bridge sentimentality.

The jerks who plan things like roads and development in Portland decided that tearing down a most lovely, historical, heart-endearing bridge and replacing it with a modern monstrosity was a good idea.

Veterans Bridge connects Portland’s West End and my neighboring hometown, South Portland.  I frequent the route daily, and have always delighted in traversing the Fore River on the aging structure.

To be certain, the bridge was unsafe.  Our past few winters have seen chunks of asphalt falling from the roadway into the river, resulting in gaping holes and temporary repairs.  The green metal side rails have been rusting for years, and many people consider the entire design unsightly.

Yet, I am not a member of the plethora of Portlanders who welcome this change to our city.  I don’t throw things away because they are old and broken, I fix them.  Objects, like people, gain character with time – even bridges.  Every old item is rife with history, and it breaks my sentimental heart every time a beautiful old thing is thrown out in favor of something new.

However, in the interests of full disclosure, I should tell y’all why it is I feel so strongly about this damned bridge…

As a kid, whenever I was sick at school, it was my grandfather who came to scoop me up.  In his brown Cavalier, we listened to AM talk radio programs and made our way to his big red house in Portland.  I would shut my little brown eyes, rest my head on the window, and soak up the sounds of the ride.  Veterans Bridge was built with huge seams every few meters, and driving over them made a loud “K-CHUNK” sound.  My grandparents didn’t live far from the Portland side of the bridge, so when we drove onto Veterans and I heard, “K-CHUNK….K-CHUNK….K-CHUNK,” I knew we were almost home, where I would cozy up on the couch and be taken care of.

When my grandfather passed, Veterans Bridge, like so many things I shared with him, became a pleasant reminder of the rides we took on my many sick days.

The closing of the old bridge means I won’t be afforded the opportunity to hear those reassuring “K-CHUNK” sounds.  What if I can’t remember exactly how they sound?  What if I lose the memory altogether?

When people die, one of the hardest things for me to accept is that the world continues developing.  I find myself wanting everything to stay just as it was when they were alive, because if things change, it confirms that these people I love are actually dead.  The Veterans Bridge I rode over with Grandpa is gone, and I’m left with nothing more than a fading memory.  I’ll never again hear the bridge crying reassurances that we’re almost home, just like I’ll never again smell my grandfather’s cigar smoke or kiss his rough cheek.

Obviously, I’m a sentimentalist.  But part of the character – part of the history – that Veterans Bridge had accrued was mine.  Just like everything old, it gained meaning over time.  It meant that I was headed to a safe, happy home, where I would be taken care of by a man who wouldn’t be with me for much longer.

The old bridge is now closed off, but still standing.  I have plans to snap some photos of it in the next few days, and will share those when I have them.  I applaud Maine for working to ensure safety on our roadways.  (Sorry I called you jerks up above, city planners!)  I acknowledge the merits of the new structure and know there are many folks elated to be rid of the older one.

A relative remarked on my severe sentimentality once and told me, “Annie, you’ve gotta learn to let go.”  I think I’d rather hold on, continue being a sap, and attaching myself a bit too much to the people and things I love.  It may mean that from time to time I shed a tear for a closing bridge, but it’s part of what makes me a one-of-a-kind Andrea.

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The way life should be.

Welcome to Maine, Vacationland Zombieland.

(click photo for source)

While perusing my Facebook wall this morning, I noticed this intriguing article from RT News, “Drills of the dead: Maine prepares for zombie attack”.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered a major media outlet sharing a story about zombies – but the last time I read something like this, it turned out to be a hoax.  Naturally, I assumed this article, which informed me that my state had held a zombie apocalypse preparedness drill, was a fake as well, and thus I began searching for some supplemental information.

BUT IT’S NOT A HOAX!

MPBN’s article, “‘Zombie Apocalypse’ Drill Prepares Emergency Workers in Bangor,” confirmed it: Last Thursday, June 21st in the town of Bangor, Maine, emergency response personnel acted out a zombie apocalypse scenario.  Moulage experts were on hand to transform actors into zombies of varying stages.  Participants considered how to respond to mass casualties, distribute vaccinations, and evacuate residents.  Those involved in the event noted that they don’t expect any zombies to actually crop up in our fair state, but rather that the training provides practical skills for dealing with any pandemic virus.

Apparently, the news has already reached a variety of popular media sources, including The Huffington Post and Perez Hilton.  The nation is abuzz with how bold, awesome, and strange the state of Maine is!

I know that Maine is unlike other places in the nation.  I feel like we’re the crazy uncle of states – y’know, the one who’s been slipping you booze at family functions since you were 13, has a bandana-wearing dog named Scotch, and lives in his camper.  No one knows quite what to make of us, but we’re strangely amusing and always up for a good time.

I think I’ll go drink some Moxie and feel good about living in Maine.

hometown adventure.

In stark contrast to today’s high of 90°, yesterday was pleasantly overcast and cool.  We adventured around the city, had lunch on the ocean, and experienced a locally renown dive bar, Sangillo’s.

From there we became engrossed in the Euro Cup.  For me, this is remarkably strange because I’ve always hated soccer (baseball is my sport of choice).  But for whatever reason, we followed yesterday’s England v. Ukraine match, and now I’m hooked.  We’re preemptively scoping out places to watch the Czech Republic play Portugal tomorrow afternoon.

For now, I’m thankful to be at work where there is a occasionally-helpful air conditioner.  If this heat wave keeps up, I’m going to need to find myself a Slip n’ Slide of some sort…

Signs of Spring

I just have to tell y’all – today is a pretty special day.  Earlier this afternoon I was lamenting at my inability to consume my favorite take-out treat of all treats: soft-serve ice cream from Red’s Dairy Freeze.  See, here in coastal Maine, we watch each fall as some of the best local stores close up shop for the winter.  For obvious reasons, ice cream takes a big hit around here during the colder months (apparently, I’m in the minority of folks who love ice cream in the winter).  Each October, I’m most heartbroken when Red’s Dairy Freeze gives into the dropping temperatures and ends their season.  Red’s is an institution in Greater Portland, and is perhaps the most beloved ice cream shop in all of Southern Maine.  It was the only place in town that my family ever went to for ice cream, as Red’s offers non-dairy options (in childhood my brother had allergies).  A lifelong patron, I’ve never tired of their Boston milkshakes nor the candy eyes they affix to each cone of sugary soft-serve.  Additionally, now that I’m a dog owner I have a new-found appreciation for the dog-size dishes that Red’s offers for furry friends.

Opened in 1952, Red’s has been serving up soft-serve ice cream non-stop for decades.  There is one very sad exception to this.  Two years ago, at the very beginning of ice cream season, the unthinkable happened: Red’s had a fire – and it was bad.  The damage was extensive enough that they remained closed the entire year.  It was the first year in my whole life I didn’t have Red’s ice cream.  Luckily, the owners and staff rebounded and reopened the next year.  They even printed t-shirts that proclaimed, “I survived a year without Red’s!”.

I’m sure y’all have figured out by now that today is a special day because Red’s has announced that they’re reopen for the season!  Just as I was beginning to feel that winter was dragging on a bit too long, I’m gifted this perfect sign of spring.

Here are some photos from previous trip’s to Red’s:

Red’s?  Did someone say Red’s!?

This red light tried to kill us with anticipation!

Hooray!

I never manage to snap pictures of the candy eyes – I always eat them too fast.

The legendary Boston shake.

This means spring is near, so ignore all the snow and get your sunscreen ready!

Summertime: Are we there yet?

Around this time each winter, I decide I’m tired of the lousy weather and begin to boycott low temperatures by putting my Bean boots and parka away.  This change in wardrobe always occurs weeks before it’s reasonable to be outside in a light jacket and sneakers, but I can’t seem to help myself.  With my mind set on spring, the same temperatures that chilled my bones in November seem downright tropical.

Increasing my spring fever is the batch of photos I just retrieved from an old memory card.  I thought I would share some of them with y’all and see if anyone else has the summertime itch.

1) Falmouth’s Town Landing Market  2) Fresh Produce  3) Congress & State  4) Outdoor dining at King of the Roll  5) Upper Forest  6) Ice Cream in the night at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream on Exchange Street  7) The night belongs to us  8) Hip hop album cover?  9) Conferring with friends at State & High.

I’m so ready to traipse around after dark without a cold nose and umpteen million layers.  Maine comes alive in the summertime, and I can’t wait to enjoy another season of salty, blue-skied days.

A Pause to Give Thanks

Sometimes I get pretty down on my home state.  When a person is stuck in any one place for long enough, it’s difficult not to get bored and frustrated.  I can’t step foot outside without running into a former employer, classmate, or teacher (occasionally these are fantastic occurrences and I am overjoyed to be reunited with a long-lost-whomever, but sometimes not).  I won’t even breach the topic of ex-boyfriends, because in a city this small mine are everywhere (as are the exes of all my dearest friends, creating entirely different awkward situations).  Is it obvious that I’m feeling a bit cooped up this supposed seaside haven?

There were times when I relished the natural beauty and ease of living in Maine.  Most of those times were directly following the year I spent living in Boston – because Massachusetts smells bad and geese shit all over literally everything there.  It’s Thanksgiving time and I’m supposed to recall all that I’m grateful for.  My list is pretty straightforward – Josh, Teddy and Milo, family and friends, pizza, the right to an education, miniature animals.  (Y’know, the important stuff.)  But I was somehow prompted to start considering things that I take for granted – and Portland, Maine is certainly one of those things.  Our license plates claim this to be “Vacationland”, and while the current politics and economy are lousy, I can still appreciate what it means to be from and live in the state of Maine.

So here it is, my absolutely random list of ten reason I love my home:

1) Big Al’s Super Values: The Odd Lot Outlet

I’m starting this list off by getting real about the best thing in Maine.  Big Al – and yes, he exists – is notorious in Southern Maine for presenting his formidable figure in a white tiger t-shirt and giant suspenders for the store’s commercials.  Big Al’s is like a mini-Marden’s (another local purveyor of items that likely fell from the backs of trucks).  There are lots of Maine-centric items, but also several aisles of discount greeting cards, craft supplies, and toys.  You can find oddities ranging from holiday themed housewares to singing, pizza-whirling figurines of Italian men in aprons.  The spread at Al’s is remarkable.  It’s not far from Portland – a short drive up Route 1 to Wiscasset – and there’s a worthwhile diner nearby that serves giant pancakes.  Absolutely worth a trip (or ten), and a place I’m entirely grateful for.

2) Haven’s Candies

So, Portland’s food is kind of a big deal.  We have all sorts of restaurants that collect flawless reviews and the seafood here is special, or something.  I appreciate the variety of local food options, but when I desire sweets it’s Haven’s I head to.  I grew up on their locally-made candy canes and nonpareils, each of my Easter baskets filled to the brim with Haven’s chocolates.  The place is pretty important for someone with a sweet tooth like mine.  Recently, Josh and I attended the Haven’s Open House, held at their retail store/factory combo on Route 22 heading towards Westbrook.  We, with about 50 school-aged children, got to watch how certain confections are made and were sent home with lots of free treats.  Whenever I move away from Maine, I will sorely miss my favorite candy shop.

3) L.L. Bean

Obvious and not original whatsoever, I know.  That’s irrelevant because L.L. Bean is great.  The mammoth outdoor living compound stretches across downtown Freeport, Maine.  People from all over the United States (and perhaps all of the world!!?) order products from the company’s famed mail order catalogue.  I wonder how many of those customers know that the L.L. Bean store is open 24 hours a day?  For young Andrea, the option of having anywhere to spend my insomnia-riddled nights was a triumph.  Friends and I conducted lengthy games of hide-and-seek there and marveled at the indoor trout pond in the middle of many nights.  I live in a place where every single store is closed by 9:00PM, so having an enormous indoor playground be open all of the time is a big plus.

4) Portland Trails

I can’t speak to the trail systems in other cities, but the people of Portland Trails provide Teddy and I lots of options for local walks.  There are so many winding paths in the hidden parts of Portland.  I would lose my mind if I didn’t have access to some wooded places to explore.  The group has 30 trails listed on their website, and I think I’ve traversed almost all of them.

5) Portland Metro Route #4

Oh, #4 bus, how I love you.  I once resided just outside of Portland in the town of Westbrook.  Out of boredom and curiosity, combined with a desire to cut down on personal vehicular travel, a friend and I would hop on the #4 bus and venture into Portland.  I have overheard some pretty racy conversations on that bus (“…and I told him I was gonna burn his fuckin’ house down if he didn’t buy me that beer!”).  It’s also quite slow, because it makes so many stops and takes such a circuitous route.  Perhaps because I’d never really ridden busses before the #4, or perhaps because the characters encountered on each ride were so hilarious and talkative, but either way I have never had as much fun riding the bus as I have on the #4.  Firstly, the route is actually quite scenic in parts.  Secondly, it stops at one of my favorite places in Greater Portland: Westside Lanes.  Which brings me to my next item…

6) Candlepin Bowling

Until adulthood, I was unaware that other areas of North America were deprived the sacred right of candlepin bowling.  Hell, until junior high and the local popularity of late night “Galactic Bowling” (aka: we covered everything in glow-light paint and turned the lights off, c’mon and bowl, kids!), I didn’t know there was a form of the game that didn’t involve thin pins and 4 1/2 inch bowling balls.  When I first played 10-pin, I couldn’t believe that people preferred that to my game.  Candlepin bowling alleys often have carpeted walls and legions of little old ladies playing in leagues.  There’s nothing hip about candlepin bowling alleys, the game rooms are full of antiquated machines with chipping paint, and there are rarely automated scoring machines.  They seem to exist solely for my old-timey bowling pleasure, and I couldn’t be happier that I live in a place that appreciates such a sport.

7) Architecture and History

Portland is without doubt one of the best places in the US to experience history.  Despite burning multiple times (yep, the entire city) throughout its existence, Portland still manages to house some of the most remarkable structures I’ve seen.  While unfortunate new hotel developments seem to be popping up and replacing some local landmarks (was I the only one who appreciated the worn visage of the abandoned Jordan’s Meats?), I still think that Portland is noteworthy for its buildings.  I took a Maine Studies course in high school that involved several walking tours of this area and am thus fortunate enough to know where to find the working horse troth in Portland, and which buildings in the Old Port were once “houses of ill repute!!” (direct quote from my beloved high school history teacher).  For a girl who gets her kicks reading history textbooks and decorating her house with anything old, Portland is aesthetically perfect.

8 ) The Coast

This is about as cliche a choice as L.L. Bean, but the shore is just different in Maine.  I should know from my current geology course (but don’t) what causes Maine to have such rocky beaches.  I’m just glad we do.  I don’t care for sunbathing by the ocean, but I do like to examine the tide pools that gather on our rocky coastlines.  The sea water is terrifyingly cold here most of the year, with late-July through mid-August being about the only decent time for ocean swimming.  But to me, the Atlantic is best enjoyed on a foggy weekday in November by climbing out onto the slippery rocks that jut into the sea.

9) Bintliff’s American Cafe

If you live in Portland and haven’t eaten at Bintliff’s, you’re doing something wrong.  I will personally buy you breakfast there.  I can’t advocate enough for this place.  I love the staff and the inappropriate conversations we conduct together in hushed tones while wholesome middle-aged couples enjoy omelets.  I love that every single thing I’ve eaten from Bintliff’s was the best version of that food I’ve ever had.  Their waffles?  Best I’ve ever had.  Eggs benedict?  More impressive than other any egg dish I’ve ever consumed.  There’s also a full bar for those of us who feel compelled to imbibe before noon.  I routinely hear friends complaining about the lengthy wait times for tables at Bintliff’s, but if you stop in between Monday and Thursday, you’re sure to get a seat quickly.  They serve CBD coffee and I just love them, that’s all.

10) Maine Hospitality

Hospitality is not quite the right word, but what I’m referring to is the unique camaraderie that exists between Maine residents.  We tough out the worst winter weather together, suffer waves of tourists every summer, and are often dismissed by the rest of the country.  (People from other states have actually asked me if Maine is part of the United States or Canada.)  We commiserate about potholes, bad local politics, and the price of heating oil.  I may not have much experience elsewhere, but I know enough to confidently assert that Maine residents have a special neighborly way about them.  Every time my car has broken down, I’ve had no less than two people stop to help.  I’m greeted with pleasant small talk at my neighborhood market.  The owner of my favorite local farm stand gives Josh and I what she calls “the friendly neighbor discount”.  Not every interaction is full of niceties here in the frigid northeast, but lots are.  Maine isn’t a bad place to call home.

I suppose this concludes my list of local treasures.  I do love my home state, and taking a moment to remember why has been nice.  I’ll try to keep these positive thoughts in mind as Portland turns into madness for the holiday season.  Good thing my family doesn’t exchange gifts because I hate shopping in our crowded downtown this time of year – but I’ll write all about my holiday traditions some other time.

Where they wander.

I love to explore the less-frequented sections of Greater Portland.  I’ve lived in the area for my entire life, so there aren’t many local attractions that I’m not privy to.  Thus, I like to challenge myself to find places nearby that I’ve overlooked or ignored.  One of those places is the Fore River Sanctuary.

I have an aunt who brought my brother and I to this spot when we were kids.  Other than that, I’d given the place little thought.  It’s directly off of a substantially busy route that connects Portland to the Portland Jetport and the Maine Mall in South Portland.  I don’t think many people slow down enough when traversing that part of town to even realize the 2 mile trail exists.

Luckily, having a dog pushed me to branch out and discover new, picturesque places to take walks.

This is my favorite time of year for taking walks.  Every step is different – in one stride I’m crunching dead leaves and in another I’m sliding into a thick patch of mud.  It’s chilly enough that I never work up a sweat on our wanderings, and I love the pre-walk ritual of bundling myself in sweaters and scarves to stay warm.  After our travels there is always hot cider or tea.  November in Maine is the most cozy and comforting of times.  I hope we don’t get much more snow this month – I’m hoping to take full advantage of the perfect weather as often as possible.

It begins.

Nothing particularly thrilling has occurred on this, my first official shift as booth attendant at a waterfront parking garage in Portland, Maine’s downtown district.  Various customers, overly eager and chatty, have made attempts to draw a smile or laugh from me – all successful.  I hate to disappoint would-be comedians.  Despite having to feign amusement at joking customers, this job is pretty fantastic.  It pays just about the same as (or more than) any job I’ve ever held, and comes with a refreshingly low level of responsibility.  People park, they pay me, they leave.  My relationships with customers are fleeting and uncomplicated.  The job also comes with some pretty luxurious bonuses, which I have laid out in bulleted form:

Perks of Working in a Parking Garage

  • Free Cable Television.  It may not seem like much of a workplace bonus to others, but I was elated upon arriving at work to find Jurassic Park streaming across the screen of our 19-inch, dome-front, Orion television set.  Afterwards, I listened to Dennis Farina recount terrifying mysteries of the unsolved variety (he’s no Robert Stack, but the stories and reenactments are still passable), and now I find myself enjoying some crime programs on A&E.  I haven’t had cable television since moving out of my parent’s place seven years ago, and I certainly don’t intend to miss a chance to catch-up on the mass media drivel I’ve so dearly missed.
  • Free WiFi.  It works better than the connection that I’m paying for at my apartment.  Seriously.  (How does wireless internet science manage to prevail in this giant concrete structure but can’t manage to span the three stories in my apartment building?)
  • Nary a Coworker in Sight.  No annoying work habits to put up with, boring small talk to make, or awkward social situations to deal with because I work alone!  Aside from the occasional visit from the maintenance man, touting the new LED lights he’s been installing, I am all on my own.
  • Chairs.  This job would be awful without my cushy, spinny, fake-leathery desk chair.
  • WATCHING DRUNK OLD PEOPLE MAKE OUT.  THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT THIS SECOND!  Is this a perk?  Absolutely not!  But it is occurring right this moment to the left of my booth.  I hope they don’t fall down the cement stairs on the walk to their car.  Also, I hope they fall asleep in said car before attempting to drive anywhere.  I think she tends bar near here…yeesh.  And while observations of AARP-member make-out sessions may not be highlights of this new employment venture of mine, they certainly fall under the umbrella of the next workplace perk…
  • Ideal Vantage Point for People Watching.  Sandwiched between the Casco Bay Lines Ferry Terminal and tourist-laden Commercial Street, I am afforded the best opportunities to behold every type of being lurking on Portland’s waterfront.  For company, I have dock cats and a homeless man who lives in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk outside of the garage.
I think this new job should work out just fine, assuming I can correctly mete out change in whole dollar sums and muster the courage to charge drivers hefty fines for losing their parking tickets.  I hope to monitor the goings-on here by the bay and report on my findings in this blog.  Given my experience in the port city, I have to imagine that in due time I will have a plethora of unique characters and stories to expound on.