We had a pretty mellow, casual day on Saturday the 17th. We eschewed breakfast (ha! pun!) for an early start, and took Route 1 south to Saco. Saco itself is a really neat historic old town. I’ve only ever been through there – next visit I want to take a pause and explore a little. The downtown area has been rather revamped lately; they seem to have done a great job.
We took the turn down 208 to Route 9, and wended our way towards Kennebunkport. We just cruised through the UNBELIEVABLY CROWDED little town (mostly trying to get at The Clam Shack, it looked like), as we just really wanted to see how long it would take us, at a leisurely pace, to get there from our hotel (about an hour).
We took 9A up to Kennebunk, then caught I95 in Biddeford. At that point I got a call from my sister Wendy, asking if Bill and I would like to join them for a couple of hours at Tripp Pond, up by their house. So we hit the 495 and rolled on up to the Gray exit, then cut over on 115 to Windham for a bit of lunch at Charlie Beigg’s. Then we battled through the lake traffic headed up the 302 (everyone was headed to Sebago on such a hot, sunny day), then cut off at the 85 to hit the 11 in Poland.
Don’t you just love how I’m giving you all the route numbers? Trust me, I’m keeping it simple. Most of these roads are referred to by more than one number. For instance, the 302 is also the 35, until it turns into the 121 up by the town of Raymond. The 115 is also Route 4, Route 202, and eventually 35. There are so many different ways, and so many different back roads, that lead to where you’re going. The flippin’ Atlas & Gazetteer is a godsend.
Following my niece Sable’s “you can’t miss it” directions (aided by the map), we easily located the group of them at the pond’s edge. It amuses me that what passes for a “pond” in Maine is easily a “lake” in Arizona.
We were immediately greeted by my oldest nephew, Lucian, who barely paused long enough for a hello and a hug before he was drooling over the Camaro. Not unexpected for a car-obsessed sixteen year old boy. We came upon the rest of the kids first – Sable (almost 18), Ethan (14), and Tristan (11), and we all exchanged hugs. I was doing a pee-pee dance by that time, so I just gave my sister a quick hug and waved a hi to the rest of the gang (my sister’s husband, his sister, and HER husband… got that?) before I followed the trail down to the porta-potty. Then I headed back to the beach and we all sat and gabbed for a few hours. Most folks were in and out of the water (like bath water, it was), but since I didn’t bring my suit I just contented myself with wading a bit along the shore.
At one point we were joined by Gary (one of Wendy’s friends) and his kids. It took a while for Wendy to convincingly explain how it was, exactly, that I was her sister. “Naw!” he kept saying, “You don’t have a sister!” To which I responded with, “Oh I assure you, she does.” I guess his family used to be neighbors with my grandparents, back when they owned a chicken farm in Upper New Gloucester (not the house I grew up in). He knew Wendy when she was little, but this was before I came along (Wendy and I have different fathers), and they lost touch for quite some time in between, so that when they reconnected, I’d already grown up and moved to Arizona. When we finally got it straightened around, he asked who my father was. My sister got an odd look on her face, but responded with, “Sid. You know Sid.”
“Oh, SID! That rascal!” Gary waxed enthusiastic – apparently my father and his dad were cronies back in the day. Since Wendy has a less than positive history with my father, her step-father, and since I wouldn’t know him if I fell over him, it was an awkward interlude. Gary, bless him, seemed to be completely oblivious of the discomfort. And told me several times that I look just like my father. Which made Wendy grimace.
Don’t know why. It’s true.
Anyway, after that it was a lot of conversation about politics. Wendy and her husband George are both red hot Republicans, and very conservative… in their political views, at least. With Wendy the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen in Poland, and George her avid and involved supporter, it’s never very hard to turn the conversation to politics. When we wore that subject out, George and Gary started entertaining us with tales of their misspent youth. The running theme seemed to be the manners in which they pulled one over on the authorities.
The afternoon was waning by the time we said our goodbyes, and we firmed up the plans to pick Wendy up on Tuesday morning for our trip to Bar Harbor. Then Bill and I headed back to Gray to hop the interstate back down to Portland. We parked, headed up to our room to freshen up, then got dolled up for another evening down in the Old Port. We took the hotel shuttle this time, and were dropped off on Commercial Street right in front of J’s Oyster.
The place was a madhouse. Completely packed. We put our names in and tried to stand out of the way as best we could in the tiny, crowded little place. After about twenty minutes we were seated at the same little table by the door that we sat in every time we’d visited back in ’07. It was a happy coincidence that just served to amp up the warm fuzzy mood we were already in.
We started with the chilled lobster cocktail, which was delicious. Bill ordered the king crab legs. And, you know, I should have take a picture of just how absolutely, joyfully gleeful Bill gets with a plate full of crab legs at J’s. Like a kid at Christmas. Blissfully happy, nearly giggling. Yes, giggling. Bill. Instead, he took pictures of me. And said that Heather owes him.
See those people sitting behind me? They had to be the most fucking ANNOYING people I’ve ever had to endure. Loud. Repetitive (something about how one of them fell into a lake or something – you’d think I’d remember the details, since they repeated the whole story, at the top of their lungs, seventy times). Drunk. Did I mention loud? Thankfully, they left when we were about half-way through our meal. I also entertained myself by speculating on the story of the older couple sitting near us (whom I was looking at in the first picture up there of me), at the end of the oyster bar. I caught dribs and drabs of conversation – apparently he’s a career man in the Merchant Marines, nearing retirement. They were just so sweet with each other, so obviously in love, that I wanted to walk over and introduce myself just so I could know them. Much to Bill’s relief (I mentioned the urge to him), I didn’t.
I had myself a lobster roll, and shucked the steamed littleneck clams (“steamers”) that came with Bill’s meal. I set them all to soak in the broth, then dunked one in butter and made Bill try it. Which, to my surprise, he did – he doesn’t usually eat something when I try to make him. He LOVED it. Apparently, it was not what he was expecting at all. I advised him not to LOOK at the clams he’s eating, just stick ’em in his mouth and chew. Apparently, I shall be responsible for all future clam shucking and turtleneck removal (“turtleneck” is what we called the membrane on the neck of the clam when we were little, which needs to be removed before eating and is, quite frankly, gross stuff to have stuck under your fingernails).
After we were stuffed, we departed J’s and wandered around in the twilight for a little while, taking pictures.
Then we made a beeline for Bull Feeney’s (they don’t seem to have a website up at the moment, but here’s their Twitter), a Scottish pub with the largest selection of single malt scotch whisky outside of Scotland. As an aside, did you know that if it’s Scotch it’s spelled “whisky”, and if it’s Irish or American it’s spelled “whiskey”? I looked, on their menu (which I kept a copy of as a keepsake) which features all types (heaviest on the scotch, of course), and they got it right. As I expected they would. Anyway, every time I walk in that place (and I’ve been there a few times!) I want to just move in and never leave. All the old wood, exposed beams, fascinating angles. The quality of light that’s a photographer’s dream. And a downright jolly staff. I asked permission, and spent some solid time wandering around, taking pictures.
We befriended Joe, our bartender, and he encouraged our selection of an Islay single malt scotch – Ardbeg Limited Release, which tasted like sucking on a peat bog, but in a strangely delicious way. I stuck pretty loyally throughout our vacation to the Shipyard Summer Ale, and Bill to the Shipyard Export.
The… troubador? Minstrel? Dude singing Irish drinking songs in a Scottish pub, kept everyone entertained and singing along. One in particular sticks in my mind, something about a woman who thought she was a queen, and the audience shouts out, “and she was!” Can’t seem to track it down via Google. I’d… uh, had a few.
Oh, we just had such a wonderful time. I’d go back there right this second, if I could.