BACK ON THE TRAIN: Reflections on a Domestic Summer

October 8, 2009

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After an aggregate eight hours spent on the phone with airlines, online ticket agents, consulate officials (actually lifeless, monotone, recorded consulate officials), and the State Department it was apparent that I would not be leaving the country this summer.  Not for the lack of trying, but possibly the lack of money.

I was planning on spending five to six weeks in Brazil.  After attending my friend’s wedding in Hollywood and a nine day galavant around the state of California, in addition to the gargantuan task of securing a Brazilian visa (now I know how the rest of the world feels trying to get into this country)  time and money would not allow for anything north of two weeks in Brazil on a strict budget.  When I go to Brazil, largest of the South American countries, two weeks and strict budget cannot be part of the deal.  That would be something like trying to ‘see’ New York City with fourteen dollars in about forty five minutes.

The backup plan?  Colombia or maybe Peru to meet up with my hiking buddy Keith from last year’s adventure.  But by then it would be too pricey to fly down and Keith was hiking mountains I should only look at. He’s a seasoned veteran but even he still managed to have a run in with some pretty nasty frostbite.  I really wasn’t interested in spending too little time in a place too far way only to come home with my face half-fallen off.  Europe?  It costs at least two hundred dollars just thinking about flying to Europe.  Asia?  Next year, maybe.

The good thing about living in Maine is that it is awesome–especially in the summer months.  It was time to give up the prospect of international travel for the summer and dig in the heels for a summer of Maine living.  And I am really glad that I did.

Here’s why:

1.  Family.  My brother and his wife and kiddos visited form Colorado, which is always a great time.  Watching Red Sox games in the comfort of the folks’ house was a step above going to some painstakingly slow internet cafe in Latin America to get results of the games.

2.  Artwork. There was lots of time to continue working on projects that i have started.  I also started a new series of black and white portraits.  It started with Biggie Smalls and a few other rappers, and is now winding it’s way through the realm of mobsters and general bad asses.  So maybe that’s what the theme is: those who ye shall not mess with.

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3. Friends: It’s funny how traveling in places like Colombia and Bolivia that you don’t run into old friends from high school.  Staying in Franklin County for the summer lends itself to that much better.  My friend Matt came into town from DC a couple of times.  I see him a few times a year but never in the summertime, which brings me to:

4. Rafting: Every year, while I am away a group of the guys heads up to the Penobscot River for three nights of camping and fun filled days of rafting.  The Penobscot River is my favorite river to run.   Beginning at the base of a dam in a steep gorge it winds its way southeast over waterfalls and  many rapids.  Most rapids are easily accessible from the road, making it easy to put in anywhere we want, for any amount of time.  Sixteen of us, one raft, a few coolers, and about 15 thousand pounds of meat posted up on a riverside campsite for the weekend.

My friend Erik used to guide river trips and has since bought his own raft and gear.  We pay for his gas and food and he takes us down the river.  Sweet deal.  It’s great because beyond the basic guidelines of  staying alive on a river we don’t need to adhere to rules of rafting companies.  Stopping to jump off rocks, check.  Letting two people man a six person raft to surf a rapid, check.  Refreshments to beat the heat, check.

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5. Camping: If you’re going to be in Maine during the summer you may as well spend some of the time outside camping.  The summer was highlighted by three major camping trips: one to down east Maine, one down to Massachusetts (feel weird writing that), and the last, possibly the most epic camping adventure I have ever been on, happened up on Spencer Bay in Moosehead Lake.  For some reason, my friend’s 2001 digital camera ate the pictures I took so here’s an old one:

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6.  Concerts: Fresh off retirement, Phish rolled through the east and finished off its summer tour up in Saratoga Springs, NY.  Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) is my favorite east coast music venue and I have never regretted the six hour drive to get there.  It is an amphitheater set in a state park, rife with woods and streams.  The hardest part is finding your way through the labyrinth of wooded parking lots to your vehicle after the show–it took us an hour and a half.

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The band sounded great.  It’s interesting how people are more inclined to perform better at their daily tasks (whether it’s playing in a band or remembering to do things like eat and sleep) when not completely out of their minds on pharmaceutical drugs.  The band seemed happy and the music was tight–or as tight as any jam band music can be.  I went to the show with my long time friend Tim and ran into our buddy Sully, who can count the amount of shows he missed on the summer tour on one hand.  I think he is enjoying having a successful business that he can work from home (or on tour) with Phish simultaneously touring the country.  Not sure, but I think he likes it okay.

sss

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