See also: The following, in which devotees reveal how a place can become a religion.
BY PADGETT POWELL
Our cabin is on Loon Lake, which is called "pristine" in real estate ads. Cabins, and even outright houses, are called "camps" up here, a somewhat nostalgic touch in that many camps have central heating and Galvalume roof systems and three stories and mortgages larger than their owners' real homes back in Massachusetts. Maine is a place that is brimming with nostalgic touches, you might say, and nostalgic touches can ruin a place, of course, but somehow they do not ruin Maine. It is hard to kitsch up something called a bean-hole bean, for example.
Across our pristine lake you might see of a morning klieg lights. This might mean William Wegman is filming a movie or shooting with his giant Polaroid camera. He might be shouting odd words at his Weimaraners to get them to have a particular expression as they sit in a red boat or pose as detectives or psychotic nurses or fly fishermen. Or someone like the Gap might be photographing Bill Wegman wearing its clothes. Later Wegman and his friend Stan Bartash, a local forester, and I—and maybe my girls, who are 13 and 19—will be out in our boats, rowing about for trout and salmon. And Wegman will not look like Hitchcock directing his canine actors anymore, or be wearing Gap clothes; he'll just be fishing, like the small people.
That is the thing: no matter what happens here, the small people and the small things prevail. Maine can't be swamped by modernity, yet. Not up here, anyway, where it looks enough like Austria that the rogue psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich chose this place to build his house and his laboratory to remind himself of home. It's a museum now; you can go there to learn about ravens and mushrooms—my wife has become adept enough to harvest wild mushrooms for us—and the "orgone" boxes that inspired the Feds to hound him to death.
You can go to the town of Rangeley to see a good second-run movie at a small restored theater, have a Gifford's ice cream cone at the Pine Tree Frosty, and get a book at Books, Lines & Thinkers, a real bookstore (if they don't have what you want at the library). Down the road at First Farm, you can buy organic produce from one of the owners as it is being picked by the other.The offerings—strawberries, kale, special Russian garlic—make you think there just might be something to the fuss about organic.
All of this has drawn enough people that Rangeley has had to put a cop on a bicycle to give tickets for bad parking, but the town has not been run over by its success. Show people Mayberry today and they go nuts, properly. But Rangeley, a homey town with a real Main Street, and its lakes—pristine even with lights—are holding their ground for now.
PADGETT POWELL is the author of four novels and two collections of stories. He directs MFA@FLA, the writing program at the University of Florida.
BY DAVID HANDELMAN
By Christmastime each year I am already longingly anticipating the ensuing summer's Maine pilgrimage with my two girls, who are 7 and 10. But the visions dancing in my head aren't of tree-lined hills or Atlantic bluffs or even my beloved loon-friendly Lake Damariscotta. They're of food. While the Pine Tree State's cuisine may not be Michelin Guide-worthy, it exudes the down-home plainness that attracts so many of us from fancier, busier places.
My first taste of Maine chow was especially humdrum: the institutional thrice-daily squares served up by Kamp Kohut in Oxford, where I summered in the mid seventies. Though our bunk occasionally ventured off-kampus for Mario's Pizza or a milk shake at Goodwin's, I didn't eat true native fare until I returned as an adult.
Now, after 15 years of renting cottages on the Pemaquid Peninsula (a thankfully untouristed region just north of Boothbay Harbor), I am addicted to lobster slapped on fishermen's co-op picnic tables.(My faves: the Pemaquid Co-op, overlooking a fort and the sea; Round Pond, up the driveway from the Granite Hall Store, a standout ice cream stop; and Shaw's Lobster Wharf, with its views of New Harbor.) But what I really dream about is nestling with my daughters in a wooden booth at Moody's Diner. Perched oasislike atop a hill on Route 1 in Waldoboro, Moody's opened in 1927 and, despite a few expansions and the addition of a gift shop, still glows with more than its enticing orange neon. Coffee has gone from a nickel to 75 cents, but the booths are stiff-backed, the tabletops Formica, the waitresses locally grown (not so long ago, one was named the Blueberry Queen at the Union Fair), and the menu packed with the kind of meat-loafy comfort food that cities replicate ironically.
Though we enjoy the chowder, burgers, fish- and-chips, and everything else en route, our final destination is the pie. Strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry, or the one-of-a-kind walnut cream, a wondrously puddingish cousin of pecan—you can't go wrong. Top it with vanilla ice cream and you'll be back for more. I go two or three times a week.
A few years ago when I temporarily relocated from New York City to Los Angeles, I went to Dodger Stadium for a baseball game and was faced with a sartorial dilemma: Should I put on my Mets cap and risk scorn, or go native and buy a Dodgers cap?I solved the problem by wearing my green cap with the bright orange Moody's logo—my true colors.
DAVID HANDELMAN, a former staff writer for The West Wing, is the writer for The Jane Pauley Show. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, Vogue, and Rolling Stone.