Every time I drive my nephew out to Western MA, I laugh out loud at signs like “Belchertown” and “Athol,” so I thought you’d enjoy this list of mostly fake Massachusetts town names:
But then I started thinking more about the quirkiness of the Little Engine That Could state and I decided to write a homely paean to my homely home state. Enjoy!
Ode To Massasoit
O, Massachusetts! You get such a bad rap. Taxachusetts. Whitey Bulger. Marshmallow Fluff. The Boston Strangler. The busing riots. That embarrassing Plimouth Rock episode. It’s all so indefensible, really. The Big Dig. Southie, before it became trendy. Southie, after it became trendy. All those wack-job sports fans. The cheapskates. The laughing-stock accents. The “massholes” mouthing off about their bright “i-dears” and their “potty plattahs” and “spidah monkey cahcasses.” The great white sharks who’ve set up real estate on the Vineyard (because you saved the seals, you idiot conservationists.)
And how about Mitt Romney and his evil scheme to improve people’s health with a plan that has broad bipartisan support? (Honestly, the nerve of that man.)
And you don’t think I’d forget to mention the heartbreaking beauty of our ‘changing seasons’ – all in one day – do you? Or the psycho drivers on the hairpin, moon cratered “turnpikes?” If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, I can recommend the fun family bonding experience of teaching your kid to drive on a highway with on and off ramps a yard apart and drivers who think turning signals are vestigial organs. Good times!
But the thing is, “Mass,” I just can’t quit you. Every time I wonder how I could possibly hate my shitty state more, this inexplicable little glow starts worming its way into my heart, and the rationalizations start piling on. You’re not exactly bad drivers, just “assertive.” Right? Who doesn’t love Matt Damon and Steve Carrell and peppermint stick ice cream? And the freedom fighters and presidents and whatnot? Of course we’ve also got several respectable institutions of higher learning. Nice hospitals and stuff. Lobsters. (Too bad about the cod, but what can you do?)
O, Massachusetts… I like you just the way you are! I’ll take Mahky Mahk Wahlberg in his boy band/underwear model/criminal phase any day. I’ll keep the ugly CITGO sign – I really believed my dad when he told me it stood for “Come into George’s Office!” — And I’ll always have a smile on my face as I approach Inman Square in Cambridge, knowing I’ll be greeted with this:
Actually, I’ll give you this, too: Massachusetts. A gold star for gay-citizen relations. Not that supporting basic civil rights wasn’t an exceptionally low bar but still… nobody else would do it, and we all thank you. And you’re the top performing state for reading and writing scores of 8th graders. Take a bow. Nobody else could do it. You’re the only state in the country whose public education system can be favorably compared to…the rest of the industrialized world. You actually developed – and use – “standards.” Okay, they’re not perfect but they’re really not half-bad. And, by the way, all you haters: you can thank Massachusetts for dragging America’s sorry ass up into the “25th out of 34” country rankings for education… without Massachusetts, we’d probably be down there with Angola and Yemen. And while we’re bragging, let’s not overlook our low infant mortality stats. And the low teen pregnancies. And the low illiteracy rates. And the low divorce rates, too. (A bit of a shocker what with us being college-educated and such bad people and all, don’t you think?) And sorry to rub it in but we’re all pretty happy being insured, too!