Monday, October 20, 2008

Crepes, crap, and dead turkeys: A weekend in Bar Harbor

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I'm back from a few days vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine. Many local T-shirts and license plates, straining for a joke to the point where one can hear tendons pop, write it out quote-unquote humorously as "Ba Ha Ba." I did not hear a single Bar Harbornian pronounce it that way. Not even the guy at the Internet cafe with the greasy black and gray beard who looked vaguely pirateish.

My wife and I stayed at a bed and breakfast that sucked at half of that description. The room was fantastic, with a working fireplace and a four-poster king-sized bed, one poster of which came up straight in front of the TV but whatever. The person who had the room before us left half a Rolaids wrapper and a lady's belt in the room, so if there's someone out there with a sour stomach and her pants around her ankles, get in touch.

On a 1-to-10 scale of being appalled, 1 being slightly appalled and 10 being so appalled that the nerves behind your eyes ache and one or two of your heart's ventricles spasm and turn black, the inn's breakfast rated a 9.97. I'm taking back 0.03 points since it seemed to be made of something that had once been food. The rest of the score? Because they're awful cooks and don't give a shit about dietary restrictions.

The first morning, they gave my wife and I a plate heaped with potatoes but only the barest whisper of bacon, all smothered in green onions and yellow onions. The next course was an enormous omelette made with what looked like 7 eggs, stuffed with undercooked mushrooms, yellowish water, and for variety, more onions. A quick run over to my local science lab confirmed that this water was a brackish mix of mushroom fluid because they weren't cooked properly, and trace amounts of raw egg. The entire travesty was topped with more onions. Apparently a sale on onions in Bar Harbor that week.

The innkeeper lady said good morning to another woman sitting at the table, who was a vegetarian, and said, "I know you left a note saying you don't eat eggs, but..." Then she gave her an omelette. The innkeeper said she could either eat it or there was "toast and I think Frosted Mini-Wheats?" The guest picked the toast but left before she could eat it, saying she was going to take a shower to wash off the stink of utter failure.

My wife can't eat wheat or nuts, so we left a note saying that if they didn't want a mess on their hands, perhaps they should avoid making anything with wheat or nuts. We wondered later that day, whilst hiking around the hills and carriage trails of Acadia National Park, how exactly they'd fuck that up. I decided they'd make pancakes. My wife picked "nutty muffins."

I won -- we had crepes. They were stuffed with either yogurt or sour cream or shaving cream. It was hard to tell over all the raspberry jam. Basically, a fancy-ass Pop Tart.

As I was gloating over my crepe victory, laughing hysterically and spewing raspberry seeds over the fine china, and my wife shoveled in only the onion-potato hash, I began to notice the faintest rumblings inside my stomach. These rumblings, as we left the breakfast table, were but the first inklings of a great tsunami -- yes, a storm of acid and shit, a storm of horrific proportion gathering speed and mass inside me. Minutes later I rolled about on the nice marble floor of the bathroom, head hitting the Jacuzzi, cursing the innkeepers for poisoning me, then for forgetting to give us any toilet paper -- and we had just used the last of the free packet of tissues.

I'm not going to explain how I escaped that predicament, but suffice it to say it was a long 6-hour car ride back home, most of it doubled over in pain with one eye on patches of thick brush along 95 south in case of emergency.

I don't ask for much in an inn, but toilet paper would be one of those few things. Food that doesn't try to kill me or my wife would be another. It's the basics of B&B ownership, really: don't poison your customers and make sure they can wipe their asses.

Moving swiftly along, a couple more random thoughts from our Bar Harbor weekend:

- Big high-five to Nature for being really cool. Well played, sky and trees and stuff. Well played.

- Climbing mountains is tough. If you ever find yourself near one, find some way around it.

- That's why Cadillac Mountain is nice. You can drive to the top. They take busloads of seniors up there all the time. You think those old farts would get there under their own power? It'd be a massacre. There'd be stacks of dead elderly people and broken wheelchairs four and five deep around the base.

- You can't throw a handful of dirt in Bar Harbor without hitting someone in the tourist trade raving about the "tea and popovers on the lawn" at Jordan Pond House. Don't believe it. It's a ripoff. A popover is basically pancake mix baked in a muffin tin filled with air until it's burnt. Tea is tea. The lawn? It's cold out there.

- As for the rest of their menu, it's mostly overpriced frozen food served to blue-hairs. Wish I could put it more tactfully than that, but if you'd seen the rice they gave me you'd be livid.

- Not all the food was bad. We had a couple of dinners that were mind-blowing. One was at a Cuban place, where I had my first mojito. Great, except for all the shredded mint that gets stuck in your teeth like you've been gargling with a kale smoothie. The other was at a Mexican place -- they gave us what looked like an entire bag of nachos just for showing up, the way most restaurants give out free bread. We ate the entire basket of chips.

- Acadia National Park is probably the most organized, best-run park I've ever seen. It's the model for every national park. You thinking of starting a national park? See how Acadia does it.

- Bar Harbor needs more geocaches. There are a few, but a place that pretty should be teeming with them. You should be tripping over geocache ammo boxes in the town square. If you live in Bar Harbor and you're into geocaches, get on this.

- At least three times, all by accident, I saw a TV show where people shot turkeys for fun. The camera was bolted down, pointed at a field. Then these turkeys would come wandering out, because some hunter would use a turkey call to essentially trick them into thinking there was some hot turkey love out there. The male turkeys went strutting out into a field, feathers up and chest out, by a statue of a female turkey, as a hunter offscreen squawked the turkey call, which in turkish meant something like, "Uh-oh, the plumbing just broke and here I am, getting ready for a shower with my girlfriend." Just as I was thinking, "Wow, look at the plumage on that bird, they're really amaz--" the hunter would blast them to pieces. Then they'd run over and start checking out their feet. "Lookit the spurs on that one!" one hunter said, holding out the legs and massive claws, breathing heavily as if he'd just escaped danger. It was sort of like watching a slasher film from the '80s, where the horniest teenagers always met the most gruesome fate and the moral of the story was sex = death.

- I bring that up because we don't have hunting shows where I am. Actually, they sort of do, like "Law & Order" and "CSI," but they hunt people instead.

- We're probably going again next year so my wife can run the Mount Desert Island Marathon. We've already decided: next time, no crepes.


Gordon said...

Awesome trip review. I was rolling hearing about your intestinal issues. Why is it5 that when we are suffering from them they aren't funny, but other people--hilarious? Kind of like America's Funniest Home Videos, I love to watch people fall down.

meep-o said...

On Halloween night I came across one of those horny summer camp slaughter movies called The Burning. This post reminded me of it a few times. Fun fact: Jason Alexander was in the movie looking slightly more Richard Gere-y and acting equally Costanza-y.

New England Bites said...

Perhaps the Rolaids and the left-behind belt should have given you some sort of warning as to how "good" the food was. Ouch.

OK ... not so off topic, but my word verification to leave you a comment is: "bellyfool"

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