Portland

The balmy summer months in Portland, bring schools of swarming tourists. And every Autumn, cruise ships spill thousands of souvenir–seeking–leaf-peepers onto the city like pregnant seahorses.

What does Portland, Maine compare to…?

It sits like a yard worker, at the water’s edge, looking out over the harbor, with pant legs frayed over the top of its boots, wearing a sweater soiled and pulled out of shape, with holes not large enough to discard it. And it is eating a gourmet lunch from a high-tech lunchbox.

Portland is a mixture of old and new. The wharves and quays are home to numerous fishing boats, tour companies, ferry boat companies, tugboats, container terminals, and shipyards. And restaurants, bars, yacht brokers, condos, and art galleries add to the juxtaposition like fruit in your oatmeal.

Portland Wharf
Portland Wharf

The balmy summer months bring swarming schools of tourists. Some arrive by land, others by sea. Whether they came from Canada or the States, the journey was long, even aboard ferries arriving from Nova Scotia.

In Autumn, the cruise ships dominate the east end of town, spewing thousands of leaf peepers out like immense seahorses giving birth.

Moving up the hillside, downtown is perched – like a mythical Osprey in its nest of tangled twigs. Here 18th century federal style buildings reside uncomfortably beside their multi-storied grandchildren – the proud new generation  made from; triple pained glass, brushed stainless steel, and polished basalt. They stands brazenly up to their aging ancestors.

A modern city is rising from the clunky streets, which are  disappearing into the sinkholes of time.

Restaurants, micro-breweries, and cyber cafes are numerous. You can find an entire spectrum of fares from every ethnicity on the globe, satisfying every taste. Even a vegan will find an adequate pasture to graze in this town.

Some culinary experts say Portland is second to only San Fransisco. A bold proclamation, but if you consider its resources; the abundance of seafood at its reach, as well as an impressive organic farm movement dominating the land, reports like that are not far stretched.

As for Mainer’s, don’t let their modest demeanor fool you. Hard winters have tempered the constitution of their hearts.

The bounty and beauty of this land keeps them cheerful – but cunning characters for sure, and they dwell beneath veil of childish naivety.

Their greeting to visitors is, “Hi, welcome to Maine” – but I’m certain their smiles have underlying contempt.

Am I being harsh? Maybe.

They are happy to be called, Mainer’s. And they live in a state where the rural beauty remains relatively intact. Ranked the 41 least populated in the country, their pride may be rooted in the knowledge that not many can say that.



Boston

The streets of Boston were obviously not designed by a zealot of Roman order.

The streets of Boston were obviously not designed by a zealot of Roman order.

In fact, I’m fairly certain it was a drunken vicar standing atop some hillside, pointing with his finger to where things ought to go, between sips of his Guinness.

Nine days in Bean Town and I still can’t find my way back to the inn without help from my cellphone. A tardy lane change will send you on a sightseeing tour of the city – and never again will I find the original route I intended to take.

God help ya if you find yourself heading down into one of those dreadful tunnels! Without doubt, we travel through alternate dimensions of time and space while inside those. If we emerge the other side in the past or the future, it’s hard to say, this city is so cluttered old and new.

More photosBut what a charming city, really.

Much of old Boston still exists at the base of the new skyscrapers. Their sturdy brick walls, embellished with painted white cornices, seem to ground the vulgarity of glass and seemingly frame-less architecture of the modern buildings standing beside them. Towering over their heads, the modern edifices might otherwise float up off the ground, if not for the tradition embedded firmly beside them.

I like to sit along the promenades bordering the harbor near the Aquarium, where the city provides plenty of comfortable seating in the form of teak chairs and benches. A great place to relax and whittle away  an entire day watching the boats passing by. I ponder what the harbor might have looked like a hundred years ago, when the schooners, coming and going from the wharves, carried more than sightseers taking selfies.

A few blocks from the water is the Boston Public Market. A must see for anyone’s list of must see’s.  Indoors, the place is lively with vendors, selling everything from ice cream to salami. While outside, a sprawling Farmer’s Market surrounds the building under canopy of tents. Here the you can find anything from handcrafted cheeses to cured meat products, local honey, seafood, or rabbit. The variety is a little bewildering. And the mixture of fruits and vegetables match the diversity of people who go there to shop.

Boston is modern multicultural city, indeed…and it is reflected in the food offered on the maze of tables residing within the shade of the Farmer’s Market.


Newport RI

Newport is an amazing place. It’s impressive because of its expansive green lawns; abundance of cemeteries; huge mansions; big trees; mega yachts; and one of the largest registered collection of 18th century buildings in the nation…It also has the longest damn stoplights I’ve ever waited on!

This entry was easy – I thought the entire thing out while waiting at a stoplight.

Newport is an amazing place. It’s impressive because of its expansive green lawns, many being expansive cemeteries; huge mansions; big trees; mega yachts; and one of the largest registered collection of 18th century homes in the nation…It also has the world’s longest stoplights!

If you come to Newport – watch your speed. All the main thoroughfares are 25mph, and the cops have them very well canvased. Don’t let your wait at the last light effect the weight of your foot, because they’re waiting, examining your patients….scrutinizing your virtue.

When you look into the history of Newport, it’s truly inspiring. Founded in 1639, the town rose to the most prominent on the eastern seaboard through sequences of incredible adversity. It remains a shimmering jewel of business and culture, even though the guise of tourism is beginning to dominate parts of town and foul it’s wharves.

But it’s consoling to think it will be a long time before the developers completely excavate the historical dirt from under it – its story runs too deep.

IMG_2418 copy
The 12 meter, Enterprise, looking a little neglected.

I’m here looking for work. Newport never lost its place as the pinnacle of the yachting world here on the eastern seaboard – even after the America’s Cup sailed off the horizon.

I dutifully do my rounds, twice a day, visiting the Newport Shipyard and the Melville Boat Basin, hoping to stumble on that boat in need of a captain. Although the task is fraught with disappointment, the chore is nothing short of totally enjoyable.

The industry changed considerably since the days I walked the deck. It’s become a formalize and sterile process of polished resumes and a sea chest of necessary credentials. Disheartening as much as promising, I guess. But it appears as though only the rock stars are now now getting the work. I’m feeling a bit like tarnished binnacle in Garmin Electronics store.

What’s promising is, the industry has exploded. What was considered a big yacht in my day is now mediocre. The port is vibrant and full of life. 130′ yachts are worked on in sheds, and the advances in design confirm the promise we’re going to space.

I’m experiencing pangs of regret for leaving the industry when I did. And I’m sure that working on the boats still has all the downfalls it had back then. But I still feel sorry I didn’t stay harnessed in…never leave the boat, as it’s said – eh?