At The Community Boat Dock

There’s a community boat dock in Southwest Harbor, Maine.  And when they say “community,” they mean community — every square inch of mooring space is taken, and then some.

I found this completely engaged community dock curiously encouraging.  Obviously, the boaters of Southwest Harbor, with diverse crafts of all shapes, sizes, and conditions, can get together and make accommodations tthat permit their mutual use of, and benefit from, this single dock.

Who knows? Maybe there’s hope that the rest of us can do likewise.

Harbor Sunset

The day began with a sense of awesome quiet along the waterfront and ended the same way — with a beautiful color show from Mother Nature thrown in for good measure.  Peaceful, calm, tranquil — choose the synonym of your preference to describe a placid setting, add boats and salt water and wonderfully fresh seafood and locals who speak with a charming accent to the mix, and you have largely captured coastal Maine outside of Bar Harbor.  It’s a great place for a getaway vacation.

Guardian Of The Coastline

Today we checked out the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.  It’s one of dozens of lighthouses that are found along the rockbound Maine coastline — each of which has it distinctive combination of light color and lighting sequence, so experienced mariners who are at sea at night can both steer clear of the rocks and determine exactly where they are, even in the darkest hours.

At the lighthouse, you can follow a path and a steep set of wooden stairs that take you down to sea level, where intrepid tourists (like me) can climb out onto the rocky coastline to position themselves for the best photographic vantage point that will allow them to snap a seaside shot of the iconic white lighthouse.  It’s comical to see people of all ages scrambling out onto the rocks — with no guard rails or identified path — and of course many of the visitors were taking selfies, apparently oblivious to the risk they might slip as they were positioning themselves and go plunging into the ocean below.  Fortunately, no one was injured while we were there.

I appreciate the fact that the Coast Guard, which operates the lighthouse and its grounds, has left the coastline in its natural state and trusts visitors to fend for themselves.  It was fun to let the inner mountain goat out for a rocky adventure.

Dockworthy

It’s a picture-perfect day in Maine, with cool temperatures, bright blue skies and sunshine, and just enough breeze to send Old Glory flapping on the flagpole.  I took a morning walk along the rim of the harbor, where there are working wharves and docks aplenty.  For a landlubber like me, docks extending far out into the water, over the rocky shoreline and seaweed, are a source of beauty and fascination.

You don’t see docks like this in Columbus.

Dawn At The Bass Harbor Ferry Terminal

It’s a beautiful, clear morning at the Bass Harbor Ferry Terminal on Mount Desert Island.  Photographs are nice, but they can’t fully capture the totally sensory feel of this place — the cries of the gulls and other birds skimming low across the water, the salty tang of the air and its coolness against your skin, and the feel of wet grass underfoot.  It’s a good place to sit on a front porch and read on a calm Sunday morning.

Hotel LeVeque 

There’s a new hotel in downtown Columbus that’s actually pretty old.  If that sounds confusing, it’s because the LeVeque Building — since the 1920s, the most iconic building in the downtown area — has been rehabbed and converted, in part, into a hotel.  

I went to meetings at the hotel yesterday and today, and they’ve turned this Art Deco masterpiece into a pretty cool hotel.  The fixtures have been cleaned and brightened — allowing nifty Art Deco touches, like elevators with names like “health” and “prosperity,” to shine through.  The lobby area (shown below) is open and airy, and there’s a nice second-floor bar, too.  I spoke to someone who was staying at the hotel, and he said the guest rooms are great.

This is another nice step forward for downtown Columbus.  Every town needs cool hotels in the core area.

Another Potential Cultural Shift

The U.S. Census Bureau recently announced that a greater percentage of Americans are renting than at any time in the last 50 years.  According to the Bureau, in 2016 36.6 percent of the heads of households rented their place of residence — the most since 1965.  43.3 million heads of household are renters, and the percentage of renters among heads of household has increased from 31.2 percent in 2006 to 36.6 percent.

120301_24b_forrent-crop-rectangle3-largeWhy are we seeing these shifts?  The authors of the Census Bureau study attribute the movement toward renting to lingering concerns about owning a home stemming from the Great Recession, rising house prices, and young people who are so burdened by student loan debt that they simply can’t afford to purchase a home.  Millennials are the most likely to rent their place of residence:  in 2016, 65 percent of heads of household under age 35 are renters.  And there may be other factors at play, like the potential difficulties of selling a home in an economy where you might need to pick up stakes and move to another city in order to advance in your career.  Who wants to be saddled with a house, and fretting about whether you can sell it, under those circumstances?

I’ve got no doubt that these factors, and others, are contributing to the movement toward renting.  In my experience, young people these days are a lot more thoughtful and analytical about their housing decisions than was the case with people of my generation.  We were raised on concepts of the American Dream in which owning your own home was a fundamental part of the puzzle, and as a result the decision to buy a house was almost a reflexive, automatic act.  Now it seems that people generally, and young people specifically, are more carefully weighing their options and concluding that, for many, renting makes a lot more sense — whether it is because of a desire to be flexible, or because renting often allows them to live closer to their workplaces and areas that offer lots of social activities, or because living in an apartment building can provide a kind of ready-built community, or because of concerns about getting stuck with an overpriced house, or something else.  It’s one of the reasons why, in Columbus, the rental market is exceptionally hot and people are building new rental units left and right.

We may be seeing a shift in cultural norms, away from defining success as owning a tidy home in the suburbs and mowing your lawn every Saturday during the summer.  If, like me, you’re not a fan of suburban sprawl and would like to see our existing city areas revitalized, the movement toward renting is not a bad thing.