Seawall, ME II

You could probably count the full-time population of Seal Cove, Maine on your fingers, but the diminutive town harbors one of America's largest collections of brass-era automobiles. Early Fords are the only recognizable vehicles to the uninitiated, but the long corrugated metal showroom is filled to the brim with more exotic machines, many resembling carriages, some powered by steam. The craftsmanship reveals the small flaws and idiosyncrasies of human hands and is all the more beautiful because of it. Each car is accompanied by a plaque of technical jargon, but many contain accounts of the eccentric individuals behind the cars—overambitious bicycle fabricators, thrill-seeking sons of iron nail manufacturers, tinkerers, dabblers, and amateurs. About half of them seemed to have come from Ohio and western New England. Transmissions are bewilderingly different from car to car, each one necessitating the headache of learning to drive all over again. Each one requiring a different set of nonstandard tools to fix. Many of the sparkling vehicles were kept by the manufacturers on behalf of wealthy owners, only to be removed from the safekeeping of factory garages by trained operators. The breadth of experimental thought is both maddening and inspiring. More than anything else, it is different. These machines betray their age not so much by the primitivism of their mechanics, but by the vanished cultural sensibilities embedded in their very conception of use. They are ludicrous and grossly opulent, but they are also beautiful.

Lobster shacks are more common than gas stations on the drive into Bar Harbor. Tourist vehicles line the roads, their wheels sinking into soft dirt and grass at the roadside. "Do Not Block Driveway" signs adorn the gates of nearby residents, but they are largely ignored. The A-list shacks feature wide stone hearths outside, most of which have four tubs of boiling water embedded over the fire. Each tub is accompanied by a little, cone-topped smokestack and the whole ensemble appears like a filthy power plant seen from a distance. The afternoon is nearly over and the combination of steam and smoke hangs in the air like an amber cloud. A lobster cook emerges from one of the shacks, backwards hat on his head, smeared apron covering a dark t-shirt. He enters the glowing cloud and transforms into a black outline, a Godzilla-like figure towering over the power plant. The sun is lost behind pines, the last silhouetted image being of a monster angrily swinging a set of tongs.