Doug Bruns

Sunday Repost: Five Islands

In Travel on February 17, 2013 at 6:00 am
Portland, Maine. Home, Sweet Home

Portland, Maine. Home, Sweet Home

Gulls wake early. And they sound hungry, very hungry, screeching complaints of empty belly. Our bedroom is on a wharf overlooking a working lobster dock and the lobstermen head out early, between 4 and 5 am, and in doing so, they get the gulls riled up and being riled up, being scavengers, they set out screaming like a small rodent being crushed under heel; all the more violent it seems at 4am. But really, one should not complain about waking up on the water in Maine.
————–
I walked into town early this morning to get the Sunday Times and coffee. I poked around the fish market though no one sets up on Sunday; but found a man pushing a grocery basket down Commercial Street. It was a third high with collected cans and bottles, residue of a Friday night downtown. There is a 5 cent bottle return in Maine.

“Can you spare me any change,” he asked.

His face was tan. He was short and wore a clean white tee-shirt. I had a dollar or so in change I gave him. I asked if he was from Portland. “Massachusetts,” he replied. “But I worked with the Coast Guard here. He motioned to the harbor. “Fifteen years and see where it got me. How this country takes care of its own. It’s a crime.” I thanked him for his service to the country and noted that the bottle return was a sound environmental policy. He said he makes up to five dollars a day returning cans and bottles.

House on Peak’s Island, Casco Bay, Maine

“I saw my girlfriend back there,” he offered, nodding down the street. “She won’t stay with him long.”
“Your ex?” I asked.
He nodded. I asked when they broke up.
“Yesterday. But she’ll come back. I’ve got a fifteen hundred dollar check coming. It’s overdue now…”

__________________

It was suggested to me two or three years ago to visit Five Islands if I wanted a true taste of Maine. The suggestion came from my friend, Franz Hanson. I met Franz in 2000 while fishing in Chile where he guides Patagonia rivers during the North American winters and Maine rivers during South American winters. We’ve fished together in both hemispheres. He said Five Islands was the real deal. So yesterday we headed out in search of true Maine, south on Route 127.

It was not until we got into the village of Five Islands that the cars started to back up, drivers searching for places to park. Two portly women were leaving the gravel lot, wearing large sun-shielding hats, brims bending back from the ocean breeze; their peddle-pushers, as my mother calls them, creaping up with each advance of their ample thighs. Across the way a carload of kids from Pennsylvania spilled out of an SUV. When I saw all this I thought that perhaps Five Islands is no longer the secret it once was–or maybe living in the wilds of Patagonia poor Franz’s perception of unspoiled civilization was twisted. Nonetheless, asphalt is for me the rubicon of touristy interest. If a venue is paved all is lost. The parking lot at Five Islands is gravel. On we marched.

The lobstermen were oblivious to the tourists. The lobster boats were dirty and smelled of fish. The woman behind the window taking orders was pleasant and sun tanned and had the thick working forearms of a farmer or a gymnast or an oyster shucker. Good signs all. We ordered, sat at picnic tables and ate. The claims were large with sweet bellies and the onion rings were world-class. Visit Five Islands if you get a chance. Turn back if they’ve paved the parking lot.

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  1. Bueller? Bueller?Anyone? Anyone?

  2. I’ve been drinking some single-malt scotches recently, mostly islay scotches. I highly recommend the Caol Ila 12. It is unique; a real experience to taste it. I have never tried their 18 or 25 – but for 50-60 bucks the 12 is pretty amazing. Nice Prague pics. I have the Leica X1, it’s a point and shoot but when close the pics are amazing.

    • Thanks for the recommendation. A few years ago, a half dozen maybe, my wife and I rented a car in Edinburgh and drove the Highlands to Isle of Skye. We stopped at many of the distilleries along the way. That gave me a good taste for and education in single malts. I’d like to the do same in the states, the Kentucky trail, being a fan of burbon, in particular.

      Kudos on the X1. My dad has that camera and I am partial to it. I sold two M8s last year, along with a few Leica lenses. I still hold onto my MP and 35mm Lux, though I doubt it’ll get much use ever again. I saw a lot of the world with that camera around my neck. (I also carried an M4 as backup in those days.) Love the Leica. Perhaps I’ll break down and get the M9 if I start traveling again. Good to know you’ve got Leica glass as well as a stocked single malts!
      d

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