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Home » ARTS AND CULTURE in RI » RHODE ISLAND (all topics) » Different Strokes – Same Folks
Sun-Drenched Arizona
Different Strokes – Same Folks

By Nicholas H. Kondon | December 13, 2010

Nicholas H. Kondon looks at the differences, and similarities, of the residents and laws of New England and Arizona.

My brief biography tells readers I have some small connection to the State of Arizona, and it was the latest round of politics, wrapped in a government disguise, that got me to thinking about how different we New Englanders are.   These differences – ours not just with Arizonans, but so many other Americans, can be serious, ridiculous, or both.

The Maximum Driving Speed is 65mph in both Arizona and New England

Lots of people might have notions about Arizona that are just wrong.   It’s big, yes.   The sixth largest state by land area, but it’s no Nevada when it comes to speed limits.   Arizona highways stretch toward a horizon that never gets closer, but as in New England, the speed limit tops out at 65.

The Wild West part doesn’t seep into everything, but it does show up regularly.   For example, in Rhode Island, to purchase a long gun - a rifle or shotgun - one fills out forms that go to the local police and the Federales, and there’s a seven-day wait before the gun can be paid for and taken away.   And a handgun? Well, if you’re over 50, you probably don’t have enough years left to get your hands on a .357 in the Ocean State. It’s a touch better in New Hampshire, but worse in Massachusetts where the Minute Men are long gone and completely forgotten.

Now in the Grand Canyon State it’s dramatically different.   If, while you’re out shopping for new living room furniture, you happen to develop a sudden hankering for a 9mm Glock pistol, well, pull into that CVS over there – get yourself 100 aspirins, a Snickers Bar, a Glock, and fifty rounds of ammo, and ya’ll have a nice day, too.

A Breathalyzer Test

It’s that loose for guns, but not for everything.   If a Vermont highway breath test says you’re at or above .08, you’re going to the hoosegow.   Below that, you’re going home.   In Arizona, a .08 will have you in an orange jump suit for a mandatory 15 days starting the moment you blow into the tube.   And although many won’t believe this, if you’re over .02 you’re getting a ticket for driving impaired.   Are you following this? You can have the Picatinny Arsenal in your trunk, but if you’ve got one martini under your belt, your insurance company’s going to hear about it before the sun comes up. That’s schizoid, don’t you think?

Most New Englanders are fearful of snakes.   I know I am.   Arizonans much less so.   Why is that? In New England, the last report of a northern timber rattlesnake was probably mailed in around 1901 in an envelope with a one-cent stamp licked onto it. But, if some six inch, black and yellow garter snake slithers near my feet, there’s a good chance I can beat Jackie Joyner in a 100-meter dash.

Cave Creek, Arizona is the rattlesnake-bite capital of the United States.   And while they’re bragging, why stop there? They have coral snakes, ridge-nosed rattlers, scorpions, tarantulas… geez, don’t you just want to stop reading and look away? But there, in Cave Creek, the sunburned citizens walk around in sandals – some go bare foot.   Not me.

Where the maple tree is king, we like to talk about the weather.   It gets cold, and it does get hot, and yes, we have snow.   But hear this: the temperature range in Arizona can span 168 degrees.   That’s right.   The record low is minus 40 and the record high is 128.   In New Hampshire the swing is more like 153 degrees.   The record high, only 106, and the record low is minus 47, and that low was at the top of Mount Washington which, I am sure, Arizonans would say was “stretchin’ things a mite, pardner.”

Speaking of stretching things - as everyone who lives in the Land of the Mending Wall knows, each spring, fallen rocks must be stacked again on what remains of frost-displaced walls.   We would not be New Englanders without our perpetual rebuilding, for after all “good fences make good neighbors.” Arizonans, too, have come to share this credo, but their fence, the one they hope will make Mexicans good neighbors, is 370 miles long.   Robert Frost, eat your heart out.

But how different are we? Here are the latest figures available.   The average out-migration from New England was about 242,000 people from 2000 to 2004.   66,000 of them moved to Arizona.   So, when we can’t stand scraping the windshield anymore, 25% of us head for the Sonoran Desert.   We’re not different at all.   They’re us.

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