austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

And I know where I'm going: to those bright city roads

The stairwell for moxie_man and panacea1's place has a sign, going down, consisting of a drawing of a yellow rubber duck and an exclamation point. One might think it hard to factorialize a duck. The point is otherwise.

Their charming house is built on what passes in Maine for a flat lot, which means there's a difference of only 470 feet between the lowest and highest point. The building huddles around the staircase, with low ceilings and slightly odd corners cut between the wall and the ceiling to make way for the roof. The stairwell was low enough that bunny_hugger felt herself in danger of hitting her head going down the stairs. I was to be a lost case, surely; and my first head-ceiling impact event came ... actually, as I was going upstairs.

As we woke up and showered and wandered downhill to the breakfast we found moxie_man hard at work making approximately every Whoopie Pie ever imagined, although he would proclaim that they weren't a very good batch, something we wouldn't have imagined if he didn't insist on it. (It's a chocolate-cake type 'sandwich bun' with an icing center.) And he had Moxie Cola, fondness for which he and Mainers in general are rather famous, even though the soda's fallen out of the mass market in non-Maine areas and my major contact with it had been through his Livejournal account name, the .sig of a devoted Moxie fan formerly on, and the picture of the Vintage Monopoly set on the back of the Special 1935 Edition of Monopoly's box.

He'd hoped that we would try it, and I was looking forward to giving it a chance even though most of what I heard about it was from either devoted fans or from people who think it the foulest beverage not to be marketed as RC Diet Cola. bunny_hugger's father proclaimed it to be like Dr Pepper gone off, for example. moxie_man had stocked up, with regular and diet, but for my first try I thought I should go for a can of the plain, original, non-diet version.

It was ... less sweet than sodas I'm used to, and the mouth feel was a little stickier than I was used to. I could see where the comparisons to Dr Pepper came from, but with something else replacing the vaguely cherry flavor base for Dr Pepper. It was not love at first taste. However, the taste was not bad, and I could see getting to like it better once I'd had a bette sense of what to expect it to taste like. So I'd had a positive impression, and I'd give the regular Moxie a try each of the remaining days we were there, while drinking the Diet in general because I don't need a hundred-plus calories for a can of soda, thank you.

The first real order of business was getting my car cleaned out, since we'd brought not just changes of clothing but a few extras like some DVDs which might be watched (including, on my part, a Rifftrax DVD which would later prove to be defective, a story of trivial interest I'm sure to write about here), and some spare towels as we thought they might be in a strained supply given the number of visitors, and which I realize we failed to explain so that bunny_hugger and I might have come off looking like people with some weird phobia of unfamiliar towels. We just wanted the native supply to be secure. There was also relocating my car from the front of the driveway to the back, so as to allow more access for the vehicles more likely to be driven places, which would be exciting since their driveway, like all Maine roads, has a gradient of around 75 percent and backing down it is actually preferable to driving forwards in it.

But with breakfast, and testing Moxie Cola, and car-shuffling, and a formal guide to cats who would spend most of the weekend hiding under furniture or sulking at all thee strangers done, we were left with the question of what to do for the day, particularly as two of the expected party were not yet present. Some minor chores suggested the way: I needed to buy fresh batteries for my camera, as they'd run out in New Hampshire and I'd forgotten to bring along a fresh set, and bunny_hugger needed to make some small purchases too. Clearly, a convenience store was just the thing we needed.

It was a starting point, at least, as it got us out of the house and encouraged us to explore the town, in particular, another town. This would be the one across the river which has among other things a lovely Thai restaurant where we ate abundantly and tastily. The restaurant itself was on the edge of the river, and we had grand views of the sparklingly clear mid-afternoon day and the reflections on the water and on, and we got to spend what felt like a sprawling long while talking about our driving experiences, and moxie_man and panacea1's work and their preparations for the weekend and what the community was like and how it'd recovered from last winter's flooding and if I don't track every subject down it's because the whole weekend would turn into one of those rambling, darting conversations where there's no real natural jumping-in or jumping-out point, you just have to dive in and not worry about it.

After lunch and with a few hours expected yet before malloc1024 should arrive we walked the downtown strip, which might be small compared to, say, Brooklyn but was wonderfully sized, not too excessively hilly, and dotted with antique buildings and historical markers which I kept falling behind in order to read. The road is also dotted with antique and crafts stores which bunny_hugger, panacea1, and I dipped into, while moxie_man stayed out for stated fear of breaking something or possibly everything. This is why we took to telling him as we came back out that he missed the coolest stuff in there.

There were also two used book stores, at which I tried to restrain myself, with generally pretty good success. The first used its second-floor location to sprawl out over several semi-connected rooms and so came pretty near that ideal class of used book stores, ones that seem to extend without limit and are full up of books which range from as recently as 1970 to as far back as the dawn of Linotype operations. This was a mighty tempting place --- where else have you seen the abridged paperback version of They'd Rather Be Right, notoriously bad Hugo-Award-Winning science fiction novel? --- although what I really had to linger over was something from back in the Ancient Children's Section.

You know the kind of books I mean, even if I can't think of how to describe them either. The books written somewhere back before they discovered fun, consisting of young anthropomorphic animals engaging in extremely minor disreputable behavior and coming to horrible ends, written around 1910 by people who were deceased even then. My eye fell upon Arthur Scott Bailey's The Tale Of Fatty Coon, a young and golf coursedly-dressed raccoon whose sole motivating principle, based on the stories I read, was to eat, and who learns from his mishaps only that he really should have eaten more before coming to grief. (``But when I say that Fatty Coon was fond of squirrels, I mean that he liked to eat them. So of course you will understand now why the squirrels did not care for Fatty at all.'') Holding me back from buying was the thought that this was probably available on Project Gutenberg (it is) in the off chance that the amusement value of Fatty Coon would last more than the ten minutes I spent reading excerpts to bunny_hugger (it might).

I set that down but, as noted, Project Gutenberg has it, along with a number of other Bailey books telling tales of Benny Badger, Bobby Bobolink, Ferdinand Frog, Henrietta Hen, Major Monkey, Timothy Turtle, and in violations of the alliterative-names rule almost as flagrant as ``Fatty Coon'' is, Frisky Squirrel, Sandy Chipmunk, and Peter Mink. I didn't think of ``Peter'' as a particularly mink-ish name. There's also the species-defying Muley Cow.

bunny_hugger, dipping into the same section with less snarky eyes, came up with a real treasure: Felix Salten's Fifteen Rabbits. Name feel vaguely familiar yet completely unplaceable? That's because Felix Salten would be better known for writing the novel Bambi if anyone remembered there was a novel on which the movie was loosely based on (sequels, too), and Fifteen Rabbits is a collection based on, well, there you go. Project Gutenberg does not have this --- all they have is the popular Josefine Mutzenbacher oder Die Geschichte einer Wienerischen Dirne von ihr selbst erzählt, as who would not --- but, boy was she delighted.

The other used book store was roughly four feet wide, and I'm only slightly exaggerating here, squeezed between other storefronts into a space so narrow that there wasn't space for the cashier. Really. Instead up near the front was a basket with some bills and change scattered about it, and a sign explaining their honor-system used book store model. And despite the narrow store and selection I found something actually irresistible here: a biography of Herbert Hoover. This may not strike you as interesting even by my standards of interesting, but this biography was written in 1928, about the last moment when you could write a biography of Herbert Hoover that didn't end up with a lot of embarrassed coughing and apologia. It's hard to remember but up through 1928 Hoover had an outstanding reputation what with single-handedly saving Belgium from starvation and turning radio from a bundle of semi-competent amateurs into an industry that would actually make money; I'm rather interested in learning more although, arguably, I already know what I might expect to read here.

With the town across the river fairly explored and multiple flood high-water marks seen and photographed so come the next flood we'll be ready to make comparisons, we returned to moxie_man and panacea1's place to anticipate the arrival of malloc1024.

Trivia: In 1793 a syndicate headed by William Bingham bought three million acres of Maine territory at about ten cents per acre, with the pledge to establish 2500 settlers on the land by 1803, with a fine of $30 per settler if he failed. Source: The Sixth Great Power: A History Of One Of The Greatest Of All Banking Families, The House Of Barings, 1762 - 1929, Philip Ziegler.

Currently Reading: The Tin Angel, Ron Goulart.


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