Saturday, August 22, 2009
Preface: I wrote the following last Saturday night. I didn't post it because I felt that all my posts of late have smacked of a subtle negativity. I wanted to post something "nice." I still haven't got anything particularly lovely to post, and the following was still on my mind. I gave some thought to my writing (in not so many words) that catering to "rich tourists" was something that people might regret. I realize I have issues with those of wealth (and working for them). My parents made a choice when I was eight years old to move to one of the wealthiest communities in America in order to "make money off the rich folks." I look back in time and see my childhood cut in two; eight years were relatively normal and good, the rest were hell. I listened to words of bitterness and humiliation for the entire time we lived in that wealthy town. My parents, two immensely talented, creative, and smart people, had a hard time. Using the back doors of houses, kow-towing, catering to, being treated like they were less-than. . .it took its toll. I have a knee-jerk negative reaction to depending on the whims of those with money in order to make a living. But, I realize that when I'm talking about the merits of a good ball of yarn with someone, I don't give a thought to whether that person is wealthy or not. Anyway, this is not the real point of this post. It's just a part of it, and a part that sticks in my craw. The other part, the feeling of sadness when something or some place cherished disappears, well, that's really much more important:
Eastport, Maine is a place both Dick and I have held in our thoughts with great affection. When we left our camping buddies down the coast, we were asked why we were driving another two hours to visit this town. Dick said, "It's a pilgrimage."
I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but I got what he meant, and for me, there will no more pilgrimages to Eastport in my future.
Yes, everything changes. We expected some change, because it's been a few years, but not to the extent we experienced. I felt disheartened, even heart broken.
For who knows how long, Eastport had a little funky, homey Mexican restaurant. It had Christmas lights, chili pepper lights, all sorts of lights, strewn about everywhere. Pinatas hung all over. Local and Mexican artwork graced the walls. The food was cheap, not fantastic by any means, but plentiful, and it was a really friendly place. It's now gone, replaced with a restaurant one needs reservations for. Reservations in Eastport? Unthinkable. When we walked into the half empty place and were asked if we had reservations, I was stunned, I said how we used to come up to Eastport every summer and never in a million years would have expected. . .blah blah blah. The hostess had no interest in knowing a thing about my relationship with the town. That bothered me even more than the fact that the old place was gone and it had been transformed into a yuppie paradise with a sommelier. Eastport was a town where even strangers were treated as friends to chat with in the shops, on the pier, or on the street.
There was an entire block of upscale galleries. We didn't bother going in, for we were hurrying towards a dinner we weren't to have. Instead, we wound up in a place where I got a lousy hamburger. At least it was friendly (and there was a wall full of good books to peruse). The waitress commiserated with us about the loss of the old town.
This morning, we had planned on going back into town to look at the new shops, but we woke up early and neither of us had much interest in sticking around long enough for them to open. A part of me didn't want to see the rich tourists and those catering to them again.
Some summers back a bunch of local artists had taken over some deserted storefronts for 200 bucks for the summer. A guy sold handmade scooters and surfboards out of a quonset hut. The old 5 & 10 was still up and running (if marginally), and the 19th century soda and iced cream shop was going strong. Yes, folks wanted more tourists, but I wonder if they wanted what they're gotting now. I suspect a lot of the houses have been bought up by summer people. I felt a palpable sense of have and have-not in the town. Something precious has been lost.
Down in Lubec, it's getting funkier, and prettier, too. One enchantment over and another one begins. I love downeast Maine, but I'm afraid that a good deal of its culture is vanishing.
Yeah, things change.
Photo note: Eastport, Maine 1911. These 7-12 year old boys worked at a canning factory. Read more details here. As Bob Dylan once sang "you gotta serve somebody." Seeing this image puts my parents' (and my) "hardships" in perspective.