Friday, April 28, 2017

This Town, "The One and Only"


Our annual Strolling of the Heifers (to distinguish it from that event in Spain) recognizes "conscious" food--local farming families, organic produce, and such lovelies as the best fruit pies around. 

Post-parade

This town is called "The One and Only" because there is no place else--in the world--that is named Brattleboro ... named for William Brattle, Jr., who never actually got here but who was one of the Boston-based owners of this area's land-grant charter and who, incidentally, was a loyalist who fled to Nova Scotia where he died in 1776.  Before all that, this was Abenaki territory, but then the town's antecedent, Fort Dummer, became Vermont's first permanent English settlement.  (Its site is now underwater--flooded by the construction of a dam on the Connecticut River.)

The town lies in the southeastern corner of Vermont with Interstate 91 shooting right through it on one side, the Connecticut River (and New Hampshire) bordering it on the other, and the attractive West River angling through from its Vermont source northwest of here.  The population is 12,000 which makes it the 7th largest town in the state, the first being Burlington, off near the Quebec border.

Our beautiful West River

Back when I first moved here, now 22 years ago, I looked around and took for granted several amenities.  For one thing, I found three favorite bookstores here--good for browsing at any time.  A fourth wasn't bad but always smelled musty and carried a lot of environmentally-correct books which I applauded but didn't buy.  Then, as the years went by, bookstore #1 suffered severe water damage from a fire and closed.  (The store there now sells odd lamps and earrings.)  Bookstore #2 (that later added a pleasant coffee bar) went the way when the owner couldn't put up the funds for the coffee bar addition.  (That space is now occupied by a microbrewery--nice for beer drinkers but I'm not a beer drinker.) Bookstore #3 (actually in the next village over) went the way when it turned out Amazon was taking a lot of its trade.  Alas.  Bookstore #4, the musty one, is now the only one in town selling new books. They're good for ordering books but a bit limited in space for general browsing.

There were also 3 video stores in town.  #1 had a fabulous collection of art films but put the place up for sale one day. #2 was independently owned but put the place up for sale one day.  #3, part of a national line, simply closed its doors.  Now, if you want to see a video/DVD, you have to go to the library but their supply seems geared toward old TV series.  Back then, too, there were two or three movie channels on TV.  Those have now switched and are showing repeats of Gladiator or The Walking Dead.  Yes, I belong to Netflix and get one a week. I'm fussy about what I order, so they have to be good. But there are other times when I'd like to watch a movie on the spur of the moment, not planned weeks ahead of time and put in my queue. 

Then the nice walking trail down by the West River has been taken over by construction crews for the past 4 or 5 years while they're replacing a high spanned interstate bridge over that same river.

The parking meters have gone from taking pennies to gulping quarters.

The store that sold Indian bedspreads, tablecloths, incense, and nice little chutney dishes closed not long after Hurricane Irene flooded it out.  A kitchen goods place took over but then closed.

On the plus side, the little local art museum (where the train station used to be) is doing well and coming up with small but well-received exhibits.

Then there's the splendid family-run hardware store in the middle of town with old creaky-wooden floors and personal service where someone is always ready to lead you off into the maze of aisles to show you where to find that particular light bulb or battery you need.  The nice thing (besides the service) is that the store never changes.  No renovations, no re-organizing, no moving door mats or brooms or nails or tea kettles to some new spot. They just leave things as and where they are.  Since it works, why change! (That philosophy goes over well here.)

After getting a bequest, the local library has re-opened Thursday mornings and spiffed itself up.

Our old food coop was torn down and replaced by a new one that is bigger, even more organic than before, and good about labeling non-GMO, so that's a plus.
Tea selection at our local food coop

A good number of restaurants have come and gone.  The local hemp store closed when the owner died.  A popular bakery nearly closed until people made a Big Fuss, so it stayed open.  Little giftie-type shops come and go.  A new attractive art gallery has opened up.

A circus arts school has found new digs in town and seems to be thriving. Ditto the local music school. Ditto the local (small) arts school.

My druthers?  Another great bookstore, please.  A Greek restaurant.  A walking path beside the Connecticut River (except Amtrak has taken over that space).  An Indian restaurant to replace the one that closed.  A quality women's clothing store to replace the one that closed.  No more chotchkies.

Just thought I'd pass that along.

A Main Street store sidewalk display


Main Street

"The Meadows" where the West River becomes a water meadow just before flowing into the Connecticut


Monday, April 17, 2017

The Shift From Winter to Spring

Around here, the shift from winter to spring is a big deal.  It's THE topic of casual conversation.  For me, it occurs ....

1.  When I crack open my bedroom window for the first time.
2.  When I hear the first peepers down in the woods below my house--those small "chorus frogs."
3.  When I call my yard guy and we talk about when he'll come, take my pots, garden furniture, and hoses back outside, and mulch the peonies.
4.  When the first robins, cardinals, and chickadees appear.
5.  When the snowdrops bloom out under my azalea.
6.  When the first crocuses come up ... and with them, the first daffodil shoots.
7.  When we can make plans without some snow storm disrupting things.
8.  When I don't have to wear several layers at once.  Or my snow boots.
9.  When I put away my winter comforter.
10.  When I take my snow shovel off the porch and put it back in the garage.
11.  When all my snow has melted.  (That happened yesterday, Easter Sunday.)  And I can finally get out in the yard and tidy things up.
12.  When the crew calls to schedule its annual oil furnace cleaning.
13.  When the local farm stand opens (after closing Thanksgiving) ... with its display of pansies galore!



This First Sign of Spring thing is something I never paid any attention to growing up in southern California.  About all I did was stop wearing my brown tie-up shoes and get out my white sandals. Since we had blossoms year around, there was no such thing as "spring's first flower."  Here, of course, it's the snowdrop, followed by the crocus, followed by the daffodil.  Then, we're off and running!


Friday, April 7, 2017

No Comment ... or, Shifting the Language Around




Okay, I'll admit that it's easier to say "re-gifting" than "taking something someone has given me that I really don't want and giving it to someone else." But there are other newish words that disagree with me.  And "gifting" is one of them.  To my ears, it sounds phony.  What's the matter with "giving a gift."

Then there's "to table" meaning "to sit at a table."  "They will be tabling on Friday ... join them in the store for conversation."  Huh?

And "source" has become a verb meaning "to locate."  "High quality fruit they carefully source."

And the term, "to partner with someone."  I never heard that until maybe 30 years ago.  We used to talk about becoming one's partner.  Or taking a partner.  

"The big reveal."  A "disconnect."  I guess verbs are often turned into nouns.  So it seems "revelation" has turned into "reveal."  And "disconnection" into "disconnect."

He said "lude things."  I saw that written in the media by someone who couldn't spell "lewd."  Spell check just now wanted to change it to "dude."

And I also saw, "I was pretty discussed."  Think he meant "disgusted"?

Then there's one I've been wondering about for some time ... and that is "attitude."  "He's got attitude," is something you hear a lot.  It used to be that "attitude" required an adjective.  "He's got a lousy attitude," that sort of thing.  Now it seems to stand on its own.

Of course, there's the p.c. switching off of gender nouns.  "Postman" turned into "carrier" long ago.  Are there any "postmistresses" any more?  Probably not, but it's a lovely word and very precise in its meaning. "Chairman," of course, became "chair" or "chair person." Then there's that annual ceremony where they give out awards to the best female actor.  Secret whisper here: there's a great word for that:  it's "actress."  "Waitress" is gone and so is "stewardess."  And certainly "aviatrix" seems dark-ages old fashioned.  As does "shepherdess."  Are "hero and heroine" still used?  At least we do still speak of "prince and princess."  (We don't yet talk about Female Prince Diana.)

Then I recently saw this written out:  "per say" for "per se."  And "Whose behind it" ... whose behind, indeed!  (That made me laugh.)  And "Who say's."  And "her's."  And "People's castle's and chariot's."  And "Regardless of who get's put in office."  And "Your in the middle of a baking project when you realize you have no eggs."

And then there's that habit I've mentioned before of putting "I" and "me" in the wrong places, as in this, from HGTV:  "It has two separate bedrooms for Dave and I." As I wrote many postings ago, such speech is, to quote a New Yorker copywriter, "One of the most barbaric habits in contemporary usage."

"Weed it and reap" as someone I know used to say.




Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Perking Up



I recently bumped into something that perked me up immediately--The Little Book of Hygge, Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking who calls himself the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.  "Hygge" is a Danish word (pronounced hoo-ga) which the jacket describes as being about "savoring the simple pleasures in life."  Such as staying in with "your tribe" on a winter's eve with board games, a luscious dessert, and cups of hot chocolate or mulled wine.  All ways, the author adds, that Danes manage to survive their dark, miserable winters.


So I decided to come up with a perking-up list of my own.
  • First, think spring!
  • Engage in, appreciate, and promote humor.  (Think Norman Cousins, the vitamin C man, who in conquering an illness, watched Marx Brothers movies regularly so that he could have the body-and-soul benefit of some good guffaws.)
  • Sit in candlelight (or firelight) some evenings.  No electricity.
  • Go on a news/media fast.  (Think Dr. Andrew Weil, the holistic health guru, who speaks of the health benefits of no-news/ media.)
  • Eat chocolate.
  • Buy yourself some daffodils.
  • Get out in nature.  Hikes are good.  Family picnics. 
  • Plan your garden so that it will be filled with flowers.  Or your windowsill with herbs.
  • Give someone a surprise gift.  I received a surprise bouquet recently; I can't describe what pleasure it gave me!
  • Play a musical instrument on a regular basis.  Or sing.  Or take lessons.  
  • Laugh with your book group.   If you don't have one, start one.  (Ours is currently reading Annie Dillard's An American Childhood.  Highly recommended.)
  • Come up with a worthy project:  beginning your memoirs, serving in a soup kitchen, decluttering something, learning to sing jazz, clearing out your storage unit ...
  • Appreciate!  Beauty, flexibility, a new understanding about something, a pet, a wise choice you once made, a good night's sleep, your tribe ... 
And right now I appreciate March because all those wintry months are finally taking a powder.  Whoopee!!




Friday, February 24, 2017

It's the 75th Anniversary of ... What Was That Again?



On the night of February 24-25th, 1942, an incident took place over the skies of Los Angeles which has come to be called The Battle of Los Angeles or The Great Los Angeles Air Raid.  Sometime after midnight something overhead triggered an abundance of searchlights scanning the skies plus anti-aircraft artillery firing away and air raid sirens sounding across the city. It was thought to be the Japanese who, not quite so incidentally, had shelled the Santa Barbara coast (Goleta, actually) from a surfaced submarine just the night before.  And so people supposed they were now swarming over L.A.  But there were no bombs, no damage.  But it did stir up the city and remained a puzzle for years ... in fact, it's still a puzzle.  Who was it up there and what were they doing?  Since that time, the ufologists have entered the picture, turning what were searchlights beaming up into the sky into mother-ship lights projecting down onto the city.

So, why do I speak of it?  Well, as it happened, I was a witness to it.  Yes, a little tot at the time.  It was possibly my earliest memory.  But I well remember my mother waking my brother and me from our sound sleep and telling us we had to get up and see what was happening.  Keeping the lights off, we went to the living room window and looked out over our city of Los Angeles.  There indeed were searchlights getting a beam onto very-high-overhead aircraft. Airplanes.  Not a space ship, not barrage balloons, but airplanes.  There were several, as I recall, flying in formation ... well-lit by the searchlights but also too high, it seemed, to be shot down.  It all quieted down soon enough as the planes flew on and disappeared. "Next day," as my mother liked to tell it, "there were many houses up and down the block with For Sale signs." But ever after, when we still lived there and high beamed searchlights played back and forth some evenings, I would ask my parents if it was an attack ... or the premiere of some movie over there on Hollywood Boulevard.

In my father's air raid warden outfit

You can check all this out online.  (Don't pay any attention to the doctored photo that looks like a space ship.)  Apparently, L.A.'s Fort MacArthur Museum hosts an event every February commemorating this little piece of history.  (Incidentally, the Japanese say it wasn't their planes.)

Monday, February 13, 2017

"I'll Get To It As Soon As I Can Get Off My Hill ..."

You can just make out the almost-buried picnic table.


.. as someone told me over the phone recently.  By that she meant whenever the snow stopped, the town plow cleared her road, the salt truck sprayed salt to prevent icing, her plow guy cleared out her driveway, and she cleaned the snow off her car--then she could get down her hill and put a packet in the mail to me. Such is life around here this time of year.  I live on a hill too and, yes, it takes a bit of doing sometimes to get out.

We've now had several storms with little let-up.  During one, as the snow kept falling, I watched the drama of a car that thought it could make it up this way but got stuck.  (I recognized it so knew there was an infant inside on its way up to its baby-sitter's.)  Blessings on cell phones. The driver called her husband at work who, after a half hour, managed to dig them out. And two days before that (in a different storm), the postman got stuck in the same place, left his vehicle, and walked up the hill to deliver the mail.

It's as if the weather channel just says, "Before we even tick off this current storm, here's the next ... and the one after that."

There was a point (only last week) when I decided being snowbound could be delightful.  Just staying in with cups of hot tea and silence as the snow gently persisted.   No traffic.  Food in the fridge.  A couple of good library books: James Knowlson's Damned to Fame, the Life of Samuel Beckett ... and Bill Buford's Heat, An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-maker and Apprentice to a Butcher in Tuscany. 

But now, after yesterday's storm that must have dropped another foot of snow--something like 18 inches was predicted--I'm definitely ready for spring ... when it begins making its fragile way up and down the hills.

Edward Thomas (1878-1917, born London, died France) wrote this:


Thaw

     Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
     The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
     And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,
     What we below could not see.  Winter pass.



(I love this poem.  And fortunately it's in the public domain so I can share it with you.)