Changes lamented



To the Editor:

The terror I feel every summer when our car crosses the causeway onto Mount Desert Island is only half irrational.

Which one of my favorite restaurants closed? What kitschy development did they approve over the winter? What service did they cut at the library because of shrinking budgets?

For 31 summers, I have not been able to overcome such separation anxiety over changes on my favorite piece of real estate on the planet. As a person from away, I feel particularly helpless because I exert absolutely no control over the destiny of my regular summer haunts.

I still long for the roast chicken at A.V. Higgin’s General Store in Somesville even though it’s been closed for at least 25 years. In August, I saw the “for sale” sign on the building and pondered for a very fleeting moment about a potential gallery opportunity.

This year was particularly difficult because my friend, Larry Stettner, founder and proprietor of the Common Good Soup Kitchen in Southwest Harbor, died unexpectedly on May 1. At least it was unexpected to me. I was looking forward to his good humor.

Probably the biggest change over those 31 years came in Bar Harbor, and certainly not for the better. What seemed like in one quick winter, the entire lower section of town was turned into a Disney attraction with faux Irish bars and the like. Cruise ships would offload their cell phone-armed tourists ready to dive into the lobster shacks and ice cream parlors with such alacrity that the entire town emitted a giant sucking sound of credit cards swipes for a high intensity period of six hours. But let Bar Harbor be Bar Harbor – a soul-less shakedown street of T-shirt shops at its worst. As long as I get to sit at the counter at Jordan’s and marvel at the line of pancakes on the grill and then hop over the Hannaford to buy some fresh organic fruit, and as long I have at least one meal at Havana, I’m sated.

At this writing, I am grateful for the sane citizens of Southwest Harbor, Northeast Harbor and Tremont not to self-inflict this injury upon themselves and forever reshape the character of their burgs on the Quietside. Once you sell your soul to the devil as Bar Harbor did, there is no return. My dreamy late lunches at the Quarterdeck are forever gone.

Over the last 10 years, many local businesses also grew to depend on foreign students to fill much of the seasonal job demand. One wonders about the impact of the nation’s current anti-immigrant fever.

Here’s hoping that I return to the same friendly staff at McEachern & Hutchins Hardware, where they loaned me a cable cutter when I forgot the key to my canoe lock; Rogue and Red Sky restaurants; Thurston’s; Rats Seafood, which seems always to have hard shells in August when every else is selling soft shell; Beech Hill Farm; the Quietside Café, where my son met Ralph and Frances Reed’s two daughters 20 years ago; Eat-A-Pita, which let me play my guitar for tips this year; Islesford Dock restaurant, which is under new management, and, finally, artist Ashley Bryan of Islesford. May he live forever.

MDI, may your winter be uneventful and your hearth be warm, and may you stay constant.

Lincoln Millstein

Greenwich, Conn.

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