« Father's advice to son was 'write stuff' |
| Independence Day: What would Founding Fathers say? »
Ode to Portsmouth: Paradise by the Piscataqua
PORTSMOUTH Seriously, Chicago Tribune travel writer
Portsmouth is that perfect? "So ideal that I ache,
I envy and I curse my childhood for not including your idyllic
In case you haven't heard, "perfect" Portsmouth
got a poetic pat on the posterior last week from a Windy
City travel columnist who blew in for a quick visit and
discovered a charming, brick-lined paradise where the only
litter is dollar bills and homeless people dine on free
The breathless opening of his
Port City paean mimicked, then quoted above
has inspired considerable fresh-roasted coffee talk
about whether his overly effusive tone and whimsical sentimentality
included at least a modicum of gentle mockery.
Now, as a longtime resident whose family has operated a
downtown business since 1978 and as a writer who
has oft paid homage to Portsmouth's incomparable charms
I consider myself to be among the most ardent champions
of our fair Market Square.
But the gentleman from Chicago has raised the bar to Old
North Church steeple-like levels.
Among my favorite lines:
"Oh, Portsmouth, lovely little town of 21,000 with
the perfect dab of salty grime behind the ear, mostly from
the naval shipyard that calls you home."
Little-known fact: Our intoxicating salt air is a special
blend combining industrial sodium chloride, dusky New England
road salt and a top-secret seasoning first discovered in
the Orient by Portsmouth explorer Macro Polo.
Oh, Portsmouth: "Your cozy downtown streets curve
just so, with rows of adorable shops bending out of sight
with the promise of more adorable shops."
Little-known fact: Local lore has it that our signature
9-degree street curves were designed by Sir John Wentworth
based on theories advanced by Leonardo Da Vinci, Copernicus
Oh, Portsmouth, thy charm flows forth "in your waterfront
seafood restaurants, where boats stream by as if on cue."
Little-known fact: Our rugged waterfront tugs those
hard-charging, oft-photographed symbols of life on the river
have consistently been voted "most picturesque
on the Eastern Seaboard" by Tugboat Aficionado. (My
brother Bob once distilled their iconic significance to
our city, and their power to both pull ships and inspire
souls, into the slogan: "Portsmouth Tugs at
Oh, Portsmouth: "You seem to be almost wholly made
of the most perfect red brick I have ever seen."
Little-known fact: If you lined up all the bricks in Portsmouth
end to end, they would stretch all the way to Jupiter, with
plenty left over to build three or four gigantic, unnecessary
Oh, Portsmouth: "You have been lauded as one of the
nation's most kid-friendly, walkable, food-centric, historic,
livable and romantic cities. On any East Coast car trip,
you are a charming little must."
Car trip, you say?
While Mr. Noel's ode has created quite a buzz, he avoided
poking his finger into the hornet's nest that is Portsmouth's
parking "situation" (also routinely described
as a "quandary," "crisis," and full-on
Little-known fact: Another reason homeless people might
be inclined to love Portsmouth: They generally do not possess
"cars," and thus do not need to "park"
(Note to any homeless people considering relocating to
Portsmouth: The all-you-can-eat free lobster deal is only
available to direct descendents of Tobias Lear, Celia Thaxter
and Captain John Paul Jones.)
Oh, Portsmouth: "You stir the soul for a simpler time..."
Little-known fact: When President George Washington came
here in 1789, he did not book the presidential suite at
the Sheraton Harborside.
Finally, our visitor from Chicago, in his glowing report
that is certain to draw ever more tourists, quoted a local
old-timer complaining that the place has become overrun
"Really, it's your own fault," Mr. Noel concluded.
"It's what you get for being so darn perfect, Portsmouth."
Touche! And thank you.
If Portsmouth ever gets too full, we'll just sent the tourist
overflow to Chicago where the shimmering lakes are
a perfect crystal blue and the homeless people eat free
* This column appeared in the Sunday, June 23, 2013, Portsmouth
(N.H.) Herald. See
Posted on June 23, 2013 12:37 PM
Previous post: Father's advice to son was 'write stuff'.
Next post: Independence Day: What would Founding Fathers say?.