Here are a few lessons learned by this Midwest guy during last weekend's trip to Peaks Island near Portland, Maine, for my niece's wedding:
Lesson 1: When you're on the East Coast near a harbor, always try the seafood or clam chowder.
Always. Forget the cheeseburgers. Salads. Pizza. Chicken wings.
You're in Maine. Have some chowder! And if you're ever in Portland, Maine, stop by Gilberts Chowder House on Commercial Street downtown. By far, the best chowder I've ever had. Bet you can't eat only one bowl.
Lesson 2: Always wear sunscreen on the water, even when it's 70 degrees and overcast.
Men of Irish heritage, or really white guys, like myself should always wear sunscreen, especially when they are in a kayak sitting on Casco Bay near Portland. If you don't have sunscreen, then your forehead will get just as sunburned as it does back home when it's 100 degrees and you forgot to wear your ballcap while cutting the grass, golfing or riding your bike. Maine is a lot like Ireland. I wasn't the pastiest guy on the ferry.
Lesson 3: Don't badmouth the American League or the Red Sox in Maine. Portland, Maine, is Boston Red Sox Country, mixed in with a few Yankees fans. Boston is only about three hours away. Portland is the home of the Red Sox' top minor league team. You see a lot of Red Sox hats in Portland.
And one Cardinals cap last weekend. Mine. While in Maine, it doesn't do any good to bring up the Cardinals, or the National League, or make any excuses for our losses to the Red Sox in the 2004 and 2013 World Series. They don't listen. All that matters is their "Sawx." No other team exists, except the hated Yankees. Maybe the Orioles.
A typical baseball conversation between a Midwest fan and anyone else in Maine:
"I'm a Cardinals fan. From St. Louis."
"Not sure what's wrong with the Sawx. Maybe they'll trade Lester. I don't know. Need a bat ..."
"The Cards have a strong tradition. Eleven titles ..."
"Why'd they keep pitching to Big Papi in the Series? That was some tradition there."
I liked Sawx fans a lot more prior to 2004 when they were humble.
Lesson 4: You don't need a car to have a good time.
We stayed in downtown Portland but spent a lot of time on Peaks Island which is a 15-minute ferry ride away. We didn't have a car. We rode the ferry to and from the island and mainland. And we walked. We rented bikes.
We drove around Peaks Island in an electric golf cart.
For one weekend in Maine, I realized you could live without a car, and without watching the price of gasoline.
Lesson 5: A family wedding on a Maine seashore on a chilly July evening is a wonderful event to experience.
My oldest niece, Laura, and her husband Brian, exchanged their vows in a neighbor's backyard on Peaks Island. The ocean and evening tide served as backdrop, supported by a seagulls and sailboats. I've been to beach weddings, church weddings, wine-garden weddings, but none was more memorable than last weekend's on Peaks Island, Maine. No sand in my shoes.
A cool breeze in my face. October, in July. Life was good.
Lesson 6: Need to be humbled following a relaxing weekend in Maine? Have a three-hour flight layover in New York.
Our weekend in Maine was peaceful, relaxing, educational. A temporary lifeof traveling by ferry and eating great chowder was an agreeable break fromhome. Unfortunately, on our trip home to St. Louis, we had a three-hour layover at a jammed, hectic, air-conditioner-broken LaGuardia Airport in New York. Iwanted some more chowder, but we found a fancy sandwich shop at which you could order only by iPad. I got out my iPhone to start checking work e-mails and the Internet for old ballgame scoresand trade rumors. Back to reality. I would have traded a case of fresh chowder for another day in a kayak, sunscreen on my face.