Sunday, February 5, 2012

Christmas in New England - Snow! L.L.Bean, The Glenlivits at Fastbreaks

December 23

Snowy landscape behind the duplex.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
SNOW!!! The sunlight wasn't filtering through the blinds when I woke up this morning, so I peeked through them, expecting a gray drizzle. But, no! There were big, beautiful snowflakes falling thickly and creating a wintery landscape. The ground was covered in a white blanket, and the trees were dusted with powdered sugar. SNOW! Yay! I couldn't wait to get out in it. What a great surprise, as there hadn't been any snow in the weather forecast for the week. Perhaps there was hope for our sleigh ride, after all

Harry and I got all bundled up and stepped out onto the porch. I was expecting light fluff, but the snow made a wonderful creaking scrunching sound as my boot pressed into it. It was the sound of perfect snowman (or snowball...) snow. Again, yay!

Quiet whiteness.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We walked to the main house, the very few cars that were going by slowing down and moving to the far lane to keep from spraying us with road sludge. We were almost to Sue's driveway when I spotted a big duelie (large pickup truck with two tires on each side in the back) coming our way. Well, actually, it was barreling towards us, accelerating as it approached. “Uh, oh,” I thought to myself. I could see this happening as if in slow motion. Sure enough, he did not move over an inch to avoid spraying us. Quite the opposite. WHOOSH! I was covered from head to toe with brown, sandy, icy, wet, cold road grunge. Jerk. Well, there's one in every crowd, eh? I hope he got a good laugh at my expense. Happily, I was wearing a ski parka, so the wetness stayed on the outside layer, and I was still nice and dry on the inside.

Putting the finishing touches on
the "deer" as the snowman looks on.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
After a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, Zack and Mel went outside to make a snowman. It wasn't just any snowman, though. This one was a hunter, and they also made a snow deer with its four legs up in the air. Dark humor. Gotta love it. I think it was intended to be a gentle ribbing of Jim, who had failed to bag a deer for the first time ever.

We then got in the car and drove past Auburn and Lewiston and Lisbon to Freeport, where they've turned the downtown area into a lovely, high-end factory outlet store bonanza, with Mecca for those who love the outdoors (L.L.Bean) in prominence at several specialized locations (the “flagship” store, the hunting and fishing store, the home store, the bike-boat-ski store, the outlet store...).

The Boot
Photo by Zack.
All rights reserved.
We went to Amato's for lunch, an “Italian Sandwich” with ham and cheese and pickles and tomatoes and salty olives on a chewy roll. It was very good. There are Amato's locations here and there in the area, I've noticed. And Tim Horton's, too. But we haven't gone there.

We explored every square inch of L.L.Bean, admiring the Bean Bags and the Bean Boots and all the taxidermied animals hanging on the wall. The Christmas lights and decorations all over the grounds were really special, especially with the fresh blanket of snow. When you go, be sure to have your picture taken by the giant Bean Boot.

Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
It was getting dark, which it has a tendency to do quite early this time of year. The sidewalks were well salted to prevent slips, falls, and broken bones. Thank you!

So, after we'd had plenty of shopping under our belts, it was back to the car, back through Lisbon, and on to Lewiston, where we had dinner at Chick-a-Dee with Melissa's father, Patrick, and his wife, Heather. In case you're wondering, as I did: No, it is not at all related to Chick-Fil-A. It isn't a fast-food place; it's a “sit down” restaurant. I had the Patrick-recommended breaded, fried Maine shrimp (bay shrimp size) with a baked potato and a salad. Very light and crunch batter. I'm not usually a big fan of fried seafood, but I enjoyed this dish very much. It was our first time meeting Pat and Heather, and so it was a special occasion for us.

"The Glens" - Barry on the left, Pat on the right.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
And then, it was “try not to slip on the icy road” as we made our way across the street to Fastbreaks (a pool hall, bar, and pizza place) where Melissa's uncle, Barry, had assembled his old band (The Glenlivits, or "The Glens") for a once-a-year reunion gig. It's a bother to bring your gear with you on the airplane when you come up to Maine to visit your family, so Barry generally borrows Pat's gear, I understand. Pat is also a musician and is also in a band.

As the band began to play, I must admit that I was rather impressed. They're good! And even though they are all in different bands and play professionally, it's got to be a bit difficult to just get up and play as a group once a year without having practiced. They played lots of Allman Brothers and some blues, which is just what you want to hear in this type of venue. Pat joined them for a few songs, too, and I know that Melissa (and the rest of us) genuinely enjoyed seeing the brothers play and sing together. Nice job, guys.

Fastbreaks was jam-packed with people. It was a “standing room only” crowd, and we didn't get a place to sit until the second set was almost over. A good time was had by all.

I'm told that Lewiston is a “French Canadian town,” which I find intriguing. There's apparently a lot of population overlap in this border state, too. “The French” have been here for generations. At Fastbreaks, there was a “French” guy who was somewhat inebriated and was flirting (in French) with one of the ladies in our group (who speaks no French), a fact of which he was obviously aware. And so, he was being absolutely outrageous, thinking no one was the wiser. Until I asked him what he thought he was doing and told him he had a lot of nerve making himself obnoxious to a married woman that way. In French. Heh heh. He apologized and went about attempting to ingratiate himself to her and her husband, and all was well with the world.

On the drive back across the river, through Auburn, we admired the huge homes on the knolls, away from the river. Interesting. It seems as though there would be mansions all along the shore, but, no. Lewiston was a manufacturing town (woolen mills and shoe factories) back in the day, and the river was accordingly incredibly polluted and smelled just awful, according to Heather. So, the well-to-do built on the hills rather than down by the water.

The charming smaller model down the street.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Besides Cape Cod and Federalist and Colonial, there's a style of home here that seems very practical for the weather. I guess it's “New England Farmhouse,” with the main house in the front, a sort of vestibule/mudroom appendage on the back of the house, connected to a huge barn/garage/storage building (Zack is of the opinion that the red ones are the classiest) in the rear. All-in-one. Practical for New England weather. The older ones seem to have been updated and remodeled. The newer ones are no doubt built to modern standards. Driving by, I imagined snug and toasty people going from the house to the barn and back without having to go outside in the frigid Maine winter. Except that the houses were probably pretty drafty and difficult to heat years ago.

The more "deluxe" model,
complete with The Red Barn.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Here, I remember the farmhouse where we used to visit friends in the Quebec countryside. Downstairs in the common rooms, it was very comfortable in the winter. There was a door closing off the stairwell at the bottom to keep the heat from rising up to the second floor. The second floor is where my friend's room was. Wow, it was cold up there. You had to wear your coat to “stay warm,” and there was ice on the inside of the window glass. Brrr.

And so, unexpectedly, Maine is reminding me of my childhood. It feels at once familiar and novel and uncomplicated, and I feel my heart warming pleasantly to the possibilities of this charming place.

A ruggedly handsome guy...
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.

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