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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Down East, Day 2: Eastport

The rain let up mid-morning, giving us one last sprinkle as we walked through Eastport. Like many port cities in Maine, Eastport is trying to make up for the decline in shipbuilding and fishing by touting tourism. The possibilities are great. It sits on a dramatic point in the middle of Passamaquoddy Bay, islands both Canadian and American all around. Scenery is dramatic, unspoiled. It's the easternmost city in the continental US, exceeded in eastness only by Lubec, a mere town, a couple of miles by water, but 40 miles by road around the bay, away.

To love "away" to love Eastport. It's gritty, unpretentious, startling, decaying. Tides reach 25 feet. Its high street is lovely, 3- and 4-story brick buildings mostly connected, and mostly (but not all) tenanted. It was to be the center of the huge tidal power project of the Great Depression of the 30s, pushed by FDR who vacationed on nearby Campobello Island, but the project lasted but a year and Eastport seems to be slowly sinking since. Will it survive the Great Recession of the 00s? Well, there were some builders working on that beautiful brick, a couple of new shops clearly were going to open soon....

This is Maine's dilemma: incredible natural beauty, decaying waterfronts; unspoiled, too far from urban centers; lots of things to do, but those things don't fit the modern life. Places like Eastport must depend on a real shift in attitude - away from loud consuming, toward quiet community. These pictures might be considered depressing, but to me they symbolize a way of life fast disappearing, a slow life, hard perhaps and difficult, but humorous and independent and free of the crazy abstractions that rule the 300 million people to the west.

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