The summer season at Lyford is a different world compared to winter. I find myself as the new assistant manager. It’s always nice to know the ins and outs of a place, although Lyford has so many quirks that some days I feel like I’m running around putting out mini fires all over the place, while attempting to distract the guests with pleasant, exuberant sayings like “What a beautiful day!” “Look at that bird over there!” “Don’t look at this fire right here, who likes pizza and s’mores??!”
I’m kidding, Lyford is at a good place, now that the road is dry and grated, the plumbers, electricians, and construction crews are finally able to access the lodge to get repairs done. Honestly, you wouldn’t be able to tell there are problems. It’s absolutely beautiful here. The ponds are full of fish, guests are catching dozens a day. Everything is lush and green again. Our garden is starting to grow. My crew is happy to be back.
Speaking of fish, I find it a little funny that I’m the assistant manager of a fly fishing lodge and have only fished once in my life, and I can’t say I particularly got it. I’d rather go hiking. Also I’m a vegetarian and while I’m all for people catching their own fish to eat, I don’t fully understand the point of stabbing a fish in the mouth just to say “Look, I got one!” for two seconds before it slithers out of your grip back to where it belongs.
Lyford is full of old fly fisherman who have been enjoying the Maine woods for years. Many of them look at me funny when they find out I’m the new assistant manager, and I’m not going to pretend I’m used to it, because it’s annoying every time, but in a way I expect it. Sometimes I wonder the same thing myself. Who put me in charge?! Haha. Just kidding. That’s not to say that women don’t thrive in the Maine woods. Last weekend we had an all women’s fly fishing course led by two women guides, and they killed it. They were so energetic and fun to be around.
The whole crew returned from last season and it’s amazing we’re still getting along. We kind of love each other. The staff cabin still smells like cat pee from the time we took in a stray cat in an effort to eliminate our mouse problem, but the mouse problem didn’t go away and we gained a feral cat problem. When no one was around, this white kitty with a Hitler stash went on a pooping and peeing parade, until the second a human returned, she’d dart under the stairs and hide forever. Now months after we gave her away, the couch still smells like cat pee. Yet when the bugs are bad, the stank doesn’t stop us from snuggling on the cat-pee-couch to watch a movie on our shoddy projector. That’s love.
I know I am getting smarter, despite my attempts to never grow up. I can feel myself maturing, which is so odd. Like I found that I know how to work those really old cash registers that no one knows how to use anymore, but I do, because the restaurant I worked at in college had one. Random skills I’ve acquired. Or that I prefer things to be a certain way now, like an old person. I like things neat. I like jobs to be done efficiently, with a certain attention to detail. I see a teenager or even someone my age and refer to them as a “kid.” I say what I think more, and I care less what other people think of me. And adults, even those more successful or smarter or whatever, I realize are not. Not by my definitions anyway. Look at me. I have definitions.
I’m surrounded by people decades older than me. Fly fishing isn’t exactly a young man’s sport. They certainly know something about the world, perhaps on where we’ve been as a country, but I can sense when talking to them and listening to their same old stories they cling to year after year that there’s this other huge piece missing. That is, where we’re going. That’s in the hands of my generation. Which is kind of cool.
It’s funny for someone like me because this part of Maine, the Northern half, is so unlike any place I’ve ever lived. Greenville, the tiny town on Moosehead Lake, that despite being in the middle of nowhere has a decent economy thanks to tourism of the lake and the 100 Mile Wilderness. Still, the town plumber doesn’t have a website. You just have to know who he is. Sometimes you have to track him down by calling his wife at home. You must acquire his number by asking around town until you find someone he went to high school with, which is everyone, and once jotted down, you keep it on the piece of scrap paper pinned to the wall near the cordless phone.
In town, I see Trump signs. Even without the signs, you can kind of tell by looking around it’s a Trump town. God I hate small town vibes. But I love the woods. And I respect people who work hard and love their families. That’s the people of small-town America. For someone like me, aggressively liberal on all fronts, living in an area like this is so America in a way that feels old and brand new at the same time. It’s the part of America that culturally diverse city people forgot about. Have you ever driven through Idaho? Utah? Wyoming? South Dakota? Have you ever lived anywhere besides east or west coast cities? Have you ever been to Northern Maine. Oh man, you should come. It’s so America it’s ridiculous. People log here. Logging is a not only a thing, it’s like a major economic source.
I’m an American and I feel like an outsider. I hold my outsiderness dear to my heart, like a secret locket inside my chest. My crew and I are a liberal microcosm sharing a cabin in the Maine woods, like a bunch of misfits. We talk about things no one within a 100 miles talks about. So particular to our age, too, like the best RnB and hip hop songs of the early 2000’s, the first Youtube videos, things we’d buy or build if we had the money or skills. Why college was a two hundred thousand dollar trick we wouldn’t trade. It’s precious, the only reason we know each other is Lyford. This old sporting camp from 1873.
Anthony Bourdain encouraged young people to travel, try new foods and cultures, as much as possible. For him, travel is a world class education. Perhaps the only education. I could not agree more. I won’t be here forever – by here I mean, Lyford – but I will catalog this time in my life as a great lesson, many lessons. Life changing, maybe. We’ll see.
**These views are my own and do not reflect the views of AMC.