Tag Archives: humor

How To Be A Good House Guest

My poor, neglected blog! 

I’ve been missing in action due to a swarm of house guests.  Some were invited, others weren’t.  Some stayed a short time while others lingered on until I began daydreaming about ways to bodily remove them from my island paradise.

I think there’s something about owning a four bedroom home on an island seven miles off the coast of Maine that attracts those looking for a “cheap” vacation.  Cheap for them perhaps, not cheap for the hostess.

I think most of my visitors, family and friends alike, are considerate and helpful while others (namely those who chose to stay for weeks on end) were less than considerate and way less than helpful.

At long last, the house is close to empty, the steam has ceased pouring out my ears, and I can think clearly once again! 

In the name of all that’s holy or otherwise, I’ve compiled a list of considerations… just in case you’re someone’s house guest in the future.

1.  Wait for an invite.  While this may seem obvious to most, it never ceases to amaze and irritate me when people arrive uninvited and unexpected.  Yes, I have four bedrooms but perhaps those bedrooms are filled with invited guests.

2.  Get off your butt.  Okay, so you’ve been invited or perhaps you descended like a swarm of locusts.  It’s not your hostess’s job to cook, clean up after you, pick up your soggy towels, or replace numerous spent rolls of toilet paper.  Help your hostess; she needs it!

3.  Restrict your visit to a few days, a week at most.  Hey, even I can tolerate the uninvited when the house is already full.  For a few days.  House guests, like fish, begin to stink after three days.   And for heaven’s sake, let your hostess know how long you will be staying. 

 I tried to sound light hearted when I asked an uninvited relative, “So, how long do you think you’ll be in Eastport?”

The answer? 

“Oh, I haven’t decided yet. Three or four days.” 

She stayed for two weeks.  Just how many times does your hostess need to ask before getting a definitive answer?  Once and only once, please.

4.  Be considerate.   Considerate of water, food, electricity, your hostess’s patience….at times I’ve had as many as 11 visitors staying in my home.  Contribute some food, offer to cook, whatever! 

Remember your hostess will be paying the bill for your vacation for months after you’ve gone home.  Water is extremely expensive here on the island and filling an extra capacity washing machine with three extra rinses for your shirt and a pair of socks is not only crazy, it’s downright rude and wasteful.

Keep in mind your hostess may have to attend an unexpected event. True story:  I had to attend a funeral the other day and was made to feel guilty (yes, guilty!) for attending.  Guilt aside, I attended. 

5.  Thank your hostess.  Especially if your arrival was unexpected.  ‘Nuf said.

As an afterthought to this list:  consider presenting your hostess with a bottle of wine; after the guests have departed and the dust has settled, she just may need it.

Advertisements

Lobster (behind the scenes)

lobsterbait bags & mackerelLobster Crossing
Nearly every morning I walk down the sea path and encounter a solitary man, stuffing mackerel and herring into mesh bags.  He’s a heck of a nice guy and always has time for a chat with tourists who are curious about what he is doing.

This morning, at 5:00 a.m.  I found him sheltering from the rain and donning his oilskins.  A smile creased his face, weathered by years of salt, wind, and sun, “Hey kid,” he said, “you’re late this morning.”

Surrounded by huge plastic boxes filled with herring and mackerel, he’s the man behind the lobster scene.  The unsung hero of local lobstermen who idle their boats alongside the wharf to pick up  boxes upon boxes of lobster bait.  Without bait, no lobster on your plate.

The mackerel and herring (already dead) are stuffed into mesh bags (called “bait bags”) and placed inside the lobster trap to entice the clawed delicacies to enter.  While lobsters prefer live food, they are not above looking for an easy meal of dead fish. 

I asked how many bait bags he fills a week.  3500.  From April until sometime in November, through rain, fog and the not frequent enough sunshine, he stands there, stuffing bag after bag so the lobstermen can do their thing.  He starts his work day at 4: 00 a.m. and doesn’t quit ’til it’s done.

From a lifetime of working outdoors, he predicts the weather with amazing accuracy and is teaching me all.  For example:  southerly wind predicts fog and rain.  He’s given me a meteorology project:  the number of snow storms can be predicted by the number of foggy days in August, “Just you keep track and see” (and I will keep track, just you wait and see).  He’s also the guy who informs me everytime I have missed whales playing right off the wharf.

In the distance the faint rumblings of a lobster boat making its approach, voices of the crew float through the dense fog, and the time for chit chat is over for another day. 

The difference $4.70 makes

Everyone is painfully aware of the price of oil these days.  At the time of this writing, home heating oil is $4.70 a gallon in Downeast Maine, and that dear reader, translates into $1292 to fill a 275 gallon tank.  Ouch.

I have been a fan of pellet stoves since I installed my first one in 1994.  They are neat, efficient and blow some serious hot air. 

When my first stove died, I immediately replaced it.  There was no way I was going to be without a pellet stove, especially when oil was a dollar and change a gallon!

My home was on the market and I specified the pellet stove was not part of the purchase price.  I planned to take that bad boy with me to Downeast Maine.  Everyone who looked at the house wanted the stove too and the serious buyer I had on the hook wasn’t taking “no” for an answer.

We battled back and forth, the buyers would back out (all because of a pellet stove?) and the same buyers would return again.  It was a vicious cycle.

“You’re being stubborn,” my sister told me over cocktails one afternoon on the front porch, “don’t let this keep you from your dream.”

My dream was to move to Downeast Maine and live happily ever after.

I relented, the house went under contract and I went house hunting Downeast.  I planned to replace the pellet stove the buyer swindled me out of just as soon as I chose my new home.

I found the house I couldn’t live without and promptly began the process of hunting down a new pellet stove. 

I located a phone book (the phone book here covers the entire county and measures precisely 1/4″ thick) and began dialing businesses that were likely to carry the supplies I would need.  No such luck.  Buying a stove locally wasn’t going to happen but I wasn’t deterred; I would buy one and lug it in the back of the moving van all the way Downeast.

While I had the helpful Downeast store clerks on the line, I inquired if the store carried wood pellets. 

“Sure, deah, how many bags would you like?” 

“Bags?  No, no, I’m talking tons,” I said.

“Tons?” (they would always chuckle at that point) “No, I’m afraid there’s no call for that many pellets around heah.”

I gave up the ghost, so to speak, and moved Downeast, sans pellet stove.

The price of oil climbed.  $2.75, $3.05, $3.95, and on and on until it’s where it’s at today. 

I was reading the local newspaper, it may interest you to know the paper comes out twice a month here, (no kidding) when I noticed an advertisement which stated a local oil company would begin carrying pellet stoves.

I was on the phone quicker than you can say “price gouging”, because where there’s pellet stoves, there’s pellets.

I am once again the proud owner of a pellet stove with pellets prepaid for the coming winter.  It’s amazing the difference $4.70 a gallon makes.  Pellet stoves are backordered to September from what I understand, and there are plans (in the early stages) for a company to manufacture wood pellets in Washington County.

More local jobs, cheaper heat, what’s not to love?

A Pale Moon Rising

To the Lovers (you know who you are)

rising in the half light
the beach to cover as the tide
comes rushing in

white metal
wet from damp
legs on dashboard and a pale moon rising
love or lust
golden sun
who knows what brought her
to her knees

faces turn
only he knows
what made the moon rise again

 

Okay, Shakespeare I’m not,  but I couldn’t let this morning’s eyeful go without comment (I love blogging).

Up bright and early (4: 30 a.m), my faithful canine and I set off on a jaunt to the beach with Midge not far behind.  Through the mist I could barely make out a parked car. 

“Someone fishing,” I thought.

I thought wrong.

As I ambled down the path, I could hear music emanating from the car.  Soft, yet carrying through the silence of the morning.

I glanced to my right, saw a young man and woman enganged in (gasp!) SEX in the front seat.  No voyeur, I laughed and continued on.

On my return, I realized that with the slope of the path coming off the beach, I had no choice but to pass the car and would get a full view of Romeo and Juliet. 

They both turned and saw me, and bless his heart, Romeo didn’t miss a stroke (what a guy!).

Ahhh, the lure of outdoor sex. And why not? According to Nine Unique Places to Have Sex, five out of the nine “most unique” places to get naked is outside.   Most of us have done it at least once or twice but it was about the last thing I expected to see at the crack of dawn (no pun intended).

So to the young couple:  I know you thought you’d have privacy and  I’m sorry to have intruded on your passion, but isn’t it nice that your moment has been immortalized forever?

 

Midge

Midge walking the beachMidge (noun):  biting black fly, some of which are carriers of filarial worms

There is something about pets that warm our hearts and give meaning to our very existence.  They need us, we love and need them.  Pets seem to know when we are blue, when we need to be amused or when we just need a little kiss to remind us all is right with the world. 

At least that’s what I thought until Midge entered my life.

Being dragged by my ever faithful and ever barking canine companion down the sea path is always a feast for the senses:  the tang of salt air, boats navigating the bay, flowers nodding their heads in the breeze, and the occasional fellow pet owner walking their well-behaved dog (their dogs are always well behaved).

Such was the setting one fine afternoon.  Straining at her lead (no graduate of obedience class), my terrier bounded under a bush.  Tail wagging, she refused all my attempts to lure her out of the shrubbery.  Peering under a mass of branches (loaded with sharp thorns, no less), I discovered a tiny black and white kitten, no more than 8 weeks old.

His eyes caked with goo and mysterious gunk issuing from his nose, I picked him up gingerly and walked to the nearby fish market where a half dozen lobstermen were gathered around the bed of a pickup truck talking amongst themselves.  I approached, holding the kitten while my well behaved dog leaped and twisted in the air, barking joyfully at the sneezing, sniffling, black and white ball of fur.

Holding the kitten up, I addressed the group of lobstermen, “Do you fellas have any idea who this might belong to?”

The men exchanged glances and one piped up, “Looks like he belongs to you now, deah.”  His companions laughed at the joke.

Looking into the green eyes of the homeless waif, I knew I couldn’t just place him back under the bush where I found him my faithful canine found him, so back home we went, with my dog still leaping and barking from the thrill of it all.

A local veterinarian agreed to see the kitten immediately and on our arrival I had to fill out the obligatory paperwork.

“You forgot to fill out the kitten’s name,” the receptionist stated.

I informed her I wouldn’t be naming the kitten as  I would find a home for the poor little guy as soon as I could.

Loaded with creepy crawlies and sporting a respiratory infection, the kitten weighed in at just under 2 pounds.   I felt like such a do-gooder as I drove home with a nameless feline who had already cost me $90 a pound.

Days went by and the kitten improved.  Weeks went by and all hell broke loose.  Toilet paper shredded, water bowls knocked over, plants torn to bits.  One day I returned home to find him hanging from the diningroom curtains, the fine weave of the fabric giving way under his weight. 

Exasperated, I told a friend about the kitten’s shenanigans.  “Are you looking for sympathy?  You won’t find it here,” she said, “you really need to name that kitten.”

Of course I reiterated I certainly would not be keeping the little wretch and I fabricated a story about how diligently I was working to find a home for him ( I have been known to tell a white lie or two).

One night I lay in bed, reading peacefully when I heard the distinct pitter-patter of little kitten feet coming up the stairs.  The kitten made his way, ripping, clawing and tearing, onto the bed.  He purred with pleasure, curled up next me and bit me on the arm. 

I shooed him away and shook my finger at him.  He did what all cute kittens do:  he batted at my finger in that cross-eyed way and made me laugh.  He nestled into the side of my neck and bit down for all he was worth.  

“You are worse than a swarm of midges!” I shouted.

There is a moment of truth is everyone’s lives, when you can no longer deny the facts.  This time the fact was:   I was keeping this kitten and  had named him “Midge”.

As the months passed, Midge grew bigger and my patience wore thin.  There wasn’t anything Midge wouldn’t shred, chew or mangle.  Family and friends laughed like hyenas everytime I started a conversation with “You will not believe what that cat has done this time!”

Midge and my pooch got along famously from the start.  They chased one another around the house, wrestled together and napped together (kittens need plenty of sleep to gear up for the next round of havoc).

One fine afternoon I came home and noticed immediately my furry fan club hadn’t greeted me on arrival and then saw the good sized tear in the window screen.  A tear big enough for a cat but thankfully not big enough for a terrier.  Frantic, I hooked up my dog and we went in search of Midge.  Up and down the streets we went, and left not a stone unturned.

As I rounded a bend in the sea path and approached the fish market, I spotted an elderly couple standing outside a parked motorhome with Florida plates.  The husband and wife were feeding smoked salmon to Midge.  No wonder the cat didn’t want to come home.

I smiled as the wife hugged Midge and said, “Isn’t he precious?  We’re taking a piece of Maine back to Florida with us.”

I admit, my heart leapt for joy.  These people wanted the destructive little beast!  I smiled inwardly as I thought of the money I would save on toilet paper alone.

“Midge is my cat.  I’m sorry, but you can’t take him with you.”

What?  Did those words just come out of my mouth? 

“He tore a hole in the window screen and escaped,” I explained as my dog barked happily at Midge who was purring up a storm, cradled in the woman’s arms.

I took Midge home and wondered what had just happened.  The little devil had made a disaster zone out of my house and I had taken him back.  There’s no explaining it.

The torn window screen was replaced but Midge escaped again and again.  He’s a wanderer at heart, I guess.  I always knew just where to look for him because the women working at the fish market had taken to feeding the poor kitty tidbits of lobster, fish, whatever was convenient.  No wonder Midge loved it there.

I gave up trying to keep Midge indoors and when I gave up, I made the most incredible discovery.

Midge follows me everywhere I go.  He keeps pace as best he can while I am being dragged around town by my overexcited terrier.  A walk to the post office?  No problem.  A journey to the beach? Count on Midge because he refuses to be left behind. 

People around town always enjoy the sight of Midge following along side a woman and her dog.  If I get too far ahead of him, Midge will let out a yowl to curdle your blood.

“Is that your cat?” a man sitting on his porch asked.

“Oh yes, he follows me everywhere,” I replied with pride.

The man shook his head and said, “Now isn’t that something!”

And yes, it really is something.

Deciphering Downeast

So, exactly what comprises the area known as DownEast Maine?  Washington and Hancock counties are generally accepted as Downeast. 

Many people wonder why this area is refered to as “DownEast” when clearly (geographically speaking), Maine is definitely Northeast.  So where does the “down” come from?  The only likely explanation comes from the fact that a ship could sail down wind from Boston to Maine.

 The single most confusing issue is the reference to other locations.  Please, allow me to explain:  If I am planning a trip to Connecticut, the accepted phrase would be, “I am going up to Connecticut.”   Friends and family coming to visit from Florida?  Well, that’s easy!  They are coming down to Maine for a visit.  Makes perfect sense, right?  Right?

Folks from DownEast aren’t geographically challenged (well, no more than the next person), it’s just the way it’s said and make no mistake, if you say, “I’m headed down to Florida next week,” you will be gently, but firmly, corrected.

Of considerable interest is the way they take the stairs in DownEast Maine.  Most everyone I know goes up stairs or down stairs.  Not here, no siree.  You go “up over” the stairs and come “down over” the stairs. 

“Down” or “up” is just the beginning of deciphering the DownEast “language”.  The locals have accents ranging from the barely there to the downright hard to understand.  The letter “R” is nearly nonexistent (deah/dear, cah/car, theyah/there) unless they can put an “R” in where it doesn’t belong (case in point:  Washington County becomes WaRshington County.  Don’t even get me started on “Grandmother and Grantfather”…

 They also have words and phrases which don’t help much to the uninitiated and here is a sampling:

Right“- Despite what I have always believed, “wicked” is not the predominant adjective used  DownEast; it’s “right” (It’s right hot outside or That was right tasty).  Please don’t  misunderstand, “wicked” is sometimes used but almost always in conjunction with “right”.  A 90 degree day would be “right wicked hot”.

Dinner/lunch/supper“-  this can get confusing.  Dinner is your noon meal unless it’s something a little fancier (for lack of a better term,) in which case it’s lunch.  Supper is your evening meal.  You don’t “go out for dinner”, you “go out for lunch”.  Ayuh.  I have been corrected more than once for saying “dinner” when “lunch” was appropriate.

There are some phrases that are colorful (or perhaps off color) such as  “She’s been around more times than a button on a shit house door”, which implies a woman of questionable morals. 

You say “water tower”, they say “stand pipe” (You knew that, didn’t you?) and the list goes on.

If all this has you confused, don’t despair.  I live here and at times it leaves me feeling “crazier than a rat in a coffee can.”