Saturday, June 25, 2016

In Pennsylvania

Postcards from Maine are slightly delayed by yet another trip. We are in Bethlehem to celebrate my dad's 102nd birthday and meet his first great-grandchild, our great-nephew. Unfortunately my dad is in the hospital, since he fell earlier this week. He has a few bruises and will evaluated for physical therapy and sent to a rehab center, which will help him with walking, balance, and strength, we hope. He is getting excellent care and is in decent spirits.

At the moment I'm lounging by the pool at our wonderful inn. I enjoyed this earlier, too, after a substantial breakfast: berries and banana, cheddar cheese soufflé, toasted homemade bread, a sausage, and a cranberry scone.

I seem to like pools so much that just sitting by one can make me perfectly happy and relaxed -- no need to get wet.

We spent most of the day with my dad. He needed to be spoon-fed his lunch but, when we got to the lemon meringue pie, he took the fork from me and ate it by himself, with gusto and finesse. That's my father. He has peanut butter cups for snacks and can handle those, too. Salad, rice, meat, soup... not so much.

Soon we'll head back to the hospital for a scaled-down birthday celebration with my siblings. I hear there will be cake. In the meantime, I think I might get wet. And there are homemade cookies nearby, the best ever. When we return to Boston on Monday (after a wedding in Brooklyn), we will get back on the straight and narrow, more or less.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Postcards from Maine: That Searsport House

Every summer we get nervous as we drive through Searsport, wondering if our favorite ruined Victorian is still standing or if it's been razed, with maybe another flea market taking its place. 

This year I'm happy to say the house is still with us, if just barely:

Compare this year's photo with one I took last year:

And here's another from about five years ago:

Clearly, that "skylight addition" that recently appeared in the roof of the wing was bad luck:

A close-up:

I could peer inside the opening but there wasn't much to see, just some sort of cabinet, I think. You can see that many planks — lumber or flooring? — have spilled outside.

I have to stay several feet from the house because the weeds are tall, my legs are bare, and I fear ticks and poison ivy. I'm always in a hurry to take these pictures as my husband is parked on the other side of the highway, worrying that I'll get flattened by a car when I dash across.

I love this house. It's interesting to study its warping, caving, weathering, and other decay. But it's so sad to see it growing ever more tilted and decrepit. I used to hope someone would rescue it but I think even the most foolhardy optimist would agree that it's beyond help now.

It must have been elegant and well-kept once upon a time. Along Route 1 in Searsport, there are several outstanding, beautifully maintained 19th-century houses. This one was probably a similar jewel, more modest but perhaps more charming, too.

When we first discovered it, I considered it a "haunted house." It haunted me, anyway. But upon reflection, I don't see why ghosts would lurk around there on a regular basis; what would be the point? Ghosts seem to like company and signs of life. This house is too lonely for more than a passing visit, the kind we make on our way to Southwest Harbor.

Maine in June: Getting There

Our annual June visit to Southwest Harbor got off to a rocky start. A few days before we left, I woke up at 4 am with a painful stomach. It felt like a severe case of "nerves," but I wasn't nervous. I tried to distract myself with a book. By early afternoon, it felt more like there was a barroom brawl in my stomach, with hundreds of tiny punches being thrown. It took me part of a day to recognize it as an IBS attack, since it had been years since the last one. For me, they last days or weeks, usually with no other symptoms besides sore muscles. When a cat jumps on me, it hurts. 

I switched to bland food but it didn't do much. I took probiotics. I packed for our trip. I figured I'd look for seaweed soup on Mount Desert Island. I'd had some there once, when I was similarly ill, and it helped.

On the drive north, we stopped at our usual lunch spot in Wiscasset, a lobster shack with picnic-table seating by the water. It's right across the street from the  nationally known Red's Eat's lobster shack, which always has a long line snaking around the block. We're interested in a quick meal, and we were not impressed with Red's lobster roll the time we joined the crowd to see what the fuss was about. 

So we always go to Sprague's instead:

As you can see, the sky was ominous. It was unseasonable cold, with a damp wind whipping off the water. Not a day to sit outside and enjoy unwholesome Maine food; we were the only customers. That's me under the umbrella, trying to warm my hands on my iPhone.

We always order hot dogs with cheese. Sometimes we order fries. We are on vacation; we do as we please. They make good hot dogs, with buttered and toasted rolls. We eat our lobsters further north.

There was no bland food on the menu, so I ordered a hot dog and prepared for the consequences. 

While we waited, I dashed into a few shops nearby, mostly to warm up. There's a little antique shop on the same block as Red's with most of its inventory attached to the walls. It affects me the same way some of the surreal Brimfield displays do:

I walked out quickly, resolving to get rid of a lot of unnecessary stuff as soon as we were home.

I often see this handsome dog resting in the doorway of a stationery and book shop:

That shop's window boxes were the only summery thing going on in Wiscasset that day:

I returned to Sprague's, got my hot dog and snarfed it down. I expected the interior brawling to worsen as we continued up Route 1.Instead, I was instantly cured. I have not had one pang since.

My theory is that my family and I have somehow evolved to thrive on highly processed food and sugar. My father, who will turn 102 on Saturday, is pretty sharp (despite a number of "odd" opinions and beliefs) and is slim and in decent health . . . for 101, anyway.

His diet routinely consists of candy ("Peanut butter cups have protein!"), cake, cookies, pie, brownies, soda, Hungry Man frozen dinners, Celeste frozen pizza, deli meat, and fast food. Every cup of coffee has six spoonfuls of sugar plus sweetened, condensed milk. I forgot to mention: donuts, nut roll ("Very good for you"), TastyKakes ("All I had for lunch when I went to the one-room schoolhouse"), ice cream, and milkshakes. His supper is usually provided by my sister and often contains actual nutrients.

My father scorns my own food choices; he warns me that fresh food can be contaminated with bacteria, for example. He seems to think his freezer also functions as a sterilizer. (He also uses it as time capsule, judging from the age of things we find in there.)

If I tell him about how that hot dog settled my stomach, he will roll his eyes and remind me that my grandmother, throughout her long life, refused to order anything in a restaurant besides a hot dog. She said it was the only food she trusted to be prepared by strangers.

So it seems that, for my genes, hot dogs are medicinal. Useful to know. All the same, I am my father's daughter, so it is my nature to be contrary. Therefore I will persist in my bizarre attachment to fresh, homemade, and mostly plant-based foods. But, being my father's daughter, there must be cake and cookies, too.

In Maine, our last stop before we went to our inn was Gott's Store, one of those remarkable little places that is open almost 24 hours a day (it closes for just a few hours in the morning, planned around fishermen's work schedules). It sells a little of everything from gas and groceries to fireworks, takeout pizza (meh), and fried fish dinners (good). It's also an ice cream stand.

We always got gas there since they were the only place in the region that we knew of that had 93 octane. We were dismayed to find that they only have 91 now, but it won't stop us from going there. They do a lot of baking on the premises: thicky iced cakes, huge cookies, pies, brownies, bulging whoopie pies . . . my dad would approve.

I am most partial to their carrot cake. Last week, I bought a piece, in a plastic take-out box. I shared it with my husband and we still made it last three days. As I ate tiny forkfuls, I could almost hear my father say, "Fruits and vegetables. . . good for you!"

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

But First, Some Silly Cat Photos

I didn't think we'd done all that much on our vacation on Mount Desert Island. I really didn't think I'd taken so many photos. I'm jut about done cropping and fixing them; now I need to choose some to post here to amuse (or possibly bore) my readers.

In the meantime, here are some photos of Harris and Possum, taken just before we left for Maine, which show what good chums they are. When we travel, it's good to know that my cats have plenty of companionship without us. I feel sorry for most one-cat households. While some solitary cats don't know how to be friends with other cats, I have seen for myself how much our cats enjoy having each other around for head baths, chasing, wrestling, "borrowing" from food dishes, getting into trouble, and snuggling for naps.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I'm Back, and Unpacked. . .

. . . and I think I need a vacation.

Lots of Maine photos and stories will be coming, starting tomorrow, so please stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Maine in June

We drove up yesterday and we're so happy to be here! Lupines are everywhere, the lilacs are still out, the carrot cake they bake at Gott's Store is as good as always, and it's a good thing we brought plenty of warm clothes.

Slept like a log.

More later, including photos.