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The Little Engine That Could, Part Deux

In December, 1,500 toys were collected one by one for the children of our Vermont town’s “sister city” in Ukraine. Once again, our town thought it would be a miracle if our shipment made it. Once again, we gave it a go anyway.

Thought it might be nice to remind people of the good in this crazy world. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen. Here’s a great little video from the woman behind the sleigh. Break out the Kleenex®.

Black Flies, Lemonade, Hope, Mayo, and More Mayo


Wicker and mayo. Bon ete!

It’s time. Fishing. Golf. Swimming holes. Mayonnaise.

Black flies comin’. But mercifully along with rain.  It’s been so dry the liquid manure spread over the Land baked, stank, and dried up into individual molecules blowing into our cars, homes, and nostrils. While the recent re-wetting served to reconstitute (read: re-aromatize) this fertilizer, at least it is no longer visible as a wind-borne dust. Not good for tourism (You can’t be 20…on Manure Dust Mountain. Ride our Dust Chute!)

Another month, another holiday.  As complements to Mother’s and Father’s Days, I have repeatedly proposed both Maiden Aunts Day and Perpetual Bachelor’s Day (Crack open a PBR…on PBD!) So far no takers, including those behind the Hallmark and Mayan calendars but, as always, I remain hopeful. The month of May also means American Idol is over so we can stop Talking like Aussie Keith Urban—every bit as addictive as talking like a pirate on Talk Like A pirate Day (Arrrrrrrr, avast, me hearties: a Thursday this year!) The difference is Idol spans many months and causes more permanent damage in friendships.

I can’t decide if the live voting that goes with TV shows these days is fun or saddening (How are the judges doing? Are they moronic? What about their hair? Yes or no?) Between that and young computer hackers sending viruses with creepy names and Trojan horses that “drop” malicious “payloads,” we oldsters are at a total loss. Maybe psychiatrists can tell us why these kids are so bloody angry. We know why we’re so bloody baffled. The world has become odd in our lifetime. Things are just…boggling. Tech confusion! Voter fraud! Bio-terrorism! Climate havoc! Calf implants! Oceans full of garbage! Economic pandemonium! Geez, it makes you long for a kilt and a good old-fashioned plague.  With some Crusades thrown in. Wait—maybe things weren’t so great in the past. But at least we know all about them; our new horrors we don’t understand yet. If youth is wasted on the young, history is wasted on the living. We don’t learn Jack from history, seems like. We just keep piling new horrors on the old.

In a world teetering on the brink of disaster, it is more pressing than ever to think on happy things. In this unimportant column, after some head shaking at the neo-Biblical mayhem of modern tymes, we strive for laffs, lemonade from lemons, and lerv.  People want good news, like how the re-opening of the Barnard General Store has proven the existence of a benevolent God, or when NPR news informs us that the honey bees’ Spontaneous Hive Collapse (a.k.a. “Colony Collapse Disorder” or “May Disease”) suddenly dropped by 50% this year. That means more bees generating warmth in the hive, giving them the energy they require to fly (they need to be warm to fly—don’t you?), so that they can pollinate the crops that feed this crazy planet.

Let’s hope all the flora—including trees flowering madly this year due to a legit winter without last year’s weirdly hot spring—will provide our busy fuzzy friends with the pollen and nectar they so richly deserve. Worth considering from the NPR report:  a woman suggested that humans (1) plant flowers and (2) be less fussy and let some weeds grow, as bees like ‘em. Thanks, NPR lady! Givin’ us advice we dig, makin’ our lives better. Less weeding = one item crossed off the To Do list = another perfect day in paradise. And thanks, European Union, for passing legislation (for two years, anyway) banning pesticides that might be behind the bees’ demise. Good work, EU.

Scientists are talking of bringing the dinosaurs back from extinction.  While they’re an old horror we know something about, we also know they’ll just walk all over the hives and everything else, breaking stuff, setting off nukes, and who knows what with their giant feet and pea-brains.  But maybe we’ll domesticate them (humanely!) as forms of mass transit (pterodactyl plane; brontosaurus bus; sea monster water taxi) or (lovingly!) make them walk (lumber?) on giant treadmills connected to power generators. I remain hopeful. As, I am certain, do you.  Good holiday, extra mayo, and good day.

All the News Fit to Be Tied

Support your local paper.

Yahoo! has forever been my home page. Plenty of useful info used to be on there, like the news and movies nearby. But, as is common in modern tymes, Yahoo!’s look magically changed on me and I can’t switch it back.  All I see are inflammatory headlines like “Two stars step out in same pink mini!” (Mini what?)  or “Woman watched NASCAR with dead man” (She waited till the finish to call 911?  She thought he was asleep?)  Most fall into these Who Cares or I Don’t Want to Know categories, so I rarely click on the bait only to be forced to watch a Nissan commercial. But the headlines seem to…taunt…while denying access to real news. I’m fit to be tied.

For I have been falling behind on not only the Kardashians, but the exciting Cruise divorce plus actual news as well. The causes are (1) Yahoo! (2) an abundance of terrible news and (3) a lack of radio news in the car. In summer I listen to music when driving, so my news comes solely from NPR’s weekly current events quiz show, “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me.”  I know; it’s no good when you’re getting your news from a game show or the bar at Harrington House.

Part of my Summer Program this year (I, for one, diagram seasonal efforts—it’s all the advance planning I can muster) was to read The New York Times daily. Yet somehow I can barely finish the Vermont Standard and the Herald of Randolph (two papers with good news inside) while juggling The Girl Who Played With Fire, The Lotus Eaters, and 50 Shades of Grey, a reported “must-read” by the ladies at Monday night’s Nine and Dine at Montague Golf Club. But someone gave me a Times tip:  just read the op-ed page.  That’s it! My new way. Another one fer ya—I asked a scholar friend how he keeps up with the news. His covert reply: “Listen to NPR for fifteen minutes a day. You didn’t hear it here. If anyone asks you if I said this, I will deny it.” Apparently, you can cheat at current events. And I will.

In New York in the 80s, there was a well-meaning attempt at creating jobs for the homeless called Street News. This was a slender newspaper written and sold by the homeless. There were two problems:  (1) the “news” wasn’t really that interesting and (2) it was sold by crazynutters at top volume on the subway. Kindly straphangers thought, “At least they’re working!” and bought one.  But when a real newspaper columnist referred to it with sarcasm as “this important journal,” well, for me at least, that was the end. If I’m laughing that hard at something, I’m probably not going to buy it.  This important journal was, sadly, not.

Newsflash: The foppish costumes the US Olympians will wear in the opening ceremony (avec giant Ralph Lauren logo on breast) were made in China. No doubt they were made there, shipped here, tailored to the athletes, then shipped back. This galls my inner efficiency monster, but not as much the American athlete-dandies will gall the world, a world that doesn’t need to see the US strolling in once again like a bunch of privileged yachties.  Next time:  Carhartts? Don’t get me wrong. I love the Olympics.

But these are only my opinions on things newsy. I did a random sampling of visitors at Silver Lake. One woman said, “Newscasters are creating issues just so they can argue, without offering any solutions.”  A gent said, “No news is good news—just stay at the lake.” Another recommended the Anne Murray song, A Little Good News. A fourth noted, “It seems there is a lot of ‘news’ worth avoiding lately, like, an article debating whether Lady Gaga is a hermaphrodite…and pretty much anything on Mittens Romney.”

I also offer no solutions. But always one to share good news, I close with this cheery west coast response to a recent column of mine: “The positive power of reality TV does seem to be an untapped resource. My daughter’s school was the subject of a school improvement reality TV show and it did, in the end, after selling its soul many times over, receive enough money to rejuvenate a woefully antiquated auditorium and a quad that used to resemble a Dust Bowl farm.  Part of this transformation included painting the school in what appear to be IKEA flagship colors that nearly gave the math department chair cardiac arrest.”

And that’s all the good news from the bar at Harrington house, where all the women are smart, all the men are drunk, and all the children have new auditoriums. This important column comes to a close.  Good day.

Ann Aikens can be reached on Facebook (ann.aikens.7), via e-mail at, or Twitter at @uvgvt ( Comments welcome.

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