14th May 2008 – A Day Spent in Portland, ME

Portland, Maine photo

In the morning we booked a further two nights in Portland in Motel 6 just off Interstate 95. It was in a different part of town, but probably the same distance (4 or 5 miles) from downtown as the previous hotel. Surprisingly, we were actually closer to a few more awesome amenities in our new location: Subway, Ruby Tuesday, Pizza Express, and a Hyundai dealership.

This is often the problem with American cities: once you move away from the downtown area, you will more often than not find yourself in an ugly concrete wasteland of gas stations, fast food outlets and car dealerships. They are truly soulless places and the only view you often have from your hotel room is the car park and the freeway outside. That said, for fans of freeways, it’s great.

If you want to go somewhere half decent, you simply can’t walk there because it’s either too far or there are no sidewalks to walk on. It’s a trade-off because accommodation outside of downtown is invariably cheaper but there is nothing to do there. There is only so much time you can spend looking out of the hotel window playing “Spot the really bad car” or “Spot the psycho with the serious drug problem”. If you’re really lucky you may spot a psycho with a serious drug problem who has just stolen a really bad car.

We had spent the previous night in a few downtown bars. Portland, to its credit, is full of them, which is probably to be expected in a university city. In time honoured tradition we played some pool, and also saw a bunch of guys in one bar playing Guitar Hero on the X-Box. One was on guitar, one on bass, one was on drums and there was a singer. We decided it was a totally gay thing to be doing in a bar.

To show them what they were doing wrong, Mass and I drank our beer and then went and ordered more. We repeated this process for the rest of the night. Hopefully they were taking notes.

In the morning we visited the Maine Mall, the largest mall in the state. To celebrate being there I bought a t-shirt which was too big for me.

Mark Jackman is one half of the Jackman Brothers, who have written a trilogy of humour books set in the fictional town of Old Liston. He has also written a number of travel diaries, including the Mass and Peahead series about his road trips through America with his buddy Mass.