Ah, summer in Maine. People flock here from all over the world to see the sunrise in Acadia National Park, to eat lobster, to go kayaking, to see a moose (good luck by the way – I’ve only ever seen two and I’ve lived here for most of my life) and to buy as much stuff as they can fit in their suitcases (or just buy new suitcases) at L.L. Bean. These are the things my state is famous for, and they really are pretty great.
Everyone knows about that stuff. I’d like to give you the exclusive inside scoop on summertime in Maine. A real Mainer knows that it’s not all about lobster rolls and monogrammed tote bags. I’m here to tell you about some things you should really be looking out for if you come to Vacationland (it says “vacationland” on our license plates – I’m not making it up to sell you on Maine tourism or anything) for your summer getaway.
1. Maine has some great little cities, but we are largely rural. If you do any driving while you’re here, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find yourself on some winding country roads where you might not see a house or another person for quite a stretch. (“quite a stretch.” Jeez. Listen to me. How old am I, anyway?) I can almost promise, though, that you will see this one, ubiquitous guy: the sketchy-skinny-white-guy-with-a-ponytail-and-a-tank-top-walking-along-the-side-of-the-road. A lot of the time he’s actually shirtless. He is often carrying a plastic shopping bag. But he is always walking along a section of road where there is nothing around and it’s super mysterious as to where he could possibly be coming from or going to. He never seems particularly threatening, just sketchy. I mean what the hell is he up to on the road in the middle of nowhere??
2. Speaking of being in the middle of nowhere, you might be surprised to find that we have “specialty” stores in areas where there seem to be more cows than people and you can’t possibly imagine how they stay in business. Like a tropical fish store. Or a scrapbooking store. There could be no gas stations or grocery stores for miles around, but dammit, people need their sparkly little rocks for Billy the Beta Fish’s tank. Or a set of acid-free Victorian-style-angel labels for their Valentine’s Day scrapbook page. Or something. I don’t know. I don’t have fish or scrapbooks. The best example of this phenomenon is a store where you can buy weapons, furniture, beer, and, best of all: a wedding dress. See for yourself: Hussey’s General Store
3. We have red hot dogs. Do you guys know about these things? If not, someone has an entire blog devoted to hot dogs in Maine. Here it is:
Basically red hot dogs are natural casing hot dogs (as in, the weird, processed meat is stuffed into an actual pig’s intestine) and the casing part has been dyed red for god knows what reason. The amount of Red 40 required to dye these puppies cannot possibly be healthy, but the catch is that as much as I hate to admit this, red hot dogs are delicious. They’re snappy. I mean, you don’t want to eat too many of them in your lifetime, because they are for sure carcinogenic, but if you come to Maine in the summer, you have to have one, grilled, on a buttered, toasted, split-top bun, for an authentic Maine experience. It tastes like camping with my grandparents in 1989.
4. We have creepy, confusing signs by the side of the road:
In case you can’t tell, the sign says “Slavophile Society.”
I was really confused when, on our way to the beach early this summer, we passed this sign on one of those aforementioned winding country roads. I thought, at first, that “slavophile” was really “slave-o-phile” and meant “love of slaves.” Which to me, could mean one of two things. Either it’s a society for people who love having slaves, (which, oh my god, why is their sign still up?!?) or a society for people who love slaves and therefore want to set them free. Like the abolitionists. Or Daenerys Targaryen.
It turns out that the society has nothing to do with slaves, really, but was some kind of turn-of-the-century group of Russian ex-pats who loved Slavic culture, or politics, or whatever; I didn’t read too much about it because it wasn’t that interesting.
It’s still a creepy freaking sign. And sometimes you have to look hard, but there are plenty of creepy, confusing signs around. We are in Stephen King country after all. Handwritten signs having to do with Satan are especially fun. Look for those.
5. And finally, although it is summer, we all know that winter is an inevitable fact of life and it will return whether we like it or not. Since you might love Maine so much that you want to come back in the winter, you should be prepared by purchasing some earmuffs here because, and I know this is just going to blow your mind: Maine is the birthplace of earmuffs. Yup. Earmuffs were invented in my hometown. Earmuffs, people, earmuffs. Where would society even be without earmuffs?
So there you have it: just a few of my favorite things about the real Maine experience. I’m sure you’ll thank me for the heads-up when you’re having your picture taken next to a hand-painted devil sign with a shirtless drifter at a tropical fish store while eating a red hot dog and wearing earmuffs.
Where else is that ever going to happen to you?