Signs we’re reverting to ghost-town status

The indicators started showing up by the last week of August but are inescapable now. Eastport’s locking up for the winter.

As evidence?

  1. The passenger ferry to Lubec has already been hauled out of the water and is up on props in the boatyard for annual maintenance.
  2. The Tides Institute Museum is closed for the season, with the Eastport Art Gallery set to do likewise at the end of the month.
  3. I trot down to Horn Run Brewing and find it closed today. Gotta check the new schedule. Not that I expected its popular deck to be open all year. And other restaurants have curbed back as well.
  4. Nobody’s out on the Breakwater.
  5. Rosie’s hot dog stand is closed and its sign thanks us for a good summer.
  6. I haven’t seen a super yacht for a month, much less tied up at the dock.
  7. Most of the out-of-state license plates are gone, along with the luxury car models. It’s mostly Maine and New Hampshire now, and soon it will be about all Maine.
  8. Well, there is a sole convertible stubbornly zipping about – but just one, with its driver bundled up.
  9. There just aren’t as many folks around, period. At least the dog walkers are holding up their end.
  10. There’s an uptick in the number of houses for sale as some Summer People realize they can’t keep up with another year. And the places are staying on the market longer.

America’s largest cities in 1850

The development of the West – meaning out to the Mississippi River, mostly – propels changes in the balance of population by 1850.

  1. New York (515,547) is without question the largest metropolis, boosted in part by commerce via the Erie Canal, transporting goods to and from the Great Lakes and Midwest.
  2. Baltimore (169,054) has leapt to second-place. The growing Baltimore & Ohio Railroad is a factor. The city takes advantage of being the closest Eastern Seaboard port to the Ohio Valley and its agricultural abundance.
  3. Boston (136,881). The textiles mills of New England have to be a factor in the city’s prosperity and position.
  4. Philadelphia (121,376). Its clout would be enhanced if its three suburbs in the Top 20 are tallied in, pushing it to second place.
  5. New Orleans (116,375). The nation’s center of gravity has shifted. Nearly as large is
  6. Cincinnati (115,435). Migrants from urban Germany make a difference.
  7. Brooklyn (96,838) is a thriving independent city just across the waters from booming Manhattan.
  8. St. Louis (77,860). Not just the gateway to the Far West, it’s also a center of urban German migrants.
  9. Spring Garden district, Pennsylvania (58,894). Adjacent to Philadelphia.
  10. Albany, New York (50,763) is active on the Erie Canal.

The next ten are also illuminating: 11, Northern Liberties district, Pennsylvania (47,223); 12, Kensington district, Pennsylvania (46,774); 13, Pittsburgh (46,601); 14, Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky (43,194); 15, Charleston, South Carolina (42,985); 16, Buffalo (42,261); 17, Providence, Rhode Island (41,513); 18, Washington, District of Columbia (40,001); 19, Newark, New Jersey (38,894); and Southwark district, Pennsylvania (38,799).

Altogether, six of the 20 largest cities are west of the Appalachians. Three of those are on the Ohio River. And, in contrast, New England has just two.

Just in case you’re creating bumper stickers

Pardon me for getting political, but an important national election is coming up. Not that all of them aren’t important, but democracy is being threatened.

So here’s my chance to vent. See if any of these stick.

  1. Liberty is Liberal in Practice.
  2. 99% from the 1% (they’ll still be getting ahead).
  3. If you can’t be civil, just shut up.
  4. Democracy’s for consenting adults.
  5. Wipe and then flush the toilet after you’re done. We’re tired of cleaning up your messes.
  6. Don’t Bully My Free Speech.
  7. Today’s Lincoln Republican votes a straight Democratic ticket.
  8. Real taxpayer waste? Let’s start with Pentagon contracts.
  9. Just drink the Kool-Aid.
  10. Stop calling me slurs unless you want me to return the favor.

Do I sound embittered? Really!

Reflecting on the character of New Hampshire

When I arrived in the Granite State 35 years ago, I expected to be spending a lot of my time in the mountains to the north, but that never really materialized. I’ll blame my quest for love, usually found down in Boston, in the opposite direction, back before I met the woman I adore.

Contradancing soon claimed a lot of my social attention, with regular events across the state, across the border in Maine, and especially in Concord and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Add to that all of my time hunkered down in my literary endeavors or Quaker activities, even before I started singing in an incredible choir weekly in Watertown, just outside Boston, or swimming laps daily once I’d retired from the newsroom.

Whatever the character ultimately is, I found sufficient nurture and inspiration to do some good work. Gee, that’s starting to sound like Garrison Keillor.

Each of the six states, by the way, has its own character despite the overall New England identity. In general, those New Englanders are friendlier than their reputation for aloofness contends. It’s just that they’re more reserved – respectful of your privacy – but open up with a sparkle, for the most part, given a hint.

So here’s what I learned while residing in Manchester and then Dover.

  1. New Hampshire isn’t as archconservative as I had expected. Not that it doesn’t have a lot of blockheads, but the place was definitely shifting, especially along the border with Massachusetts.
  2. A large portion of New Hampshire residents have roots in Quebec, and others in Ireland, providing a significant Roman Catholic presence. Both reflect the textile-mills workforce in the 1800s. But other ethnic minorities have thrived, too.
  3. At heart, the population is largely blue-collar in outlook, generally practical, but these days, half of them come from other states, especially Massachusetts.
  4. Some of us used to joke that the stereotypical New Hampshire male had a Harley and his wife or girlfriend had big hair. That wasn’t far off the mark. Add a snowmobile, more than downhill skis or hockey skates.
  5. Agriculture isn’t a major economic factor. There aren’t many large commercial farms these days. And what farming exists is typically diversified.
  6. There are relatively few large employers. The commute to Greater Boston and back each day is huge – that’s where the paying jobs are.
  7. That also means few deep pockets for the arts and charitable action.
  8. It’s the most perfect test market for presidential candidates we have. Forget trying to find the ideal demographics, this delivers.
  9. Avid Red Sox and Patriots fans abound, with Celtics and Bruins supporters close behind. Keeping up with the teams’ developments is socially important. College sports, on the other hand, hardly matter.
  10. It might not have a sales or income tax, but you still have to pay for public services somehow. And so your property tax or apartment rental rate will be a whopper.

Surprises about Eastport

Maybe I just didn‘t notice, but I don’t recall noting so many quirky sides in the other places I’ve lived. Maybe they’ll pop out when I review my old journals.

Still, there are things in Eastport I hadn’t anticipated. For instance …

  1. As far as birds go, it’s basically gulls and crows. Just listen. Even with bald eagles right overhead.
  2. In summer, it’s ten degrees cooler than the mainland seven miles away. In fact, I wore my shorts only three times last year – and two of them were when I was running around inland. Well, as far as that goes, I should mention how much I now perceive the fact I’m living on an island.
  3. Watching the fog roll in from the Bay of Fundy, either up from the channel by Lubec or down between Campobello and the islands just north of it. As well as watching spectacular sunsets from the other side of town, in contrast to the amazing dawns I face from my house.
  4. No nightlife. Apart from events at the arts center, the place pretty much settles in after dusk. And then rises early.
  5. No commercial net fishing. The haul is largely lobster, scallops, clams, and urchins – a delicacy in Japan. But we were also once the sardine capital of the world, which left a bigger impact than I ever imagined.
  6. The importance of smuggling in the port’s past, as well as shipbuilding.
  7. The impact of Dover on its early settlement. Many of the early settlers came from the Piscataqua watershed, and even those who claimed Portsmouth or Newburyport, Massachusetts, could trace their lines back to Dover.
  8. Horn Run Brewing and Bocephus. Two new businesses, each one run by an enterprising and delightful couple.
  9. Diver Ed. A long-time tourist attraction in Bar Harbor, with all of its Acadia National Park crowd, he pulled up anchor and brought his Starfish Enterprise to our Breakwater instead. As a natural ham, he knows how to entertain an audience, even otherwise reticent teens, while teaching them the wonders in our waters.
  10. The number and variety of wild apples. That helps explain the appearance of so many deer on the island. I’d call them wild, but (another surprise) have seen neighbors feeding them by hand.

A few things Mainely about lobsters

Somehow, lobsters have become identified with Maine the way maple syrup has stuck to Vermont, even though both are found abundantly in neighboring states and provinces. I won’t even get into moose in this discussion.

Here are some talking points.

  1. Unlike other varieties, ours are distinguished by having large claws. One claw, the crusher, is larger than the pincher.
  2. They have clear blood.
  3. They smell with their eight legs but have poor vision. Their four antennae help them locate food. They can also swim backward.
  4. They chew with their stomachs, which are located right behind their eyes. They lack teeth but have a “gastric mill” that reduces their prey.
  5. They live on the ocean floor and never stop growing, which they accomplish by molting. Some are known to be more than a hundred years old. In fact, they show no signs of aging and almost universally die of external factors.
  6. It was once a poor-man’s dish, typically fed to servants. Impoverished families sent their children to school with lobster in their lunch buckets and an envy of the richer kids’ roast beef or chicken.
  7. Lobster comprises 75 percent of Maine’s commercial fishery value. In 2016, a banner year, the state’s 6,000 lobster-fishers landed more than 130 million pounds worth more than $533 million.
  8. A traditional lobster pot or trap has two sections – a “parlor,” where they enter, and the “kitchen” behind it. But for much of the region’s history, they were more likely to be harvested by hand along the shore and tide pools, where they washed up after storms.
  9. Most lobsters are caught in the summer months, before the shellfish trot off to deeper waters where they’re harder to harvest. In Eastport, many of the lobster boats do double-duty each winter, rigged to drag the bay bottoms for scallops. A few even go after urchins.
  10. Maine commercial lobstering is tightly regulated – more than in neighboring Canada – and licensing involves a long waiting list. You’d better apply well before your twenty-third birthday if you’re interested. Even if your dad still has his boat.

How about corporate naming rights for hurricanes?

Running out of baby’s first names for hurricanes and tropical storms has me wondering.

Can we turn to corporate behemoths, you know, for naming rights, like sports stadiums do?

Hurricane Amazon would be a natural. Or Geico, reminding folks of the need of home insurance. Victoria’ Secret Hurricane could be hot. You get the drift.

And let’s think about all the good uses we could put the money to, starting with relief for impoverished folks in those storms’ paths.

So how ’bout it?

What corporations would you nominate as the most amusing or fitting for the storms?


Misty afternoon light over Campobello Island as seen from Eastport gets me in a reflective mood.

America’s largest cities in 1820

Shifts in the nation’s economy are reflected in the 1820 Census, where Missouri and Maine are about to be admitted as states. The major population centers, however, are still seaports.

  1. New York (123,706), making it the first American city to surpass 100,000 population.
  2. Philadelphia (63,802). If the two suburbs, below, were included, it would approach that 100k threshold.
  3. Baltimore (62,738). The port has leapt to third place and is nearly as big as Philadelphia City. While
  4. Boston (43,298) has fallen way behind.
  5. New Orleans (27,176). The biggest city west of the Appalachian Mountains, it’s still smaller than today’s Dover, New Hampshire. In other words, most of these cities weren’t really big.
  6. Charleston, South Carolina (24,780). It’s the center of urban life in the South. But from everything I’ve heard, it was largely of a small-town flavor.
  7. Northern Liberties, Pennsylvania (19,678). Now a neighborhood of Philadelphia.
  8. Southwark, Pennsylvania (14,713). Now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.
  9. Washington, District of Columbia (13,247). First appearance of the new capital in the Top Ten, where it wouldn’t appear again until 1950.
  10. Salem, Massachusetts (12,731). New England is losing its edge in the American scene, relatively.

Why Maine’s blueberries are special

Across the country, pumpkin flavoring seems to infuse about everything on the menu come October, and something similar happens every summer in Maine with blueberries. The tourists and summer people, especially, seem to eat it right up. (Err, couldn’t help myself there.) So it’s not just lobster they come to devour.

Here are some facts about Maine’s in relation to the rest of the nation and world,  mostly.

  1. The local brewpub calls its obligatory blueberry ale Skul Clothes. The name puzzled me until I was told that’s how kids traditionally earned the money for their school clothes each year, at least before mechanized machines took over most of the patches. “It’s hard work, down on your hands and knees,” as one recent high school graduate told me. “But the pay’s good.” After that, I could tell the locals who walked in for the first time, looked at the offerings on the chalkboard, and broke out in a grin. They’d all done it.
  2. Ours are lowbush, wild, unlike the highbush varieties cultivated elsewhere. We lead the world in lowbush production, though it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the highbush harvests of British Columbia, Oregon, or Washington state. While Atlantic Canada produces half of the world’s wild blueberry tally, that covers more than a single province – Nova Scotia is the leader there.
  3. Lowbush berries are smaller but more flavorful, in our humble opinion.
  4. They’re also preferred in making blueberry wine.
  5. Blueberries are one of the few commercially-available fruits native to North America. The First Nations, some of whom called them star-berries for their blossoms and the tiny ring at their base, have been eating them for at least 13,000 years
  6. They top the list as an antioxidant and are rich in Vitamin C and even manganese.
  7. Wild blueberry patches are burned every two years.
  8. Wild blueberries freeze in just four minutes.
  9. Some research indicates they counter memory loss in aging. I’ll have to remember that. They’re also good for the heart, cancer-risk reduction, and lowering blood pressure.
  10. I like mine fresh, with yogurt or cream. Pancakes, muffins, jams and jellies come next.