Ezy Reading:
On Leaving Maine (for now)...
Evan Kanarakis


So in a few short days I'm moving down to New York City to start a new life in a tiny Hell's Kitchen studio apartment. I'm excited about the change and about a great many other things happening in my life at the moment, but in the last few weeks I've also been struck by genuine sadness with the reality that after six and a half years I'm about to say goodbye to my life here in Maine.

Back in 2005 I felt that my life in Sydney had lost momentum, somewhat. I loved the city -and still do- and it'll always be home for me, but I knew I needed to shake things up, to force some change, and to get to a point where I knew I was giving my aspirations for writing a better chance at becoming realized. I was terrified of falling into a 9 to 5 existence wherein I only tackled my dreams in those spaces of time outside of the task of earning money and making ends meet. With a few saved up pennies in tow and a family behind me who had always possessed an adventurous spirit of their own, I decided it was time to take the leap.

My leap, then, was to find a town within three to six hours of Boston (where a large segment of my extended family reside, and who I'd yearned to get to know better), and that had either a newspaper or a college or both, that I might perhaps find some sort of job close to my interest in writing. I wanted a break from the city -and the excesses of city life- and I knew that I needed to go somewhere free enough from distraction that I might knuckle down on gaining the discipline that I knew my writing so dearly lacked. If I was going to get better and, perhaps, even succeed at writing, I needed to work at the damn thing. Better I set out trying to do that in some peace and quiet, at least in the beginning.

I randomly found Bangor, Maine on the map, soon discovered that it claimed not just a local newspaper but more than one college, and that it fit into the 'three to six hours' distance from Boston. It seemed pretty and safe and 'different' enough from what I knew and was used to that I decided to go for it. My first day in town I was offered a job freelancing for the 'Special Sections' department of the Bangor Daily News by a kindly editor who took a curious, bemused interest in my random mission to move from Sydney, Australia to Bangor, Maine, and that was that. Suddenly, after months of hesitating to take the leap, to try something new, to challenge myself, I was living in a town of 30,000 in Maine being educated on such matters as Moxie, moose hunts and Bangor's most famous resident, Stephen King.

The hope that I might free myself from all distractions was, of course, total bollocks. While it was a more isolated existence initially -as an Aussie landing alone in Bangor, Maine with nothing more than two suitcases, two boxes of books and a beat up '93 Nissan Maxima- I simultaneously couldn't help myself nor had any choice in the matter of being free from distraction. I soon found the local dive bars I've always loved, found the glory that is the Dysart's truck stop diner, and the student nightlife of the University of Maine in Orono. In these places I made fast friends. But the people of Bangor were also some of the most generous, open-armed folks I'd ever had the good pleasure of meeting. Neighbors, work colleagues, heck, anyone from bartenders to bank tellers were so kind and welcoming that before long my days and evenings were spent less and less at my computer writing, and more and more out being shown the town, the region and the state as a whole by my new hosts.

To be fair, I did write -a great deal- but it should have come as little surprise that it was the new experiences and adventures that now informed my work and inspired me more than anything I'd brought with me from Australia in carefully packed writing folders and notebooks. When, after three years, I felt I might try living in Portland, Maine as a change, I left Bangor with a great fondness for the town and the community, and with lifelong friendships now well established.

Portland was no different.

I knew one or two people sparingly upon arrival as 'friends of friends', and my first few months played out a familiar scene from Bangor of focusing on my work while trying to make inroads into meeting people within the city. It was harder than Bangor in that the busier bars and cafes and art walks of Congress Street felt a bit more intimidating within which to randomly meet people than in a small town, but it was hard to feel isolated in such a bustling, thriving city full of so much arts and culture and character. Within a few short weeks, though, that same generous and welcoming spirit that is so strong in this state had expressed itself again- random meetings with individuals in bars, in cafes, in galleries and even on the street soon became close, devoted friendships. Life picked up pace again with so much to see and do and experience. I made roots here. I started a business in Portland. I attended friend's weddings. I attended friend's funerals. After three years in Portland I feel very much a part of the community and love that I can claim connections to people within Maine from as far as Kennebunk to Old Town, Bar Harbor to Oakland, and Presque Isle to Rangeley.

It's now time to move on again though. I only ever intended to live in the U.S, let alone Maine, for about a year when I first arrived here. That I've been here for six and a half years is testament to just how special a place this is. I feel genuinely blessed to have randomly chosen this place off the map, discovered it to be such a wonderful place, and subsequently made it my home for so long. I've seen enough of this country to now know just how unique and special Maine is compared to elsewhere. I'm leaving now but only for now. I leave with absolute certainty that I'll be back one day soon and that Maine will always remain a part of my future life. It's too good a place for it not to be...

Back in 2005 I wrote in The Cud about my plans for coming to Maine and of all I hoped I might find and achieve during my time here. I've included that same article below here because I found it interesting just how much I was focused on the business of 'living' then as I still am now.

I can't really speak to whether or not my writing became better through my time here in Maine or whether I'm really all that better disciplined and focused on the work than I was when I first moved here. But I do know that I've seen enough that will remain with me as good writing fodder for decades to come, and that the friendships and places I've connected with here will always be ones I'll undoubtedly revisit, whether I'm in Maine or away, and looking fondly back over my shoulder on the Pine Tree State.


June 6, 2005:

Ezy Reading: Damn... I'm Thirty!

I turned thirty on the 23rd of May which I guess is something of a landmark age, right up there with turning eighteen, celebrating a twenty-first birthday, and getting to sixty.

Thirty is apparently a pretty serious age, though. Or so I hear.

I mean sure, at eighteen or twenty-one (depending upon where you live), you can legally vote, be drafted into the army, and are now officially walking into adulthood, taking on all the responsibilities that come with that. At sixty, you're likely happy to have just made it that far unscathed, and now potentially have the joys of the third mortgage, bedpans and the inevitable 'Cats in the Cradle' syndrome to look forward to from your thankless kids.

But then again, turning eighteen or twenty-one is often for many a chance to finally cut loose and have some fun. To enjoy a drink, at last figure out how to get laid (and, for once, do it properly), and escape the rigid limits of a parental roof. You're young, your whole life is ahead of you, and there's just about nothing to fear. In the same vein, while at the age of sixty you might well have a few health and other issues to be cautious about, you can rest happily in the knowledge that years of toil in the workforce are finally -or soon will be- at an end. The children left the roost long ago, which means there's time for husband and wife to enjoy time together they've probably not shared since their late twenties. It's a chance to kick back, relax, and let someone else pick up the slack because hey, you've earned it. It's time to head for warmer climates, bad fishing-hats and weird Hawaiian shirts.

But thirty is a little more problematic. While you're still certainly young, maybe in the earlier stages of a career and, perhaps, a serious, committed relationship, the levels of expectation just seem to be that much higher than at other landmark ages. Judging by at least some of the comments I received this past week or two regarding my birthday, our twenties were apparently a mere trial period in adulthood with drunken missteps only occasionally interrupted by the purchase of a suit, drawing up a resume, and dabbling ignorantly into chatter about buying shares and getting a home loan. At thirty, people start getting promoted into more important jobs. They start taking on the burdens of major debt. Holy cow, they not only start really getting into the whole marriage thing, but they start dropping babies like there's no tomorrow! That means serious responsibilities.

So what gives? Now I'm thirty is it finally time to pack up the Playstation, say farewell to beers, basketballs and sleeping in? Am I required to now take on a more somber, measured demeanor and stop screaming madly at the television screen for the Wallaby back-line to pass the freaking ball? Must I now enter every relationship and job interview with a serious, longview outlook? Should every paycheck be carefully set-aside with thoughts of buying that three-bedroom condo on the lower north shore?

For crying out loud, is this the end of fun?

Okay, calm down, because I don't think we're in trouble just yet...

First up, thirty isn't a truly landmark age for everyone- many have chosen (or been forced into) growing up well prior to anyone tapping them on the shoulder and offering "Um, you're thirty now, perhaps you should act your age". It also wasn't that long ago that careers, marriages and kids were buzzing along in full gear years before a thirtieth birthday arrived.

Adding to this, nowadays society is changing so rapidly that some folks are calling thirty 'the new twenty'. We're working longer, marrying later and life expectancies in the Western world are constantly rising. As a result, for some, there's not as much urgency to dive in and 'get adult life started'.

We've also all heard the cliché that 'you're only as old as you feel', and seeing as I seem to think of myself as floating somewhere in the ether between the age of sixteen and twenty-seven -and certainly not at age thirty- I guess it's true.

The fact is, I was rather oblivious of whatever 'turning thirty' was supposed to mean for me until other folks decided to bring it to my attention. Only a true fool would misspend a life ignorantly unaware or disinterested in making sure they lived a meaningful, worthwhile existence. I'm sure, perhaps sooner than I'm even expecting, many of these allegedly 'adult' responsibilities and concerns will soon rise into prominence on my horizon. But I'd label a fool just as easily upon anyone unwilling to try and retain some degree of that exuberance, free-spiritedness and blissful -if more occasional- misadventure in their day-to-day lives. I'm no philosopher or writer of greeting card wisdom but it seems we only get one decent run on the giant merry-go-round, and if I really have just turned thirty then I can assure you the years genuinely fly by.

And I'd take one memory of joyful recklessness, spontaneity and enthusiasm over those of worried, cautious and pre-planned living any day. How could you not?

So screw thirty. I've got bigger things to worry about, and with a little luck things will all fall happily into place anyway- with only the slightest of 'mature', 'measured' guidance to help things along.

About a month or so ago I booked a ticket to soon fly to Bangor, Maine in the northeastern corner of the United States and get away for a year of committed, distraction free writing. I figured, at thirty, and with writing so important in my life, it was something I ought to finally do. I'd hate to look back in ten years and discover I'd never adequately chased my dreams. But rest assured, sound judgment and careful consideration of my future aside, I've also already checked out the availability of Celtics tickets, Pearl Jam concerts and good local pubs in New England.

There's too much real living to do in between those gaps of getting on with life.


Ezy Reading is out every month. Send your comments to feedback@thecud.com.au