The Legend of Mendez
Mendez first spoke to me through a stall carving on the New Jersey Turnpike. The simple, craggy workmanship read MENDEZ RULEZ. Who was this Mendez, and who was I to argue his rule? I zipped and left.
A year later, I was enjoying a lobster roll from a fisherman’s shanty near Acadia when I spotted some paint on a large boulder in the parking lot, MENDEZ WAZ HERE, in bold red letters over a blobby blue outline. From the bowels of New Jersey to the coast of Maine. This bastard sure gets around, I thought.
His answer might have been “As do you.”
An MBTA map at Downtown Crossing drove me to obsession. I was changing from the Orange Line to the Red when I saw his calling card, MENDEZ OWNZ, written on the Red Line station map in thick black marker with arrows pointing at every stop. I’ve been to every stop; there’s nothing special about that. Mendez can’t claim the average as his own excellence. I wouldn’t let him. But how would I find him? What would I say if I did?
Really, though, there was no hope of finding Mendez with his name smeared and scraped over half of the Northeast. The Internet found every Mendez who had been to Acadia, every Mendez who had visited Boston. The beauty of Mendez’s flagpoles was the anonymity it gave him; no one knew who he was, yet everyone knew where he’d been and what he’d seen. He’s been to the same places you’ve been and done the same things you’ve done. I’ve since stopped obsessing about him. Because, in a way, you’re Mendez.