I was born and raised in Connecticut. Growing up in the town of Southington, my friends and I would complain on a daily, almost hourly basis that there was nothing for us to do. By the time we were all old enough to drive, we headed down to the coastal towns of Guilford or over to the beaches of Rhode Island, but those were summertime activities, so ten months out of the year, when we weren’t in school, we complained of boredom.
We did what most young people in the suburbs did—drank too much coffee at Denny’s, saw every movie at the second-run movie theater, and window-shopped at malls before dining in some chain restaurant.
For a few years of my youth, my father would take me, my sister Faith, and cousin Johnny to Maine; Old Orchard Beach, Maine—which most locals in the popped-collar, sockless-boat-shoe town of Kennebunkport would today call the “Jersey Shore of Maine.”
I don’t recall Old Orchard being trashy as a kid, but I don’t consider the likes of Snooki to be an exact model of the hard-working middle class who can save up enough money to enjoy a weekend at a beach resort town cheap enough for a family of 4+. Sure, it’s not nature preserve of Big Sur, but the fried dough at Kim’s Pizza is excellent, and there’ s still a row of skee-ball machines at Palace Playland, which is all a fun getaway for me.
I’ve been staying in Kennebunk, Maine. The area is quiet with well manicured lawns tended by people who walk their dogs twice a day, and I’m glad to say that the center of the town has filled most of the shops that have been vacant for the last 2+ years. Down the road is the town of Kennbunkport, where the Bush’s peninsular compound sits far away from the tourists walking into the hot sauce shop, Clam Shack and boutiques straddling an inlet known as Arundel.
I’m not rich, and I know I don’t fit in with these folks. Give me the tarred smokers who walk up and down the beach at Old Orchard, the Hoverounds that putt-putt over the train tracks on their way to get cider vinegar-soaked french fries on The Pier, or the overweight “Quebequois” who don’t even say “Pardonez moi” as they bump into you with a folded, freshly ironed-on t-shirt that reads “Jimmy’s Slut” flopped over their shoulders. They might not know what a Ketch is, but at least they know how to laugh at something like “The Jersey Shore,” and know even more so that their sons and daughters had better not end up like that kind of trash.
As a New Englander, I can’t abide by the stereotype of the bottom-jaw-locked, Polo wearing WASP whose communication skills lack anything remotely resembling an honest assessment of their own emotions. As a matter of fact, most of my life these people have been as mythical as Bigfoot. We’re not cold, we just know how to mind our own business and keep our opinions to ourselves—unless asked. As the map of the nation shows, most of New England allows gay marriage, which is an accurate testament to the liberal, true-American nature of our corner of the nation.
Here, Republicans want less government interaction on everything, which includes the idea that Bible-Thumpers should keep their religion in their churches and out of politics. New England was the first site for those persecuted for their religious beliefs to find refuge, and despite the fact that THOSE people had just as little religious tolerance as those from whom they ran away, the idea that we should all be free to pursue our beliefs, goals and dreams without anyone’s God or personal beliefs affecting us is key in the development of New Englanders. The rest of the country could learn a lot from us.