As Bay Staters, we recognize that our European ancestors sure knew how to roll: scarlet letters, sticks up asses, if-she-drowns-she's-not-a-witch-if-she-floats-she's-a-witch-so-let's-kill-her legal applications.
And with a European history dating back as far as any other state you can name, let's face it: you can make a case that Massachusetts is therefore the weirdest in the country. It's so weird, it's not even really a state at all — hello, commonwealth!
Is it still weird today? Uh, yeah. Try negotiating a rotary without getting killed. Or seeing if the Speaker of the House — any Speaker of the House — can go a bloody month without being indicted for something.
But some in our state — make that "commonwealth" — are doing more than their share to keep our strange traditions alive. Plenty of oddfellow subcultures are bubbling beneath the surface in Massachusetts. And they're actually of the cute and cuddly variety — certainly not the type of uptight puritanical folk who harbor intentions of subjugating native peoples, anyway.
Herewith a round-up of some of the stranger subcultures you're likely to encounter here — and where to encounter them.
Nerds are the new hipsters. We like their cutesy music (eh, Gleeks?); they are our comic heroes (Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert). They are, in essence, the real contemporary American Idols. In his exploration of nerd culture, American Nerd, Massachusetts-raised author Benjamin Nugent suggests that many popular dorks simply use their experience as outsiders to write about the "other side" with an alacrity that endears them to the general public: "Their voyeurism — their sense of staring from the wrong lunch table at a radiant nation — makes for a vision of America that appeals to the whole world, including America itself."
Nerds aren't stupid. And with more elite schools than any other place on Earth, we have our share of people who sport bumper stickers that trumpet things like, BEAN ME UP, SCOTTIE, THEY MAKE LOUSY COFFEE DOWN HERE and ALCOHOL AND CALCULUS DON'T MIX, NEVER DRINK AND DERIVE.
The best place to catch nerds in their native habitat are such locales as Pandemonium Games in Central Square (the premiere nest for the D&D-masters variety nerd) or the Coolidge Corner Theatre (the New England Browncoats' fifth annual "Can't Stop the Serenity" event will sacrifice offerings to the vengeful lordship of Joss Whedon, including screenings of Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog on June 18, and cult favorite Serenity on June 19, both at midnight).
pandemoniumbooks.com | nebrowncoats.com
You may remember the 2008 bromance Role Models, in which Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd conquer the LARP (live-action role play) battlefield dressed up like members from Kiss. Step into real life and you'll find the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), an international nonprofit that studies life in the Middle Ages by actually living it. Boston's very own chapter, "The Barony of Carolingia," will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year with much mirth and merriment.
The Barony offers the opportunity to join guilds a-plenty: brewers, cooks, calligraphers! Plus, there's archery, fencing, instrumental music, and Middle Eastern/European dances. Look out for the Archery and Thrown Weapons Championship, August 28 at the Town Fields in Bedford.