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Local Treasures

carpet of leavesOur sunny foliage season was a hit; now for the private after-show for locals. As an artist friend noted with her specialized eyeballs, late foliage affords us remnants of red and gold with the twiggy lines of trees now bald mixed in. As another put it, the leaves on the ground provide a colorfully crunchy carpet before “November’s…dirt.”

Last week’s full moon (the hunter’s moon, traveling moon, or death moon, depending upon your tribe) offered us pagans good lighting for rituals wherein we place into a (lit. or fig.) caldron our wishes for our people and this krazy planet. I put into mine: clarity, love, creativity, strength.  You?

With short days, TV and radio and film become alluring alternatives to outdoor sports. If you podcast, Billy Crystal and Graham Nash crushed on Fresh Air on 10.17, as did the rerun of an April 20th Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me’s “best of” celebrity callers episode (Melinda Gates! Jeff Bridges! A surprisingly hilarious Tony Danza! The Fonz!). Colbert’s on-air wedding for a couple gypped out of their nuptials at a (closed) national monument along with Jon Stewart’s Shutstorm 2013 made the government shut-down almost worthwhile. Randolph’s revamped Playhouse Theater, a local treasure (the oldest cinema in the state), is now rocking Gravity with national treasures Bullock and Clooney.

There’s still time to squeak in a few holes at the Woodstock Inn or Montague Golf Club…fore! While the Bethel Ethels have hung up their rackets for the season, playing tennis on Bethel’s crevice-marred town courts adds an element of chance to a gentlewoman’s game for those with a taste for danger. Terrible players like me can WIN via unforeseen benevolent bounces.

Our weirdly warm foliage aside, two weather phenoms remain certain: (1) it will always be so hot on July 4th that overdressed marching band members faint—or as the boys put it, “pass out”—and (2) it will always be so cold on Halloween you cannot see the kids’ costumes. “Welcome, er, Tundra Fairy! Is that a wing poking out of your…fairy parka?”; “I see you are an Arctic Vampire, young man. Do you take your blood neat, or with iceberg cubes?” I myself hand out Snickers and warm hardboiled eggs, unsure of the effect of chemical handwarmers upon Earth’s mighty landfills.

It’s time to trade in our garden tools for musical instruments and knitting needles. Which for some reason you can take on a plane, but not a nail clipper (pretty sure I could do more damage with a saxophone). Kimball Public Library’s knitting group provides community in Randolph as do the Knitters (Knutters!) of the Round Table at the Whippletree in Woodstock. Get some laffs while banging out colorific holiday gifts.

It’s also time to eat. Which can be counteracted by memberships at VTC, killer MOVE Fitness, or at the Woodstock Inn. For fall dining, personal faves include the Harrington House, Barnard Inn, Big Fatty’s BBQ, Cockadoodle Pizza Café, and Five Olde. My gastronomic goal is both Worthy restaurants some time soon—wanna take me on a date? Ahahaha, that’s so funny. Dating: not a local treasure of the Upper Valley.

For beer I dig Burlington’s unfiltered ale, Switchback; for cocktails a nice Bloody Caesar (Bloody Mary with clam juice) using local Silo Vodka or Vermont Gold, a maple vodka. Crockpotting demands top vegetables from your farmers’ market or the Chef’s Market. And don’t put away the grill—the only time that’s no good is when it’s 20 below. Then the meat freezes on top while the bottom cooks, sort of. Don’t ask me how I know that. For dentistry: wicked old-school kindly Dr. McDonald in Woodstock. For knockout eyeglasses: Eyes on Elm; no competition for 150 miles. Pies? On the Edge Farm on Route 12. Dana wizards the fruits of the Land from apple to sour cherry.

Your monthly Useful Information is this: glucosamine makes you gassy. Your Good News for women is: there is a product for after shaving and waxing called finipil that feels like a York Peppermint Pattie; for men, the beauty industry is catering to aging male boomers with “special formulations” “just for men” (what’s in there?). Next up in the beauty aisle: eyebrow hair relaxant, for old Scottish weird curlicue eyebrow hair growers like me. I hope. Good day.

If You Like to Drag Out Christmas…

…as I do, go have a pop at Harrington House.  Terrific holiday vibe.

When I worked at Forbes Magazine one million year ago, my co-worker J would ask, “Ann Marie, wanna go have a pop?” She meant a stiff drink. (Is there any other kind?)

Another thing she’d say, every time a cop car whizzed by on 12th Street with its siren blaring, which was often:

“Ann Marie, your ride’s here.”

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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