“I left my harp in Sam Clam’s Disco.” — Jodie Laltoo
Since I hadn’t been on the East Coast for more than 20 years, I had to make a side trip up to Maine to visit a long-lost sorority sister. Jodie Laltoo was originally from Maine, but through a very long string of convoluted events, she ended up in Hawaii and graduated from Kahuku High School. Many people thought that her last name was Tongan, but she’s actually half Indian (“Ghandi Indian,” as she defines it) and half English.
We pledged together at the University of Hawaii, and she was the first person I’d ever met who was so friendly, wild, outrageous and transparent — I thought it was an East Coast thing — and although she was usually very spontaneous, she loved standing traditions. She was broke, but always generous with what she had, and crazy smart but often cut class. So she would get things done (she graduated early, in fact) but was also a huge partier, so sometimes things … didn’t get done. Now that I think about it, though, she never threw anyone under the bus, just owned any shortcomings, loudly and proudly.
My parents thought she was hilarious. They tried to introduce her to local foods, but I don’t think she liked a lot of it. One day, she tried to make musubis on her own (and remember, this was before there was the luxury of the internet) with Uncle Ben’s long grain rice, while using butter to hold them together into balls. Needless to say, they weren’t very popular. I can still hear my parents cracking up as she told them.
I didn’t realize it until I started planning this trip that one of the last times I actually saw Jodie was at a Sigma Lambda party, making out with this guy that she just met, James Nielsen. I didn’t know it til now, but that night when they kissed, they freakishly knew they had met their soul mate. They immediately cocooned, graduated, then moved to Maine — then got married and had two kids.
They’ve been together 30 years, which is the same amount of time that’s passed since I had last seen her. Thirty years?! Are we really old enough to say shit like that? How upsetting.
I’m going to show you my trip photos a little out of order, just to get things in context.
When James moved to Maine, he did it sight unseen. All he knew was that he wanted to be with Jodie. Now, James is half Korean, and I always considered him white, but when he got there, he was blown away at how homogenous the culture is. In fact, he and Jodie are the most exotic people there!
Then she took him to the beach near where she grew up. “That’s not a beach, that’s a mud flat!” he exclaimed.
When Jodie and James first got to Maine, they opened a shave ice stand. James had worked at a shave ice store while attending Moanalua High School, so he knew the ins and outs and how to properly make a cone. Remember, out here, James is exotic, so the locals call him “Hawaiian Jim.” That seemed like the perfect name for a shave ice shop.
Hawaiian Jim’s Shave Ice
7 Railroad Ave.
York, ME 03909
Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier
16 Chauncey Creek Rd.
Kittery Point, ME
I figured that since Jodie is half Indian, finding the best food of her culture might be a neat thing to do. So we headed to their favorite Indian restaurant, Tulsi.
Tulsi Indian Restaurant
20 Walker St.
Kittery, ME 03904
In that first day alone, we caught each other up on so many things, yet by the end of the trip, I’m not sure that we finished talking about everything. Everything had changed in our own lives since our student days: Our parents had passed, our families had grown, our health had morphed with age and we and our friends had all gone on to careers that suited us. It was nice to see that Jodie and James now own a brand management and digital marketing agency, and how it’s grown — much like my own social media marketing company. Jodie’s personality — which is pretty much the same! — actually has helped them to grow and sustain their clients, while James, being sort of opposite, keeps the work going. I was most impressed at how marriage and children look so good on Jodie; she’s still the same fun and crazy girl, but completely settled.
It was seriously like I had traveled through a time warp. So much time had passed and so much of life had happened as we traveled different paths 5,000 miles apart. But it was amazing to see that after 30 years, our core identities and our friendship had not changed.
Up next: Sightseeing around New England! To see all photos from this part of the trip, click here.