Bar Harbor

This entry is part 15 of 25 in the series Cruising With the Mothers

The pain in my head was absolutely excruciating. As the proud parent of more than two-dozen kidney stones, I thought I knew about pain—but this was a whole new ballgame. I had to get up and move, as though I might shake it off. I ran to the bathroom and took four ibuprofen tablets.

In the mirror, I could see that my left eye was almost completely closed and it was watering profusely. My left nostril burned intensely and my nose was running like a river—but felt severely congested at the same time. I thought screaming might help, but I stifled the urge.

I threw on a bathrobe and grabbed a wad of tissue before tiptoeing out to the verandah to take stock of the situation. I glanced at the clock on the way out, and noted that it was 1:35 a.m. Outside, I sat in a chair and held my head firmly in my hands to keep it from coming apart. The pain seemed to radiate from the sinus between my eye socket and the bridge of my nose, and it enveloped the entire left side of my head—relentless, searing, stabbing.

My mind seemed to be working all right, though it was slightly distracted. Motor skills seemed fine. I spoke aloud, and to my ear, I sounded stressed but otherwise normal. I ruled out stroke and aneurism, ignored some even more sinister possibilities, and decided that, given the nasal involvement, I had a bad sinus infection and associated headache. I just had to wait it out…

I sat, paced, put my head between my knees and otherwise distracted myself out on the verandah for a long time. Suddenly, the pain simply stopped. At first I couldn’t believe it, but when I became convinced, I snuck back in to the room. My nose felt normal, and it and my eye had stopped running. I collapsed on the bed and looked at the clock. It was 3:30, and I had been in another world for almost exactly two hours. Sleep came quickly.

I awoke to the sound of Kris’s voice. “Time to get up. I’m going to call the moms and make sure they’re up, too.”

“What time is it?”
“Seven. We’re supposed to have breakfast at eight.”

I was a little slow in coming to. “Open the curtains—where are we?” It felt as though the ship was still moving, though slowly.

Kris walked over to the curtains, drew them and headed back toward me.

“No…open the gauze curtain, too. I want to see where we are,” I said.

“The curtains are open. I’m going to take a shower,” she said.

I got out of bed and headed to the window. If you want a job done right, do it yourself… At the window, I fumbled for the curtain pull to open the gauze curtains, but felt only glass. In the distance, I heard the deep moan of the ship’s horn, and came to the realization that we were in thick fog. The illusion of looking through gauze curtains held as I stepped onto the verandah. Only then did the memory of the previous night’s experience come rushing back. As I stood there, I convinced myself that it couldn’t have been as bad as it seemed. Not possible…

You might think that it would be difficult to miss a 720-foot long ship, but with the fog thick enough to slice, even our floating city must have been invisible from ten feet away. I could not see the water below, but I assumed we must be entering—this sounds awkward—Bar Harbor harbor. The ship’s horn sounded every few seconds, and anyone hearing it would know something big was coming, visible or not.

Kris has a thing about showers. She likes them long and hot, and wonders why we can’t keep the paint in our bathroom from peeling off the wall in sheets. By the time I got my turn in the shower, the fog in the bathroom was as thick as it was outside. I usually try to go first and get out of the way, but I figured some time in a hot steamy environment would be good for my sinuses.

Kris was ready to roll by the time I started dressing. “The moms are up and ready,” she said. “Hurry up.”

“Why don’t you go on ahead?” I asked. “I want to go down and sign up for the writer’s seminar before it’s too late. I’ll meet you in the café.”

Kris departed, and I finished getting ready. The ship had stopped moving, and preparations for the tendering operation were underway. I had no idea how far from shore we were, but I could now just make out enough detail outside to determine that we were indeed still in the water…

As I walked to the main desk, I noted how quiet the ship was. Very few people were out and about, and I felt somewhat smug that I would beat the rush to sign up for the seminar. It was scheduled for the card room, which limited attendance to about 75 people, in my estimation.

I approached the main desk, and the lone attendant seemed glad to finally have some company. “Good morning. I’d like to sign up for the writing workshop, please.”

“Certainly. One moment, please, sir.” The woman shuffled through a pile and produced a stack of notebook paper, stapled together in the upper left hand corner. She flipped through several pages before laying the stack on the counter. She handed me a pen and said, “Please write your name and cabin number in the next open space.”

I followed her instructions before flipping back through the pages. “Did all of these people sign up for the same seminar?”

“Yes sir.”

My name appeared near the bottom of page six, meaning at least 300 people had beaten me to it. I let out a deep sigh, and thanked the woman.

I went to the Lido Café after making a lap around the promenade. The view in very direction was the same—fog, fog and more fog. The extended forecast for the week had predicted some rain today, followed by a week of beautiful late-summer conditions, so I remained optimistic.

With a pastry and two cups of coffee, I circled the Lido so many times looking for Kris and the mothers that I got dizzy. I gave up and sat alone for the three minutes it took to finish my breakfast.

I found Kris and the moms in our cabin a few minutes later.

“We’re ready. Let’s go,” said Kris.

“Our tour doesn’t leave until 10:45,” I said. “We have almost two hours.”

“I know, but we can walk around town and do some shopping.”

“How many stores do you think will be open at 9 a.m. on a Sunday?” I asked, trying to inject some reason into the discussion.

“Enough to keep us busy,” answered Kris.

I obviously wasn’t going to prevail, so I hastily packed my day bag with the camera, umbrella and a supply of ibuprofen. We made our way forward and down to the tender loading platform, and waited only a few minutes to board. The ship completely disappeared from view seconds after we cast off, and the tender proceeded with the engines barely above idle speed. The tender’s operator didn’t even bother looking out the window—he navigated strictly by instruments and radar. I could see the little blips on the radar screen, and we were evidently passing through some very crowded waters. A crewmember stationed outside would periodically call out instructions that I couldn’t understand.

In about ten minutes, we arrived at the dock and disembarked. Although Kris and I had spent a week in Bar Harbor many years ago, the fog prevented me from getting my bearings and I was completely disoriented. It was not until we passed through the dockside building and out onto the streets of the town that I knew where we were.

Much to my surprise, almost every shop was already open for business—here I was, the sophisticated and experienced cruiser, proven wrong yet again. Kris and the moms immediately went into shopping mode, crawling through each shop at a snail’s pace. I tend to size up a shop quickly—all I have to do is step in the door, sniff the air and make a quick visual scan to decide if the place is of any interest. I waited patiently outside as the others examined the first two shops in minute detail.

As Kris emerged from the second shop, I caught her attention briefly. “Remember the antique store that had the amazing Maxfield Parrish prints?” I asked. I have collected the artist’s work since literally pulling a piece out of the trash at my great-grandmother’s house 32 years ago.

“Oh, yeah,” she answered. “Do you think you can find it?”

“I remember exactly where it was,” I said. “I’m going to check it out. I’ll just meet you all right in front of the dock building at about 10:30.”

“Have fun.”

Relieved to be on the move, I walked briskly up the hill toward the center of town before turning left down a little residential side street. The antique shop was still there, occupying the first floor of a small Victorian house. As luck would have it, the shop was closed. I peered into the windows, but did not see anything distinctive. Actually, I was relieved. Last time we were here, the shop had a print that was a big as a refrigerator and as expensive as a car—so stunning that I might not have been able to resist this time around.

I headed back in the general direction of the dock, walking slowly now to pass the time and stopping only to buy some decongestant tablets. The wet streets were actually crowded with people, a few of whom were beginning to look familiar. A family stood at the curb eating ice cream, the perfect breakfast on a cool, damp Sunday morning. I did run in to the ubiquitous Susan from the roll call party, and we exchanged greetings and observations about the trip so far. Susan reported that she’d been dancing to Beau Soleil until three in the morning in the Crow’s Nest, but I refrained from telling her about what I’d been doing during the same period.

I arrived at the dock building just as a steady rain started to fall, and sought refuge on the wide covered porch. Our bus was parked out front, and the guide stood under an umbrella holding a sign that read “Jordon Pond.” The minutes ticked by, and waves of people marked the arrival of each new tender. A few people were already returning for a ride back to the ship, apparently giving up on the prospect for a day on “dry” land.

I spotted Kris and the mothers strolling down the hill, laden with bags and talking up a storm. I timed my departure from the covered porch so that I met up with them at the corner by the bus.

“Looks like you managed to find something to buy,” I observed.

“And you didn’t,” said Kris.

“Just as well,” I said. “Ready?”

“We’d like to use a restroom,” said Pat. “Is there one over there?” she asked, pointing to the dockside building.

“I’m sure there’s one on the bus,” I said.

“We want a real restroom,” said Kris.

“Here—take your tickets, and I’ll wait on the bus,” I said. “Hurry up. You have eight minutes.”

As I boarded the bus, the guide handed me a map of Acadia National Park. I sat and studied it while I waited. A young couple with a tiny baby sat in the seat opposite mine, and they were apparently traveling with an elderly woman who was sitting alone in front of them. The woman, who I imagined was the baby’s great-grandmother, was tiny and frail looking, but the wisdom in her eyes was unmistakable. She smiled at the baby’s sounds.

Kris and Pat climbed aboard the bus a couple of minutes later.

“Success?” I asked.

“No, the line was too long. We’ll just wait,” said Kris.

I didn’t bother to ask the obvious question. Instead, I looked out the window at people walking through the rain…

Happy New Year!

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