Last Saturday, our friends Beth and John and their cute little dog Bernie came over for lunch. The day was splendid, but unfortunately, the blackflies were out in force, and I had to wear a cap sprayed with insect repellent. There is something in my body chemistry that calls to those biting blighters. Clif wore a cap, too, but fortunately, the blackflies left Beth and John alone.
Never mind! We spent most of the afternoon outside on the patio. Beth and John brought cheese and crackers, salad, and for dessert, cream-cheese toffee bars. As if that weren’t enough, they also brought a bouquet of flowers. Wow! Such generous guests.
Clif made his legendary grilled bread, the first of the season, and we ate every bit of it. I also made a potato salad, again, the first of the season, and Clif grilled some chicken. By the end, we were completely stuffed.
But not too stuffed to talk about books, politics, and poverty. Clif and I are watching, for the first time, the excellent HBO series The Wire, and while at first glance, rural Maine seems very different from the ghettos of Baltimore, there are indeed similarities. This is especially true for Beth and John, who live in a small town that is afflicted by extreme poverty, lack of hope, and drug addiction, just as parts of Baltimore are.
“The worst is the lack of hope,” John said. “Young people in my town have nothing to look forward to. Most everything has closed, from the factories to the businesses around town.”
“Do old timers remember a better time, when the factories were booming?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah,” John said. “The town was very different then.”
I could write a whole post about the two Maines, the prosperous coastal communities and the impoverished inland towns where factories once thrived. I could write about how Maine, like too many other states, let communities sink, and as a result, caused an exodus of young people. (Maine has one of the oldest populations in the nation.) And maybe someday I will write about these things because Maine’s tale is the tale of this country, which, in turn, is driving the tone and the rhetoric of this political season.
As we talked and ate, the birds came to the feeders, and Beth took some pictures. Both Liam and Bernie begged for bits of chicken, and I slid them a few pieces. Moving away from the issues of poverty, we talked about cameras and funny Maine sayings. John, who grew up not far from the coast, had a wealth of mermaid sayings, none of which I had ever heard. Then there is my fishy favorite: “Numb as a hake.”
“Why are hakes considered numb?” John asked.
None of us knew, and the two dogs didn’t care. They just wanted more chicken to come their way, although no doubt, they would have nibbled on hake, however numb it was.