Two Northern Towns
My first trip through New England involved two distinct and contrasting views of life in autumn. The company I joined for the weekend arrived at night so I enjoyed my first glimpse of my surroundings when I awoke. Outside the borrowed cabin, the tranquil serenity of rural Maine tucked in the mountains standing low in the foreground masked the distance, the nearest town, the distant coast, and the rest of the world. The same cozy exteriors of West Virginia two decades later reminded me of this scenery in Maine not too far from the Canadian border. Every year, Rangeley triples in size when the snow melts and returns to its true size when its loyal residents brave the dark, cold winter.
Alternatively, the brief weekend ended with a return flight through Logan airport. Unlike the peacefulness of my host town, the construction, the population, and the congestion of Boston contrasted the bucolic landscape. In Beantown, the glass, concrete, brick, and steel structures blocked the view of the harbor scenery in the same way the Maine mountains hid the outside world. The one quick glimpse out the car window at “Old Ironside” provided all the sightseeing afforded to me in the Massachusetts capital. On my next voyage to Boston, I saw about the same amount of the historic city. One of these days I’ll stay for more than a few hours.
In Franklin County, Maine, the petite grocery store stocks just enough of the most essential items to provide a plethora of consumable options to a snow-bound resident’s pantry, but with just four or five aisles, the shop easily ranks just a step above big city corner market attached to a gas stations. I purchase bread and condiments to serve as a handful of supplies to prepare breakfasts and lunches for the weekend. I know to keep it simple both to avoid wasteful leftovers and to stay within my travel budget due to more expensive wares in this more remote location. The quaint general store offers just enough provisions for the weekend.
Having grown up in the suburbs, and having lived in a time of considerable choice, I rarely shop in bodega-sized stores, but even I know that this town of just over a thousand residents cannot provide every delicacy, brand, or selection. So while I walk the handful of aisles in this little store in this little town, I forego my favorite peanut butter and I make do with the most simple of breakfast cereals. And yet a woman three times my age asks the cashier at the store’s single register if the store has O’Boises potato chips – a brand limited to a brief period of time in a smaller segment of the country. From a woman born before the Great Depression, whose family rationed its food during World War II, and who only knew a generation of excess in her later years, perhaps she should choose another brand of snack in this meager market. Sorry, they just don’t have Super Wal-Marts in Rangeley; maybe you can pick some up in Boston.