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Volume 68, Issue 150, Monday, June 23, 2003 


Easy Living in Eastport, Maine

By Tom Carpenter
The Daily Cougar

EASTPORT, MAINE -- By the end of May road crews in the states north of the Mason-Dixon Line had every interstate and country road torn up to repair or resurface as the states prepared for the onslaught of summer vacationers that bring the tourist dollars to hungry state and city coffers.

The Interstate Highway and Defense System was established by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 29, 1956. 

But Eisenhower couldnit possibly foresee the long columns of fluorescent orange plastic cones and barrels that signal road repair in progress and narrow traffic to one lane, creating massive bottlenecks around the major cities in the 21st century.

For the wayfarer who has the time and the inclination to explore the hinterland, the path less traveled, the old country roads that existed long before the interstate highway system became a reality, opportunities that canit be found along the main thoroughfares of America will be discovered.

Traveling the old country roads through southern Vermont and New Hampshire leads to one of the most interesting little towns in the country nestled on the lip of the Atlantic Ocean.

The melancholy blare of a foghorn, emanating from a small tongue of rock that juts into the fog shrouded Bay of Fundy, harmonized with the solitary squawk of a seagull to create a surrealistic milieu straight from <I>The Twilight Zone<P>.

One almost expected Rod Serling to rise from the swirling center of the largest whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere, which spins a few meters off the coast of Maine in the Atlantic Ocean, and introduce a story about the bizarre antics of the inhabitants of Eastport, Maine.

The town, the most eastern community in the United States and the first city in the states to welcome the third millennium, was, in fact, the set for the Fox television show <I>Murder in Small Town X<P> until the show was canceled after two seasons.

A legacy from the show, a large statue of a fisherman holding a large fish, stands in the center of town near the docks.

"It doesnit have a name," said Jaime Diffin, 19, a clerk at the Motel East in Eastport. "When the show ended, the town liked the statue so much they asked Fox if we could keep it and they said ‘Yes.i No one ever bothered to give it a name."

While many of the residents of Eastport still earn their living from the sea, tourism is a key contributor to the townis wealth.

A block from the statue at the WaCo Diner, pizzas outsold seafood platters 22-1 from 5 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 21, and the talk around the counter centered on the imminent high school graduation, June weddings and newborn babies.

When 15 laughing middle-aged men, all residents of Eastport, wandered into the diner after work for beers and Crown Royal, no one uttered a word about terrorism, the war in Iraq or the economy.

It seems the farther the distance from our capitol, the less Americans are concerned about the events that turned Washington, D.C., into a city under siege.

In fact, the liveliest conversation occurred between a matronly waitress and a rapscallion from her past that came in and ordered a beer and began to tease the redheaded matriarch.

When the waitress, who requested anonymity, put the flirt in his place, he responded, "And I was going to take you to a movie tonight, too."

The waitress frowned at the flirt and snorted, "You wanted to make a movie with me 30 years ago," as she moved down the counter away from him.

The diner erupted with laughter when the would-be Lothario responded "And I still do," in a syrupy voice accompanied by a leering wink and a dirty laugh.

When the prankster dropped his coaster and asked the waitress to pick it up for him, the dowager cried, "Bite me," to the delight of the customers waiting to pick up their pizzas.

Life is good along the 45th parallel, the imaginary line that bisects Eastport and represents the halfway point between the North Pole and the equator.

But not as good as life must have been at Walden Pond for Henry David Thoreau when he exiled himself to the beautiful pond near Boston.

The pond, approximately three-quarters of a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide, is as pristine and clear today as it was in Thoreauis day.

Nearby residents swim in the water and picnic on its sandy shores near the replica of Thoreauis cabin.

The pond lay so peaceful and quiet under the golden sun that it seemed as if the area had been caught in a time stasis, until a commuter train flashed through the trees at the end of the pond.

David Butler, 47, a transplanted New Yorker who moved to Boston five years ago, said he swims in the pond every weekend during the summer.

"I wonder what Thoreau would think of George W. Bush," Butler said as he watched the children swim in the pond. "Somehow I donit see the man who wrote Civil Disobedience remaining silent while a president expunges the Bill of Rights from the Constitution."

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