I have arrived on Monhegan Island! I was close to getting out and kissing the ground, not because I was so thrilled to be here, which I was, but rather because the 90 minute ferry ride, indeed, took it out of me. Man with the stomach of steel, got a tad soft…and green. Felt my head spinning around. Never have I been sick at sea, but this gave me a run of it. Didn’t seem like a particularly rough crossing, and no one else really seemed to be struggling; I was fine for the first half, standing port and at the bow of the ship, holding firm with head held high, as though I were the prow figurehead itself. But two or three healthy swells and the joyride became a chore.
In any case, I had checked out of camp by 8am and driven to the Pier, picked up boarding passes and dropped all bags, then drove up the hill to my designated parking. I learned my lesson regarding luggage when I was in Greece in 2007 for five weeks with a production of “Lysistrata” and a whirlwind tour of the ancient amphitheaters. I found myself hauling around all of Greece no less than five bags – two of which, I am sure, never got unzipped. For that trip, I was very pleased to have checked out of the library a hardbound book on the history of Greece, three inches thick, which I never cracked. One of the fellow actors saw it in my bag and asked to borrow it for an afternoon, so it was not for naught. Think I even suggested he return it to the library in the States for me, but he demurred.
But I learned then: economize. Okay, five bags in Greece; for this trip to the East coast I am hauling no less than… six bags, plus a Trader Joe's bag filled with trail mix and canned goods. I think sometimes I truly went to college to get stupider. Common sense out the window; I mean a guy’s gotta have choices in painting hats and shoes, doesn’t he? Don’t judge me. But then I was wondering, love, should you have a convenient moment, if you wouldn’t mind help carrying some of this damned luggage up a hill?
Let’s talk parking. Boothbay Harbor is, apparently, notorious for limited parking, certainly not overnight. I will be gone eight days. I hadn’t considered what to do with the car. There’s a parking lot at the pier: $20 a day. It’s not in the budget. I am not about to blow almost $200 on parking, now I am in a jam. So, I had mentioned to my new painting buds at Boothbay Paint Out on Wednesday, maybe someone knows someone in this tight artist community can help me out. Someone mentions this gallery owner, that gallery owner, each has a couple of spaces. But wait, First Friday is coming up (the day I leave) they will need all available parking.
I am directed to an artist, Greg Lauderer, building his own home up on the hill. I call Greg, he says stop by anytime. I run over to meet him and we talk about painting for an hour in his driveway. He tells me where to park the car etc and not only do I have this problem solved, I have a new buddy. His is a real inspirational story, and he is building a beautiful home; his wife, Beth, is a flight attendant, flies out of Newark, and they have a system as to how she gets there as base from Boothbay.
I am on my way to Monhegan.
The Island is at once mystical, magical, challenging, and enchanting. And often fogged in. To try to give it more words at the risk of becoming loquacious I will not as many writers before me have graced the leaves with better and more gracious words.
I gather all bags to the side on the wharf and breathe. Then inquire with a driver where be the Hitchcock House, my lodgings. There are no cars allowed on Monhegan, only utility trucks and a few pedestrian golf carts, and not a lot of those. The island only just got electricity twenty-five years ago.
It’s a hill, a right, a left at the church, a steep hill, a left etc. I hump up three or four bags like pack mule. I am wearing long underwear – from the sleep in the tent night before – jeans, and two or three top layers. Sweating through all, thoroughly. When I arrive at the cottage, I shall don shorts and tee shirt. Nope, those are packed away in the bag yet to be claimed on the wharf. Down I descend. I meet my lovely proprietress, Barbara, who also has the Black Duck Emporium. She says, find Susan McDonough in a pickup truck with signage Monhegan Trucking, she will gather and deliver for $3 a bag. I find Susan. Susan delivers my bags – and me in tow – to the top of the hill. She drops some knowledge, see this person, paint here, stay clear of this person and that property, and whatever you do, have a helleva time.
I hope to see Susan again, sooner than later, but certainly with her truck on the day that I depart, the following Saturday.
I’m in! I change into shorts, tee shirt. Waste no time, I hike for an hour to the lighthouse by way of the tremendous cliffs – thanks to Susan for the scoop on the secret access to Trail #5. Yep, just outside my lodgings. I am walking in the shadows of Robert Henri, George Bellows, Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth, Remak Ramsey, Zero Mostel and his son, Josh, and Edward Henry Potthast. Just try to stop me, just try.
I find the lighthouse, I descend into town, find the school, the library, and back to the wharf. I again attack the hill, and turn right from Hitchcock House towards Burnt Head, so as to pop in on master painter Don Stone. He is in. He is delightful. He is famous and he is inspiring. A painting group arrives at their appointed time, led by painter-teacher Tim Horn from San Francisco, interrupting by hours my audience with the master, but I have things to paint. I convey to Don that I shall see him again within the week.
Inspired I go to paint. I find what is known as Swim Beach and the Red House. Two hours later, I have a fun little impressionistic piece, 8 x 10”. This is going to be fun!