Rhode Island -- 10/25/03
Rhode Island is truly a different place.

It may be surrounded by Connecticut and Massachusetts -- and at various times though history both have attempted to annex or conquer Rhode Island, including by force of arms -- but Rhode Island is quite distinct from its larger neighbors.

Consider its culture ("kulcha").

Coffee milk is the official state beverage (narrowly beating out Del's Lemonade -- and no, I'm not making this up). When we first moved here Jeremy came home from middle school to exclaim "They serve coffee in the school cafeteria!" No, actually it was coffee milk -- milk mixed with coffee syrup, just as one might add chocolate syrup to make chocolate milk. Autocrat is the major source of coffee syrup.

In other places people eat submarine sandwiches, or subs, hoagies, poor boys, etc. Some folks call them grinders. That's the Rhode Island name for them, except it's pronounced "grinda." If you are thirsty, instead of a coffee milk you might want to have what other places know as a milkshake or a frappe. In Rhode Island it's a "cabinet." If you just want a quick drink of water you wouldn't go to a water cooler or a drinking fountain, you'd go to a bubbler (prounced, of course, "bubbla").

This train of thought was prompted by a new political protest site put up by a resident of my town, satirizing John Harwood, the former Speaker of the House in the Rhode Island legislature. He was the most powerful person in the state, and still retains his seat and considerable behind-the-scenes power despite losing the Speakership as the result of a major political scandal last year. The site -- puckyharwood.com -- hammers at various scandals during Harwood's career. The latest scandal was prompted by federal grand jury indictments of the top management of the English company that runs Lincoln Park (a dog race track and pseudo-casino with slot machines, etc.) over charges that they schemed to pay millions of dollars in "legal fees" to Harwood's law firm. (Oh, the "pucky" is a nickname prompted by Harwood's enjoyment of playing ice hockey.)

For such a small state we have a fascinatingly huge amount of political scandal and corruption.

What else do we have?

Well, we have the Big Blue Bug, a fifty-eight foot long termite on the roof of New England Pest Control. You might have seen the Big Blue Bug in the movie Dumb and Dumber (which was made by the Farrelly brothers, a pair of native Rhode Islanders). (By the way, the New England Pest Control site posts a cartoon by Don Bosquet, a cartoonist who has dedicated his career to depicting the foibles of this area of New England.)

There is a Rhode Island political satire group, regularly appearing in area night spots to roast public figures in song and dance, Charlie Hall's Ocean State Follies. Charlie Hall has also turned his hand to cartooning and a number of his works can be viewed online -- Charlie Hall's cartoons.

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