I went to Maine! Two months ago! I’ve been meaning to tell you all about it. I went to visit a couple of my best friends, Liz and Brian (who are a couple). They moved to Portland, Maine about a year ago for Brian’s residency because Brian is a doctor–but not a real doctor, as Liz would point out: just an M.D. Liz has been teaching high school English for years, starting in Teach for America after college. She has taught at an Afro-Centric school in Chicago (where students had to call her “Mama Liz,” which is my favorite thing), in a Chicago charter system with the strictest discipline I’ve ever heard of, and now at a public school in Maine with a totally different student demographic. I think she’s probably the best high school teacher in the world. But that’s just me.
Liz, Brian, and I have been friends for a long time. Honestly, it makes it a little hard for me to write about them. Liz has visited me on more than one occasion over the past couple years and I have neglected to write about our delightful Texas adventures (camping! sleeping outdoors! wineries! BBQ! walks!) because the prospect of introducing her has been too overwhelming. The beauty of my Maine photos is probably what’s motivating this effort. That and being harassed about never blog-posting by my family.
I like to point out that Brian will never have known Liz longer than I have, even though they’re married, from the same hometown, and started dating in high school. Liz and I have this shtick (primarily to bother Brian) where we try to count how many years we’ve known each other on our fingers and lose count and start over and lose count and start over…because it’s too many years. And Brian’s not just an add-on husband-of-a-friend either. I think I became friends with him before Liz even did when we were in high school, and we’re still close. The point is: we’re all lifetime friends. People are surprised sometimes that I’m still close with friends from high school, but it’s not even like that. I mean, technically Liz and I are elementary school friends. And our relationship has only grown and deepened over the years, despite the distance.
We haven’t had a lot in common career, location, relationship, church, or other large-life-category-wise for the past many years, but it hasn’t seemed to matter. We recently discussed if we’d still be friends if we all met now and, though I don’t know how we’d all even end up meeting now, I like to think that we would be friends because it’s not really our shared histories that ground our friendship so much as our current conversation. We aren’t old story-tellers for the most part. I can’t think of one that makes an appearance every time we get together. Well, except maybe me making the mistake of ordering a salt bagel when we were on Long Island once (of course). Instead, we tend to process our current lives together. And make stupid jokes.
So we’re not in a lot of the same circumstances, but we do tend to view life the same way–what I’d call a delicate balance of seriousness, earnestness, frivolity, and sarcasm (with me and Brian leaning towards cynicism and Liz holding down the fort with a sturdy effort towards positivity). We share a desire to do important work that matters with a proclivity for procrastination and second-guessing. They’ve made some bolder moves career-wise, obviously. But I guess it’s their honesty combined with a deep self-knowledge (individually and as a couple) that makes talking to them my favorite thing to do. Plus, Liz and I have known for a long time that we are much funnier together than apart. I mean, individually we’re funny, but together! I think we determined an estimated percentage increase at some point. It was high.
I was going to go on, but you probably get the point as much as you need. They’re the greatest and I love them. One of my biggest regrets in life is not living with Liz when that would have been more feasible. If I could have a do-over, I’d drop everything after college and make her have some sort of young-person adventure with me in a new city or country. She was busy working with youths, applying to TFA, and getting married, I guess. I suppose I was applying to grad school. And still, regrets. Now I’ll just have to do it as a weird adult moving across the country to hang out with an unrelated family. Oh well.
So anyway, Maine. I LOVED MAINE. Just look at it, for one thing. So far these photos are from the drizzly day I spent on my own, walking all around Portland while Liz and Brian were at work. Portland feels like a great neighborhood in a huge city in a lot of ways. There are old buildings and narrow streets, serious restaurants and a distinct vibe. But, it’s just not that big. You can easily walk the whole thing in a morning. Which I did. In my new LL Bean boots. Because, Maine.
But that wasn’t my first day. My first day in Portland, Liz and Brian picked me up from a friend’s in Boston (the fun didn’t stop–it was actually her bachelorette weekend), we drove up, Liz and I caught up over ramen lunch Brian did a little work, we hung around and then went to an annual fancy dinner, which I will tell you about later. When we got to their apartment after lunch, I was greeted with this:
Liz decorated with post-its to celebrate my visit. If you can’t read it, it says: “¡Welcome to Maine Heather!!!” with some pine trees, birds flying, and not-so-subtle notes encouraging me to move to Maine. Here’s one close up:
So, totally normal. Even more normal was this copy of National Geographic casually resting on their coffee table, which Brian informed me he had discovered decorated way before my arrival:
What could be more convincing? I feel like this is a great illustration of Liz. It’s hilarious that she wrote a note telling me to move to Maine from a hero dog, but also: she never handed me the magazine or told me to look around or anything. I just happened to see it, which I could easily never have done, which made it exponentially more delightful when I did.
And there she is. Looking at a confusing compass app, I believe, on a hike in Bradbury Mountain State Park, right outside of Portland.
It was pretty wonderful. I get why Maine residents are as obsessed with Maine as Texans are obsessed with Texas. Liz and Brian were talking about how everyone in Portland has either lived in Maine their whole lives, and their families before them, OR moved to Maine because they loved the land and the lifestyle and either way everyone who lives there is obsessed with Maine. I totally get it.
This was my first trip ever to Maine, and I found the trees particularly enchanting. I’d say they’re in the Gothic style, which I generally prefer. And all the green! This summer in Texas has been miraculously mild and rainy–meaning there is far more green than we’re used to seeing by this time of year. But, it’s a different kind of green.
I won’t lie and say there’s not a filter on the duck park photo, but it really was this green. Don’t you just want to roll around and nap in that grass? Anyway, aside from the lush parks and boats and things, Portland has something far more important: food. Really, seriously good food. This is a significant element in my friendship with Liz and Brian, and any place I visit, and everyone and everything in my life probably, so it obviously deserves its own post. Stay tuned for my ‘best of Portland, Maine’ next week–food, coffee, beer, etc.