Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Steps Outside My Door

Jimmy and I have one thing in common (well, maybe more than one...last name, red highlights, aversion to growing up, brown eyes, fondness for Wally, smelly asparagus pee to name a few...) and that is we both were born in Portland. Slightly different neighborhoods, but much of me wants to make sure he doesn’t take for granted what a JEWEL of a town this is. Sometimes there's so much to do that time gets in the way of everything Casco Bay has to offer...Yesterday at 6pm I saw on the back of the Portland Daily Sun that the 7th Annual Festival of Nations was being held at Deering Oaks----a festival he and we had the opportunity to stumble across in 2008 and I didn’t want to miss out on a cheap, cultural, closeby (the 3 c's!) activity for Jimmy. The fair was going on until 8:30pm, “plenty of time” I initially thought, but ah, superhubby was napping after a grueling day of childrearing and had to be up-and-atom by 7:30 to be in at work at 8pm, and we wouldn't be able to live with ourselves if he overslept. Jimmy and I didn’t have a lot of time. I shoved some tater tots (organic!) into our mouths and we were stroller-strapped and skidding out the door by 6:30.

It was a seasonable Saturday night, touch of muggy but no bugs could catch us. As Jimmy and I roll to Deering Oaks I couldn’t help but notice how many big, awesome things we pass on our way. Such as:

*Our new, luxurious fence. It may be tagged by hoodlums, but it’s still a point of glory for us on the inside.

*A lush, grassy meadow that I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of Jimmy sitting in when he was ~12 months old, so cute, little-tiger-baby-in-the-grass-never-to-be.

*A scary exit bridge on 295. A little dumpy, a little seedy, but nothing we City Folk can’t handle. The same unsolicted artwork from our fence is featured inside here. Shaking my fists at you, you know who you are!!! Why I oughtta….

*A milk factory. Oh gosh no, not MEEEEE, my milk factoring days are on the dwindle-down, but thank you. No, this milk factory is bigger than I will ever be, and has way more semi’s to get the milk on the moo-ve. Ouch! Hey! It was just a joke! But just as with new mothers, there’s never a day off at the milk factory.

*A La Quinta. I can’t go by this place without thinking of being in a cab in Austin, TX in the late 90s. I never took Spanish and Ms. Northern wasn’t sure how to pronounce this hotel chain. We got picked up by this girl who looks like Lydia from BB11 and when I attempted to tell her where we were going (“Laa. Lah Kwih-…? Luh Kwa-ih?”) she helpfully shot out in the most moonshine-soaked Texan accent I’d ever heard “La Keeen-tah?” YES! Of course, La Quinta. I thought it meant "The 5a" but Google says I'm wrong. When did these come to Maine? It mattered not because that night it appeared to be hopping with khaki-blasted folks staying overnight for that evening’s Sea Dogs game. Take me out!

*Another creepy bridge, sometimes we laugh when there’s a stereotypical bum underneath…sometimes we don’t.

*The railroad bridge my father painted when he was 16. I can't believe it's due for a touch-up already!

*Some old-school firehouse? I think? I really want to investigate this, but get rustled away by nosey-watchy people always sitting around or waiting for the bus there.

*Cobblestones---this IS Portland, Maine, afterall. Jimmy loves the bounce.

*Hadlock Field, home of the Sea Dogs, Portland’s very own minor league baseball team. It’s always so exciting out there when there’s a game going on, all the people and kids and family and activity. Maybe someday we’ll make it through the doors to actually watch a game. Wally seems to be interested in baseball and we enjoy walking by the little league games behind our house, but yours truly is usually zzzzzz…pass the beer! But I do like baseball fans, and I like the fireworks the Sea Dogs put off in the summer, we can see them from our house!

*The Portland Expo, where they just installed parquet flooring for the future home of the Red Claws, our new basketball team! The Expo is also home of such events as the autumn beer festival, the Jehovah’s Witness convention and as advertised last night, Maine Roller Derby. MRD hosts 2 teams, The Calamity Janes and The Port Authorities, and these chicks is badass! Even fans have to have guts!

*The Portland Ice Arena. I wish I had more to say about this, maybe someday. I’d be happy if Jimmy wanted to get into figure skating, but no hockey! Mumma says it’s too dangerous. Not that ice skating isn’t, but at least I could see his beautiful face. Signed, Notsarah Palin

*The Iris Network. A big brick home with for the blind where the blind have been tending a raised-bed garden that looks thousands of times better than ours. Don’t tell hubby I said that.

*A house with wonderful but rusty old milk trucks in the back yard. Again with the milk! But it’s kinda sad, the trucks weren’t nearly as rusty a few years ago.

*King Middle School, which earned national attention in recent years for making The Pill available students without parental knowledge. Middle school. Uhhh…excuse me, Portland Public Schools...? No.

*A crosswalk where we begin to hear Stream Reggae at the Festival of Nations, and they sound great. Hubby once mentioned singer Nyah (nigh-ah) Stream, and instead of Nyah Stream I thought he said “9-Inch Stream” and he got all mad, ha ha. It still makes me laugh. =D

*Our destination: Deering Oaks! Jimmy makes a half-leap from his stroller seat, he knows we usually come here for the wading pool, but today we’re here for the Festival of Nations!! Even though it had been running all day and was due to close within an hour, hour-and-a-half, there are tons of people and activity. The food smells great, the tables are bustling, Jimmy and I roll by henna artists, school representatives, 3 Joe Bornstein frat punks (what does a life-size cardboard Robert Vaughan pointing at me with “Tell them YOU mean BUSINESS!” in a quote bubble have to do with multi-culturalism??), Smiling Hill Farm ice cream, one of my Facebook friends selling her jewelry, a guy running for guv, more food, more art/craft, more activism, more families, more reggae. It was awesome!

Jimmy was dying to get out of his seat, but I don't like to let him roam too much at Deering Oaks for, ahem, fear of rogue hypodermic needles (Portland's not always as Mayberry as I idealize it to be) AND Daddy mustn’t oversleep! I wasn’t sure of the time but figured better safe than sorry and we hustled back the way we came. We got to at least experience, if not participate, in a fun happy Portland summer event and didn’t have to spend any money, gas, only calories to get there. Love it! Because we were in a hurry-ish the walk back seemed more utilitarian than the walk in, we didn’t romanticize each sight we were coming across (though Jimmy did pick a flower) and the rat traps outside the milk factory were a little more noticeable than on the way in, but we did have the opportunity to hear the Sea Dogs crowd cheering, which is a low, rumbling, large buoyant sound unlike anything else in Portland, and we were back home before the hour was up! I say that’s a pretty amazing trip, I heard a song earlier that day mentioning “walking a country mile” and even though I tend to get acreage whimsy of wide open fields to place my baby in and setting him free, you just don’t risk as many deer ticks on walks like we had yesterday. Score for Summer in Portland!


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