Lewiston. The Armpit of Maine. The people of Maine don't often think of Lewiston-Auburn in a positive light. Even as a child raised in a small town half an hour outside the city I knew Lewiston for its Lisbon Street hookers and it's dangerous alleyways. I knew Auburn for it's shopping, not even realizing people actually lived in this city. Since I moved here in 2003 I've viewed the area as a stepping stone. I've been biding my time until I could afford to move to a bigger city with a better arts scene.
Something has changed in me recently. And I think something has also changed in this community. I'm falling in love with this city and its inhabitants. I never thought I would say that. Walking to work every day has forced me to slow down and appreciate what we have here. I've found fountains and benches and beautiful brick work I never knew existed. I've met amazing people and seen unique acts of kindness.
This summer I've attended a series of Art Walks that have been a lot of fun. I've gotten to know quite a few community members through those events and the collections of art galleries that have recently opened. I've become aquainted with the people who previously were afraid to walk Lisbon Street, and now on the last friday of each month pour out of their homes and laugh together on those sidewalks. I've attended open mic nights at a local UU Church and at the library. I've seen teens with musical talent we'll be buying off of ITunes one day.
Through the campaign job I'm doing this summer I've met a lot of the local politicians. The people running these two cities and the people running for office this fall because they hope to change things in this area. People here have hope. The face of Lewiston-Auburn is changing and these amazing people are at the forefront of this change. I have felt honored to get to know them.
I've also met some amazing poets, authors, artists, musicians, photographers. I've met people using this corner of Maine to reach out and change the world and people using these two cities to hide from a world they tired of. This has to be one of the most diverse areas in the state. Sitting on a bench by Gritty's any number of characters can walk past you. Business owners, old hippies, internationally known movers and shakers.
One day while on the gay marriage campaign trail I met a woman who was in her 60's and told me her brother just died recently and the only friends who really supported her were the lesbians next door. She wanted to fight for their right to marry in this state as a form of thanks to them. I met a sixteen year old hispanic boy dressed like a pimp - complete with giant bling earrings - who was horrified to discover his mother doesn't vote and spoke passionately about the recent political campaigns facing this state.
Yesterday I met an amazing man who is an internationally known photographer. A few weeks ago I exchanged email addresses with a man who is a local poet. He sent me a beautiful poem about the bridges we cross in life. I met women who remember when Lisbon Street was bustling with people walking through the snow to bring home Christmas treasures, and believe it will one day look like that again.
A few months ago I was spending most of my time working in a different city and I was desperately feeling like a nomad. My whole life I have been deeply entrenched in the community I lived in no matter where that was. I have always volunteered at community events, known every face and every home in the area. In the eight years I've lived here I haven't felt that. Until now.
Today I can't wait to finish this blog so I can get out into this beautiful community. Smile at the familiar faces, grab a coffee at a cafe and maybe stop by the library and say hello to the kind women who work there. Walk the beautiful riverwalk to work and snap a few photos of the historic walking bridge that connects the twin cities.
Thanks to a temporary part-time job and a failing SUV I have found new roots. I've established a relationship with a city I was simply existing in before this. I have fallen in love with Lewiston-Auburn. I have crossed a bridge in my life.