A Bucket List Visit to “Derry,” Maine

Let’s get this straight–I have been a Stephen King fan for over 35 years. I have read all of his books, and own all but a handful; I’m currently in the process of replacing all of my paperbacks with hardcovers…anyone out there have a first edition of Carrie they’d be willing to part with, by chance?

Anyway–I digress. My family and I moved to Southern Maine just over two years ago; for my 50th birthday last year, my daughter gave me a homemade voucher for me and the guest of my choice to experience the Stephen King Tour in Bangor (website here)

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Now, I’m not one for participating in anything overtly “touristy”–especially being from “away” (this is a Maine-ism for anyone not born here), I do my best to not make it obvious…but I had the time of my life on this three-hour mini-van trek through the streets of Bangor, King’s inspiration for his fictional go-to setting of Derry, Maine.

My daughter gamely joined me on this adventure–and while she has read some King books, I’m sure that, after three solid hours of listening to Stu (owner, driver, and tour guide extraordinaire) and me geek out over all things King, she was regretting joining me…

Having grown up in Bangor, Stu and his wife are friends of the King family–and he was generous with all sorts of facts, anecdotes, and stories that I’d never heard before. After I was able to recognize certain settings in town before Stu had the chance to pull over and regale us with the story behind that particular location (case in point: the “standpipe” from, among other titles, It), I came to a realization about my favorite author. I always thought the reason I loved his writing so much was his amazing character development–each and every one of them (and, for the love of Pete, there are so MANY) feel like old friends. But after my “Derry” experience last week, I now realize that I also had been taking for granted Mr. King’s uncanny ability to describe a setting–without ever seeming to be doing so. His knack for observing his surroundings and then putting them to paper–so that we, the Constant Readers, can see what he saw–is a skill and an art, one I can only aspire to. I shared this thought with Stu (who now felt like an old friend to me), and he wholeheartedly agreed.

Just after we stopped at the King of Horror’s house for a few pictures (see above for one), I mentioned my ongoing mission (read: obsessive compulsion) to gather hardcover editions of my King collection…and after the three hour tour, Stu stopped at an antiques consignment shop in the center of town, where he escorted us to a booth belonging to a former bookstore owner who had just closed up his shop. $100 later–but jubilant at the prospect of crossing off 6 “still need hardcover” titles off of my list–we were back at our car, thanking Stu for an amazing (well, for me, anyway) morning.

Back at home 2 1/2 hours later, as I was carefully inserting my newest additions into their alphabetically appropriate spots on my bookshelves, it occurred to me that the day had been just shy of perfect; the only thing that could possibly have made it better would have been to meet the man himself…and, as he and Tabby are still in Florida for a few more weeks, I knew that wasn’t going to be in the cards. But, hey–who’s to say I can’t go again? Maybe my pal Stu can set something up…

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