Two years ago, I left Brooklyn for Maine, where I was born and raised. Part of the motivation behind the move was driven by my decision to leave my magazine job to go freelance, leaving me untethered to a zip code. Most of the motivation to move was driven by my new boyfriend, who lived there.
When I moved to New York, I hated it, plain and simple. I was broke, friendless, and I didn't have an air conditioner. But after getting a tiny raise, a few more friends, and a really great AC unit at the K-Mart on Astor Place, life improved. When I left for Portland, Maine, it was with no small amount of reluctance. And the first year I lived here, I kind of hated it too.
If you haven't been to Maine, here's what you probably know about it: It's where George H.W.'s summer house is located, we make a mean lobster roll, and yes, it snows. If you have been to Maine, then you're probably jealous. I say this with as little hyperbole and sentimentalism as I can muster: Maine is the most beautiful place I've ever been. The landscape is untouched, dramatic, and soul-stirring. The air smells like brine and pine needles and moss and wood fires, depending on the season. But living here, full-time, has been different than I expected in a few significant ways.
It's hard to be anonymous.
In New York, I had a falling out with someone who lived two blocks away and we didn't run into one another for three years. Here, my boyfriend and I very regularly cross paths with every single person he's had the pleasure of dating — except for the one girl who moved to Montana, bless her heart. The people I stalk on Instagram are also the people I see at Whole Foods, and are also the people at the tables next to us when we're out to eat.
We're not all related.
I've been asked by people who I thought were funnier, "So, does everyone marry their cousins up there?" more times than I'd like to admit.
Everyone really does wear Bean boots and fisherman's sweaters.
In fact, I'm wearing both as I write this. Not joking. I wish I could say it's because they're both chic, which I think they are. But the truth is that they're strangely well-suited for ever-changing weather: a crisp sunny day, a sleet storm, a light drizzle, or a blizzard.
The weather is… the weather.
It's not uncommon for three of the four conditions described above to occur on the same day. Since I've lived here, the winters have been long, snowy, beautiful at first, and exhausting by the end. The summer is absolutely unparalleled. Bright and sunny during the day, with cool breezes and chilly nights. Full disclosure: The summer is also really, really short.
It can be a little lonely.
Everyone's a transplant in New York, which, I found, meant that people were pretty open to making friends. Most people that live in Portland were raised in neighboring towns and still roll deep with their elementary or high school friends.
There's lots of good food.
Portland is having a food revolution! You've probably read about it, or heard about it, or maybe experienced it. If you come to town, have a for breakfast, an Italian sandwich from Amatos for lunch, and a hearth-fired pizza at American Flatbread for dinner. If you're feeling fancy, try , , and .
But there's very little in the way of ethnic food.
The Indian food is watery. The Thai food gives me a stomachache. And there is absolutely no real Chinese food, nothing even close to the peppercorn and chile-flecked delight I'd eat regularly for lunch in midtown Manhattan.
It's very white.
In 2009, Maine was awarded its most humiliating honor as . Maine is gorgeous and the people are genuinely friendly, but I do miss New York's diversity.
Lots of people went to camp here.
Whenever I tell non-Mainers where I live, I get two responses. Either they went to summer camp here, or they have (or know someone who has) a summer house here. My response is always the same: No, I don't know where your camp was. Yes, I've heard of Kennebunkport. And no, I've never run into George H.W. Bush.
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