Unfortunately for Joel Achenbach and The Post, he had it right when he noted himself as a "cynic" in the Magazine's July 31 Rough Draft column.

I suppose that for all of Achenbach's cynicism, he does deserve as a memory of his Maine vacation some Chinese-made duck. But to answer Achenbach's questions: Yes, there are people in Maine who make their living puttering around on a wharf or who motor out to sea to catch lobsters. And, yes, many of them have second jobs and shop at Wal-Mart instead of Needless Markup. I am sure that they wouldn't for a moment trade their "substandard existence" for an office cubicle or some suburban overpriced house with its many locks, deadbolts and fancy alarms.

Maine, of course, is not free from war, terrorism, ethnic hatred or disease. But for 365 days a year, the shopkeepers, tour boat operators, restaurateurs, ice cream vendors and all the other 1.2 million folks who call Maine home see it as the way life should be:

* Neighbors helping neighbors, kids playing in their backyards, being able to leave one's door unlocked, and going to church suppers to be with friends.

* Caring about the environment by doing something about it instead of just writing a check.

* Buying local, volunteering for the fire department, town parades and so much more.

Achenbach wouldn't understand, unless, of course, he were to check his D.C. cynicism at the New Hampshire-Maine state line and stay a while, not just for a week. Actually, I think Achenbach should do us folks in Maine a favor next year: He should go to Las Vegas. I hear they have some great ceramic dice containers there, complete with painted lemons.

-- John R. Massaua

Portland, Maine