Windjammer Festival | Boothbay Harbor, ME

Everyone has their own coastal town of Maine. Mine happens to be Thomaston and Rockland, but my boyfriend’s is Boothbay. They’re all basically the same thing. Some have more things to do than others, but — when it comes down to it — shopping, food, salt water, and boats are what each community revolves around.

The last full of week of June is the Windjammer Festival in Boothbay, and I’m happy to adopt Boothbay as my coastal Maine community for just that week each year. The Festival is the start of tourist season for the town. All the shops are open and stocked full of knick-knacks, handcrafted goods, and expensive jewelry. Although the festival was supposed to be a week this year, it’s really a two-day ordeal. On the Tuesday of the week is when everything starts — the raffle, the Antique Boat Parade, and the hoards of bourgeois vacationists.

Here’s the best kept secret from spying tourists, though. The Used Book Store on top of the hill is the crowning jewel of my trip every year. Most books are 50¢, but they go up to as high as $3. All the books are delivered from the library, and this is the one time each year where they do the sale. Between my boyfriend and I, the classics section of the store is wiped out within 10 minutes of the store opening. At this point, we really need to create our own library. However, when we build our house in a few years, our only definite plan is to have a whole level become a custom library filled with our books. It will look similar to the Beauty and the Beast library.

Also be sure to thoroughly browse through Enchantments. It’s a hippie-esque store where each shelf is stuffed with odd finds. I was able to purchase a beautiful surrealist photograph this year that I’m absolutely in love with. It’s called O Duomo Mio by Thomas Barbey. You’ll find vintage posters, boho garb, glass, books of zen, wicca, and others, wind chimes, jewelry, and anything else you could imagine.

On Wednesday, is the Windjammer Day. In the afternoon, all the Windjammers and Schooners sail into the harbor where they anchor for the night. Usually four or five boats sail in, taking up the majority of the harbor. This year, only two came. It was rather disappointing, and I can only presume that it’s due to the change in festival management this year. Hopefully, it will be back to normal next year.

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Other than that, though, very little happens. So be prepared to eat, drink, sunbathe, drink, shop, and, oh, did I mention drink? It’s a vacation in the true sense of the word. Nothing but sea breeze, sun, alcohol, and good food.

Speaking of good food. The absolute best restaurant in the whole of the harbor is The Thistle Inn. If you don’t eat there, you’re crazy. Both their pub menu and their fine dining menu are fantastic! Specifically this season, the pan seared scallops on a spinach and couscous risotto were fantastic. A choice like that on a menu is a gamble because risotto — even at the best restaurants in the world — are incredibly hard to make well and are even more hit or miss. However, The Thistle Inn hit it out of the park. It was by far the best choice on the fine dining menu. However, everything was great — the Lazy Lobster, the Lobster Paella, the chicken, the steak, the oysters, the crab cakes, everything.

So, if you find yourself in the Boothbay region for Windjammer, look up at the corner balconies of the hotels and you’ll find myself, my boyfriend, and the in-laws each and every year. Remember, though, this is not a trip to take if you’re looking for a travel adventure. This is the epitome of a vacation.

I’m drinking from the World Cup, are you?

Nearly every day for the past ten I’ve sat down on a couch for countless hours with a rum and coke in hand to watch the largest sporting event of all time — the FIFA World Cup.

Now, Americans like to argue about the Cup being the most popular, largest, and most important sporting event. I stand my ground, though, because more people attend the World Cup every four years than people who attend the Olympics. And the Olympics are the only other sporting event that happens on the same platform as the World Cup. Also, almost every country in the world has an international futbol team. In fact, 209 countries have national teams to be exact. Whereas, only 88 countries were competing in the recent Sochi Olympics. To be fair, in the London Olympics all 204 countries registered to compete in the Olympics were represented by at least one athlete. Even so, less countries are registered with the NOC than with FIFA. 

So though the futbol fever may not catch in the USA, every other nation on earth hails soccer as the national sport. In Iran, kids play with goat heads instead of balls; people will do anything, use anything, to play. I mean, even North Korea has a team. Doesn’t that tell you something?

Anyways, I love watching the World Cup because it is the only time that the entire world sits down and watches something together. The passion of fans is unparalleled. It makes you feel like you’re participating in the greatest moments of humanity. It’s comparable to when the US landed on the moon in 1969 or when the planes hit the World Trade Center in 2001. Everyone remembers where they were, what they were doing, and how it fundamentally changed our perception of the world. That is how soccer nations feel during the World Cup, like something unforgettable is happening.

Each time the World Cup rolls around, my friends and I each bet on two teams. This year, I picked Costa Rica and Switzerland. Both teams are doing extremely well. Costa Rica has won their first two games versus Uruguay and Italy. So, they’re advancing to the next round. Their last game will be played against England, who has already been eliminated from the competition. Things are looking bright for Costa Rica, especially since they were an underdog. Switzerland won their first game versus Ecuador, and are set to begin their second match in 20 minutes versus France. They were ranked 8th in the FIFA rankings this season. France was ranked 17th. France also won their first game against Honduras by a landslide. So, it should be a tantalizing game.

Who are you rooting for this World Cup?

My Maine Space | June 18, 2014

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Dawn comes with the birds in the summer, who begin their daily chorus at 4:30 AM each day just like I do. However, the sun likes to take her time, drink her coffee, read the news as she wakes. Consequently, no matter where you find yourself in the world — field, mountain, river, or ocean — the wee hours become a hypnotic haze of fog, chirping melodies, and your own tired delusions.

Anna Karenina, Part 3 and 4 | The Journey So Far

It’s hard for me to even begin writing anything remotely interesting after having read these two parts (especially Part 4) of Anna Karenina. So much happened so quickly that I just want to write a crazy, fanatic-esque post about it. Now, I really should have expected this because it is the climax of the story after all, but Part 3 seemed like a drudge so I figured I’d read Part 4 before posting about it again because it was only an extra 84 pages. Man, was I wrong; I really should have let Part 4 be a stand alone review because there’s just so much to talk about in it. In fact, I don’t think I can adequately write about yet as I feel the need to see how everything resolves itself before passing judgment. So — with that being said — I’ve decided to write about my favorite elements of the novel thus far.

(In approximate chronological order…)

1.) Speaking French and English nonchalantly in conversation.

If you ask me, which I suppose you are by reading this, the use of Western languages in the elite Russian circles is one of the most important elements of Tolstoy’s story as well as one of the most interesting. The obvious reason he emphasizes the use of different languages is to reveal the pretentiousness of the elite society. You could — if you so chose — stop all analysis of it there, but that would take all the fun out of it, wouldn’t it? The foreign languages are used as a mask. Now, you might say “Duh,” because the act of pretension is inherently the putting on of a show. However, although Tolstoy clearly demonstrates this component of it, with the central characters the languages take on a much different role than that of pretension. For example, when Anna tells Vronsky that she is pregnant during Part 3, Vronsky begins to speak in French to her. This is because he doesn’t dare use the informal speech of Russian with her for fear the servants would think it inappropriate. He also could never bring himself to use the formal speech of Russian because it would be too false to his feelings. Therefore, he uses the french, which is neither formal nor informal, to convey his feelings to Anna. This sort of situation has occurred several times throughout the story so far, and Tolstoy has always been careful to explain that the foreign languages are used to escape the formal-informal structure of the Russian language. In this way, the characters are able to deceive the people around them while still conveying their true feelings to each other. So, I would argue that — at least in Anna Karenina — foreign languages in conversation reveal true feelings instead of becoming the mask of pretension. Only the side characters, like Lydia Ivanovna and Princess Tverskoy, use French and English solely to demonstrate their own status.

2.) Kitty’s time at the spa with Varenka. 

These chapters touched my heart. The exact reason eludes me, but it’s not hard to guess. A passion in my life is helping and advocating for the underprivileged and systemically abused people in this world. So, to see Kitty’s character so completely transform during this period in her life was magical. She tried desperately to become selfless and was overcome by the fact that nothing and no one can be purely altruistic. This is a phenomena I know well. Unlike Kitty, I came to terms with it and learned a balance that feels morally sound. (Side note: Kitty is certainly not the character I am most like, however.) Unfortunately, Kitty is too swayed by the opinions of superiors like her father. This is what prevented her from true growth. She left the spa refreshed, but still wanted the same things she always had, practically still acted as she had before her heart was broken. Even though Kitty’s fate is not what I would have wanted, the scenes at the spa remain in my Top 3 moments of Anna Karenina so far. It was enchanting to read, particularly because of Varenka’s character. Moreover, I had so much hope restored in me for Kitty’s character while reading it regardless of how things turned out for her there.

3.) Levin cutting the hay with the muzhiks. 

This section was a tad bittersweet to read for me. I’ve spent many months of my life working on farms around the United States and know the draw of the hard labor well. However, like Levin, I did not grow up in that world. I was raised in a family home in what is essentially a suburb in an upper-middle class family. I chose the world of farming because it called to my soul, as did Levin. However, again like Levin, I know in my heart that I could never live out my life as a farmer. This is because I grew up in a world less physically demanding than the word of a farmer. It is also because I look to farming as a pleasure, a pastime, an intimate ritual with nature. So, to make it my work to farm would not only be sacrilege but also would probably create a resentment in my heart because I would be obligated, necessitated to do certain things at certain times. There would be a demand for it that would break the happiness which farming is for me. So, to get back to the point, reading about Levin’s love for the work of the peasants nearly broke my heart. I understood his love and longing all to well. However, I also understood his conflicted heart, one part searching forever for the pantheistic freedom and the other finding such a life too taxing.

4.) Dolly getting her children baptized. 

I particularly enjoyed this scene because of the thick satire with which Tolstoy wrote it. Now, it’s not the sort of thick satire that is evident in the likes of The Taming of the Shrew or Candide, but it’s still seeping with it if only one knows anything about Tolstoy. Tolstoy — loathing the life of the rich which he was born into — finds the religious act of the upper class hypocritical and offensive. Hardly anyone of that caliber believes in religion or takes the rituals seriously (as is alluded to when Dolly remarks that she hasn’t taken the children to church in at least two years), and Tolstoy makes a point consistently throughout his stories to demonstrate this. He makes it clear that if you feel social pressure to uphold religious rituals in your life, then you are nothing more than a pretentious, anti-intellectual.

5.) Vronsky’s tour of Russia with the German prince.

This was delightful solely for the purpose of symbolism which Tolstoy so masterfully implements. In the beginning of the novel, Vronsky represents pure pleasure; he does what he wants when he wants and listens to no one. During the same time, Anna represented the pinnacle of society’s expectations of women. By the time Vronsky tours the German prince around Russia, all this has changed. Anna has followed her heart and conceived Vronsky’s child. Now, she is the emblem of pleasure. She did what she wanted when she wanted and listened to no one. Vronsky, on the other hand, now hates the life he once lived. He despises the German prince for his promiscuity and lack of regard for other human beings. He has grown tired of Anna, regrets his choice to throw away promotions, and wants nothing more than to be rid of all excess. So, now Vronsky has become the one who cares about obligations and societal pressures. It is an interesting turn of events. The question that has yet to be resolved is whether or not he will act upon this change of heart. My guess would be no because, at the end of Part 4, he heads abroad with Anna — yet to be divorced.  The only true observation I can make as of yet is that pleasure causes pain; it has caused nothing but regret for both Anna and Vronsky. Anything else I would say now about Tolstoy’s interpretation of pleasure would merely be speculation. But, repression leads to pleasure and pleasure to repression; it is the cycle of life. Not only do I believe this, but Tolstoy agrees. He writes, “Levin had long ago observed that when things are made awkward by people’s excessive compliance and submission, they are soon made unbearable by their excessive demandingness and fault-finding.”

Ripton, Vermont

Eventually — if you head west from Portland, Maine — you will snake your way through the mountains and find yourself in the forgotten state of Vermont. Although Vermont is consistently in the news for their progressive, liberal laws, Vermont has remained tucked away in a corner of history that many often forget still exists. Each town is tiny, each person at peace, and everyone knows everyone’s name. In fact, few exceptions can be found for this observation.

No town better exemplifies this phenomenon than Ripton, VT. You can find this charming town just twenty minutes outside of Middlebury, where VT 125 rips right through the center of town. When I visited this quaint village over the past weekend, I stayed at the Chipman Inn.

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The Chipman Inn is a typical, New England bed and breakfast. Wallpaper decks every room, lace doilies are practically the foundation of the building, and a single, elderly woman — who has lived in Ripton most of her life — takes care of everything. The woman at the Chipman Inn, though, is particularly talkative. She’ll talk your ear off if you let her, and she’ll reference all the people in the town as if you know them too. One story was worth it all, though; she told us of a band of hooligans who called themselves “The Hoot-n-Holler Gang.” They all lived on top of the mountain in tar-paper shacks and liked to cause a ruckus in town “at least once a week.” Often times it was from drunk driving or other inappropriate drunken behavior. One night — back in the early ’80s — she woke at three in the morning to a loud pounding on the door of the Inn. Now, not wanting to know exactly who was at her door, she decided not to turn on the lights. She did, however, open the door to talk to them. (Read this next bit in a drunken slur): “Missus, the cops are after us. Can you hide us in here?” they asked. She responded, “I’ve got all sorts of guests in here, there’s no way I’m hiding you. But come here.” And — at least the way she told the story — she then proceeded to grab him by the scruff of his neck and drag him to the back door. She throws the out through the back door and says, “Now you climb up that mountain. You live up there, you know how to do it. Don’t go up the road because that’s where the cops will be. You climb up that mountain and get home!” That was the last she heard from them. The cops never found them, and she always expected the cops to come to her door and ask her if she had seen anything, but they never did. And, she emphasizes, she didn’t actually ever see anything.

We enjoyed our stay at the Inn, but there were some faux-pas. She forgot that my boyfriend was gluten-free, so she served a breakfast of french toast and he had to skip the meal. Also, if you have even the slightest allergies during the springtime, the old building is not conducive to them. My boyfriend, who usually doesn’t get allergies, was coughing throughout the whole night. However, regardless of these small missteps, the Inn was comfortable, clean, and everything you would expect of a New England B+B. The unique feature, though, was their bar. Locals will come all the way from Middlebury to drink in the small, dark room lit by a red-light in the hall. And, moreover, this bar has a church pew as seating. It was quite adorable. She even keeps a Christmas tree up year-round.

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The town of Ripton has a lively night life, though. In their community center, which is right next door to the Chipman Inn, they often have “rockin’ concerts.” They’ve had some bigger bands, but it’s often local talent who play in the Hall. Cars will pack the small parking lot and fill up the entire section of VT 125 that runs through town. It’s a sight to see in such a small town. Even with these modern bands playing, Ripton could never forget where it came from. Right next to the community center is a sign from the days of carriages in 1800s.

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Across the street from the Inn is another old-time feature of the town: The Country Store. It’s charming and you can get a few things in there. The largest section is for wines — Vermont made, of course. Apparently, though, the rows of mailboxes in the store are a fairly recent addition (like in the ’90s).

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Yet, even with these small-town gems, the most attractive part of Ripton were the vast trail networks. The first day we were there, we hiked the Spirit in Nature trails. These trails have been designated with carious religions, such as Christian, Bahai, Native American, Pagan, Buddhist, Quaker, and many more. On each path, signs with quotations or sayings from the religion are posted for you to read. These trails are beautiful, and the longest one is only 1.5 miles. You could do all of them in an afternoon. They also have a Sacred Circle in which campfires and interfaith gatherings take place. There are also plenty of places to go off the trails and explore, perhaps even see some wildlife.

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On the second day, we explored the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail. Robert Frost summered in Ripton for thirty years. Much of his poetry was influenced by the trails and wildlife of the woods there. On this trail, various poems of his are posted along the walk to inspire you. Now, I don’t find Frost a particularly interesting writer. His work is very obvious, there’s not much to divine from it, which is why he’s so popular I suppose. However, Frost and I have very similar relationships with nature. We’re both radical environmentalists and firmly believe in the spiritual enlightenment which can only be found in the natural world. This trail was, in my opinion, much better than the Spirit trails. The ecosystems were more diverse, and the poetry was placed along the path in a strategic way. Plus, there was an amazing climbing tree by the meadow.

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Overall, Ripton was a lovely weekend spent. I would suggest it to fellow travelers, although it’s not good for much more than a weekend. It was a wonderful way to rejuvenate and step away from the stresses of technology and everyday life. The thing I will take away from Ripton, and specifically Robert Frost, is to always remain actively aware that humanity are the coniferous trees and those are the end of the cycle.

 

 

 

 

My Maine Space | June 1, 2014

-1Although the lilacs typically are in full bloom over Memorial Day weekend, they have finally arrived in their complete glory. The weeks of unending rain have tried to stunt their beauty, but to no avail. Their sweetest scent overfills the air to my highest pleasure, but Maine is also now overrun by the delightful aromas of fresh seafood, salt water, and sea breezes at long last. Thank the heavens that summer has finally come.