Even though New England was the heart of the original thirteen colonies, in my experience you’re more likely to find this type of flag flying here than this one. For me there’s no real surprise here: Boston is a city that takes its sports seriously, and the Bruins flag is as much a symbol of Beantown as the Old North Church. I can certainly relate—New Englanders are my people and hockey my sport, but even beyond that, I know what it’s like for a winning goal to feel something like a religious experience.
Don’t believe me? Ask Our Lady of the Slapshot here.
As you already know, I’m a big fan of francophone lobsters. Well, just down the street from the world’s largest homard is this lobsta joint, complete with excellent French lettering.
Not to be outdone by its Canadian cousin, New England’s got some great lobster neon, as well. In Kittery, Maine, just across the Piscataqua from Portsmouth, NH (home of that other bit of vintage nautical neon), is one of my favorite sea-creature signs. But I have to admit, I took a bit of artistic license with this one: I happen to have an old menu from Warren’s and the design of that thing puts even its own sign to shame. So I replaced certain bits of the sketch with some of my favorite elements from the menu.
(I should get my Artistic License laminated and keep it in my wallet—because I’m not afraid to use it!)
If you want the best cannoli it’s possible to get outside of Italy, you really can’t go wrong in Boston’s North End—there are plenty of places that will deliver the goods (special shout-out to Maria’s!). Probably the most famous are Modern Pastry and it’s rival, Mike’s. I’ve visited both many times over the years, and you know? They’re both wonderful. (Mike’s is especially good if you want something other than a cannoli, for a change—lots and lots of choices there.) To me it’s not worth it to go into the finer points of which ricotta is slightly sweeter, which shell is heavier, etc. Either way, I’m not complaining.
But hey—I’m an illustrator, not a food critic. If it’s going to take something extra to make me choose between two fabulous pasticcerie, I’m goin’ with the place with the best neon sign.
I wasn’t there at the time of the Marathon bombings last year—I was here, on the opposite coast. But Boston is my home city, and I remember feeling at the time that I had to do something, no matter how small. So I grabbed the first thing I always think of—my sketchbook—and put together this little tribute while I waited anxiously for news with the rest of the country.
A year later, I’m still far from the scene, but you can bet I’ll be cheering for the marathon runners this year, and for my favorite city. Stay strong, Boston.
These days there are many places where the Freedom Trail is marked with ugly red paint on concrete. But wherever you can find the path traced in brick, running out from one of the old bronze markers—well, that’s where you can almost feel history pulsing under your feet.
If you ever have to ask for directions in New England, beware. Folks there have a tendency to reference landmarks that no longer exist (this quirk is bred into me, too—sorry to anyone I’ve ever confused). “Turn left where the pizza place used to be.” “Go just past where the old highway ran through before they put in a rotary.” “It’s across the street from Bob’s old shop, but it’s called something else now—can’t remember what it is.” If you don’t already know a place like a local, it can be maddening.
Yoken’s is the perfect example: a regional landmark that absolutely everybody in the area knows well, but that is long defunct (ten years now). The sign is still there, though, and is even in the middle of being restored. Thank goodness—and I don’t just mean for anyone giving directions in Portsmouth. Even more so than its brother down the road in Massachusetts, this thing is an absolute masterwork of design.
Long live the Yoken’s whale, the Queen of Route One—may she be a guiding landmark for decades to come.
Rhode Island is not actually an island, but it sure feels like one sometimes—in fact, it’s kind of a (parallel!) universe unto itself. Only in Rhode Island would you find something called Coffee Syrup—you know, for your coffee milk. (Chocolate milk? Not a chance.) It’s the only place where you’d order a cabinet and not be talking about furniture. Where public buildings are installed with bubblers*, not drinking fountains. Where you’d never be caught dead eating a hot dog—not when you could have a hot wiener sandwich (which is not the same thing). And where the best place to order a hot wiener in New England is where they spell it “weiner,” at a place with “New York”in the name.
*Actually, you can find bubblers in Wisconsin, too, oddly enough. While you’re there, pick up some ho-made soup to complement your hot wiener sandwich.
You already know I’ll drive hours and hours out of my way for roadside attractions, but I’ve also been known to make some ridiculous detours and extra-long pit stops for lighthouses. As a result, I have a lot of sketchbook drawings similar to this one. I could probably keep this blog going for half a year on lighthouses alone, but then you’d be well justified in jumping ship on me. So I had to make some tough choices this week. In the end, I let geography be my…er…guiding light (sorry): this week we’ll be making “stops” on the Atlantic coast, the Pacific coast, and right in between, on one of the Great Lakes.
I’ll start in the east today, with the only lighthouse that was guaranteed a spot this week. Maine’s Nubble Light has a special place in my heart because I used to come here with my grandfather, who loved lighthouses more than anyone I’ve ever known. He never seemed to mind the tourists that would descend here (or if he did, he never let me see it)—after all, the view is so spectacular it’s well worth braving a crowd.
Still, though, it’s even better if you can manage to have the place to yourself for a little while. On this day Cape Neddick played host to myself, the Tailor and my mother—and not a soul else.
Well…maybe one other soul—or at the very least, a memory. In a way, these sketches are a tribute to the man who gave me a love of lighthouses.