So, this is it. The very last Maine Walkabout.
I haven’t done the numbers, but at two columns a month (and three per month twice, I think), that’s a nice round 46 pieces.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Despite the odd gripe or Thursday-night panic about what the hell I’m going to write about for that weekend, I’ve always felt humbled that a real live newspaper would give me the inches to wax lyrical about things I see and places I go. I’m proud of this here body of work.
Most of the archives can be found here, too.
A little more than a week before I finished up with the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel on a full-time basis, one of the enduring personalities in American television signed off for the final time.
Even though I wasn’t a regular viewer – late shows air a day or two later on Australian TV, for obvious reasons – I was certainly aware on a cultural level of the impact of David Letterman’s presence on the airwaves.
His last show aired on May 20, and my final shift at the newspaper fell on May 29. I had a column due that weekend, and I considered hijacking Letterman’s famous “top 10 things” segment to wax a little nostalgic about my time in Vacationland thus far. I reconsidered, though, because I figured it’d be a bit silly since I wasn’t going anywhere geographically, and thus had plenty of opportunities to add to my highlights reel.
Now, of course, I’m at the opposite end of the east coast. There’s an old saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees, and in a way I think that applies here. Now that I’m not in Maine, I have a slightly more clear perspective of my favorite parts of my time there.
So without further ado, and in absolutely no order: The Top Ten Things I Love About Maine.
The colors. I mean, this one’s a given. I never would have guessed that I’d be so blown away by trees. Seriously. I imagine there are readers out there who drove past a guy in a tan Subaru gawking open-mouthed at leaves in April and October and thought, “what’s that guy’s deal?” Mother Nature is an incredible thing. And don’t even get me started on summer. There’s no ill that that beautiful blue sky can’t cure.
Snow. Yep, I went there. Despite last year’s heavy precipitation, I still have an utterly childlike fascination for the white stuff. My phone has an inordinate number of photos and videos of me playing in assorted piles and snowbanks around the capitol region.
Living’s easy. That seems diametrically opposed to the previous paragraph, knowing how hard snow is to shovel, but it’s true. Coming from a big city back home, I didn’t encounter the hustle and bustle associated with metropolitan areas. That was a nice change.
Function over form. I’ll never forget the time my friend Casey told me, sometime last February, “you look very Maine today.” Jeans, plaid shirt, jacket, untied L.L. Bean boots. Comfortable, if not fashionable. I railed against my slightly-too-loose Bean boots my first winter, but it was a revelation to figure out that I liked them better when I could slip them on untied.
The beer. I’ve said it a million times in these pages, but I’ll say it again. Maine is absolutely blessed with phenomenal beer. It was just one more element of this state that I was entirely unaware of (yet was delighted to discover.) And on that note …
Learning to tend bar. I picked up a little side job last fall, and found it more difficult to get good at than what I’ve built my professional career around. But the service industry here is so different to Australia’s, and I’m grateful for not only the new skill set but the perspective from the other side of the bar. And on THAT note …
Finding love, and community, and family. I didn’t know what to expect when I accepted the newspaper job offer, but I knew I’d give it a year and see how it panned out. Of course, not long before the 12-month mark rolled around, I had got myself the aforementioned side job, got to know The Girlfriend, been welcomed into her family and made some strong friendships with great people. The best things take time to nurture and develop, and those relationships are proof of that.
The road less traveled. Every time I visited some new place in Maine, be it a brewery in Skowhegan not long after I arrived, or a veritable mansion of a ski lodge at Sunday River with The Girlfriend back in October, it always felt like I was seeing a part of the United States that many, if not the majority of, Australians will never see. It’s easy for travelers to hit the big tourist spots like New York City or Las Vegas or Los Angeles, but that doesn’t paint the whole picture of what this country is all about. I’ve been privileged to get to see it with my own eyes.
The inspiration. About 18 months ago, I had delusions of grandeur about cobbling together a book documenting my first 12 months as an Aussie immigrant. The wheels have all but fallen off that project, but at last count (sometime in November 2014) I’d churned out well over 100,000 words. Maine has given me endless cause for written reflection and introspection, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it.
The encouragement. From strangers in the street to grocery store cashiers to newspaper coworkers and everyone in between: I’ve never stopped being flattered and humbled by the people who have read one (or more) of my columns and passed along kind words, questions or advice on Maine living. I may never have a column again, but maybe that’s a good thing, because I can’t imagine having such a supportive and friendly readership. You guys entrusted me with a few minutes of your Sunday morning reading time, and I hope I made it worthwhile for you. I know it’s meant the world to me.