Tag Archives: life in Maine

Do You Miss It?

11 Jan

That question is posed to me on a fairly regular basis by folks asking how it is that a Black woman from Chicago came to live in a place like Maine. To be honest, I get tired of answering the question and decided to blog about my feelings on the matter. For starters, of course I miss it…hello! I was born and raised there, in many ways I will always be connected to it but at the same time it represents my past.

My original decision to come to Maine was made for me, the fact that joint custody of a child does not work well when your child is racking up as many frequent flier miles as a salesman was the deciding factor. My ex at that time was unwilling to move back to the midwest and it put me the position of needing to move closer to him. Originally we were planning on moving to Boston but I realized that even Boston was too far plus it was too damn expensive. So we figured after having spent a few days in Maine’s largest city that we would live in Portland, little did I know when we actually moved here that I would get a job in a town south of Portland that included a discounted apartment. That in a nutshell is how I can to not only live in Maine but in a small town though technically my town is a city but with a population of barely 16,000 I still call it a town.

Now when the plans were made to move here, we figured we would be here until the boy turned 18 and then we would blow this popstand. Well the boy turns 18 in a few weeks and at this point I have no plans of moving anywhere this year unless the job offer of the century turns up.

I admit the first few years here were rough, I used to joke I was like a mobster who had been put in the witness protection program and relocated to someplace far away where no one would find them. It really did feel that way at times. The first year I was so lonely, I scared myself at times. Packing up your life and relocating 1100 miles away to a place where the only folks you know are your husband, ex-husband and in-laws and son is a hard thing. I walked away from a lot to make this move happen. Professionally I gave up a lot, at the same time I announced I was leaving Chicago, my boss at my previous job in Chicago announced she was moving on and I was approached by the board of directors about applying for her position. That shelter now just completed a multi-million dollar renovation and is one of the leading agencies on homelessness in Chicago. Their current director was my former co-worker who was just under me, it’s a position that had I landed it would have been a true feather in my professional cap. As it is they are still using policies and programs that I laid the foundation for before leaving and had I stayed I can assure you I would be earning a lovely salary.

I won’t lie, in the tough moments here, I think about that. I think about how since moving here my career has taken some twists and turns and not always good ones. Instead though I focus on what I have gained, the personal growth that has happened within me would have been harder to come by if I still lived in Chicago.

I miss the hustle and bustle, I miss living in a place that never sleeps. I do miss knowing fabulous waffles and burritos are available at 3 am if I so desire. I miss my close friends and even what is left of my family that still lives in Chicago. Yet I have come to enjoy the solitude of living in a true 4 season place, I love following the natural rhythms that occur here…that ole man Winter requires that we slow down and take stock of our lives. I love that if I run outside to grab a coffee and am wearing sweats,I won’t feel bad…hell, no one will notice.

I love the sense of community that happens when you live in a small town. I love that I see the librarian and her family at the art walk. I love knowing that if on a rare bus ride to the city if I should happen to not have my bus fare that the bus driver knows me and will still let me ride…good luck trying that one on CTA!

Racially, yes its lonely at times more so since my best sista friend decided to leave the area but this is where I rely on the internet and phone to keep me connected to my sistern. I admit it would be great to have a Black hair shop nearby without having to travel so far but hey we do at least have one decent shop in Southern Maine now. Progress is happening.

I don’t miss the political correctness that permeated life in Chicago where on the surface there was far more diversity but truthfully things were pretty damn segregated. Folks come together for work but by and large folks live in areas where everyone looks like them. Granted that was not the case for the Spousal Unit and I and I do miss our old neighborhood. A place where a walk down the street, meant passing Mexican, Swedish and Lebanese eateries as well as a host of other diverse places. Where culture and entertainment did not involve seeking it out as we do in Maine but literally just stumbling into it. I miss being able to hop the bus or el to downtown Chicago and wandering the museums on free day. I miss eating Mexican seafood stew at 24 hour taquerias. Don’t even get me started on the thrifting…so much choice.

Yet I am in a different place where there are good things as well and while I have no idea how long we will be here since every time I run the numbers taking into consideration increased salaries, we would lose a certain peaceful  quality we now have were we to move back to Chicago or any large city. So for now I call Maine home and while its natural to miss what we are used to, no longer does that longing feel my every moment.

Just another fall day in Maine

11 Oct

I love long holiday weekends, since for the obvious reason it means a day off work. This weekend up here in Maine signals pretty much the official end of the tourist season, not that folks don’t come when its cold but most folks enjoy Maine when the weather is nice. So to celebrate the end of the season, the family and I went over to the neighboring town where we took in some sights and enjoyed the last pier fries of the season.DSC02423 Prior to moving to Maine, the idea of eating french fries with nothing but salt and vinegar would have seemed like a strange concept but something about the way these fries are cooked, make them something locals and tourists alike enjoy.

In addition to one last official visit to the beach, I even took in some good thrifting…scored another great container. I am all about the containers. Once again such a great weekend left me inspired to share some of the pictures I took. Sorry to say, you will rarely encounter any shots of myself or the family aside from shots where you can’t recognize us. Due to the work I do in real life, I am not anxious to put our faces up on the blog. While I am an open book in many regards, its important to me to respect my family’s need for privacy also coupled with the fact that since I occasionally attract unstable folks with my writings for a local publication, it hit me that giving folks a face to attach to my name might not be a great idea.

See ya in a few days!

DSC02441

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC02442

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC02421

Joys of Maine…a day in the life of BGIM

26 Jul

I realize that sometimes I rant so much that it might be hard to imagine why I continue to stay in Maine aside from the fact who in their right mind would buy an old ass house that needs tons of work from me? But yesterday was one of those days that reminds me of why I enjoy Maine.

We left the house after doing our usual Sat trek to the farmers market and library and ended up going for a drive. The drive took us to one of the lighthouses here in Southern Maine as well to park with a neat fort….amazing entertainment that is free and appeals to the almost 4 year old in the house. (Elder boy decided to sleep all day…gotta love teens!) After exploring the lighthouse and fort, our tummies were rumbling so we found the coolest cafe/bakery near the lighthouse with mostly cheap fresh food. Though $4.50 was a tad high for a plate of eggs and toast for girl child, the plate was filled to almost overflowing with eggs.

After eating, we ventured to a never seen before Goodwill which I discovered was the best one I have found thus far in Maine since all the prices were $4.99, scored a lovely vintage summer dress…made Mama very happy. At that point it was time to head home along the way we stopped off for ice cream at a local candy shop and a chance to view the life size chocolate moose.

Clearly it was a full day and I would have been happy to call it a day but not wanting elder child to be left out, I took him out last night to hear some live music at a new venue in the town next door…it was a night that included good music, hanging with my son, chatting with friends and a special treat for Mama…3 glasses of sangria (why have I only just discovered sangria…must get a recipe). Regular readers know I have a driving phobia so we walked home from the venue, about a mile or so at 11 at night and it was a peaceful walk, the type of walk that back home in Chicago I could not imagine doing late at night after a few drinks.

Anyway that’s a day in the life of the Black Girl in Maine and just a snapshot into why I live here.

Looking for non-white folks who live in Maine as well as working class folks in Maine

23 Jul

In light of a discussion that started on this blog a few posts ago, I would like to ask any folks who live in Maine who are either non-white or who hail from working class or even more humbler roots to consider doing a guest post here at Black Girl in Maine.

One of the reasons I started this blog last year was because as I like to joke it was cheaper than therapy but also I was interested in connecting with others….in the past year, I regularly get emails from folks particularly people of color who are either contemplating a move  to Maine or folks who recently moved here who are in a daze…

Maine has this amazing reputation outside of New England of being a place of lighthouses, lobsters and leisure. Yet those of us who make are home know there is so much more to our state, but at the same time its a place where there can be a lot of ugliness if you are not white or poor. I will say that the first 2.5 years here were the hardest in my life, the only reason I stayed is because my position back in Chicago had been filled and I had no place to go back to, otherwise we would have left most likely.

Anyway I know there are a few folks who lurk here on a regular basis and I would encourage you to share your stories about Maine. Oddly enough BGIM started off as a predominiantly Black blog but it seems my demographics are shifting and because of that I think there is great potential fo a dialogue that can be beneficial for all.

Tuesday ramble

23 Jun

Rain, rain go away and how about you come back in a couple of weeks? Yep, its another gray rainy day up here in my corner of the world. I woke up early to take girl child to her first dental visit and now have a pile of work on my desk that I am avoiding. Too damn tired, so that means I have all sorts of random shit running around in my head…so today’s post has no rhyme or reason other than I was just thinking.

Riddle me this? Why do white guys bring chainsaws when they are about to get down and dirty and fight? No, I am serious, yesterday I was working in my home office and all of a sudden I heard angry voices. As an aside I now understand better why when we were looking at this house, local folks tried to talk us out of buying so close to an apartment complex. I swear 9 out of 10 times if something worthy of calling John Q Law happens on this block its because of the apartment dwellers…by the way I grew up in apartments so I am not bashing folks in apartments it just seems that in Maine, apartment dwellers are a tad rowdier than I am used to but I am getting off track.

Anyway after hearing one guy call another one a filthy MF, I realized maybe I should peek my head out the window. What did I see? A guy who lives in the apartment complex engaging with a man who lives in the townhouse across the road from the apartment. The man in the townhouse had a posse of young men, hopping out of a pickup truck who were all yelling at the lone apartment man, lets go. In case you are not hip on young folk vernacular, that would be the sounding cry that they were about to take the altercation to the next level and get physical.

Now from my view it already looked like apartment guy was about to get his ass kicked unless he was about to bring out his inner Bruce Lee. Those fellas getting out the pickup looked beefy and like they kick asses on the regular and apartment boy looked like he had not been eating his Wheaties. So if that wasn’t bad enough one of the pickup dudes runs to the side of the townhouse and comes back with a chainsaw and starts running towards apartment boy. I admit my heart fell thinking oh shit. Thankfully at about that time, the clear sounds of the police came and the two camps started to back away…guess no one wanted a ride in the backseat.

So who knows what will happen but this scene reminded me of many years ago, my ex-unit got into a verbal altercation with my landlord ( I say mine since we were separated) and the landlord ran in his house and came out with a chainsaw…sadly my ex-unit maced the guy. It had no impact on my relationship with the landlord though the ex could no longer visit our son at my house. But this incident made me think about the fact I have never seen a couple Black or Latino guys getting ready to rumble and deciding hey I need a chainsaw. Shit that makes you go hmmmmm.

So its official Jon and Kate are no more. I know you are devastated just like I was…..not! But riddle me this if your marriage were dying, why the fuck would you put that out there when you have 8 kids??? Look, I know they have a contract but at a certain point where is the common sense. Fucking cancel the contract, work on the family. Sorry, Jon and Kate but I think the college fund may end up being the therapy fund when those cute kids are older.

Also but maybe its me but a show showing each parent at a time with  the kid hardly seems tv-worthy. I mean if we are about to see Kate raises 8 (with a little help from Jon) what the heck is so different between her a million other single Mamas. Ummmm, well she is cute and white and the kids all have the same Daddy. Sorry, but I had to go there.

Lastly, before I went to bed Keith Olbermann mentioned some Republican lawmaker who was against the Summer Food Program that feeds poor kids. In fact she stated that there was no need for a 16 year old to access this program since they could get a job at McD’s…after all hunger is a great motivator. What the hell is wrong with Republicans, I swear they are becoming more unhinged.

Anyway may the sun come out so I can go back out and play between work. Until then I am in my gloomy office with all sorts of thoughts swirling around in my head.

So when are you leaving?

22 Jun

This is a question that I get a lot these days as my son gets closer to 18. See, when we moved to Maine seven years ago, I figured I would do my time in Maine and when he turned 18, I would head back to Chicago my beloved hometown. Only problem is that life got in the way, it started off with the untimely and unexpected death of my mother and grandmother, the birth of my daughter as well as the purchase of our first home. When we bought the house it was during the real estate boom and we figured we would stay here 5 years or so…well this week marks 5 years that we have been in this house.

The truth is that I don’t know if and when I will leave Maine. Yeah, Maine can be a hard place to live as a Black person from one of the larger urban areas that many folks of color live (NYC, Philly, LA, Chicago, etc)…I mean Chicago the city has 3 million people in the city alone compared to the 1.5 million folks that live in the whole damn state of Maine.

So in the early days here I was in constant culture shock…then there is the practical stuff, like getting your hair done. Southern Maine has a whopping 2 hair salons that do Black hair and one of em is so bad that most Black folks her either travel to Boston, go natural or do their own hair. Which brings up another tidbit about living in the whitest state in the nation, even finding hair products to do your own hair can be hard especially if you want products geared towards Black hair. We have Sally’s Beauty Supply here but poor Sally’s Black section is real small…its a good thing I use natural products and have a fondness for Aveda products or else I would be shit out of luck.

Want to buy a lipstick and you aren’t white? Up until a few years ago, a trip to the makeup counter at Macy’s didn’t net a Black woman too much but we do now have a MAC counter so that helps a lot. A sista got tired of ordering online or heading to Boston for a damn tube of lipstick.

Making a nice soul food meal with collard greens? You can find collards here but they aren’t cheap, even at the farmers market in season I pay over $2 a pound for greens and you know you need a fair amount to make a pot. So I do string beans instead of greens most of the time and forget finding smoked turkey parts out here, its a good thing I still eat pork or else I would be really shit out of luck for indulging in my occasional nostalgia for southern food.

Yeah, people do still look at me like why the hell am I here especially when I am in an area that I don’t live in…or like this past weekend when I decided to eat at an establishment that looked like they had never seen a person of color step foot.

So you might wonder, why the hell aren’t you leaving anytime soon? In a nutshell, Maine has become home, Chicago will always be my hometown but Maine is my home. I have met some incredible folks here, the week after I came home from burying my mother, the Spousal Unit and I were out eating at a local eatery. The owner asked where I had been and I explained, well when I asked for the check he told me it was on the house, it was his way of offering condolences.

I could go on with random acts of kindness that I have only encountered in Maine, acts that are so powerful that it makes the occasional idiots less of an idiot. The physical beauty in Maine is amazing, its been 7 years and the ocean still mesmerizes me and the fact that its only a 10-15 min drive to the ocean is great.

The fact that small businesses here still use the honor system is also sweet, this weekend we picked strawberries at a local farm and the farmers were at lunch but rather than close the farm down they had a box sitting on a table so when you were ready to pay, you weighed your goods and put the cash in the box. Now being a big city girl, that tickles me pink…lets be honest, that would not fly back in Chi-town. Hell folks would either steal the cash or at the very least drive off without paying for the goodies. Or as my son likes to joke, the homeless folks would be in the  fields eating up the food.

Its things though like this that really make me like Maine, in many ways its a simpler place and at this stage in life I enjoy a simpler life though I do wish I had more folks of color here especially since my best Black girlfriend here in Maine decided it was a wrap after 10 years and relocated to CT.

Plus there is the practical issue that should I leave Maine, where do I go? Going back home doesn’t make much sense since I don’t have a job or home to go back to. Hell, both my brother and father live in bachelor style apartments so they couldn’t even put us up while we get settled. Then there is that pesky issue that while the Spousal Unit is self-employed it costs more to live in Chicago and I can’t take my job with me, of course the fact that I now have a house for life provided I pay the taxes and insurance are all good reasons to stay a while.

No, I am in no rush to head back but I would like to see my financial situation get to the point that we can visit more often. So guess I won’t be leaving anytime soon.