If you own a small business in Maine, all kinds of free magazines turn up in your mail. There are Maine magazines that feature food, lobsters, lighthouses, artists, architecture, pets, plants, books and boats.

These magazines advertise, in full-page colored pictures, the good life to be found in Maine. Although there might be nothing in them that interests you, publishers and advertisers hope that you will place these magazines within easy reach of your affluent out-of-state customers.

You might have noticed that most, if not all, of the articles and advertising in these magazines are directed at people who are always in the market for a $2.3 million house overlooking nests of colorful lobster boats in the ubiquitous Maine coast harbor. A seagull sitting on the nearest boat peers pensively into the fog. If it is not foggy, it is flat calm and the red and orange leaves on the trees on the south side of the harbor indicate fall.

Unless you are in the market for a $199 “boyfriend shirt,” there is not much of anything advertised in these magazines that a 10th-generation Mainer would buy – even if she could.

You have seen, in your basic Maine magazine, pictures of these ideal Maine retirement homes, inside and out. Only a few know that the photos were painstakingly taken by a professional photographer, who clicked away over a period of several days beneath banks of artificial lighting.

If all the spit and polish is supported by fiberboard walls, which is likely if the house was built on spec, you won’t see them. What you do see is a lot of glass and polished wood that reaches up and up and up. Often there is no room in the picture for the 35-foot cathedral ceiling.

You look in vain for overflowing bookcases. Where is the clutter of books, some gifts that will never be read and others cherished well-worn classics, dog-eared because you fell asleep while reading them in bed?

Also missing is the patched stuffed chair, perhaps one that, with the flip of a lever, becomes a comfortable recliner.

There is never a car in the driveway, but the lawn is scattered with strange-looking small trees that might be indigenous to Indonesia. There is a 6-foot circle of pristine redwood bark around each one. No dog has ever desecrated the grass, which might have been hauled in that morning as huge brown rolls on a truck.

Should Warner Brothers want to remake “1984,” any one of these houses could serve as a set where Winston could cower behind a spartan corner and avoid the telescreen. To an old Maine man, they are barren, sterile houses, with no sign of the cheer and comfort inevitably found in a Maine house occupied by several generations of the same family – especially if one was known far and wide as the folks who built skiffs in the kitchen when the boatyard shut down.

No. We are not suggesting that for just once we see in a picture a rocking chair’s cane repaired with bait bag twine, but isn’t there a realistic middle ground? When was the last time you wrote to a Maine magazine to let them know how much you loved the granite countertops in your boathouse?

There is certainly a market for buildings that accommodate another lifestyle, although I don’t know where they advertise. A friend, who must remain nameless, told me that he was a partner in a Maine architecture firm. An ad person from a Maine magazine once called and told him that he should advertise.

My friend said that they probably wouldn’t run his firm’s ad.


He said, “Because our ad would say, ‘If most of the stuff in this magazine makes you (sick to your stomach), you might be our kind of client.’ ”

The majority of people do, however, want one of these sterile dream houses, or you wouldn’t see them advertised. One woman, who had a made-to-order home, told my brother that she had a special closet built in the kitchen. Otherwise, people would have seen her toaster.

For over 90 years, Andy Wyeth lived in my neighborhood. Every time he’d paint a picture of a house in town, it would suddenly become a very desirable piece of property and increase in value.

Unfortunately, it usually fell down or was burned up as a training exercise for the local fire department before anyone who appreciated old Maine houses could move in.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website:


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