Category Archives: rural
New 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:
“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. 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.
But who’s complaining? We’re like the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.
And now a tribute. To the mighty, the daunting, the beloved…the list.
I 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.
While 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.
-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.)
-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.
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.
Greg Bahr — native Vermonter, neighbor, artistic madman behind Bahr’s Stoneworks — has a far-out genius for putting rocks together. Here’s a recent wall of his in downtown Bethel, incorporating old bottles and bones he found on-site. “Are the bones human?” everyone asks. “I’m not sure,” says Greg.
When you hate change as much as I do, things that remain constant are a necessary comfort. Holiday traditions that recur year after year, such as Randolph’s caroling with Santa’s arrival on the green, Woodstock’s horsey Wassail Parade, the Holly Jolly project, and mitten trees provide the longboard I need to surf life’s erratic vicissitudes.
Wrapping presents while watching treacly movies on Lifetime (theme: buff, middle-aged guy new to town chooses charmingly disorganized single mother over outfit-wearing sports-car/golfing lady) or the Hallmark Channel (title: A Bride for Christmas) soothes my holiday prep time no matter what’s going in real life. Which might not be all that good. I’m not mocking these shows. Christmas in Conway enchants, and The Christmas Hope is a bawler. I’m a sap. Akin to treacle.
Another lifesaver is the expressionless decorative light-up pilgrim I bought years ago at Rite-Aid. About three feet high, he gets dusty after a year in storage and I have a good hoot washing him off every November when I get to his little plastic fanny. Should have purchased the whole expressionless family (stalwart group!). And when Grandma Al and her granddaughter make magic cookies (not the Grateful Dead kind) in their aprons, or I look up Alex Hanson’s gravy recipe online yet again, all is right in the world.
Everything changes so fast now we can’t keep up. My fairly new TV is apparently already a “dino” (cable installer guy didn’t think I’d understand this high-tech lexicon on phone call to his mother ship in front of me—get a less obvious code word, pally!), and suddenly we don’t need to connect our computers to a cable for internet connectivity at home, even without a router (what?). My shiny, year-old TV remote is archaic, outmoded, useless; my router obsolete. Cableboy won’t take any of it away with him.
What do I do with these antiquated accoutrements? The remote, the cables, the router…are others pouring same into landfill? Je refuse! I’ll find a home for them if it kills me. When I said to the Comcast guy and the TV wall-mounter guy in my living room, “Wow, I didn’t know you could tilt the TV like that on its brackets, there should be a remote for that,” they looked at me like I was some kind of sci-fi future-predicting genius. “I’ve never seen that!” one said. But I don’t want another damn remote. All I need is a sled, snow pants, hot cocoa with marshmallows, gift wrap, Jingle Bell Rock, and some people. That stuff doesn’t need upgrading. It never gets old.
Change: no! I like when people do their lights the exact same way every year. There is a little blue-lit tree outside somewhere (Tunbridge?) that, unlike nieces, never seems to grow up. That’s good. It’s distressing when houses change hands and the usual trimmings change or disappear. Driving by my parents’ empty house is saddening. It’s been empty in winter in recent years, but this time it’s permanent – and no change is worse than permanent change. When the Barnard General store quit selling penny candy 30 years ago, I never recovered. It’s all still there, right where it belongs, the little wax bottles filled with colored ick, the caramels and the Smarties®, in my mind.
Some change is not so awful. That I moved from my beloved Bethel — not great. But I stay over a friend’s house (whom I used to live so close to that staying over never occurred to us) and we have spiked nog by the Christmas tree after her cat punches me repeatedly while I write (love the Siamese—naugh-ty) and, well, maybe a new tradition is in the making. When the old traditions fall off, due to death or dismemberment or some horrible new technology, they need replacing or we’re left with nothing.
I’ll start one now. Something you can see and think, “Oh good, there’s that thing again. A constant!”
You may enjoy what autofills in Google’s search box before you finish typing … endlessly amusing. Monthly, I might post the winners. For December:
“Does a…” autofills with
-root canal hurt
-duck’s quack echo
-photon have mass?
Et voila. Your inaugural autofill of the month. Little gift fer ya there, as you jingle around the clock. Good day.
Bumper Sticker Suggested by Harry One Year Ago when I Wrote we Were Told as Children (by the Catholics?) That Writing “Xmas” Instead of Christmas was Literally a Sin:
Let’s keep the X in Xmas!
I’m not sure why the horn of plenty amuses the modern brain. Maybe its cutesy “The people of the Land had enough to eat!” artistic rendering looks generally corny. And that old-tymey wording, “horn of plenty.” Whatever the reason, a horn of plenty is a wondrous and comical thing.
For it we give thanks. As a people of many nations, we are thankful together for the bounty of this yearly American feast. And for old movies we will watch afterwards with lines like, “It’s just not right, I tell you!” sputtering from earnest and exasperated men in hats fighting for justice with the charming naïveté of tymes gone by. Who knows if tymes were ever really like that…let us think so and be content. We are thankful for every moment of contentment we can squeeze out of anxiety-provoking modern tymes. Those of us entering the Big Jewelry Years (due to growing knuckles, noses, ears) are grateful for a holiday function whereat we can wear same. And that we’re getting old enough for such parts to grow, which means we are in fact still alive.
There is much about gratitude in print these days. So I conducted an informal poll of the Land. The query, “What are you thankful for?” reaped interesting and heartfelt responses, largely from strangers, including:
Family; my cozy bed; the farmers who grow our food, especially the organics; books; my companion, The Schluffer (a cat); snow; the community in my church; that I’m able to walk; people blowing horns; how humans can overlook their differences for the sake of community; my family both at school and at home; the parents’ wallet; I have a hot husband; gluten; the opportunity to immigrate to the United States and my happy life here; that my son has a dog; girl scouts; my beautiful wife; “to eat”; my family; the pleasure of making the letters J and F in cursive, which may become obsolete; that spiritually bankrupt people have consumerism to fill the void; sarcasm; young faces eager to learn; my beautiful daughters and that I have a job; my health; my ear muffs; music. The front runners? Family and community.
My family and community includes the crazed nutters I call friends, including the illustrious and sharp-dressing Viscomte de Villainy, who have stuck by me through thick and very, verrry thin. I am thankful for them, and for how people’s faces change when they smile. And for my blood family, who are definitely nuts. And for a special chipmunk at Silver Lake this summer, an alert little feller named Scamp who roamed the grounds freely with a cheerful, magical insouciance in broad daylight– no shady rock walls for him! We are not thankful for the raptor that likely picked Scamp off, loveable easy target that he was.
With the holidays approaching, I am among those thankful for the opp to spend money. It’s always scrimping and saving in modern tymes, isn’t it? Wondering if the income will stop, what new disaster will cripple us monetarily. Gift giving becomes an even more guilty boggler when in magazines and TV and radio, it’s all, “Have less stuff. Get rid of your stuff. Stop having stuff. No stuff!” I for one like to wrap stuff. And give it. As a present. My solution? Gift people with experiences (tickets to a show, a subscription to something) and other stuff that can be used up. I’ll stop or Dear Reader might guess his gift. Can’t have that.
I add in closing sincere thanks that humans can’t think of everything all the time, try as we might. So some bad things get little air time. Like that tiff at work or the altercation at the dump. When we think on it, it’s galling (Treated unfairly? Flubbed a reply? Acted rudely?), but eventually, well, other thots encroach. Thank you, Lord. Because we do not need to dwell on dumb garbage.
We prefer pleasant thots. Thots about…cornucopias. Or: Maybe I won’t dress so shabby for the big meal this year. Make an effort. Do something new. A new charitable effort. Giant earrings. Angel food cake instead of pie. Something.
Wherever you are, blow your horn – with a charming naïveté, a magical insouciance…however you want to play it. Blow a few notes my way. I’ll be listening for you. Good birdin’ and good day.
Geez, if only mankind would stop picking the low-hanging fruit and kicking the can down the road in granular, bricks-and-clicks efforts at synergetic pushback 24/365, just think how far we’d have gotten by now!
If you don’t work in a a corporate environment, you won’t find that to be annoying, or even English. You may have been mercifully unexposed to unintelligibly strung-together words that sound important yet have no meaning.
But if you do, and haven’t, the sites below will transfix you…or should I say, their robust, outcomes-based, multi-tiered platforms will integrate your scalable branding:
Here click on MORE BS, PLEASE! for a fresh batch of lifelike BS.
On this gem hit MAKE BS and watch it pull from three Parts of Speech columns.
This is pretty, but will make you insane.
A Brit one offers “A random piece of business bullshit every time you visit this site.” You can even submit!
Happily, some people make corporate jargon Bingo cards before meetings and see who gets Bingo first based upon hearing their words in the meeting. Not sure what the prize is. The last link offers a delicious twist that makes me wish I still attended such meetings. Click Bingo tab at top.