August 1st marks the one year anniversary of living in Portland, ME. I considered taking a photo a day for 365 days or jotting a random thought down each day to jumble into a mason jar via Pinterest, but the truth is, I’m just not motivated enough. I can’t even get myself to blog once a week or brush my hair in the morning. So I figured capturing what’s happened so far in a blog post would be a good way to toast to a life of thicker skin and (potentially) thicker accents. I should start by commenting the obvious quirks of Maine, followed by the adaptation process and lastly, a glimpse into the coming years. In addition, it should be noted that my description of Maine will be skewed in that it comes from the perspective of a (mostly optimistic) Missourian gal that just moved to Portland, the largest & coolest city in Maine. This is important to note because from what I’ve gathered about other regions of Maine, it sounds more like living in Missouri (which is not a bad thing by any means).
Maine is not only a different state, it looks a different place. It is filled with trees, mountains, moving lakes and rivers, residents with the letter “r” confusion, Bean boots, fat squirrels, long winters and extremely brief, beautiful summers. Living on a cute peninsula dangling out in the Atlantic is simple. During the summer, the state of Maine will not allow you to be indoors. You will be arrested or at least ridiculed by your mates. The mountain trails glisten and call you by your nickname as if they’ve known you personally for years. The ocean air lingers in your living room taunting you like a well-versed Zumba instructor (read the news). The perfectly warm temperature cuddles you with Snuggie like arms and invites you to take a dip in one of the many natural lakes. During the winter, however, is a different story. The crispy winter is pretty but misleading in a way that infomercials do to its viewers. The Chipper Chopper looks great at first sight, but by the 6th installment of easy pay, the Chipper Chopper has become 2 parts dog toy and 1 part prison shank. What I mean is, May should be warm like Spring and it’s not. Fall is gorgeous and so on.
Its people are tough, almost intimidating tough. For the most part, its occupants are not too chatty with strangers. If you cut them off while driving, be prepared to receive an ear-load of something-something so-and-so about your family and the places where they plan to stick their foot. A couple of rules you should learn to embrace regarding pronunciation: 1. words containing an “r”, throw them out 2. words ending in vowels, throw on an “r” 3. tennis shoes are literally shoes for playing tennis, the sport 4. if you’re not from Maine, you are considered “from away” 5. Dunkin Donuts are always used as a reference point when given directional advice which provides no real tool, because there is literally one on every corner 6. Vanilla Ice will literally be pronounced Vannilerrr Ice. That being said, stereotyping people is not generally encouraged, and so I will keep it brief with a quick take-away via Wikipedia: the Portland city motto is Resurgam, Latin for “I will rise again”, which refers to its recoveries from four devastating fires. Pretty neat, right?
Be patient while I perform a quick brainstorm of things we’ve had to adapt to right off the top of my head. Let’s see… lack of family & friends, longgg winters, getting back to the apartment life, city life, the lack of cheap, accessible Chinese food (Hong Kong Inn, where are you?). I think this covers it well.
Friends and family is huge. I will be the first to admit that I must have caught a case of slight depression with the combination of the new job, lack of family, lack of friends except Mike (who is a great friend), cold & dark days and having in-depth conversations with terriers (they aren’t too great with advice). It’s difficult to build new friendships, invent concrete inside jokes and create a non-fabricated bond with people. I’ve never had such a hard time doing so, but it may be that I seem too desperate. Who knows.
Maine winters are made for writers. They are customized like the backs of owners’ Ipods. If you can’t get inspired by things dying, liquor-dependency, panhandlers taking turns at the corner and/or frozen lakes, then you may never formulate a successful novel. Just saying.
Apartment living keeps you modest. Down-sizing is good for you. Washing dishes by hand is good for you. Supporting your local laundromat is good for you. Walking the pups in -14 degree weather is good for you. Right? Right?!?!
Lastly, coping with the absence of cheap, mid-quality Chinese food has been devastating. Springfield-ers, be grateful for your services. Five bucks in Missouri used to buy us delicious sweet & sour chicken (all white meat), two generous scoops of rice and a hearty egg roll. Now, five bucks gets you an appetizer portion of lo mein, and if you’re lucky too, it tastes good. There are no complaints to be had with the other genres of food, just Chinese, which many arguably consider the most important food group ever.
So what does the future behold? One thing certain is a minimum of two and half more years in Maine, which is exciting. We live in the downtown region where people are moving, bars are inviting and cars are a honking. It is a nice change from suburbia. Portland is also walker friendly. We can get to all of our favorite locations usually foot pedaling less than a mile. We can get to a mountain, a lake, an ocean or a state park by driving 10-20 minutes. We are starting to make friends, and Mike is progressing well through pharmacy school. Cheerful stuff, yeah? I told you I was an optimist.
To end this book of a blog, I shall share a quick passer-by convo. There is a local Italian gelato store owner here in town that once said to us while purchasing his Cookies n Cream gelato, that America is homogeneous. And while that hand-churned Cookies n Cream gelato was delicious and convincing as ever, I would have to respectfully disagree. From all of the domestic travels I’ve endured, I would have to say that America is a great big puzzle board, composed of simple and complex shapes. The more intricate the shape, the more interesting and inhabited the state. I mean, take a look a Florida, and then take a look at Wyoming. Gelato Man, you were wrong.