The Granite Status
All is calm — except for the shootout
If you’re flying to Manchester from parts south after dark, you get a great view of the East Coast — a massive Philly/New York/Providence/Boston monster that glitters its way along the coast until it fizzles into a black hole that’s apparently trying to eat Canada.
That hole is us, friends. The Granite Dark. Trees, quiet, and a spectacular lack of giant light-emitting billboards promoting super savings/eternal salvation/the “Cats” national tour. Some days in winter, when power lines fail us, we go even darker. Our hurricane lamps and wood fires flicker dimly among the black branches.
But sometimes we venture out. In the 1950s my grandmother and her friends traveled all the way from their homes in tiny Danbury, NH, to New York City to see another friend who had a small part in “Pal Joey.” At the stage door, whom did they meet but the great Broadway star Yul Brynner. Somehow intuiting they weren’t locals, he asked where they came from. “Concord, New Hampsha,” my grandmother lied. “Well,” she explained later, “We didn’t want him to think we was hicks.”
Like my grandmother, no matter how often I make the jaunt to Boston or New York, there is something about me — about many of us — that betrays New Hampshire roots. Is it the accent? Mistrust of escalators and revolving doors? The gray sweatshirt with the majestic wolf, emblazoned with the words NEW HAMPSHIRE, which I insist on wearing at all times?
I am a subject of curiosity among my more urban friends. Upon discovering I had never had a pedicure and didn’t even know where to start looking, my Wellesleyan friend Joy asked, “Don’t you have toes in New Hampshire?”
Fun fact: “Toes per state” is not information that is readily available on the Internet.
My toes and I were having lunch recently with a couple friends from NYC. (I know there are parts to NYC. Don’t ask me what part my friends are from. Brookhattan?) We were wearing non-functional scarves and pronouncing the “r” in words like “martini.” I have to say, I was feeling pretty cosmopolitan.
My friends began lamenting the uptick of violence in their neighborhoods — muggings, stabbings, counterfeit handbags and other staples of urban scariness. I wanted to join the conversation, but the story of the time I was rushed by a gang of turkeys paled in comparison to their gritty anecdotes.
Then I remembered — the SHOOTOUT!
When I was a kid, there was a shootout, an actual lengthy exchange of gunfire, in the cemetery near my house. Some fugitive had stolen a truck or something, local law enforcement had sniffed him out, and then it all went down. Bullets flew! Tombstones were winged! The graveyard rang with the cracks! from the guns of crime and justice.
“No one was hit,” I said, “but still. Pretty exciting for Northwood.”
Their reactions were identical. Eyes wide, jaws dropped.
“Holy cow!” they said. “I could never live next to a graveyard!”