- 10:04 Augusta, I hate you. Been driving for 90 min and can't find a coffee shop to work at. 5 shops closed when I get there. #
- 12:30 3 hrs & SIX defunct coffee shops later, also a defunct BN, I'm growly in a BNBux. Only other shop in Atown: 1hr parking/$5 lattes/shuts @ 3 #
- 12:31 When the indie shop barista says: "Dude, we really need a Starbucks" something has gone awry with your town. #
- 12:33 Also Starbucks, wtf? Your virtue is ubiquity. And pumpkin spice. This is a state capitol and all it gets is a lousy BN addon? #
- 12:33 I am an ANGRY MUPPET now. #
- 17:49 Downtown Augusta is a bit post-apocalyptic, y'all. #
- 17:54 And I've seen an alarming number of normally dressed people staggering around with crazed hair and dazed expressions. #
- 17:55 And you know, I've been known to hang out in Detroit. #
- 19:16 I had 1 hour of sleep last night, so I feel like I've been hit with a shovel. Plus all day in Augusta, zombie capital of New England. *diez* #
I was up there yesterday while the Beast dealt with some business. Oh! Thinks me. I'll go with him and work in a coffee shop and see some more of Maine and it'll be great!
It's kind of like when the heroine of a horror movie says: honey, a move to the country is just the thing for our marriage!
First of all, I spent three hours looking for a coffee shop. Any coffee shop. And here's the score:
Attempt 1: is actually a kiosk in a Target
Attempt 2: does not dwell on this plane of existence. Addresses go from 99 to 103 bypassing the Google-reported 101 entirely.
Attempt 3: shut down until further notice
Attempt 4: shut down until further notice
Attempt 5: shut down until further notice
Attempt 6: Mainer: "Um, I guess there was one here, like, ten years ago. Sorry."
Attempt 7: Shop has one hour parking with cops watching you the WHOLE TIME, closes at 3, and charges $5 for a single shot latte. (And .99 for a big muffin. What?)
(Insert at least two madcap New England rotaries between each attempt. Did I mention I had gotten less than an hour of sleep the night before and hadn't eaten?)
At Attempt 7, the barista sighed longingly and said: "Dude, we really need a Starbucks." When this is the official position of your one and only coffee shop, something has gone awry in your town.
But that doesn't begin to communicate the state of downtown Augusta. The river is beautiful. The riverfront looks like the zombie apocalypse came and went and people were like whatever. The buildings are pockmarked, closed, or fully abandoned, and haven't had new signage since the 50s. At noon on a wednesday literally two places were open. That's the streetside. But when you see the riverside...it's all grey New England archtiecture that looks like a couple of bombs hit it. Chunks are missing. Black holes that used to be windows gape in the sides. No one is living on riverfront property. (And the Wal-Mart parking lot on the other side of town was empty. Kittens, I think that scared me most of all.)
And I saw several people dressed in normal clothes, dresses and suits, staggering around aimlessly with crazed hair and dazed expressions. I'm not kidding. Also the gas station is called the Dead River Company. It is an actual horror novel up there.
This is the state capital, my friends. I happen to be sort-of from another state capital, Sacramento. And this is just not how we roll out there. Also, maybe we could get better representation if the legislature could GET A DAMN CUP OF COFFEE. I realize there's a recession on (though actually there are a lot of jobs in Augusta) and things in general blow. But Portland, Bangor, hell, even Brunswick, which is tiny, have bustling downtowns and cafes and open businesses and give the vague impression of not having been devoured by hordes of the damned in 1972.
Look, I hang out in Cleveland and Detroit. I know from broken rust belt cities. This freaked me the hell out. And the next town over? Looked exactly the same. Same waterfront, same buildings, same everything.
So I end up at a Barnes and Noble Starbucks NOT BECAUSE I WANT TO. (I have long insisted that I hate writing in Barnes & Noble cafes. It's...in in an out place. Like anal sex. Great for the folks that like it, but uncomfortable and upsetting for me.) But because it's the only place in the whole town that is not Dunkin Donuts. It's actually funny, when you look at a map. Starbucks rings Augusta. All around the city, Starbucks. In the city? Nothing. It's like a coffee-mermaid dead zone. I am, at this point, a seething cauldron of muppet rage. I work. I have pumpkin spice latte. I slowly calm down (also, due to island living, I hadn't driven in like three months before yesterday. And rotaries are my personal traffic nightmare.)
And I look up Augusta on wikipedia, hoping for something like:
5 What the Fuck Is Wrong With Augusta?
Instead, I find out that pretty much as soon as Augusta was founded, pilgrims were all: this place is less fun than any other dire winter New England colony. Let's bounce. Augusta: First Abandoned in 1661!
When folks decided to live there again, they promptly started murdering each other with axes. Fully a quarter of the entry on a state fucking capital is devoted to this fireside tale:
In 1806, when Maine was still part of Massachusetts, Captain James Purington massacred seven of his eight children and his wife, using an ax, and then committed suicide by cutting his own throat with a straight razor. The area of land then considered part of Hallowell, now part of Augusta, is located on the Old Belgrade Road. The lone survivor was James Jr. A wounded daughter, Martha, would die two weeks later from her injuries.
The bodies were all taken to be buried in the Burnt Hill Burying Ground which is now part of Augusta's Larger Cemetery. The Purington family were buried in an unmarked grave. Captain Purington was buried at the crossroads outside of the consecrated ground. (Bolding mine, for your WTF pleasure.)
Friends, life in Augusta has sucked beyond the telling for quite some time. Did you see that shit? There is actually a bloodthirsty vampire buried underneath Augusta.
I am gratefully home now. On my 2 mile long island that has more cafes and amenities than Augusta. I'm pretty sure that, in the future, if someone tells me there's a giant pot of gold and all I have to do to get it is spend the day in Augusta, I'll say no, that place eats souls. I kept thinking about Derry in the novel IT, and how Augusta is like 20 times more likely to harbor an ancient evil than Bangor. Burnt Hill Burying Ground? Someone's just fucking with us, now.
This has been your Grouchy Writer's Guide to Maine.