Monday, October 31, 2011

The winter wonderland that almost wasn't

Thought you might enjoy this view of the town from my walk this morning before we got into the meat of the post. This is looking west along the river into town. You can see, if you look very closely, the end of the falls right at the left edge of the buildings. You can also see the white rooftops left over from yesterday's snow.

So there was a lot of talk out East about this crazy October snow storm that was shocking everyone from New York City north, only it wasn't touching Machias at all. On Saturday, as I was talking to my friend in Manhattan about all the snow that was falling on her the skies in Machias were bright blue and it was a gorgeous day. As the day wore on, however, clouds began to roll in and I got worried. Not worried cause of snow, I was looking forward to snow. Worried because I feared it would rain first and then snow leaving a layer of ice underneath the fresh snow that my dog would no doubt try to pull me across leading to me falling and breaking an elbow.

Sure enough, around nine, it began to rain hard. It continued to rain until at least 12:30 (I was staying up late to watch a West Coast hockey game) and I thought "Maybe it won't snow, maybe it will just keep raining and I won't have to worry about the ice".

Well, I was rudely awoken, as usual, by my dog around 6:30 to find that it had, in fact, snowed, and was still snowing. Big disgusting wet blobs of ice and water being whirled around by powerful gusts of wind. Not at all the kind of snowy scene I had been looking forward to when I envisioned my, and Hastur's, first snow.

Well, putrid weather or not the dog was gonna force me to take her out. I got bundled up as much as I could and then considered putting boots on Hastur but she's always so hyper when a walk is looming I didn't think she'd slow down enough to let me get them on. So out we went into the harsh conditions. She took one step outside where big clumps of snow driven by the wind with enough force to hit her like hail started to pelt her right in the face and she immediately turned around and ran back into the house.

She was torn because part of her was desperate for the walk, while the other part did not want to go back out there. I tried putting her boots on making another go of it. This time she wondered a bit around the front grass but was still very uncomfortable and ended up kicking the boots off anyway. We went back upstairs and I exchanged the boots for her jacket. Again we went outside and this time she started to get into a bit. The jacket was really helping, I think she didn't like the way the snow was hitting her so with her jacket on she could ignore it better. We took a short walk, for us, and she really started to get a feel for the way snow worked.

Later in the day the weather got really nice. The wind died down to practically nothing and the snow became soft and light. We went out again and this time Hastur really started to have fun. She did everything she could to make sure she was walking in snow. This last week, every time I've walked her, she's tried her hardest to walk in the middle of the road. Even when I've shortened her leash to just an inch or so she's tugged on it to try to get into the road. This time I was walking in the middle of the road to get away from the freezing puddles and snow banks left by the plows and she was tugging me to the sides of the road so she could walk in the snow.

The past week she's been... pretty good about walking on leash, but yesterday she was pissed. She wanted to romp all through the snow and every time she had a moment to walk on the snowy grass she'd start to jump and prance on it... that is, if she wasn't attacking the leash in the hopes i would let her off of it.

So in the end a shitty day turned into a not-so-shitty day. The only think keeping it from being a great day is that the power went out for two hours earlier in the day, when it was still windy and freezing, and I lost my heat. It wouldn't have been much of a problem if I had all my things here, I would have had blankets and coats and all sorts of other things to keep me warm, but all I have is a sleeping bag. When will my stuff get here damnit!

Well, today, at least, is really nice. The rest of the week should be the same. Be even nicer if I had some furniture.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The waiting game

Let me begin with a correction: The other church about a block away from the Catholic one is a Congregationalist church, not a Baptist one. And I do believe it is the older one since the house directly across from it has a plaque denoting that the lot was the location of the house of the first minister in Machias which was back in the 18th century. So, points to you, Congregationalists.

The oldest extant building in town is Burnham Tavern, just a couple of doors down from me, which was built in 1770. It's a very significant building in American history. Don't remember if I mentioned this before but it's the sight where the colonists planned out the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War. They were led by a man named Jeremiah O'Brien who later became a captain in the Massachusetts navy, and is very much of a hero in Machias. A lot of roads and buildings, and even a fort are named after him, not to mention a bunch of American naval ships over the years. Not sure how much of the building is original, probably not a lot, though the outer walls do appear to be leaning outward and it looks like the roof is going to collapse downward if that continues. It has been well kept up though, there's a museum inside (closed for the season) so they must keep it in good repair. I don't know, but I do look forward to it opening again in Spring.

There are a lot of little treasures to be found around town. Yesterday, Hastur and I were finishing up our walk in the little park by the river (which smelled like a rotting sulfur plant) when she found this little overgrown path. It was definitely a path, but it looked like no one had walked on it in a very long time. As we walked I noticed another little side path going up a hill. As I followed it with my eyes I saw it led to a little cemetery. Now I knew this wasn't the main cemetery in town as I've walked through that many times. Little secret, if you want to find a cemetery in any town, go to the highest point. No, this was some other cemetery, but the graves were as old at least as the ones in the other cemetery. I took Hastur that way wanting to explore this new find. You know whose graves they were? Jeremiah O'Brien and his brothers. They were perched on the backside of this hill in a yard. Jeremiah's grave had a fresh American flag planted on it, so someone, I assume the owners of the home whose yard these graves were in, still kept up the little cemetery. There were other graves too, but I didn't want to go traipsing around some stranger's backyard so I took Hastur back towards home.

It was another beautiful day this morning, yesterday was overcast all day, so I decided to take Hastur east on our walk. Normally in the mornings we follow the Down East Sunrise Trail, which I believe just follows the now defunct railroad tracks that used to go around the town. Every morning we've headed west, up into the wooded hills. Saw a large pack of deer, all does, yesterday. So today we went east, towards the ocean. Not sure if the trail ever makes it to the ocean proper or just winds farther north, we never really made it that far, but the way we did take followed right up against the river, which smelled far less at this point. It was bright and cold and I let Hastur off leash, finally, so she could enjoy herself a little. She really took advantage of it a couple of times, running through the grass after invisible animals.

I have a theory about the river stink. The top soil around here is very sandy and loose, but under that is a very thick layer of what is nearly peat, very compact mildewy compressed grasses, leaves, and assorted other biologicals. AS the river eats into the lower layer it must take with it a lot of bacteria just waiting for some oxygen to bloom. And once bloomed it must go crazy on all of wood and iron and petroleum and any other things in the river worth eating which creates a huge amount of methane and other caustic smelling gases. I have seen two things in the river that lead me to this conclusion. One is the large rust colored blooms that are covering all the rocks and logs in the river and staining the water orange. These are the same sorts of mats you see in Yellowstone where the water is cool enough to encourage bacterial growth. The other thing I've been seeing is a lot of foam. You get foam from agitating water full of dead and dying microbes, or industry, but there isn't a whole lot of industry on the Machias river, not a whole lot of people along the Machias river, so I think it's the microbes.

It's such a nice day I wish I could take Hastur to the beach, especially because I can't be sure just how many more days like this there will be, but I also can't afford to miss my furniture, should it come. I'd go anyway and hope to catch their call and race back except I barely get any service in my home where the signal is strongest in town, so there's no way I'm getting any call at the beach. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to share my sleeping bag with Hastur, and she takes most of it believe me. I could really use a bed right about now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A bright new day

There are some people who took my last post way to seriously so I want to assure everyone it was the natural result of four straight days of driving mixed with an empty apartment and a crazy dog. Other then continuing to do everything while trying to recline comfortably on a wood floor, everything is going fine. Things are slowly starting to get back to normal, and once my furniture arrives I think Hastur will figure out that we're staying and stop acting all unglued.

It rained yesterday morning and was fairly warm, but today I woke up to blue skies and crisp, nearly Winter air (otherwise known as Winter air for those of you reading in California) so I decided to take a short walk and snap a few pictures.

This is the view outside one of the windows of my apartment. It's Hastur's favorite window to people watch, and then people bark when someone does walk by. You can see the church steeple above the trees, that's the Catholic church, there is also an old Baptist church about a block away, not sure which one is older.

The river is quite high right now, and smells awful. It reminds me a little bit of the Napa river in the way it smells, kinda sulfurous and rotten. Not sure if this has anything to do with the tides, though even above the falls it still kind of smells that way so I don't think the tides have much to do with it, though part of the smell is brine so maybe... I've noticed a surprising amount of garbage just thrown into bushes or ravines, not sure how often that happens or if it's leftovers from long gone habits, but I think the smell may be associated.

 With the river so high the falls are really engorged. My apartment is very well insulated so I don't hear the falls or the traffic even though they are both right outside my windows. Also, even though it's been getting pretty cold at night I don't think my heater has ever turned on. This place really keeps the heat. Anyway, it's loud outside. Not sure what happens in Winter. Certainly down river where the tide comes in the water won't freeze, but maybe the water in the falls will. It's been a long time, since Utah, since I've seen frozen waterfalls. I've always thought it was a beautiful phenomenon.

Here's Main Street. It's hard to tell from this picture but the majority of the buildings there are banks. I don't know how Machias became the banking capital of Maine, or why a city of 2200 needs more banks then groceries, but it sure was easy to find a new one when I needed to open an account. I'm with the Bank of Bangor which compensates me for all ATM fees I incur so that's pretty cool. You can also barely see the sign for the hardware store that just so happens to have more bulk spices then I've ever seen in my life. Gonna be spending a lot of time there.

Finally, here is the front of my building. My windows are the three on the right (or on the left of the building, whichever way you want to look at it). There is also a window facing the parking lot in front of the yellow building that Hastur enjoys looking out of, making sure she lets people know she sees them getting out of their cars. I'm also told that there is some dog obedience meeting that's held in the parking lot on Thursdays, I'll definitely bring Hastur out so she can socialize a bit.

So there you go people, stop worrying about me, I'm doing fine, maybe better or worse depending on how you thought I'd be doing after such a strenuous move that is far from over. Point is, I'm here now, I'm settling, and I have at least two years to make a home out here so there should be no concern over my well being... MOM.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What the fuck am I doing in Maine!?

Seriously people, I just drove four days, got very little to no sleep, had to eat in Gary, Indiana and now I'm in Maine? And the dog is wondering the apartment whimpering for some reason, even though just an hour ago she loved the place? And there is not a single good cup of coffee in all of New England? I have no idea whether I just made a huge mistake or a great decision. Maybe I just need to let the fatigue wear off and the dog settle down but I think I'm safe in saying that I'm a little over my head here. Well, it's a fact now and there is nothing to do but weather out the storm and see if the house is still standing. Or, if somehow, the storm replaced it with a better, more successful, more happy house.

Some highlights of the trip include:
  • Greg realizing that we left the Trivial Pursuit cards, that we were going to use to keep ourselves focused during the more boring states, at home only blocks away from the house saving us a lot of tedium. However, I didn't remember that I forgot my jacket in the garage until Nebraska.
  • Deeth Starr Ranch. It's a real place in Nevada.
  • Speaking of Nevada, Wendover, Nevada is one of the oddest places I have ever seen. There is a casino there that's rear is exactly on the border with Utah.
  • Speaking of Utah, I missed it all because it was either too dark or I was asleep. Missed all of Pennsylvania, New York, and most of Massachusetts the same way.
  • At one point I was in very real danger of falling asleep at the wheel so I pulled into a rest stop. Hastur has a tendency to get excited whenever we stop because she figures she's gotta get out and explore so she immediately began whimpering and pacing. As I was trying to calm her down someone casually walked past the car sending her into a violent bark tantrum. We finally calmed her down and slept there about an hour, but she remained in a stiff, seated position the entire time. When I woke up she finally got that walk she wanted. It was below freezing out but all my clothes were packed deep in the back of my trunk and I couldn't get out anything warmer so I ran her around the rest stop while completely frozen. This became something of a tradition by the end of the trip.
  • Almost ran out of gas about a bazillion times. You know what turns out to be worthless on road trips? Chevron accounts. We didn't see a single one after Salt Lake. The one in Salt Lake was a bit of a happening as well. I was running out of gas so used my phone too find the nearest Chevron. It gave me directions to one that was 22 miles away, a bit of a stretch but I felt I had just enough gas to make it. As I was putting my phone back where it had been cradled I saw a sign that said "Next Exit / Chevron".
  • Best 24 hours of driving ever? I started the day in Iowa at 9 am Central, made it to Maine at 8 am Eastern the next morning. During that time I personally drove in the states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.
  • I don't know why but my GPS seemed to have me circling around Cleveland. Look, I know there are some interesting things in Cleveland like the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and... I don't know, maybe Drew Carey statue somewhere, but I don't think my GPS was justified in having me take freeway after freeway within urban area.
  • The other thing that my GPS did was take us away from the Chicago. I thought we'd be driving through Chicago. Guess not. We didn't even drive close enough to any of the lakes to see them even though we were around Chicago, Gary, Toledo, Cleveland, and Eerie, all of which are port cities. Also, I thought I'd be going through Buffalo, didn't even come close.
  • After Greg drove himself to the Boston airport I got to drive back through the city back towards my destination. I gotta say, I love you Boston, but fuck you, Boston! Who designed that city? I made about a hundred underground corkscrews that went over bridges which I then crossed going the other direction only to find myself underground again. Plus, every single person was going like 75 in a 45 zone. I think that's what they mean when they say that New England drivers are the worst. They aren't, Sacramento drivers are, but New England drivers always seem to be speeding.
  • I really, really hate Indiana. There were a lot of places that I wasn't too fond of, but Indiana I absolutely hated. First, they love gigantic sound barrier walls around their freeways despite the fact that there is nothing behind them. The walls are so big you can't tell what services are on the other side of them so if you need gas * shrug *. Second, Gary was the shittiest place I've ever been, and I've been to some very shitty places before. Then, to top it off, their toll system is absolutely awful. They give you a ticket when you get onto the throughway (aka 80) and then charge you based on the exit you take. It's a fine idea in theory but in practice it faces two problems; 1) No one wants to get off the freeway so businesses off the freeway don't get any customers at all, and 2) They massively limit the number of exits so say you missed your exit and need to get off the freeway and backtrack (and this is sort of number three here), first you have to wait probably close to 30 miles for another exit, then you have to pay the exit toll, then you have to pick up a new ticket, drive back to the exit you wanted, and pay the exit toll. Wisconsin had a similar system but for some reason, even though the state is about twice as wide as Indiana, it was far less to cross it. New York and Massachusetts also had systems like that but they didn't run the full freeway. Toll roads are lousy enough without Indiana screwing everything up.
  • I simply cannot sleep in the car. No matter how hard I tried or how tired I was, I could not sleep in the car... Until I was driving. It's weird how you can be concentrating on something so hard like not driving off the road and start to drift off, but the minute you try to legitimately sleep in your seat you just can't do it. The morning where I was really worried I would fall asleep so stopped at a rest stop even though I had only seconds before been falling sleep with a stiff back and hands on the wheel, I couldn't really sleep at all when I tried. A similar thing happened to me once I got to Maine. I felt myself starting to doze off so pulled off to go get some Tim Horton's coffee and immediately upon leaving the freeway I was wide awake.
  • Tim Horton's actually makes decent coffee.
  • I don't know if I'm a better driver now, a more patient person, or whether it was the difference in cars, but when I attempted to drive to New Mexico with my friend Jason at 19 I couldn't drive six hours without getting tired of it. This trip, at one point, I drove 13 hours and only stopped because I wanted to try and get some sleep even though I easily could have driven two or three more hours.
  • I learned that my dog can vomit very quietly and with little aroma.
I have to admit, I'm in a bit of a panic here, and have been since I had to drive back through Boston by myself. I don't feel unprepared, I just feel way beyond my comfort zone. I mean, the entire "Mexican" section of the local grocery store is just taco shells and Taco Bell salsa, and they have no cage free eggs! And the worst part is, no one seems to realize that there is something wrong with that. What's a California boy in Maine to do?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Halfway to forever

In a matter of about 27 hours Greg and I made it from Sacramento to Omaha. Everyone was pretty impressed except for us cause we had to sit in the car and experience every single mile along with the dog.

Actually, Hastur has been doing really well. She gets excited when we come to a stop and I have to take her out and run her around wherever we are so she can work off some energy. It's nice for me to since I tend to get really sore during long car rides.

We still have 1500 miles to go. Pretty sure I can survive it, not sure how much sanity I'll have left at the end, however.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Tonight is my final night in Sacramento before the BIG drive to Maine so of course I woke up feeling a bit ill this morning. I'm feeling pretty much 100% now, but another night on the floor in a strangely cramped sleeping bag might make things worse tomorrow... maybe I'll make a go for the couch tonight.

Everything is packed, all the necessary things I needed to do are done, but I'm left with quite a few optional things that I missed out on. It's funny, you look at the calendar and you think "yeah, I still have time" and then suddenly it's your last day, your rabbi is in a meeting during the only time you have to see him, and that restaurant you had to have just one more time just happens to be closed.

Or, even more stupidly, you close your bank account and then go on to Amazon to download some good albums to burn for the road except you have no debit card to pay for them with. Like I couldn't have done that yesterday.

Everyone wants to know if I'm excited, or wants to talk to me about how exciting what I'm doing is, but I'm completely numb to it. I want to join people in their enthusiasm for me but with all the preparations I've done, all the pin-point planning, all of the time spent just getting ready, I've lost everything but the apprehension of having to deal with the dog in the car and the fear that I'll be spending more time in that car then I planned. I just want to get to Maine and spend time in my empty apartment. As such all my conversations about it have been pretty monosyllabic. It reminds me of the recent death of my grandmother. She was so close to death for so long that it got to the point where I felt she was already dead, and then when it happened it was less of a tragedy and more of a conclusion so I really didn't have anything to say about it anymore. I feel like my move has already happened, I just haven't caught up to it yet so when people say "Aren't you excited?" I'm like, "No, I'm already there".

I feel bad cause I should be excited and I worry that I'm letting people down, or maybe even blowing them off, by not being happy to talk about it. I'm sorry, I just don't have anything to say! I'm moving to Maine, I will be living in Maine, at this point that's the whole story to me. Once I get there, once I have the chance to settle, I expect to get all that emotion and excitement but right now I just want the whole damn thing to be done already.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Damn you IKEA!

I went to Ikea last night to see about getting a new bed frame. My last bed frame, also from Ikea, was completely destroyed. For once it wasn't shoddy Swedish particle board that caused the breakage, it was my femur. Coming back from the bathroom late one evening in the dark I thought I had made it all the way to my bed. I put my hand down to leverage myself onto the mattress only to find that I was about four inches short. I fell forward and slammed my leg into the sideboard shattering it at the headboard and almost shattering my leg. With the sideboard damaged beyond repair and unable to support my weight the center support had to take it all which went far beyond its capabilities and it bent. With the support bent all the slats keeping the mattress up fell off resulting in the mattress falling on one side. I sort of repaired it by replacing the slats with cinder blocks and boards.

I actually wasn't too keen on getting another Ikea bed even though it wasn't entirely the fault of the last one that it broke. I found out recently that the founder of Ikea was one of the founders of the Nazi party in Sweden. Technically he doesn't own it anymore but there is some people who think he may still benefit from it so...

Unfortunately Ikea has the dual benefit of being cheap and not constructed. Both are very advantageous to me, the bed I bought is sitting in the garage in two compact boxes perfect for not costing me more to ship across the country.

The boxes themselves led to an interesting moment. When I went to go pick the boxes off of the shelves I noticed that the hole in the cardboard to show you the color in box 1 was different then the one on box 2. The box 1 color was the one I was interested in so I went all over the warehouse trying to find one that matched. The guy I talked to thought maybe the different color was the unexposed wood and that the other side might be correct, but he wasn't confident, so I went back into the showroom to give it a look. When I got back to the bed I saw that the side panels were definitely the same color as the head and baseboard so I crawled underneath to take a look. The color of the unexposed parts was unstained so I knew something was up.

I went back to the warehouse and discussed it with Greg who mentioned that I might be able to get a discount if the colors didn't match. I'm not fashionable enough to really care about furniture color and a discount sounded cool so I went to find another worker who was also really concerned about the color difference. He went and got a manager who came over and reiterated that it was the unexposed color. I told him I had checked and it definitely was not so he opened the box and took a panel out. It was the correct color. Turns out the hole cut in the cardboard didn't show the product at all but was just a piece of paper which was the wrong color so I bought the bed without reservation.

I also considered buying a desk. I will need a desk but I'm trying to keep my shipment small so here's hoping I find one in Machias somewhere. My landlady/grocer and her coworker told me that furniture is pretty easy to find. There are a couple of thrift stores and I live above an 'antique' store that also seems to be something of a thrift store. I did, however, pick up a nightstand after Greg suggested it and I agreed it would be worthwhile so now I got that going on the truck too.

So that makes me almost entirely ready for the move. I have to get some all weather tires and that's really it. I loaded up my car with most of the boxes I'm taking with me, only leaving out food and my toiletries, as well as all the dog's goods. So it's finally getting real people.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Another last time

Tonight I went to my local sushi joint for the last time. Since I moved to my current house I've made it a habit to go every Thursday when they have a buy one roll, get the second free promotion. It's one more thing that I won't be able to do in Machias. There is a Chinese restaurant there, it's called Hing's Garden, but I'm not sure just how much I trust Chinese food in Maine. Granted, it's not like I've had a lot of good Chinese food in California, but with such a large Asian population I can at least count on it being on the authentic side of American Chinese food.

It reminds me of when I was at my sister's wedding in Montana and we were staying in the very small town of Big Timber. There was a Chinese place there and I remember thinking that it seemed a bit forced, like there has to be a Chinese restaurant in any town whether or not there are any Chinese people there. I'm sure the place in Big Timber, just as I'm sure Hing's Garden, is owned and run by people from Southeast Asia, but I'm not so sure that the people who eat there have the same taste in Chinese food as someone like me who has had a chance to sample of a lot of it.

Speaking of Chinese food my neighbors took me to lunch at a Chinese restaurant in town that I've wanted to go to since I moved to Sacramento. It's called Frank Fat's and it's been around since the thirties. The outward appearance makes it look like a gangsters hangout, something like the first scene of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I wasn't disappointed. The atmosphere inside was all dark reds, low lights, gold filigree on everything, just the kind of place where Chinese gangsters in very fine tailored suits would spend there time, especially since we were seated in the back room.

The food itself was ok, there was a good variety, more then you'd usually find at a Chinese restaurant. The highlight was actually the amazing banana cream pie, and this is coming from a guy who hates cream pie.

Reading through this post I feel like it could come off a bit racist, but I'm not sure why. I guess I feel uncomfortable with how many times I have used the word Chinese, especially because Chinese food and Chinese restaurants run a much larger gamut then simply "Chinese". The places I've eaten at that advertise as Chinese could be Szechuan, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Hmong, Laotian, Korean... That's one of the problems with the Americanization of other cultures, we tend to pick the most dominant culture and try to plug everyone resembling that culture into it. The people who run Hing's Garden could very well be Thai but have found that producing easy to understand Chinese dishes is more lucrative in small town Maine then creating a genuine Thai restaurant. Or maybe they're European Americans who bought a Chinese cookbook at a garage sale and decided there was a vacuum to be filled in Machias. My point is in Sacramento I can be fairly sure that the cooking staff of a "Chinese" restaurant was raised on traditional Asian cooking, but in Machias I don't know. Is it a genuine Chinese establishment? And if it is, why are they there? Did they move to town in order to open a restaurant? Has their family been in Machias for long?

Ok, looking at the menu online I'm fairly impressed. Still, the sharp contrast between Chinese food and small town Maine is still sorta bugging me. Really, why there? Well, I'm sure I'll find out eventually cause I'm unlikely to avoid it forever. I'll tell you what, readers, when I do go I'll try to get the story out of the proprietors and relay it to you. That'll make for an interesting post. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Time keeps on slipping...

As the move date approaches I'm being constantly reminded of the things I will miss, and the reasons I am leaving. I'm not sure I would describe the last few years in Sacramento as a waste, exactly, but I probably should have left before now. It's tough to find an opportunity that you aren't looking for and I wasn't considering moving some place like Maine, or really, some place like anywhere but Sacramento, even though I probably should have been. California has very little to offer me aside from variety and fresh fruit, but in my stubbornness had convinced myself that there was really no other place for me to go. Shoulda figured out that was wrong a few years ago.

There will be plenty of people and places I'll miss, but what I'll miss more is the chance to lead a fulfilled life that moving to Maine could bring to me. I'm lucky that I don't have kids which would really damper a move like this, it's hard enough with a dog. It's only too bad that it took me 31 years to get a chance like this.

I'm going to have to rely on that same stubbornness that kept me back to keep me going as the miles pass by, as the snow piles up, as the dog freaks out like only she can to keep me going strong in such an alien place as far eastern Maine. I'm nervous but confident. The people I met in my short time visiting Maine lead me to believe I can do really well there, I'll just have to weather the tough patches that are sure to come. People rarely succeed without effort. You read about sports stars, writers, or other successful people who came from nothing but succeeded by sheer force of effort, by focusing on their dreams and doing whatever it took to make it, that's who I'm going to have to be and I'm ready to be that.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Preparations are nearly complete

The move is less then two weeks away and I am nearly finished packing. The only things I have left, for the most part, are the things I'll be taking with me in the car, along with maybe three or four boxes of clothes and assorted items. The only problem is that now I don't have anyone to take me.

My friend Cody was supposed to help me drive but, and maybe I shouldn't be saying this because I'm still considering accepting his help and I hate to make myself liable for anything, he recently discovered that his driver's license has been suspended. There are some other options, sure, but Cody was probably the best given his combination of being able to take a large amount of time off work and being able to function well with little sleep. Anyway, it's a change of plans I'm not too happy about and it's the one really stressful thing that has occurred during this whole thing, which I guess makes me sort of lucky that I only have one thing that's gone wrong, but it's a big thing.

In the meantime my dog decided to take this week to remind me just how impulsive she is, running after cats into the neighborhood twice and chasing a coyote into the bushes the other day. It's funny, a few minutes before we had encountered two friendly dogs she'd never seen before and she immediately became frightened and hid between my legs, but when she sees a coyote, one nearly her size by the way, she runs right after it like she's the toughest thing on four legs. Actually I'm less concerned about the coyote then I am the cats, and not because I'm afraid for the cats. If the coyote should turn around to confront her she'd be cowering behind me in a second, and if she actually caught up to the cats she'd freak out and not know what to do (as she is when they climb a fence and hiss at her). The real concern is her willingness to just run into any street or yard that happens to be between her and whatever random quarry has her attention. I can't have her doing that in Maine where there are no fences and where the quarry might be bigger then a squirrel or a cat. She's no good on leash but she may have to learn to accept it if I can't trust her off of it.

Hockey started on Thursday. My team, the Canucks, played the Penguins starting at seven. They ended up losing in a shoot-out, which every Canucks fan could have told you would be the result the moment the shoot-out began, they are really terrible in shoot-outs. But it's the first game of the season and what every fan wants to see from there team is not so much a win but a sign of things to come in the later parts. The Canucks came back from a 3-1 deficit, and actually had more then a few opportunities to be ahead if it wasn't for the stellar play of the opposing netminder. I bring all this up because the Canucks play in Vancouver which is three hours behind Maine. Most of their games start at seven Pacific time. It will be ten in Maine before my favorite team's games even start. I could follow the Bruins who are just down in Boston. Actually, I do like the Bruins, I'm a huge Bobby Orr fan, but they played right before the Canucks against the Flyers who I hate but I couldn't find a way to cheer for them because they beat the 'Nucks in the Stanley Cup last year and I'm still smarting from it. Actually, I don't even have a TV so I won't necessarily be following anyone except for those games I watch illicitly from websites. Regardless of how I watch them it will be tough to stay up until after midnight about sixty nights a year just to watch a hockey game.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Thoughts on Maine

As I continue to pack for my fast approaching move here are some things that have stuck in my mind about the state that is soon to be my home:

  • Maine's current slogan is "Vacationland" which is kind of weird to see as a person living in California. This state sees millions of tourists arrive every year from all over the world. I believe, and I could certainly be wrong, Maine's tourism is mostly a few thousand people from the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England who come up and spend a couple of weeks to a couple of months in summer homes. I don't think there is a great deal of international, or even cross-coastal tourism in Maine. Maybe a better slogan would be "Summerland".
  • The number one thing people seem to be afraid of in eastern Maine is Moose, and I can certainly understand why. The first problem they pose is that their knees are right at car grill height so should you hit one you'll immediately get five tons of meat through your windshield and right into your lap. Second, they will charge you for looking at them wrong, especially during mating season, which will result in something very similar to hitting them with your car except for the dead moose part. Alone I don't think I'll have much to worry about, I can stay clear of a moose without much difficulty. Unfortunately I have a dog who thinks it's a good idea to charge after anything with legs. Around here she chases deer, coyote, horses, rabbits, skunks, ducks, geese, squirrels... if she sees a moose she'll be after it before realizing it could kill her with a breath. Then it becomes my problem because she'll either be off leash and I'll have to jump in and save her ass, or she'll be on leash and the moose will figure that we are one entity that needs to be taught a lesson by gorging. I think there are bears too, but no one seems to worried about them, probably cause the moose keep killing them.
  • I'm really looking forward to hockey. The pond on campus freezes and I'm told that hockey games are played on it. There is also a very slow moving river that might freeze over, but it's also in a kind of delta so maybe the influence of the tides won't allow it. Anyway, I wonder if the games are casual or if everyone is in full padding. It's too bad the school doesn't have a team, not that I would play for it (though I'd certainly try out) but at least I could follow it, root for it, wear school jerseys, etc.
  • I got snow boots the other day. When I was trying them on I had them on the wrong feet and they were so insulated and cushioned that I didn't even notice. I wonder if people will look at me in my gigantic city-boy-out-of-his-element boots and find it humorous. Probably everyone else will have even bigger boots and I'll be pissed cause mine aren't keeping the snow out.
  • I kind of want to start a cooking group, some thing where I can teach people how to make some of the great foods I've had in California that probably haven't made it to Machias yet. Things like authentic Mexican food, Middle Eastern fare, Indian food. I wonder if my landlord/health food store owner could use that idea to increase her business?
  • I really want to go around with a shovel and ask people if they'll let me dig in their yards. There's got to be a ton of awesome stuff buried around town. Hell, this place is barely past the garbage pit stage of trash removal. Maybe I can find a house that's seasonally occupied, dig it all up, and then restore it before vacation season hits.
So there you go, random things running through my head. Mostly my time is taken up with "How can I fit all this junk in a box?" or, "Do I need this, do I throw this away, or do I give this away?", or even "When the hell is Cody gonna call me back so I know he can come with me on the 20th?" so those of you with Cody's phone number, you need to call him and tell him to get a hold of me cause he hasn't called me back in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A place to call my own, continued

That's a view from campus of the center of town. The bright blue building in the center is the one I will be living in. You can find the rest of the photos here.

Anyway, I made it to campus around 11:30 and took some time to walk around. I went into the library to maybe sit for a bit cause I had, after all, been on my feet all day, but once I got in for some reason I felt uncomfortable so instead I found a bench outside. The campus itself is about... 8 buildings I'd say, all situated around a large field with a pond that I'm told ices over in the winter and people have been known to play ice hockey. Two of the buildings are dorms/class rooms. The interesting thing is that the school has over 800 students, but the dorms only hold 300 so somehow the other 500+ find places to stay in a town of 2200. Actually, I guess I found a place pretty easy so I guess it's not that hard after all.

I met my transfer councilor, Shelbie Ross, at noon, and we headed towards the cafeteria. The cafeteria was.... nice... and maybe I'm being a snob here, but I wasn't too impressed with their offerings. I've been to a few school cafeterias and they tend to offer a range of choices, this one was pretty much two, sandwiches or whatever the prepared meal was that day (I think it was stir fry, but I just grabbed a sandwich). We talked for a bit about the college and then about the differences between California and Maine. Specifically we talked a lot about food. One of the funniest moments came when we started talking about coffee and Dunkin' Donuts and I asked when they were going to put in a Starbucks and she said, "We had a Quizno's once, everyone was really excited when it opened, but then it wasn't very good."

After our talk we went to go meet Kaz, who was going to tour me around the school. Kaz is a basketball player recruited from London, who is also of Indian decent. That boosted my spririts a bit, knowing that someone from London had been living well in Machias for about four years. Kaz was a great guy who obviously had had American idioms beaten into his brain. He never once said football when talking about soccer, or used any London slang. I had to trick him into it when we were talking about where in London he was from by asking whether North London was the "posh" section, which he readily agreed with. On our tour I met a woman named, I think, Christina, working in the bookstore. Christina was from Jamaica. Yeah, that's right, Jamaica. She was in Maine because her younger sister was attending a boarding school nearby by. What kind and why I never found out because she was working, but I plan on asking her when I see her again, which I will cause the campus is tiny.

So after our walk around we made it to the book arts lab. We were suppose to meet the guy in charge, Bernie, but he was in a meeting late. Kaz and I talked about the differences between living in a city and living in a small town. He is on a basketball scholarship so his day is situation is fairly planned. He lives on campus, he works on campus, all of his meals are on campus, but it was still quite a switch for him. He agreed with me that the lack of a variety of food was probably the biggest drawback.

So, finally, Bernie showed up and Kaz took off to his next thing. By this point it was nearly four and I had been off my feet for about one hour since eight. Still, I managed to work up enough energy to be excited about seeing the presses. They were great. The whole press room is full of letter tiles and the smell of ink. Bernie ran some maintenance on one of the presses as he talked to me about my love of publishing and books. I just sort of watched and tried not to sound stupid. He then took me back to his office where he had examples of paper from all over the world and all different ages. He had a beautiful piece of goat skin vellum pounded very thin and covered in music, as well as a lot of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese paper samples. His thing is paper, but he also showed me a lot of books he was working on for various organizations.

At this point, having sat down, all the exhaustion of the day hit me at once and I became far too tired to be charming. Any of you who are familiar with my personality when I'm tired know that I struggle to find words, make odd non-sequitors, and pretty much act like a rambling idiot. My point is I couldn't make the impression I wanted to, so instead I shut up and just let the man talk and try to follow what he was saying.

After he talked at me for awhile Bernie invited me to a banned book reading at the library which I readily accepted, and I returned to the admissions office to speak to Shelbie again. Actually, all I did was get a free shirt from her and then told her I needed to sit down for a bit. After sitting long enough to feel a bit refreshed I went back to the library where the banned books group was meeting. The people were all glad to see me there, just like everyone I met, it seems like everyone in Maine is perfectly happy to see you, and were excited to hear that I was there all the way from California. One of the members of the group was the first student to come in under their book arts program. She will be graduating in Spring. The members got up, one by one, to read passages from their favorite banned books. Eventually I was asked to read something so I grabbed Maus, which only a couple had heard of, but that they all enjoyed.

That was my day. The next day I put a deposit down on my apartment and then drove back early to Manchester.

The story is done so now a couple of thoughts. I feel like Maine is the forgotten state. There's really no reason that it should be so empty of people. It's got a ton of potential industry and beautiful geology. It's not so much colder then places like Buffalo, Green Bay, or Minneapolis, which together have a higher population then the entire state. The coastal area doesn't get storms like the rest of the Atlantic. Even in the winter, according to Shelbie, there are no big snow storms, just snow falls. I think people just kind of forget it's there. When they are looking for a place to move Maine just doesn't come up. There's probably about 0 growth there and that may be part of it's charm. The funny thing is, people from all over New England and the Mid-Atlantic states go up there and vacation in the summer, as if living in Pittsburgh during the winter is somehow more pleasant then living in Bar Harbor.

Second thought came to me as I was flying into Phoenix. Phoenix has over a million people and for the life of me I can't imagine why. It's a fucking desert, and only occasionally is it the pretty, photogenic kind. Most of the time it's the dusty, barren, what-the-hell-are-you-doing-trying-to-live-there kind. The plane flew over the reservoir which was obviously struggling. You could tell from the air that a healthy level was probably 80+ feet up from where it was. Yet, despite what I could only call drought conditions, I counted no less then 16 bright green golf courses on the way to the landing strip. That's probably the most awful thing I've seen in some time. I get that people want to live in a climate that isn't cold or damp, but there are plenty of places where you can do that and not try and force a desert to be something it's not. Listen, if you want to live in the desert fine, live in the desert. I have, it has it's moments. But don't live in the desert if you want to live in some other climate. Don't change the environment to your tastes, change your tastes to your environment. Maine doesn't seem to have any of that. People aren't trying to change the environment to suit them, they're more trying to eke a living out of it. Like the eccentric woman at the bookstore told me, in Maine you're either a bird or a bear. You either fly south for the Winter, or you bundle up and emerge in the Spring. I can really respect that.