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Mom had arrived from Florida ... still happily driving 1300 miles alone every year. And John had flown up from heat-infested Houston. Then joining the hardy Massachusetts clan, we all drove north to Portland, Maine for a few days of good, clean fun. We had two cars, leaving from Mendon and East Longmeadow. We used that cool, (evil in the wrong hands)invention, the cell phone, to stay in touch as we traveled. Mom, Peter and I were in the lead. I'd been obsessed/distressed by the cool, dismal weather forecast, but as we crossed the Maine border — yesss! — blue sky above.
We had left early (for Mom, who would impress with us with her ability to rise before PM hours on this trip) in order to arrive for a noontime Portland Seadogs game. They are a Double-A affiliate of the Red Sox, and have a great little ballpark and a good following — think Bull Durham (but alas, no Kevin Costner). Peter, Mom & I arrived first and waited outside with the tickets. Soon Kurt, Tina, Erin, Kelsey, Joe and Uncle John arrived. The sun was out, people were streaming into the park, it's a great day for baseball: let's play two!
We had general admission seats, which we never quite figured out ... where are those? So John, with his experienced squatter's eye, suggested a couple empty rows along the left field line. We weren't bothered and had a great view. But as John said (repeatedly as the kids pointed out), "There isn't a bad seat in this park!"
The Seadogs have a mascot named Slugger — he goes around annoying, er, entertaining fans during the game. Joe spotted him early on. Then he was coming our way ... and up into our row. Joe was so excited ... and Slugger greeted him with a hug and headlock! As he left, he gave Erin a couple teasing bops on the head. Soon after, Joe got a small stuffed "Slugger" as a souvenir.
After the game, we checked into our hotel and the kids & Peter went for a swim. Then we were off again, for a tour of Portland. Kurt travels there regularly as he sells Cento Italian food products. One customer/friend has an Italian grocery, Micucci's, near the waterfront. It's an old-fashioned family-run business, a great place with nice people, in an old brick warehouse chock full of good things. I had my eye on the biggest wine bottle I'd ever seen, but Peter said no, the meany. Not that I wanted to drink the wine, I just like neat, big ol' bottles. Kurt introduced the families, and proudly pointed out his other offspring: all the Cento products on the shelves.
Continuing the tour, we drove along the Eastern Promenade. Wow, how nice. Beautiful old Victorians on the west (Munjoy Hilll)side of the road, and views of Casco Bay and islands to the east. It's a pristine area on high ground, with park land, playing fields, and different levels of trails along the waterfront. It made me want to live in Portland in my next life — I'll take that house, tend that garden, and run by the Bay every day ...
Doin' the Town
We headed into the Old Port section of town, near the wharf. Kurt took us to Street & Company, an Italian restaurant. Nine of us squeezed into an old brick building with closely set tables where they cook dinner in the dining area. Excellent Italian food, although Mom would have preferred ketchup on her broiled scallops with pasta. Uck. But she resisted, after her children begged her not to insult the chef and embarrass them.
Afterwards we walked the cobblestones, enjoying the atmosphere and looking in the shops. As John & Kurt waited outside a shop door, they were talking baseball, Red Sox. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a Yankee fan appeared. (Is there no safe place?) Apparently he was desperate to escape the family shopping; he wanted to talk with the guys, and show off his large, permanent Yankee tattoo.
We hadn't had dessert yet, so my sweet craving was becoming a distraction. Ahh, a Baskin-Robbins stop later, and the evening was perfect. Only interrupted by a minor mishap: Kelsey stepped in some dog poop, followed immediately by Uncle John! "Why didn't you warn me!" he kidded Kelsey. The next few minutes were spent trying to clean up the mess. Not so easy for Kelsey in her grooved sneakers ... Kurt would go to work before allowing them in his new car.
As the sun set gloriously, the city glowed. Portland was a pleasure, a great place to visit.