I don't think I've been on a real vacation since I was a kid.
And even that was rare.
My husband and I spent a long weekend away for our honeymoon.
A friend got us a night in a bed and breakfast and then we spent 2 days in Portland, Maine. Went to a record shop, ate at a Greek restaurant and went to a book store.
Since we've been married we've taken a few trips to Salt Lake City, Utah to visit my mother in law.
That my dears was not a vacation.
Unless a week in hell with Satan herself is a vacation.
We'd be miserable the moment we got there and about ready to have ourselves volentarily committed when we returned. I am not even exagerating.
We have spent a nice few days camping with the kids. That's a vacation. Except we're so friggin poor that we'd worry about having enough gas money to get home, we'd wonder how we were going to pay the entrance fee into the National Park. We'd worry if we'd have enough food for the kids and enough money for the camp fire wood...but other than that it was fun.
This year my husband and his closest dearest friends from high school turned 50.
My husband and his friends are all born in a two week period spanning the end of July and into the first week of August.
My husband's good friend who has done well working in the computer industry on the west coast invited Brad to a big birthday party at his home in Hood River, Oregon.
If we can't afford the entrance fee to Acadia National Park in Maine, there is no way we can afford to fly Brad out to the west coast for a birthday party.
And his friend said, don't worry about it Brad. I'll get you all out here.
And so, we went.
And it was the most wonderful 10 days ever.
Harry's birthday party was a blast.
No cheese curls and macaroni salad but other than that, it was grand. And despite the fact that I am a pudgy gal with bad hair and cheap clothes and I work sporadically cleaning toilets, these successful folks were kind, didn't treat me like a dumb ass. There were wealthy people dressed in gorgeous clothes, there were wealthy folks wearing gym socks sandles and shorts. There were not rich folks hanging out and ultimately you couldn't tell who was who.
It dawned on me. These successful folks are mostly nerds who have made their money with their big brains. Nerds are not often known for their fashion choices.
People don't seem to make the same assumptions about one another out there.
I can't imagine showing up at a catered shindig here in Maine and not feeling completely out of place. Many people in Maine who have wealth are old money, trust fund kids, or they own a landfill and build big ugly houses and hang tight to the class structure with an I made it big and now I'm the top of the heap attitude.
An exception would of course be Stephen and Tabitha King, but that's not where I'm going with my little story.
Class issues here in Maine are difficult.
You either come from the right family or you don't.
There aren't many places a smart kid can go here in Maine and make a good living using their super nerd skills.
Going west was a nice chance to spend time with Brad's wonderful friends, but it was also an opportunity to see my oldest brother whom I haven't seen in almost 20 years.
My brother recently married and I would be meeting my sister-in-law for the first time and I was pretty excited.
My brother and sister in law took us on a drive to see the Pacific Ocean and it was wonderful in every way.
There were caves and trails to explore and anemones and star fish and what seemed like miles of soft white sand that squeaked like January snow underfoot.
We had a great time and my kids enjoyed their Uncle Jack and Aunt Onie and the feelings were mutual.
No baggage, no judging, but a healthy kids will be kids approach to my quirky children.
And I was grateful.
With Uncle Jack and Aunt Onie we headed off into a trendy neighborhood in Portland known as the Alphabet District, cafes, up scale boutiques..
I was ready to be eyeballed by the staff of these little shops, the usual greeting one seems to get in sheeshee establishments in Maine, the look, "Can you afford to buy anything here? I think not."
Into Gooran Brother's hat shop.
These hats are gorgeous and fucking expensive.
In Maine we would have been followed around the store by an imperious vulture of a sales clerk, but there the staff were chatty and personable and didn't wince when the kids tried on hats.
The soap shop staff washed our arms and applied pricy lotions and didn't seem put out when we didn't buy anything. Being from New England where we don't touch loved ones in public much less strangers, this physical contact with the young staff at the soap place left me speechless.And it didn't seem weird. Hey, let's have your arm. You've got to try this stuff...
The thing I noticed on our vacation is that people just don't look at each other funny out west like they do here.
Gym socks loafers and shorts? Cool.
Greased handle bar mustache and fedora? Cool.
Transsexual coffee house waitress? Cool.
Chatty little boy making fart jokes in a fancy restaurant? Cool.
My daughter wore bright pink shorts, a bright blue t-shirt, green and grey knee high socks, sport sandles, and a beautiful white straw cloche hat, a gift from Uncle Jack and Aunt Onie.
Here in Maine, she'd have gotten stared at, she'd have gotten side long glances and smirky smirks.
Not in Portland, Oregon.
Not one judgematal look, not one snicker. NOT ONE.
And if you think Maine is a beautiful place you should go take a look at western Oregon.
Everywhere you look it's gorgeous.
The beaches in Hood River are free and open to the public.
The beaches on the coast are free and open to the public.
Start from Portland, head west drive an hour and 1/2 and you're running along the beautiful sandy beaches of the Pacific Ocean.
Starting in Portland, head East and you come to the breathtaking Multanoma falls, drive a little further and in less than an hour you are on the shores of the Hood River.
You can swim, you can kayak, wind surf, kite board, paddle board or just sit on a rock and take it all in.
While we were there the temps were often in the high 90s. But there was no humidity, so while the locals were talking about being uncomfortable in the heat I, some one who detests summer weather and hot sunny days, I was thinking, gosh, this is pretty nice.
You get hot you sweat, the breeze blows, you feel cooler.
Here in Maine, you get hot, you sweat, the humidity is 80% there is no breeze, you feel greasy and sticky and hate everybody.
Coming back to Maine is depressing.
It's stifling here.
Things feel stagnant and cramped and bleak.
There is a down side to a great vacation.
It's called going home.