Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

The other Portland

It’s hard to realize that it was almost exactly five years ago I went to Maine.  But I was messing around with WordPress, trying to figure out the easiest way to get a picture out of iPhoto that didn’t involve printing out the photo and then re-drawing it by hand into MS Paint (and in OSX 10.5 and up there is – more in a second) and I found this picture and a couple more from that visit.

The whole thing came out of a trip to Boston to read at Tim Gager’s Dire reading series.  I read there before with John Sheppard – actually, John read there and I took the bus up from New York and stayed in a hotel that used to be a bunker at some deactivated Navy base, and I had enough drinks in me to convince myself to get up during the open mic part of the reading.  I read from Rumored, and someone got up and walked out, so I consider that Mission Accomplished.

So I rented a car and got a hotel and invited along Sarah, who just started dating me a couple of months back, and this would be our first trip together.  I wanted to hit all 50 states – I still do – and pretty much everything north of Mass. still stood in my way, and I couldn’t think of any other reason to visit up there.  I mean, I’m a fan of maple syrup and all, but not enough to freeze my ass off and walk into the middle of nowhere to watch it being made (or extracted, or bled, or whatever.)  So I proposed we make a long weekend out of it, and twist up through Vermont and New Hampshire and stay in Maine.

My only experience with Maine was a certain ex I had in college who many of you lovingly remember because she was essentially the female version of Winchester from MASH and had some pompous entanglement with pretty much everyone I knew from 1989 to 1995.  She hailed from Bangor and could not have a conversation without mentioning how much better Maine was than anywhere else.  She left long ago, so I figured it would be safe to check it out, and cross that state off the list.

The reading went okay, except the opener wrote a book about how his sister died in 9/11, which really set the stage for an experimental fiction author who wanted to read a piece about necophilia.  Also his entire extended family was there.  And I was sober, which doesn’t work well with public speaking for me.  I read a chapter from Dealer Wins, and did okay.  We stayed in this Holiday Inn Express out in South Boston, and the only things I remember about it were that it was in the middle of nowhere near a highway; it was a block or so from a huge row of big-block stores; and there was some local chain of diner right next to the hotel and we ended up eating there like five times, because anywhere else would have involved driving in a town where the roads were mostly laid out for horses, (except for that eleventy billion dollar tunnel that would collapse in about a year, which had plenty of lane width.)

The drive up to Portland reminded me of the heavy forests and winding hilly roads of upstate New York.  We stopped somewhere, a sandwich place/gas station in an old converted barn that sold homemade fudge and little glass bottles of syrup and homemade pies.  We also pulled over at a rest stop after the crossing into New Hampshire so I could get a picture of my book at the welcome sign.  (This was back when I took pictures of the book at every weird place I could, like at the Reichstag or Pearl Harbor.

We stayed at a fancy four-star hotel in Portland, and walked around all day, popping into little book stores and looking at these little taverns that sold local beers and crabs and oysters.  And I didn’t drink or eat seafood, but I appreciated the local flavor and the fact that every other person we saw looked like he worked on a boat slinging lobster traps for 20 hours a day.  The hotel was this old restored building, like most of the restored places in that neighborhood, made of stunning red bricks with This Old House style fixtures and old timey windows.

I had an almost-new camera, this Fuji that eventually broke into pieces in my carryon bag a few years later, but I didn’t take many pictures.  The ones I do have, though, have this weird color tinge; that camera seemed to capture primary colors in a strange way I can’t explain, but I can always look back and easily tell what pictures came from it versus the couple of Canon point/shoots I’ve had since then.

And I have not crossed off any new states since.  We tried to go to Louisiana that year, but you probably saw what happened there on the news.  I need to go to both Carolinas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Nebraska.  Any suggestions on any reason whatsoever why I should go to Nebraska are appreciated.

Oh yeah – here’s how you get your iPhoto pictures into WordPress without exporting them first.  Go to insert the picture, and pick the From Computer option, and click the button to browse your files.  If you have OSX 10.5 and up, if you look in the left panel of the file chooser and scroll to the very bottom, there is a Photos icon.  Click that and it lets you browse your entire iPhoto collection and pick images from that.  Genius.