I just spent 3 very nice days fishing the Rapid River in Maine. It was a Memorial trip, honoring a fishing friend who passed away a few weeks back. He loved fishing the Rapid, and even more loved staying at Lakewood Camps, a series of 10 rustic fishing camps located at Middedam, along the upper section of the river.
We had connected there a few years back, and I spent the night in one of the cabins so we could fish again the next day. I remembered it being very rustic and homely, with bare wooden cabins reminiscent of the 1930’s, and a cozy lodge with a fireplace and home cooked meals. A real blast from the past.
This time, however, my impressions were very different.
My cabin initially looked rustic and woodsy, but when I went inside it just looked impoverished. The floors were severely out of flat…the walk to the bathroom was distinctly uphill, and the floorboards sagged and creaked with each step so badly I feared that I would punch through. The windows were seized up with wide gaps and a few cracks, and the doors did not close or seal tightly. The walls were uninsulated, with bare boards and spiders in the crevices, and the toilet was clunky and noisy. The bathtub looked like something from a dump run, and there was a broken hot water tank blocking easy access to the sink. The plumbing was exposed, rusty and in most cases, non-functional.
All in all, it reminded me of a poor man’s shanty somewhere in the depression, where malnourished kids would play in the dirt and wear dirty clothes and have unwashed faces. It was poverty.
The camps might have been a gem in the wilderness back in the 1930s, but by today’s standards they were run down, broken, and with the drafty wood stove that did not throw any heat, but did throw sparks, when the night got down to 28°, they were even dangerous.
The camps rent for $180 per night…with all the hidden fees and taxes, my two night stay came to $455…the equivalent of a stay at the Hilton.
For someone unfamiliar with abject poverty, this would be a novel and interesting experience. It would be easy to mistake dilapidation for Character, but I know what poverty looks like. It seems that the folks at Lakewood want to sell some fictitious product and there are folks willing to pay for it.
I told some friends about my experience, and my newly-cointed term for it, and they shared a similar experience…spending $150 a night to sleep in an artist’s colony off the Maine Coast on a remote Island. But instead of feeling like they were in a creative, enriched environment with a higher sensitivity to beauty, uncluttered by the trappings of modern society…they froze their assess off in a bare bones hut, sleeping on a cot with too few blankets, eating what could only be classified as substandard meals served on cracked crockery.
Poverty Tourism is the Emperor’s new clothing. Sell them an experience of nothing wrapped in an ideal, and tell them that it’s rich with its stripped-down version of the Real World, unclutterd and without the distractions of modern civilization.
Nonsense, it’s poverty. And there is nothing appealing (or sellable) about it.