Seth Brown: Driving on the Pike, and other fish tales
NORTH ADAMS >> Last Sunday, my girlfriend and I decided to take a drive to Springfield to visit the museums. Now that I'm getting older, it's nice to feel like I'm still capable of going out and having fun on a weekend. Heck, it's nice to feel like I'm capable of going anywhere.
In your 20s, if you go out to play a competitive sport, people say "Good luck!" In your 30s, people say "Have fun!" In your 40s, people start to say "Be careful!"
Another big change in aging is my reaction to famous people. In my 20s, I'd see a talented person and think, "I want to do that when I grow up!" In my 30s, I'd think, "In a parallel universe, that's me!" Once you hit 40, the reaction becomes, "I can't believe these kids have done so darned much."
But my spirits were restored by my Sunday drive. As we started to drive down Route 8 through Adams, I noticed spectators lining the street. Finally, I thought, I am getting the fame I deserve. I waved magnanimously to the gathered crowds watching our car, although they looked unimpressed. I continued to wave to the spectators gathered in my honor all the way down Route 116, until we passed a sign for a big motorcycle event. I stopped waving after that.
We passed a sign for an auto shop advertising "Rus proofing," which I presumed was to prevent Russ from breaking into your car. Half an hour later, as we entered the town of Russell, I realized our Rus proofing hadn't worked. We spend a lot of time making fun of town names in Mass., which is easy to do when you pass towns with names like Athol and Belchertown. Our personal favorite town is Blandford, which upon entering we always celebrate by announcing in a dull monotone, "welcome to blandford." If you've ever wondered why Blandford is so bland, the answer can be found on a large sign next to the Blandford Plaza on the highway, proclaiming "Reduced Salt Area."
Once we hit Westfield, my girlfriend pointed out the overgrown grass where she used to have a wooded cabin, and another random area where there used to be a building she lived in. Pointing to buildings that have not existed for years is basically the finest in New England tourism. It's already how we give directions ("Go past where the old pub burned down, then turn left where the really good restaurant used to be,") so there's no reason we shouldn't use erstwhile buildings as tourist attractions as well. Nostalgia is one of the few remaining growth industries.
The museums in Springfield contained art and history, but as it turns out, neither of those excited me nearly as much as the chocolate-covered cannoli I bought at a local Italian pastry shop. I have a bit of a sweet tooth, but I also have a bit of a weird tooth, because my favorite snack of late is crispy fried small fish. I spent some of the drive home eating fish snacks. I spent even more of the drive home singing about fish snacks, to the consternation of my girlfriend.
I got through "Baby Got Snack" (Fishy taste with the ocean bouquet ...) and "Fish Snack" (The fish snack has a brittle old taste that we can eat together ...), but before I got very far with "All About That Bass," she began carping that she was getting a haddock from herring my fishified parodies.
I told her if she didn't like fish, she shouldn't have driven home on the Pike.
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