Saturday, July 16, 2016
A little boy is staring at me. His mother speaks in what might be a Pakistani accent. I had planned to read a little more of a book down here in the lobby of this OB/GYN office, but I’m completely sucked into a one-boy-show that has unexpectedly begun. The script is roughly like this:
- The elevator dings. The door opens. Little boy says “hello” to whomever exits. They return the greeting.
- Then he walks back toward the door, not stepping into the elevator, and says to no one, “OK, I’LL BE RIGHT THERE!”
- Then he runs around for a little while.
- repeat twelve times
His mom is in another part of the room nursing a baby and trying in vain to control the boy. The father has now arrived and his parents are having a heated argument. It is time for me to leave the OB/GYN office.
Clean-shaven, short-haired, and baseball-capped, I am sitting in a shiny new blue car. I don’t look the way I appear in anyone’s memory or, indeed, on my recently issued driver’s license, but it’s me. Having lost a few days to norovirus last week, I feel like shedding some skin. Also got a big bag of items to give to the thrift store. Out with the old.
I always wondered what happened in The Bronx. We pulled in under a massive rainbow while hot french fries entered our faces and Neil Young sang on the car radio. Rainbows happen in The Bronx. Now I know.
There’s a stretch of Route 15 in Connecticut that feels like driving through a state park. We slept in a trucker-approved Days Inn in Sturbridge, Massachusetts before making our way to beautiful Portland, Maine for dinner, beer, and a walk. The next night was spent in Boothbay Harbor. We stayed at Cap’n Fish’s Waterfront Inn.
Nobody explained to me who Cap’n Fish was or is. I spent a lot of time thinking about that.
We picked up some postcards at Creature Comforts Thrift Shop and mailed them in beautiful downtown Damariscotta. I told my mom I was eating well, I told my dad I was happy, and I told my sister funny lies. We also bought a psychedelic penguin and a cheese grater ("it's a shredder," another other shopper informed Nicky).
After abandoning my new car in a field in anticipation of a few driving-free days, we scarfed down some seafood at Shaw’s Wharf - I chose the blackened haddock - and boarded the ferry. The ride was a little rough; at times, not unlike a toddler pretending to steer a parked car. A teenager came around offering everyone ginger candies.
The twelve-mile trip through the ocean is the cost and everything else is the payoff. Welcome to Monhegan, year-round population: approximately seventy.
It’s not hard to choose a general store here ‘cause there’s only one. Down at L. Brackett & Son Provisions, they’ll sell ya a freshly-made donut, clean water, a cup of Hawaiian coffee, Maine Root Beer, a Hershey bar, and a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich that, as my new friend told me, “makes life worth living again.”
On the cliffs, there is a big dog named Jake wading in a pond made of ocean water that’s splashed over a wall of rocks. Behind him is a woman with colorful socks who is painting the much higher Whitehead cliffs in front of us. Somewhere behind me, my girlfriend has found a perfect vantage point from which to sketch the scene in charcoal and ink. Big waves crash against the coast under sunny Fourth Of July skies. Everyone is kind, nobody litters, there are practically no cars, you can walk around with your beer, and I forgot all about the election.
I wandered Lobster Cove looking for beautiful things to feel and to photograph, but went a little too close to the ocean for my girlfriend’s tastes. She reminded me that our tourism literature stated that many have fallen and none have been saved.
Out on the deck, everything is still. Our Airbnb apartment is just a few feet away from Monhegan Brewery where a band is playing Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” in rockabilly format. It... works oddly well.
There was no shortage of fireworks on the island, but my favorites were the displays in various towns on the Maine coastline, so far away that they looked like strange multicolored stars silently exploding in the distance.
If you bring someone with you, maybe you can go out on the cliffs after dark and get a romantic oceanside smooch. If you don’t bring someone with you, you can probably just go find someone at the brewery.
Nicky has informed me that, with my big blue sweater and bucket hat, I look like a fisherman. I’ve just polished off a beer, having previously sampled four of the brewery’s creations. We did MOST of our high cliff walking before drinking alcohol. Most.
We ate fresh lobster roll along the coastline, gazing out at Manana Island where Ray Phillips lived for decades as a hermit with his pet gander Donald and their sheep friends.
A hot tip from Karen led us to the Fairy Houses within a pristine, old-growth forest called Cathedral Woods. I took photos of the houses, constructed of pine cones, twigs, and other forest accessories, but respected the fairies’ requests to not be photographed.
I took one last gaze at the ocean as viewed from our host’s front yard and felt a rush of mindless gratitude about being alive and free to roam. The Minus 5 said, “life doesn’t really half-suck most of the time.”
Ginger ale, Marc Maron’s Jeff Goldblum interview, light meditation, and the calm, steady energy of my girlfriend got me back to the mainland with my breakfast still in my body where I left it. We even saw some goddamn SEALS.
(As always, each time I heard the word "seal," "Kiss From A Rose" was immediately thrown onto my mental turntable, repeated incessantly.)
On the way back, we drove through impressive fireworks displays in The Bronx. Now we know - rainbows and fireworks are what happen in The Bronx.
I find myself sitting beside some fake flowers and a real cartoon caterpillar with big beady eyes on a bench facing the Juanita River. 584 miles from Monhegan, 151 miles from home.
A freight train barrels through the line of trees on the other side of the river while a rock & roll band plays adequately and some middle-aged people, all of a similar complexion, shoot [and kill] the breeze [without prosecution] at the local Republican party booth, three “Make America Great” signs at their ankles. Where I live, it’s hard to find someone who’ll tell you to your face that they’re voting for Trump. You’ll occasionally meet a lawn or a pickup truck bumper willing to make that pronouncement, but that’s about it. Suffice to say, I haven’t heard or read the phrase “Black Lives Matter” during my stay in Perry County, but I’ll update you if I do. For that matter, I’ll update you if I hear it in my hometown, the formerly whites-only Levittown.
This weekend, I live in a motel next to the Susquehanna River. I got a job taking photos at a music festival to which they remembered to invite vendors but, apparently, not the general public. I am using this downtime as a chance to read a little more of “M Train.” A thick, light amber film negative from my Holga plastic camera serves as my bookmark. One of my co-workers is reading Amanda Palmer’s book.
My girlfriend is driving in the opposite direction, up north to her old hometown. I treasure our time together and will miss her, but I also look forward to the isolation of a 2-star motel with nothing but a black suitcase, black backpack, black laptop, black notebook, and one gently used imagination.
One of my co-workers is sitting in our green beanbag chair like a six-foot-tall four-year-old. Another co-worker just asked, in an attempt to pass the time, “would you rather have toe-shaped fingers or finger-shaped toes?”
Here are some things I can tell you about Red Carpet Inn in Duncannon, Pennsylvania.
- It’s no Red Roof Inn.
- The carpet matches the drapes. (Red.)
- The bathtub stopper is broken, but no one can stop you from laying down and taking a horizontal shower.
- There is a red heat lamp in the bathroom that makes me feel like a rotisserie chicken.
Eighteen-wheelers are barreling down the Susquehanna Trail, reduced to blurred colors as they pass non-linearly through the flower petal-like shapes in my frosted bathroom window. Kinda like a malfunctioning Lite Bright. This place could get lonely fast, but for now, there are cookies, there are potato wedges, there are gummy bears and I am naked and I am happy.