Thursday, July 3, 2014

5 unexpected things I saw in Maine

See how I did that?  Aren't you excited to read stuff in list form?  Don't you wish I was including gifs?

1.  My first "open carry" event: I'll start with this one because it was the most shocking.  There I was walking down a mostly empty side street in Portland on a mostly dead Sunday evening, and I came up upon a grill, a table of condiments, and a crew of burly men in jungle fatigues with no military insignia holding very, very large guns.  And I kept my head down and walked quickly by, because that's what a couple decade of city living has taught me to do when confronted with men with weapons.  In the scheme of unsettling things, this event was less unsettling that participating in a small anti-War on Terror protest in Chicago while surrounded by five times our number of police in full riot gear, but more unsettling than seeing a lone guy with a gun running down the street in Chicago.

2.  A street preacher with a small cadre of supporters who looked like they were straight out of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (I would say The Hills Have Eyes if I was being snarky).  White guy, black suit, leather Bible, small speaker: I have certainly never seen anything like it in Maine.

3.  LB frolicking on the beach and in the ocean.  I had hoped this day would come, but I was trying to practice radical detachment.  With the help of a slightly older young role model, LB did amazing and had a great time.  And I went swimming in the ocean (temp: somewhere around 60 degrees F) and it was glorious.

4.  Extreme and annoying crowds: I know this is the summer story in some parts of Maine, but my Maine just off Portland has always been pretty sleepy.  Now it seems to be all rampaging golf carts, drunken daytrippers, and just about everyone ever if you happen to walk down Commercial Ave. in Portland.  It made me cranky.  Even though those people pay the bills and I'm mostly a summer person, I've seen my Maine in hurricanes, during the Storm of the Century, on the 6:15am ferry, and I want some GD peace and quiet.

5. A young black man (of Kenyan heritage) on our bus headed back to University of Maine at Machias (in far northern Maine).  He had an ass-long trip ahead of him.  Some 25 years ago, my boss was dating "the only black plumber in Maine," and a respected regional children's author told me "Well dear, at least the white people still have Maine." Things have changed for the better, I think, although often slowly and painfully.  And, I suppose, better isn't much of a measure against that latter comment.  But, Machias.  I cannot imagine what it's like to be a black man in Machias (in 2013 there were about 7,000 white undergrads at the school and 173 black undergrads or .5% by my calculation.  In Maine as a whole, 1.3% of the pop identified as black or African American in 2012).

And while I'm on the topic of being black in Maine, Black Girl in Maine is a great blog.

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