I spent a few months in Maine in 1987, but I never returned, and it's all their fault. I'm not sure I could ever find my way home again.
That year I was teaching a summer course at the University of Maine in Portland. One of the graduate students asked me if wanted to join him and some friends who were "going up to Boston" that week-end. Up to Boston? I knew that Boston was about a hundred miles southwest of Portland.
"How can you go up to Boston when Boston is down," I asked, knitting my brow.
"Well," he drawled (and I won't even pretend to approximate his Titus Moody accent), "It's got to do with the prevailing winds. We're a fishing state, remember. In the old days Maine ships sailed upwind to Boston. So it was 'up to Boston.' The word just kind of stuck."
"Does it work in reverse? If I wanted to go from Portland north to L.L.Bean's in Freeport, I'd be going...?"
"Yep, down east. But you don't really hit Down East till you get to Buckport and Bar Harbor. Got it?"
"I'm not sure. In Maine, north is east, and south is up?"
"You're catching on, Teach. You should subscribe to our state magazine. That ought to help some."
He handed me a copy of a colorful picture magazine called, of course, "Down East."
I flipped through its pages. "It's beautiful, but no thanks," I said. "I'm heading back to Texas. It's a Southern state, but it's in the West. Well, west of the South, but a thousand miles east of the West Coast. Got it?"
Causes Jack Shakely Supports
International relief through Operation USA (board member)
Center for Philanthropy and Public Policy, University of Southern California