A couple of months ago, as summer came into full bloom, I was invited to play in a charity golf tournament one Tuesday which culminated in a party at the organizing family’s camp on Cobbossee Lake.
Jumping at the opportunity to go “upta camp,” if not the act of putting my mediocre golfing abilities on display at 9:00 a.m. on a weekday morning, I signed up. The golf went about as well as I had anticipated.
Afterwards, at the post-game gathering, I found myself unexpectedly attending a celebration of life for someone I’d never met. The recently departed man’s husband – who was from away – told of the couple’s early interactions, and in particular his first visit to this state, including what they described in a tongue-in-cheek manner as the “who-gives-a-[…] tour of Maine,” where he was shown around all the significant places of the deceased’s daily life here.
It made me think back to a few years ago, when I gave a similar tour to a friend visiting Brisbane from the U.S. At the time, I lived in an apartment close to the city, so I figured a peek at the suburbs might be somewhat interesting to my visitor. It probably wasn’t, but my friend was probably too polite to say so.
In a few days’ time, I’ll be giving my own “who-gives-a-[…] tour” of central Maine to my mother, who arrives on Friday night for the first time. Obviously, my tour of the locations that have made up my day-to-day existence here will be a shorter one than, say, the one I’ll give The Girlfriend when we eventually get back to Australia for a visit, since I’ve only been here for a little under two years.
But there are a few parallels that can be drawn between both tours, such as:
My first house: Back in Australia, that’d be the one-level brick home on Silvertop Street. In Augusta, that was a studio apartment in the back of a three-story home one block from Sewell Street. I know that if I drove past 65 Silvertop Street today, it would barely be recognizable as the house I grew up in. My first Augusta digs haven’t changed as much, although I did notice a couple of weeks ago that my landlord now has one sharp-looking boat in the driveway. I’ll probably also get a chuckle (from myself) and a gasp of disapproval (from her) when we go past a certain building near the Memorial Bridge where I almost signed up for an apartment back in 2013. Yeah, it’s boarded up now.,
My first workplace: Despite Australian employment laws, I started working at the tender age of 14 at McDonald’s in Arana Hills, about a mile from my family’s second (chronological, not secondary) house. I spent my formative years there, learning to always be 10 minutes early for your shift, how to hold my tongue when dealing with dissatisfied customers, and eventually how to wash and iron my own uniforms.
While the “offices” are quite different, I like to think that I utilized most of those skills in some way, shape or form at the Kennebec Journal, my first employer in Maine and the U.S. This column is the first that the KJ staff have heard about me bringing my mother in to see the place, so I may have to bring cake as a peace offering.
My first watering hole: The pub in Brisbane that I frequented as an 18-year-old and beyond famously (or infamously) burned down during my first trip to the U.S. in 2008. The running joke was that the carpets were so liquor-soaked that they burned for a week, and then the place was rebuilt … to look exactly how it did before the blaze. The Victory Hotel would always be included on a this-is-my-life tour of Brisbane, just as The Liberal Cup will be when Mum comes to town. I’m no stranger to many of Hallowell’s establishments, but the Cup was indeed the first place in town I was taken for a meal before I signed up with the KJ.
My favorite view: At a towering 941 feet above sea level, Brisbane’s highest peak is Mount Coot-Tha, a couple of miles to the west of downtown. Due to its height, it houses the River City’s television broadcasting stations, and the lookout at the top allows some of the most incredible unobstructed views of the city’s sprawl. Visitors from away are always impressed by the scenery, and it never ceases to stop me in my tracks, either.
The same goes for a couple of spots right around here in central Maine, even though they’re not from the top of a mountain. I’m hoping for at least one clear sunny day on which I can drive my mother west across the Memorial Bridge to see the paved “Welcome to Augusta” sign and the beautiful old Post Office castle sitting on the banks of the Kennebec, which have caught my eye consistently since I moved here.
As she told me for a column a couple of months ago, Mum is “looking forward to seeing [my] little place in the community” and the things I do and see as I go about my day. Those are but a few of them – although I hope she doesn’t want to see the gym.