Thursday, February 23, 2012

Come to Connecticut. PLEEEEEEASE!

15 clever quips

connecticut postcard mapLet’s talk a little about my ‘hood -- Connecticut.

With deficits and taxes growing larger than a sperm whale (um, that's our state animal), our governor decided to spend $22 million to rebrand and market Connecticut abroad as a tourist destination.

At first glance, it seems excessive.

Then you reflect deeply and frankly about this place I call home -- and you see the light.

That's NOWHERE near enough money to undo centuries of work to make Connecticut the most generic of the Northeastern states.

Consider our state bird: the ubiquitous American robin. State song: "Yankee Doodle." Our seat of government: Hartford -- The Insurance Capital of the World.

Welcome, stranger, to the Land of Steady Habits. We are bland; hear us snore.

The four (four!) agencies the state hired for this job must be real Mad Men. Look at our competition just in New England:

  • Vermont's a crunchy life of skiing and maple syrup.
  • New Hampshire proclaims "Live Free or Die" when not in the presidential primary spotlight.
  • Maine is synonymous with lobster.
  • Massachusetts has Pilgrims, Bunker Hill, Kennedys, Hahvad Yahd, etc.
  • Even without its legendary music festivals, Rhode Island still has the distinction of being the tiniest state of them all.

But try to define Connecticut.

Long Island Sound? Maybe if it wasn't for, oh,  …the NAME

Mystic Seaport? Not quite a Boston Harbor tea party.

Mark Twain? Lived and wrote in Hartford for decades but he is forever associated with Huck, Tom and the South.

His neighbor Harriet Beecher Stowe? Her house is one of at least three "historic" Stowe residences throughout the country and ours is not the one where she penned Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Yale? You mean that other Ivy League school.

The Coast Guard Academy? That would be home to the fifth most popular of the nation’s five armed military forces.

Lyme Disease? Well, it is our best known export …

Connecticut's portrayal in literature and Hollywood also rarely screams, "Pack up the kids, we're road trippin'!" We're bored suburbanites, preppy snobs, anti-Semites or Stepford wives. Even the Ricardos and Mertzes lasted only a dozen episodes in Westport before shutting down that legendary Desilu production.

Past Connecticut marketing campaigns prove our lack of "wow factor." Most focused on the state being small but with a broad range of features and activities that, sad but true, all our neighbors do much better. We sold ourselves as the Vanilla Mint Listerine of the region: just as effective but much less intense.

That's our problem. Connecticut is good at many things. It's just not particularly outstanding at any one.

No one views our role in U.S. history as quite so revolutionary. Our cuisine, derivative. Our wine, kinda drinkable. Our mountains, more molehill than majestic. Our beaches, not even vaguely MTV-ready (in the era of Snooki, I suppose we can live with that). Connecticut is the utility infielder of the Northeast: able to fill in adequately but unspectacularly when The Hamptons are already booked.

Without best-in-class traditional tourist features to brag about, it's time my fellow residents and our hired shills change tack. We need to mindlessly, obnoxiously and absurdly promote our urban legends and idiosyncrasies.

In short, we need to make like Texans.

Having spent six years in Dallas, I never could comprehend Texans' blind devotion to their home state unless they had never ventured beyond its borders or, worse, only into Arkansas. Yet they embrace cowboy boots in their hellish heat, rally behind a battle they lost in a massacre (which explains why concealed weapons are legal there) and revere native dolts as political geniuses, y'all.

Here's where we finally win. Connecticut and Connecticut alone has P.T. Barnum -- native son, successful businessman, mayor, Congressman and, most importantly, master showman. We need to follow Barnum's lead and fly, nay, wear our freak flag every day and everywhere. The suckers will follow.

Hike the treacherous yet romantic 356-mile trail of the cryptic Old Leatherman! Escape the zombies and monsters in Sleeping Giant Park! Indulge in the ancient, secret powers of our legendary wooden nutmegs! Bwaahaahaahaa!

Step right up, come one, come all to Connecticut! Just make sure to visit the Egress!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Accidental Valentine

18 clever quips

uncool valentine This Valentine is right on time.

Or many years late.

Only my wife can make that call.

Assuming someone reads this to her.

Roughly 20 years ago, in the mid-February shortly after My Love and I began dating, she invited me back to her home state of Nebraska for a friend's wedding. I dusted off my one and only suit and suppressed my then-fear of flying. Maybe I didn't suppress it so much as it was canceled by the apprehension about meeting her family and, worse, a few of her studly ex-boyfriends.

Being in her native land, My Love handled most of the driving along those never-bending highways. This left me staring for hours through the rental car window into the aptly named Great Plains as it grew more featureless and infinite with every new vanilla layer of snow. When my amusement from exit signs for Beaver Crossing and McCool Junction faded, I took to perusing the local newspapers, reading aloud items that caught my fancy from the pages of the Kearney Hub and Lawrence Locomotive. It's a tradition, along with chawing on handfuls of beef jerky, that we carry on to this day on road trips.

Being near Cupid's holiday, several of the papers published Valentine missives between lovers - new, old, hopeful and desperate. After reading several of them, I nearly choked on a plug of hickory-flavored Oberto.

The message went something like this:

My Love,

Every day I'm with you my love for you grows and I find you are even more beautiful on the inside than the outside.




Completely not me.

It was the most bizarre of coincidences in the most bizarre of places but at just the right time.

I read it to her. And she lit up. The glow in her face defrosted our windows and probably more than a few passing acres of winter wheat.

It took a while for My Love to believe I wasn't conning her when I claimed no responsibility for that love note. In the end, it didn't matter. Neither of us remembers what I really did give her that Valentine's Day, but we still talk about the sign the gods or fate sent us from beyond the Nebraska farmland.

Two decades have come and gone since. We are so past the romance stage in our relationship that it's a wonder either of us showers on weekends anymore.

This year, as for the past several, My Love has told me to get her nothing for Valentine's Day. She really means "nothing beyond an obligatory greeting card."

She expects no flowers and has made me aware on more than one occasion not to waste the money on something that fades and dies so quickly.

My recent suggestion to splurge on a dinner -- sans kids! -- was nixed because "everyone's out that night" and neither of us needs the hassle.

Chocolates are always a no -- calories, fat, hips and thighs, you know.

Lingerie? Refer back to the sentence on chocolates. Then re-read the one about no showering.

However, I really feel I still owe her something from 20 years ago. So here goes:

My Love,

I knew I loved you on our second date. That's when, as a joke, you secretly flipped around every other cassette box in the case I kept in my car so the next day the labels would be difficult for me to read when I fumbled at a stoplight in search of some new tunes to play. You have been turning my world and me upside down ever since.



Monday, February 13, 2012

The Gift of Free Advice

3 clever quips

mouthy housewives logoThe Mouthy Housewives have kidnapped me!

Despite my pleas to be their sex slave, they have instead chained me to a Dell and demanded I give them the day off.

Hence, I’m filling in today as their guest advice columnist.

The only way for me to be released so I can return here with a real blog post is for you to read my words on their site about husbands who give lame gifts and their needy spouses.

Hurry! Before they make me do windows, too!


My Uncool Past