Why I Love Maine

Effective July 1, I am retired (from full time work, at least), which allowed me to spend two wonderful weeks in Maine — my favorite of all places.

As my friends know, I love Maine. From the first time I visited, it beckoned, and it’s difficult for me to express in words why, precisely.  How do I love Maine?  Let me count the ways.

Clearly, Maine is beautiful, but it’s also full of surprises.  Every time you turn a corner, the vista takes on a totally different feel.  Turn this corner and you see the lobster boats on a charming bay, turn another corner and you’re seeing crashing surf, then go a bit farther and you’re suddenly on a rural road with no water visible — and how did that happen?  Maine has one of the longest coastlines in America, and its craggy shoreline has countless ins and outs — bays within coves within bays, separated by peninsulas and points and inlets.  Any walk or drive is likely to be one of discovery of a new favorite place.

I also love Maine for its “off the beaten path” feel.  Tourists come here, sure, but  I could count on one hand the times I’ve experienced tourist-claustrophia.  And, once you get back to your carefully selected cottage (having spent days on vrbo.com finding just the right place), the world seems far away.

I love Maine’s apparent lack of pretension.  Even the largest homes often have a certain ramshackle feel.  In fact, you really can’t even see many coastal homes in Maine.  They are down some dusty or gravelly winding path off the main rural road (usually with a name denoted by some handmade sign — another thing I love), and you can just imagine the places filled with Grandma’s castoffs and treasured family heirlooms.

I love the “unself-consciousness” of Maine.  Very few women wear makeup, which is liberating.  I love the authentically beautiful look of many Maine women — that patrician look, with naturally gray hair wrapped in a bun and the unadorned weathered face that tells the story of a life well-lived.   When I come to Maine, I feel freed from cosmetics, hair curlers, and “beauty” accessories.   (A friend calls this her “lake look.”)  It takes me about 10 minutes to pack for a trip to Maine –and that’s a good thing.

I love Maine because it’s cool.  I spent the two hottest weeks of the summer there without one day of air conditioning, and I was supremely comfortable every moment.  In Ohio, I would have been cranky beyond words.

I recently read a novel set in Maine, and the author wrote that “Maine is meant for quiet contemplation.”  How true.  When I come to Maine I don’t feel compelled to visit a list of places and museums.  I hang out, read, and enjoy the simplicity of spending time in a place with great views with none of the household or mental clutter of home and ‘to do’ lists. Maybe I’m a slug — but that’s the vacation I like best.

I’m not naive.  I’m sure many will think I’m glamorizing a location that has a robust season of three months tops (some say two) and rugged winters that likely would send me fleeing.  But for whatever reason, if you give me two weeks to spend anywhere in the United States, I’ll take Maine, hands down.

After all is said and done, we all are looking for a place that touches a chord within us, and when we find that place its imperfections become charming asides.  Places speak to people, and Maine speaks to me.

An Administration In Need Of A Cleveland Sports Fan

People on different parts of the political spectrum can argue about whether President Obama’s approach to the economy has been wise or foolhardy, and whether it’s avoided even more misery or is making things worse, but I bet we can all agree on one thing:  the Administration’s forecasts of the impact of its policies have turned out to be wildly optimistic.

The Administration predicted that the stimulus bill would move unemployment rate markedly lower; that didn’t happen.  It said we would have “recovery summers” in 2010 and 2011; that didn’t happen either.  Its forecasts of budget deficits, the costs of legislation like the Affordable Care Act, the losses likely to be incurred as a result of the GM bailout, and the success of “green energy” investments in companies like Solyndra also have been way off base.  (We can argue about why the forecasts haven’t been realized, and how much of the blame should be allocated to the Bush Administration, “obstructionism” by House Republicans, or other factors.  My point is simply that the Administration’s projections have consistently fallen far short of the ultimate reality.)

That’s why the Administration should hire a Cleveland sports fan to review future forecasts and predictions.  Anyone who lived through The Drive, The Fumble, and the Indians’ loss in the 1997 World Series knows that overconfidence kills and the wise course is to grimly steel yourself for the worst imaginable misfortune.  The fan would have counseled our newly elected President to dial back the projections of great success, build lots of pessimistic assumptions into the predictive models, and talk endlessly about the extraordinarily difficult challenges presented by the bad economy.  If actual performance then exceeded the dramatically reduced expectations, the difference could be chalked up to the fact that the President’s programs have been even more successful that we hoped.

I wonder if the hiring of a snakebit Cleveland fan hasn’t happened already.  After the awful job creation statistics of the past few months, expectations were reduced to zilch.  When the latest statistics were released yesterday, and the creation of a measly 170,000 or so new jobs was announced, people acted like it was a cause for celebration.  It was a very Cleveland moment.

Columbus And Columbia, Linked At The Gateway Arch

Although Richard is hundreds of miles away, we’re still linked by I-70, the east-west highway running through the middle of the country.  Yesterday we left Columbia, got on I-70, drove eight hours or so on that same road, passed the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis, and exited in Columbus.  It’s oddly comforting to know that we are joined by that continuous strip of asphalt and concrete rolling through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.