Category Archives: personal
I don’t think I can improve upon this old St. Patty’s Day post. It pretty much says it all.
But if you follow me on Twitter (@uvgvt), I’ll retweet the cement mixer parade in Burlington. It’s what we dew.
Another week, another protest. This one against the “non-ban.” Alt-facts and the temporary lift of the “non-ban” aside, Winooski gathered for the smallest, proudest protest of the Land, held in the center of its infamous rotary. Even the sun participated.
True fact: the Burlington area is famously refugee-friendly, has been for decades. That’s Vermont for you. First in so many things, including outlawing slavery, allowing blacks and women into its (first in the nation) private military college, first state college, and of course the first rope tow. Let’s not forget: first in civil unions. Yay, ‘mont!
Here’s some more signs, mostly last-minute, with heart.
I don’t know where to begin in trying to make sense out of 2016 for Dear Reader. In my current state of beleaguered puzzlement I am unqualified. It says something about this past year that so many watched Gilmore Girls (fanciful escapism), and guests who said they were coming to our holiday party simply didn’t show (boggled torpor…or home watching GG).
Observing actual, known stars in the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movies this year, these oeuvres normally populated by actors you’ve never heard of, I had to wonder: desperate for work or, like most of us, just trying to contribute something positive in a world gone mad while wearing a corrective overblouse* to conceal unsightly swags of waistmeat?
What a year. The departures of Prince, Bowie, Shandling, Frey, Ali, Wilder, Cohen, Palmer, Zsa Zsa, Michaels, Princess Leia and her funny mom, and Wessonality ~ and that’s just the celebrities. Olympic swimming shenanigans and women’s gymnastics gold. Refugees tossed about the globe. The Cubs. A female announcer at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade gushing at a Victoria’s Secret model on live television about what an “honor” it must be to wear the Fantasy Bra. Women my age everywhere trotting around in stilettos – an orthopedic surgeon’s dream. Throw in, oh, the election and its aftermath, with the promise of a completely bizarre year ahead, and you have undiluted global befuddlement.
Now I’m not a strict party voter. I vote for the seemingly best candidate. Some of my truest friends are republicans, libertarians, anarchists, apoliticos, and members of the blissful ignorati. I’m not that smart myself. I had no answer when a young person asked at Thanksgiving, “Are there any vegetarian republicans?” I don’t know. Are there?
I don’t trouble myself with politics much because it’s evidently out of my control; at my advanced age I don’t fret about the uncontrollable unless it involves immediate family or friends. I’m old. Not old-old. Not Crazy Old Duffer with a limited range of movement old, not bumbling around Mr. Magoo old. Just tired old. Not-that-hopeful old. Old enough to speculate about some great feat I might accomplish, or imagine some sooper piece of good fortune that might come my way, ponder this notion briefly, and go, “Nah.” I’m pretty much just trying to avoid pain at this point.
Old. I embarrass myself with antiquated references. At work I mention interoffice mail, pneumatic tubes, or Telex… at parties I’ll bring up Schweddy Balls, Lemon-freshened Borax or the Hooterville Cannnonball, exclaiming hilariously, “Book ’em, Danno,” or “Where’s the beef?” while lurching around the buffet like an old jalopy, the young people rolling their eyes — Where’d you dig up this old dino? — as their parents laugh heartily, if not without a certain flushed derangement, at my archaic allusions.
A friend is using paper flash cards to get through school; she has to make them because flash cards are digital now. You can’t find a taxi, what with the Uber takeover, which I wouldn’t mind except I can’t figure out the Uber app half the time. Is a car coming? Did I order one? I can’t tell. I can’t even see my phone.
One excuse for our escalating idiocy is that we work long hours and are routinely exposed to an excess of information. There’s little free time. We end up doing everything too fast. Emails I send are definitely not carefully read by their recipients; if I ask 3 questions, I’m lucky to get 2 answered. I think I read things carefully, but I guess not. I saw in an office notice that some employees will be “executed” where it really said “excluded” (seemed harsh). I interpreted a bulletin board’s “selectboard meeting” as “skateboard meeting” (more fun!). I misread a newspaper headline, Signs of Natural Resources on Mars, as Signs of Human Resources on Mars. (Did they find, like, on the planetary surface, an HR pamphlet, Respecting Other Martians in the Workplace & Grooming Guidelines?) I think I remember everything. Yet a friend insists that “chocolate bedroom antics” is something we discussed recently with big laffs. Zero recollection. Old.
Suggestion for 2017: tune out and slow down. Do less. Device less. Pay attention in conversation. Go to the movies. Read a magazine. Sort a drawer. Take a nap. Love. Do one thing at a time. You might actually remember it. Good day, good luck and – let’s hope – good year.
*Nod to Zora
Twitter handle: @uvgvt.
Fall is a time of endings. A time to bask in nostalgia and perhaps mourning. Some exceptional people have left our plane recently and it’s easier in autumn, somehow, to wallow in the loss. I go right down to bottom; I’m not a shallow diver. Anything less feels like I’m not getting the job done right.
In middle age, I try not only to navigate but enjoy life’s vicissitudes. When I’m up I know I’ll go down and – mercifully – vice versa. Our experience on earth is to be a rich one. We are not to be stuck in one mood; that would be annoying. So when Stick Season gets a tad dreary, just picture how we all recently hopped aboard the Foliage Express, cruising around in awe in a magical world of dappled, colorful light and canopied dirt roads, the sun low in a Superman-blue sky as we wondered how musicians who penned all-time great songs (Billy Joel; Phil Collins) also wrote such toads (Tell her About It, 1983; Sussudio, 1985).
Living here has mental health advantages. As an auctioneer at a fundraiser recently put it while auctioning off a dinner at someone’s home, “And their back yard is a gorgeous natural wonderland … which describes about 97% of Vermont.” True. Most of us can walk less than a mile and see a lovely slice of paradise. Of help during dark tymes.
And like humans everywhere, Vermonters throw feel-goodevents. Randolph’s New World Festival, Woodstock’s Lobster on the Green, the Tunbridge World’s Fair. All that dancing and eating and merrymaking, the grease of many nations, the musicians and animals and maple and historic historicness of it all … we just had that. We’ll have it again. For now, in blustery weather, why not lift your voice in song? Join a choir or chorus or hospice group. Sing in the car. Public restroom. Feed store. Do it. Cheering!
A friend sent me an article about High Functioning Anxiety. The poor person who wrote it was clearly living a life of self-loathing eased only, if cleverly, by X-treme busy-ness. No stranger to combatting distress with busy-ness myself, I felt bad for the author but had to wonder: why are so many people so miserable in modern tymes?
A Dalia Lama op-ed piece noted that modern man has more literacy, less infant mortality, less poverty and less hunger. He suggested our despair stems from people not feeling they are needed or contributing. Add to that, IMHO, the unreal images of love and careers projected on all our screens, plus Lord knows what environmental stressors. Hell, when mankind had few choices, struggling to survive pestilence and droughts, we were grateful for a meal and a bed and a set of teeth. Now, that’s not enough. The friend writes: “Laura Ingalls Wilder had a terribly hard life, but did she sit there and worry? No, she did not! She went and twisted hay for fuel during the Long Winter.” So what’s the answer?
A trip to Bethel. Whodathunk? The renovations of its town hall and churches, the post-Irene bridge, cozy eateries, good meats at the Central Market, the Little Library in a cleaned-up downtown, pop-up “university” Bethel U, … cheerful progress! I’ve been a fan of Bethel since 1969, because we could exchange our parents’ beer cans for fishing lures and because I hate change and it never, ever changed. But this change is good. You and Bethel: perfect together.
So once you’ve sufficiently enjoyed your dark, autumnal introspection, bask in Vermont’s boggling natural splendour, ponder fun tymes you’ve had, read Little House on the Prairie, consult the Thanksgiving Argument Generator online, daytrip to Bethel, and for God’s sake, sing. Time marches on. Before you know it you’re in your 50s keeping a bladder diary. Good warbling, and good day.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: @uvgvt
When I’m not puzzling about our political climate, pondering which mosquito-borne illness is most likely at a particular time of day (West Nile by night; Zika and dengue by day) or fretting about The Really Big One, I’m contemplating the flip side of everything for dear Reader. And as I peripatetically examine Vermont’s many splendours, I collect observations and nuggets of solid gold for your reading pleasure in our dark modern tymes.
Such as this gem during a holiday weekend, from a doctor I met lakeside: “My research is online. Google me.” I’ve never heard the verb Google with me as the object of the verb – brilliant! Let’s say it a lot. The world is a mess. We could use the laffs.
The Olympics upon us, I am unable to wax desperate about world affairs. The sweat of many nations* diverts us, joyfully. From the opening ceremony to the first “On your mark!” to the extinguishing of the torch, we are riveted by the athletes’ discipline, costumes, and youth.
Observation: when I started watching the Olympics (first televised in the US in 1960) in 1968, the athletes were all older then I. Now they’re all younger. Much. And very different from me. As the official slogan for the first Olympic and Paralympic Games in South America says: A New World. A new world I can no more fathom than I can navigate. The technology alone…there are many, many things now beyond our control. With everything from the car to the toaster computerized, we can’t fix anything that’s busted. Our children and grandchildren know more than we do, for the first time in the history of the world. We’re in a weird place because of it. I’m pretty sure that when we were kids, everything was our fault. We were in the way, we were noisy, we broke things, we cost a lot. Now, as adults, everything is our fault. We destroyed the planet etc. etc.
A term we non-Olympians hear only every 2 years is Degree of Difficulty. As my father would agree, the Degree of Difficulty in just plain living has greatly increased in our part of the world in recent years. We are assaulted by information and images of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, and exposed to waves and rays of all kinds. There is too much bad news televised, too many climatic disasters, too much violence and economic upheaval boggling our beans — and that’s not counting the disappearance of products we loved, the prevalence of fakely famous “celebrities,” and horrible fashion trends. No wonder we can’t sleep.
Can’t sleep? Hell, stay up till midnight every single night watching the O’s. It’s where the degree of difficulty is measurable and finite, unlike in the rest of life. It’s the only place you’ll hear caldron in a non-pagan setting, the term aquatic stadium, and podium as a verb, e.g., ”I plan to podium.”
When life’s degree of difficulty proves too much and you hit the wall, achieving the unfortunate state that psychologists call learned helplessness, just pack it in. Leave the dishes in the sink, the bills unpaid, kick up your feet, and turn on the tube. Gaze at the beautiful youth of earth’s many Lands with their crazy-good feats and grace and energy, with compelling close-ups of their unashamed thrills of victory and agonies of defeat.
And the sounds! The parallel bars. The diving board. The thwaks and panting. The excited sportscasting and cheering of the fans will rouse you. You’ll see people going absolutely nuts because they won the bronze. And with today’s high def TVs, you’ll feel like you’re cycling right along with them, swimming underneath them, vaulting through the air alongside them, or falling off the balance beam despite your finest efforts. It’s like when Bugs Bunny was chasing the mechanical rabbit lure at the dog track. You are right there with them. It’s virtual reality and it sure feels good. We have to take advantage of what slim benefits Modern Tymes offer, indeed.
Not into sport? Volunteer or hang out with the YP’s.** Despite the hideosity of the man bun, with its possibly samurai provenance, and their disinterest in anything awkward or random***, the YPs are lovely beings of light, so polite and “Howzitgoing?” and “Tell me what’s good!” and “You’re fine.” With them, bigotry and bias and dependence upon fossil fuels will vanish. Miraculous inventions and ways of thinking will solve climate change, restore the polar ice cap, correct water problems, feed the world, and repopulate vanishing species.
But for now, dear Reader, give up. Recline on the couch and win the bronze. Leave the future to the YPs. Google yourself silly. Everything will be okay. Good vaulting and good day.
DON’T TRY TO GET PEOPLE TO DO STUFF THEY DON’T WANT TO
It’s like throwing water on a grease fire.
SOMEONE YOU KNOW LOVES CHEESE
Show up with a wheel of cheddar.
CAKE BY THE OCEAN
Pretty baby, if they play that song one…more…time….
*Nod to Jon Hayman
***Nod to Adam Gopnik on “The Moth”
Let’s start with fireflies. These magical beetles (lightning bugs) fire up the woods with bioluminescent abdomens to attract mates or prey. It’s odd they use their glow to attract both of those things. I guess people use money for that.
In some of the 2,000+ species of fireflies, the females are flightless — an unkind world where pedestrian women bugs who can’t get a pilot’s license date flying male bugs that can just take off, lit. and fig. Females lay eggs on or near the ground. The larvae eat slugs and snails, and as adults become either predators or nectar-guzzling vegetarians. You can’t eat them. They taste bad or, worse, poisonous. It is thought that Caravaggio used a photoluminescent powder from crushed fireflies in his photographic painting process, their powder also used back then for FX in the theater. (No PETA.)
Now I’ve seen a few glowing abdomens in my day, but not like these babies’. In the woods they’ve been going haywire. Glowing and throbbing and luring sexy dates every which way from Sunday; there should be a bumper crop of larvae next spring. And so here Tip #1 to be happy and more productive: glow, lure, frolic, multiply, and be poisonous. Fly if you can!
Wow, everything’s rutting this time of year, seems like. It’s technically productive, but causes a lot of road kill as animals race around the woods and highways with one thing on their minds. The young male moose have been kicked out of their fams by now, so (Tip #2) be careful out there. You will be less happy and productive if you drive into a giant quadruped or even a chipmunk for God’s sake.
Tip 3: Studies have proven multi-tasking to be a crock. If you’re doing 2 things simultaneously, you’re doing only one of them well — if that. My idea of multi-tasking is clipping my toenails while listening to music, or doing the dishes while the washing machine does the laundry. That’s doubly productive enough for Bonzo. As for the rest of it — texting while conversing with a “live” friend right there in front of you, driving while digging something out of the seat crack, smoking while changing a diaper: don’t do it.
Tip #4: Compound words like Brexit, the Chunnel, BritComs, brunch and linnner are effective time-savers, as are acronyms. Acronym is in fact an acronym for all characters represent one notion you MIGHTNOTSINGLYRECALL. By necessity in NYC, I invented 5MPL (5 military police? No, avenues, west to east: 5th, Madison, Park, and Lex.). Feel free to use it.
I dig acronyms, esp. the one in Silent Bob. Here’s an acronym for the iGraphics we insert in email and texting. They’re hard to find on your phone because there are so many of them. This acronym will help you locate, say, the nearly invisible “waste basket.” Categorically, from left to right they are: Favorites Emojis Bodyparts People Clothing Animals Nature Weather Food Sports Music Transpo Vistas Skylines Celestial Buildings Tech Tools Whimsy Mail School/Office Hearts Glyphs Shapes Clocks Flags. Resulting acronym: FEBPCANWFSMTVSCBTTWMS/OHGSCF. That should speed things along nicely. You’re welcome!
Numero 5: Last season’s antioxidant is this year’s pro-biotic. All the rage, Dear Reader. These li’l critters allegedly prevent everything from bloating to depression, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s via the gut-brain connection. Check out kombucha and other SCOBY-based, cold-pickled foods and vinegars. Ferment and pickle your heart out. SCOBY sure beats “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” PS SCUBA is “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.” My brother taught me that 20 years ago when my memory worked. Let’s hope SCOBY can DO my memory right. Please read online warnings about DIY kombucha, though. Just buy it on tap in Woodstock, I say.
#6: Move. Get up from your chair 20 times a day like we did when there was Telex, interoffice mail, lunch hours, and disco. The physical ailments we got at age 40 now show up in 30 year-olds who sit all day and night. Lets groove tonight. It’ll save you a mint in chiropractic and Advil®.
Naturally, I close with #7: laffs. If you laughed or moved even once during this Upper Valley divertissement, you will be happier and more productive for the next five minutes. Glow, frolic, rut, monotask, abbreviate, probioticize, groove, and snicker. Pay it forward as you choose, for the happiness hog and efficiency monster in us all. Good holiday, and good day.
Ann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter handle: @uvgvt.
A cherished friend left our plane recently, taking his himness with him. His passing leaves a vast hole we look into and ponder. Am I living life as richly as he? Do I spread joy like that? With whom will I now discuss the peculiar appeal of sherry? Prince was not the friend, but he’s also left a giant void.
Fact is, in your 20s and 30s you’re pretty much the same. In your 40s you begin changing. In your 50s: boom. You’re different, inside and out. I told a friend, “Suddenly we’re older than the parents of school children.” His response: “Way older.”
Earth too is rapidly changing, her creatures with it. The YPs (young people) — my lord — they’re self-assured, clever, upbeat. And TALL. Especially the girls. Like herds of longhaired gazelles. Their male panther counterparts greet each other with, “Hey bro, what’s good?” or, “Tell me what’s good.” One parent says that because the world is so screwy, they specifically request good news. I like it. I like them.
As Kanye designs ugly velour tracksuits and Teletubby-like outfits and Taylor Swift’s haircut eclipses real news, I feel like an old dino. But as a Baby Boomer, I am not outnumbered. I enjoy baffling the YPs by singing, “I’m so glad we had this time together,” or the theme to Gigantor. The YPs are like, “Huh?” – a “word” my generation considers gauche, much as our parents did the word “like” as used here.
Try dropping pearls such as “the old switcheroo”; “Oh, Miss Crabtree”; “Your muffler: fix it!”; or “The agony of defeat.” These and the hook used in Vaudeville are lost on the YPs, akin to our parents’ referencing Your Show of Shows. We can’t memorize phone numbers and we know little about social media, gaming, graphics, or the actors with three names, but we remember like yesterday how every time Rob Petrie opened a closet, a snowshoe fell out.
It’s a lot of work to avoid becoming hopelessly out of touch. My chiro’s daughter said recently, “Mom, instead, could you wear, like, leggings and boots?” So twice a week she does. When did pants become foolish? Our mothers didn’t want us to wear pants in public; now our kids don’t. Hell, we fought to wear pants. I’m wearing them. Corduroys, painters pants, cigarette pants … bring it awn. Let’s bring back knickers. Bloomers.
Alas, we’ll have to keep up or give up – in planned communities, retirement villages, or facilities designed for people who can’t climb stairs. Considering this is depressing. But mostly we don’t think about it. Like old jalopies, my People have seen a lot of road and have hit some motherless potholes. So we’re kind to each other. We still see each other as we were: vibrant, sexy, hilarious, relevant. Who cares how the rest of America sees us? Our People’s opinions are what matters, right?
And we’re losing our People. With them goes our inside jokes, our shared memories, who we are. So with the (still many) friends yet here, we toddle off into the future. We’ll floss our receding gums to Physical Graffiti and snort about wattles, jowls, Portosan® waiting line etiquette, air raid drills, Mystery Date, fake ID’s, and Match Game ’76 as we MacGyver our walkers. We’ll know we’ve become pathetic, but we’ll have the sun and the moon and each other. We won’t have to be 5’11”, we’ll be the right height to see each other without hurting our necks. We won’t need mirrors, we’ll have our People’s chortling visages to reflect our own. We won’t even need our minds any more; we have what a friend calls his “external brain”: the smart phone. Or whatever that device evolves into by then. Some sort of implant.
The world seems worsening with miseries, often monetary. Following, dear Reader, are causes for hope: 1. As financial experts report, the market is turbulent during presidential races; after the election, regardless of who wins, the market soars. 2. My hunch is that once the economic inequity that has plagued Earth for so long balances out some, ISIS et alia will wither from lack of interest. 3. As the races and creeds intermingle throughout the Lands, there is ever less fear of Other. The earth becomes more diverse locally, breeding a new level of understanding (the Age of Aquarius, YPs!). When we work or play with someone unlike us, we see them as a person, not a type. This, of course, if there’s any land left after the glaciers melt.
And so, in what time you have left, what do you most want to do? Of your many possible contributions, what is your best choice? What gets your groove on? What will matter in the end? Do that. If you’d like to discuss it over a glass of sherry, ring me up. I’d like that. Good day.
Departed friend, we’ll miss so your wit and empathy, wisdom and cheer. Safe travels.
email@example.com ann.aikens.7 on Facebook. Twitter handle: at @uvgvt.
Some 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.
They say of Dartmouth alumni that, if cut, they bleed green. And if a Vermonter is cut, sap comes out. Kyle’s 100% Vermonty leg, a mighty maple, has been tapped.
‘Tis maple sugaring season in the Land. Let the boiling of God’s sweet deciduous nectar begin! Follow the steam. Come, partake of the Upper Valley’s golden goo.
When I’m not buying discounted Valentine foodstuffs, reeling from presidential debates, or marveling at the driving etiquette of certain states, I endeavor to cheer and motivate Dear Reader and, in so doing, activate my own laggardly winter self. In tymes of crippling global bizarreness – political, fiscal, climate, you name it – we could all use a little pep talk.
Maybe your Valentine’s Day wasn’t quite dreamy. No matter, this Hallmark folly is more obligation than holiday, much as I love my annual “balentine” from my mommy. St. Pat’s Day does nothing for many — a drinking day vaguely involving snakes and saints, and if you’re not religious, it seems rather a long, festivity-less haul until Memorial Day. It is.
It’s an odd time of year in an odd year in odd tymes. Who could sleep with all the award ceremonies and farcical debates? A church friend said this has been the winter of our discontent … we had “nothing to play in outside” … had to go to Jersey for snow. When the sun came out (twice?) the temperature plummeted. We felt thwarted. Restless. The global news helped none, and personal problems abounded. Mankind seems to be going through…something. I hope it gets us somewhere good.
When things aren’t going ducky in one life area (say, job), it’s easy to extrapolate the badness onto every other area (money, health, marriage), then just smear it all over the past and the future. It’s a combination of rewriting history (with a dark ink) and catastrophizing about the future. Then everything seems quite terrible indeed. And in your mind, it is. That’s when the compensatory measures kick in – overeating, overdrinking, oversleeping, overreading. I’m not saying your worries aren’t valid. They probably are. I’m saying that in a dreary time of year, one distressing thing can make you don the opposite of rose-coloured glasses. You pick the color.
Overwhelmed? Hiding? Not thrilled with where the choices you’ve made have gotten you? Or maybe you made very few choices. You just went with the flow and now you’re gasping for air on a debris-littered bank since the water level suddenly dropped. It’s not too late, you know, to take your life in hand. I won’t claim it’s never too late to do anything, because that’s a lie. Time marches on. Trains leave the station. Windows close. Boom. You have to get clever with workarounds.
Patience is not my greatest virtue. My Chinese Zodiac year is that of the Tiger; tigers question authority, detest incompetence, and are impatient. With age, at least, we improve at handling disappointment and delaying gratification. Which helps, because when you don’t get cranky you retain the clarity to plot an alternate route.
As we encounter pot holes and frost heaves and flat-out roadblocks, let us allow the recent Black History Month to inspire in us a serious pondering of Plan B (“another approach”). Maybe it’s time to try a new route. Switch jobs. Move. Quit something you’re failing at, expand something you’re good at. Good at everything you do? Test yourself; try something new. But if it’s not mostly fun, forget it. Life is hard. Plenty of miserable tasks and situations will be thrust upon you. Don’t add to the pile.
Hell, this crazy weather could force us inside for weeks. Lie around, in the bath or under an ocean of blankets, and let your mind float away. What don’t you do that you’d like to? Or, if you can’t do it, what can you do instead? What are you going to plant, lit. and fig.? Which annual that will last a year; which perennial that you will enjoy — or endure — year after year? Dahlias or skunk cabbage? Use your intuition and look for a Sign. I do.
Ride the rails, knit, bowl. Give or get a massage. Get a pet. Walk. Do something for someone. Take a class. Soon this weird winter will end and you’ll be running around like a crazed March Hare, full of P and V. But remember: vigilance! Turn off CNN (“There’s a rabid squirrel ripping through American neighborhoods … is it coming to YOU?”); it should be called the Alarmist News Network. And I always forget seasonal nuisances until their return. Black flies, cluster flies, black ice … pot holes. I hit one so wide my car couldn’t possibly straddle it. It was really more of a sinkhole, a lunar cheese hole. The car groaned. As did I. As will you. Ponder your spring … with vigilance! Good day.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or ann.aikens.7 on Facebook. Twitter handle: @uvgvt.