Coming to you from the Porch Overlooking Penobscot again. This time, I’ve got a 75 degree ocean breeze wafting my hair, the sea is an impossibly deep blue – I’ve tried now…let me check…35 times in the last hour to capture this blue with my camera, and I am sadly and totally confident that every single effort will fall well short of the mark when it comes time to examine my pictures from this trip. The white railing of the porch serves as much to set off the deep blue of the bay as it does to promote security. The citizens of Isleboro regard me from across the water, and the surface of the bay is scattered with the tiny, yet perfectly white triangles of sailboats out for the afternoon. The tide is up, which means my steps end at the water, and it is slapping at land with that delicious regularity of the sea. The breeze is rustling the leaves of the trees, and – happily – blowing away any hovering insects as it does. I sit here, considering that it’s only 2pm and my day has already been well-spent, and think that nothing could be better than this vacation. Roy sits to my side, pretending to read a New Yorker, and occasionally waking himself up as he snores. I have a Maine Root Blueberry Soda at hand, and the only pressing issue (of which I am currently aware) is the question of whether mynext book should be one of the P.G. Wodehouse novels I brought with me, or book 1 of Game of Thrones.
The day started as it usually does, with some Quality Time Alone With The Web. But then it moved on to the inevitable marital Vacation Dispute which – thanks to some dedicated efforts toward the development of Good Communication Skills on the part of myself and my spouse – quickly resolved into Plan A: drive down into Belfast where the Arts In The Park juried art festival is going on, then adjourn to the cottage where Roy could get in his Daily Constitutional, at which point some kind of eating would commence, To Be Determined.
Oh, look. There goes a yacht, steaming out of Belfast Harbor. You see this kind of thing more often coming out of Bar Harbor, or even Boothbay Harbor. You’d see it coming out of Camden Harbor, but Camden Harbor is like the parking lot for Yankee Stadium: can accommodate far, far, FAR less traffic than the traffic that would like to use it. One of my favorite things on this part of the coast is to sit at the Waterfront Restaurant in Camden, eating over-priced yet solid food and drinking local beers, and watch the harbor traffic attempt to move smoothly. I don’t know who the Harbormaster for Camden is, but that guy really has his work cut out for him. The small pleasure craft moor in Camden Harbor in the same way that Sport Utility Vehicles park in the inner-city Wal-Mart. Then there is some kind of major shipworks, or dry dock (I’m not sure which) across the harbor, and there’s usually some kind of large watercraft waiting or moored there. Yesterday there was a sailboat, of the kind I’ve seen in Boothbay for the Shipyard Cup. They’re called “big boats” and they mean it – I think the typical size of these boats is 100-150 foot. This one was on the larger end of that spectrum. Meanwhile, we not only have the craft that are moored, we’re got a fairly steady stream of even smaller craft ferrying people out from the shore to the moored craft – so it’s already high traffic…and that’s before you consider the fleet of Windjammers in dock at the bottom of the harbor. Those things need to make their way from the very back of the lot to the mouth of the harbor, and they’re doing it pretty much with Wind Power. My uncle spent a season captaining the Mercantile (a 79-foot schooner) on 4 and 5 day cruises a few years ago. He gave us a tour of the boat while he was here, and that experience pretty much cured me of any desire to set sail on an extended windjammer cruise. Maybe if I was half my size and half my age, perhaps. Otherwise, I need…more space. Anyway, several of the schooners set out for two-hour cruises several times a day, each time having to navigate the clots of marine traffic in and back of the harbor. All in all, it’s a great opportunity to kick back, watch, and contemplate the joys of Not Having To Do That Myself.
Back to the morning. The art festival was at least as good as other examples of its kind that I’ve attended, and even better for taking place on the waterfront. And best, for being there just as the weather changed, dropping the temperature and humidity, and adding the “breeze”. I bought two baskets in one of the shops, and spent 20 minutes making my choices, and was pelted with flying baskets set adrift by the stiff breeze three times in that period. Meanwhile, we were entertained by a jazz band comprised of members of the US Armed Forces. It is absolutely and without question the first time I’ve been serenaded with jazz standards by musicians attired in BDUs. The booth food was indescribably tempting – anything from falafel to the fish-and-chip truck to the women who brought an entire wood-burning oven out to the park to cook pizzas that had stuff like duck confit and gorgonzola cheese on them. I was sorely tempted by the creamery truck that was service salted caramel ice cream made with the mild from Jersey cows (higher protein than most) but I held off with the promise of breaking – in a Big Way – Rule Number Two: Never, ever eat at a Mexican Restaurant north of Dallas.
Yes. There it is. Those of you who know me will be shocked, shocked I say, but I did it. I ate at a Mexican restaurant in Maine.
Why would I do this?
For one, it was Properly Kitschy. The bar had a grass-hut ceiling and a net of fairy lights strung for ambient lighting, and a tv broadcasting international sporting events. The outside of the restaurant was painted in properly lurid colors, and where at the muy autentico places you’d find on the border you would see chunks of the stucco fallen away to expose the underlying brick, this place had painted trompe l’oeil stucco fallen away from brick. We stopped to look at the menu yesterday – this place is about 2 miles down the street from the cottage – and it had about 10 different margaritas, mostly involving Specialty Tequilas, and none of them involving Suspect Items like rum. One of them involved habanero-infused tequila. That’s still on my To Do list. The menu, properly, was heavily tilted toward the Surf end of the spectrum, and not the inappropriately Turf end.
And the guide to local amenities that the owner of the cottage thoughtfully provides to his renters indicated that the margaritas are VERY GOOD. In caps, no less. I felt that, no matter what else, it would be worth it to try the ‘ritas, and that fish tacos are a decent bet. I don’t want any nasty fish tacos in San Antonio, I don’t care how Muy Autentico they may be. It’s too far inland. Right on the ocean, however, it is a different story. The best fish tacos I’ve ever had came from a ramshackle stand out on the side of a hiking path on Monhegan Island, out in the Gulf of Maine.
Boy, howdy, was I glad we made that choice. It had been either that, or a trip back to the art fair for gourmet pizzas from a travelling brick oven and ice cream from a truck. It was a close call, but around the time that we discovered that the ceviche was unavailable (missing ingredients), the strawberry margarita (featuring fresh strawberries, which are in season around here, yet sold out last night) was unavailable, and something else…can’t remember what…but the bartender did some research and discovered that the kitchen had a mess of fresh watermelon, and volunteered to make a fresh watermelon margarita for Roy (I had the Purist’s Version: tequila, lime, triple sec, and sour, on rocks, with salt). And when Roy asked about chips and salsa, the waitress said that oh, of course they were free (which they should be…nothing sends me off the beam more completely and easily than a Mexican joint that charges for the chips, pinche putos) and she asked if we wanted the (properly termed) salsa fresca or the “hot” sauce (10-alarm, or to me, 2-alarm) and brought them both, I became entirely reconciled to the notion.
And when I took a closer look at the menu and discovered things like Shrimp Quesadillas, and Lobster Enchiladas, I thought that maybe just maybe there are some rules that are meant to be broken.
And I was right. A Cuervo margarita under an umbrella with 75 degree sea winds breezing through and a lobster enchilada confirmed the Amendment to Rule Number 2: Mainely do not eat at Mexican restaurants north of Dallas, except if they are on the coast, serving lots of fresh seafood, excellent ‘ritas, and free chips.
Now I’ve arrived at the conclusion to my earlier quandary: the devil take the potentially sordid, gripping mess of Game of Thrones. Give me Blandings Castle, Bertie, and Jeeves.
And possibly, another rita on the rocks.