© 1996 Casco Bay Weekly | Rick MacPherson | May 9, 1996


Portland didn't rate a mention in a new gay travel guide

In the course of human history, several ideas will be remembered as fabulous in theory but sadly deficient in practice. A partial list might include Cheez Whiz, the atomic bomb, high heels, mobile homes, pantyhose, "don't ask, don't tell" and one-size-fits-all. I have no doubt that every one of these ideas was devised with the best intentions. We know where good intentions may lead.

I can only suspect that good intentions were at work when Fodor's, a leader in the international travel guide biz, released its groundbreaking "Gay Guide to the USA" last month. Self-described as "the most comprehensive guide for gay and lesbian travelers," Fodor's isn't really breaking any new ground here. Both Spartacus Publishing and Damron have been producing gay travel guides, national and international, for quite some time now. What sets the Fodor's effort apart, however, is that it is the first exclusively gay travel guide to be produced by a major publishing company, namely Random House.

While I wasn't inclined to be traveling soon, I did pop into Bookland the other day to peruse a copy of the new gay travel guide. My mind raced as I pondered what the author would have to say about our queer little burg of Portland. I made a beeline to the travel section, found the "Fodor's Gay Guide to the USA," and opened to the index. P... P... Portland ... Portland, Oregon. Hmmm. Well, we're probably listed under Maine.

But guess what? We're not there. In fact, the only New England state to make the guide is Massachusetts. It's Boston this, and Provincetown that. And what of Maine? We're in there, but only as a province of Massachusetts. Ogunquit is listed in a small section as a day trip from Boston.

Ogunquit? OGUNQUIT?? Forget for the moment that I always thought anything south of Kennebunkport was New Hampshire. No offense, Ogunquit, but how do you rate? You're a queer tourist trap, a homo Old Orchard. Don't give me that beaches, sand dunes and B&B shit. Ten weeks out of the year you become Maine's answer to Fire Island. That makes you the queer mecca in this state?

What about us fags who live year-round in Portland? We're not here just for the warm, comfortable months. We hang in for the frigid, slushy, dark and dreary months as well. Doesn't our city deserve at least a brief mention, as we slog through the wet slush and mush to our Matlovich meetings or nights of revelry at The Underground or Sisters? What about the Pier Dance during Pride Week? What about John Preston? What about Frannie? Talk about the cold shoulder. There isn't even a mention of Portland's plethora of coffeeshops or galleries, and the gay community is the cornerstone of both businesses. Needless to say, I'm in a snit.

While I sympathize with other New England states snubbed by Fodor's, I have an acute sense of protectiveness and territoriality toward Maine. Let New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island gay folk fend for themselves. I'm going to stick up for Maine. I offer three possible destinations for gay visitors to Portland.

Back Cove Shop 'n Save. Start off your gay holiday in Portland with a bang at the Shop 'n Save at 295 Forest Avenue, next to Back Cove. Shop 'n Save? Try "Stop 'n Stare." It isn't just the sirloin that's beefy in this market. No sir. And the checkout lanes aren't just the ones with cash registers. Where else can you pick up a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers, a tuna steak for the grill and a dinner date all in one convenient stop? Don't forget condoms - they're on the shelves near the pharmacy.

Carolyn Cosby Walk of Shame. What's a vacationer's worst nightmare? You guessed it ... diarrhea. It just takes all the fun out of a holiday. But even though the occasional traveler's tummy may strike the vacationer in Portland, it goes away. Unlike Carolyn Cosby. Mainers have been suffering from a protracted case of Cosby's diarrhea of the mouth for several years now. Not even an industrial-size bottle of Kaopectate will help. If she's not trying to repeal gay rights, she's spouting other nonsensical gobbledy-gook. So spend your day in misery contemplating Cosby's paranoid machinations against gay folk.

Stand outside Portland High, where Cosby claimed victory when a handful of parents removed their children during AIDS awareness seminars. Take in City Hall, where she harassed voters and the county clerk for fraud during a gay rights referendum vote. And walk to Monument Square to stare at the statue of the big lady. No, it's not a statue of Cosby. But if it were, the pigeons would be taking a retribution that we all wish we could share in.

Lesbian Literary Tour. There's just something about Maine that the daughters of Sappho love. Is it the solitude? Is it the Yankee free spirit? Is it all the golf courses? Hard to say. But our sisters have made their mark on this state. And girl, could some of them write. Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sarah Orne Jewett and May Sarton, to name a few. Head to the Maine Women Writers Collection at the Westbrook College library to check out some literary wonders. while you're there, scan the stacks for the following recent works by contemporary lesbian authors who continue to uphold the literary tradition in Maine: "Just the Three of Us: Reflections From Maine's Lipstick Lesbians," "The Night Alice B. Toklas Kissed Me, A Play in Two Acts" and "Dykes on Bikes: A Bicycle Tour of Maine."

It's not much, but it's a start. If you're still inclined to shell out good dollars for the Fodor's guide, just rip out this page and tuck it in. I'm sure Ogunquit won't mind.

Rick MacPherson is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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