The original words of Phanes, tirelessly carved into a slab of "No'".

Maine: Moving to A Larger Game

The last few days have been eventful.

I had to make a surprise trip to Maine, where I spent some of my college years, to correct the course of a problem that had been developing towards something more advantageous for myself.

Unfortunately, it involved civil court.

I was not a happy camper, because I do not enjoy being in Maine. It’s just too damned cold and I hate flying to New England. It’s the weather. It’s the food. It’s the people. It’s the infrastructure. It’s the legal system.

I booked a package through expedia. A round trip flight, three nights at a hotel, and a car rental.

On the way out, I showed up 30 minutes before my flight and they wouldn’t let me check in with United Airlines. Apparently there’s a rule they’ve made at that location where you have to show up 2 hours before your flight and sit there staring until they board now. So, I had to wait in various airports for hours waiting for flights until I got there.

When I arrived at the Portland Airport, late at night, I was greeted by a wind that may have frozen my balls directly to my thigh for the remainder of the trip. My first thought on Maine sidewalk was “Why do people live here?”.

Then the rental car. They didn’t have the car I reserved, and were down to one vehicle, so, I got issued a Buick Encore, which is pretty much a golf cart with a radio and heater. Whatever. I go to the hotel.

Besides my frozen balls, the first thing I notice is the cold, dry air. It was so cold, in fact, that it completely dried out my sinuses in the first night. I was staying at the Canopy by Hilton Portland Waterfront.

It was a nice facility, but the building was new and so it had that new construction dust in the air, which then irritated my now completely dry sinuses, and eventually started to create an infection while I slept.

I woke up for court with my mouth completely dry, unable to swallow, and my uvula had swollen to about the size of a golf ball, just hours before court. Eyes runny from the dust, I could feel them sinking into their sockets by the minute. I could barely speak without choking or gagging. And, it hurt.

Factor in that I’m currently fat, swollen and out of shape from constant injuries to my elbows, ribs, and knees trying to recover from a near-fatal case of covid a couple years back and I was a sight to behold.

I spent about 3 hours trying to get better. Pounded lots of water until I realized my tonsils and sinuses were also sore and swollen besides dry- went down to CVS and got saline, loratadine, antiseptic mouthwash, albuterol, and several NSAIDs to reduce the swelling, kill any bacterial source, hydrate my sinuses, and reduce any allergy-based inflammation. It helped enough to get me able to talk.

Luckily I had already spent considerable time with the legal firm I’d hired a few weeks prior building our case and strategy and didn’t have to do alot of speaking. We had mapped out every scenario and had a solid plan for each of them, including this one. My representation expertly delivered the desired result after some negotiation. While I was anticipating the legal consequences the opposing party would face if it went to trial, this is a strategically better outcome, and, I learned alot in the process that will help me in the future.

Always play a larger game.

So, after a nice little personal victory, trying not to swallow my uvula, I drove my little golf cart rental back to the airport and ran into the same problem with the airliner and ended up having to buy another ticket to get back home while I continued freezing my ass off until I got off in the DC metro area for my first layover.

Maine is such a deprived joke. It’s a purely aesthetic existence. The hotel really exemplified this to explain it to someone:

  • There is an espresso bar on the bottom floor, that can’t make a latte. It’s just sugar and milk, so, I ordered a cortado. Again, just sugar and milk. So I ordered a double-shot and steamed milk on the side. Lo and behold, the problem is the espresso — its just coffee flavored water. Watery and bland, and an obvious issue with how it was brewed. It wasn’t espresso. They’d been making pumpkin spice bullshit for folks who don’t actually like espresso so long that they didn’t know they were making shit espresso and covering up the taste with flavoring.
  • That rustic theme where they take barn doors and make sliding doors out of them everywhere? Those were never part of a barn, it’s just an aesthetic.
  • That “new england clam chowder soup” regional delicacy they’re serving? Campbell’s, canned from the grocery store.
  • Even the fire in the fireplaces was just steam rising through an LED-lit plastic enclosure.

What I’m getting at is the hotel wasn’t unique in Portland in this regard. Everything in that area is like this. They seem to want so badly to create a “maine culture” but it’s all tourist pull and, once you live there for about 15 minutes, all the nice wears off, and you see huge income disparity — almost everyone is poor, cold, and miserable, and they are horrible to each other. The staff can’t even afford to eat at their own restaurants of employment. There’s a period of about 2 months of the year where the place is beautiful as long as you don’t have to go outside.

If you want to know what the people are like, I’ll give you a clue: When I went to the grocery store to pick up the items for my throat, I had about 5 items in my hands and stopped by the express register, which said “14 items or less” and two women who were together rushed passed me, almost running me over, to get in first ahead of me, with carts filled to the brim with items. I looked at the woman, and looked at the “14 items or less sign” when she looked back at me. She noticed me look at the sign and back at her, and kind of just shrugged it off in disregarded shame with a kind of “what are you going to do about it” look. That moment defined that 50 year old woman’s entire existence, and is exemplary of how many people interact in Maine when they’re not pretending to be nice.

What a miserable existence that would have been for me.

Granted, there are some great people up there, but the majority speaks for itself, and the real culture of Maine is hidden away to visitors.

So, now I’m home again, warm, in Cincinnati, sitting in my 3 bedroom house in one of my offices, sipping proper espresso from my proper Italian espresso machine while my adoring dog looks up at me, and with me looking at the great new things that have recently been made possible in my future. Later in the week I have plans with friends, genuine friends, to go out and enjoy a nice dinner. Not to “keep up appearances” or “secure a resource”, but to enjoy company. To people who know what the difference is, that has value.

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The Personal Blog of Chris Punches