Vacation Cottage in the City
|Portland from Mill Creek in South Portland|
Usually it’s noise that rouses me at night. In the city, I think I’m hearing coyotes howling as they often do outside my bedroom windows in rural Lovell. Then, gradually, I realize it’s not coyotes I’m hearing; it’s sirens, which are just as common in the city as coyotes are in the country. When I realize where I am, I know in which direction I’ll find the bathroom.
|My morning run|
It’s a relatively quiet neighborhood, and when the leaves fall we can see Portland across the harbor to the north. Even when windows are closed for winter I hear foghorns and ships blasting a deep base as they cruise out of the harbor in the night. Far-off trains sound horns too and there’s a dull roar of airliners as they fly over on their way up the Fore River to the Portland Jetport. Never did I expect to enjoy these things after thirty-five years in rural Lovell, to which I considered myself totally adapted.
|Kite Flying at Bug Light in South Portland|
All those sounds are comforting in another way too. Together with the sound of automobiles and trucks, they’re the sound of commerce. As I walk from my house to my truck, I sometimes get a whiff of crude oil from a tanker unloading over at the Portland Pipeline As our economy continues to struggle, I like hearing and smelling products and people still moving as more than half of Maine’s economy is generated by the Greater Portland area.
|Tanker unloading at night in South Portland|
Cities used to repulse me. For more than a year, I had to commute in and out of Boston twice a day as a student and for my job there - and I developed a deep hatred for traffic. My twenty-mile commute from Lovell to Fryeburg and back for thirty-four years was peaceful and enjoyable - no traffic lights, few STOP signs, and very little traffic except during Fryeburg Fair. Now, however, my schedule is flexible. I can usually avoid morning and evening rush hours while I’m down there. The house is close to still-rural Cape Elizabeth with numerous ocean-front parks and beaches, and our neighbors are friendly. We bought it with the intention of fixing it up and renting it, but we like going there so much we’re just going to keep using it. Heating with natural gas is surprisingly cheap, especially with a new, state-of-the-art boiler and old radiators.
|Mill Creek South Portland|
And nobody knows me there. I’m almost completely anonymous as I go about. Once in a while I’ll bump into a friend or a former student living in that area now, but that’s it - and I like that. It’s also nice to come back to Lovell where, as they used to say on Cheers: “I wanna be where everybody knows your name.” It’s also nice being close to the airport and only ninety minutes to the Boston area where we have lots of relatives. And another thing: there are no bugs. No black flies. No mosquitoes, except a few near Bug Light at night where we enjoy “watchin’ the ships roll in, and watch ’em roll away again,” to quote Otis Redding.
|Sunset over Portland from Bug Light|
Interviewing for teaching jobs in Maine thirty-six years ago, my wife and I had a difficult time deciding whether we wanted to live on the coast or in the mountains. Both have their charms. Now, we have some of both, with a bit of city life thrown in as well.