In May of 2019, I took what I think was the most important trip of my life. Edison and I went to Bangor, Maine. Exciting, right? When you consider that my favorite author has his summer home there, grew up near there, and set a few of his more famous books in a fictional city based on Bangor, then, yeah, I was pretty excited about it. The last time I had traveled to anywhere outside the Pacific Northwest was nearly thirty years earlier, on a trip to Irving, Texas to visit the campus of the University of Dallas, and that trip had all been planned for me. This trip to Bangor was my baby. I booked a tour of my favorite author's Bangor settings (I urge you to check out SKTours. It's run by a very friendly couple who are very knowledgeable about all things related to Stephen King), I booked the flights, and I booked the lodging. The only thing I left to a friend that I was meeting there was the ground transportation. For our second full day there, I booked a walking ghost tour of Bangor, also. Just for something fun to do. I urge you all to contact the Bangor Historical Society to participate in that, too, if you're ever in that area.
We visited Mt. Hope Cemetery, where Pet Sematary was filmed, and where it's said that King found some inspiration for a few of his other stories. The photo at the top of this blog is of a crypt at Mt. Hope. I don't know who is entombed there, and it has no connection to King that I'm aware of, but it encapsulates and projects every dark and creepy, sinister and mysterious, and utterly gothic feeling or thought I have about cemeteries. Don't be surprised if it shows up in one of my stories someday.
We saw the standpipe from IT, and the statue of Paul Bunyan. We saw the buildings where one of the kids in the Losers Club lived. We saw the Barrens, and, of course, we visited the stormdrain where little Georgie Denbrough encounters Pennywise. I'll include a great picture of Pennywise reaching up to pet Edison. We saw Mr. King's house, and his radio stations (he owns three. WKIT plays some great classic rock!). We visited the Bangor library and the children's hospital, where the Kings have done some truly heroic charitable work. And we went to the mental institution that serves as the basis for Juniper Hill. Every one of these stops was accompanied by stories and anecdotes. It was a fan's dream come true.
The next day was when I learned something valuable about writing. On the ghost tour, we heard about the local ghost stories and legends. A famous gangster was shot to death on a downtown city street. Stephen King grew up listening to and learning these stories and legends, and they've worked their way into his writing. Ideas don't have to be totally original. In fact, since that day, I've learned that people in the know figure that there are only a handful or two of basic themes. It's the author's style and voice that make stories original and unique. And settings should be more than just geographical; they should be cultural, as well. The setting can be a character just as much as the, well, characters.
The other valuable thing I learned from that trip was that I can do it. Whatever "it" is. I planned the trip, I got my guide dog through it despite his ugly trail of nervousness (sorry, Seattle, Phoenix, and Philadelphia airports), and there were no major mishaps, except for Edison's famous Trail of Smears.