Wednesday, January 28, 2004

[This was written late last night and posted this morning.]

I can’t sleep – old chronic insomnia problem, which I don’t blog about much, just like you don’t tell me about your eczema – so I’m watching CNN’s coverage of the New Hampshire primary. It’s coming up on 3 a.m. here in Prague, so the polls just closed in the Bienvenue-a-live-free-or-die Granite State.

Living abroad as I have for seven years and change, I’m occasionally struck by moments of weird New England homesickness. One of those moments came at the end of “Good Will Hunting,” an otherwise mawkish affair that ended nicely, as I recall, with Matt Damon heading out westward on the Massachusetts Turnpike. (I think the better movie “Rounders” may have ended similarly, although it wasn't the Turnpike.) Now, cue track of Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers’ “Road Runner.”

Perhaps "homesickness" is not the right word; it’s more like nostalgia for a home I never properly called my own. Both sides of my family are from the Boston area. Although I lived from ages 10 to 18 on Long Island, I went back to school in Massachusetts and have always felt affinity for the region. Of course, in more worldly terms, it’s all just the Northeast U.S. But my parents still talk about the differences between New York and Massachusetsts (in New York, people behind you honk the horn as soon as the light turns green and the Chinese restaurants don't automatically include fried rice with every order) like it's some sort of enduring expat culture shock, even though they've lived on Long Island since 1985.


Watching CNN’s histrionic coverage of (here’s the logo) the NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY -- I dig it, big time. As a child, when my parents weren’t vacationing at my grandparents’ log cabin in on Lake Nequasset in Maine, we often took some family trips to Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, home of the late Old Man of the Mountain.

Last summer, my Canadian-American g-fry and I drove from Bath, Maine (about an hour north of Portland) to Montreal. It’s a cross-wise New England trajectory I’d never made before, and I unwisely insisted on a late-night stop at a foggy cemetery in the out-of-the-way village of East Calais, Vermont, to make a grave rubbing of the tombstone of my great-great-great-grandfather, Loomis Pierce. That didn’t go over well. But I do recall a nice little bookstore and a breakfast diner in a place called Lyndonville that made me think that Vermont or New Hampshire wouldn’t be the worst place in the world to grow old and die. Live free and die, of course, with a big heating oil tank under the front porch.

Primary season also makes me nostalgic for high school, when I canvassed for Jerry Brown in 1992. You know a single moonbeam is worth a thousand points of light…

Larry King Live is on now, with each of the candidates taking turns. Wolf Blitzer and Bob Woodward are taking turns asking questions of Howard Dean, and you know what? Turns out Howard Dean looks like just a regular guy saying stuff on TV… calmly. And in fact he’ll make a great talking head one day. Talking neck, that is.


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