Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tommclaughlin@fairpoint.net

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Vacation Cottage in the City

It’s strange waking up in the middle of the night not knowing where I am. The house in the City of South Portland, Maine my wife and I bought for an investment is coming along, and we’ve been staying there a couple of nights a week as we work on it, so when waking, I need a few seconds to get my bearings. (For readers not familiar with Maine, South Portland is a separate municipality just across the Casco Bay Bridge from better-known Portland.)
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.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Showboat said...

Excellent article! Thank you, Mr. MdLaughlin, for sharing the experiences that you enjoy and including the pictures!

2/12/13, 12:23 PM  
Blogger Kevin McKenzie said...

Hey Tom,

I loved the pictures and the article this week. It's refreshing to hear how much you appreciate your surroundings regardless of where you are and share them with your photos.

Although your political views you share are interesting, I enjoy this type of details about your life, the most.

It may have something to do with “knowing you since childhood” but not totally. I think it may be more about the kind of man and person you have become.

Proud of you man,
Kevin McKenzie

2/12/13, 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Barbara Graham said...

This is great Tom! I remember how Roseann always hated living " in the boonies" and wanted to be closer to the city. She must be VERY happy with this arrangement! The best of both worlds! It looks and sounds wonderful!
Barbara

2/12/13, 1:13 PM  
Anonymous Julia said...

My husband and I divide our time between two homes, one just outside DC and one in a semi-rural area of Virginia. Although we plan to sell the DC home when he retires, I'm already trying to talk him into keeping it! It really is nice to have two very different places to live. I'm glad you are enjoying it.

2/12/13, 2:29 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Congratulations on your house. A home in the mountains and a home on the shore - that's the model retirement.

2/12/13, 5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I miss the ocean and the 'comfort' of having her near. You have to move away to understand that. However the mountains are here and its peaceful enough. Enjoy it Tom

2/13/13, 10:22 AM  

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