My now home state of Maine may be best known as the land of lobsters and summer camps, but we have our own Hollywood hills here, as well. They don’t have the word “Hollywood” emblazoned across them because big wooden letters would be unappealing to the locals hiking up and skiing down those hills. I discount myself in that scenario since I’m the person at the bottom of the hill, wandering aimlessly in search of cellular service.
The A-listers who live here, or at least spend some of their time here, were a big draw in bringing me to Maine. Patrick Dempsey, for instance, was the only reason I consented to move here before the birth of my third child. I left the land of do-it-yourself epidurals so that he might be the one to handle her delivery. It didn’t matter that he was a neurologist. And only on television. There is always a rumor floating about that Julia Roberts plans to purchase a home here, no doubt for the summer months so that she doesn’t Eat Pray Freeze.
Maine’s longest-standing celebrity, as far as I know, is the legendary Stephen King. He uses the remote woods and small towns as the backdrop for many of his books and films. You only have to be alone in a fog-locked harbor at night once to understand why. As a celebrity admirer, I was curious to see King’s house. The closest I have ever been to a celebrity in their natural environment was the time I saw Sarah Jessica Parker smoking a cigarette outside of my high-rise. I sat in my own lobby for 20 minutes, tying and untying my shoelaces, watching her through the glass like she was a baby panda bear at the zoo.
When I learned that Stephen King lived in the city of Bangor, I knew I had to plan a trip. It sounded strange to people when I said I was planning a vacation to Bangor. Don’t get me wrong, Bangor is a perfectly great city in Maine. It’s just not usually a place to which tourists plan a celebrity voyeur tour. I had always imagined King would own his own island off the coast, guarded by minotaurs and pterodactyls, so when I learned it was far more accessible than that, I had to see the King in his castle.
I spent hours driving both to and around Bangor in search of his house. I swerved in looping trails all over the residential areas, fully expecting that a black raven would swoop in front of my windshield and guide me there. I felt like I was Frodo in “Lord of the Rings” and nothing would derail my quest to find the tower. Unless, of course, I found a mall or a Target first.
After more directionless driving, I pulled over to the side of the road and attempted to Google directions to the homestead. I found only vague Stephen-King-like directions that led me down roads I was certain couldn’t be correct. I inched along, confirming each turn against the directions listed by someone on a message board with a reliable name like “I Want to Keep Stephen King in a Cryonic Chamber in My Basement.”
I came to the end of the navigation and looked out my window, like a tourist on the tram at Universal Studios, expecting to see something as awe-inspiring as “Jaws” or King Kong. Instead I saw a house. A simple, yellow Victorian house. It had a nicely landscaped front yard and a rocking chair on the porch. There were no Komodo dragons. There was no holding tower. No fog encircling only this house despite clear skies elsewhere. There were no tormented screams echoing from the upper windows. There were no medieval weapons or antique masonry tools lying around. And I didn’t see even one minotaur. As we were pulling away, I saw something strange. Something out of place.
There were colorful paper tulips pasted to each window.
Now, I’ve heard that celebrities are often quite dissimilar from their famous persona, but I know — the same way I know that Mary Louise Parker and I could be best friends and braid each other’s hair — that Stephen King is not typing out tales of darkness while surrounded by floral arts and crafts. When I arrived home, defeated and exhausted and gassy from a restaurant that boasted a distressing number of types of waffles, I took to the Internet again, feverishly in search of an image of the true King house. I found it.
It wasn’t a simple, yellow Victorian. And there wasn’t a single paper tulip in the windows.