Dick and I visit Portland, Maine, several times a year, often on our Harleys. It’s a convenient stop on our way to Camden, Blue Hills, Bar Harbor, or St. Andrew, NB. Portland is also a true “foodie” destination, with a number of remarkable restaurants that are as diverse as they are excellent. We wouldn’t miss Fore Street or Eventide Oyster Co. or Hugo’s or Duck Fat. Breakfast at The Front Room is a must after a waterfront walk to Munjoy Hill.
Portland is a great city, for a day or so. But even after a short visit, you’ll be aware of something odd, something out of kilter. Despite its claim as “Vacationland,” Maine abounds in problems. There is costal Maine with its rugged beauty and then the rest of Maine, much of it remote and poor—Appalachian-like. Read here from Jay Nordlinger his observations on Maine in general and Portland specifically.
There are a couple of divisions in Maine. One of them is “Portland and everywhere else.” There’s Portland, anchored in the southwest, and then the entire rest of the state.
You might enjoy this: I ask a young woman in Portland whether she has ever been to Bethel (which is 70 miles away). She answers, “No, I don’t really go up to Maine.” Then she catches herself (because Portland is in Maine, right?): “I mean, to northern Maine.”
In truth, Bethel is in the southwestern part of the state — but I know just what the young lady means: Virtually no one lives above the 50-yard line of Maine. Up there be caribou and the like.
So, you have Portland-and-the-rest. You also have coastal versus inland. Coastal Maine tends to be prosperous and postcard-worthy: “Vacationland,” as the state’s nickname has it. (Maine has two nicknames, actually. The other is “The Pine Tree State.”) Inland Maine is grittier, more Appalachian.
Maine has always been a poor state, to one degree or another. It has high levels of welfare dependence. It has also been a booze-soaked state, always. Why’s that?
As one of my Maine friends says, “We’re remote, cold, and dark.” And that adds up to alcohol — as in Russia, Finland, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, etc.
So, Maine has never been free of problems. But the old ones have intensified and new ones have arisen to bedevil the state.
Debbie Young, Editor-in-Chief