IMG_4345On a pretty little island off the coast of Maine, you would not expect to find a graffiti-scarred, overgrown and abandoned concrete edifice — but on Peaks Island you will find Battery Steele.

It’s there because of World War II.  It’s a huge, sprawling gun battery site, pointed out to the open sea, apparently to be used if German U-boats or the Nazi fleet threatened the Portland, Maine harbor.  It is a massive concrete installation with a long tunnel that probably stored ammunition and other supplies.  At one time it must have been powered with overhead lighting and been bustling with activity.

IMG_4334The war ended almost 70 years ago, and the threat of Nazi attack was fleeting.  The government long ago abandoned Battery Steele. Owned by the Peaks Island Land Preserve, you find the installation by walking down a meandering path through a bog, ultimately to reach this grotesque, gray intrusion into the natural landscape.

It is a very creepy place with a strong post-apocalyptic feel to it, like a setting from The Road Warrior.  The sweeping gray concrete walls have proven irresistible to graffiti artists.  Without lighting, the long central tunnel is pitch black and looks like the pathway to hell.  The resulting, unsettling sense of lawlessness has you looking over your shoulder, half-expecting to see the Humongous and his gang of psychopaths come charging out of one of the concrete doors.

On our visit yesterday, there were no rampaging gangs, and the birds chirped and the insects buzzed.  Still, we couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there.IMG_4341

Rockin’ Roll

If you come to Maine, you are obligated by custom, and possibly state law, to consume at least one lobster roll.  If you are a visitor with any taste and decency, you’ll have at least one a day until your visit ends.

IMG_4305What makes a good lobster roll?  Well, lobster, of course.  Because you’re in Maine, the lobster meat must be absolutely fresh and just plucked out of the shell, and claws, and tail.  And not little shards of lobster, either.  I’m talking large, hulking chunks of dripping sea-scented goodness.

I like a lobster roll that doesn’t go overboard on the mayonnaise, too.  Mayo is mayo.  You need a little to bind the concoction together, but no rational person is going to prefer the taste of mayo to the succulence of lobster.  Add some arugula and put it in a freshly baked slit-top bun with a very generous portion of lobster meat spilling out of the top, and voila!  You’ve got your classic lobster roll.

Here on Peaks Island you can get a lobster roll prepared in precise conformity with these specifications just about anywhere that serves food.  They rock, and I’m thinking I might have one for breakfast.

It’s All Good On Peaks Island

IMG_4297The pace here on Peaks Island is slow, and therefore delightful.  A bike ride around the perimeter of the island exposes the relaxed traveler to some beautiful scenes and some whimsical ones, too.  You ride your rental bike, stand on the pedals to get up the bigger inclines, feel like a kid again in doing so, and feel the tension melt away.

This is a good place to relax.  I’ll be posting a few photos of this lovely place over the next few days, in hopes of conveying a little bit about what it feels like to be here.

Made It, Worth It

IMG_4259After a mad travel day that featured a canceled flight, rerouting to Boston, a rental car drive through the strip mall area around Logan Airport and then up the east coast to Portland, Maine, and a mad dash to try to catch the Casco Bay Lines ferry to Peaks Island, I finally met up with Russell for the ferry ride and we were greeted by Kish at the Peaks Island dock.

Sometimes travel days can suck; it’s just the world we live in.  But when your ultimate destination is a good one, with family members and a lobster dinner waiting and sunsets like this to awe you at the end of the day’s journey, it’s worth it.

Those Soul-Deadening Travel Delays

The flight from Columbus to Dulles left on time and arrived early.  It left me plenty of time to take the train over to C Concourse to catch my connecting flight.  I wanted to get an early start on my holiday, and specifically picked early flights so as to avoid any travel snags, so all was working according to plan.

IMG_4248The screen at the gate showed an on-time departure.  Sitting in C Concourse, I heard the United Airlines rep explain that we would be boarding in groups.  And, then, with no warning or explanation, disaster struck.  The flight, which was supposed to leave at 8 a.m., was delayed until 1 p.m. for “aircraft servicing.”  Huh?  How did the need for servicing come up so suddenly, and on an early morning flight?  Wasn’t the need for “servicing” apparent more than 30 minutes before departure?

So now I’m stuck in the Dulles C Concourse, experiencing all of the soul-deadening elements of an aging American airport — lame food selections, cheap naugahyde seats, bad music on the intercom, a couple changing their baby’s diaper two seats over, and an unreconstructed hippie woman strumming a guitar in the waiting area.  I guess I’m just lucky she didn’t say we should all join in for a “singalong thing,” or a number of us would have had to give in to the urging of our inner Bluto from Animal House.

How has Edward Snowden managed to do this for weeks now?  The only good thing about this delay is that it will make the vacation all the sweeter — if I ever get there.

Cleaning Out The Super Satchel

About 20 years ago, we bought a set of black luggage — hanging bag, enormous suitcase, smaller suitcase . . . and a little carry bag.  Two decades later, only the little bag is still be used.  And used, and used, and used.

IMG_4242I suppose you could call it a man-purse, but I call it a satchel.  It is the perfect travel accessory, and has been my faithful companion on countless journeys.  It’s made of some kind of nylon material that would have been called a miracle fabric back in the ’60s.  It’s light and ridiculously durable, capable of being stuffed to bursting with a laptop, books, files, stray documents, an iPad, or all of the above.  You can drop it, plop it, and toss it, without any damage or tearing.  It has a large main zipper section, a smaller zipper section that adequately carries pens, a collapsible umbrella, plug-in cords, aspirin packets, and other items, a side zipper pocket where you can stash your plane tickets, travel itinerary, and other papers, and a pouch where you can put the morning newspaper you get at most hotels.  With a shoulder strap and handles for hand carrying, it’s versatile and easy to carry even when you have your hands full.

It’s been so dependable for 20 years that I don’t even think about it.  And, as a result, it’s slowly accumulated random debris that has made a lightweight bag into a middleweight.  Today I decided to clean it out, and here is a partial list of what I found:  More than 35 pens of various shapes, sizes, and functionality, including the kind that helpfully explode when experiencing the pressure changes that occur on airplanes.  Two pen caps that have lost their mate.  A made in China “shoe mitt” provided by a defunct hotel chain.  An “Off!” Deep Woods towelettes packet that has undergone some kind of internal chemical reaction and swelled to the point it looks like a pillow.  Four tickets from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum dates June 30, 2005.  A “calling card” from the early days of the Bush Administration issued by a company that was acquired by a competitor in 2007.  A business card from a person I have no recollection of ever meeting.

All of this has been removed and pitched.  The satchel now feels feather light.  It’s ready to serve for another 20 years . . . at least.

At A Beijing Subway Station

More than 1.3 billion people live in China, and more than 20 million live in Beijing.  What is it like to live and work in Beijing?  This video of the morning rush hour at one of the Beijing subway stations gives you an idea of what happens when a lot of people try to get into a train to get to work.

You look at this short video and you wonder:  if it is this cramped and jammed outside the train, what must it be like inside the train?

Weiner Comes Cleaner

Hey, that Anthony Weiner sure was a busy and hard-charging fellow!  He’s now admitted that, even after he resigned from Congress in disgrace for lying about sending sex-soaked texts, he sent additional sex-related photos and texts to a woman he met on-line.

That’s exactly why Anthony Weiner would be such a great Mayor for New York City!  When he’s decided on a course of action, he’ll continue to pursue it, no matter the devastating consequences!  And, unlike some of the old fogey candidates in the race, Anthony Weiner knows all about social media.  Why, he even uses social media sites few people have heard of, like Formspring.  Who better to identify with the youth of New York City than someone so adept at delving into all of the ways that the internet can be used for meaningful interpersonal communication?

Well, his wife Huma Abedin — who’s also a politico — says she’s forgiven him for his many indiscretions and worked hard to put their marriage back together.  They’re moving forward, she says — so why shouldn’t New York City move forward with them?  C’mon, Gothamites — how can you hold anything against a guy who’s apologized multiple times for engaging in weird, self-destructive, bizarro behavior?  If he’s elected and makes the kinds of mistakes that mayors typically make, you can at least be sure that he knows how to apologize for his stupid stunts.

It is an absolute embarrassment not only for New York City, but for anyone in America, that a person like Anthony Weiner is running for mayor of a major American city.  He was actually contending in some polls before these most recent revelations.  Seriously, how can anybody even be considering voting for this guy? Doesn’t character count for anything anymore?  Wake up, NYC!