As my bio states, I was born in the mid 50s, grew up on the family farms in the 60s and 70s, in Belfast, Maine. I live in Bangor these days but I still consider Belfast my home….sorta. I guess it might be more accurate to state that I still consider the Belfast of my youth home. That Belfast, however, no longer exists. Instead there is now a town that has become something of a Mecca for artists, a little town proud of its diversity, a town that offers its residents and visitors a culturally hip little community on Maine’s mid-coast. The town is vibrant, and its waterfront is a sparkling jewel. The newly finished “harbor walk” is perhaps Belfast’s most magnetic feature. From the “Boat House” which was the former site of Penobscot Poultry back in my day, to the other end of the “old bridge”, the bay glitters and shines like a diamond as one walks the two mile journey that features two or three grassy little parks to stop and rest or have a family picnic, several waterfront businesses to scope out, and my favorite- several eateries and pubs.
One does not have to suffer dehydration as he walks and gawks.
The Front Street Boat Yard is an amazing site to behold, and behold you must, as the harbor walk takes its path right through the middle of it to the “old bridge”. This business has very quickly become the pride and joy of Belfast, and one can easily see why.
There is very good karma on this harbor walk. You see everyone along the way smiling and happy, especially the dogs. This harbor walk is an excellent place to let Fido intermingle with other folks and other dogs, but only on his leash please. Yes, there are doggy do-do stations along the way.
A week ago, last Saturday, my children invited me to come back to Belfast for a early Fathers Day visit, to enjoy the harbor walk as a family and perhaps stop along the way for a bite. So being dutiful grandparents, we jumped at the opportunity of spoiling our grand-kids in a public setting where their parents could only grin and bear it, and drove to Belfast for a noon time get together. We strolled the entire length of the walk a couple of times and decided to try one of the little eateries along the way named “The Harbor Walk Restaurant”.
So, ok, the name of the establishment doesn’t win any creative awards, but I must say the food and ambiance should. We happened to hit this place on their opening day…a brand newbie restaurant, but owned and operated by the same folks who have owned and operated “The Front Street Pub” for several years. Anyway, John and Cat are well known in town for their fine food and comfy ambiance, and this rendition is no different. We descended upon the place, was provided every attention whilst we commandeered a table big enough for all of us, even snagging a high chair for the littlest of our brood along the way, and perused the menu. The lunch menu offered an eclectic mix of sea food dishes and land lubber delights. It was the breakfast menu that had my mouth watering….oh my! We all ordered our lunch, me having pulled pork taco’s, and chatted, laughed, nibbled, gulped, and smacked our lips through this wonderful lunch along the way of a incredibly beautiful walk beside the harbor of the little blue collared factory town that I grew up in. We made plans to come back to The Harbor Walk Restaurant for my birthday next month, all of us being so enamored with their breakfast menu. Inside and outside dining, breakfast, lunch and dinner. This place will be a Belfast favorite before long. Check this place out folks, you will not be disappointed.
In my day, there was no harbor walk, just railroad tracks with factories located on either side of said tracks. In those days the same walk would have the walkers traipsing in and around two chicken processing factories, a sardine plant, a grain mill, a frozen food/potato processing plant, a sash and blind factory, a few small boat yards, a tugboat dock, a few old and rotting-no longer used piers, and a mostly empty public dock/boat launch. One had to be careful, on this walk, not to stumble over errant chickens who had escaped their destiny at the chicken processing plants, or the ever present rats that lived and feasted on the waste the processing plants produced. It was not a place for the faint of heart to explore.
Even though I have so many sweet and romantic memories of growing up on those farms, in that sleepy little factory town, I recognize how much Belfast has changed with the times and for the better. I am now a visitor, Belfast is no longer my town, but I have something the people there don’t have…my memories. I’ve been writing stories of these memories for a long time, and as long as I can still sit at a keyboard, I will continue to do so. It is the only way I can keep the Belfast, and the family farms of my youth, alive.
Ok, wipe the tears from your cheeks and read the following. I wrote this a few weeks ago when I awoke on Sunday morning, and now I present it to you for your Sunday morning.
I hear the birdsong outside my bedroom window as I roll over onto my back, stretch, and reach to the bedside stand to grab my cell to check the time.
Its 4:45 a.m. Daylight is just breaking.
I notice no calls or messages as I fumble with the phone and wonder for the umpteenth time why I can’t seem to “sleep in” on a morning which I have no particular need to get up. I lay there musing for a few minutes, listening to the world outside…the nocturnal world settling down to slumber, while the dayshift is coming alive for another day. All my windows are open since it is finally summer here in Maine, and I have an unobstructed front row seat to this ritual that has become perhaps my favorite part of each day. I get out of bed and peer out the window over my bed to gaze at the large field and the woods beyond that lies to the west and to the backside of my little place located in the heart of the city. I chuckle as I find it amazing that I live less than a mile from the major shopping centers located on Stillwater Avenue to the east, and on Broadway located to north, of where I live in a little park, tucked back into the woods off Essex Street.
It is almost like living back in Waldo-out in the country. For this, I am grateful. Those farm-boy roots seem to run deep and I love the early morning peace and quiet with only the occasional sounds of early morning distant traffic intruding on this bucolic trance as I look for wildlife in the field. Seeing none, I stretch again and slip on my moc’s and shuffle out to the kitchen to make coffee.
Growing up on the farm left no time to “sleep in”, so getting up at this time of day has become ingrained. Oh, I wanted to, when I was young. I would drag myself out of bed back then, muttering under my breath about the insane hour, and resign myself to the simple fact of life on the farm. You get up with the chickens, and if you’re wise, you’ll go to bed with them too.
These days, I find myself looking forward to this time of day, because it is the time of day that is all mine. No intrusions, no incessant phone calls from clients or staff, no calls or texts from my boss with this problem or that to fix, no chickens to feed either. I find myself absorbing the quiet and peaceful aura of another day coming to be, and I feel almost voyeuristic while I watch this transpire. I sip my coffee and reflect on life, watch the morning news, scroll through Face Book to see how my friends and family are dealing with this thing called life, and I watch. I watch my neighbors as one by one, they come to life for another day. Some of them walk, or walk their dogs; others sit on their decks and have their morning coffee, while others take advantage of this quiet peaceful Sunday morning, by “sleeping in”. In a couple of hours, all of this will disappear as the machinations of life will pop this peaceful little bubble and life will go on all around me.
For the next hour or so, the day is mine, and I am glad I didn’t roll over and “sleep in”. Maybe I’ll take a nap this afternoon instead.
Enjoy your Sunday folks.