Maine: the land of lobster and blueberries, dense woods and rocky coasts, and stunning natural beauty—at least to most people. On Sunday, the New York Post published columnist Cindy Adams’ review of her presumably recent trip to the Pine Tree State. While she did highlight the state’s friendliness, lack of trash, and great fishing, the review overwhelmingly fell on the negative; particularly, as Adams notes, on the “locals whose behinds overlap the state of Texas all stuffed into shorts.” For good measure, she adds, “Realtors could establish an entire campsite on the average ass,” and takes aim at Mainers’ penchant for beer and flannel. The piece concludes with her excitedly returning to “civilization,” a.k.a, New York City.
The backlash Downeast was swift. By Tuesday, the Bangor Daily News launched its own indignant coverage, as did the Portland-based News Center Maine. On the blog for local radio station 92 Moose FM, columnist Lizzy Snyder wrote, “I expected much more from a fancy, New York Post writer.” By all appearances, the tensions between Maine and New York were even higher than during a Red Sox-Yankees game.
It’s true; Maine is not New York City. Full disclosure, this author grew up in Maine. The photos in the column depict Old Orchard Beach, where I grew up and graduated high school (yes, Old Orchard Beach does have a high school). I initially found Adams’ appraisal and apparent culture shock funny, if somewhat uninformed—perhaps because I now live in New York City, as she does. The people are often poorly dressed by comparison, and, as Adams writes, the state is unfortunately reliant on cars compared to their urban counterparts (hey, you know what they say about a broken clock). Many Mainers would readily concede to this; the laid-back attire and general lack of vanity are features, not bugs.
That said, for many residents, this goes beyond “we can say it but she can’t.” It’s easy to be glib about this and chalk up the conflict as big city/small town friction, the Mainers who spoke with The A.V. Club gave a much more rounded picture of the resentment.
“It’s upsetting to see a visitor speak so poorly about our state,” says Natalie Smith, a mortgage processor who lives in Saco. “Not to mention the number of people that migrated to Maine, buying homes during the height of the pandemic.” (Disclosure: Smith went to high school with the author. He figured it was fine, as Cindy Adams is apparently friends with the literal descendants of the people who founded Maine.)
Smith is right—realtors may be able to establish a campsite on the average Maine ass, but they’ve been woefully inadequate in securing affordable housing for young, prospective homeowners. Smith says she made six offers on homes in 2020 and 2021, each being at least $10,000 over the asking price, and still, has had no luck in buying a home. She believes that many, if not all, of the buyers came from out-of-state and offered cash.
Cris Johnson, a retired attorney who moved from the Manhattan suburbs to Maine in 2009 feels that there is a “perfect storm” of forces working against local buyers. (Yes, Johnson is a family friend. Yes, everyone in Maine does know each other, apparently.) “The demand here is driven by the increasing allure from folks who want to relocate multiplied by investors who want to capitalize on that allure,” he argues to The A.V. Club. “The purchase prices have exploded in recent years and the median income purchase price has risen dramatically.”
The Portland Press Herald has been covering the housing crisis in Maine in-depth. In an August report, they cited an example of a South Portland housing complex being bought by a California firm, resulting in rents rising as much as 35%. While the city council frantically passed an eviction moratorium until November, many residents still worry where they will go.
In Maine, it isn’t uncommon for homes—often owned by out-of-staters—to be leased for nine months, from September to May, and then listed as premium weekly rentals during the summer months. While marketed as a good deal for college students, they’re often the most affordable option for low-income locals. A different Press Herald article published last month profiles one family who, unable to find an available, affordable place to rent for the summer months, used their remaining funds to purchase a van and lived out of it in the parking lot of a Maine Turnpike rest stop. Not only is it an example of the dire circumstances many Mainers face, but why a dismissive column from a New York writer stings so keenly.
“Our housing prices are increasing at the highest rate in the country,” says Sunny Bouthiller, a social worker at an affordable housing non-profit and resident of South Portland. (You guessed it—I also went to high school with Sunny.) “This lady can get bent.” While Bouthiller feels that local municipalities are also not meeting the needs of local residents quickly enough, they still laid the majority of the blame on out-of-state investors.
So… this isn’t quite the funny article this author had intended to write, but it quickly became apparent that that article wouldn’t reflect reality. “It’s totally not funny,” says Bouthiller. “But it is funny to roast Cindy… so we persevere.” In that case, here’s some more roasting of Cindy Adams:
“She’s a fatphobic classist dickhead.” — Haley Kaliher, Old Orchard Beach native.
“That’s just a long list of words with no content… my head hurts.” — Hunter Boutot, Portland resident.
“Cindy Adams is spot on: Maine is a far cry from Southampton. There will be no umbrellas in your beer. The water on our beaches will wilt your privates and it’s hard to find linen napkins … We like it… and we like that you don’t.” — Chris Johnson, Saco resident.