Saturday, September 26, 2015

Around Here

Vermont plays to earlier days.  To old cars on old byways, many not even paved.  To aproned women in general stores selling you pots of home-made jam or pickles or dilly beans.  To farmers markets where friends bump into each other and pick up cakes of a vendor's soap in patchouli, pine, lemongrass scents or loaves of fresh multi-grain bread or cups of Indian chai. To the pleasure of driving without the disruption of seeing billboards. To contra-dances in the local grange hall where young matrons, grandmothers, and grizzled farmers alike dance a set to fiddle music as they do a balance, stomp, and kick, or a promenade down the length of the wooden floor.

So it's homey (in fact, down-homey), accessible, and, as I say, caters to an earlier era.  People here can be very straight forward, helpful, independent, many living off in the woods with their solar panels, foxes, skunks, and deer as their bird feeders attract squirrels in summer and bears in winter.  If you're around awhile, even if you're a flatlander (aka someone not born here), they can eventually realize that, yes, you have been around awhile. After many years of my saying, "Hi, Jerry," the man who sells flowers at the farmers market now calls me by name when he says, "Hi," back.  (He also has excellent maple syrup, honey, garlic scapes in spring, and berries later on.)  And Susan, who sells gorgeous hand-thrown pots, now knows my name, too, and holds back some of her special buttercrunch lettuce for me at only $1.50 a head.  (It's the lettuce to beat all lettuce.)

But I have discovered a disadvantage to opting for beauty over modernity.  I was out on a state highway just this past week when I realized I had a flat tire.  I pulled over some distance past a covered bridge, no houses around, but next to a lovely little river that made its way down to the Connecticut.  I was on my way to the county seat--a small low-key town, very photogenic--to pick up three clematis vines on sale to plant before the wintry winds take over.

Of course, I didn't like having a flat but I pulled out my cell phone to call roadside assistance ... only ... to find ... there was no reception.  Drat!  Yes, I remembered now that area was "dead."  What to do!!  Nothing for it but to stand out on the road and wave my arms, hailing someone to stop and, I hoped, take me to the next town where I imagined (but wasn't sure, mind you) that I could make a cell call.  I was surprised, with my "little old lady" status (as per my August 8th posting), at just how long it took for someone to stop.  I was eventually rescued.  Then, having driven on it as much as I had, I found I'd pretty well demolished the tire and had to buy a new one.

Two days later, I went off to the cell phone office to learn that that entire lengthy mountainous corridor had no service.  A tower almost got put in nearby but that town's select-board (the governing body) nixed it, opting for beauty.  Of course, I felt conflicted, understanding the sense of that but also realizing that having a cell phone for emergency calls did not guarantee that a call could actually go through in many places that I frequented.  Hmmm ....


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Clackity Clackity Clack Clack ... Ding!

A friend recently told me she was considering getting a typewriter.  It got me thinking.  I always had a typewriter--one Smith Corona after another, then an electric IBM, and finally a Xerox Memorywriter with its floppy disks.  But a typewriter can still be handy.  If non-electric it can carry on if the power goes out.  And it doesn't attract cyber-snoops.  Of course--disadvantage--if you do any editing at all, you have to retype everything.

The whole typewriter culture was a culture in itself.  All gone now.  But there was the special equipment such as typing erasers, now obsolete:  little round rubber erasers with a brush on one end to whisk bits away.  And ribbons.  All black.  Or the top was black and the bottom red.  Or, I had one once that was black, red, green, and blue.  Most of the ribbons were reversible so that you could use them over and over.  Until carbon ribbons came along--a one-shot deal only.

Then if the typewriter was portable, you had a case. My father had a Corona typewriter from sometime around 1920--I still have it--that folded down, something I loved fiddling with as a child.

Here it is folded down on itself

Then there was the paper.  You used carbon paper to make copies.  I used to work with what we called Jiffy Sets of some six different copies all interlaced with carbon paper.  Of course, that was even before duplicating machines.  Then, there were different weights and qualities of paper.  Onion skin was light-weight and crinkly.  Second sheet paper (used under carbon paper) was light-weight and smooth.  And the paper you actually typed on was generally a better quality than the copy paper we use today.

As for the font, except for my IBM and Memorywriter, there was no choice ... you took what you got, often Courier. 

Finally, there was the typewriter's song.  The "clackity clackity clack" with a "ding" at the end of the line to tell you to manually shift the carriage to start a new line.

Of course, I mustn't forget the practice of typing.  I remember once--I'd just arrived in Florence, Italy, hoping to work for an American there in the art book business--when, just realizing something, he stopped the interview and said,  "You type using the touch-type method, don't you?"  (That is, typing without looking at the keyboard. Whereas, having to look at the keyboard when typing is called "the hunt and peck.")

"Yes," I said.

He put his hand to his head and said, "Oh, you'll go mad, mad."  Italian keyboards, it turned out, used a different layout, not the one we use called the Qwerty system.  So the letters were in different locations on the keyboard.

"I'll use the hunt and peck," I offered.

"No, no ... you'll go mad, mad,"  he said, ending the interview then and there.  So much for my attempt to land a job in Florence.

But I still love typewriters.  We were good friends for a long time.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

What Some of the Future May Look Like (Which Is What Some of the Past Looked Like)

It might be interesting to think ahead to what the future might look like once there are changes in the financial system, fewer resources, and various environmental exigencies.  For one thing, I believe we will be thinking on a more regional basis.  (Such as:  not sending produce all the way across the country in trucks that use gasoline but in seasonally eating what our particular area grows even if that means mostly stored root veggies in winter.)  As well as thinking on a more community-oriented--or even neighborhood--basis.  In New York City, for instance, people think in terms of their own little neighborhoods and support the shops and eateries right there where they live.

We can come up with our own barter systems.  If we need to keep the car in the garage because of the cost or lack of fuel, we can support our neighborhoods by opening up nearby mom and pop stores.  Or places where vendors can set up a temporary side-walk stall if they have extra tomatoes, say, to sell.  So I see more places that one can easily reach by walking or bicycling.

I see something of a return to a farming life with more communal help--putting up pickles, sauerkraut, and applesauce.  Milking cows, raising chickens, putting a veggie garden in place of a lawn.  Stockpiling non-GMO seeds, acquiring garden tools.

With more back-to-the-land activities, there may not be time for TV or video games--which, to me, seems a plus.  I would like us to sit down with the family to eat--and to eat home-cooked food--as we also share time talking together.  As well, to save on electricity, we may well have quieter lives without the currently ever-present "music" playing in the background wherever we go.  We might even fish our ukuleles out of the closet and create our own music.  But we also need more silence so that we can think our own thoughts without distraction.

I would appreciate, too, if there were free education including college and graduate studies.  Free health care.  Better public transport.  Even a proportionally representational government such as the Dutch have.  As for the Presidential elections, they need a complete overhaul to do away with the billions of dollars spent and the lengthy waste of time the process now takes.

Then we need to abandon the ever-present war mentality that keeps this country afloat with its proliferation of "bona-fide" (ha!) reasons why we should go to war in some poor country or why that same spot needs our troops, our drones, our contractors as we then take over and drain their resources and our war machine hauls in big bucks. (It was the war in Viet Nam that used up much of our own domestic oil supply.)

With their community, their off-the-grid life, their buggies and farms, I often think the Amish are among the best prepared for the future.  Obviously, I don't know what it will look like, but I dare say we'll have an opportunity to be creative!

What getting ready for winter looks like in these parts.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Dimmer Days

Before I began living alone, it was nice to be able to split the duties.  You see that the car is kept in good shape, I'll tally the finances each month.  Or ... together we'll decide what to do about winter.  People around here, if they go anywhere at all, seem to go to Florida.  I prefer the western part of the country, myself.  There's also something to be said for staying home in order to be here if the power goes out, pipes freeze, roof leaks, etc.  Okay, so I now figure things out myself ... though I don't want to find myself obsessing about one thing and neglecting something else.  And there are big things like the economy where my research leads me to such terminology as debt-based money, market manipulation, and black swans. What to do  ...  except proceed one day at a time.

And then there's the dimmer days thing.  Less sunlight by something like 20% I think I read, though that's not an exact figure.  Caused by intentional spraying.  If you've been looking up--though you may not have known what they were--you've probably seen the frequent aerosol trails high up in the sky as nano particulates spread out over the entire sky, create a haze, and purposefully obscure sunlight from reaching the earth in an effort to modify the climate, all being done, or so it seems, with no oversight.  And all treated as if it were a non-subject ... though there are plenty of on-line sites that talk about it.  And, no, it's not harmless condensation trails; those are ice crystals that quickly dissipate and don't create a haze.  No, this is a program called SRM for Solar Radiation Management.  It may scatter light and reduce solar radiation, but it can also result in a depletion of the ozone layer, change rain patterns, and hinder photosynthesis. And then what about whatever is in that aerosol drifting into our soil and watersheds? Anyway, I'm keeping up my vitamin D.  "D for dimmer days," I say to myself.

Those aren't clouds; those are trails of aerosol spraying ...

... which produce this haze.  (You can see another trail in the background.)

As for other things going on now, I'll leave them to people like Chris Hedges.  If you're a fan of his, as I am, you will appreciate this week's posting.  Click here 

James Howard Kunstler--a writer, blogger, gardener--is good too.  Colorful language.  His site is

As for the skies, our local environmental gathering will soon be showing "What in the World Are They Spraying?" which is found on YouTube.