Category Archives: Vermont
In a college semester abroad, I asked my host family “mother” in Dijon how they could endure the constant peril of WWII. She said with a certain French intonation that’s hard to describe, “It was wartime. But life went on. We cooked. We ate. We laughed.” I was baffled.
Wiser now, I know that even during wars and pestilence and other supremely difficult tymes, as long we have food in our bellies and a bed, humans find a way to laugh. I lived by a funeral home in Randolph for years, and some of the rowdiest parties I’ve ever heard were wakes. People just rip it up, man. Recalling the deceased’s antics or foibles … hair … footwear … who knows?
Because we all struggle daily now, this month I’ll distract you with gems old and new that made me laugh. Won’t you join me?
Last month I received a birthday card depicting a fish wearing a halo. I anticipated a joke inside about an “angel fish” with a reference to my angelic personality. Inside instead was Holy Mackerel! with a reference to my age. I asked my housemate if mackerel was a greasy fish. He said, “Yes, very…Mediterranean. Served with olives and the like.” Holy Mackerel, the official entree of the Vatican. At least on Fridays.
Things sure are weird now, early and often. Reminds me of past peculiarities. Like on a fundraising trip for Dartmouth-Hitchcock when in the hotel gym I came upon a lone, elderly gent motionless on a weight bench at 6 am, pondering. He says, “I’m thinking about a bread.” Originally from New York where such encounters are common, I ran with it. “What kind of bread?” What he mimed, with a swirling flourish of his hand indicating filling, became clear: “A danish!“ I said. Yes, a danish. He was thinking about a bread.
Tech oddities abound now. Why? Who knows? I’ll text someone and the dog walker or my banker gets pulled into the recipient list for no apparently reason. Occasionally, “U” appears on my phone’s calendar. Stands for what, “You” Meaning “me”? I scheduled “Me Time”? I hate Me Time. Also “pampering.” Sounds like a big baby who needs coddling and special hands-on “treatments.” Like you’re being diapered. That could be a new service. Big Baby Treatments. $350/hour. It probably already exists.
In August, my phone Facetimed someone by itself while sitting on a table. I hadn’t summoned Siri and, besides, what could I possibly have said that rhymes with “FaceTime Colleen” —Peacetime Latrine? Holstein Careens? Spacetime Continuum? I don’t say those very often. Sometimes my texts, right before I send them, now add Yes! at the end. It happens too quickly for me to delete. It’s generally to comedic effect, whether making sense or not within the context of the text (e.g., “Let’s go biking. Yes!” Or: “I can’t stand that place. Yes!”). But does it make me appear an overly enthusiastic dork? Yes!
Recently, my dear Vermont nutters and I held a gathering that was a competition, a Curbside Drop-Off. Our hostess dusted off her FREE sign, and we each put unwanted but usable items – chicken wire, tires (mine), an old Atlas, a tabletop Santa Claus – at her roadside curb as we cocktailed and watched from a distance far enough so as to not intimidate our “shoppers.” The odds were heavily in favor of my tires going first, and I was anticipating this big win, but no: the marital aids, in concert with two plastic pumpkins. God love the playful young couple that claimed them, and the
timeless allure of silicone and plastics. My tires eventually went; some items didn’t go; prizes were awarded. I won nothing, but was handed the booby prize by someone who didn’t want it: a can of mushroom pieces and stems. Usable? Yes!
The last laugh involves foliage, which was as spectacular that year as it was this year, presumably due to drought. I grabbed an old camera with film in it and took a friend who can’t drive on a scenic tour of the foliage. I made him pose against stunning vistas and ravines, the colors forming a rich background for his handsomeness. When I finally got the film developed months later, surprise! The film had been black and white. We laffed and laffed. B&W foliage shots: a first? Yes! And last.
Okay, I lied. One thing I must relay to you in closing. The good news is that, while COVID tracing, I speak to families from all over the world that were born or now live in the US. Sometimes in English, sometimes with a translator. Astonishingly, almost everyone is very nice, regardless of race, birthplace, gender or age, wealth or poverty, how midly or hard-hit they are by the disease… and almost all agree to stay home so as to contain the virus. Mediterraneans, Danish, Americans… Most people are good. So don’t pay too much attention to American politics right now, it’ll sink your view of humankind. We’re just not that bad. Good day.
. . . must have used this slot for processing transactions, like payments for commissioned cave paintings and wooly mammoth chops.
We all hear wrenching COVID stories. This column isn’t about that. Though important, we’re not discussing that today. Today we laugh, as able.
Regarding what humanity is doing to defend itself against this nasty l’il microvarmint, there’s an expression that applies: “We’re building the plane while flying it.” Worldwide, we’ve been trying things out on the fly, not knowing if some step we take will send passengers down the chute, eject the pilot, or blow the plane up entirely. One thing, however, we do have control over. That is isolating our masked selves, and continue reducing the spread. I know: yawn. It’s inhuman.
While I understand crawling the walls, going out of your skin, and pulling your hair out, not necessarily in that order, try to remember that someone somewhere has things way worse than you. Sure, I’d love to go to the library, gym, movies, church, concerts, sporting events, get a hair job. Who wouldn’t? I tell people I tried something new: I dyed my roots white. Like it? Me neither.
But as for whackos protesting for their “rights” to have these businesses open (I can and must get my massage! Your church must open!), what about the right of others to stay alive? Suck it up and tough it out, man. If you don’t care, then you don’t know anyone who’s died. You will—this isn’t magically going away next week. Stay home and amuse yourself. Unless you’re being beaten or belittled by a deranged housemate – then yes, get the heck out. Just open the door and run.
I’ve often joked about survivalists stockpiling canned goods and ammo. Well, look who’s laughing now…all the way to the bunker. Here now some other deep thots stockpiled from the nutters I call friends. Feel free to submit your own.
Randolph: I know I’m on a roller coaster, but I’m learning to lean so I don’t throw up.
Florida: What does your jigsaw puzzle say about you?
Upstate NY: Face Timing with parents over 80 includes no visuals beyond foreheads.
Tewksbury MA: And the hour-plus getting them set up to Facetime or Zoom.
Maryland: I’m letting my eyebrows grow wild and I’m starting to look mannish, yo.
Middlebury: Spending all this time at home is too much togetherness for couples or families. Every time I turn around, my spouse is there. Outside, people coming towards us don’t move over to maintain 6 feet. Then there are the idiots in grocery stores who won’t follow the required one-way pattern in the aisles. I hold my breath.
Cape Cod: While dog walking, the empty nip bottles along my route now replaced by discarded latex gloves is depressing. However, nearly everyone I pass smiles. People acknowledge that we need friendliness to get us through. Refreshing! People distance-gather at Falmouth harbor at sunset. We call it The Ha-ba Ba(think: Boston accent).
Reading: Mankind should use this incarceration wisely, because when it ends, we’re going to go NUTS working and frolicking and there will be NO time for introspection, thank GOD.
Contoocook: If a hairdresser wants to open her shop, no problem. Just sign forms that say you and your customers are refusing medical care if you get sick. You’re on your own.
Bethel: With sport facilities closed, the shooting range is ACTIVE – and louder, with less traffic drowning it out. Wait. I hear silence. Did they shut it down?
N. Carolina: I’m relishing the time at home with my 7 YO – I got my buddy back!
SoRo: My old lady hair is coming in. I’ve hated the pollution, time and expense of coloring it, so now I’ll see…it’s a weird gift that we can all try out going Natural at the same time.
Braintree: The courses should all open. In golf, you’re allowed to touch only your own balls.
Pets looking at us, all Why you home every day…and why ain’t I gettin’ more grub as a result?
Boston: Our area was expecting 75 mph winds. Authorities said to “secure loose objects” outside, and to buy ice and candles. I’m like, wow, should I pick up a scalpel in case I need to unexpectedly perform surgery? The real answer: maybe. Anything seems possible now.
Well! Thank you, nutters. I end with a lovely sentiment from a friend in New York City who is a veteran of The Moth and has survived so many cinema-worthy escapades I call him Steve McQueen.
“I was a guest lecturer for the School of Visual Arts before the shutdown. They wanted someone who could speak about the connection between storytelling and design and somehow they found me. I told them that for the first time in human history, hundreds of millions of people are going to bed and waking up with exactly the same set of worries at exactly the same time and that we need to find a way to bond over this experience because we are proving what is possible once we act together.”
Yes! Act together, though apart. End global bickering. Unite! Good day.
hazmat dog link.
As a generally can-do person, it rather stuns me when I freeze up, motionless. One example: years ago, I was house-sitting in L.A., where friends had relocated. Before they left, the wife said, “Use the car in the parking garage, my grandmother in New York gave it to us—it’s really big!”
I froze up. There was no way I could drive on freeways in some giant jalopy, a lone Beverly Hillbilly. I couldn’t even picture piloting the ship (a 1984 Chevrolet Caprice Classic) out of the building’s garage, heaving its enormous steering wheel. I explained this to a carless comedian friend from New York, then living in Santa Monica, whom I badly wanted to visit. But: I couldn’t drive the boat. I walked 4.8 miles to Santa Monica.
Another: I was living in a scary part of Chicago, losing it after 9/11 and taking psychology classes (of all things). One day I just couldn’t get into the subway to go home. I crouched into a ball in an alley, phoning a friend to talk me onto the subway (“Lift right knee…”). Prior, I had considered anxiety disorders total hooey. Yet there I was: frozen solid.
Back to L.A. When there was a 6.7 earthquake there, my friend quickly ran for their dog and earthquake kit. His wife, frozen, put on lipstick. How we react to panic is largely animal. It’s what happens a bit after the initial shock, perhaps, that makes us human.
When the potential enormity of COVID-19 first became apparent, all I could do was cook. Others did similar or hid under blankets, fretting and texting. A sage in Bethel noted that when we’re in Survival Mode, our love center shuts down. How terrible. Hence one guy stealing milk out of a woman’s shopping cart at Market Basket.
We’re now over the initial shock. We’ve gotten used to circumstances changing weekly or daily, sometimes hourly. It is time to exit Survival Mode, calm down, unfreeze, and somehow trust that we will transcend this—economically, psychologically, and physically. For some, calming comes from YouTubed church meetings or pagan Zooms. Friends and I hold Facebook Messenger “Wait Watchers” meetings wherein we share perspectives and tips that keep us sane during this crazy-making wait. Mostly we laugh and cuss and that is the real draw. If you’re lapsing into frozen, reach out for help or, possibly, to help. Either works.
I saw high school girls in a parking lot, each seated solo in the way back of an SUV with the hatchback open, each facing the middle (like a flower). They played music and laughed, socially distant. Next a group of women on lawn chairs around a fire pit. They drank and laughed, socially distant. I do “live FaceTiming,” wherein I visit people and we talk to each other thru a closed window or glass door, on our phones. It doesn’t all have to be virtual, right?
Despite the horrors, which are legion, benefits exist. People are slowing down. Reprioritizing. Paying attention. Walking. Feeling. Calling elders. Cleaning closets. Napping. There can be no mass shootings (no masses), minimal war (sick, unwilling, or napping soldiers), little pollution. The planet is healing. Some speculate that the virus was sent by Mother Nature. “I see, you’re gonna keep trashing my forests, creatures, and waters? Ho-ho, take that!” Who knows…the planet is a living thing. Maybe it went into Survival Mode.
So: what do you want to do with your time? When this thing is over, and it will be over, it’s entirely possible we’ll lament, “Where’d all my free time go, man?” Choose wisely. Share laffs. Help. Learn something new. Meditate. Stretch, lit. and fig. Send pleasant thots. Panic not.
Report in as able. Good luck to you and yours, Dear Reader, and good day.
Many people believe the Earth is angry at us. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do consider Earth to be a living thing with a consciousness of sorts. Regardless, there is no question that nature is running amok. Nature seems to be telling us, intentionally or otherwise, to get our act together and stop trashing the planet.
I won’t distress Dear Reader with stats about disappearing frog species, nor debate climate change here; just ask a pro tennis player or competitive skier. I’ll wax anecdotal instead. Feel free to submit your own observations. Here’s the short list.
Coyote. I watched a blonde, unkempt dog stroll up a Massachusetts driveway in broad daylight. Oops, it wasn’t a dog. Pack animals roam solo? In daylight? Coyotes are blonde outside of Vermont? Do they have more fun?
Mice. In August, I stepped on a young mouse in my room. I do hope it was dead already, but from its fresh little entrails I could tell it had been alive…recently. What self-respecting rodent goes indoors in summer? Was it too hot outside for mousey? Came in for the A/C? Same week in Bellows Falls, a feisty country mouse scampered around us in my cousin’s driveway unafraid, then leapt into the manifold of his pick-up. Why?
Rabbits.The new generation of bunnies in our neighborhood is fat, confident, and more prone to lolling than hopping. You walk up to them and they don’t even stop chewing. Rabbits, like horses, have no real defense besides flight. So why aren’t they fleeing? I sometimes charge them just so they’ll become afraid of humans, which they should be, especially my sniper neighb with the pellet gun. Rabbits, by the way, are not rodents, because of their incisors and canines, guts, sex parts, and poo-eating. Who knew?
Birdsect. I don’t know what the heck this thing is, besides a fuzzy pollinator. First, I thought it was cool, and giant for a bee (hence the nickname). But when I went to photograph it, it became…aggressive. What the heck is it?
Hawk-Bunny Murder-Suicide. A dead hawk was in our street, with a dead baby bunny in its clutches. It looked like a cartoon caption contest in The New Yorker. “Wha’ happen’?”
Dragonflies. It wasn’t until we saw an unusual number of dragonflies — again, just sort of hanging out — that a lake-loving friend and I read up on them. Most fly for only a few days or weeks of their lives, the rest spent as aquatic nymphs (like us!). One flew from my friend’s head to my head, back and forth, as we swam in a pond. Was it energizing or sampling us? Collecting DNA to colonize its next planet should this one melt? We felt honored either way.
The animals: why are they unafraid? Do they know something we don’t about our imminent demise? Have they realized we are inferior to them? We are in fact idiots, with our moronic abuse of our own planet. Rather than stockpiling canned goods and ammo for the End of Days, let us try an apology: Dear Earth, We are terribly sorry for our pathetic stewardship. Please know that the people of New England, CO, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Cali get it. May other places wake up. You’re gorgeous. Love, Vermont.
Well. Before the waters turn icy, go jump in a lake, river, or ocean. Cold water is renewing, and you adapt to it quicker than ya’d think. Bracing! Great good fun. Good day.
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.
Since Keurig was bought by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in 2006, the K-cup waste issue has been a long and local one. Here are two alternatives that work. Aside from, obviously, not using them at all.
Problem is, many workplaces have this as the only coffee maker. And I’m pretty sure it’s one of the most re-gifted items ever. People get one as a gift, re-wrap it, pass it on, and on and on, until it finally makes its way to someone who says, “Okay.”
First, if you’ve got a bunch of K-cups you already bought, you can cut the lids off with this little baby and recycle the plastic housings. Not perfect, because recycling is a dirty, energy-consuming process. The recycle a cup® , available all over the place, is fun to use:
Second and better, the reusable Solofill Cup® vastly improves the “coffee cage” that had in past incarnations brewed a terrible cup of coffee. Available all over the place. Brew on.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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”