I’m a Bangor guy. Well, to be more precise, I’m a Brewer guy who got lost and ended up on the wrong side of the river. Either way, this is my home. I’m proud to be from here … and to remain here.
And when some national magazine or website or pundit singles out Bangor as a pretty cool place to be, I’m among those who nods my head, stands a bit taller, and thinks, “What took you so long to figure that out?”
That was the case earlier this week when Livability.com named Bangor one of its Top 10 Winter Cities. Forget, for a moment, that I had no idea that something called “Livability.com” even existed. Forget that I’ve got no idea whether the good folks at Livability.com are qualified to make such a bold pronouncement.
Instead, focus on this (and chant along, if you choose): We’re Number 7! We’re Number 7!
Sure, we trail Anchorage and Fargo and Bozeman. Let’s forget all that, too. Why? Because we beat the pants off Spokane, Lebanon and Gillette, that’s why.
(If you need a little help with the last two, Lebanon is in Pennsylvania, Gillette is in Wyoming).
So, what did we do to deserve such an honor? Well, here’s the deal: We nearly froze to death. That was a requirement for inclusion on the list. I’m not joking: If your city’s average temperature is above 32 degrees in January, it was automatically eliminated from consideration. As it turns out, our average January low is 8 degrees, so we made the cut to the final 500.
After that, it gets more complicated. The Livability.com editors considered all kinds of stuff, like affordable housing (we’ve got it!), unemployment rate (we don’t have as much of it as others!), and … well … attitude.
According to the press release that heralded Bangor (and those others, which we won’t mention again), it was important for people in the qualifying city to “embrace the cold and even view it as a valuable commodity.”
That, I figure, put us over the top. We Bangor residents (and even we transplanted Brewerites) truly embrace the cold. Or, more accurately, the cold embraces us. And since we’re Mainers, we know that it doesn’t do any good to complain about what you can’t change, so we simply shut our mouths and freeze our butts off with smiles on our faces. Or grimaces that look (at least to the folks from Livability.com) a lot like smiles.
Our proximity to lakes, forests, and outdoor recreation were also cited, and while I can’t compare our offerings to places I’ve never visited, like, say, Lebanon or Gillette (which, as I might have mentioned, we beat the pants off), I’ve got to say that the Livability.com jury reached the right verdict.
Consider: It’s pretty cool that you could stop by the Ski Rack near the Bangor Mall, buy a pair of cross country skis and some gear, and be putting it to use in the Bangor City Forest less than five minutes later. Try that in Miami. Oh. That’s right. Miami didn’t make the cut: They just missed out on that pesky 32-degree regulation.
Here in Bangor, you can stop by a sporting goods store, buy ice fishing traps, head out Essex Street, and put ’em to use at Pushaw Lake. Sure, you’re in Orono by then, not Bangor. Don’t be a nit-picker. Enjoy yourself! You might even catch a pike. Which (since they were illegally introduced) isn’t necessarily a good thing. But it would still make for quite a day.
You could go to Bangor Municipal Golf course and snowshoe for hours. If you headed deep into the woods on the left side of the 12th fairway, got down on your hands and knees and dug for a bit, I’m also quite sure you’d find several of my old, abandoned golf balls.
You could slide down what many locals call “Essex Street Hill” (use caution … it’s steep and dangerous). You could skate at a number of local parks that flood rinks for public use.
You could hike. Jog. Make a snowman. Have a snowball fight.
Simply put (as the editors of Livability.com point out), you could freeze your tail feathers off … and smile about it.
Or was that a grimace?