"We had joy.
We had fun.
We had seasons in the sun."
You have to be a raving lunatic to live in New England. I would know, since I lived there for the better part of twenty-eight years. There it is, tucked away in the upper northeastern part of the United States of America, with the state of New York running a blockade for it against the rest of the country, trying to master a delicate balance between being quaint, not being quaint, being traditional, being different, and trying to think of itself as all one unit while each state throws as many barbs and insults at the other states as it can muster.
The real defining point of the land of New England is its obsession with seasons. Die hard New Englanders will go on at length about the importance of clearly defined seasons. Generations of conditioning have given them the impression that if the four seasons were not properly marked by strong shifts in weather people would lose track of time and nothing would ever get accomplished.
There is really nothing as orgasmic as springtime in New England, except perhaps an orgasm. After you've managed to survive another harsh winter, the coming of spring is something that sets people to dancing. The shift into spring is most easily noted by the amount of dirt and sand collecting in the roadways and in the gutters from all the sanding and plowing of snow done during the winter. It is also clearly noted by the appearance of people wearing shorts and t-shirts because the weather has hit the forties. This phenomenon is likely responsible for my goosebump fetish, but we won't be going into that at this time. Call my private number.
Spring is also clearly marked in a more definitive fashion by the appearance of the Boston Red Sox. This has been the traditional method of knowing when spring is arriving for at least a century. This is also partly responsible for the passion felt for the Red Sox. You see, if the Red Sox are playing, the weather is reasonable. If there is no baseball, you don't go outside unless you absolutely have to or you will die.
As spring plucks along (sometimes with threats of winter coming back for a guest appearance), the important New England rites of passage begin. One of these rites is the aforementioned wearing of shorts and a t-shirt when the weather reaches forty-something degrees, but a true New Englander wears shorts and a coat during these periods. Shorts and a coat in springtime is the sign of a true die hard New Englander.
This is also the mating season. The process works in a peculiar way throughout the New England states. You begin to look for a partner in the spring. You keep it light through the summer and then turn things more serious as autumn sets in. This allows you to have a warm body in your bed come winter. At some point late in the winter most relationships in New England come apart. This allows the process to begin again.
The importance of following this process involves a number of other rites of passage. As soon as the weather thinks about hitting the upper sixties, you must prepare for a pilgrimage, in most cases to Hampton Beach or somewhere on Cape Cod. There are other places people in New England make such pilgrimages to. Salisbury Beach, which is basically Hampton Beach but in Massachusetts and much more sedate (at least the last time I checked), is one. Newport, Rhode Island works for the idle rich and other assorted posers. Other examples abound for various small bands of defiant pilgrims.
Another fun activity to undertake in the springtime is to go looking for Old Furnace, Massachusetts. You will find this "town" on most maps, out near Barre. It doesn't exist. I know. My friends and I searched for it every spring from 1980 through 1992. This is the nature of seasonal pilgrimages. You keep doing them every year because otherwise you would forget there are seasons, lose track of time and nothing would ever get done.
Pilgrimages to beaches and other coastal areas continue through the summer months. These also involve the eating of seafood in great abundance. The proper New Englander only eats shellfish in run down establishments that smell of fish and vomit and are filled with flies, provided these places are located within a mile of the ocean. Otherwise you do not eat shellfish, especially lobster. People who eat lobster anywhere further than two or three miles from the ocean are called "assholes."
The summer months are also filled with backyard parties, many of an impromptu nature. Many of these begin with a fellow mowing his grass and drinking beer. By the time he starts drinking his fourth or fifth beer he usually gets the idea to start calling friends over. Often this is because he only bought a six-pack and is too lazy to go back to the store. In addition, it is basically a New England rule that if you drink more than six beers alone you have a drinking problem. You need associates around for validation before you open the seventh beer. This may also lead to the setting up of backyard barbeque grills, rinky-dink above ground swimming pools, and the pulling of broken down automobiles from garages to be looked at by other New England men. For some reason it is a badge of honor to have an old car or motorcycle in your garage that you take out during the spring and summer months in order to tinker with. Sometimes these vehicles become vaguely driveable by fall, but they always end up broken down and back in the garage by the time the first snow starts to fall.
Autumn is the season of yard sales, becoming unnaturally obsessed with apples, raking leaves and switching to a darker beer. Children are encouraged in jump into piles of leaves, even though these piles of leaves are often filled with dirt, bugs and used condoms. This is another rite of passage that cannot be avoided. In some parts of New England, most usually the northern New England states, there is an obsession with something known as "leaf peeping." And yes, it does really go by that name. This activity involves driving around aimlessly staring at leaves and going, "Ooh, look at the pretty colors." This activity is largely responsible for the gasoline shortage in the 1970s and many of our problems with gasoline prices in more modern times.
As autumn comes near its end, it is time to put the broken down vehicles back into the garage and pull out the snowblower. This must be checked out to make sure it is in perfect working order, serviced as needed, and moved to a location where it can be easily accessed, usually directly in front of the broken down vehicle parked in the garage. Once that first storm dumps three feet of snow on your life, you must be able to trudge out to the snowblower without having to muck about too much with the broken down vehicle or any of the piles of crap you've purchased at this year's round of yard sales (which you are currently planning to sell at your own yard sale next year because you have no idea why you bought any of it in the first place).
And with the coming of the winter you must now prepare to survive. You will not thrive, unless you own a snow plowing business, sell snowblowers or run a ski lodge. If you have a fireplace, you must have plenty of wood stocked for the long, harsh and mostly pointless winter. You must stock up on canned foods, water and other supplies. You must make sure you have plenty of sweaters and heavy jackets on hand and put the shorts away until it reaches forty degrees again. Probably at some point in May.