Monday, June 26, 2006

My week of isolation over, I've officially returned to the land of daily toil. There is a certain amount of groundedness to be derived from the daily routine, no?

Here in Maine, the summer season is about to kick into full swing. I confess I'm a little apprehensive. It happens every year around July 4th weekend and continues pretty much nonstop until Labor Day. This summer is special because I'm no longer at the store every day. I'm theoretically free to come and go as I please, although my mind is never quite free.

As those of you who live in tourist destinations may be aware, the arrival of tourist season is rather like the arrival of the locusts. Where I live, we go from a population of 910 to easily 3,000 people.

They all love the area as much as I do, and many of them have a decades-old history with the place. So when they arrive, they immediately claim a certain amount of dominant familiarity that sometimes borders on... arrogance? They're re-starting the clock at precisely the moment they left last year, and we're left to behave as if the last 11 months never happened. Locals freely trespass on these people's property in the winter, peeking into windows, using their beaches, cutting down their trees for firewood, and then they feign complete benevolent ignorance during the summer. Altering their dog-walking routine so that the summer folks can think their "private property" signs actually work. (What a shock to discover that sad truth when I transitioned from summer person to year-rounder. What? You mean everybody knows my supposedly secret, sacred spots?!)

You can see it played ouy on the roads, too. We go from Subarus and pickups to Volvos and too-clean BMW SUVs. They either speed and tailgate and honk impatiently, or they play Farmer John and drive the Volvo at 15 miles per hour because, goodness knows, everybody here is retired, on vacation, and otherwise has nothing important to do.

And that's the ultimate problem, managing the peaceful coexistence of people who are working fulltime and those who are on summer vacation or - in the case of the independently wealthy - on permanent vacation. The locals depend on these people for their livelihood, yet they often despise them for what they see as a life of ease and comfort. And the people from away (PFAs as we call them) distrust the locals implicitly, routinely malign them to one another ("These people just aren't educated," one person actually told me), and yet they depend on them to take care of their cherished summer properties.

Never have I lived in a place with such a stark line drawn between the haves and the have-nots.

Likewise, the dos and the do-nots. It's a challenge to be around nothing but people on vacation and to NOT be on vacation yourself. Not just anybody but very dear friends and family members with whom you want to play. So you dance the dance and do your best and then poof, Labor Day arrives and they all quite suddenly disappear. And after all the annoyance and frustration and challenges, you feel genuinely sad and just a wee bit like a kid left behind at the fair.

So there you have it. Another summer in Maine!

11 comments:

Mary said...

My sister and her family live in the Outer Banks of North Carolina (Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, etc.) which is also a tourist mecca, much like your locale, so she must experiece some of the same struggles that you do. Their tourist season lasts from May to September, rather than just a month or so, unfortunately. I prefer visiting in the off-season myself.

Clara said...

Oh yes! She must definitely get it too. Hopefully there's a little more "industry" for the year rounders in her area than there is in rural Maine?

Jane said...

Oh, Clara, you could have been writing about my summer, as well! "The Hamptons" are where "us" and "them" takes on new meaning, starting on Memorial Day, until on Labor Day we wave goodbye to the line of cars snaking west. It's exhausting, but necessary. For the rest of the year this paradise belongs to us, at least!

Clara said...

Oy, Jane, you're on the front line of summer tourism! We get the people who smugly declare that the Hamptons have become "too overrun."

rho said...

I second Jane - but at least being retired we can pick and choose our time to go into town-- that helps a bit. But one good thing to remember is when we travel we know what it is on the local end so I think we are better vacationers for it. :D

Clara said...

Very true - you definitely gain compassion in the process of surviving the summer onslaught. (Especially since I try to do the reverse and find a warm place in the winter!)

Roo-Bee-Faye said...

I was reading your post today and felt like you were writing about my childhood growing up in northern Wisconsin, up near Hayward. We lived on Big Sissabagama Lake and the town, Stone Lake, had maybe a few hundred residents in the winter but come the summertime, POOF!, the Minnesota/Illinois/even Iowa "Biffs" as we called them (short for Beautiful People) would begin their trek into our pristine wilderness and take over! Or at least, it seemed they were takig over. I can remember watching license plates with my sister and cursing all the out-of-staters. It really made us mad! I think the worst part nowadays is that these vacation homes have driven up to price of real estate in the area so much that local people cannot afford to live on the lakes anymore. Homes sell for MILLIONS that would have sold for 50% of the price or less. My hubby and I have always dreamed of retiring up north where I am from, but, unless we inherit something from my parents (a horrible thing to think about) it will never happen. I can't afford anymore to go home.
PS--Thanks for visiting my blog!

Laura said...

Sounds like another identical summer in Avalon or Stone Harbor, N.J. to me, Clara and thanks for the gratuitous picture of Casey last week, he's one cutie pie! :)

Clara said...

Roo-Bee, that's PRECISELY what's happening now. The problem is that it's not the folks buying the property and driving up the value... it's the folks selling out. And who's to blame them? If you've worked your whole life to eke out $12k a year to feed your family, but your homestead is worth $1 million, wouldn't you sell? It's a hard, hard situation. And very painful for those, like you, who can no longer afford to go home. I wish I had a solution. (And hi Laura!!)

Serena said...

Hello, dear! Congratulations on all your projects. As you say, there is a proliferation of knitting books out there, but I would say what the world needs most is knitting books by Clara. You will write some KILLER knitting books, Clarabellaluna!

I am so pleased that you try to make time for tea, window, and porch sessions. I so agree that these are the priorities in life (and, as I write this, I am fighting the urge to make a pitcher of iced tea because I've really had my allotment for the day.)

Take care! I'll visit again soon.

Martheme said...

Hi Clara! I too, know just what you mean! I grew up in Gloucester, MA (Massachusetts other cape) where the locals are barely making it, some are fisherman and many work in the service industries. The tourists come and completely take over and treat the locals as if we were all the hired help. Esp as a kid it really stunk. Anyway, try to remember you get most of the year without them ;)