The Blue Goose
Finding my heart in a hometown bar
Every time I go home to Lewiston, Maine, whether it be for holidays, birthdays, or my own sanity, I stop in at The Blue Goose. Whenever driving by as a teenager, I’d gawk at the goose flying high on the bar’s wooden sign in all of its navy blue-and-white feathered glory. Like so many of the state’s residents, it always appeared to be migrating south, and that’s all I had dreamed of doing. I wanted nothing more than to escape from the state where outsiders think every road leads to nowhere, none of the homes have electricity and everyone’s shacking up with his or her relatives.
I migrated to the “big city” of Boston, where Paul Pierce is a saint, Sam Adams is a God and the “chowdah” is thick and creamy. Though I’ve loved walking through the Public Garden on a crisp autumn day or pounding brewskies at an Irish pub during a Celtics game, it never takes long for me to start missing home. Walking to work in a nor’easter makes me cranky, and I almost get hit by a cab daily. Therefore, I crave the place Lewistonites endearingly call their Cheers, a bar where everybody knows their name.
The Blue Goose is a 77-year-old hole-in-the-wall tavern full of flannel, townies, Dickies and Timberland work boots. The floors are sticky, caked over in spilled Budweiser Light, and the lighting is dim enough to lure in the middle-aged predators looking to catch some fresh, young meat. There’s a foosball table to the right of the entrance, enclosed under neon signs and twinkle lights. And a Big Buck Hunter stands to the left, always boasting a line of at least two or three manly brutes ready to show all the others how to hunt, aim and shoot. I try to avoid the unisex bathroom because being one small, stuffy stall over from my former high school history teacher freaks me out, yet the mixed drinks are so potent they make having to hover inevitable — like the night of my 21st birthday, when that third kamikaze shot might have been one too many.
Upon my most recent visit to The Goose, I ran immediately into a leathery, weathered grey-haired man who appeared to be missing a few teeth. Perched on a barstool, decked out in his crinkled Champion sweatshirt, he motioned for me to come closer.
“I’m not trying to creep you out or anything, but you could be a model.”
If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that, typically, when people start a sentence with “I’m not trying to creep you out,” they are probably going to. I initially smiled and said thank you, but when the man started licking and smacking his lips, eyeing me up and down like some piece of Hannaford store-brand meat, my skin started to crawl. I walked away as fast as my brother-in-law could hand me my beer.
I ran into former friends from high school. Hailing from the class of double-o seven, they’re the ones I marched out of graduation with to the sounds of James Bond, who kept me company while I stocked socks at Sears, and always laughed at me for being that neurotic girl who needed straight As. My sister ran into former friends from high school as well. As someone who’s nine years my senior, she wondered why she was the only one who seemed to have fled the state. She pointed out our old librarian’s son and told me all about this guy she used to think was “super hot” in high school, but now desperately needed a haircut and hated his job in construction. As weird as it was to see these faces of old or those of some toothless strangers, it was also comforting.
This was my home. Lewiston, Maine is where I am from. Where I took my first steps and blubbered my first word. Where I learned to play Frisbee in the back of the Walmart parking lot and formed the friendships I’d carry with me forever.
Before college, I would have been ashamed of a place like The Blue Goose, a place that some of my friends call “grimy,” others call “sketchy,” but can all agree is endearing and hilarious. I would have never tried to sneak in with some fake ID, turned off by what I was trying so hard to run away from. But that’s because I couldn’t appreciate my hometown’s charm. I couldn’t believe I’d actually crave the kind of security you find standing on sticky floors.
My dad described The Blue Goose as a “historical college pub,” because even he can remember heading to the bar for a Christmas beer after a night of playing faculty hockey at Bates College. His history is there, and now a piece of mine is too — along with my heart, high school history teacher, and years’ worth of memories.