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So far the vacation is off to a perfect start. The weather is cold, specifically, forty degrees cooler than when we left Charlotte, and overcast with occasional sprinkles. But there could be a blizzard and I would still be happy. It’s vacation after all!

Last night, when we arrived in the Portland airport, I knew immediately that I would like the city. In the baggage claim area, there was a woman donned in full hippie attire, with a flower, literally, in her hair. We were off to a good start.

Our rental car company didn’t have a car for us, but assured us one would be ready by this morning. That was fine by me because it meant that I would get a relaxing morning. Otherwise, my husband is sighing, pacing around the room, and otherwise rushing me, usually by offering helpful suggestions like, “You can do that later,” until I’m slightly annoyed by the time we leave the hotel room. Vacations are for relaxing, but that’s not something that seems to get scheduled into our days. Not that I’m complaining. We always have a great time. It’s just that sometimes, one is grateful for the forced slow start.

Sometime after breakfast, at a perfectly reasonable hour, we procured our car and headed for downtown Portland where we spent the entire day. I liked it instantly when I discovered that we were following an Utz truck. A whole truck of Utz. Here! I foresee a recurrent theme during the rest of our vacation.

Once parked, we walked several miles (or what seemed like it) through the Historic and Arts districts. Characterized by brick sidewalks and privately-owned shops with quaint store signs, the area is tourist heaven. Numerous Irish pubs, clothing shops, interesting knickknacks, restaurants, a Life is Good (and way expensive, Dude!), bookstores, and a tasteful sex shop provide amusement for hours. There wasn’t a single chain store apart from Starbucks. For entertainment during rest stops for weary feet and old, aching backs, there’s plenty of people-watching. In addition to the tourists, the streets are lined with hippies, and sadly a few homeless people, making for interesting street scenes.

The first thing you notice about Portland, with gladdened heart, is the hippies. Then, the second thing you notice, is the smell of the salty ocean air. Portland is a peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides. While there isn’t a waterfront walkway or park, there are a few piers that afford a view of the very unaffordable parked yachts. It’s mind-boggling the amount of money some people have for recreation that the rest of us don’t have for our primary residence. And what I want to know is why I am not related to any of those people. Believe me, I’ve done a comprehensive genealogical search to verify this disappointing fact.

My favorite part of any vacation is the people I meet. Everyone here is friendlier than I think anywhere else I have ever visited. Case in point, today, utterly disgusted with my hair, I stopped in an Aveda hair salon and desperately asked if I could be fit in for a conditioning treatment. I don’t usually frequent fancy hair salons, especially on vacation. I’m a cheap, simple haircut kind of gal. The few times I have visited a fancy salon, I found the personnel to be snotty and regretted spending my money or time there. Today, though, was the best salon experience I have ever had, which is to say that it was downright enjoyable. My stylist Thomas was a hair genius. Not only did he fix my sad hair, but, a really good and kind person, he provided the most interesting conversation for the hour and a half that I was there. I loved him. Loved him. He refused my offer to accompany me home and straighten my hair every day, but nevertheless, I still loved him. I actually hugged him before I left the salon. I have never once been so overcome with a salon experience that I felt such an uncontrollable urge to hug my stylist. But there you go. That’s Portland for you. The other personnel at the salon were just as huggable, but I showed some self-restraint. I can, you know, on occasion.

We rounded out the day by enjoying a free “Live at Five” concert in a city square, and then split some fish and chips and a lobster roll. Now, we’re warm and cozy back in the hotel, resting aching knees and sore tootsies.

I’ll end with this tidbit of information. My husband checked the forecast, “We’re in the coldest place in the country right now.” There was unmistakable pride in his voice. There will be also an unmistakable charge on the credit card tomorrow when I need to buy a new sweatshirt.

Despite the cold, we’re loving it here and rate it two thumbs up each.

See pictures of this excursion here.


We’re in the Charlotte airport and are experiencing a bit of delay. We’re on the new terminal, a beautiful one, completed last year, yet still somehow there aren’t enough gates. At our last gate, a different flight was boarding to Austin, but the digital display read, “Portland, ME.” While making the boarding announcements, the gate attendant omitted the flight destination, so several people destined for Portland embarked on the Austin flight. The attendant seemed unaware that the digital display above the gate door read anything other than “Austin” so made a rather irate announcement, “This flight is boarding for Austin. Austin only! I just had someone from Portland board my plane. If you are on the Portland flight, please go sit down.” She pointed up at the sign again to indicate that only the Austin flight was boarding. It was all rather comical.

Eventually we were moved to a different gate, where we sit patiently now waiting while yet a different flight, this one to Jackson, Mississippi, boards. For a change, I’m not in any particular hurry. It’s just vacation and since I’m not headed to Cooperstown, I don’t have to worry about missing any Cal Ripken events. A few minutes ago I found my Orioles bucket hat in my backpack. I thought I had forgotten to pack it, so now, everything is good and the vacation is officially underway. I’m rather enjoying the people watching, one of my favorite hobbies, especially when I see things that challenge my assumptions.

Standing at our first gate was a young thirty-something, bald man with tattoos on his arms that extended passed his short-sleeve shirt. He looked like a real tough guy. I couldn’t quite make out the tattoo pattern, but they resembled flames. I’m thinking it was something of a “devil” or “hell” theme. He was leaning against a rail intently reading a book. I recognized the cover instantly, “The Seven Principles for a Happy Marriage.” A couple of times, he flipped back a few pages, reread them, and then flipped forward again. As he approached the gate to board (he was on the Austin flight), standing close enough to other people that they might be able to read the title, he opened a different book of substantial size with a brown leather cover (maybe a bible) and tucked Gottman’s book in the middle, squeezing the outer book closed around the Gottman book. A classic case of never judge a book by its cover. “Mr. Tough Guy” was making an effort to protect his marriage that many a clean-cut, less “threatening” looking man would and do refuse to do.

We’re boarding now so I’ll have to save any other musings and observations for a different time.

August 2008