Maine gets in your blood, and I’m not just talking about the bee venom. My wife Leigh and I just returned from a week there — no kids! — and I can’t say enough about the place. Scenic. Wild. Quirky. Certainly the no kids factor skewed our opinion a little. Had we gone to Paterson, N.J., I’d have a similarly glowing report as long as Miranda and Lily were at their respective sleep-away camps and not sharing our hotel room.
Happily, our kids enjoy camp, but that’s besides the point. They were going if I had to load them into the livestock trailer myself.
As it was, Coastal Maine was the perfect place to decompress from the rigors of family life — not that Maine doesn’t have its own issues. In beautiful Bar Harbor, which is technically in Greenland, we awoke on the 5th of July to find half the town had lost power due to the remnants of Hurricane Arthur. With many restaurants shuttered, a sullen holiday weekend mob roamed the streets in search of the hardy Maine breakfast promised by guide books. Leigh and I finally located a diner that was serving, but the backlog there was massive due in large part to Defiant Popover Man. Defiant Popover Man occupied a table for three all by himself. He wore headphones, not a good sign, and glared reproachfully at the long line headed by me and Leigh. The leisure at which Defiant Popover Man masticated his authentic Maine popovers cannot be overstated.
As the crowd grew larger and more restive and the rain poured harder, Defiant Popover Man only ate slower. A frazzled waitress asked if we wanted to share his table, but what would we have talked with him about? How everyone wanted to strangle him? We waited our turn and eventually got seated and enjoyed some delicious authentic Maine popovers of our own. It turns out we got the last breakfast before the kitchen switched to lunch. Now the angry mob wanted to kill us. We cowered behind our authentic Maine popovers until the mob moved on to forage for the official Maine snack, which is, for real, the Whoopie Pie.
Maine is full of interesting characters for sure. Local Knowledge Man was another. We met him at breathtaking Acadia National Park where he volunteered massive amounts of local information to everyone he encountered. He pointed out landmarks, gave trail tips and provided endless bits of local color — and he did it all without ever being asked. In this way we came to despise Local Knowledge Man almost as much as Defiant Popover Man, but not quite.
Maine also is famous for wild blueberries. They’re everywhere: Baked into pancakes. Floating in martinis. Mixed into salad dressings and possibly even jet fuel. A few times I had an urge to approach random Mainers and scream: “You know, I’ve pretty much had it with your effing blueberry obsession. It’s a berry, for God’s sake!” But the moment always passed. I’d take a few deep breaths and I’d be back on the blueberry wagon. Sometimes you have to pick your battles. My battle was with lobster. Due to an allergy, I can’t eat lobster, which is a felony in Maine. It’s a shame someone up there doesn’t market faux lobsters so the Shellfish Challenged can experience the primal thrill of ripping apart a freakish bottom-feeding crustacean that bears an uncanny resemblance to Donald Rumsfeld.
Anyway, instead of getting an allergic reaction to lobster I settled for an allergic reaction to an insect sting. One side of my face swelled up like an authentic Maine popover. So I looked on-line and read that you can remove the stinger by scraping a credit card at the point of entry. It didn’t work, but that didn’t stop me from trying. As we began the long trek home, I sat in the passenger seat incessantly scraping my face with my MasterCard and wishing we had more time in Maine. I guess that’s the sign of a great vacation. When it’s over, you feel a little blueberry.