Ezy Reading

Evan Kanarakis

I finally, thankfully, ended my house-hunt over the past few days and have settled into on a two-bedroom apartment here in Bangor, Maine.

Now that the search is over, seeing as I only arrived in this country with what was in my suitcase, it's time to fill the place with things like a bed, furniture, and a few pots and pans. Given I'm on something of a budget and, at least for the moment, am not planning on moving to the United States permanently, most of my shopping needs will be fulfilled at Wal-Mart. For those not familiar with this monolith of retail shopping, the chain offers super-discounted items on just about anything you might need for your day-to-day existence, and at risk of offending folks that regularly shop at Wal-Mart, I'll just keep things short and merely assert that it's one of the most terrifying and illuminating locations for people-watching that I've ever, ever encountered.

But beyond such value-for-dollar shopping and horror tales, I thought that this week I might simply share with you ten facts you should know about the town of Bangor, Maine, as I think it's unlikely many of you will ever feel the need to wander into this corner of the world.

So, with apologies for the brevity of this week's edition (I'm in the lobby of the Bangor Holiday Inn using their internet connection), enjoy:

1) Located on the banks of the Penobscot River in mi-East Maine, Bangor's population stands at just over 30,000, so we're essentially talking about a small country town, but with the area's multitude of twenty-one small towns taken into consideration, it pushes the local region up to almost 100,000 people.

2) Though not on most tourist maps, Bangor is located between the coastal, popular resort area of 'Downeast Maine' and the wilds of the 'North Woods' of Maine, making the town the economic and retail hub of the region. Indeed, the shopping mall is massive.

3) According to 2002 crime statistics, Bangor was the safest town in America with a population under 75,000. Knock of wood. I just purchased a 1993 Nissan Maxima and can't afford to lose it.

4) Bangor was first settled in 1769, however the Portuguese sailed up the Penobscot River and to the location of modern-day Bangor in 1525. That's quite a while ago, really.

5) Drawing on the resources of Maine's vast forests, in the 19th century Bangor emerged as the most important timber, logging and shipbuilding town in America, and at one point was considered to be the richest city in the world per capita. All those houses made of wood almost cost the entire town when much of the place burned down in a turn of the century fire.

6) As a tribute to the town's lumber history, a thirty foot statue of Paul Bunyan resides on Maine Street in Bangor, and competing with the town of Akeley, Minnesota's claim to be the birthplace of the famous wood-chopper. Think the Golden Guitar in Tamworth, the Giant Merino in Goulburn, the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, etc...

7) The name Bangor is said to have arrived by accident. The name of 'Sunbury' had been chosen for the town, however the settler assigned to complete a settler's petition in Boston was whistling a Welsh hymn called 'Bangor' when the Boston official asked him what the town was to be called. Mistakenly, he thought the man was asking what the name of the hymn was and replied 'Bangor'. Or so the story goes...

8) The town's most famous (and much-loved) resident is the author Stephen King. In fact, he brought that aforementioned Paul Bunyan statue back to life in his book 'IT'.

9) The town is home to the American Folk Festival at the end of August in each year. Apparently this is a pretty big deal, though I'm not much of a folk music aficionado, so I'll take the tourist guide's word on it.

10) Apparently it's going to get fucking cold up here in winter (but the autumn foliage just beforehand is, I hear, spectacular...).

Ezy Reading is out every Monday.