On my trip to Sunday River this year, I wanted to deviate from the usual ski blog (snow, beer and hot-tubs) and write about something different – “Life of a Liftee”, but it was so cold and I was skiing so much, that I soon gave up on that project. I realized that you have to be on foot, with a camera and a notebook, to actually hang out and interview the lift operators. Pretty hard to do when you’re on skis and with a group. So that may be a future story.

I decided to take Thursday off and take the shuttle to the near-by town of Bethel, Maine. The shuttle bus dropped me off right downtown, so I thought I’d walk up and down the main drag for a couple of hours, then check out the coffee shop before catching the shuttle back. Well, it took me about 15 minutes to take in the entire downtown. Although quite a beautiful little New England town, there was not much happening and after I got my replenishment bag of beer at the grocery store, I headed to DiCocoa’s coffee shop.

Downtown Betel, Maine

Downtown Bethel, Maine

Downtown Betel, Maine

Downtown Bethel, Maine

Downtown Bethel, Maine

Downtown Betel, Maine

Very nice café – just the way I like them – great Americano, cozy atmosphere and a beautiful waitress. Wasn’t there a movie like that, called Key Largo? So I relaxed for a while, enjoyed my cup and read all the home-made jam jars.

DiCocoa's Cafe

DiCocoa’s Cafe. That’s my bag of beer on the Open sign.

Lots of stuff to look at and buy in DiCocoa's Cafe

Lots of stuff to look at and buy in DiCocoa’s Cafe

Inside DiCocoa's Cafe

Inside DiCocoa’s Cafe

The return shuttle was supposed to pick me up right in front of DiCocoa’s and when it came, exactly on schedule, I boarded and found I was the only one on the bus, so I sat right up front with the driver, whose name is Frank (because he reminds me of my uncle Frank).

After we got the “lots of snow”, “how’s the skiing?”, “where ya’ll from?” chit chat out of the way, including a big confusion about how cold it was outside (Celsius vs. Fahrenheit, you know), it was quiet for a spell, then he suddenly asked me “So how do you like government Medicare?”


Searching for a good answer, I envisioned being driven off to his hill-billy shack up in the snow and forest covered, Subaru riddled, Maine backwoods. I’m just a simple Canuck-ski, not Burt Reynolds, but I thought I could hear banjos.

So I said to him “Yeah, I like it, it’s pretty good. We’ve had it for at least 60 years.” He said that they need something like that down there, and so, the real conversation began. I told him that I’m getting my knee and hip done this year and he said “No shit! You mean you don’t have to sell your house and hire a lawyer?” He said that he once read that in Japan, where they make Subaru’s, there are 10 engineers for every lawyer, while in America it’s the other way around. (Actually, Subaru’s are made in Indiana, so the world is not all that bad.)

I told him I read in USA Today, just this morning that a billionaire is going to run for president and get all the jobs back that China stole from America. Frank said “China didn’t steal any jobs; the multi-nationals moved them all to China.” “Yeah,” I said, “we have the same problem in Canada.” Actually in Canada, the jobs get moved to America first, then to China. (Like my last job).

The long bus ride back to the ski resort went by very quickly with this stirring Thursday morning conversation. Frank is a great guy, and very smart and a good conversationalist, and I offered to buy him a beer at the South lodge, but he couldn’t do that. Even this shuttle service was probably going to be discontinued next year due to lack of funds. Not sure if they’re shipping the bus over to China.

Frank said that Canada must be a great place to live. I said it’s the best, but America is right up there beside us, if they only get their measurement system right!

The other thing about Americans, Frank, as well as all the others I met on this trip, is that, one on one, they’re the best — really friendly and great to talk to.

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