Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Tale of Three States

Time to make more 'friends' on the state-by-state fauxtravelogue, which seems to be becoming pseudopopular here, what with all the commenters asking me to make fun of their state.
I would be a less than gracious blog host, were I to disappoint.
In the mid-late 80s -- I want to say late spring of '88, and on the eve of another presidential election cycle, which will become relevant here in a bit -- I was tasked to go on a field assignment with my corporate security mentor (hereafter known as Bill), back in my big league corporate days. The assignment: a workman's comp investigation/surveillance of an employee, possibly milking the system.
It seemed simple enough: fly into Boston's Logan Airport, and drive to bucolic Nashua, New Hampshire. Both places I had never before been, though my ancestors had a passing familiarity with both Boston and just down the coast therefrom. More on that in a bit.
The flight proved relatively uneventful, other than me losing a crapload of quarter-a-game hands of "knock" gin to Bill. After landing, luggaging and getting the rental car, I was assigned the dubious task of "navigator", as we departed Logan. Using a trusty rental car map, I deduced -- as did Bill -- that we would pass through a tunnel to exit the island that Logan was on; alas, the tunnel was unavailable due to the time of day (afternoon rush hour), so we saw a sign that said, in essence, "drive your cahr this way", and off we were, in the direction of what we believed was Nashua, New Hampshire.
I wasn't able to form much of an opinion of Boston at this time, as I alternated my comparing the map with assorted landmarks, since there appeared to be an amusing lack of highway signage, once we were clear of Boston proper. All I knew was, as time went on, and highway signage was scanty at best, I kept looking at my watch, reckoning that at any moment, the skyline of Nashua would make itself apparent.
Almost three hours later, it still wasn't happening. Bill was not the least non-plussed with my apparent lack of navigational skills; his many years of travel wisdom calmly informed me that "you're only lost if you care where you're at". He apparently didn't, so I quit sweating it too, though I felt obligated to find a landmark somewhere, so as to tell me where we didn't care we were.
And shortly thereafter, I got it: as we entered the quaint little burg of Salem, Massachusetts.
Besides being a bit off-course, we were now entering the reputed land of witchcraft and a whole host of nasty supernatural things, at least according to books and movies I'd had occasion to read and watch. As it was getting dark, and we were just now realizing that we were heading northeast instead of northwest, Bill pulled up along side of a local denizen on what I took to be a bicycle, and I started to ask her for directions out of Salem.
The cackling laugh that resulted from hearing our plight was followed by a long, bony finger, gesturing in the direction of an intersection ahead. When I politely went to thank her, I made something of a mistake in throwing in "you're a godsend".
Her eyes flashed, thunder roared from a clear night sky, and suddenly, our four-door, full-size Ford, became a two-door Yugo.
"Nice going" Bill muttered, the steering wheel dragging across his ample stomach, his 6' 3" frame sandwiched into a space meant for someone a third less calories than him.
"Mwhpfhfpth" was my reply, with my knees up my nose.
Fortunately, a few miles northwest of Salem, the 'spell' -- or whatever it was -- wore off, and we managed to make Nashua within 90 or so minutes.
I found New Hampshire to New Hampshire. It really didn't look much different at that time, than say, Iowa did, save for the lack of corn and soybean fields, and the fact that you could practically spit from one side of it to the other. In fact, I found New Hampshire to be...really small. Rustic. Serene. Y'know...boring as hell. But the Holiday Inn was nice, and no cackling wenches appeared to be turning people or cars into assorted things of dubious antecedence, so I didn't mind this kind of boring.
The next day, and after successfully surveilling our subject of review, we returned to the hotel, only to find that, there on TV, was our hotel. Seemed that there was a politician from another state, who was using the Holiday Inn in Nashua, to announce his intention to run for the his party's nod as candidate for President of the United States. Neither I nor Bill recalled having ever heard of the guy, but while Bill watched on TV, I went to the patio and looked down into the courtyard; and there he was, three floors down and about two rooms over, sitting outside in the grass of the courtyard, before a live TV camera.
Even then, he had bad hair.
After he finished his announcement, he got up and wandered beneath us, glancing up as I stood gawking over the railing. Making eye contact -- even though I was then registered in the opposing political party to him -- I felt obligated to say something conversationally polite:
Me: Nice speech.
Him: *Grin and one thumb up*
Me: But get a better toupee...
Okay, I really didn't say that last part. At any rate, I had seed the future, but not the one I thought. Not that he'd win the presidency in that particular election cycle; but a bit over 20 years later, he'd be one step short of it.
Joe Freaking Biden.
After another day of surveillance of our subject of review -- and Bill's determination that the subject in question was not what he'd been alleged to be -- we wrapped it up, and bid adieu to quiet, bucolic, rustic, serene, miniscule, boring New Hampshire.

Having dispensed with our adequately sucky rental car map -- I bought a Rand-McNally one -- we were in no time in the state of Maine. Literally, since one could almost miss New Hampshire by turning sideways, and to make a wrong turn anywhere in New Hampshire, you'd wind up in another state.
At any rate, we didn't spend much time in the state of Maine, other than for Bill to point out Portsmouth Naval prison (he was active USNR at the time), and stop by the USS Skate, on display in the general area, where local moose would occasion by and try to hump it. A early nuclear sub that had set undersea speed records (which, according on on-site literature, were still classified), I was amazed at how anyone of my size (6' 2", 195 lbs) managed to do months at a time at sea in such a vessel. Especially one so hornicated on by local moose.
Other than a prison, a tourist trap grounded sub and amorous moose, that was the extent of my experience with Maine. I'm sure it's a nice place, with overly-friendly moose. More, I can't say, for once southbound, we were almost immediately back in Massachusetts, New Hampshirally speaking.
Now, Massachusetts and I had something in common, at least ancestorily. At least four direct family descendants of mine had landed at Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower, before some of them went onto form a moving company. While two of them didn't weather the first winter (which had nothing to do with any of the Kennedys driving off bridges), the daughter -- Priscilla Mullins -- did. She went onto marry John Alden, have 10 kids -- guess they didn't have much else to do at the time -- and put down roots to one helluva big family tree.
Of which I'm a wee twig.
At any rate, I found coastal Massachusetts to be...rocky. But no amorous Bullwinkles to be seen.
And folks thereabouts tended to talk kinda funny: "yahr" instead of "yes", "cahr" instead of "car", "curhb" instead of "curb", etc. And one local told me that I talked funny.
I would also, that evening, become something of an annoyance to a nearby couple in this seaside seafood emporium, as I took on my first cooked lobster...and almost lost, spraying them and myself in the process. Bill and my waitress were amused; the couple, not so much (that story's told in a previous entry).
Then, after a night in a seaside motel that was clearly designed for the cast of the Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz (my feet hung almost 6 inches off the end of the bed, and the bathroom had been salvaged from a Boeing 737), it was back into Boston, with a little time to kill before our return flight. So we meandered over first to where the USS Constitution was berthed (and nearby where this very old photo of yours truly was taken), then to the old North Church -- surrounded by high rises, and no longer with the field of vision to signal from the tower, one by land, two by sea, three by migratory amorous moose -- and finally around Paul Revere's house (some of the dung his horse dropped during his famous ride, was for sale in the gift shop, freeze-dried).
Despite all the history round about, the tone of things was different: no clop-clop of horses, no tramp of red-clad British soldiers, no patriots making impassioned speeches in the square, about giving liberty or death; just hordes of pedestrians, "cahr" horns, and maniacal taxi cabs, driven by folks with Middle Eastern and Indian accents, though some of them had mastered "yahr", so as to blend in with the local flavor.
As we boarded the plane to return to Denver -- a roomy DC-10, and a pub flight to boot -- I made it a point to remember to NOT, after politely asking for something from a Massachusetts-based flight attendant, throw in "you're a godsend".
I didn't want to take a chance on repeating the Salem maneuver. A DC-10 was infinitely preferable to a suddenly finding myself flying home on a broom, backward.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Blogger slommler said...

What a wonderful tour! And you barely got lost!?! Pictures of the moose might have been interesting. And the fact that your full sized car was turned into a mini cooper was also a sweet turn of events. So after all that; what did you really think of New Hampshire? LOL!!
Glad you had a Plane to fly back in!

18 April, 2010 01:22  
Blogger classicaliberal said...

That's a pretty sweet navy blue Monte in the background, there Skunks.

I do have this question to ask, though: If it were today and you were standing out on that balcony looking at Joe Freaking Biden, knowing everything that you know now, what would you have done?

18 April, 2010 01:46  
Blogger Skunkfeathers said...

CA, presented with the scenario you make today, I would have asked him, as he walked below, "did you write that speech, or lift it?"

18 April, 2010 03:40  
Blogger The Dental Maven said...

Wow, you must have seen Biden in his "pre-plugs and Botox days!"

18 April, 2010 05:50  
Blogger She Writes said...

Live and learn :).

18 April, 2010 07:54  
Blogger Shrinky said...

I'd say you were a Godsend, were I not too afraid of the consequences.. My on-line best mate lives in Springfield, Mass (until then, I thought the only real Springfield town was where The Simpsons lived), but after reading this, I am seriously doubting the wisdom of visiting with her! Another golden nugget, Skunk, keep 'em coming - thanks for the laughs!

18 April, 2010 09:57  
Anonymous Leeuna said...

Another great "now-I-don't-ever-want-to-go-there" post, Skunk. I love these travelogues of yours, they're very helpful.

18 April, 2010 13:24  
Blogger Eva Gallant said...

Loved this post. Just wish you had spent a little more time in Maine....My state is larger than New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island all together! An the farther north you go, the more amorous the moose become!

18 April, 2010 15:20  
Blogger Andy said...


That's all you're getting...


Not really...Skunks, you are akin to John Alden? Cool. WAY cool.

I'm kin to Jim Reeves. I mean, it ain't John Alden or nothin'.

I rode an elevator in DC with Uncle Teddy in 1976. He stunk like old fish and a wino that hadn't brushed his teeth in weeks.

Didn't run into Slow Joe on that trip as far as I know...

Just sayin'...

18 April, 2010 17:36  
Blogger Debbie said...

I'm tired just reading that. We used to travel somewhere at least once a year. I think the grouch has gotten old and set in his ways. Well, he's really too tied up in all his hobbies. No time for traveling.

I guess we will take the ultimate trip when we croak, but I don't want to go for a long time.

Pre-plugs biden? He would still be just as idiotic.

Right Truth

18 April, 2010 17:42  
Blogger Sniffles and Smiles said...

Oh, but while I am glad you didn't have to fly home on a broom, I think it would have made a highly entertaining blog post...ROFL...You had me chuckling all the way through as usual...But roaring in Massachusetts! My, but you do get around! Joe Biden, huh? Love this post...this series of boring travels is fantastically only YOU and your BRILLIANT wit can make it! Have a wonderful weekend, my friend!! Big hugs, Janine

18 April, 2010 21:08  
Blogger Sandee said...

Keep these posts going. It's helping me in knowing where not to go. Just saying.

Loved the witch in Salem the very best. Glad that wore off down the road.

Have a terrific day. :)

19 April, 2010 12:16  
Blogger JMK said...

Great story....I've never run into any of those New England witches....but I know they're around!

21 April, 2010 20:07  
Blogger A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

Joe Biden, eh? Imagine that! Were his chiclets as blinding back then?

23 April, 2010 16:13  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home