hiking trails along the coast and far into the mountains. North of Portland, the terrain changes dramatically, becoming craggy and full of necks, and mountains are crashing into the sea by the time you reach Acadia. Hundreds of islands flung out in the ocean offer more of the same, only better.

In the winter, tons of snow delight skiers and snowboarders. Otherwise, it gets dark early so it’s best to do things like read or clean the basement. Or shovel the snow; there’s always that.

By any measure, the winter of 2014–15 was rough. It snowed for seven months, burying the fall leaves in early November. It was well below zero many days and nights. My husband and I came to the same conclusion: We’re outta here!

Then spring arrived and we came to our senses. With so few people—Maine’s population is 1.329 million—there’s virtually no crime and hardly any traffic, except for car dealership lots and in the summer, when the “out-of-statahs” come. And houses are twice as nice at half the price of some others elsewhere.

I’m lowering my hoity-toity standards concerning “theater” and “art” and sleeping soundly at night. I may not know as much about the world as I once did, but since nobody asks, it hardly matters. We’re all just busy smelling the flowers.

1 comment:

  1. Who the heck is the "local Portland editor". Remind me to not share my lobster with her!