The Socials are Making Fun of Our Old Man
Last week a graphic went viral on the socials that claimed to denote the worst attractions in every state. It was the work of an Instagrammer who polled his 400,000 followers.
And you know what repped New Hampshire? Of course you do. The Old Man of the Mountain.
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I’ve been to about half of the attractions in the graphic. Few, if any of them, are the worst in their states. Maybe Plymouth Rock. But the list looks less like the worst attraction in every state and more like the first attraction that comes to mind for every state.
Either way, it emphasizes a continuing issue for us. Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those “should we move on from our ex?” pieces about the Old Man.
If the Old Man is our worst attraction, that’s fine. It doesn’t exist anymore, after all. If it’s the other way, that the Old Man is what we’re known for as far as tourism goes, it’s a pretty hard fall down that mountain. Kind of like if Montana leaned hard on the fact it used to be a sea. Or Virginia never getting over that it used to be the biggest state in the country.
As an aficionado of oddity, I love that we chose an oddity for our brand. The Old Man was awesome and we should never forget him. At least, from what I’ve heard. It lost face five years before I got here. But I do know that without him our branding gets generic. We’re not the only state with mountains and water.
What’s really a quandary with the Old Man being all over New Hampshire except where we need him to be is that we have no story to tell about him. When somebody asks, “What’s that on your license plate?” the only answer is a literal one: pareidolia once and a pile of rocks now.
Sure, we have the Daniel Webster quote, but it’s just irony now that the landslide brought it down. And Hawthorne took a swing with his pen. But neither gave us a real story. In fact, the only story I’ve ever heard about the Old Man is a geologic one. And that’s boring.
But if we had a real narrative around him, a myth, say, it would make sense to keep him alive after he broke his crown. What if we thought of him as the face of a giant rock monster sealed up in the mountain? Our high school mascots would be the Rock Giants. We could sculpt giant faces in every mountain in the state both as a testament and to draw visitors. We’d be a land of giants. It’s too late now, but we should have spent more time creating stories about him instead of cementing his cracks.
But the Old Man does have a story about us. A good one. For two decades, he’s been irreplaceable in New Hampshire and in other states’ ideas about us. That’s because he was epically weird. And we’ve never found anything epically weird enough to replace him. And maybe keeping him as our symbol despite him being rubble is an epically weird thing to do. And epically weird is a fantastic rep for a state.
J.W. Ocker lives in Nashua and writes spooky novels and travelogues. His next book, “Cursed Objects,” debuts in September and is up for preorder. Visit him at oddthingsiveseen.com or send him New Hampshire oddities that he should visit at firstname.lastname@example.org.