I tell the girls, and remind myself, all the time that we are so lucky to live in a place that so many people want to visit. Imagine, they live somewhere landlocked, surrounded by highways, billboards, big box stores, and other 21st century soul pollution, and fantasize constantly about coming to Maine. They wait all year, they plan and save, to spend a few days or weeks where we get to be all the time. We live in a special place, I say. And even though it can be a struggle, in March, when the days are dull and ugly, looking around at our neighbors and wondering what might happen if the climate gets too warm too fast, if the lobster migrate north, if we lose fishing and therefore tourism as a means to make a living, I never forget why I chose this place.
This notion is never more apparent than in summer, when Rockland’s Main Street is buzzing with out-of-towners in their polo shirts and Vineyard Vines shorts, going to galleries and looking for lobster. I don’t mind them at all. I love that they are here, and want to be a part of our town. I try to live vicariously through them, pretend to be away while I am home. People on vacation are often at their best. Life is hard, and this is their place to escape. It must seem so quaint to them, so out of time and even a little out of touch. They see ships and gulls and pines across the sea and try and figure out how they can come here more often, how they could live in this remote location. I am happy to share my shops with them, and watch them unfold their maps.
I am only borrowing this place, after all. And every day of summer I try to do one thing that feels like a holiday from the stress of my everyday life. If only for a few minutes I bask in the sun, walk somewhere lovely, and eat all the ice cream that I can. We know how fleeting this season is and every minute counts for pleasure. In hot weather there is perhaps no greater pleasure than licking a dripping ice cream. We’ve recently observed just how many options we have for sundaes, cups, and cones around downtown Rockland and beyond. I’ve taken it upon myself to research all our options. Because my work here is so important, I am going to sample the goods at every ice cream shop, each gelato store, even the goddam frozen yogurt places, in an effort to deliver the reviews to you, fair visitor.
So, if you’re on your way to Midcoast Maine to live out your Vacationland dreams, to soak up the Wyeths at The Farnsworth and the dynamic new works at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, to sail on big-belled ships and remember a world that is simpler and safer, this is the guide you need now. Because after every lobster roll, there ought to be an ice cream cone.
I’ve begun my study at Lulu’s, located half a block behind Main Street, down a little side street between Rock City Coffee and The Strand art house theater. It is in the backyard of Fog Bar and Cafe, one of Rockland’s higher end hangouts for cocktails, snacks, and atmosphere; the owners of both businesses also run The Black Parrot, a boutique I frequent every Christmas to buy Malcolm a silver tube of Marvis toothpaste and other stocking stuffers from their curation of beautiful things. Whenever I am sitting at one of the tables there, I feel I am on vacation somewhere lovely, not necessarily in Maine, but a rarified setting, which is one of its charms. If you’re looking for decorative buoys and Ayuh folksiness, this isn’t for you. It feels as if you’re in a little city in a world where everything is gracious and good. The plot is concrete and brick, with an urban garden on one side and the outdoor seating for Cafe Miranda on the other. There are strung up lights and a Vespa getting rusty. Tinny blues or jazz or bluegrass plays on a record player. There is always a cute girl behind the counter.
Lulu’s serves Stone Fox Farm Creamery ice cream and gelato, some of which is homemade, out of a jauntily-decorated shed. I love Stone Fox Farm ice cream. It is so rich and always made with the very best ingredients. On our first visit this year we had a cone of the chocolate and a small vanilla gelato, offered in a delicate cup with that adorable little flat head gelato spoon. The vanilla was fine, but the chocolate is the truth. I spent $10.27, including tip. They source their gelato from Gorgeous Gelato and Gelato Fiasco. Yelper Michael L. from St Louis , MO has this to say about his experience: “This place slangs that dope ice cream, sorbet, and gelato. Nice little outside spot to get your sugar fix between exhibitions at the Farnsworth.” I cannot disagree with his assessment. My very favorite flavors are ginger and Maine blueberry, which you should consider getting as a shake. I hope to linger there in the art-filled alley one hot night soon, in between an indie movie and a boozy nightcap, imagining journeys to other pretty, lucky places and remembering the ones I have had.
Lulu’s is located on Oak Street in Rockland. They are open every day until mid-September from 1-9:30, weather permitting. Cards and cash accepted.