If you're from Maine and have any unfulfilled dreams or ambitions, however vague they are, it's hard to be twentysomething in Portland and feel settled here. Every few months — for me, invariably after walking through a pushy, sloppy Old Port on a Friday or Saturday night, more sober than everyone in a half-mile radius, no matter how drunk you are — this town's relatively limited options (cultural, professional) can become a real drag.
As much as two conflicting desires — try out the City, buy some land in the woods — nag at me, I'm finding myself more content with the idea of my residency here being more than temporary (a revelation that only took four years). The weird reason behind it is that I secretly like most of the things I dislike about Portland.
I like how incredibly boring I find most local news, and how people manage to get up in arms about a lot of it anyway. I like that I have to drive to Boston every few months to see bands that will never, ever make it to Portland. I like how Franklin Arterial is a "blight on our fair city." I like that there are only a handful of places I want to have coffee or brunch or a drink or a cheap dinner. I like that the only place for men of my age to buy clothing here is at thrift shops. I like that walking up Munjoy Hill in the winter is a nightmare, and that assholes honk at me when I walk up the street to steer clear of the inch of ice on the sidewalk. I like how cringe-inducingly awful the graffiti is. I like that you have to drive five or ten minutes away to see the night sky bursting with stars. I like that everyone always complains that they know everyone here.
Most of all, I like how there's not really anything else to complain about but this petty, petty stuff. Those humbling moments that snap you out of those what am I doing here? funks — the night drives to Ferry Beach, the shockingly good concert or art show, the well-timed hello from someone you forgot you haven't seen every day for weeks — make it profoundly clear how good we've got it.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY KATIE DIAMOND
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