Category Archives: music

Togetherness Is Making a Comeback

This summer we were overjoyed to revisit our most beloved spots, events, and people – before the snow flies and COVID handcuffs us anew. Yet another winter where we don’t get to hang out with people indoors? Oof. We’ve gotten clever, though. We’ll find new ways not to lose our minds.

Temporarily freed this summer, we jetted around like dragonflies suddenly winged. We went to Chandler, the Bethel Drive-In, Montague golf course, Vermont’s rivers, ponds, and lakes (nice and full due to RAINS), White Cottage, Blue Moon, and Red Door (free jewelry cleaning and inspection! Watch batteries!), hardware stores, and pizza joints, to name a few. Now we’re scrambling to do things outside even when unmotivated because, suddenly, the sun is low in the sky. Winter is coming.

Which is good news because sometimes summer goes on a little too long, no? Maybe not for college kids, whose schools summon them earlier and earlier, but, growing up, the last two weeks of summer were just painful. That lingers today for me, though I still manage to be saddened by the closing of each pool, park, festival, and outdoor eatery at end of season.

Like many, I hates change and was crushed to return to Vermont and see Belmains and the Woodstock yarn store gone forever … among other places … poof! But gladdened to find other joints afloat or nascent, with open doors and rules in place. Randolph’s Playhouse Movie Theater and Chef’s Market and Rumor Has It. Colorful Life Creations in Bethel. Libraries, public pools, and post offices. Hair salons galore. Must be more heads around here than are evident.


Togetherness made a comeback, carefully. People got together in ways they have been unable to for a long time. With travel still iffy, looking for ways to connect? Try a chorus, or house of worship – before the COVID numbers go up and make things go virtual again (one church in Randolph is in a thrift store—I’ll bet it’s good). It can give you a real boost. Most Sundays I cry at incredibly poetic or moving words, spoken by ordinary folk. Or try volunteering with youth. That’s cheering, for whatever reason. Their little faces? Their energy? When they listen to what you have to say, and you listen back? Another option: talk to strangers, where convos are very surface-y and likely to be upbeat and interesting. There was a great article in The Atlantic on this.

Or create togetherness. Start a blog. What’s that? A Web-log. You’re reading one right now. No one does these any more, some say. But I believe that everyone who wants one should make one. It’s easy and free. You can count your viewers and countries of origin. Heartening. My most popular search terms people use are hilarious (to me): The Mullet is Making a Comeback, Dear Certified Finalist, and Skinny-dipping in Vermont.

I have not actually seen the mullet make a comeback, but other things have. The Rolodex® (you can’t mistype what you’re entering into it, repeatedly – it’s paper!); the flip-top desk (hide your mess from view with a swing of your arm!); going to bed early (why stay up soaking in bad global news?). Also a resurgence in nature:  birds, bees, and butterflies everywhere.

Other things making a comeback, from the nutters I call friends: puzzles, Pinochle, cribbage, bridge. Sundays at the lake. Eighties fashions, overalls, rompers, hair scrunchies, hair bonnets, high-waisted jeans, hot dogs, fanny packs, the ukulele (again?), state fairs, tumbleweeds, saying Eureka!, steak sauce, shoe cobblers (let’s hope), fascism. My boyfriend when they were invented loathed the term “fanny pack.” He swung his around to the front and called it a Crotch Pouch.

 

 

Mercifully, Randolph’s New World Festival made a delightful, controlled comeback. Mental snapshots I won’t forget: women dancing in the rain; the little boys talking to their idols, the big boys; Le Vent du Nord whipping the dance floor into an otherworldly frenzy. These musicians are intergalactic beings sent by God to uplift. 

Next up, Tunbridge World’s Fair. Catch you there, even if we don’t recognize each other masked. Name tags might make a comeback. Good health, and good day.

 

 

Because A Lot of People Have Off Today

You might have time to watch this musical mindblower. Truly astonishing. It prompts more questions than it answers. What are your questions?

I Dare You to Watch This Only Once

Aunt Napper’s Easter Egg Tree

napper easter treeSome things are perfect. The old tymey songs you sang with your aunt in Bellows Falls, the laughs you had together doing so, and the Easter egg tree on her piano.

No room for improvement.

Because We Work With Children

At work, it seems the kitchen is always a battleground. Not only do people steal each other’s creamer or entire lunches – even groceries – cleanliness is an issue. People leave befouled utensils and dishes in the sink as if they will magically cleanse themselves. I asked a male colleague why this occurs. He said, “Because we work with children.” He didn’t mean their physical age.

 

 

God love the women who install workplace signs like, “Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here.Do Your Dishes.” Otherwise-likeable people in offices everywhere “soak” their dishes in the only sink big enough for lactating employees to rinse their breast pumps. Once I taped up a laminated medical photo of multiplying bacteria in a wordless volley on behalf of the breast-feeders. Someone removed it (as another sign in my condo recently warned, “We don’t know who…YET!”) because, apparently, the sign-remover thought it gross. Look in the sink, pally. There’s your gross.

It’s just another terrible example of how mankind has made little progress. We’ve killed each other differently over time, from spears to boiling oil to nerve gas to WMD, but we are still murdering each other and taking each other’s stuff and many, many of us won’t pull our own weight. Not to mention the littering.

I realize there are brain health issues. Some people are just barmy. And for most of my adult life I had neither a dishwasher nor washing machine and I promise you those items make a BIG difference, and it’s one reason why many peoples of the lands hate Americans. We don’t have dysentery every Thursday or have to beat our clothes with rocks, riverside.

protourgolfcollegedotcomThey resent our easy lives, if in part only because they don’t know how crazy we are. I understand because I have struggled in my life on many occasions and I resent handsome, moneyed, model-marrying quarterbacks, golfers, and rock stars, and the models themselves who had to work even less hard. Some say, “Oh, the life of a pro golfer is extremely difficult.” Try custodial work, my good man.

My point being some people are bonkers, and some are resentful and devoid of hope; this discourages them from making an effort. I get that. But there’s a big difference between quietly begrudging the people with charmed lives, and making a disastrous mess out of the corner of the world you share with others because you’re deranged or angry.

Mercifully, there are many good people. A stranger once said to me, “Most people are good. The bad people are noisy and obvious in their destruction so it seems there is a lot of them. Really, there are only a few bad people doing all the bad things.” Repeat offenders, I guess. So I take solace in that good people are quietly stoking their woodstoves and paying their rent and raising gentle citizens and shoveling their neighbors’ driveways. There are countless individuals doing decent things you’ll never hear about. If you are feeling bad about humanity, think on that. I’ll ponder the kindly employee at my gym who washed dozens of water bottles in Lost & Found and put them out for their owners to claim. She didn’t have to wash them. She did.

elle kingAnd when you hear some great piece of music, the second you hear it your soul soars and you are in absolute awe with, “This must be some kind of genius!” and you know for certain there is a God of some sort, inherent in us, and that despite the madness and laggardly sloppiness in this cruel world there is brilliance and kindness and a dancing bird and art of all kinds. And you also know there is no possible way this is random. For every crazy or selfish maniac ruining everyone’s good time there are millions more making a good time, improving things, usually unheralded, unthanked, and unassuming.

I’m not one to candy-coat things in the present, but the past is another matter entirely. The Nostalgia Monster lives inside me, handed down from my father, I think. I’m a nostalgic, to the point of missing people, residences, jobs and situations that I didn’t actually enjoy at the time. It’s one of those species-perpetrating neurological tricks, like women forgetting the pain of childbirth –  if we remember our past fondly, we’ll want to keep going! The good news is if you were ever unkind to me, I’ve probably forgotten. I remember only the sparkly thing you said while ice skating, and I miss you for it, and there are others out there like me who bear you no grudge.

If you’re pinching lunches or littering or hurting people or assuming the world owes you something, like a big, petulant baby, for God’s sake, knock it off. In the future, we’ll like you either way. But in the present, we’ll like you a whole lot more if you’d tighten it up. It’s nice to be responsible; it’s fun to be liked. Give it a go. You’ll see. Good day.

Facebook: ann.aikens.7 … Twitter: @uvgvt.

Catch Joe Bonamassa Live

Joe B lgJoe Bonamassa, iconic blues guitarist who was a child prodigy played with the likes of B.B. King, usually plays big, bluesy shows with the asskicking bands he puts together, in a (happily, for us) relentless tour schedule.

This show, while technically acoustic, does not feel small and everything about it rocks the house (note Australian backup singers’ costumes). The only dates left are right away in NY but I can’t help but hope he trots some of this material out similarly in his Germany, UK and US spring tours because this (sometimes Middle Eastern-influenced) show blew the minds of Burlington right into the cosmos. I’m definitely getting the album when it appears. Here’s who’s playing with him and if you can get tickets, for God’s sake GO. You won’t regret it.

*Forgive my crappy photo. Not pictured is Tina Guo, Chinese cellist whose expertise spans from classical to heavy metal, nor her astonishing gown or insane musical stylings.

Polar Vortex Follies

dietzyNew Englanders are not sissies. In our winter not as snow-dumped as the coastline’s yet brutal in its wind and crushing sub-z temps, we’ve had to make due. As we observed the recent anniversary of the liberation from Auschwitz and current global horrors, we know things could be much, much worse.

And so, because we can, we amuse ourselves in between the complaining. I, for example, unapologetically guzzle discounted Valentine chocolates in bed without brushing. Dreaming is cheap and I go hot places—the Keys, Hell, some award ceremony where I’m burning up under the lights. Others are stoking their woodstoves with such vigor it’s like Havana in there. They’re making dinner in their underwear, as did probably the colonists. Wood heat is sizzling, man; between that and their itchy wool, colonists were surely warmer than today’s oil burning homeowner playing Drop That Thermostat against housemates or sometimes even himself.

As a stranger once advised, unsolicited, during my first icy winter in Vermont: “You have to embrace it.” That year I’d snowshoe in gale-force winds, wincing (passers-by thought smiling?) and willing myself, by God, to embrace it. This year as nutters pass, ice-jogging in shorts … kids with no mittens, no hat, unzipped jacket (hood hanging useless) blowing wide open … I’ve embraced it — not while undulating in a stalled chairlift at 20 below but by reading under a blanket, baking, knitting … with a brief tundra walk daily in a fleece burka to pretend I’m outdoorsy. Others more brave went snowshoeing, skiing, skating and, insanely, ice fishing. They claimed to like it. Stockholm syndrome?

Still, people are getting cranky. Things that annoy have become intolerable. A friend writes:

“If Google is going to track my every move online and use it to serve up ads, couldn’t they at least do it better?  Last fall I bought a dehumidifier.  Every website I visit is still shows me ads for . . . dehumidifiers. Brilliant.  Because really, who can stop at just one? Someday, the technology will advance to the point where The Cloud understands that a person who just bought a dehumidifier is a person who now owns a dehumidifier and as such, is probably no longer in the market for a dehumidifier.  Someday, the uploaded consciousness of Don Draper will determine, ‘Maybe the dehumidifier was a desperate act and now this guy could be in the market for, say, a mold abatement service.’ Or the Internet will offer the proud new dehumidifier owner fun accessories like an “I ♥ DEHUMIDIFIERS” bumpers sticker or a cross-stitch pillow saying, “A dry basement is a happy basement and it’s also a perfectly fine dwelling for your brother-in-law until he can get his act together and besides, it’s just for a few weeks, we think.”  See guys, that’s the real promise of big data—that’s artificial intelligence; that’s the future.  That’s when I’ll know that handing over my last vestiges of privacy has been truly worth it.”

Another crank, a surgeon, explains how he learned to detest the inconsistency of the Automatic world of modern tymes:

panes“It began while scrubbing at the surgical sink for five minutes. They installed one row of scrub sinks that automatically went on by hitting them with your knee, with another “modern” set that automatically went on by sensing your hand under the faucet. I sustained an Automatic Injury whenever I would hit the bottom of the sink with my knee expecting it to go on only to realize that I was not at the Automatic Sink. It begat Automatic Envy as my knee was hurting and I wished I were at that other sink. Automatic Anger took over as I’d go limping into the operating room. It doesn’t stop there.”

One antidote to automatic envy, cabin fever, and Polar Vortex antics is … music! I sing badly to homemade CDs, playable in my unModern car. Studies show that, of people who do things in groups (sport teams, political clubs, choirs), people who sing together are happiest. And healthier! Some suggest it’s the vibration on the thymus gland improving immune response to biogremlins. I chalk it up to the sheer joy of harmonizing, resonating, and laffs, for all chorale groups snicker together. Who couldn’t, with what the tenors are saying back there?

My republican and democrat friends fraternize, often singing. We red and blue Valley pals have the best time, snorting away—we just don’t talk politics.table Or we do and let it go. We know we’re lucky to have heat and power; what’s a little difference of opinion among friends? Little tip for you there, warring peoples of the Land. Warble, harmonize, titter your way to amity. Good vortex. Good day.

Lists Are Good For You

And now a tribute. To the mighty, the daunting, the beloved…the list.

dw parade m+mI don’t have a real bucket list. If I did, Disney World® wouldn’t be on it; I didn’t know it was any good. I went to Disney in my 40s by chance. When most people hear, “I’m goin’ to Disney World!” they think Sooperbowl. I think: time capsule, spinning teacups manned by deranged nieces, and Christmas parades with “princes” in wigs with many hair follicles per square inch. Also: pack well. Unexpected weather and unplanned befoulment demand backup.

SW1While a winter trip to a theme park ain’t exactly Christmas in New England, a good way to steel yourself is to get a flu shot then go to one. Disney’s a good bet because as the sweat of many nations and the sputum of the Lands settles upon you, you are exposed to virtually every germ currently available. It is, after all, a small world, certainly for a microbe. And as you build character standing on lines for rides and hear songs that won’t leave your head ever, you leave the prior year behind entirely—often a good idea.

Before I get into a favoured list of deep importance, the annual Fake New Year Predictions, here a short list of things overheard at Disney World:sw3

-Will all the lines be this long?

-I don’t think this line actually goes anywhere.

– It makes the line longer.

-We’re definitely under surveillance.

-Disney World is a young man’s game.

-I don’t want to go peeeeeeee peeeeeeeeeee! (said by more than one child from more than one nation in more than one Land on more than one day.)

– Did you say “teeming thong?!” NO, teeming THRONG.dw parade olaf

-This. Line. Is. Going. Nowhere.

Lists! Weekends generate lengthy lists. Line ‘em up and knock ‘em down.  Dump? Check! Tenny? Check!! Margherita – rocks – salt at Richardson’s Tavern? Checkarooni. Another…good day.

On to the prescient populist predictions for 2015, submitted by you the people from ME to FL, NH to CA:

North America will break up along the Mississippi and drift apart.

Angelina Jolie will have an affair with Jennifer Aniston.

Office betting pools explode on which former Disney child star will implode next.

Congress will be fined for not working; fined members will be unable to run again.

3D printing will be applied to implants from cheek to calf.

Jenna Bush Hager and Chelsea Clinton will decide to run for president in 2016.

With cheap gas, the price of vintage Hummers will strengthen.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will steal the rights to his own life story from himself, then turn it into a multi-billion dollar video game called Zuckerville, a place where he has the rights to all players’ personal information.  Suckerville?

The first smart refrigerator will arrive, voicing the caloric, fat, sodium, sugar, protein and fiber content inside.  It will lock after 8pm and won’t admit entrance until 6am.

Texas will secede.

Quebec will secede.

Killington will secede.

Punxsutawney Phil will be canned when he is bitten by a vampire and no longer casts a shadow.

ISIS will splinter off into new factions, one of which by year’s end will become the world’s most popular boy band.

More people will buy VW campers and park in Walmart lots to avoid campground fees, accumulating decals for amusement parks, roadside attractions, and states.

Americans will be required to rescue an animal by paying for its care or adopting it.

Vladimir Putin will be poisoned by an elite squad of journalists.jw mkaltydotorg

Putin will come out as gay, step down as President, and marry figure skater Johnny Weir.

The inane patter on award ceremony red carpets will worsen.

People will leave [followed by unintelligible gibberish].

 

I will be befuddled by new social media I’m supposed to master (Yik Yak?).

I will not gain weight (glad you said fake.)

I will stick to my New Year’s resolution to be happy and smile at everyone I meet.

I’m going to have sex every day.

 

Due to Equatorial Vortex Irene, we’ll have 90-degree days at the end of February.

Candidates vying for the presidency will optimistically fund new dog breeds, the Dachsoodleman (dachshund, +poodle + Doberman) and Cockzerstiff (Cocker Spaniel +Schaunzer + Mastiff) for his/her Whitehouse dog .

And my ties for Personal Favorite:

Rather than “predict, I “wish” we could all just slow down, get our faces out of electronic devices and embrace the outdoors…but silly me, then corporations wouldn’t make bank.

We will have weather.

A unifying figure will emerge.

 

sw adiosWith that, I wish you great list-making, great outcomes, great incomes, and good day.

Come to Vermont ~ Tweed it!

Learn it. Love it. Live it.

Learn it. Love it. Live it.

There is no greater fun than the 5th annual Tweed River Music Festival, happening this weekend in the middle of Vermont.

Here is a schedule/overview of the artists. Stick around for musical wizard and host Bow Thayer, whose great new line-up is on at 9 pm on Friday; his other rockin’ outfit, Perfect Trainwreck, will perform Eden in its entirety on Saturday night (a spectacle!) Ask me now and I’ll give you particulars. Find me there, and I’ll tell you what to buy at the merch tent. We’ll dance.

Come! Camp or stay at an inn, swim & fish in Silver Lake or the Tweed & White River swimming holes…skinny-dip, tube, kayak, vegetate, and ~ oh yeah ~ listen  to kicka** music outdoors in gorgeous Vermont.

Kudos to Tweed River Productions for scheduling PERFECT weather: hot enough to swim by day, cool enough for jackets by night. Hey music fans, Tweet this Tweed!

It’s a Grand Old…Peace Dove?

foj engine 2

What’s a parade without Engine 2?

I love a parade.  What’s better than a marching band? Nothing. And what’s the most important section? The drums, of course [no pix cuz I have no technology to blur the faces of the yoots in the Randolph Union High School marching band. Which would look  creepy anyway.]

 

 

foj health angels

GMC’s Health Angels.

The next best part of any parade is the nutters. These ones are the Gifford Medical Center “Health Angels.” The front of their “biker” shirts said, “Who’s Your Doctor?” and they carried placards with stuff like, “Catch it early or it could get surly,” or “Colons and Prostates: Go there.” My favorite was, “After 50, Give ’em a Squeeze.”

foj peace doves

Note olive branch.

But wait, there’s more! My church made “Peace Doves” one year for the heck of it — giant doves to be paraded about town in a promotion of peace. These birds are trotted out from time to time. While I don’t take issue with our national anthem being about war, I understand those for whom it’s a bother, and stand behind my anti-war brethren 100%. Here they are, the Peace Nutters!

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