Harbor, Maine. Bring Pepsi. Lots of it.
I'm back from a 4-day hiatus, but lest anyone be concerned, I'm not reverting back to updating once every four days as has become a bit of my trademark in recent months. This time, it wasn't video games or drinking that kept me out of commission. Actually, it was, but the fact is I wasn't anywhere near a computer for the past half a week. In fact, I was at a place where computers haven't even been invented yet. That's right. My not-so-urban bedroom proved entirely too workaday for me, so I had to take a break and hit a spot where technology is replaced by hordes and hordes of wild moose. Take a gander, aspiring vacationers...here's your travel guide to Maine, USA!
If you live in Maine, you're likely to be offended by this article. To compensate, I should remind you that I was born shallow and am fully able to make snap, irrational judgments on entire states based on the sixteen people I saw in one particular tourist town. This time, it was Bar Harbor, which I guess is just teeming with life from around the globe during the summer, but as you'll soon find out, Maine just doesn't open till May 5th.
That said, things were destined for mediocrity from the start, as it took a few of us an ungodly 10 hours to get there. You don't go on a car ride that long without expecting some sort of major payout, so Maine was in the red well before we even got there, since it would've taken people in clown suits greeting us at the hotel with oodles of free cookies for the trip to seem worth it. As it turned out, there were no clowns waiting in the parking lot for us. Incidentally, there was nobody waiting for us in the parking lot, nor was there anyone visible in what seemed to be a forty-mile radius. Yes, the entire place was closed for the season. If you walked past a store, restaurant, attraction, or anything that'd require some form of life for proper orchestration, you were met with a cheery sign thanking you for your support in the summer of 2000, and urging you to come back next year. May 5th was christened the 'big day,' but since I'm already home and we're still not at that all-important hour, I can safely say that I was among the only four people to see Bar Harbor in the month of April. That might seem like an honor to most of you, but believe me, when all you want to do is eat something that hasn't been sitting inside a vending machine for 2.7 years, it tends to grate on your nerves.
I had a family engagement to attend to that was originally going to keep me from experiencing the freshest Poland Springs water on the planet, but with promises of whale watching tours, seals, casino boats and more, I explained to my family that I generally enjoyed the company of sea life to their own, and headed up north. Little did I realize that even the sea life doesn't go to Maine until the 5th of May, as every boat tour and the like was closed to the point where the main buildings were boarded up with 'GO AWAY!' signs spray painted on 'em. Only most of them misspelled 'away.' I'm definitely not going to sit here and tell you Maine is full of idiots. I've been saying that for five days now and I just can't utter the words anymore. But I will say that while the 99% of the population who realized the place was a ghost town this time of year and left, the few who remained seemed to spend the winter months experimenting with home lobotomies and tons and tons of drugs.
It didn't take us too long to realize what we got ourselves into, as we were the only people staying at a hotel large enough to serve as a convention boarding house for fans of Sherman Hemsley's work on Amen. I kept insisting that it was odd that we were the only ones staying at the place, but I was assured that this was just some odd northern fluke and surely, the town would be full of excitement. I really can't argue that point, as having stretches of sidewalk so unbelievably clear of people that you can successfully count the cigarette butts on the floor for a straight mile is pretty exciting. But, and I think my compatriots would agree, if all I wanted to do was stare at my friends' faces for four days straight, I wouldn't drive half a day and sit in a hotel without HBO to do it.
Leaving us to our own devices for that long on vacation did prove interesting though, as it forced us to make lemonade with horrendously invisible lemons and see what one can actually accomplish in Maine when the entire state is closed. So, for the two of you stupid enough to go to the place off-season, consider this a crash course in what to do with yourselves. Let's begin...
It might not be the choice of a new generation, but there's no doubt about it: Pepsi is the choice of Maine. But it seems like their love of soda runs far deeper and ends up much more frightening than anything previously witnessed. I'm thoroughly convinced that Pepsi Co. is the sole owner, ruler, and vengeful GOD of the entire state. Its the only way to explain what we've seen - it doesn't make a difference if its a restaurant. A video store. A lobster house converted from a two-bedroom shack. A church. It doesn't matter what it is...every establishment in Maine has 4,652 advertisements for Pepsi swarming on it. When we were traveling in, we noticed that the amount of Pepsi signs were a bit high, but as time went on, it became crystal clear: these people are slaves to the soda. You can't possibly tell me there's not more to the story when a video store puts more emphasis on letting you know they stock Pepsi than the latest releases. But wait - there's more.
This isn't just a soda obsession. Its not like everyone in Maine is just an outright sugar freak, nor do I want to believe that they feel tourists are too stupid to realize where they can buy cold beverages. Its just Pepsi - not Coke, not iced tea, not water, nothing else. You simply cannot drink anything in the entire state aside from it. If you try, man, there's consequences. I don't know what those consequences are, but I'm assuming they're pretty severe, as every waitress I talked to about the Pepsi phenomenon looked like she was about to get shot by a sniper for even considering giving away the secret. Some of them tried to play it off like we were crazy, and that we just hadn't noticed that the entire world was one big advertisement for Pepsi. We're not stupid. America loves their soda, but I've never seen a library cover the front of their building with yellowed Pepsi signs in these parts.
The clincher was one particular waitress we interrogated. We got to the point where we would rather have the Pepsi Gestapo's kill us rather than leave the state without learning the truth. I'm sorry, but there's no easy way to explain how a state's entire population is outmatched by giant Pepsi billboards with a 60:1 ratio. But nobody wanted to tell us what was going on, and generally, anyone we asked got this look on their face that told the story all too well: talk bad about Pepsi, and they'll kill you. Enough was enough. We mustered up whatever courage we could and asked a waitress at one of the only three open restaurants point blank: WHY IS EVERYTHING COVERED IN PEPSI ADS? Like some frustrated politician who's mounting despair over keeping deadly secrets, the waitress began to spout off, in succession, around 50 anti-Pepsi sentiments, laced with obscenity and with a fire I've not seen since Michael Jackson told us he didn't molest children while wearing Max Factor's best white stuff and a sequin vest. When finished, the poor girl immediately realized what she had done, clammed up, looked around nervously, and literally disappeared for the rest of our meal. I swear to you, I'm not making this up. So, I'm begging anyone who lives in Maine, or anyone who works for Pepsi but has a great deal of personal security, please, PLEASE e-mail me and fill me in. I've got to learn how a soda company can take such absolute control of an entire state like this. Moving on...
I dunno though, its also possible that Maine as a whole is just an obsessive place. When they find something they like, they become completely enamored with it. In this case, we have the mighty moose. I'm not sure I'd want my demographic identified with the animal most likely to rummage through my trash, but then again, the moose is way cooler than raccoons. Oddly, while 95% of the places we passed were closed till the infamous 5th, Cool as a Moose was up and running with more moose passion than any sane person could stand. Case in point: aside from the six trillion versions of Moose dolls and the inexplicable inclusion of a line of cK sunglasses, the place stocks no less than six dozen different moose t-shirts. In other words, this is the ultimate place to go when you have to buy souvenirs for people you hate. Its worth paying twenty bucks just to watch someone squirm with awkward feigned delight when you give them the chance to don a t-shirt with big-breasted cartoon moose drinking a can of you-know-what.
Since everything in Bar Harbor was closed, we took a drive out into uncharted towns. More of the same. Every place we hit had a sign in the window basically finding progressively more creative ways to call us morons for being there at this time of year. There should be a big billboard when you get into Maine using a pictorial diagram displaying you getting fucked up the ass if you took off work to go there or otherwise spent money on the trip. I knew it was a bad sign when most of the road had the classic television tumbleweeds flying across them. Course, these tumbleweeds had discarded wrappers from 20 ounce Pepsi bottles mixed in, but at that point, we just wrote it off as just your regular raucous littering. Little did we know! Anyway, we did manage to find one place in these other towns open for business. Or, as the establishment's sole proprietor inexplicably described, 'half-open.' Take a look..
Antiques! (read: shit foraged from neighbor's trash) I'm a sucker for a good, cheap country antique house, but this place reminded me more of that scary junkyard from Chevy Chase's Nothing But Trouble. In any case, its tough to resist a place with the gall to call themselves an antique shop when 90% of their stock consists of old issues of The Enquirer and a legion of dirty bathtubs, all strategically placed on the front lawn to inspire impulse buying.
I cautiously approached the front door - I assumed the place was open since closed antique shops generally won't clutter their lawn with old mufflers and boxes of dog biscuits, but really...who knows what was inside that house? The answer was surprising: a 500 year old man, covered in motor oil, who insisted on calling us 'city slickers' even though I lied and said I was from Pennsylvania just to avoid any trouble. I mean, its bad enough that I have to walk into this ancient hick's house on the unfortunate one day of the year that I'm dressed like Vanilla Ice, I didn't want to fuel the fire by announcing myself as hailing from clearly enemy territory. I wanted to take a picture of the guy because he really was the 9th wonder, but out of fear that the camera flash would invariably kill him, you'll just have to use your imagination. Think dirty, walking corpse. Anyway, because he hadn't seen the light of day much less another living soul in 47 years, this old monster was determined to become our best friend. You know how weird you feel when you go into these types of stores and the people working there ask you semi-personal questions? Well, picture a corpse asking you the what floor you're on at the hotel you're staying at while cleaning a rusty sword. Check out the conversation he had with my friend Jamie, and I swear this is almost word-for-word..
Death: So where do you work eh?
Death: What's that?
Jamie: Oh, its a phone company.
Death: Really! Do you work at the office around here?
Jamie: What? No, I live in Pennsylvania, remember?
Death: You know we have a sale on old milk caps, 3 for 5 bucks.
Jamie: Oh, that's cool. Thank you.
Death: My dick just fell off again.
Jamie: Hey, how much is this old typewriter?
Death: I am older than the sea.
Death: I'm married.
Death: Are you interested?
Jamie: ....in what?
Death: The occult.
Jamie: Well I'll be! Look at the time.
If the guy didn't sell me an old plastic Mr. Peanut thingmagic for four bucks, this truly would've been the worst 10 minutes of my life. Excluding the time I watched the episode of Seventh Heaven where the reverend keeps trying to sneak McDonald's into his diet. Anyway, our tumultuous love affair with Maine continued back at the hotel. On the way back, we noticed another great thing about the place - aside from Pepsi and loads of moose crap, everyone there thinks making cute plays on the word 'Maine' is the most clever invention since hypercolor. 'Maine's Main Bookstore.' 'The Maine Attraction.' 'Mainely Filled With Idiots'. Maine Maine Maine. Really hurt our vow to just pretend this was purgatory. After spending a few minutes getting really filthy in that slophouse of an antique shop, I decided it was time to take a shower. And of course, since I had previously questioned the integrity of Pepsi, Maine Struck Back!
On the left, you'll see me testing out the notion suggested by the guy at the antique shop who said I looked like a vampire before telling me that he didn't have change of a five - for a four dollar item. Glorious, but as you can see, I showed up in the mirror. Not a vamp, but that's not important. What is important is the hotel's idea of soap - apparently battery acid. I was delighted to see that they had these swank soap & lotion dispensers in the shower, since that's the one amendment besides a teleportation device back home that I forgot to bring. Little did I know that this was no ordinary soap. Nor was it soap at all. I'm still not sure what was in this dispenser, but all I know is that I came out of the shower with a layer of skin that wasn't meant to surface for at least another 15 years. The soap literally burned off the skin of my hands. By this point it seemed like a natural progression of this particular vacation, but I was still pretty miffed that I had to spend two hours peeling at my hands so I wouldn't look marbleized. Hmmm. Maybe they put this skin-eating soap in there because they knew everything was closed, and they wanted to give you something to do by leaving you with hours and hours of fun peeling mutilated skin from your index finger. Or maybe they just put really old soap or poison in the soap dispenser. Either way, I refuse to call the hotel by its proper name because they didn't stock Dr. Pepper in the vending machine. And by now, we all know why. But shhhh - don't get yourselves in trouble by thinking those thoughts out loud. Oh, while I'm on the topic of vending machines...
You know its a sad state of affairs when I have four days to log the activities of an entire state for you guys and the best I can come up with is what's inside the hotel's vending machines. They got in here by default simply because they were one of the few things actually turned on before May 5th. This particular one was an entity to itself: aside from the usual Snickers and Snickers Crunchers bars, they killed 14 birds with one stone by also including aspirin, toothpaste, toothbrushes, matches (?!!), and in a special case, little boxes of cereal aptly titled 'Organic Cereal.' To be honest, we should've been thankful that all the necessities were found here, because it canceled out the need to ask the hotel clerk for anything. Man, you think the antique shop corpse was bad. When we checked in, the first thing we see is a pair of glasses fly past out heads from the front desk, followed by a quirky blonde in a sweater large enough for King Kong Bundy running after them, saying that she 'dropped her glasses'. Only it was obvious that, for some unknown reason, the girl had thrown her glasses six feet across the room in an empty hotel lobby. Clerks gotta keep themselves busy somehow I guess. What's even more interesting was the fact that she was dressed like a 42nd St. whore when we checked out, and apparently grew three cup sizes in four days. Maine is a very strange place.
Another endless form of entertainment: getting unknowing waitresses to pose in front of dead moose carcasses with the Green Bamboo Peanut, telling them that we're just taking pictures for our friends back home. Yep. We need to take pictures of waitresses holding the peanut in front of moose heads. With a digital camera. While cracking up. Just for our friends back home. Eh, she was a good sport about it, and she went against the grain by not forcing a strict diet of lobster and Pepsi on us, so I'll mark her as one of the only people I encountered there who didn't seem to have just eaten poisonously bad clams. I should also note that she stood in silence looking at the thing for a good two and a half minutes before coming back to reality. The peanut'll do that to you.
More timeless entertainment activities include making fun of your friend who was brave and stupid enough to drink water from one of the town's uncharted forest lakes, proclaim that he has 'beaver fever,' and sleep for the remainder of the trip. As a general rule, you shouldn't debut a new phrase nobody's ever heard of that rhymes and not expect to be the focus of ridicule for the next few hours. Its bad enough to watch one of your friends look completely natural crouching over and drinking water like a dog from a dirty, fish shit-infested river...but when they cough and say that they caught the ol' 'beaver fever' five minutes later, its sheer comedic brilliance. As it turns out, beaver fever is a term used to describe someone who's come down with a severe fever after drinking what they thought was fresh water, but actually turned out to be water filled with beaver crap. We can't be sure that this water was filled with beaver shit and not, let's say, moose shit...but since it rhymes, we'll stick with this. Sad that the most entertaining part of our vacation was watching a close friend almost die while softly repeating the word 'beaver' as we continuously replayed Rupert Holmes' Pina Colada as loud as we possibly could, but boring places call for drastic measures, and I'm not much into yoga. I'm the love that you've looked for. Write to me and escape!
PS, it took 55 consecutive hearings for me to realize that the song was simply about a guy cheating on his wife. Another classic.
Thank God we had the foresight to predict that Maine might just absolutely blow, otherwise we'd really be in a tough spot without the trusty N64. I can't imagine a more fulfilling reward for spending a few hundred bucks on a hotel room and driving half a day than sitting completely still, inside, playing Super Smash Brothers. Who needs a town with any life signs whatsoever when you can throw Pokeballs at Samus' head while making Captain Falcon explode? I've been waiting a long time to work our Super Smash Obsession onto the site, but since we've got a lot to cover, I'll just refer to the greatest news of the past decade: there's gonna be a sequel. Click here for the impressively vague details. Thanks for the info, M!
Its time to talk about lobsters. Its considered a crime to go all the way to Maine without experiencing the fine dining that is their freshly caught lobsters. Problem is, I've never eaten lobster before. Its just one of those things I never got around to doing, like breaking 6 feet or reviewing Shock Treatment on X-E. The thing that always turned me off was the cousin connection to the ugly cockroach. Really, you're basically eating a giant cockroach that can swim. But these Mainesters really take the bastards to heart - even their little shops are completely full of lobster gear. Lobster dolls. Lobster silverware. Lobster shirts. Lobster magnets. You name it, and they've got it in the lobster variety. Its a nice offset if you want to waste your money on something, but not something having to do with moose. I knew browsing the lobster toy aisle was just putting off the inevitable though...we were there, we had to eat lobster. And my God, what an experience that was.
We all opted to just go the absolute and total lobster experience route: one whole steamed lobster, on a plate, complete with used plastic bib and tiny spork utensil used to pull the scorched flesh from the hard shell. When you really think about it, the whole lobster ordeal is pretty disgusting. I mean, five minutes before we ordered it, the thing was alive and well. Carelessly wandering around a tank wondering why its crusher claw had rubber bands around it and why there seemed to be so many lobsters in such a small area. Moments later, and we're sitting at a table puppeteering it to (again) sing Pina Colada. So you've gotta ask yourself: is 25 bucks worth killing a lobster just so you can use it as a toy when the waiters aren't looking? Probably not, but they let us keep the bibs. And you just can't get lobster bibs of this type without actually ordering one. Some evils are necessary - but others are definitely not. Read on...
Now that I've ordered a lobster, I can say with 100% total honesty that I'll never, ever make the mistake again. I know a good many of you out there reading this enjoy eating sea cockroaches, and I too was willing to give them a chance to make me say 'YUM!', but that's a pretty difficult scenario when half of your dinnertime is spent trying to wipe all the green lobster shit off the meat. That's inarguably gross, my friends. I'm sorry, I just don't get the attraction. I tasted it. It wasn't bad, and it was better soaked in butter and lemon and anything else available to mask the natural flavor, but Christ, this definitely wasn't on the same level of cherry licorice or anything, so I can't see the justification in dealing with the pine green lobster feces. A friend of mine, a lobster fan, kept insisting that the green stuff 'wasn't edible,' or that it 'wasn't food,' but couldn't bring himself to tell us what it actually was. The process of elimination didn't leave much to the imagination: what we had here was a 25 dollar dinner comprised of 80% lobster and 20% lobster crap.
On the plus side, I learned a few things about lobsters I hadn't previously known. Yes, before they went back into the kitchen and boiled the things to death, the waiter felt the need to fill us in on all the wonderful things lobsters can do when we're not eating them. For instance, did you know that a lobster can leap backwards 25' in under a second? Did you know that there's some freak lobsters with not one, but two lobster claws? Well, now you do, and you know what half the battle is.
Because everything was closed and we were entirely too bored to survive any longer without making suicide attempts, we decided to focus our energies into drawing pictures expressing everything that was wrong with Maine. Yes, we actually went to a department store to buy crayons and paper just so we could draw pictures detailing how awful this vacation was. Think about that. This place was so bad that we were forced to seek entertainment by drawing pictures *showing* how bad it was. We actually spent an entire night laboring over a 64-box of Crayola crayons doing this. Maine f'n rules. Click on the pictures below to get the full-sized versions...crayons as a general rule don't scan too well, but you'll get the general idea as to how we had to depend on department stores for entertainment and avoid soda at all costs.
Course, I'm not going to waste a trip to the department store just for crayons alone. There's one succinctly beautiful thing about a town that has absolutely no residents: no damn collectors snatching up the good toys.
I heard about the re-released Masters of the Universe figures, and reported on 'em months back here on the site, but this was the first time I've actually seen the damn things firsthand. Primo. The figures are *exactly* the same as the originals, straight down to the shitty weapons and mini-comic. The only real differences are that these new ones come in a pretty window box, and that the said window box somehow jacked the price up to 15 dollars a figure. For Beast Man, that seemed like a bit much. For Mer-Man however, 15 bucks is a steal. I can't believe I'm managed to work the toy obsession into a travel guide about Maine, but I promise, these pics are from a genuine Maine department store. I'm not mixing the realms here. Anyway, because of the limited edition nature of these toys, they're screaming for you to buy them now before having to spend thirteen billion dollars on eBay for 'em - so if He-Man is part of your innermost soul, pick these ones up while you still can.
And now, winding down, Maine does have some merit. If you stay away from the places that are (supposed to be) populated, its actually a pretty beautiful place. Pretty enough to warrant hiking and rock climbing, two things I'd have previously grouped together with suicide-by-drowing and eating paint as stuff I'm looking forward to doing. Calling a spade a spade, the place was worth going to just for these views alone.
After nearly killing ourselves spending two hours rock climbing up the side of a mountain just to see one really big rock that was somehow misnamed as a statewide monument, we decided to go relax on the rocks that stood around 50' up from the crashing rapids down below. Really, I know breathtaking scenes aren't really the focus of our little suare here on X-E, but if you ever do get over to Maine, do not miss out on this. Problem was, we got this idea in our head that we could not go home until we drank Coronas on those rocks. A bit difficult since that was illegal and everyone who passed us just stood there and stared with disgust for 15 minutes before moving on. Its tough to enjoy a beer when you've got some hick doing the 'for shame!' motion with their fingers towards you. Its not like we broke the bottles on the rocks and left them there or anything, we just wanted to drink something besides Pepsi that might help us forget how boring the town was. If we got plastered and fell to a watery grave, it would all be on us, not them. I kept trying to tell them that it was only Corona Light, it wasn't like we were trying to get hammered. I even tried to get into the spirit of things by telling the locals that our beer was 'Mainely non-alcoholic'. The clouds were closer to their heads than the joke, but at least we can say we tried.
I really can't recommend Maine for an off-season getaway if you're looking to have fun. However, I can recommend it for those who need to be in a place where distractions and activity are virtually nonexistent. This would be a great place to study for final exams, or to punish yourself for having too much fun at home. Either way, that's where I've been for the past four days, and let me just reiterate that there's something to be said for staying in your own bedroom for your entire lifetime. I'm sick of playing Russian Roulette by going out. Sure, sometimes I get to see ocean waves cascading over rocks while taking pictures of Ivysaur next to lakes, but on the flipside, I probably paid 200 dollars to sit around playing Nintendo and ingesting lobster crap. If that's your idea of a killer time, head up north.
Just make sure you leave the Coke at home, or they'll probably throw you in prison.
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