9th May 2008 – Lewiston, ME to Bangor, ME

Beautiful view over a lake in Maine, USA

We left Lewiston without too many regrets in the morning. In fact, I lie. We both had a huge regret, and that was that we ever went to Lewiston in the first place. Oh, well. You live and learn. Or in our case, you live and don’t learn.

Unfortunately, by the time we’d finished our driving for the day we found ourselves in Bangor, a similar sized town a few hundred miles northeast up the I-95, and we were staying in a Motel 6 again. This didn’t bode well.

Looking back, I’m wondering why we did this. Presumably it was just a way of breaking up the trip, but surely there were better alternatives. We obviously weren’t aware of it at the time but Lewiston is rated 88th in the AreaVibes.com list of Best Cities in Maine. That’s pretty low considering that there can’t be more than 89 cities in the whole state. Bangor is 44th, so at least we were heading in the right direction.

What is there to say about Bangor? Well, it flourished as a lumber port back in the 19th century, so it was once awash with lumberjacks and sailors. There are probably not too many worse combinations of people that you would want running around your town. The only worse combination I can think of is hipsters and white guys with dreadlocks.

It used to call itself the “lumber capital of the world”, which seems a wee bit presumptuous, but I suppose it was hardly a title designed to bring the tourists flooding in, unless there were a lot more wood fanatics in those days than I thought.

These days Bangor is the world capital of unacceptability. To our eyes it seemed a fairly down-at-heel place, kind of bland and grotty. It could certainly have used a few of those lumberjacks and sailors from the old days running around the place with chainsaws and parrots to liven things up.

Still, at least the weather had been good, and it had a shopping mall! I know, right? As a treat, we went there and bought some lumberjack and sailor costumes and then ran around Bangor chopping down trees, and drinking rum. That was a lie. I actually bought a memory card and some sunglasses.

There is little of real interest to report about our journey to Bangor, or what we did there after visiting the mall, so instead, here’s a summary of the news that had been making the headlines in the States at the time:

  • A group of teenagers in a college used a corpse to make a bong for smoking drugs.
  • There was a 600 person brawl in L.A.
  • A 10 year old girl had given birth after being raped in South Dakota.
  • A tornado had caused some damage in the southern states.
  • Some college kids had been using pepper spray and tipping boiling water on themselves as part of a gang initiation ceremony.

Just run-of-the-mill stuff really. American news never ceases to surprise and amaze and it’s mainly because the people are so fucked up.

The plan for the evening’s entertainment was to go to a bar called Paddy Murphy’s and we were sure that, like all “Irish” bars in America, it would be just like the real thing.

We started the evening by popping across the road (by “across the road”, I mean a 12 lane highway) to the Ramada Inn and had a couple of beers there, before calling a cab to take us to downtown.

We got to Paddy Murphy’s and drank a whole load more beer, got drunk and began working our British charm on the locals, which mainly consisted of us telling them how shit baseball is. Our logic behind this was that it requires very little skill and all the players are fat and unfit.

One girl we met, Edith, 21 (nickname “Bunny”), had studied in Sunderland for 6 months. It’s hard to imagine that you could actually learn anything in Sunderland, and judging by her pretty limited conversational abilities, she proved me right.

Sadly, on a night that was full of enlightenment, it’s hard to recall too many details, but I do remember that Bunny and her friend were very keen to teach me two new phrases:

1) Shooting the shit (chatting)
2) Itty bitty titty committee (small breasts)

The funny thing is that I already knew both expressions because they are the kind of things that all limited and shallow people know. I just nodded my head and looked surprised and impressed when they told me, as if they’d just explained how to split the atom.

When the pub closed, we stood outside in the cold talking to various people who were milling around, one of whom wanted $10 to get a Greyhound bus to Arizona. Mass offered him a buck and the guy initially declined it, before changing his mind. Mass, however, doesn’t like rejection and told the guy to take a hike. A minor argument ensued, but it was hard to take the guy seriously because he was dressed like a Victorian chimney sweep.

Eventually, reality dawned on us and we had to consider how to get back to the motel. Fortunately help was at hand. We got offered a ride home with Julie, a woman I estimated to be somewhere between 40 and 50, and who was a massive Boston Redsox fan, so she clearly ticked all the right boxes for Mass. Since she had been sitting with us drinking at the bar all night, it’s probably safe to assume that she was over the driving limit, but she got us back to the motel safely.

As we staggered up the steps of the motel to our room, I remember cheekily telling Mass that “perhaps she wanted a threesome”. Something must have clicked in his head and he muttered something like, “Oh, I think I’ve forgotten something in her car,” and rushed back outside.

It seems he returned to Julie’s vehicle and somehow persuaded her to get up to some mischief with him in the car park.

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.