The Meanderthals

‘Murica Musings

Gone from these shores for more than four years, each return to the US affords me with a string of head-scratching bafflements that leave me mute with wonder and amazement.

To wit:

What Rhodes Scholar at Gillette decided it would be a good idea to add thousands of little blue dots to a tube of underarm deodorant? These antibacterial microbial agents may or may not work, but they caused me no small measure of alarm when I noticed in the mirror that my pits were dotted with tiny blue pocks when I applied my daily dose. Turns out it’s “high performance odor elimination” owing to “cool wave power beads.” Who knew? Initially, I thought I’d brought some nasty dormant skin disease with me from Southeast Asia. Think I’m switching back to Old Spice.

Twice, now, I’ve seen an enthusiastic exercise buff in Marblehead doing one of the weirdest workouts I’ve seen. He trudges through the streets of the Old Towne, vigorously flailing his arms with a hiking pole in each hand, sweat pouring from his face  and bathed in an eruption of perspiration that I’d bet would put the aforementioned Gillette Endurance elixir to the ultimate test. He’s wearing a harness on his torso attached to two truck tires that bump along the road behind him, creating a serious drag in more than one sense of the word. It must be like swimming with a parachute trailing behind you. Maybe he’s planning to climb Kilimanjaro. Will keep an eye out for him to find out, assuming I can catch up to him, to learn whassup.

Rental car wars, battle #3,187. Presenting my driver’s license and credit card to the friendly clerk at the Thrifty counter for my six week rental, I was surprised when a horrified look came over his face. He informed me that the Thrifty system “would only allow rentals up to 30 days,” and that I would have to return the car after a month and obtain an extension for the remainder of my rental period. Ignoring the fact that my reservation confirmation had guaranteed me a car for the full six weeks – and had even provided a hefty quote for the duration – he shrugged and happily passed me off to a manager to try and resolve the logjam. Mr. Big was as useful as a lame duck congressman, echoing the clerk’s finding and inviting me to “take it up with headquarters.” If I don’t return the car after 30 days they report it as stolen. Sounds like fun to me, a guy with plenty of time on his hands and who loves a good tussle. Stay tuned for periodic updates as they occur.

Speaking of driver’s licenses, I should get some sort of award for the fastest, most pleasant experience in the history of the Mass. RMV (which, despite public opinion, does NOT stand for Retromingent Moronic Vipers, but is in fact the abbreviation for the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles). I stopped into the Liberty Tree Mall branch on my way to meet friends for an after work drink, thinking I’d pop in and get an estimate on how much of my remaining life I should plan to dedicate to the task of obtaining a license renewal. I checked my watch as I neared the office, knowing that like all good state offices there would be a stampede out the door precisely at 5 p.m. that would be wise to avoid. I crossed the barrier to Registry hell at 4:43, asked the information clerk a few questions, filled out the required form and sat for about a minute and a half. I was summoned to an open kiosk, photographed, relieved of 50 American dollars, given a temporary license and informed by a friendly and affable Registry employee that my new one would be mailed to my sister’s address within a week. Total elapsed time: 10 minutes. Yep.  I left the joint at 4:53, avoiding the lines and misery that typically greet Massachusetts drivers upon every visit. How blessed am I?

Good to see that Massachusetts drivers are doing their part to conserve energy by refusing to use their directional signals. It’s as though someone circulated word that normal blinker use emits disproportionate amounts of carbon to the atmosphere and the mobile public is responding in force. Either that or the legendary Masshole driver etiquette is alive and well in the Bay State.

A trip to visit my dear friend Vicki in Maine reminds me why I don’t live there. A tour of her gorgeous yet labor-demanding home at Three Apple Farm included problem solving how unwanted varmints were getting through the chicken wire fence surrounding her vegetable garden, a review of a series of empty soda cans with cotton balls drenched in coyote urine to keep deer out, and an exercise wrapping her blueberry bushes with anti-bird netting that would have made for a great Three Stooges episode. She also shared with me the nuances of picking ticks off her patient dog Watson, sending me into a paroxysmal fit of laughter when she told of one tick that had attached itself to the poor dog’s genitals.  She: Good boy, Watson, almost done. He: A bit to the right if you please. There’s a stunning home for sale next door to Vicki’s property, which led me to excitedly email Gabi the following message: “Hey! That home next to Vicki is still for sale and would be a great place for us except for a) it’s a house, which we don’t want, and b) it’s in Maine, which has a nine-month winter.” Still, it IS a beautiful place. And what a time we had together, talking, laughing and just being. Friends like her are rare and special.

Music is everywhere here. I got a chance to see the talented Milk Carton Kids (Grammy-nominated artists managed by my nephew, Nick) in Portland. Go see them if you have a chance. They’re good, interesting, and have a funny and intelligent stage presence. KC and the Sunshine Band are playing in Lynn, as are 38 Special and Night Ranger. Sammy Hagar is playing at Foxwoods Casino. They’re all part of the “Aging Rocker Tour”, I guess, and I’m lining up to catch as much of them as I can. Rumors that they’re all offering early bird special performances so they can be home and in bed by 9:30 are baseless.

Speaking of music, I realize how much I’ve missed country music and its amusing lyrics. My new favorite line: “My eyes are the only thing I don’t want to take off you.”

Guess that’s about it. I’m off to go shopping for new deodorant.


  • Anne

    As usual, a barrel of laughs from you! As for your Masshole drivers, New Yorkers (can we make up a catchy name for them?) are clueless, from way upstate to NYC. But, driving in NYC, while allowing for all sorts of profanity. is both a challenge and grand fun! I could be a cabbie in NYC! You might say to yourself, Anne, you are a New Yorker…why do you say such things? Alas, I no longer put myself in that category. I love Syracuse and all things SU. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine who taught them all how to drive! Clueless, I say!

    Have fun with all those concerts, as they seem right up your alley! Maybe join us in rainy VT soon!

    Love you!

  • Gail H

    As always, an enjoyable read! Thanks for the laughs and the reminder that living in Mass is like living nowhere else!


  • More great stuff but I think you would have had much more material if you had come thru Arkansas.

  • Sam Levenson

    Was up in Boston a few months ago taking my daughter to a Transfer Students day at BU and had a very good chuckle when all of the roadside signs on the MA Pike, Rt. 128, etc. said:

    “Use Ya Blinkah!”

    Got to give the turnpike authority credit for that one…

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