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.

I’m certain their smiles have underlying contempt.Their greeting to visitors is,”Hi, welcome to Maine”, but really they’re asking, “When are you leaving?”

Am I being harsh? Maybe.

They are proud to be called, Mainer’s. Ranked the forty-first least populated state in the country, perhaps their pride is rooted in the knowledge that so few Americans 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 certain it was a drunken vicar, standing atop some hillside pointing his finger – between sips of his Guinness – to where he thought things ought to go .

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 around the entire city – to never again find the original route you intended to take.

….and God have pity on you if you find yourself heading into one of those dreadful tunnels!

More photosTHOUGH, REALLY, what a charming city.

Much of old Boston still exists at the base of the new skyline. Their sturdy brick walls ground the vulgarity of glass and seemingly frame-less architecture standing beside them.

I frequently sit along the many promenades bordering the harbor, and I particularly like to so near the Aquarium. The city graciously provides lots of teak chairs and benches for comfortable seating. A great way to whittle down an entire day. Watching the boats pass by, I ponder what the harbor might might have looked like a hundred years ago, when the schooners carried more than sightseers taking selfies.

A few blocks inland is the Boston Public Market – a must for anyone’s list of must see’s.  Vendors, selling everything from ice cream to salami, inhabit the main building, while outside, a sprawling Farmer’s Market thrives under a canopy of tents. You find handcrafted cheeses, cured meat, local honey, seafood, or rabbit, all displayed with loving care from the vendors. The variety is bewildering. And the diversity of people shopping is as profuse as the products being sold.

Boston is a modern, multicultural, city, indeed…But its tradition remains solid in the brick and grout.


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 – it was written while waiting at a stoplight.

Newport is an amazing place. Geographically, it resembles Manhattan, perched on an exclusive finger of land surrounded by water.

Its prominent features include; expansive lawns; historic cemeteries; mansions; big trees; mega yachts; the largest registered collection of 18th century homes in the nation, AND the world’s longest stoplights… What is it about those stoplights???

When driving into Newport – watch your speed. Each of the two thoroughfares into town have 25mph speed limits, and the cops have them well covered.

Don’t let losing a good part of your life, waiting for the last stoplight to change, affect the weight of your foot, because someone is likely measuring your patients and virtue with a speed gun.

Looking at Newport’s history truly inspires. Founded in 1639, it rapidly became the wealthiest port on the eastern seaboard, and did so through adversity, and not always scrupulous ventures.

Its rapid growth of wealth included production of Sperm whale oil (where its use originated), rum  distilleries, and more than 60% of the slave trade came and went from her wharves…And much of it illegally.

Today, tourism dominates portions of town. The quays that once thrived with the most lucrative commerce in the country, are now fouled with sightseeing cruises and tourist shops.

Yet, at its core, there remains prominent examples of business and culture. It will take the developers a long time to completely excavate the historic dirt from beneath her feet – the story runs too deep.

IMG_2418 copy
The 12 meter, Enterprise, looking a little neglected.
I am here looking for work.

Newport remains the apex of the American yachting scene even though the America’s Cup sailed off over the horizon in 1983.

I do my rounds, twice a day, visiting the Newport Shipyard and Melville’s Boat Basin, with hopes I stumble on a boat that needs a skipper. The routine is fraught with disappointment – but the task is nothing but pleasurable.

The yachting industry changed considerably since my days as a yachty. It became highly polished and regulated. Resumes, and a sea chest of credentials, is what’s required to find a job. In my day, it was a good sense of humor and the ability to out drink whoever it was was hiring you.

Are today’s requirements necessary? I don’t recall too many accidents or stories about lost property. I find it all disheartening to be honest. Only rock stars get the work today…and not many of them built for sea, from what I see. I’m feeling like an old  binnacle decorating the corner of some state of the art electronics store.

Got any Brasso?

On a promising note – the industry exploded.

What was considered a big boat in my time is today mediocre. The port is vibrant, and full of life. 130′ yachts are worked on regularly in every shed. Some of the advanced designs are hideous –they confirm we’re heading for space, while other yachts are hybrids, combining the old world with the new. Wonderful!

I often feel regret for leaving the industry when I did. Working on yachts was fun, but it had its down side…. I need to remember I left for a reason.