Sp—and I cannot emphasize this enough—am

The company that hosts this blog and my email (prxy.com) has a really robust spam filter, so much so that I have to check it about once a week to make sure it hasn’t snagged anything I actually want. One of its features is that you can open any email without endangering yourself, if you’re really curious about what’s in it.

Somehow I’ve been getting emails from an outfit calling itself conservativewoman.com, and who cares? Let ’em spend their resources sending my spamhole their desperate pleas for attention. But this morning the subject heading LIBERAL CONSPIRACY AGAINST TRUMP caught my eye and, bored, I opened it.

Behold:

::sigh::

The first four sentences are provable lies. Period.

No one lied about the whistleblower.

No one falsified a transcript. (The White House did release a deliberately misleading summary of the phone call; Adam Schiff mocked it, and that’s what they’re calling “falsifying a transcript.” Besides, how could the Democrats falsify a transcript released by the White House? This is your gentle reminder that THERE’S A REASON WE THINK YOU’RE STUPID.)

No one denied Trump “due process,” mainly because impeachment in the House is not a trial. (Not only that, but now that the hearings have moved into actual impeachment proceedings, Trump has declined to participate.)

“Falsely accusing” Trump? Sure, Jan.

Here’s the deal, little Trumpsters: they’re lying to you, they know they’re lying to you, and they do not care that they’re lying to you. They only care about your money. Give them your money. If you do, though, I’d ask for a full financials report to see if anyone actually did quintuple your donation. (Even their math is a lie: If you give $25, a 500% match would be $125, for a total “impact” of $130.)

And if this thing is from Rep. Steve Scalise, you should be aware that he is one of those people for whom the question “Stupid or evil” was invented.[1]

Delete.

—————

[1] (Correct answer: Why not both?)

Quebec

So one of us decided that we needed to visit Quebec City in December. The official excuse was that there was a German-style Christmas Market, but I’m pretty sure it was to make me freeze.

Normally I blog about each day of our travel, but this was just a long weekend, plus I was out of commission for about a third of it, what with an injured ankle and some sleep issues. You are therefore getting just a summary of the adventure.

This was definitely one of those trips where I just packed my suitcase and got in the car; my Lovely First Wife made all the arrangements. I didn’t even research cocktail bars this time.  So it was a great delight when we arrived at our lodgings, the Auberge du Trésor on Rue St-Anne, on the Place Armé right across from the Chateau Frontenac.

The hotel is located on the top floors; the bottom is the Bistro 1640, a really really good restaurant and bar. It is entirely possible to eat nowhere else your entire trip. Its name derives from the fact that the original building was built in 1640; parts of the foundation wall are still visible in the bar.

Here’s the view from our room:

If you’ve ever wanted to feel as if you’re in a Hallmark Christmas movie, Quebec at Christmas is where you want to be. (You would be responsible for your own idiotic plot, and if you’re not a single woman with a successful career that you’re willing to abandon after a week, you’re probably out of luck.)

Besides the glorious holiday decorations everywhere, the highlight of the trip was our visit to the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec.

Dear reader, we walked there through the tundra.

The first thing you should understand is that one of the primary rules of my marriage is never, never, ever set out for any destination with my Lovely First Wife without an exact address. When we finally arrived at the spot she had circled on her Top Ten book’s map, there was no fine arts museum anywhere. If only we had a computer in our pocket oh wait… it was another fifteen minutes of walking away. Off we went.

Sculpture outside, the title of which I failed to record, but it was something like Event Horizon:

The highlight of the MNBAQ was the main exhibit, COZIC Over To You / From 1967 to Now. COZIC is an artistic collective, and their art has been consistently fun, interactive, and beautiful all at the same time.

In the entrance lobby, there was this piece:

You were encouraged/permitted to explore.

The entire exhibit was exhilarating—I’ll be blogging in more depth over at Lichtenbergianism.com in a few days.

After all that walking, my ankle had taken a beating, so we Ubered back to the hotel and I went to the bar to sample the local gins while everyone else went out to explore the Christmas market. The bartender was great: he explained the tenor of each of the five gins he had; I selected two, and he poured a shot into a glass so I could savor the gin’s flavor profile. He also provided me with ice and tonic water so I could then finish with a proper gin and tonic. The two I sampled were St.-Lawrent (flavored with seaweed from the St. Lawrence Seaway), very briny; and Menaud, reminiscent of the Desert Sage gin from Arizona.

While sitting at the bar, I was joined by a couple from New York, very chatty and friendly. Talk turned to Christmas decorations, and I commented that my Lovely First Wife had twenty-six (26 tubs, Kenneth!) of decorations. I said she was no longer allowed to mock me for my 12 tubs of camping equipment. They laughed and said they had whittled their camping equipment down to a manageable size because they go to Burning Man.

That’s right, a thousand miles from Alchemy I randomly meet burners while sitting in a bar. They were super-interested in the Georgia burn, so I gave them my 3 Old Men business card.

When the gang returned from the Christmas Market, we set out via Uber to L’Oncle Antoine, the oldest bar in North America, for dinner. Alas, on a Saturday night it was not possible to get in, so we set off on foot back up the mountain, Kenneth, to find sustenance.

At least the walk was lovely:

But it was all uphill. Back at the summit, we popped into Chateau Frontenac to try to get into 1608 Wine & Cheese bar, but the “music was too loud,” so back we went across the square to Auberge du Trésor for dinner at 1640 Bistro.

The main hallway leading to 1608 at the Frontenac:

At least I got a great meal and a fabulous dessert (and more cocktails):

On Sunday, we set out to revisit parts of the Market and the Christmas Boutique—my Lovely First Wife needed more decorations, apparently. I found a SAQ store to buy my gin; after I left the store I realized that although Marie Brizard Parfait Amour (a floral liqueur used in classic cocktails) is very rare in the U.S., it was quite available in Canada. When we retraced our steps, I popped back into the store; they didn’t have it, but another store did. Everyone else headed back to the hotel while I trekked all the way down the mountain to the store that stocked it. (We will not speak of my ankle.)

When I finally rejoined the gang, they were seated at a table by the window in 1640, enjoying Caribou, a Canadian hot spiced wine concoction. They were waiting for the appearance of St. Nicholas, who would be visiting the Market that afternoon. Finally he appeared from the Frontenac, accompanied by three Krampuses,[1] a couple of musicians, and an angel.

The photo does not convey the absolute delightfulness of this. Have a video:

Everyone had settled in for cocktails and dinner, but I went up the hill to the Frontenac to get a cocktail from 1608, a highly ranked cocktail bar.  Here is the Genie in a Bottle, a sweeter variation on the Aviation:

The bartender said he preferred the original, and he was right. Still, a great little bar.

The hotel from the square:

The next morning, we made it to the airport.

So unlike our dear Hartsfield International. The ticketing desk didn’t even open until 10:30.

However, due to the storms pounding the rest of the continent, our flight — originally scheduled to depart at 12:25 — didn’t even arrive at the gate until after 2:00. We barely had time in Toronto to make through security and then customs before our flight to Atlanta boarded.

Still, it was a fun trip. Quebec is lovely, and we will go back. Perhaps in warmer weather.

Here’s my booze haul:

I got the Menaud gin, of course. The Madison Park, with its label of “Breakfast Gin,” amused and intrigued me, so I bought it. (It is distinctly floral with its use of bergamot—think Earl Grey tea—and makes a perfect Aviation.) And of course, the Parfait Amour, which had been on my shopping list for six months.

Also purchased, while my Lovely First Wife was in the Christmas Boutique:

I’m not going to tell you what this is. I’ll do another post when it’s ready to go in the labyrinth.

—————

[1] No one seems sure what the plural of Krampus is; Wikipedia carefully avoids having to say.

I regret to review a Christmas movie

Two things I need to state up front:

  1. We all know made-for-TV Christmas movies are dreck.
  2. I rarely feel the need to dump on someone else’s creative work, at least not publicly like this.

However.

Last night my Lovely First Wife and I chose to watch The Knight Before Christmas, a Netflix original. It looked to be nothing more than a typically flaccid, vapid holiday flick, and yet it was so much less. It was horrific. It was lazy. It was an offense to the human tradition of storytelling.

tl;dr: Sir Cole, a 14th-c. knight, is transported by a crone for no good reason to the present day to complete his “quest,” whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. He is taken in by Brooke, a high school science teacher who nevertheless lives in a huge home WITH A GUEST HOUSE. I won’t spoil the ending for you.

At least he’s cute.

 

We begin with Brooke confronting a student about her lackluster performance on a “midterm” and being told by the girl that her boyfriend dumped her and she’s been distraught. Oh, says Brooke, true love is a chimera and although they’ve been taught by society to look for a knight in shining armor to rescue them, that’s a fool’s errand.

Hold that thought.

One never expects historicity from these things, but you get the feeling that the scriptwriter and the producers deliberately avoided knowing anything about the 14th century, starting with Sir Cole in all probability not speaking a lick of English, and certainly not modern English, and especially certainly not with a plummy BBC Received Pronunciation accent.

Or windows in castles. Or Christmas trees being a 19th-c. fad. Or hogs in tubular steel pens.[1]

Nor did they seem particularly interested in physics, for that matter: after Brooke runs into Sir Cole in her car, he simply bounces off into the snow with no injuries sustained either to him—or to his cuirass. Snow comes and goes depending on the exigencies of plot with no impact on the ensuing action. Cole whacks down a Christmas tree in one stroke, inspiring another, random man to do the same (never mind why Christmas trees are growing in the lot).

Logical human behavior is never a hallmark[2] of these movies, but merciful heavens—within 24 hours of his arrival in 2019, Cole

  • knows how to wrap himself in a towel after asking for a bath[3]
  • expresses no astonishment at anything he sees other than a couple of clumsy “where’s that music coming from” gags
  • is seen operating a TV remote the morning after his arrival
  • apparently picks up enough modern lingo during his one night of binge-watching TV to be able to understand Brooke’s 21st-c. code (like “binge-watching”)
  • does not think pants are odd

Brooke’s friends express mild concern about her taking in an oddly-dressed and clearly mentally ill man with no identification, but no one makes any effort to get help for him or to find out who he is or where he came from. (On the contrary, Brooke’s sister cheerfully provides him with a wardrobe from her “boutique” in the mall.)

Script failures littered the landscape:

  • Brooke’s cheating ex is seen in the background a couple of times, but vanishes from the script without even one snide scene
  • an icky neighbor is introduced, but is used only once to try to flirt unsuccessfully with Cole
  • the crone shows up once when Cole first arrives at the Christmas Village, but never again (although I think she’s in the background at the big charity event—maybe a victim of the cutting room floor?)
  • the girls who go outside in a blizzard to practice their “swordplay” who—after being warned to stick close to the house in a blizzard—nevertheless go all the way to a park with a not-quite-frozen lake
  • Brooke willingly gives Cole the keys to her car (presuming he “remembers” how to drive); he can put it into reverse and drive, but cannot manage to steer it into a wide-open parking space rather than onto the sidewalk
  • the whole premise that Cole has until midnight on Christmas Eve to “complete his quest” is completely lost; only the occasional date thrown on the screen reminds us that time is running out—for what?
  • the idea that Brooke assumes Cole has amnesia also vanishes; he’s just a cute man who lives in her guest house and meanders through her holiday chores
  • late insertion of David, the single dad who works two jobs to support his four kids, being the recipient of Cole’s (offscreen) fundraising[4] despite being present at Brooke’s fupping Christmas Eve fundraiser the express purpose of which is to raise money for people like Dave

And most of all, the entire movie gives the lie to Brooke’s advice to her student at the opening. Indeed, Brooke backtracks on the advice near the end when her student bounces up to her and tells her that she told her boyfriend to take a hike.[5]

All in all, the thing was a disaster. It was incoherent, even by the extremely low standards we have for these things, and it gave the feeling that it only took a week to film. The frankly amateurish quality of the script was appalling.

So could this movie have been saved? How about this:

  • clearly define Cole’s need for this “quest” and make it his paramount concern[6]
  • define Cole’s chivalry as solidly of the 14th-c., with all the misogyny involved, i.e., he’s cute and he’s helpful, but there are limits to his sensibilities
  • play off Brooke’s culturally-ingrained “knight in shining armor” complex to create the romantic tension: she wants to love him, but…
  • embed Brooke’s crappy ex and David, the single dad, more into the plot, thus giving us three versions of what a man can/should be
  • end it with Cole returning to the 14th-c. and Brooke realizing that everything she actually values in a man is right there in David, the single dad

Here’s my point: if I can come up with a more interesting and still sappily romantic plot on the spot, why is Netflix greenlighting dreck like this without demanding that the entire team go back to the writing table?

—————

[1] Or the bubonic plague.

[2] See what I did there?

[3] To be fair, this was simply to show off Josh Whitehouse’s lissome 6’ 2” body. I’m amazed we didn’t get a bathtub scene.

[4] How?? He knows no one other than the people standing right there around him.

[5] Which I realize is the whole point of these movies. Smash the patriarchy.

[6] No clue what this might involve, since the whole premise is idiotic, but I bet we could come up with something less lame than rescuing a kid from a frozen pond or tackling a pickpocket.

So this happened…

We have decamped to Fernandina Beach for the weekend with some dear friends and are having a great time so far.

Last night, I and two others strolled out the boardwalk to see the ocean. You know how some boardwalks have little benches built into them for some unknown reason?

Here’s a photo of one:

And here’s a photo of the one we sat in:

Yep, there was a creak and a groan, and we found ourselves flat on our backs. It’s pretty miraculous that none of us sustained even the least injury; I think it was because it gave way slowly at first and so we were already mostly down when it failed completely.

So other than a little spilled prosecco and a spell of hysterical laughter, no harm done. (We have alerted the property agent that they might want to do a structural integrity check.)

How was your Friday night?

New Cocktail: Jasper

I’m not at all sure of the name here, so I’m sticking it with Jasper for the time being, in my ongoing series of gemstone cocktails.

The Jasper

  • 3/4 oz barrel-aged gin
  • 3/4 oz Amaro CioCiaro
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 4-5 drops Alpine Herb Bitters

Stir with ice; strain. Orange peel garnish.

It’s dark, herbal, and the piney bitters give it just enough punch to make it very interesting.

Some old writing

I was looking for a file on the laptop that does not seem to exist although I know I wrote it, when I came across a letter I wrote back in 2009. The context is that because of the crappy economy the school system was having to make even more budget cuts, and one of the strategems they were forced to employ was to eliminate the media center clerk position in every school.

Let me note that those employees were not fired; they were mostly shifted to other positions in the school. My beyond-excellent clerk, Robin, became a kindergarten classroom aide and is still there. But my letter explained how—in my media center at least—the reduction in staff would have serious consequences. I post it here because it is well-written and I liked it.


It was not against the law to be a lesbian in Victorian England.

Here’s why: when the Queen was presented with the legislation criminalizing homosexuality, she came to the part about lesbianism. She quite frankly did not believe such creatures existed, and so she struck that part of the law out.

Back when Newnan Crossing hit 1,000 students, I went to the SACS standards to see if I would be joined soon by a second professional media specialist. I was surprised to see that while the standards called for a second professional for high schools at that number, there was no such standard for elementary schools.

It finally dawned on me why: when the standards were written, no one could imagine anyone in their right mind building an elementary school with 1,000 students in it.

But people in their right minds have built elementary schools capable of holding 1,000 students. Your rationale has been that it’s more “cost efficient” to do so. The usual argument is “economy of scale,” which is generally taken as being cheaper to buy toilet paper.

The real economy, of course, is the salaries of those of us who serve the entire student population. Instead of two schools of 450, with two media specialists and two music teachers and two cafeteria staffs, you only have to pay one of each.

And that’s fine until you start actually serving the kids.

My circulation figures are running more than 30,000 checkouts a year. Yesterday, our circulation was nearly 300, and that’s a normal day. That’s 300 books to check out and 300 books to shelve every day, and that is my media clerk’s job. This means that 35% of our school walked in and out of the media center yesterday.

(I will also add that if this were at Elm Street, 35% would be fewer than 150 students, half the number I must serve. Even in good times, I am asked to do two jobs. Now, I’m being asked to do four? Without a lunch break? Once again, “economy of scale.”)

You perhaps imagine the media center as a place where classes arrive on some kind of schedule, do their checkout in a 20-minute slot, then leave, thus giving me time between classes to teach or to shelve. It is not. The media center is a constant flow of individual students arriving to check out books, to take AR tests, to do class research and projects, plus the classes scheduled for checkout and for instruction.

Next year, without a fully staffed media center, this will not be the case. In order to preserve the instructional program, I will shut down the foot traffic. Students will not be able to come to the media center on a needs basis, but only when their teacher has scheduled their class. The reading program will take a huge hit, but it’s all about limited resources—isn’t it?—and in this case the limited resource is my time.

How big a hit will this be? Out of the 300 checkouts yesterday, only 40 of them were from classes who actually signed up to be in there. That means around 200 students (estimating for multiple checkouts) were able to get a book when they needed one simply by getting a pass from their teacher and walking in. Next year, that’s a 1000 students a week who won’t get a book when they need one. How do you think that will impact reading at Newnan Crossing?

The really bad news is that study after study has shown that the single most important factor impacting student achievement that a school system has under its control is an appropriately staffed and funded media center. We lost funding this year, and next year we lose our staffing. I wonder, how much money will you spend on “programs” trying to boost achievement when you’ve gutted the one program that could save you?


As it happens, I was only there for another year and a half before I retired from Coweta County and went to the Dept. of Ed. to be the director of GHP, but believe you me I would have started compiling data in that third year to show exactly how the reading programs had been impacted.

A recipe: Pistachio-Shrimp Pasta

Here’s a meal I whipped up last night. No photo, because we had eaten the meal by the time I thought I should preserve this recipe. But that’s how good it is: very subtle mixtures of pistachios, herbs, and textures.

Pistachio-Shrimp Pasta

serves 4

  • shrimp (4–5 per person), shelled/deveined
  • fettucine

sauce

  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1/2 c. chopped pistachios
  • 4 tarragon leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. cream

marinade

  • 1/2 tsp zataar seasoning
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • olive oil, salt, pepper

finishing

  • 1 1/2 tbsp breadcrumbs/panko
  • 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 4 tarragon leaves, chopped

serving

  • whole pistachios
  • tarragon leaves
  1. Set the water to boil for the pasta.
  2. Add the white wine, chopped pistachios, tarragon, and lemon juice to a small pan and boil to reduce by half. Add the cream and continue simmering until reduced. (This step always takes longer than you think. Start it first. You can even start this before you peel the shrimp or chop the herbs/pistachios.)
  3. Put the shrimp in a bowl to marinate with the zataar, lemon juice, olive oil (enough to coat plus a little more), salt, and pepper.
  4. When the sauce is nearly ready, cook the fettucine. (That’s usually about 9 minutes; check the package.)
  5. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and marinade. Cook about 3 minutes per side.
  6. Drain the pasta, add the sauce to it.
  7. Finish the shrimp by adding the breadcrumbs, parsley, and tarragon. Stir until combined and the shrimp is coated.
  8. Serve the pasta with the shrimp on top. Garnish with the whole pistachios and tarragon.

The ties I did not keep

This past weekend I had to attend both a memorial service and a wedding, and thus I had to wear a tie. Since I’ve retired my need for a tie has been greatly reduced, and I certainly no longer need the ≈60 ties I still had in my possession. Believe it or not, I culled the collection right after GHP lost me in 2013, but I hung on to most of them for some unknown reason.

Now it was time for them to go, though. It’s been on my to-do list since Saturday, and today I decided to do it. All in all, it took only about 20 minutes and was surprisingly painless. I had intended to limit myself to ten ties, but when I ended up with sixteen, I was OK with that, too.

A review:

Yes, it’s true, I once had more ties.

And yes, they’re hung by color range.

The reds:

The yellows/oranges:

The greens:

(The Slytherin tie was an immediate keep, of course.)

The blues:

Some tough choices here.

The purples/pinks:

Prior to my leaving East Coweta High School in 1997, I had far more purple and purple-adjacent ties. They were disposed of 22 years ago, needless to say.

The grays, browns, and golds:

The oddballs and sentimentals:

(Yes, there were some oddballs in with the others…)

The literary:

The holidays:

The Christmas:

Even when I was checking out books to kindergartners, I wore a jacket and tie most days. The holiday/Christmas ties were mostly in service to that. The majority of the others were ‘nice’ ties for other days, and especially when I worked at the Georgia State Department of Education as the director of the Governor’s Honors Program. What with nearly 100 ties and a plethora of jackets and suits, I was a well-dressed educator.

But a burner doesn’t really need ties—although I have been known to wear a bow-tie while serving craft cocktails to the hippies[1]—so in running through each pile I was not tempted by sentiment (mostly) nor by “what-ifs.” There will never be an occasion where I will need to be so traditionally fashionable again. And if for some reason I am compelled to re-enter that life, I will simply buy more ties.

The winners:

Fifteen (plus a couple more I added after this photo), excluding the two Christmas ties.

Here are some I did not keep.

These are all GHP-related. The two rightmost I wore to the AgScience open house, of course. The child’s drawing of the cat I bought one of my first summers there when Jouree Petersen, my more-than-able assistant in the Media Support Services department, insisted I accompany her to the PX at Moody Air Force base (her husband was military) to see and buy this tie.

The one on the left is the one I always wore as director of GHP on the last day: it was the colors of the GHP Alumni Association—silver, for the value of the learning experience at GHP; blue, for the loyalty of GHP alumni to the program and to each other
; and black, for the lifelong nostalgia for the program. For a couple of years, alumni were able to order honor cords for their graduation:

Good times.

But the space where I wore those no longer exists, so I don’t need them any more.

One of several elementary-themed ties that went. I won’t miss the Sam-I-Am so much, but I might end up keeping Curious George.

This one goes to my son, who (I think) gave this to me for Father’s Day one year. It was given to him by Carol Lee (see comment below) and somehow it ended up in my keeping.

It is custom-made with a photo of Sam, our magnificent Maine coon. He was Grayson’s cat to begin with, but stayed on to live with us until his passing late in life.

(You might be interested in the book I created to read to kindergartners about color: Sam Cat’s Colors.)

Anyway, if you are interested in any tie you saw, or if you need a tie with specific colors, let me know. Soon. I no longer need them, and I will be giving them away.

UPDATE 10/24/19: The ties have been donated to the Gwinnett School of Science, Math, & Technology, which maintains a supply of attire for students who need jackets/ties, etc, for interviews/internships. Thanks to Jobie for the beg!

—————

[1] No, the bow-ties were not culled.

Maine 2019, Day 4

This post is late, because our Friday was a late night with many fabulous cocktails, so it might have been a little too hard to get it done on Saturday morning, what with travel and flight and stuff.

On Friday, we began by going across the road to the College of the Atlantic to snag breakfast at their café, which was not open because they’re not in session yet. This campus focuses on human ecology, and it’s lovely.

Pear tree

I made some notes for when I win the lottery and build the Lichtenbergian Retreat Complex.

We then made our way to Acadia National Park.

Acadia is the only National Park in the northeast, which is odd I think. It sprawls across several islands and contains multiple features of interest. There are shuttles there, just like at Grand Canyon, so we hopped the Loop and rode it straight around. Because we were on a tight time schedule, we didn’t hop on and off. Instead, we noted where we’d like to visit, then drove back there.

Typical view from the shuttle bus

One of those points was the Wild Garden, where volunteers have created a small garden with different areas representing the differing biomes in the park: conifer forest, bog, pond, roadside, etc.
I was there for the ferns. I will now bore you with multiple photos of ferns.

There were other plants, of course.

And frogs.

One of the attractions of the park is Sand Beach. “Sand” Beach, I hear you ask? Yes, of course: New England is not known for its pristine white beaches, and this place is an anomaly. In fact, it’s the only one. Its cove has a rocky island blocking the ocean’s full access, and so the surf has pounded shells into sand which has accumulated like it does normally elsewhere in the world.

Not pictured: a group of children in bathing suits frolicking in the freezing water. Mainers, amirite?

(In creating this post, I found on the official park website that Sand Beach and Thunder Hole (a tidal thing) were closed that very afternoon because of the storm surge from Hurricane Dorian. We escaped just in time, apparently.)

Have some seaweed.

We then drove to the peak of Mount Cadillac, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi.

—click to embiggen—

It was stunning. Like Grand Canyon, there’s nothing to keep you from plunging to your death if you’re an idiot. The views are spectacular: rocky coast, islands, Bar Harbor.

The plants are already getting ready to go for fall.

Maine is not called the Granite State for nothing. I liked the lichens.

Finally it was time to head back south. Normally we would have snagged a hotel room online during lunch, but we skipped lunch while we clambered around Mt. Cadillac—snacks only—and so we found that it was harder to find an affordable room on the road mid-afternoon. We had planned to return to Portland (there was a distillery I wanted to visit), but we ended up in Augusta, the capitol, at the comfortable—if kitschy—Senator Inn.

A capitol city, bustling with attractions and nightlife, right? You are thinking of Atlanta. Augusta is not that.

We did our research on where to eat and ended up in Hallowell, a small community right on the other side of Augusta. The Liberal Cup is a foodie place posing as a brewpub, and the meal was delicious. I especially appreciated their cocktail menu:

We asked our waitress where she would recommend for music and cocktails, and she immediately said, “The Maine House: Leah makes the best cocktails in town.”

Y’all.

First of all, it was tiny, it was crowded, and it was fabulous. There was a duo up front playing all the top 40 covers—my Lovely First Wife sang along to all of them—and the cocktails… Leah is a genius.

The Plaid Shirt is one of the best cocktails I have ever had, and everyone else was in heaven with their choices as well.

The duo up front took a break, and we strolled around Hallowell (it’s only a couple of blocks long) looking for our next good time.

Hallowell is our kind of place. This was on the wall on one of the buildings:

And this is what they do for fun:

If you don’t know what contra dance is, think Jane Austen movies. As I said, my kind of people.

By some schedule unknown to us the musicians at every single place were on break, and we decided we would head back to downtown Augusta and check out the night life there.

We headed specifically to The Oak Table & Bar, right there on State Street past the Capitol.

There we encountered Kyle, another genius. Tall, still athletic—he was ranked 37th in the nation as a lacrosse player in high school—and voluble, he made fabulous cocktails while we grilled him on how he got to where he is. Cool story: in the service, his buddies paid for him to go to bartending school because of his skillz. Out of the service, he was considering a 6-figure career in security consulting, but then had a son, now three years old, and he made the decision to stay home instead. We loved him.

By the time we emerged, Augusta had turned out the lights. We were literally the only car parked on the street.

We slept, we rose, we breakfasted, we drove to Portland, and we flew home. The end.

Next: Pro Tips.

Maine 2019, Day 3

We headed north out of Freeport, determined to stick to U.S. Hwy 1 as we drove towards Bar Harbor, thinking perhaps it would be like California’s Hwy 1: we’d whoosh up the coast like in a car commercial, zooming along the rocky coast towards lobster nirvana.

It seems we were misinformed. Hwy 1 will sometimes hug the coast, but it more often resembles a drive through north Georgia. However, the towns are much quainter, New England having invented the concept. (I was driving today, so unfortunately I don’t have any photos of all the quaintness.)

You do come across things:

Our immediate goal was the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. This collection was started by the Farnsworth family and is now a city block of buildings and exhibits. Its main claim on our attention was the repository of Wyeth family work: N.C. Wyeth, Andrew, currently living Jamie, and a small flock of other relatives.

But the first exhibit to catch our eye was a small gallery of screens. It was lovely:

This was a fascinating piece of woodwork, and then you walked around to the other side…

…and found this dazzling, gold-leafed version. If I have time when I get back, I’ll share a video of how the surfaces reflected each other as you moved around.

There were a couple of others, all beautifully crafted.

The actual first exhibit we saw was an exhibit of Jamie Wyeth’s portraits of his wife Phyllis, who died this past January. She was an avid horsewoman—her horse Union Rags won the Belmont Stakes in 2012—and was known for her independent spirit, despite having been injured in an auto accident in her early 20s. She was a lover of animals, and Jamie painted this “tapestry,” as he called it, to celebrate that.

Phyllis is the figure on the right in the red hat, zipping through her farm on her motorized scooter.

Outside the main museum is the Farnsworth complex, including the original Farnsworth homestead…

…and the Wyeth Center, housed in a converted Methodist church.

There we found an exhibit of Jamie Wyeth’s work, Untoward Occurrences and Other Things. Jamie is, for lack of a better word, a deeply weird artist. We decided that he either consciously or unconsciously decided to be the weird kid, playing off his father and grandfather’s reputations as calm, rational, organized, and beloved. He paints with bravura, but the paintings in this exhibit at least present you with some very disturbing narratives.

For example, one of the paintings is of the artist Rockwell Kent, whom Jamie apparently had a big old man-crush on. Kent is standing on a beach, with a fogbound cliff behind him. You don’t even notice the vague dark figure plummeting headfirst off the cliff. At first. The fact that this may reference a lover of Kent’s who was found dead beneath the cliff is just part of the weirdness.

Worth seeing, the whole museum.

(There will be more discussion of some of the art over at Lichtenbergianism.com next week.

We found a chocolate place, a “beans-to-bar” establishment. The chocolate is good, but on the whole just buy locally: the owner’s presentation on how they do it is not as interesting as he thinks it is, and his pronunciation of ‘cacao’ is odd for one whose business is all pods and nibs.

Here’s a fun thing:

“Collins” is Maine’s “moderate” Republican senator Susan Collins, who is renowned for being awfully concerned about her party’s shenanigans. She will wring her hands, issue sternly worded statements—and then still vote for the president (who imprisons children)’s agenda. The final straw seems to have been her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. At any rate, the voters of Maine are out to get her. Good for them.

Onward. We stopped in Camden for lunch at the Waterfront Market.

Food was great, and the view couldn’t be beat. Traffic was heavy, though, what with one yacht or another heading out to sea.

On up the road to Bar Harbor. We had to swerve off into the overlook area when this appeared:

Hard to see, but it’s the tallest inhabited structure in Maine: the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory, with a 40-story observation deck in the left-hand tower.  It’s part of the Fort Knox state park. It was about to close, so we passed it by. Perhaps on our way back?

At lunch, we all whipped out our phones looking for lodging in Bar Harbor. Pricewise, the Edenbrook Motel was acceptable, and it looked charming in the photos. When we got to Bar Harbor, my phone got confused and took us up into the hills to a golf course. When I corrected it, we were led through neighborhoods until we came across what looked to be a seedy, rundown establishment.

I was excoriated for my choice in motels.

However, the rooms are huge, modern, and clean, and the view:

…well, let’s just say I was vindicated.

The sunset was nice:

We headed into Bar Harbor proper, found a parking place—which even in the off season is a feat; I cannot imagine trying to park during the season—and looked for a restaurant. We settled on Salt & Steel, and it was the best meal we’ve had so far. Great bar as well: they not only had green Chartreuse, they had Tom Cat barrel-aged gin as well—I could get a Bijou, and did.

Tomorrow, our last full day, we will spend in Acadia National Park, and then return to Portland.