In Maine, the end of August usually heralds the end of summer, despite what the calendar might say, and indeed here and there, the leaves have started to turn. Accordingly, Clif and I decided to invite friends over for the last cocktail party of summer. (What a sad ring that has!)
Since learning to make them for our Fourth of July party, Clif and I have become proficient at making Moscow mules and our very own Maine mules. The nice thing about both drinks, which take vodka and ginger beer or ginger ale—the Moscow mules—or vodka and seltzer water—the Maine mules—is that when you’ve had enough, say, after a couple of drinks, you can then turn to plain ginger ale or seltzer water for a refreshing drink.
The weather was splendid, and we were able to host the party on the patio, one of my favorite places. We filled the cooler with soft drinks and tucked it under the round glass table. On top, we had glasses for everyone as well as a bucket of ice, sliced limes, maple syrup, and, of course, vodka. Those drinks don’t contain the word mule for nothing.
Then we gathered around the rectangular glass table. There were six of us—Margy and Steve, Cheryl and Denny, Clif and me. The day before, I had made crackers, and I served them with a homemade cream-cheese spread made with roasted garlic and basil. There were chips and salsa. Grapes. Those luscious peaches. And, of course, Clif’s legendary grilled bread.
“I was hoping you’d make grilled bread,” Steve said as he grabbed a hot piece of bread.
I am not kidding when I call Clif’s grilled bread legendary. It truly is, at least in the Winthrop area.
As we ate, the crickets sang. Birds came to the feeders, and Liam barked at noises we sometimes heard but most often didn’t. We talked about many things—the conversation never flags when we get together—but we spent a fair amount of time rhapsodizing about the poet Richard Blanco.
We also discussed how it was time for the state to stop trying to lure big businesses to Maine. This seldom ends well. If businesses can be lured into the state, then they can be lured out of the state. Instead, we all agreed that it was much more sensible to support small businesses run by local people and to help local businesses grow into larger businesses. There is never any guarantee that these businesses will succeed, but at least they will not be heading for parts of the country, or the world, where the labor is cheaper.
Gardiner is an example of how a city can support its own through various grants and tax breaks and reverse a decline that started when the great factories closed. (Note: The link may include some irritating pop-ups, but the information is worthwhile.) Not so long ago, Gardiner’s main street was dotted with far too many vacant buildings. Now, with more businesses opening their doors, the main street looks decidedly more lively.
And, let’s face it, any city that is able to attract Frosty’s Donuts is on the right track.