Fractured Facade

"A fathers death...a daughter's life...a sociopath's vendetta...FRACTURED FACADE ...a novel written as memoir. Only $4.99 and available exclusively on Amazon. Kindle Unlimited members read for free! Click here for direct link.


THE VALENTINE'S DAY CURSE -- A Short Story, Free everywhere...except on Amazon (boo! hiss!) where it's $.99 to buy! Click here for direct link! Let them know it's free at these stores and they may price match it! Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books...more to come.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Belfast Harbor

Naturally, when one is in Maine, one must eat lobster. We'd watch the lobster men from our back deck as they retrieved their filled cages.

Everyone told us "the place" to go was Young's Lobster Pound.

You couldn't get anything fresher. As soon as the boats hit the dock, workers would empty the cages and put the lobsters into huge vats.

You go up to the counter and the staff shows you which lobster is yours.

 I think we paid $14.00 for two lobsters. Now, Young's is a no-frill place, popular with the locals who know to bring their own utensils, paper towels, sides, wine and beer. I brought my camera.

While we were waiting for our lobster, besides watching the view, we sampled the oysters. We were surprised they cost $2 each as we pay $10 for a dozen at Awful Arthur's in Salem. Other than them being shucked better in Maine, I think Virginia's oysters were tastier. When your lobster is finished steaming, your number gets called and you pick it up on a Styrofoam plate. Although they crack it for you, the plastic fork you're handed is not much help to break through the shell. Besides using my husband's mechanic's hands to break mine apart, luckily we carry a knife in the glove compartment, which was most welcome. I'm used to eating lobster tails, not the whole thing, so wasn't sure as to what parts were edible or not. Folks around us had their shells cleaned bare, but we skipped the innards that had green gook in it. We were told it was a delicacy. Pass. Frankly, I found eating the entire lobster too much work for too little reward, and looked forward to trying a lobster roll at some point during our travels.

The next day we would head to Acadia National Park, and that evening we just relaxed and enjoyed the views of Belfast Harbor...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Downtown Belfast, Maine

When we first drove into downtown Belfast, I felt the same emotion as I had the first time I had driven into Roanoke some 18 years ago...I immediately fell in love with the city.

As with most small towns, Main Street was the center. It started on top of a hill and ended down below at the waterfront.

I love the look of classic New England architecture, and Belfast took it to another level.

Restaurants, bars, small eclectic stores, vintage clothing shops, local food and organic products markets, and quite a few art galleries were sprinkled throughout.

If one needed to rest along a steep street, or relax outside an establishment, wooden benches weren't the only place to sit.

What some might consider trash was recycled and made into art.

Climbing up a wrought iron circular staircase we visited a wonderful artisan's cheese shop where we bought cheese and crackers to eat outside on the porch while gazing at the stars. We stopped in an ice cream parlor reminiscent of my youth in Brooklyn.

I couldn't resist the counter full of homemade chocolates and bought some butter crunch and hazlenut cremed chocolate blocks, which back in my day were called truffles. I have been on the search for them for decades, ever since Barton's went out of business. I struck up a conversation with the owner who was impressed with my candy knowledge, "You're the first person who knew that's what they really are called! Have a piece on the house." Have I mentioned how much I love the people of Maine?

There was a cute bookstore which had a seating area in the back courtyard.

Every shopkeeper, restaurant worker, average Mainer on the street, was so friendly. Two total strangers stopped me and told me how much they loved my hair, which was funny as The Bates Motel With a View didn't have a hair dryer, so I let it air dry. Everyone had a story and wanted to know our story. A simple nod of the head and a "how are you?" could turn into a half-hour conversation. Mainers love to talk, and I love to listen. In my mind I took notes. The beauty and creative spirit of Maine's coast filled me with serenity and I began to feel unblocked...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

North to Maine

Since we were travelling with no reservations or itinerary, we made sure to stop at each state's welcome center.

When we hit Maine we picked up tons of brochures, cards, maps and newspapers. One of the coolest things they provided was a little book that listed some restaurants and activities all along I-95, the route we were taking, no matter how often Ms. Garmin chimed in, "recalculating, recalculating..."

I still wasn't 100 percent sold on the idea of heading to Acadia. Not only was it so far away, but I wondered what the heck we would do there. My husband and I are not exactly what I would call National Park people. We don't camp, we don't hike, we don't ride horses, we don't mountain bike, we didn't plan on fishing, so I figured it would be like going up to Mill Mountain. Okay, nice view that lasts about five minutes, then what? Once again, we decided to "play it by ear."

Originally our destination was either Ogunquit, Old Orchard Beach or Kennebunkport. I thought we could spend a day or two somewhere on the beach, and then decide if we wanted to stay longer there or venture further northeast. We stopped for lunch in Wells, Maine at Congdon's Donuts, a place that was recommended in the I-95 book. Although they were noted for donuts, and had a little shop in the front with baked goods and other Maine specialities such as chocolate-covered bacon strips, in the back was a small diner complete with lunch stools and a counter.

The first thing we noticed was how friendly the people of Maine were, warmer than the folks we encountered in Massachusetts. We immediately felt welcomed in the state. Everyone spoke to everyone and I adored their accents. The eggs tasted as if the hens were out back laying them fresh for each customer. The coffee just the way I like it, strong and aromatic, and the waitress made sure it never got below an inch in the cup.

We felt refreshed afterwards, and since it was still early in the day, we thought we would go further than originally planned and stop at a town called Belfast situated on Maine's inland coast halfway up the state. It was a couple of hours away from where we were, and only an hour and a half away from Acadia. If we wanted to go to the park, it was doable.

One of the brochures I picked up at the Welcome Center was for a motel/cottage set-up situated on the bay in Belfast. It looked lovely and a quick skim through the AAA Tour Book and some other pamphlets made Belfast sound like a nice place to just chill out and relax. So, off we went, but before we left, I did leave a calling card on the bulletin board outside the restaurant. During the 2,400 mile trek, Fractured Facade gave the Travel Gnome a run for his money.

As luck would have it, the cottages also had a coupon that I hoped we could use. Ms. G. got us there, in a roundabout way, naturally, and I immediately felt good about the place. There were two elderly ladies in the front office and they said no problem using the coupon for two nights, but we'd have to be in the motel, not a cottage. Boo, hiss turned to okay, cool, once they assured me we would be able to see the water from our back porch.

Now, if you're looking for luxury, this is not the place for you. When the lady at the front desk told me, "We don't have any amenities," she wasn't kidding. I called it The Bates Motel with a view. C'mon, when's the last time you saw a room key like this?

There was no hair dryer, no little bottles of shampoo, or even a clock in the room, but it was fairly clean with a comfortable king-sized bed, and they had more television channels on the buzzy old-fashioned small television set than the last place had on their huge flat screen. While I did the mandatory check for bedbugs test, the first thing my husband did was get into Motel McGuyver mode. I wasn't concerned about safety, but he took it very seriously. Luckily I had tacks in my bag (doesn't everyone?) so he was able to tack down the shade on the front door so that no one would be able to peek into the side of the curled cover. Then he pulled out a little screwdriver and plunged it into the hole of the back window metal thingie to secure it so no one could open it. He wouldn't let me experience the smells and sound of the sea by sleeping with the back porch door open. "Someone could climb up the porch and kill us in our sleep!" He put a chair under the front doorknob and stacked our suitcases at the back one. I guess being a New Yorker never leaves you.

So why would people who call "roughing it" staying at a hotel with no room service, even stay at such a place? Because it's exactly what we were hoping for...

Time to explore downtown Belfast...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Change of Scenery -- Salem, MA

When the Blues started to become the Blacks I decided I needed a change of scenery. I longed to find the spark that would re-ignite my creativity. It just wasn't happening in Roanoke, and the more I became a hermit tied to my walls, television, and computer, the more I feared I would never claw my way out of the hole I had unintentionally dug. Before heading to a therapist and the possibility I would be prescribed some sort of medication, I decided I would seek help from within and I followed my spirit's guide.

I felt I needed to go somewhere different and unfamiliar, places that could be freshly explored. So on the spur of the moment, my husband and I got away. Armed with Ms. Garmin, some maps (don't always trust Ms. G), AAA Tour Books, Sirius Radio, a camera, bottles of wine, a cooler of goodies, enough clothes for a week or two, and a Roomsaver hotel coupon book, my husband and I set out north to New England. The main goal was Acadia National Park in Maine, but we'd be playing it by ear to see how far north we really wanted to/could go. This would be the first road trip where we couldn't easily get back to the kids within a day. They said not to worry, but with Bella in their care that wasn't an option. I fretted the most on Day 1.

We got a late start so decided to stay at the Brooklyn home for one night as a good stopping point. Baked clams that night and Italian cookies for the road. The next morning we headed to Salem, MA. I'd never been there, but always thought it would be an interesting city to visit. We decided all our eating experiences would be local restaurants. No pulling off the side of the thruway to some crappy fast food joint. We would drive into a city and see where we'd wind up. Our first lunch was in Hamden? CT. I only mention this small diner, whose name I cannot remember, because they made the most amazing Eggs Benedict and hash browns I'd ever had, anywhere. The people in Connecticut were very warm and friendly and I felt we were off to a good start.

I chose a coupon for a hotel in Beverly, MA which was about 4 miles outside of Salem. The Wylie Inn was a very nice Inn/Conference Center that I thought far too expensive without a coupon. Although the clerk sniffed when I asked him if he could honor the coupon for two nights, there didn't seem to be a crowd knocking down their doors. Off-season travel is the way to go. Anyway, I'd describe the hotel as utilitarian, functional, and clean, but lacking warmth. I thought the rooms faced their beach, but I was wrong. None of them did. You couldn't see the beach from the hotel, but it was a short walk through the woods down to the water. With only the following day to explore Salem, we wouldn't have had time to sit on or look at the shore anyway.

"Beach" at Wylie Inn, Beverly MA

Salem is a very picturesque town with a beautiful, busy harbor. I never realized how important Salem was during the early settler days when ships ruled the world. Most of the history I experience here in Virginia deals with the Civil War era. Learning about a different historical time was a refreshing change of pace. As long as I'm not sailing on it, I find the sea to be romantic, cleansing, energizing, and calming.

Salem Harbor

The first place I wanted to visit in Salem was the house that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write "The House of the Seven Gables." Why? I don't know. I never even read the book, but after visiting the house I downloaded the book. The house was built in 1750, and walking through it you could feel the history. It was a really interesting tour which I highly recommend. One quick tidbit...I learned why the floorboards of New England houses were 23 inches wide instead of the standard 2 feet. The King of England had decreed that any tree in the colonies that was 24 inches in diameter was his to be chopped down and used for England's ships which he said were protecting the colonists. Instead of complying with the edict, the colonists would split a tree down to 23 inches thus sparing it from the King's ribbon. I like their way of thinking.

Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take photos inside the house, but the following are shots of the outside.

House of the Seven Gables, Salem, MA
View from House of the Seven Gables, Salem, MA

Backyard of House of the Seven Gables, Salem, MA
Birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Salem, MA
 By far that was my favorite Salem experience. Although I found some of the storefronts, homes and cemeteries interesting, most of Salem was pretty much a tourist-trap witch-themed mecca.

Typical Salem store
Salem Cemetery

I got bored pretty quickly with everything witchie...the Witch This, the Witch That. Other than when I was at the harbor, I didn't feel my spiritual side click with the town. The movie at the National Park Visitor Center was a welcome diversion and informative reminder that Salem wasn't just about "witchcraft." Of course the town knows where their bread is buttered, so they make the most of  it. One day in Salem was enough for me...
The Witch House, Salem, MA

 The ugliest statue of Elizabeth Montgomery that probably exists...

Elizabeth Montgomery "Bewitched" statue, Salem, MA
Time to go further north...

***Salem Tips***

Start the day early and you can cover pretty much everything by the time you're ready to go back to your room. If you want to stay in town at one of the B&B's you should book way in advance. Parking is tricky, probably much worse in the summer and October. If you go to House of 7 Gables they have free parking and depending upon the time of year they will allow you to keep your car there for a while while you explore that part of Salem. When you head to the pedestrian mall, park in the lot across the street from the Visitor's Center. $3 covered all day. If you're looking for good in-expensive food, skip the touristy restaurant on the harbor all the way at the tip. Sorry, can't remember the name, but it's on all the maps. If you're looking for views, then visit it. Nice outdoor deck. Enjoyed a nice lunch at The Witches Brew. Best "souvenir" shop was in the House of 7 Gables. Make sure your hotel room is not situated next to a stairway, elevator, or ice machine.