A Day in Portland
After my ass-kicker trip to California, I decided that I needed a little time off. I actually developed a specific plan, based on the fact that I was asked to do a conference presentation up in Portland, ME on Tuesday:
Monday: bail on work early, and go visit Bird & Jen in Dover; crash there overnight. This gets me one hour closer to Portland, and keeps me out of Boston-area traffic on the drive out.
Tuesday: after my conference talk, wander around Portland, and catch dinner there, considering that every article I've seen says, "...and man, the food scene is really picking up in this town..."
So visiting Bird & Jen was lovely--Jen made a neat apple/butternut squash/onion pastry dish, along with salad and risotto. I brought up some Port; we just chatted, drank, swapped photos, and geeked out.
Also, Jen seems to be doing her level best to keep the local farmers in business. Singlehandedly. This, for instance, is only half of her current winter squash stash, not to mention the apples, the sack of potatoes...
I was sent home with a spaghetti squash and a bunch of Cortlands--so hey, apple pie soon!
Anyway, the Dover to Portland drive was not terribly painful--in fact, watching the sun rise over barns in rural Maine (taking back roads to I-95) on a cold morning was quite lovely. My conference presentation went quite well; I think I was informative and got a few laughs... including a slow burn joke where I told it deadpan, went on, and a few seconds later people started to laugh. Unfortunately, I didn't have the presence of mind to say, "Yeah, I think I needed more coffee this morning too." The conference was on affordable housing, so there were few sessions that were relevant to me ("Predatory Lending Issues in Maine," or "Housing for Sex Offenders"); thus I felt no guilt about taking off early to explore the town.
After lunch, we stopped by the offices of our colleague who organized this session--her offices are right in "Oldport"--the historic shipping/warehouse district, which is now offices and shops. Their offices are in a renovated foundry, with the belt-driven power sheaves still mounted to the ceiling--check out the view from the window.
It was an absolutely perfect day for wandering around the streets--sunny, cloudless, and a high around 60 F. I walked out to the Portland Observatory--a lighthouse-like structure on the top of a hill, where you can take in a view of the whole city. However, it was closed for the season... ah well.
As a side note: A's mom's sweetie is the captain/owner of one of the tour boats here in Portland. I've gotten to go out on the boat while visiting here with A (a great time), hanging out in the wheelhouse. So one fun moment was walking back along the docks, and seeing--"Hey, I know that boat!"
(However, they're gone for the season, so they were not around to visit).
In my further wandering around town, I came across the Time and Temperature Building--at first glance, it evoked some historical seafaring purpose, such as how vital weather forecasts were for safe shipping, and the way that accurate timekeeping was required to provide longitude for navigation (as in Longitude-longitude).
However, the purported real answer was far more disappointing and prosaic:
The building is named after the large LED display screen on the roof that flashes the Time and Temperature to any Portlanders who might be interested. The building was built in 1914, and at the time was one of the tallest buildings in the country.
Ah well. I assume it was named after some older technology sign, before the LED sign came about. But what a lame name--it's like calling the Old John Hancock Building in Boston "the blue and red light building."
Spent a few hours at a local coffee shop with a great cappuccino, a wireless connection, and some postcards. The day wrapped up with dinner: my first attempt was The Back Bay Grill--recommended in the New York Times article (36 Hours: Portland, Maine). However, when I got there, I noticed the place was filled with older folks standing around with hors d'œuvres. Huh.
"Is this a private function or something?"
"No, it's a charity event. But if you'd like to join us, that would be $250."
"Um, maybe some other time."
Then off to my second choice--Fore Street--a great old converted brick building, with an open kitchen; pretty fun to see the hustling and flames, including the wood-fired oven, the rotisserie station, and some prep guys paring brussel sprouts off to one side. I had one of their signature items--the pork loin--it was outstanding: very juicy, with a great herb crust. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone spending time in Portland.
My kind of fun day in Portland. Definitely need to go back there sometime soon.