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…?

Its character is a yard worker, sitting on the water’s edge, looking out over the harbor. Its pant legs are frayed over the top of its boots, its sweater is soiled and pulled out of shape, with a hole not large enough to discard it. And it is eating a gourmet lunch from a high-tech lunchbox.

Portland is a happy mix of old and new. The working waterfront is a real one – hauling $616,500,000 in fish every year – and, in places, it shows the wear.

Portland Wharf
Portland Wharf

The wharves and quays are home to numerous tour boat companies, ferry boat companies, tugboats, container terminals, shipyards, and yacht brokers. Then restaurants, bars, and art galleries add to the scene like fruit in your oatmeal.

The balmy summer months bring swarming schools of tourists. And every Autumn, cruise ships spill thousands of souvenirseekingleafpeepers like seahorses giving birth.

Moving up the hillside is downtown – where 18th century, federal style, buildings sit uncomfortably next to their multi-storied grandchildren. The new generation is made from a different stock; triple pained glass, brushed stainless steel, and polished basalt. The new generation stands brazenly up to their aging ancestors.

An modern city is rising from the clunky cobbled streets – which are quickly disappearing into the sinkholes of time.

Restaurants, micro-breweries, and cyber cafes are numerous. You can find the entire spectrum of fares, from every ethnicity, to every taste….even a vegan will feel comfortably out to pasture in this town.

Some culinary experts say Portland is second to only San Fransisco. If you consider its resources; the abundance of seafood within its reach, and the impressive organic farm movement dominating the land, reports like that may not be a long stretch.

Fresh local ingredients, paired with the unique New England cooking traditions; a continual rising tide of local breweries – about 40 in Maine and 22 in the Portland area alone, and you have all the elements of for a perfect storm –– although, in this case, the conditions are favorable.

As for Mainer’s, don’t let their modest demeanor fool you. They’ve been at it a long time. Hard winters have tempered their souls, and maybe calloused their hearts a tad.

But, the bounty and beauty of their land is worth defense – it’s the beauty that keeps them cheerful. Cunning characters for sure, and it dwells beneath a seemingly childish naivety. I’m certain their cheerful greeting for visitors has an underlying contempt….”Hi, welcome to Maine – when are ya leaving?”

That may be too harsh. But they are proud and happy to be called Mainers, and in the scope of things, 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, who pointed 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 go. God help ya if you find yourself heading into one of those dreadful tunnels! Without a shadow of doubt, we travel through alternate dimensions of time and space while inside those. Whether we emerge on the other side in the future or past it’s hard to say, the 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?