Thursday, February 3, 2011

Maine: A Love Story

I was holding off on writing my long, bitchy "I hate this state" post until I knew that I would not be living here another year. Having gotten the news last week that Dave got into the 3rd year rotation program in Reading, PA (oh, happy day!), it is now time to say it like it is.

The Demographics.
Everyone in Maine is white. Not quite, but a good 99% of the people I have seen are. Really. Every time we see someone who has some amount of melanin, we get excited. It's that rare of an occasion. This means that ethnic food (of any ethnicity other than 'White/Caucasian") is relitively non-existent. There are a few good restaurants (Thai, Japanese, Irish, Mexican), but this means traveling up to an hour. Anything remotely exotic is not carried in any store (I had someone look at me like I was speaking in tongues when I asked for red bean paste at the grocery store), and the few things that are (vibrant green mangoes) are insanely overpriced. I pine for New York City on an almost daily basis.

The Weather.
The weather in Maine, in general, sucks. The summer was beyond miserable - close to 100 for about a month, with little to no airflow through our apartment. This was also the time when I was most unemployed, and I essentially melted for the entire season. Angrily. It is now January, and we get what the weather channels refer to as "a wintry mix". As though the combination of wind, snow and freezing rain is a delicious, seasonal Chex mix flavor. What it is is bullshit. It snows 6 inches during the day, then somehow warms up AFTER the sun has set and begins to rain. That rain instantly turns to ice and makes everything from pavement to decorative shrubs life-threatening. This fuckery leads us nicely to:

The Apartment. Or more properly, the landlords. In their defense, they are much better than the landlords I had for the past two years who I would caution ANYONE against. I will not speak of them here, for that is an entire 25 blog posts of hatred. These guys are perfectly nice, as I have never met them. I'm not actually on the lease - I am "second tenant". Our rent invoice is sent every month with a self addressed, stamped envelope, which I deeply appreciate.

However, there are a number of issues I do have, all revolving around that wonderful responsibility of landlords, "maintenance". There are no working lights in one stairwell, but there are copious amounts of massive spiderwebs, complete with massive spiders (now, finally, dead). The outside steps, which we were told would be filled in before we moved into the apartment in June, are still not.

The past month has been the worst. With a massive snowfall every week, there have been 3 days now where I had to call off work - in part because I would not have felt safe driving, but mostly because our driveway had not been plowed and I couldn't leave if I wanted to. The man with the plow visits at 4pm or later and does not use salt. The result is a 2" layer of ice across the entire parking area. I have not fallen yet, but it is only a matter of time.

The Neighbors. This house contains 5 apartments. Each has its own distinct personality. Apartment 1 occupies the entire ground floor. The oddities who live there have been (fondly) nicknamed Tim the Enchanter and Marge the Barge.

Tim was the first person I met after moving in. He stalks around the yard with a walking stick and a hat decorated with fishing lures, studying the turtles in the river and attempting to convert me to Paganism. His truck is plastered with bumper stickers, my favorite of which is "Born Again Wiccan". His 'better half' (his term, not mine) is truly massive. She has been firmly planted in an armchair every time I have seen her, and given Tim's magical ways, she may actually be a part of it.

There was, in fact, a time when we thought The Barge was simply a figment of Tim's imagination - he talked about her constantly, but was always conveniently asleep, so we could not meet her. 'Tim the Enchanter and Marge the Barge' doesn't have quite the ring to it that 'Tim the Enchanter and his Invisible Girlfriend' did. They also have a cat. I am quite sure that Tim simply magicked some hair and teeth onto a bowling ball and called it a day.

Apartment 2 is next to us on the second floor. I think she is a nurse, and works odd hours, which explains the TV noise at 3am. The only personal interaction with her that I have had was when she pounded on our shared wall at 1 in the morning on Thanksgiving. This, I fully admit, was entirely my fault. I was constructing a bookcase at the time, and there is no possible way to be quite while hammering nails.

Apartment 4 is directly above us. I have never actually met Nick, as passing in the hall and grunting is not a polite way of introducing oneself. I feel that we have a fairly intimate relationship, however. He is currently walking around his living room with the force of a small elephant. He once was kind enough to share his music with me for an hour. If only it hadn't been the same song on repeat, and loud enough that I would have been able to hear more than just the bass line.

The real depth in our relationship comes from the event I experienced a few months ago. Nick brought his girlfriend/one night stand/cocker spaniel home with him and made athletic and passionate love to her. This was amusing for about half an hour, and was accompanied with quiet cheers and encouragements from Dave and I. Then it got to be about 1:30 am and Dave fell asleep. Nick and the spaniel (no idea what her name was, but she sounded like a small dog being abused, so there we are) did not. The sound would crescendo, they would be blissful for a few minutes, I would prepare to sleep, and then it would start again. I think they finally tuckered out at 3, and were at it again at 8 when I got up for work.

This would have been simply an annoying and amusing story to tell my friends if they had not been loud enough to bother Apartment 2 as well. She called the landlord to complain and told him that it was us. I had a moment of feeling rather silly at being so righteously angry over being blamed for having loud sex, but damn it, it had kept me awake too! I called the landlord with a message that amounted to "No, no, good sir, twas not I!" and I think I officially lost my cool, twenty-something card, but whatever. If I get noise complaints from neighbors, I want to earn it.

Lastly is apartment 5, which is a weird addition on the first floor of the house and seems to include a basement. The couple that lived there when we moved in smoked a lot, and bitching about that was the only brain power I wasted on them. The moved out before Christmas, and it stood empty until a few days ago, when a Uhaul showed up. I'm not certain if new people are moving in, or if the landlords are moving stuff out, but doubtless this will lead to more fun stories.

Those are all of the major things we deal with, but the thing that causes the most frustration, the most heartache, the most pain, happens on a daily basis.

The Shower. The shower in our apartment is retarded or evil, or both. One sets it to a pleasant temperature, and it stays there. For about 5 seconds. Just enough time for you to get comfortable and start shampooing or shaving or something else that requires both hands. Then it begins fluctuating. I haven't taken a thermometer to it, but 10 degrees below and 15 degrees above the desired temperature seems to be about right. In the summer this didn't matter so much - it was so hot that any shower I took was really cold anyway. Now that it is below freezing almost all the time, it is a problem. The temperature drops and you are suddenly shivering, and then it bounces back up, so far past where you want it to be that you hop out from under the stream, shrieking as you feel your skin begin to blister.

As this is Maine, all I can think is that somewhere out there, there is a giant lobster with a dial, cackling madly.


  1. Delightful reading! The reference to apartment elephants seems particularly familiar; I refer to the thunderous tykes that lived below us at Porter St last spring. It is the unfortunate price one pays for rock bottom rent rates.

    I'm glad you two are heading where you want to go, but I will miss seeing you in the venerated freezer section of Walmart in Biddeford.

  2. I love that song, daughter dear. Perfect for the sound track of your new movie: Ultima Thule.

  3. WHOA!

    Exciting! Reading, PA!!!

    You kids will be closer-ish!!! HoOrAy!

    : D

  4. The cocker spaniel was at it again this morning. Their stamina astounds me.