The other day I typed in the wrong first three digits of my social security number. Ed nodded, knowingly: first sign of Alzheimer's. I glared at him. Don't worry, I'll take care of you, he continued calmly.
I sit down to dinner (unfortunately at a table, not the bar this time) and I have what has to be a deja vu moment. I've been here before. Moreover, when I was here before, there was a Thai family (maybe Laotian, I can't really tell) to the side, just like today. And they shared dishes and in the background the cooks plated food -- plate after plate of excellent seafood. I am reliving a moment from ten years back.
I know Portland has many, many new and excellent eateries and you'd think there would be little reason, therefore, to repeat two from a previous trip here, but it is Sunday and Buddy (my b&b host) and I ran through a bunch before finding one that was open for dinner today.
Foodwise, this place (Street & Co) is heaven on a plate. A crab-stuffed pepper, a salad with white anchovy and then my crowing parting dish -- something that was modified to please me (they're nice here) and it did, though I'm straining from the sheer weight of it all: a tumble of lobster, clams, mussels, calamari, over a tomato dredged pasta.
I'll go back to scrambled eggs and curried cauliflower when I get back home. This trip is a saunter back to a culinary indulgence and it must be followed by a humbler vision of what it means to eat well.
Speaking of eating well, let's roll back to the beginning of the day: breakfast. Again, modified for my modest morning needs.
And then? Well, if yesterday was foggy and moody, today is brilliantly sunny and warm enough to leave my jacket at home. Buddy says -- walk the Back Cove of Casco Bay. His assistant insists -- you must do a Maine lighthouse.
So I'll do both.
Never mind that they're at polar opposite ends to each other. Bay to the north, lighthouse to the south. Well fine, I'll manage. I think.
I take the Back Cove route first. To downtown Portland...
...then to the shoreline. It's pretty. With views to the water and the islands that characteristically dot the Maine coastline.
A small narrow gauge train toots by with very young families aboard. Sweet.
When a train goes by, everyone looks up and smiles.
But soon after, the trail passes (for a terribly long five minutes) by the city sewage plant (reminding me of the bike trail I take back home into town, only when you're biking, you can hold your breadth and be done with it).
And now I see the inlet that separates the cove from the ocean waters...
One last look toward the ocean (I am reminded of the sky photos I take back home, only here, the sea replaces fields of corn and soy)...
And now the trail hugs the Back Cove shore. At low tide.
I'm walking awfully close to a main road now and that's no fun so I finish up this part of the day's hike and turn toward downtown again, so that I can pick up the other trail -- the one to the lighthouse.
But I'm hungry. Or, I'm tempted by the sight of others eating. I have half a granola bar tucked in my purse, but suddenly, I'm not satisfied with that.
I open the door to a spot that calls itself an oyster bar. Young couples (with or without young children). Exclusively so. And me. I sit down at the bar, not because I want oysters, but because I noted on the menu that they serve cups of lobster stew. Inexpensively. I could not turn away.
The bartender shows me how I can take the coaster and punch out the mustache and wear it.
All in all, its a delightful and delightfully young place, which does remind me that younger people do know how to smile shamelessly at life and it truly is too bad that over time, that skill pretty much disappears.
And now I turn my attention to the distant lighthouse. I'm by Portland's coast again.
And let me just say that this really is a colorful time to be here. The city doesn't make this obvious. Except every now and then, I am reminded that it is the very best moment of Fall. Orange and red never looked so good together.
I keep on hugging the coast until I find the road that puts me on the bridge that crosses Fore River.
This is the worst part. You're next to traffic, it's loud and you're aware that it's a drawbridge. Meaning, it might draw, no? With lights flashing and you in the middle. And it's windy. Okay, a few minutes of hell. (On the upside -- these are insanely blue waters. Beautiful.)
And now I'm on the other side. South Portland, which actually is its own municipality.
It is a long, long walk to the lighthouse.
Really long. (And the worst part is knowing that I haven't the guts to hitch a ride back, so that I have to retrace this path.)
But finally, I'm there and the lighthouse is especially lovely now, against the afternoon sky (as opposed to how I saw it from the ferry boat yesterday -- against the afternoon fog).
I ask someone to take a photo of me. It's not as if I've scaled Mount Everest, but I feel somewhat accomplished that I did reach it and I did not give up even though I've walked enough to last me a very very long time.
A look to the the ocean (and the next lighthouse, on Cape Elizabeth -- the place where Homer lived and painted)
And one more appreciative look at the Point Ledge lighthouse.
And now I come very close to sticking out my thumb, but, as predicted, I grow instantly shy at the thought and so I walk. All the way back. And across the long bridge.
And then I do sit down for a whole lovely, lovely hour at the b&b, until it's time for dinner.
Now, in the late late hours of the evening, after my seafood meal, I lean back in the comfy arm chair and I wonder if maybe it is possible to have one's fill of lobster. Maybe if I lived here I'd feel about it as I do about cheese -- it's one of my favorite foods, but I do not have to eat it every time it is offered to me. I know it's there. I love it, but eat it rarely. (Except when I'm in places that offer excellent baguettes -- that's a killer combination. Cheese and great bread. Uff!)
Tomorrow I return home. Even before I leave, I have work to do here. That's okay. I'm full of salty air and ocean foods. Really full. Of both. For now.