The Rhode Island of my birth was marked by certain signs: downtown was a faded gray that signaled some former glory; the oranges and yellows of October were signs of frustration that sparked thoughts of spring training; neighborhood liquor stores sported dingy white signs, badges of a local - if battered - pride: "Narragansett Lager Beer Sold Here." You used to see those signs everywhere.
By the time I was old enough to drink a beer, most of the signs were gone, and the beer had become the signature cocktail of the financially insolvent. Occasionally you’d hear something at a barbecue about how it used to be great, some reminiscence about somebody watching the fireflies with his old man while he sipped a ’Gansett.
I moved away. Things changed. I came back.
On my return I was surprised to find that all the signs had changed. The whole state seemed to have gotten cleaned up and had its parts oiled: downtown was now the epicenter of a funky artistic economy; TWO World Series trophies signified our redemption, and the bright white signs with the clipper ship had started sprouting around the state.
As a native Rhode Islander, I have a congenital condition that causes me to be disproportionately enthusiastic about anything good from my home state. When I discovered that Narragansett was delicious, I wanted to shout it from the top of Jerimoth Hill. I started bringing it to parties, sticking cold bottles in empty hands and urging my friends to taste it. It pleased me to see their enjoyment.
And now this - I popped open a frosty ’Gansett to watch the Pats, and the bottle thanked me! There in my hand, printed on the inside of the bottlecap, was a message: "Congratulations on your free T-shirt!"
I’ll wear it with pride. I’m glad New England is starting to see those signs again.