After Boston, I drove up to Bangor, Maine. Maine is really far up North and out of the way, but has been on my bucket list for awhile. It is where Stephen King lives (most of the time) and where the majority of his stories are based.
I have a special connection to Stephen King's stories. I am, and always have been, a slow reader and have had trouble finding books that I genuinely enjoy to read. My relationship with reading only got worse in college. Because all you do in college is read academic articles and books. So for awhile, I wasn't reading anything for fun. I have always been a fan of horror films, but had never read a horror novel. I decided to read my very first Stephen King novel: The Shining. *Spoiler* I was hooked from the beginning because of how realistic and disturbing one of the opening scenes is. This scene describes when Jack (the main character and alcoholic father) breaks Danny's arm (at the time Jack's four year old son). Since The Shining, I have been a "constant reader".
Stephen King has also been very political. He is very outspoken in public, but he also writes about his progressive ideologies. It is another reason that I have identified and supported his work for years.
When I first booked my trip to Bangor, Maine I had no idea what I was going to do other than visit Stephen King's house. While I was planning my trip I was receiving advertisements across all social media platforms about activities and things to do all over the country.
One of them came from Maine: a three hour Stephen King Tour. I obviously booked my spot (about a month in advance) and there were only 3 spaces left! If you ever venture out to Maine, I highly suggest you take the Stephen King tour in Bangor and remember to book your tour early. The tour is interesting regardless if you are interested in horror or not, it is not all spooky. Of course you get to travel through the cemetery where some inspiration for the novel Pet Sematary came from (and where parts of the original movie were filmed). The tour really showcases King's rise to fame, with the help of his wife, Tabitha, and how the two of them have supported the Bangor community for decades.
As soon as the tour started, I was excited to see all of the pride flags and Black Lives Matter signs posted all over the community. On the tour, I learned that Bangor is the leader of LGBTQIA+ rights in the state of Maine. In 1984, Stephen King was writing one of his most famous novels: It. While writing the novel, Charlie Howard, a 23 year old, was assaulted and thrown into the Kenduskeag Stream for being gay. Unfortunately, Howard died because he did not know how to swim and had an asthma attack. This crime became known as the first LGBTQIA+ hate crime in Northern Maine. King added this tragic story to the opening scene of It, but changed the character's name to "Adrian Mellon". At the time, people were disgusted that King would write about such a thing, but it forced the community to discuss LGBTQIA+ rights and remember Charlie Howard. To this day, every Pride event in Bangor makes time to honor Howard's life.
There are a lot of amazing things that Stephen and Tabitha King have done for Bangor. For example, the hospital in Bangor supports the entire Northern part of the state. King has been known to go into the children's ward and read to all of the children. The Kings also donated enough money to build a library in the children's ward as well as rooms for family members to stay overnight. Among some of the other things that the King's have donated to the community are: fixing the sidewalk and the leak in the town's library (they donated enough money so that the city was able to add on a cafe as well as make it wheelchair accessible), a baseball stadium which hosts little league and local high school players, a waterpark which is accessible to differently abled children and only costs $1 to enter so all kids have access, as well as several different parks in the area. Additionally, Stephen King owns a local radio station that plays rock music. One of the hosts is Alice Cooper! I obviously had the radio station on the entire time I was in Bangor, but I also learned that you can download an app and listen to the station for free anywhere!
I realize that most of this blog entry is me fan-girling over Stephen King. I cannot deny that I am a major Stephen and Tabitha King fan (definitely not a number one fan like Annie Wilkes). But I would also like to add how I was pleasantly surprised by Bangor. Since my experience in Scranton was such a let down, I was worried that Bangor and my other small town adventures would be just as terrible. Bangor is a beautiful place. There are a lot of trees and hiking areas (all of those waterways in It are the actual lay out of Bangor waterways, they are beautiful as long as you don't come across Pennywise). During the day, I was comfortable in shorts and a tee-shirt and for dinner I changed into jeans and ate outdoors. I was ready to spend the entire summer up there. With that being said, I would not want to live up there during the winter (Stephen King no longer lives there during the winter either!). During the winter, Bangor has an average of 70 feet of snowfall per season! So, if you plan to enjoy Maine (specifically northern Maine) I highly suggest you go late Spring/early Summer or late Summer/early Fall.