Monday, January 14, 2008

Remembering the state of Maine with old column

Mount Katahdin, the pinnacle of the state of Maine

Now that I'm on the topic of Maine, I would like to show you a little column I wrote about three years ago. It was my accounting of what it means to be from Maine. Here it is:

Have you ever driven down the street of a small Maine town and seen an old beat-up Chevrolet patched with duct tape, driven by a flannel-clad man who gives you the one-fingered wave? And no, it's not the finger you're thinking about. If so, have you ever wondered, "Could I ever be him?"

Chances are, you haven't. But if you're from away and want to become a Mainer, you may think the natives will never accept you as one of them. Therefore, I will describe a Mainer's qualities, what a Mainer is and isn't, and how it is possible to become one.

Flatlanders may define a Mainer as a person from the state of Maine. Maine is the easternmost state in, yes, the United States. Despite what some Southern folk may think, Maine is not another country and is definitely not part of Canada, eh?
(Update: I wrote this with a great deal of exaggeration. But just last week, the lady at the tax collector's office, where I went to get my Florida license plate, asked where I was from in Maine. "Down East," I answered. "Oh. So are you from Canada?" she asked. She probed even further when I said "aboot" instead of "about.")

Maine is a land of four seasons: winter, black fly, mosquito and winter. The people say lobstah instead of lobster. This particular species of Mainer - a.k.a. hicks - are found in small towns ovah theah in good ole Washinton Counte, wheah the coons outnumbah the people - a town like my hometown, Princeton.

The people there haven't changed much over the past few ... centuries. Therefore, it's a great place to witness Mainers in their true form. Every day, they gossip at the general store and go church hopping instead of bar hopping. You won't find any fancy movie theaters or shopping malls. Their favorite entertainment is a high school basketball game.

True Mainers also never stop cheering for the Red Sox. That's what used to keep them alive - the hope that maybe, just maybe, next year will be the year. Since the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, true Mainers have been dying off in record numbers. They truly are becoming a rare breed. Gov. John Baldacci might try to put them on the endangered species list before too long.

Mainers also prize their favorite soda, Moxie, because they're the only ones who can stomach it. Growing up in a traditional Maine household, there was a lore that said, "The only way to be a true Mainer is to drink Moxie and climb Mount Katahdin."

Better yet, you can drink Moxie and climb Mount Katahdin at the same time. I'm proud to say I've done that four times, one of them is to the left.

As you can see, a Mainer is many things, but there is only one thing he or she isn't. Because these Mainers are miles from big-city diversions, basically the only thing they have is the people who live there. But if you're a true Mainer, that's all you need. If you refuse to accept the people here for who they are, they will never accept you as one of them.

So do just as the man did in the beat up Chevy and wave at others on the roads of Maine. It doesn't matter whether you know them, whether they're from Maine. As long as you accept them for who they are, you'll become a true Mainer.

"Because that's the way life should be," and in Maine, that's the way life is.

The Maine inscription in the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.


Wordnerdy said...

There's at least one Southerner who never thought Maine was in Canada. It's just waaaaaaaaay up there.

Hey, is there a "northernmost point in the U.S." up in Maine? If you've been there and make it to Key West, you'll be famous. Or something.

*Wait, that would have to be in Alaska. You could go for "northernmost point in the Eastern U.S."

Andrew Knapp said...

Minnesota has the northernmost point in the continental United States.

But it would be an achievement to make it to both the northern and southern ends of U.S. 1. I've never been to either, though.

Anonymous said...

Minnesota, Alaska, Maine and their respective northernmost points. They're all farther north than any place I'd really care to visit. I know what I like: sunshine and warmth. And sweet tea.


Anonymous said...

Maine misses you, too, Andrew. Although if you were out walking today in the frigid cold like I was you might not feel that way.

But it's hard to explain to 2 husky dogs that it's too cold to go for a walk.

Andrew Knapp said...

I had to laugh at a co-worker today who walked into work with a scarf around her neck and gloves on her hands. My boss, who is from New Hampshire, chuckled, too. Today's high here in Florida was in the upper 50s. That would be a balmy spring day in the state o' Maine.

I can't say that I miss having to start my car several minutes before leaving the house just to make it warm enough. That seems like such a foreign concept now. It's all air conditioning down here. Heater? What's that?