Leaving Maine! (For 96 Hours)
I never leave Maine. I don't see the point of it. And what's odd about this is that I don't think of myself as an insular sort of person, or a small-town person, though on the evidence that's what I am. Or at any rate what I've become.
Before moving to Maine, I lived for most of my adult life smack in the middle of Washington, D.C., in a neighborhood called Dupont Circle, which was then transitioning from Bohemian enclave through gay ghetto to yuppie redoubt. And I very much enjoyed city life. But I somehow never felt as though I belonged there, despite my gay yuppie Bohemian bona fides. In Maine, for mysterious reasons, I seem to fit right in.
Did you know, apropos of insular, that one meaning of this word is "equable because of the influence of the sea"? Which is a fair cop, I guess.
I mention all this by way of announcing that I'm going abroad — i.e, to Virginia — for the holiday weekend, with a view toward visiting the Aged Parent who is about to turn 93. (93! Imagine that.) And, small-town fellow that I am, the prospect fills me with trepidation.
Once upon a time, Maine presumably did feel more like a world apart. I can imagine that in the days before easy travel and instant communication one might have felt rather cut off here. Boston must have shimmered in the mist like an exotic foreign capital, rather than a quick hop down the interstate. Alarums from the outside world would have rung faintly, like signals from an old-fashioned radio. You can get a sense of this from reading E.B. White's essays from the 30s and 40s. When he describes himself as gazing at world events from the roof of his barn, you feel a truth in it that's lacking in the Internet age.
The fact is that living in Maine today is not at all a drastic or even a dramatic choice. We are as plugged-in to contemporary life as people anyplace else — in some ways perhaps more so, because our lives tend to be freer of distraction. We can browse the New York Times more thoroughly than real New Yorkers because we don't have to rush out to catch the seven-thirty-nine. If we miss Fresh Air because we're out in the real fresh air, we can catch up later on the podcast. (There's an app for that.)
I'm kind of disgruntled, therefore, about having to actually go anywhere. Especially to Virginia, which is full of very small churches with very long names. Wouldn't a FaceTime chat suffice? Doesn't that retirement community have wi-fi? Okay, I know, it's not the same. And so I'm saddling up, though none too gracefully.
Four days. Surely a man of my age and temperament can survive outside of Maine for four days. On this happy assumption, I shall point my brand-new 1997 Subaru south and hope for the best.
Don't mess everything up while I'm gone.