Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Geography Redux

Geography. The Moriarty to my Sherlock. The Q to my Picard. The... Kanye to my Swift? It got away from me. 

I love maps and motion and naming capitals. I breathe easiest on moving trains and flying planes and highway lanes. (And if that's not a song lyric, it definitely should be. Looking at you, Swift.) I don't know why. It's not that I feel exceptionally untethered in those moments. That would imply I feel tethered when stationary. I don't. I'm not sure I've ever felt particularly anchored to a single geographical location. I certainly don't right now. Part of me loves that.

And part of me hates it. Hates. I hate distance. I hate geography. I hate that my friends and family are in England and Boston and Indiana and the next room over and everywhere in between. Being untethered is... maddening. I think I'm ready for some kind of anchor (or tether- I realize I have a lot of metaphors going here), but I haven't the faintest idea what it's going to look like or where I'm going to put it down. At 8:00 am, after a couple cups of coffee, it's thrilling. At 3:00 am after a couple drinks, it's horrifying.

This is why I feel like an alewife.

Wait, what?

This renewed interest I have in my dumb little corner of Internet inanity (this blog) got me thinking about the last place I was inspired to write: a nondescript office in Cambridge, MA. It's out by Alewife, the end of the Red Line and the only T-Station that doesn't exclusively use Helvetica in its signage (which, I'm proud to say, I noticed well before I read the Wikipedia article). I never thought much about the word "alewife," apart from occasionally pronouncing it "al-uh-'wiff-uh" in my head for fun (and subsequently getting this song stuck in my head). I had no idea, until last week, that the "alewife" is actually a type of fish. And it might be my new spirit animal. 

At first glance, it might not be the best fish to choose as a spirit animal. I mean, a fish isn't a great spirit animal to begin with. But this dude is particularly boring. Basically just your standard gray, coastal Atlantic fish. Apparently, it got the name "alewife" because it has a relatively large chestal region, which, since you can hardly say fish have chests (mermaids being the obvious exception), we can more safely refer to as a "general front area." I guess some colonial perv thought this slightly larger than average "front area" resembled the stereotypically plentiful bosom of a tavern proprietress. Sure.

Among its other less-than-desirable qualities (an above average chest being less-than-desirable only in this narrow context), is its penchant for invading. Back in the day, hordes of alewives swam their way into the Great Lakes, where they became a bit of a menace to the existing marine society. You know who else once left the East Coast for the Great Lakes region (and may or may not have become a menace)? Me

On the East Coast, the alewife's turf has historically stretched from Nova Scotia to North Carolina. Man made annoyances going back as far as the building of dams in the 1600s have caused their numbers to dwindle and their territory to shrink, but reintroduction efforts seem to be a major priority for... people who do that kind of thing. That's why it was a big deal when an alewife was spotted in the Bronx River a few years back. (Incidentally, I don't know who Stephen Paul DeVillo is, but his "Bronx River Stories" on the site I just linked to are excellent little nuggets of information.) A bar has since opened in Long Island City called Alewife. Apparently it's a Mecca of craft beer. You know who lives in New York and loves beer? Me.

The alewife also likes motion. In the spring, it leaves the ocean to spawn in freshwater rivers and streams. And it's sophisticated. In Canada, it's known as a gaspereau. "Gasp" as in "gasp for" and "eau" as in water. Because fish gasp for water, obviously. (I'm an expert in pretend francophonic etymology.) You know who else likes water? Me. (I.)

I know, a sloppy metaphor all around. In fact, the title of this post should be "Sloppy Metaphors." But the point is, I'm adopting the alewife as my spirit animal. Or at least my spirit fish. In some ways, I aspire to be like them; gray, scaly, and often used as bait. Just kidding. I like that they're also struggling with their geography, but they keep swimming along, unconcerned. (I don't think that's presumptuous. Fish barely have brains, right?) They seem scrappy. And I like the symmetry of an Alewife in Boston and an Alewife in New York. 

So... who wants to have a beer with me in Long Island City? 


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