Sunday, November 25, 2007

When Was the Last Time a Helicopter Landed at Your House?

If someone happens to ask me that at work tomorrow - admitedly it would be a first - I can answer, "yesterday."

The demise of the friendly border between the US and Canada is something that has been on my mind in a small way for the last several months. The Canadian-US border runs through our property. The former owners, looking to expand the farm back in the 1940s, bought a field and some woods in Canada. No one thought twice about that kind of thing around here in the old days. There are even houses that are built with the border running through them. One of my favorite Vermont villages, Derby Line, is essentially cut in two by the border. The honor system required reporting at the crossing point and cameras viewed the side streets. When we bought the place it we thought of the cross-border field as a fun sort of curiousity. No one ever hassled us or the previous owner.

Well, now that seems to have changed. The helicopter landed on the US side of our Canadian field when it spied some hunters, locals who had been given permission by my husband to hunt on our property, and who had apparently crossed into Canada. They are the good guys around here and its a shame that a helicopter descended to hassle them. I gather that their troubles may be with Canadian Fish & Game but the Border Patrol clearly was laying down the law. What it means for continuing the 60 years tradition of farming in that field remains to be seen. I think that thanks to Osama Bin Laden and a certain hysteria in Washington, all of us who have built our social infrastructure on a friendly border are in serious trouble. Here at the Last House we have always given the border patrol carte blanche over our property. Two agents showed up at our door last weekend with a clipboard and a list of questions about our property. My husband gave them permission to come any time and to put in sensors on our land. He likes their presence as a way to keep off trespassers - but it's not trespassers that I am worried about. How could he say no, however, even if he didn't like the idea? I have worked with cops and I it doesn't do any good to fail to cooperate. Of course, we don't want drug dealers or terrorists on our land but does keeping them off mean we can't use it either? The helicopter wasn't black but it portends no good...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Romantic England

Today, instead of cleaning the bathroom and recaulking the tub, the two things I promised myself I would do on this day off prior to company arriving tomorrow for Thanksgiving, I spent a couple of hours getting our old scanner and older desktop computer back into action. The CD burner we have is a relic from the late 90s. The good news for you, gentle reader, is that all this effort paid off and I managed to scan some great postcards that I have recently collected.

As my close friends know (but not my little girl nor all the friends I intend to visit) I am planning, at last, a trip to England in the spring with my 10-year-old daughter (the official announcement comes at Christmas). As for these postcards, about two weeks ago I discovered an antique store - my new favorite- I'm keeping its location secret for now, where the proprietor had PILES of stuff I loved. Including boxes of these beautiful postcards. I never thought much about how great these things could be but now I am smitten. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are the scans of the postcards I now won't have to buy when we finally make it across the pond.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Cheapskate and her ipod, or A Response to "Consider the Lobster"

In my ongoing search for free content for my iPod, I downloaded from last week a free essay called "Consider the Lobster" by David Foster Wallace. I had never heard of David Foster Wallace but Audible assured me that he was Someone Special and, as an essayist myself, (albeit not endorsed by or any other publisher other than, which is famously not very selective), I made a grab for it. Yesterday being Tuesday, I had my hour in the morning for a walk on the Stowe Rec Path (about which see previous posts). It was a rainy, cool-verging-on-cold November morning. The last few dead leaves were being shaken from the trees by a steady breeze, not quite a wind, and David Foster Wallace (hereinafter "DFW")was on my ipod and in my walking plans.

It's not like I am exactly sorry I listened to it, because it gave me food for thought resulting in this insomniac essay. But it's not like I actually liked it either. Friends, it was grim. Worse, it was irritating. DFW revealed himself within a paragraph (he read the essay himself) to be a classic pointy-headed intellectual. I was going to call him humorless, but unfunny is more accurate. Inside of the first five minutes, I started wishing that the writers of The Simpsons would get him. I remembered a Simpsons episode where Springfield was taken over by all the smart people, Professor Frink, Dr. Hibbard, Lisa, Martin, and things went to hell in a handbasket. Snob that I am, I am also impatient with the intellectual class and glad that most people aren't paying much attention to them. Mayor Quimby is preferable as a leader. God save the polity from DFW and his ilk.

I do have to hand it to DFW, however, for actually forcing the reader to consider the lobster in "Consider the Lobster." If this was his objective, he met it. Listening to this essay was the literary equivalent having a living lobster thrust to within about three inches of your face and twisting it there for a full 50 minutes with its little claws scrabbling at your cheeks and its larger claws, cruelly (it is suggested) banded or pinned, giving you a slap or two. The essay was, apparently written for Gourmet Magazine. I wonder what the editors thought when the product they commissioned arrived in their offices? They could not have found it a joy and rapture unforeseen, indictment of lobster eating and the Maine Lobster Festival that it is, at bottom. I expect it touched off an editorial argument, with the high-brows playing the "art" card and winning the day. Maybe the editors asked for a little rewrite. At the end DFW talks about how he's not intending to "bait" anyone who reads Gourmet and eats lobsters, cows, lambs, chickens etc. He just wants to ask if they have thought about the moral position they are in by eating these things. Yikes.

As noted, DFW is reporting, sort of, on the Maine Lobster Festival. Despite the image the words "Maine Lobster Festival" may conjure for you, images, of a happy sunny day near the ocean in summer, DFW found it, are you sitting down, a tacky and dislikable jumped-up county fair sort of affair. The MLF features a dull parade with home-made floats (presumably a contrast to the factory made floats of Macy's Parades and the Rose Bowl?) and a guy in a bad pirate costume saying "argh" to bystanders; people wearing hats with lobster claws on springs. Porta potties. Lines. Tourists. He includes himself in this last, loathsome category. In one memorable phrase says that he, like other tourists, ruins nice places by going there becoming an "insect on a dead thing." Here's a newsflash: crowds of people eating lobster, or anything else, as cheaply as possible accompanied by gimcrack entertainments and accommodated by poor sanitation facilities is not going to be pretty. They will be an easy target for someone with a large vocabulary. What mass event, other than church, or maybe some concerts, ever allows a crowd to come off well? Picking on the details is a way for DFW to show himself superior to it all. Yawn.

Come back soon. I have to get to bed now or I'll never be up in three hours to get the kids to school. In the meantime, "Annie, Get Your iPod!" here's a link to the audiobook under discussion.

Monday, November 12, 2007

This Weekend at the Top of Vermont

Was a quiet one. When I got up on Saturday morning to take my usual stroll on the mountain (Jay Peak of course) I arrived to find the golf course and everything else up there covered in snow! It was cold too. Luckily, I was dressed for it and had my hiking poles (it was slippery too). I wound up walking on the roads by the condos, cutting across one ski trail to get back to the main road to the resort. I was surprised to see that a few other people had already been out that morning on a route similar to mine (footprints...)

The condos there are really nice - it must be admitted. In the snow they have a Christmas jollity, with their red doors and light green color. The one bad thing about walking near dwellings, instead of on the trails, is the problem of encountering condo owners. I feel like they regard me suspicously. Also, at least one of them has a dog, whom I have nicknamed Cujo. I didn't hear him barking the instant I got within 500 yards of his condo so I thought I was in the clear on Saturday. Then (at 8 AM) a jeep pulled onto the road where I was walking. A few moments later Cujo was barking his head off and charging toward me. I stopped moving altogether (years ago a loose dog came after me on my bike and I tried to get away and wound up in the emergency room). Luckily, his owner, despite having lost control of him the moment she opened her car door, stood calling for him and, after he skidded to a stop in front of me, he turned around and went back to her. She wished me a nice day, and sounded sincere.

I noticed a Vermont plate on that jeep. Very unusual for a Vermonter to have a second home up here. I would love to have one of those condos myself.

Woolfoot Kid 2 this weekend discovered the joys of chopping vegetables for salads. He spent a couple of hours on both days of the weekend reducing cherry tomtoes and a few bits of onion to mouse bite sizes. Then we made a salad. He wanted me to take a picture and I was happy to do it, of course.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Day At Home

Well. Mostly at home. I and the kids hit the golf course (just the golf cart path) early. It was cold and beautiful. Lots of son in the last house today. As it's hunting season (and the gas station owner and his son were hunting here all weekend) we had to be careful about when we went out on our own place (not during the early morning or evening). We did walk down to the river and I kept my camera with me.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween on the Border Hops - Who Knew?

For the first time in all our years in the last house we did our trick or treating in the little village of North Troy - in which we live. If it has a claim to fame, other than sitting on the Canadian border and being a Port of Entry, it is as as rough sort of workingman's town. I suppose that's better than the neighboring town of Richford, over the mountain. A client of mine once told me that some of his Canadian friends think of Richford as the Tiajuana of Vermont. Funny, but kinda true.
Wanting to avoid gangs of vandals and cretins that I sometimes believe dominate the local population, we usually go somewhere else for trick or treat. This proved impractical this year so our kids and some of their friends in the villageall went out last night for the North Troy Halloween experience.
The local gas station/restaurant/convenience store had a way-station of coffee, donuts, cider and play doh and treats for the kids (the proprieters were dressed as Robin Hood and Maid Marion). The firemen were giving out glowing safety bracelets and candy and also manning all the streets to serve as crossing guards. The place was literally jumping. I have never seen so much activity in this little village. A couple of gay couples located here years ago (I tip my hat - I wish they'd persuade some friends to move in) their houses are the nicest in town. The garden at one of these places was like a movie set. Queer Eye for North Troy? I guess this wouldn't be universally supported but I'm all for it.
One of the parents we went with last night told me that lots of VT towns around here have banned trick or treating and ours, which is compact and has a (barely) surviving center is one of the few places to go so lots of people come from neighboring towns. People were mostly friendly and well behaved. It had a Norman Rockwell quality for the most part. A nice surprise. Happy Halloween.