Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Maine Street

We’ve heard “Main Street” bandied about by politicians this election season. It’s shorthand for small town U.S.A. My town has a Maine Street. No, that’s not a typo. Brunswick is in Maine.

A pillared bank graces the brick sidewalks. The wide street was designed for horse drawn carriages. There were once cobblestones and Elm trees. It’s still tree lined.

I began my first novel, Moose Crossing, with a scene on Maine Street. My second novel, S.A.D, is also set in Brunswick and on the islands of Harpswell. Grand City Variety captures the old time feel of my town. Our daily paper, The Times Record, reported that this retro five-and-ten will shut at the end of this year.

There are other small businesses that are still thriving. I’m pleased to say we have an independent bookstore, the Gulf of Maine. It's a good place to find books by local authors and lots of novels.

Need steel-toed boots and Carhartt work clothes? Try Pennell’s, established 1889. That bright orange clothing is all the rage this time of year. Maine Street fashion keeps you safe. November marks the start of deer hunting season.

Brunswick pulls out all stops for Halloween. School children paint the windows.

My daughter’s team didn’t win a prize for “Horrorscope,” but I award them a blog star for originality.

That’s an underwater Halloween in a crystal ball. Global warming is scary! They painted the Little Dog Café, a great place to settle into a comfy chair with a cup of coffee.

On Halloween Brunswick children gather at the village green and then march down Maine Street accompanied by the junior high school band.

When you cross the bridge to Topsham, the street apparently loses its sense of humor and becomes Main Street. Keep driving and town gives way to farms on Rural Rt. 201.

Stop at Rocky Ridge Orchard in Bowdoin to pick apples or to buy your pumpkin. My teenaged son chose the biggest pumpkin: 56 pounds! He carried and carved it himself. My daughter is a fan of the barn swing.

We got cider and Cote’s ice cream at the farm shop. Their cider press dates from 1935.

The flag in the opening photo hangs from the rafters. Rocky Ridge is stocked full of Americana, country antiques and the best baked goods.

We brought home a mixed dozen of pumpkin, cider and chocolate doughnuts and an apple pie that was still warm.

Another good place for “donuts” is Frosty’s back in Brunswick, but you’d better go quickly. Rumor has it that Frosty’s may also be going out of business after more than 3 decades. Like Grand City Variety, they may not be able to renew their five year lease on Maine Street.

I met fellow blogger Tina Ramsey from In the Garden for pumpkin donuts at Frosty’s. I realized I had a problem once I walked in the door. I was looking for a big yellow dog (Tina’s profile image) and had no idea what Tina looked like. Luckily Tina and her mother, Jean, (another regular commenter on my blog) recognized me immediately. Not too many folks in Maine have long, black, curly hair.

Photo of Tina and me by Tina's husband

Tina and I met through our blogs when I was living in England last year. Tina grew up in Brunswick and attended the same elementary school as my children did. Now she lives in Tennessee after retiring from the army and is doing a degree in horticulture paid for by Uncle Sam. She and her husband are veterans of the Iraq War.

Reading In The Garden’s chatty comments is just like stopping by a front porch in Maine. Tina posted last week about our meeting. I’m suffering from blog lag – too many good things going on in life to keep up. Tina gave me a marker stone for my home, a gift she hand-makes for the bloggers that she meets. Thanks, Tina!

I’ve also connected with Brunswick School Board district 7 candidate Michele Joyce. Her friend from the Peace Corps in Africa is Shauna of Thinks Monthly in California, another commenter on my blog. Michele’s claim was that good people will find each other. I’m happy that a good person like Michele is running for School Board in my town. Isn’t it amazing that two blogging connections could lead back to Maine Street?

While on the topic of Brunswick politics, I'm endorsing Nick Livesay for Town Council At-Large. Nick grew up in Brunswick, graduated from Bowdoin College and has returned to raise his family. His work experience as an environmental consultant will be especially helpful for land use planning after the Naval Air Station closure.

Can you believe that Election Day is less than a week away?


A Cuban In London said...

A nice picturesque tale of your location. Nothing beats narration carried out by the dweller. I love the sunny pavements and the relaxed attitude of the denizens of your town (or city).

The children thoroughly deserved your blog award for originality, it brought a smile to my face.

Is it not cold in Maine at this time of year? You're in short sleeves, as I write this comment I am wearing three layers and I have the heating on. I think it's about 8 degrees Celsius outside, although the sun's out and the day's beautiful.

Lovely post.

Greetings from London.

Sarah Laurence said...

ACIL, Brunswick has a population of 22,000, making it the largest town in Maine. Our biggest city, Portland, has under 65,000. After living in London and NYC, Brunswick feels like a small town to me.

I was wearing a t-shirt after biking into town. It has been an unusually warm autumn, but we’ve still had a few frosts. There’s a small chance of snow today, and it’s not due to get any warmer than 8 degrees C (47F). I still find England colder inside, especially due to the damp. Glad to hear your sun is shining - that makes all the difference.

troutbirder said...

I love our small town as well. Population 2,700. A great place to raise a family. As to the bandying about though, I have come to resent the notion that small towns represent the only true American values.

Sarah Laurence said...

Troutbirder, I agree with your sentiment wholeheartedly. It’s troubling when politicians seeking the executive branch become so judgmental. Values are personal and subjective. I’d add that what makes the USA special is its diversity. Thank you for bringing this important point to the discussion.

tina said...

Very wonderful trip down memory lane. It is so sad to see these 'Maine' stays go away. I never even realized Brunswick's main street is Maine street. How funny. Sense of humor indeed. You have to hand it to Mainers. The only state Ross Perot took! Yup, election is very close now. Will be interesting for sure. We voted when we got back from Maine. There were tons of folks! Thanks for showcasing Maine street and it was a pleasure meeting you! And you didn't mention the delicious chocolate covered berries you gave me. They are all gone. I got to share some with Skeeter and a few others. They were so thrilled to try something they saw on the blog all the way from Maine! And thank you too! ttyl

Alyson | New England Living said...

No, I can't believe that election day is in less than a week! But, really, it's about time. This election is getting old.

I loved all your Maine St shots. I love small towns, especially small New England towns.

You say not many people have dark, curly, long hair like you up there. What do most people have? I always find that kind of stuff interesting.

Sarah Laurence said...

Tina, I’m glad to hear the chocolate covered blueberries made the rounds. I’ll be voting on Tuesday with long lines expected. Other than the wait, it’s fun seeing everyone and democracy in action.

Alyson, it’s been an interesting election season, but I’m ready for it to end too.

Anonymous said...

love the hippy and the sushi kid. Too bad the town doesn't do the pumpkin toss anymore, that was the best part of Halloween

tina said...

I forgot to say-as always-I loved your daughter's window painting and think it is most creative. I second the blog award for creativity.

Shauna said...

That's the 3rd sushi related costume I have seen. I LOVE the sushi trend!

I think small towns can be so interesting - and incredibly diverse. That is one thing I have remarked in my travels throughout the U.S.

Mihele is an intelligent and compassionate person. I know she has a lot to offer Brunswick's school board.

TBM said...

So sad that the 5-and-10 is closing! But your town is so charming. I can see why it wasn't too hard to go home.

BTW, it snowed here last night! Supposedly the first October snow in the area in 70 years. It didn't stick, but it looked nice on the cars.

Please tell you daughter she has a fan in England. Clever girls!

Sarah Laurence said...

trey boucher, here, here for the pumpkin catapult anon.

Tina, ACIL and JAPRA, my daughter was happy to read your comments. They had a great time so it didn’t really matter about the trophy.

Shauna, I just had sushi for lunch in Portland today. It must have been subliminal. Brunswick is quite diverse in itself – it’s a college town and a navy town. Thanks for connecting me to Michele.

JAPRA, snow in England in October?! The only snow we got in Oxford last year was in April. What a weird climate. I still miss England, even if I'm happy to be home.

Donna said...

What a picturesque, classic New England town that is. I love it! I've been by Brunswick before but I don't think I've actually been in the town itself. I'll have to put it in my list of places to go.
I want to read your two books that you mentioned! Can I get them on amazon or

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

This looks just like Maine is supposed to! Charming. Thanks for the tour!

Sarah Laurence said...

Donna, Brunswick is well worth a detour. I wish you could buy my books now, but my agent is still looking for a publisher for the first two, and I’m writing the third. I will definitely share the good news on my blog when/if they are published. As you know from working in editing, it can take time. Thanks, though, it helps me to keep writing, knowing that I have readers waiting.

Pamela, Brunswick is like stepping back in time only our downtown is still thriving. Other towns in Maine haven’t been so lucky.

Cindy said...

I love seeing all the independent and mom and pop type shops. I always try to support those businesses. Great job by your daughter and her friends with her artwork. It's very creative.
And it's nice to see Tina - she's such a friendly, fun lady.

Rose said...

Maine Street looks so quaint, a symbol of true Americana. Too bad the dime store and the Frosty's may not last much longer. I miss the days of independent, small town shops; now there's a Walmart in every town instead.

I read about your meeting with Tina on her blog; how fun! After seeing her photos of Maine and all yours of the beautiful countryside, I really want to make plans to visit New England in the fall one of these years.

Sarah Laurence said...

Cindy, Tina said she really enjoyed meeting you too. That was quite a road trip.

Rose, there was no Walmart when we moved to Brunswick 11 years ago. Since then the big boxes have been growing outside the Brunswick and Topsham town centers, and it’s hurting. New England is definitely the place to visit in the fall.

Synchronicity said...

Oh I am absolutely enchanted by your Main Street. It could be part of a picture book. I am so envious that you have a book store which is not a chain. Very fine blog you have here. I will visit again.

Sarah Laurence said...

Merelyme, Brunswick is a storybook town. I do love independent bookstores too.

Brenda Pruitt said...

Goodness, I got to vote on the first day of early voting here in Texas. I visited Tina this morning. Didn't realize you were the one she had met also. I love to visit there. Thanks for the tour of your lovely little town. And Happy Halloween.

Elizabeth said...

What a lovely look at a small town.
Very charming and Americana-filled - a real delight.
Super to see it through your eyes.
I loved Maine the only time I went there - which was in the summer.
I liked your comment about England being colder - because of the damp.
You should have visited our house in Essex before we had central heating - circa 1967.
Your blog gives me great pleasure.

kari and kijsa said...

Have a safe and happy Halloween!
kari & kijsa

Charlotte Agell said...

Thanks for the walk down Maine Street. I feel so fortunate to be able to take it in person!

Sarah Laurence said...

Brenda, that must be nice to have early voting. Isn’t it a small blog world?

Elizabeth, central heat can be an oxymoron in England. With the heat on timers, more than not there was no heat. That must have been challenging, living without any central heat.

Kari and Kijsa, thanks, it was a happy Halloween.

Charlotte, we are lucky to live here. You are reminding me that I have errands to run in town.

Bee said...

When I was in Kennebunk (and port) this summer, I noticed that they had a "Maine" street, too. It's a good joke for the insiders -- and for visitors, too! While I love the independent stores, and would give a lot for a good source of pumpkin doughnuts and apple cider, I agree with Troutrider that it is a shame that there is a tendency to equate "Main Street" with all that is "authentically American."

I feel like we are all waiting -- just waiting, now -- for what happens next. According to the UK press, Obama is now having to "warn" his supporters that he won't be able to miraculously transform everything that is bad about the U.S. Your lovely post reminds us that there are plenty of good things, too.

Sarah Laurence said...

Bee, as usual you write such thoughtful comments. I’d agree that there is much more to America than a narrowly prescribed set of “small town values.” Our Maine Street showcases the diversity of our town. There are traditional mom and pop stores but also ethnic restaurants, a trendy clothing boutique/craft store (Wyler Gallery) and our bookstore defines liberal. I just heard that Vinyl Haven, selling old records, is shutting when the owner retires, but Bull Moose Music with its top hits CDs and used trade ins is going strong. I love my small town, and I’m a native New Yorker who loves big cities too.

Fifi Flowers said...

What a lovely town! I would love to visit Maine! YUMMY lobster too!

BTW... do you think you'd like to help me with a virtual trip to Maine on my site?

Sarah Laurence said...

Fifi, thank you for the offer. The virtual trips on your site do look fun, but I don’t tend to participate in extra blog projects. I’m pacing my latest novel with my writing partner, Jane Green, which doesn’t leave much time spare. You are more than welcome to drop by here any week you crave a virtual visit to Maine.

ORION said...

This was such fun to read. I might have to do a virtual trip to my marina...hmmmm...
oh boy. Another thing to procrastinate about!

Sarah Laurence said...

ORION/Pat, I’d LOVE a virtual trip to your marina in Hawaii, but I want to read your next novel even more. Blogging is candy for writers. Then again, I’ve been snacking on Halloween candy all day….

Audrey said...

Hi Sarah, beautiful pictures! Does it really look so good there or...are you photoshopping? Quintesessential New England. I'm late posting on this post, picked up a rather nasty tummy bug in Morocco last week and have been out of action. Thank God it's election day today! Don't forget to vote.

Sarah Laurence said...

Audrey, I’m so sorry you caught a bug. Those are the worst. I hope you had some time to enjoy Morocco before you got ill. I’ve always wanted to go there. Did you know Elizabeth from About New York (in my sidebar) used to live/blog in Morocco?

Ha! It is such a cute town that it looks Photo-shopped. We have our ugly parts too, but you know me - always looking on the bright side. I'm actually demo-ing Lightroom. The watermarked photos have been developed but only to fix imperfections.

Voted and off to an election party now! I'm not going to make it too late after a grueling day of writing.

Gretel said...

An incredible variety of shops, and some lovely ones in there - how you must have been disappointed with Oxford's rather bland High Street - not to mention our low-key approach to Hallowe'en, which almost passes unnoticed...

Sarah Laurence said...

Oxford was anything but disappointing, but I avoided shopping on the high street with the dollar struggling against the pound. Now we are all hurting, sigh. Halloween did provide some much needed cheer. Last year in England we got one trick-or-treater.

Tim said...

I enjoyed reading this. I am from Winslow, Maine. We don,t have a Main St or Maine St. We do have a main drag where most of the stores are.
Take care Tim

Sarah Laurence said...

Tim, Winslow, Maine sounds so poetic. Always fun to find another Maine blogger.