Monday, August 22, 2005

Moby Fly

We went to Maine this weekend, marking my first visit to that great state. Driving north from Boston, you pass through New Hampshire briefly and then cruise into Maine. It's fun to blaze through states so quickly and observe the differing customs, road signage, etc.

New Hampshire's highway welcoming committee must be working overtime, because you are greeted by a huge sign as you enter the state: "You're Going to Love it Here." Just as you're thinking to yourself "and what if I don't?" a state-run liquor store appears with the assuring addendum "Open Sundays." You remember that New Hampshire has no sales tax, and you admit that maybe you will love it here after all. All states welcome you with vague promises of contentment, but there doesn't seem to be a guarantee associated with these promises. Some of the mottos are also vaguely frightening: driving into Connecticut you're informed that the state is "Full of Surprises." Like highway beatings, or free ice cream sundaes? Be on the lookout everybody, Connecticut is full of surprises. Sounds like a scary line out of Grimms fairly tales.

Some states seem to maintain an extensive inventory of slogans, which they present in rapid-fire succession, as if to ensure that you identify with the state, through one aphorism or another. Driving into Maine, you learn quickly that Maine is "Vacationland!" Moments later, you're informed that Maine is vaguely "The Way That Life Should Be." The licenes plates in New Hampshire say "Live Free or Die." I believe this is the official state motto, but I guess somebody realized that "Welcome to New Hampshire! Live Free or Die!" wasn't exactly Hallmark card material on a 20 foot road-side billboard.

Maine features some stunning landscapes, and the natural beauty is accentuated by the notable lack of advertising billboards on the side of the highway. Well, with the exception of the occasional "Vacationland!" reminder, or the strangely guilt-inducing "Are you wearing your seat belt?" and "Are your tires safe?" signs. It's as if the government decided the no billboards law was leaving the landscape too bare, and they needed to chip in a little signage to keep drivers awake on those long treks.

Our Maine expedition took us to the city of Augusta, the state Capitol. A little research on Wikipedia informs me that the city was named Harrington for a few precious months before being suddenly re-christened by drunken lunatics in August of that year. OK, I made up the part about the drunken lunatics, but it fits my mental image of a government that names its Capitol after the current month and erects roadside signs inquiring into your automotive maintenance habits.

We departed Augusta to hit the beach, despite it being a rainy, overcast day. We thought it might be nice to see the coast, even if we couldn't take a swim. Our hosts took us to Popham State Beach. Our naive optimism caused us to bring swim gear nonetheless, which is good because there was no rain to be found once we reached our destination. Just a hazy blanket of humidity hiding most of what is probably a very beautiful beach on a clear day.

Despite the haze, we had a lot of fun running around the shallow sandbars. It was high tide, so we could walk about 300 feet out into the water before we even got to real waves or water much higher than our knees. The beach also features a river, which was evidently venting a lot of rain water from back up where we had driven from. It was fun to be able to navigating waist-high river rapids, knowing that the worst that could happen is I'd be washed out to waist-high sea a few hundred feet down the beach.

I paused from the excitement of navigating waves, rapid, and shallow pools. I lay on my back at a smooth sand bar and etched semi-circles with my fingertips, snow-angel style. I looked up at the sky as it became clearer, and zoned out to the sound of rushing water on three sides of me. Then I got hot and decided to go back in the water.

As I headed for the water, a crazy giant fly/wasp thing lumbered about my head. It looked like a giant fly, but it had wasp-like eyes and fangs. It was about the size of a giant bumble-bee, and was fixed on me. I thought I could ditch it, so I darted left and right, running up the beach looking behind me periodically to see it tracking me, mere inches behind my head at any time. I felt like Luke Skywalker as I raced around the beach, jumping into and out of the water. No matter where I flew my ship, the X-Wing fighter was always right behind me. I immersed myself completely, only to come up for air and find my nemesis, Moby Fly, hovering above me. It chased me and I felt I had no option but to run for the cover of my towel. My lungs burned and I could barely run, but for some reason any movement at all seemed to keep it in tentative pursuit. I dared not discover what awaited me if I simply stood still - what the hell is this thing?! I got to my towel and wrapped up in it jumpily looking around me for the thing. It had disappeared.

I sat on my towel and heaved. I felt safe for the moment. Moments later a green-head fly appeared. I'm also terrified of these, but they're much less vicious than Moby Fly. For those who aren't familiar, a green-head basically looks like a normal housefly but it has an iridescent green head. I first learned about these in Cape Cod when I sat happily reading a novel, before feeling a slight pinch on my leg. I looked down to see blood dripping down my calf. Son of a bitch! At least since then I've learned to kill green-heads, but Moby Fly is new and terrifying to me. I don't know how to cope!

I killed a couple green-heads and looked out at the ocean. My three companions waved at me and motioned me to join them. I was scared. I didn't really want to do anything but leave the beach. I had never encountered a fly like that before. Something so relentlessly vicious. I looked around again and decided that I might be safer near them than I was alone. I stood up and started walking leisurely toward them. I wasn't more than 10 feet from my towel when the lumbering beast appeared again. As if it had been waiting for me all the while. I darted back towards the towel, back towards the sea, and back towards the towel again. My companions later told me they thought I was exhibiting a child-like enthusiasm for the beach and exercise. In a stroke of luck I darted back towards the sea a final time and watched as Moby Fly buzzed off the opposite direction. I was safe for the moment, but I made my way out to sea much quicker this time, looking frantically behind me at every spare opportunity.

Maine.
Vacationland!
Scary fucking bugs that will not rest until I die!
The Way That Life Should Be.

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