The Maine DOT stopped answering my calls, and so I was forced to take to the fundraising arm of the internet and ask for donations to my special project, which is to erect a road sign at the Piscataqua Bridge entering Maine that reads:
Welcome to Maine! You are northbound on Interstate 95 and the speed limit is 70 mph AND YOU SHOULD GODDAMN WELL DRIVE 70 MPH OR EVEN LIKE 5–10 MPH MORE, I MEAN CHRIST ALMIGHTY.
When I am sitting in my car and driving only 55 on the highway, trying to get to one of my many part-time summer gigs, I continue the daydreaming work on my Unified Theory of New England Tourist Absentmindedness. It goes, right now, like this: Every person is inconsiderate but the question is what flavor of inconsideration are we dealing with?
In other words: What kind of asshole tourist are you? (We are all asshole tourists—the only difference is our flavor.)
People from Massachusetts are smart and should know better, but they’re still assholes. People from Maine are less smart and don’t quite know better, but they’re still assholes. People from New Hampshire are so far up their butts about living free and dying as a result of not living free that being an absolute asshole is part of that philosophy, so we can hardly fault them for it. People from Connecticut are barely from New England—because I like to think of Connecticut as New York’s Garage—and in that way they are assholes. People from Rhode Island are like men with huge pickup trucks: compensating for size, and are thus assholes.
It’s Vermont I can’t quite pin down yet. Last week I went to get gas at a four-pump station, and had to queue myself up behind a car. I chose a car from VT, progressive with a half-dozen activist bumper stickers. Stuff like “Keep Abortion Legal” and “Resist” and, yeah, I’m on their side here and so I waited behind them. Two women with bandanas wrapped around their foreheads stood at the pump, and because it was 85 degrees at a rest stop with no nearby trees, I had my windows open for ventilation. I heard what they said to each other, and I wish I hadn’t, because they said to each other, “Where do I insert my credit card?” and, “Do I just pull this trigger here to make the gas come out?” and, “How do I know when my car is filled up?”
Oh my God, friends, I thought to myself. I am on your side of these culture wars. I fight your fights and I pick the same battles as you. I will die on the hill where you die, happily and with a sword in my sternum. We are brothers- and sisters-in-arms. You are doing yourselves no favors here.
Perhaps this is the song of my summer: “Shiggy” by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks. Malkmus seems like an indefinable asshole. The song sounds like late-Pavement: clean and caustic with the right amount of jangle. Its lyric that speaks to me: Go speak your dumb wisdom. I’m not so easily confused.
This song is the third result in my search for the song of my summer. The last result was St. Vincent’s “Fast Slow Disco.”