Archive for the ‘Maine’ Category

City of Light(house)s

August 8th, 2011

Last weekend, friends we visited in Portland, Maine, took us on a quick hopping tour of lighthouses. They have them scattered about like Bostonians have doughnut shops and ice cream stores.

No ledge or shoal seemed safe enough not to build at least a tiny Pharos as a warning. Those shown and cited here have their histories and links in the Coast Guard listings.

We did swing by, walk around and tour the coast paths of the Portland Head Light. It is a classic, literally, as the first after the feds started funding lighthouses. The 80-footer was first lit in 1791 and not automated until 198 years later. It’s a stack of rocks (rubble stone with brick lining in lighthouse terminology). It is still working.

While hand lighting and then a keeper manually switching the light seems primitive now, the tiny Bug Light was far worse for a long time. The Portland Breakwater Light (nicknamed for its wee cuteness) required a transient keeper to make his way along 1,800 foot of dangerous breakwater to light or tend it from 1831 to 1877.

The Cape Elizabeth Light is scenery overlooking the entrance to Casco Bay (and the wildly popular Lobster Shack). It was one of a pair of cast iron ones in 1828. The other was dismantled about a century later.
BugTop Bug Light really is cute, while simultaneously being elegant. Only 26 feet tall, this cast iron version replaced the original wooden one.
Bug Light has six weathered Corinthian columns. While deactivated in 1942, it has operated privately since 2002. BugColumn1
SpringPointDetails The more impressive 54-foot Spring Point Ledge lighthouse has a many fancy details as well. It is on the end of a 900-foot breakwater that makes visit worthy of a lunch later.
My favorite snaps of the Portland Head Light are not of the building. Rather an imposing gull on the lower buildings stands guard and it is surrounded by rosa rugosa bushes with quarter-sized rose hips. hipred

Creative Commons note: You’re welcome to use and abuse these snaps. They are Creative Commons-Attribution. Just cite the source somewhere.

Arcadia…Here, Now, Forever

April 30th, 2011

Bubbles of delusion shade and shelter us from horrors that affect others, but not us.


Even in little Bridgton, ME, the worst of life and death brings comfort through denial. This town of under 5,000 knows that one of their own met a foul death this week. The corpse of was the gelid, murky waters of a pond just over the border in New Hampshire.

Krista Dittmeyer, whose cause of death has yet to be announced, left her infant daughter in her running car and died nearby. Young, pretty and popular, she is immediately the locus of utopian thinking. As the Boston Herald quotes a chum, “It doesn’t happen here. People are safe here. They care about one another. They help one another. You can leave your doors unlocked at night. It affects everyone.”

Well, sprinkle some pixie dust and fly around the room.

Bridgton seems to be one of those the-way-life-should-be towns as ME promotes its exurban self. The tourism site lists 100 things to do there, such as hunt partridge, see a drive-in movie, hike up a ridge to look at see Mt. Washington way over there, and walk along Main Street.

No one seems shocked when Boston teens or 20-somethings stab or shoot each other in gritty neighborhoods or even in Downtown Crossing. Yet even here in the 22nd largest U.S. city, we engage in delusion and magical thinking.

In my decade in Manhattan, I never heard others say what they do in Bridgton or the various Boston neighborhoods we’ve lived — “We never lock our doors. We don’t have to.” Beacon Hill, West End, South End, Jamaica Plain and now Hyde Park, it was the same. Other neighborhoods or sub-neighborhoods may be dangerous and have criminals, but not here.

There is more justification for it in the newish place. On Fairmount Hill, we might call it a variation on the North End’s Copp’s Hill. With the police academy and many officers settled here, this could well be Cops’ Hill.

Sure enough, sections of town and Hyde Park have burglaries, even the occasional murder. Yet up on this hill, folk decidedly feel safe, rather know they are safe.

I think though of perpetrators of robberies and assaults. Frequently they are junkies. The diminished capacity of addicts means obliviousness to the obvious. Just because there is a blue and white or trooper car parked in the driveway doesn’t mean they won’t break-in and do their nasties. For murders, the typical case is high emotion between people who know each other — family or friends fatalities as it is.

In Bridgton or on Fairmount Hill, the need to believe in the specialness of locale, of our very own place and space is strong. In Bridgton, they likely hold that the bad guys are in Portland. In Boston, with few undeniable exceptions, we need to believe it is the next neighborhood over or farther away that is dangerous.

That might be a benign conceit, but it carries risks. If in fact we do not lock our house or car doors, we may eventually guarantee robbery or worse. (…as the mayor of Somerville recently learned…) As I have heard cops and Fortune Society folk alike say repeatedly, break-ins and robberies are almost always crimes of opportunity. Your car or house doesn’t need to be impregnable. It just needs to seem harder to to get into or less attractive (no goodies showing) than the next one.

We can call the belief in personal Arcadia an endearing affirmation of human hope and trust. I still lock my house and car.

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Scaly Moose Season

August 22nd, 2010

Sharing a coast and an ocean, being rife with the rural, and depending heavily on nature and tourism, South Carolina and Maine have some striking differences. Consider that one is nearing moose season and the other prepares to issue its permits for gator hunting.

gator1Up in these parts, Maine has a lot more wishful moose baggers than moose. It has an elaborate lottery/licensing system and a hunting guide. Unwritten in any of those or its FAQ is the danger quotient. You are much more likely to be killed or injured in a moose encounter if you drive into one on the highway than if you confront one nose to nose.

Down there though, the risks of death, dismemberment, even fatal infection are integral to the homey thrill of gator hunting.

Yet there are basic similarities, like:

  • S.C. has zones (management units 1 through 4) with a permit specific to the zone
  • S.C. sells up to 1,000 alligator permits per season (second September Saturday through second October Saturday)
  • Everyone pays $10 to be in the lottery
  • Lottery winners pay an additional $100 for the permit (an additional $200 as of this year for non-resident gator grabbers)
  • As with moose, it is not that easy. Last year’s hunters got 452 alligators.
  • As with moose, successful hunters tag and report a kill to the Department Natural Resources

S.C. has only permitted these hunts for the past couple of years. This is so popular that the Palmetto state holds two-hour informational sessions. One just happened. The other will be in Spartanburg next Saturday, 8/28 at 2 p.m. as part of the Harry Hampton Hunting & Fishing Expo. These cover the essentials from paperwork to safe gator handling.

A mildly gruesome recap of the first session appears in The State. It is replete with such info as a dead gator can still maim or kill the hunter. The hunt is likewise sobering. Harpooning is the preferred capture method. Then you and as many quirkily willing chums as you have get the beast close enough to the boat to slice key arteries or use a pistol for final dispatch.

Your immediate reward, should you successfully land it and get it ashore without injuries from the tail or claws, might be a BBQ. You can eat, but not sell, the meat.

Clearly, a moose-hide rug would be better in front of the fire than an alligator hide, although I bet they have similar worth if you sold them. Plus, down South, fur and indoor fires are not the hit they are up here.

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