Rather jauntily, some time back, I floated the question.
How about a road trip to Maine?
There was an enthusiastic response. Last May we spent a week in Gloucester feasting on seafood at the Causeway, Azorean, and Charlie’s. We return in November as fellows of the Manship Foundation in Lanesville. Pip and I are writing a book about coming of age in hoity-toity Annisquam. Our Irish ancestors, the Nugents, were homesteaders in Rockport.
It was our first road trip in three years through a combination of Covid and major spinal surgery on March 16, 2021. With a walker and cane (we call it a stick) I get around better than then. But the prospect of a major road trip is still daunting.
We are home safe and sound after ten days. That’s a lot of checking in and checking out. We managed just fine averaging 4,500 steps a day.
This morning I asked where we would spend the night. Just kidding, but you get into a road warrior rhythm.
September between theatre and appointments proved to be super busy. So we missed the end of the touring Philip Guston show. Bummer. But arrived in time for the MFA member’s preview of the Life Magazine exhibition. We spent five hours at the museum and the less so the next day at the ICA for the Rose Simpson exhibition. Reviews are in the works.
As always we felt most at home at our pied a terre the venerable St Botolph Club on Comm. Ave. After long museum days it was convenient to take dinner there and then just hop the quirky old elevator to our cozy, former maid’s room on the top floor. It has a view of the alley.
The second meal coincided with a prix fixe dinner on Club Night following an amusing lecture on the foibles of Yankee etiquette. We learned more about Emily Post and Cleveland Amory than you can ever imagine. There was lively dinner conversation and much to follow up on with arts writer Liz Hunter my new pal.
Choosing the dates for our travel was entirely arbitrary. It proved to be launched during a quasi holiday weekend. What was Columbus Day has been reframed as Indigenous People’s Day. Without getting into the politics, while rebranded, it’s still a three day weekend.
Facade of our pied at terre the St. Botolph Club on Comm. Ave
We attended a hilarious lecture on Foibles of Boston Etiquette.
Life Magazine exhibition at the MFA.
Pork osso bucco with barley at St. Botolph was superb.
Astrid enjoyed a fish dish.
We both finished with pumpkin creme brulee.
Boston harbor from inside the ICA.
Topsfield Fair #2
Topsfield Fair #3
Lobby of Hampton Inn
Hampton Beach view from our room
Handwritten directions to Al's
Which meant a crush of traffic as we made our way north along Route 1. There was a crawl to get past the Topsfield Fair then a touch of nostalgia passing Governor Dummer Academy in Byfield where my brother-in-law, Mike Moonves, was an administrator for many years.
(In July 2006 the name changed to The Governor’s Academy. The benefactor’s surname sounded uncomfortably like “dumber,” it was decided, and thus elicited predictable taunts during sport meets. Surely there was more to it. The Gov was an Indian Fighter, like Lord Geoffrey Amherst, and let’s leave it at that.)
We stayed at a waterfront hotel in Hampton Beach within striking distance of Portsmouth and historic Strawberry Banke where we logged a few thousand steps.
On a holiday Monday it was bumper-to-bumper to get past L.L. Bean in Freeport. There was a dense sea of shoppers as far as the eye can see.
We slogged on to our final destination at Moody’s Diner and Cabins in Waldoboro. That put us in range to spend a day with a school chum and friend of many years, farmer and musician, James Silin, and his wife Ann. More on that later.
The holiday was over and many stores are now closed for the season as we explored Boothbay Harbor.
The endgame was L. L. Bean then Portland.
On the return run there was sparse traffic in Freeport. There was no trouble parking but negotiating the vast campus was a challenge for me. After a week of such days my conditioning was up to it.
The trick is to focus and accordingly we skipped Hunting and Fishing. Instead, headed for sporty apparel on two floors; one for women and one for men. Generously, Astrid suggested that I go first but I demurred.
There were flashbacks to Filene’s Basement around Christmas time. I thought it best if she chose her own gift. Taking a dozen or so items to try on I sat on the floor next to the fitting room. I was a curious site as the queue of women gazed at me. Not wanting to be taken for a perv I muttered something about “my wife.”
Eventually, she emerged and put everything back on the rack. It was a total bust. So, next time, I bought her a nice Irish sweater that she still wears. Also, a diamond as big as the Ritz that she and a jeweler designed as a unique wedding ring.
There was a similar misadventure in a Montreal department store. She parked me and was out of sight for seemingly a millennium. Eventually, she found a spiffy red leather jacket, on sale, of course. She wore it for parties for years. Recently, she gave that and a fancy yellow leather jacket with lots of zippers, to Olivia. I hope she has occasions for it.
There are some things that men best not do with their wives. Like shopping. My policy is grab and go.
Doing a theatre week in NY, some years ago, she insisted that we see the Vagina Monologues, Off Broadway. There was only one other dude in the place. Chatting him up, it seems they were on their honeymoon which is when men abandon common sense.
“Hey mate” I suggested “Let’s go for some beers and come back when it’s over.”
Mussels at Al's
Seafood platter at Al's
Miss Daisy driving
Met a Moose
Moody's Cabins #2
Our Cabin At Moody's
Our Cabin At Moody's #2
The Counter At Moody's Diner
Chicken Croquettes at Moody's Diner
Boothbay Harbor #2
Boothbay Harbor #3
Boothbay Harbor #4
Tugboat Inn #2
That didn’t happen as I endured an evening of hearing every possible name for you know what.
Knowing the drill, at L.L. Bean I planted myself on a highly visible balcony. The good thing about using a walker is that it has its own seat. With my cell phone I was shooting panoramas of the store.
A fellow pensioner, gentleman about my age, height, and weight offered to take my picture. “Don’t do that no more” I responded politely. “At my age the camera isn’t kind.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean” he said explaining that he too was waiting for the Mrs.
With time to kill I asked “Where are you from?”
“Freeport” was the surprising answer.
Then after a dramatic pause, “Iowa, that is. We have a small L.L Bean.”
After that, we got along famously as I asked if he had been to Woodstock or dropped Owsley’s Sunshine?
Then his wife showed up bending over to fix a shoe. She gave me a furtive look.
Astrid returned with several items.
After a pit stop overlooking Maine’s taxidermy we went to the men’s department.
I tried the famous snow boots but they proved impossible for me to put on by myself.
Next it was pants. Pretty much I wear nothing but L. L. Bean chinos. As usual, there was nothing in my size as has been a curse all my life. My friends call me “Big Boy.” It seems the world is full of little people.
Life is more simple now. Back in the day, I had a hundred pair of shoes and wore purple pimp duds and cod piece pants designed by Phyllis Santis.
I’m so subdued now as to be almost invisible. My Beau Brummell days are over. That’s what decades of marriage will do for you. A couple of years ago I donated my Nudie’s of Hollywood suit of lights to the MFA. Them was the days.
A few years ago, when ATCA held a meeting in New Orleans, I was sorely tempted to buy a purple pimp outfit, with bling, matching hat, and pumps. Like the one I wore to the Newport Jazz Festival. Didn’t happen.
I couldah been a contendah.
As we were leaving a friendly sales woman came to the rescue. She found four pairs of chinios in my size. Trying them on they were a perfect fit. I bought two adding to the three I bought on line this summer. So, now I’m set for life.
As I told Astrid “I can wear them to the grave.”
I added a pair of spiffy hiking pants which are back ordered to March.
“You should get them by Saint Patrick’s Day” she said cheerfully.
Then it was on to Portland. But the sky was overcast and the prediction was for heavy rain.
Screw that. It was back in the car, home James, and don’t spare the horses.
Today, by phone, my pal confirmed our concerns.
”It was a right miserable day” he said “With high winds and torrents of rain. You beat the storm. Sure was good to see you and Astrid.”
The last lap to North Adams was a flat-out six hours with lunch.
We were wicked pooped but last night slept in our own beds.
There’s something to be said for that.
Tugboat in the belly of the beast
Astrid enjoying fall weather
The Founder of LL Bean
Big Boot LL Bean
Inside LL Bean
LL Bean fellow pensioner
Pensioner and his wife trying on a shoe
Taxidermy at LL Bean