I figured the coastal town of Camden would be quiet on a Wednesday night following Labor Day.

I was wrong, but the visit was compelling nonetheless.

Former newspaper colleagues I worked with more than 30 years ago were on a four-day hiatus from their busy New Jersey lives and invited us to join them for dinner on the water.

Terry and Mike were staying in Rockport with their dog, Lily, and met us on a pier in Camden where we had to wait more than an hour to be seated outdoors.

Though I was starving after a long day of work, I found the wait, in retrospect, worth it.

I have what some people might deem a personality flaw in that I am fascinated by strangers — their faces, demeanor, what they wear, where they’re from and what they do.

So my eye was always wandering as Mike, a former journalist-turned-novelist, and my husband Phil chatted about old times in the newsroom and Terry and I talked about our jobs. She works for a large pharmaceutical company.

For the most part, those strolling the waterfront were what many refer to as the “beautiful people,” with their toned and tanned bodies, designer clothing, fancy hair cuts and pricy perfumes that wafted through the balmy air. I imagined movie producers, writers, bankers and other executives, retirees reaping the last vestiges of a coastal Maine summer.

We don’t get a lot of that clientele in Waterville, where people appear more down-home, unpretentious and practical — or maybe that’s just my interpretation. So I was intrigued in this venue.

The more I snoop-watched, the more I encountered faces contorted by cosmetic injections and plastic surgery, unlike those you see in central Maine where folks are less likely to want or afford facial reconstruction.

“Terry, is it just me or are there are lot of frightening-looking people here, like those you see in a horror movie?” I asked.

She confirmed my observation, which led to our discussion about a woman she knows who is nearly unrecognizable from many facial surgeries she has had over the years.

I acknowledge I am also guilty of eavesdropping on strangers and did my fair share of that while waiting for dinner, though I discovered most of their chit-chat was about mundane things.

I learned that dog owners — and our restaurant allowed dogs — are part of an unnamed club. They stop to talk with other people walking dogs, permit their animals to touch noses and compare canine personalities.

A middle-aged woman with large glasses and curly hair was pushing what I later learned was a dog stroller, while her husband led their white Scottie on a leash. Terry and Mike’s dog, Lily, turned in circles when she encountered the animal, which I was told meant she was delighted.

“Where are you from,” the husband asked us.

I like such questions, because they invite conversation. The couple said they were from Worcester, Massachusetts, and their Scottie loves traveling.

“Her name is Ziti Linguini Fettucini,” the man said jovially. “We’re Italian!”

The dog was wearing a jacket on which its name was embroidered. I found myself uttering the dog’s name aloud, repeatedly.

It was dark by the time we were seated, and had a fine dinner. Then we strolled through the emptied-out downtown before going our separate ways.

I thought about how Camden is lovely on a September night, far from its daytime crowds and bumper-to-bumper traffic.

A man on a balcony above the storefronts waved to us as he hoisted his wine glass. I imagined he was spending the last night in what he deemed this quaint seaside town.

We peered in windows at displays of nautical-themed bags, clothing and home goods, likely produced in faraway places. Feeling particularly sated with good food and company, I thought, “What’s the harm, if the tourists are enjoying the fantasy of it all?”

Maine is, after all, a quaint destination, whether seaside or inland — and the latter offers a whole other sort of intrigue.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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