Wednesday, December 31, 2008

His Mom Thought This Was Funny

The thing about Christmas vacation is that the whole family is jammed into the house in a cold, dark season. This gives us expanded opportunities to hear from the children. The Understudy, at nearly 11, is a poised and reasoning girl. Shackleton, at 7, is a gentle and surprising creature. He says things that we feel we should write down, but, as with so many things, we generally fail to follow through. Since we have a bit of a break now, I managed to get a few onto the hard drive. Here ya go. Forgive me if it turns out these are things that only near relations would find amusing.

Things Shackleton has said that amuse us.

1.) Yesterday, while building with Legos on the stairs:

“I made up a song about Iraq Obama [he’s confused by the new President’s name. No matter how many times we explain]:

“Mr. O- ba- ma!”

(to the tune of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”).

That’s as far as I got.”

2.) While riding in the car one day, a propos of nothing:

“Actually, some people do mess with Texas.”

3.) Shackleton does not like to go upstairs alone . When his sister asked him why, he said:

"Because if you come with me and we see a ghost we can fight him -

3.) After changing into his swim trunks at the community pool this week (in the manner of the announcer on those endlessly repeating “Bowflex” commercials).

“If you want to get ribs like these, call 802 977-9999”

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tell Me Something Good

There are a few members of my acquaintance who will say - I won't say "admit" because they don't seem embarrassed about it - that they don't like to read. One of these is a near relation and non-stupid. Two others are, well, questionable.

When a grown person, who has clearly learned how to read, says that he or she doesn't like to read, a moment of polite silence prevails while the hearers work out whether sympathy or astonishment is the appropriate response. Is the person handicapped in some way? As in, "I can't see the color red," or, "I can't hear from my right ear"? Or is he or she a Philistine who deserves an argument? As in, "I don't like Audrey Hepburn" or "I don't like ice cream"?

Today, at further risk of exposing an ugly side of my character (my inner, and sometimes outer, Supercilious Pratt), we turn to books that even non-readers can love. The contents of these books don't much matter. What matters is how they look.

If you have been following along, you know that I have felt pangs of guilt in the past about admiring books for their covers or their illustrations. It's like going to church only for the music or the stained glass. The Internet, however, with its great therapeutic powers, is helping me over this. I have learned that there are whole societies of people devoted to promoting the book as art. One of my favorite places to window shop on the web is a Berkeley, California book store called Handsome Books, which, "specializes in books with decorative publishers’ bindings, designed and illustrated by some of the leading artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries." Their website, as I have mentioned here before, is my idea of a good time. I also recently stumbled in my wanderings over a book artist, apparently famous in the circle of book artists, who has assembled a couple exhibitions of such books. So, it's OK to love a book for its cover.

I have always been a sucker for good-looking old things - the Dickens set in the first picture was a find at auction this summer. Each volume weighs about 2.5 pounds and it was lovely to behold, though largely dilapidated. I didn't think I would ever read it. I thought I might sell it (no takers on Ebay) and if I didn't it would do well on the bookshelf. The better volumes went off to my brother for his birthday and I kept the others. Even with missing spines, they are nice. It was Handsome Books, however, that helped me narrow my main interest to the early 20th century.

I bought this book after seeing first on their website. I have this sort of unaccountable interest and love for England and English things so when I saw this I had to get my own copy. This, as I learned at their wonderful site, was part of a series of travel books published in Boston in the early 1900s. I haven't read much of it, but I do admire it. It has this fabulous fold-out map in the back.

I was back on Handsome Books recently and found this:

They attributed this cover as (possibly) by Blanche McManus. She, as it turns out, was one of the bright lights of early 20th century book cover art. As a bargain scrounger, I found a cheaper copy elsewhere, but H.B. has my gratitude. I have read almost all of this book. It is very much of its time. It's author, one "Thos. D. Murphy" no hotel prices or opening hours are included in the information for the traveler. The quality of the roads is often, but not always, noted (motor travel being a novelty when this was first published in 1910). Otherwise we have impressions of churches, ruins, crypts, castles etc. It was apparently a big hit with its intended (gilded-age leisure-class) American audience. It was revised and republished in 1924 (after the war, of course) as, In Unfamiliar England with a Motor Car. I like this cover even better (no attribution, unfortunately).

Even the title page promises romance:

There are lots of photographs, mostly of churches and other buildings. A slight organizing principle is to show and describe places in England, which is referred to periodically as "The Mother Country," of special interest to Americans: e.g., the Washington family seat and William Penn's meeting house. My favorites, though, are the dewey paintings commissioned for the book.

Here's "Old Whitby":

and Warwick Castle:

And, gentle readers, guess what turned up in the mail today?

Isn't it lovely? It was my Christmas present to myself. It appears that Thos. D. Murphy got back from England and got back in his car to start touring New England (this book was published in 1924, the same year his revised version of Unfamiliar England appeared. This volume is sooo wonderful, like an embossed, illustrated, cloth-bound brick - and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Really, I may have to lie down. As an aside, isn't it interesting that the American touring car (seen at the bottom of the cover) is so much more elaborate than the car on the English cover? Can anyone possibly identify the models for me? And look, bonus! Another fold out map:

Sorry for the lousy picture but it shows that our Thos. journeyed from nearby Plattsburgh, NY through Vermont on old Route 2. I really can't wait to read this. But just looking at it is pretty great too.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sundown on Christmas 2008

I am always happy when Christmas rolls around...

and also when it is finally over!

The standing rib roast is roasting, the sweet potatoes are carmelizing, the table is set. Looking forward to dinner, I felt I had better get out and get a little air. I strapped on my snowshoes and knocked around the farm for a few minutes, just before sundown. This is what it looked like.

I hope you got what you wanted. I think I did. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Between the Storms

I left work an hour and a half early yesterday, not quite slinking off. I made sure the Powers That Be knew I was reachable by cell phone, etc. but the snow was falling fast, and in that sifting way that means it is going to snow for a long time and that it is cold. (If you live where it snows, you know what I mean). The ride home took two hours (usually an hour and twenty minutes) and every car that went by in the opposite lane boiled up a blinding cloud of snow (I guess I was doing the same to them). I was coiled like a spring when I finally made it to the driveway.

Mom (in Florida) fowarded me an email today titled, "Why I live in Florida." It included this amusing bit of video (Youtube embedding won't work so you have to click, sorry.)

Yes, we of the north have hard life. (And a sense of humor, Thank You Know Who). But we have our rewards too. Another storm is closing in as I blog, but we got a little sun this afternoon. I ran outside with the little happy snappy to show you all (and Mom) "Why I Live in Vermont."

Happy Solstice!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas from the Inside

Sights of the Season

It is 10 AM, and a weekday, so even though it is just one week from Christmas, the parking lot still has some blank territory. A Honda minivan, with a, rusting scrape on the passenger side door, pulls into a space near the edge of the lot. An overgrown middle-aged woman emerges from the driver’s seat. She has parked at this little extra distance because at this end of the lot she could pull through with the van facing forward. The back window of the van is so dirty it might be hard to reverse in what will certainly be a more crowded parking lot an hour or two later, when it will be time to retreat. There will be toddlers and shopping carts and other people reversing in this parking lot. She looks at the welcome mats and sidewalk salt stacked outside the doors and is clearly tempted, but resists. She goes through the sliding doors and gets a cart.

If she weren’t so tall, and her coat so black she would not be very noticeable in the crowd of other middle-aged becoated women who are also at this store. The coat, however, a bargain buy at Target three years ago, still attracts a little attention. It is nice looking, with a faux fur collar. A closer look reveals that it only has two of its three buttons, and they are hanging precariously from threads. The middle button has gone.

Its wearer, alone, also knows that the right-hand pocket has lost its bottom. It is not much use for keeping her right hand warm, nor is it safe for keys or gloves, several of which have disappeared into it: a Bermuda pocket.

No one is paying that much attention, however. The bad haircut, puffy face, slightly crooked glasses and Timberland boots dispel any positive impression the coat might have made; more slattern than soignée. But ... It’s Vermont. “Soignée” hardly ever applies, and certainly not at this store. Gloves are cheap, she notices. There is a swimming-pool-sized bin of them near the entrance. They are $3.99 a pair, with Thinsulate, no less. But not today. A complete pair, bought last year right here, is in the van, having survived a full year in her possession. Today’s trip is about getting kids stockings stuffed. No gloves, no clothing of any kind, would be welcomed there.

She patrols the store in a haphazard manner. Curtains? No. But she looks at them. A giant wall clock from the “Edinburgh Clock Company, of London” (Made in China). Not today. Lamps? Hmm. She cleaned the boy’s room yesterday and the lighting there is terrible. She personally threw the old desk lamp that had been next to his bed into the skip at the dump earlier that morning. Here’s a nice lamp, suitable for a bedside. The box is good. These lamps have been liquidated from Target and the design is good. They are $4.99. They go on when you touch the base. He will like that. Even though it is a lamp, he will like it. It won’t fit in the stocking but it will count in his mind as a proper gift. When he tells his friends at school after New Year’s what he got for Christmas, he might even put this lamp near the top of the list, near the bicycle that is waiting in the back of the van, having been secured from WalMart just half an hour ago. Into the cart it goes.

[Oh, I could go on and on, but I won’t. At least not now. I can’t swear I won’t do at least one more shopping post. Oh, I promised the Hot Dog vendor outside the Christmas Tree Shoppe in Williston, Vermont (see above) that I would Blog about him. Hello if you stopped by, hot dog man. Note well, he’s only going to be at his stand there til New Years (back in the spring he said) and if you are looking for the best $3.75 lunch in Northern Vermont, see him soon or wait til spring. He has the gift of gab, I should have asked if he was from California or something, he’s that outgoing. He makes great hot dogs and he was right about the sport peppers and Diet Pepsi Max with ginseng he recommended to me].

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Indolence in the Face of Christmas

I have no business expecting to get any sleep tonight as I have just spent the laziest Sunday in human history. The sun did not appear at all. We might just as well have been in the arctic circle for all the sunlight we got today. I left the house once, in search of silver polish (to shine up a silver-plated pitcher that I am soon to bestow on Shackleton's volunteer reading tutor as a "thank you" and Christmas acknowledgment). I came home with milk, fruit roll ups and English muffins. No polish. The general stores in the vicinity don't stock it and I wasn't driving twelve miles to the county seat to the nearest open hardware store. I improvised with some ancient pewter polish. The pitcher was not fully restored to its turn-of-the-century grandeur but it achieved a certain gaudy charm.

The one other thing I managed to do was scan the illustration that serves as today's banner. This comes from an old story book called Tales Told In Holland. I wrote about it here last summer, noting that its strength is found in the fabulous illustrations by Maud and Mishka Petersham. The stories and poems have pretty well lost their appeal (if they ever had any). I was reminded of this illustration while reading Jaywalker's discussion of the Dutch/Flemish (horribly politically incorrect) Christmas tradition of zwart Piet - the Moor who accompanies St. Nick on his horse and who doles out punishment to bad children. I hadn't bothered to read the story accompanying this illustration, although it had caught my eye last summer (I had wondered who the black kid in the ruff was and why Santa had a horse). Today I got only part way through. The "tale" started with something about how a poor Dutch fellow was once on the verge of "selling his three daughters" when someone dropped money down his chimney. His benefactor was the Bishop who became St. Nick. I couldn't focus long enough to find out how he acquired Piet. Oh, the charms of Old Europe. Lovely illustration, though, isn't it?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Snow Day

Did you hear about all the bad weather that hit the east coast last night? Result: Much shoveling and many children home from school, and enjoying the violence that snow always seems to engender in them. There is no sound to this video, but sound is hardly necessary.

Disclaimer: People should not allow their overheated children to play in winter storms without proper attire. Even if the child is only a few feet from his front porch, on which he just jettisoned his coat after a vigorous snowfight, even if he looks tough, like a small lumberjack, even if he is generally impervious to cold and wants to be photographed without his winter coat, proper attire should be required.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Inside

The first few big heating bills have arrived and WHusband has spent the weekend ranting against comfortable indoor temperatures. The thermostat has been set to Stun for a a full 24 hours. Even for us crusty old northerners, 60 degrees (F) is barely sufficient to sustain life. It reminds me of when I was a kid and Jimmy Carter was president and we were all instructed to freeze in the dark.

For a few years I had a sister-in-law who had been been born in Pakistan and raised in Houston. She was cold even when she visited Vermont in July. She came here for at least one Christmas. We bought her long underwear (Merry Christmas from your poor relations!) and turned up the heat a notch. She was lovely, but her blood was like water. Hmmm. Note to self. Don't freeze the company.

The weekend has been quiet and nearly devoid of Christmas preparations. Hmm. Note to self. Get ready for Christmas!

Shackleton and the Understudy were just complaining that we didn't do anything today. This is not true, strictly speaking. I went to the grocery store. I vacuumed. We all watched TV. The kids played I Spy Spooky Mansion. So, OK, we didn't get a Christmas tree. Maisy and I did a brief walkabout on our land here at the Last House at 4 PM, which is nearly night just at the moment. I did a post in April called "Everything's Gone Green." Well, this one could be "Everything's Gone Brown."

Here's some of what we saw.

The last bit of green I could find in the woods...

Some little creature braved the ice, which is new today.

I think a witch lives near here, hey, I don't mean me!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Can I Get a Witness?

Despite my best intentions, I have been overwhelmed by the demands of the season. Not one card sent. No gifts wrapped - hardly any even acquired. Our Christmas tree is still standing in a field somewhere (we always cut one) - and the old blog has been languishing. It occurred to me, during this insomniac "morning" that I could at least offer this.

I just read on Wikipedia that Charles Schulz and Bill Melendez, (writer, of course, and director Charlie Brown's Christmas back in 1965), had to fight CBS to allow Linus to recite from the King James version (Boring! said the excutives). Also, when the execs first screened the show, they were horrified - jazz soundtrack? child actors (whose lines often had to be spliced together during editing because some of them couldn't read,which gave the dialogue an unusual cadence)? No laughtrack? They thought it would be a disastrous flop.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Figgy Pudding Extortionists and Other Holiday Thoughts

Phew. Thanksgiving weekend is drawing to its quiet, Sunday close. We made it.

That isn't to say that it wasn't a very nice Thanksgiving here at the Last House. It was fairly fabulous, in fact, what with the company, the smoked turkey, ham, pies, cookies, Brussels sprouts and leeks, and all. The leeks and sprouts were an uncharacteristic menu item here. They were brought by our visiting English friends, who insisted on contributing something. Delicious. Shackleton asked for thirds of the "ball thingys". Our friends also brought along their other friends, Moët et Chandon. We had candles, I laid out the China - lovely.

But it's nice to decompress and not to have an dishes to wash for a few minutes. One must catch one's breath before the next big effort. Oh, wait. Christmas is already upon us, isn't it? The local radio station switched to all Christmas music last week. I took The Understudy and Shackleton to Burlington today for a birthday party (an hour and a half each way in the car). I got two solid hours of Christmas music on the journey. The kids can't seem to get enough hackneyed Christmas hits - I heard no fewer than three versions of "Do You Hear What I Hear" on the trip.

This reminded me of my very brief stint as a child chorister. I remember very little about the experience except that we sang "Do You Hear What I Hear" in poofy white robes, and that the kid singing next to me threw up and his vomit splashed my anklet.

Of course, the radio also played "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" every few minutes. Can someone explain why the carolers in that song demand Figgy Pudding and why they won't go until they have some? I have always wondered about that.

Now I am watching the Lord of the Rings, Return of the King on TNT and bossing the kids into their pajamas and blogging. This is how I relax.

While we are on the subject, I just wanted to share that I love LOTR. Not in a role-playing, weird "get-a-life way" (I hope) but because I think J.R.R. Tolkien was a true genius and because he used his powers for good. I like the Peter Jackson movies too, more than I thought I would since I felt the books were practically sacred. Every time I see them, however, (and I bought all three) I find myself wondering how the Elves and Kings and such would cope today.

Picture this: Legolas, Aragorn, Galdriel and Gandalf at a Sbarro at a rest stop on the New York State Thruway. Would you want to be behind them in line?

"Can you not bake that on a Lembas Bread crust?"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Have I Mentioned About My Bad Taste and Tacky Habit of Naming Prices That I Paid for Stuff?

OK, let me put down my banner and my flamethrower. Whew. Those were heavy.

Now that I have blazed my way through that Snowboard thing (see the last post) we can get back to talking about junk that I have acquired. I am pleased to tell you that I have just passed through a particularly charmed junking period. Oh wait, I think I need to start calling my finds "trouvailles". This occurred to me last night as I was reading a biography ofJoseph Cornell. If you are not familiar with Joseph Cornell, the Amazon.Com review of this book sums him up this way: "Joseph Cornell (1903-72) lived in Queens with a domineering mother and severely handicapped brother while creating unique, haunting art: boxes filled with lovingly assembled objects and printed images."

In other words, Cornell bought junk (that he loved, as I do), and made art (as I don't, although I do blog about it). Andre Breton was doing the same thing over across the pond in the 1920s and '30s, while Cornell was prowling the streets of New York. Breton called his junk trouvailles and his manipulations of it made him famous.

I am not planning on making shadow boxes or collages and I have only a little sympathy for the surrealists but I am with them on the mysterious allure of old objects. Also, I would like to justify this acquisitiveness of mine as a form of art and a French word can help me along that road.

So, shall we take a little tour of recent Woolfoot trouvailles?

Let's begin with these glasses. I picked these up on a quick trip into Burlington about a week ago, in the household goods section of Recycle North, a charity shop cum workshop cum environmental advocacy organization in the People's Republic of Burlington. (I say that with all possible affection). I love Recycle North. The same day I shopped so happily there I also took a quick trip through Macy's. "Oh. Retail." I thought to myself. "I remember this". I admired the shiny floors and elaborate Christmas decorations and sales people in ties and skirts.

I admired but I did not buy. Better for me the cement floors and jumbled shelves and the tattooed and pierced staff at the Household Goods store. But back to our objects. These beautiful silver rimmed Champagne glasses (that's what they are, I have decided) were 25 cents apiece. I bought a water glass, there was only one, in a similar style. It weighs about half a pound and must be crystal. It was 50 cents. Also a bone china coffee cup (25 cents). I picked up a boxed set of Cocktail Piano jazz, circa 1970. This looked really promising. The set has five albums, all of them in pristine condition. I didn't notice til I got them home that they had been produced by Reader's Digest. Not a good sign. I played the first one. Think: background music for restaurant scenes between Darrin and Mr. Stevens on Bewitched. I wanted Marian McPartland I got Montovani. Well, you pay your 50 cents you take your chances.

I also picked up a few other vinyl records for 25 cents apiece. Both were traditional choral music from England and New England etc. Both, also, unfortunately, had a little damage. But, looking on the bright side, since I have managed to listen to most of both of them a couple of times (only a few songs skip), I am already ahead of what it would have cost to play even a couple of songs a jukebox once.

Of course, not many jukes have traditional English carols on offer. If they did, I suppose it would cost a lot to play them since your average bar or pizza place would probably be cleared of its customers within the first stanza.

I also got this Vernon Kilns of California vegetable dish in the brown-eyed Susan pattern. Frankly, I don't like it much but I know some people do. It's on offer over at Ebay right now. We'll see if the $10 asking price comes through. If it does, my whole day's Recycle North shopping will be covered with about $3.50 in profit. If I don't sell it, that's OK too. It is a handy size.

Let's move onto another one of my favorite haunts, Degre Auction House in nearby Westfield, Vermont. They were having an "indoor garage sale" to clear out their back room this weekend in advance of their regular Sunday auction.

The kids and I stopped in on Saturday morning to preview Sunday's goods and check out the clearance items. Of course, we managed to find a few things to buy at the garage sale. Among various prizes for the kids (a "peace bear" beanie baby for both of them and a vintage '70s Dairy Queen Tumbler in red and yellow for the Understudy) I snagged the "Made in Japan" Scottie Dog at the top of this post and this beautiful Wedgwood "Napoleon Ivy" soup bowl. I think that set me back 50 cents. The bowl is also on Ebay now, mostly because it doesn't nest easily and though I love it I don't really need it. Thrill of the hunt and all. The Scottie was shoehorned into the breakfront. He's staying.

And how about these two-faced salt shakers? Odd and scary, but in a totemic kind of way, no? They are, I think, survivors from prewar Japan. I love my photos of them that I have posted here and now wish I hadn't put them up on Ebay shortly after I got them home. Someone has already bid $5.99 so I guess I have to part with them. Silly me.

We went back to the auction house on Sunday morning for the main event. The auction was not as crowded as usual, and I wondered why. The goods on offer were, largely, an unappealing mass of 1990s "collectibles", which may have kept down attendance, or maybe it's the scary economy. In any case, there were still some gems to be found and I got one of them. It what may be my best buy to date, I picked up 48 pieces of this China by Royal Swan in Staffordshire. Behold:

These date from around 1950. There are a couple of chips on some of the saucers and one teacup is missing but otherwise I have the whole nearly mint service for 8, complete with platter and creamer and sugar bowl in all its genuine-22-karat-gold glory. Delivered price (I hope you are sitting down): $10, or $11.66 with buyer's premium and tax.

We were having company for tea that day, our lovely English friends. They had gone to the auction (on my recommendation) before we got there and left pretty quickly, no doubt put off by the hideous 90s dreck. They were charmingly and gratifyingly amazed by my China bargain. I had, of course, spread it out to maximum advantage for their visit.

Oh, I forgot to mention that on Saturday the kids and I also hit a library book sale at the beautiful and famous cross-border Haskell Free library in Stanstead, Quebec and Derby Line, Vermont. (There is a line on the wood floor indicating the international boundary). There, I got a folio sized collection of the works of Joseph Conrad with some great woodcuts (1942), a biography of Stephen Leacock,one of Evelyn Waugh, and my current reading, the life of Joseph Cornell, as previously described. Also a book on the St. Lawrence River for Shackleton (one of his middle names is "Lawrence" so he has a particular interest). Another $2 well spent, wouldn't you say?

I have been blogging late into the night, waiting for my Dad and Stepmom to arrive. They have, apparently, gone to the bed and breakfast where they are staying and won't be here til morning (with all this junk there is hardly room for visitors in the guest room). They have traveled here from New York for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, which we are hosting and which will also be attended by our Oxford friends (who missed the China, poor them).

I am already feeling thankful, "for all that we have received [...]". I hope you are too. I pray a Thanksgiving blessing on all of your heads.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Vermont - C'est Fou! Or Avert Your Eyes from that Snowboard!

Sprenger said his wife found the questionable snowboards when she was on the company’s Web site. Not only did they stumble upon the “Love” boards [featuring playboy models from the 1970s], but they also found the “Primo Blunt” models, which detail self-mutilation in a comic book-style storyboard on the base.

Sprenger has two children- one who snowboards- and he rides himself. He said his main problem with the Playboy board is the message it was sending to people, especially Burton’s target market of 14 to 24-year-old males.

“I’m working hard to make sure my daughter gets a fair chance. This board is not going to make girls feel good,” Sprenger said.

Burlington (Vermont) Free Press October 2, 2008

Uh oh...

Just when I thought epater les bourgeois was a completely exhausted and bankrupt artistic concept along comes theecht Vermont controversy to show it still has some legs. It's so good the English language doesn't have vocabulary enough to describe it. Quick, everybody revert to type!

I hardly ever turn to current events on this blog, concerned as I am with my own little round of existence, but this is toooo good I just had to talk about here. We'll be back to tea cups and books and nature scenery very soon, rest assured.

So, here's what happened. Burton recently put some '70s playboy bunnies on a line of snowboards. The naughty bits are not actually printed but the women in question are clearly Not Wearing Any Clothes. There are also some boards that have weird drawings of hands with chunks missing. And, Mon Dieu, the "what-about-the-children" people are Up. In. Arms.! A hundred of them were over at Burton headquarters in Burlington's south end, just a few blocks from where I lived for several years, marching in the street last week.

But that's not all. Driving to work this morning I learned that the Burlington City Council voted 12 to 1 the other day to pass a resolution asking the snowboard company to meet with community organizations angered by the boards.

I'm sorry. Did I miss something? Isn't the City Council supposed to be seeing to the snowplow budget or negotiating contracts with the cops or arranging for hanging the holiday lights or something? When did they get into the denouncing business? Well, in the end they didn't actually denounce. I gather they started off in a denouncing mood but, in the end, moderate voices were heard and they only urged, which is safe enough. They urged a meeting between the Girl Scouts (I'm not making this up) and the the people at Burton who failed to consider the feelings of the Girl Scouts, the violence-against-women-people and the helpers-of-troubled-teens and assorted other earnest and concerned types when they designed their snowboards.

Here we recognize that figure, especially beloved in Vermont, of the Ombudsman. He hears all, validates all, seeks compromise. Thank you City Council!

Just FYI, in case you've been on Mars or something for the last 20 years, Jake Burton Carpenter of Stowe, Vermont invented the snowboard back in 1977. His company, of which he is still the chairman or something, is based in Burlington - though, of course, Burton is a worldwide phenomenon. The president and CEO of the company is now one Laurent Potdevin (appropriate because I assume he is French). To his everlasting credit, M. Potdevin has refused to talk with the press about all this except to issue a statement in which he declared that Burton has no intention of removing these boards from their line. Allez Laurent! Vive la difference!

I devoutly hope he and Mr. Burton will also have the backbone to tell the City Councillors and Girl Scouts to get lost when they show up for their meeting.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Accidental Vegan

One doesn't join the ranks of state government to be run off one's feet, especially ON A FRIDAY. What a day! The paralegal practically met me at the door to tell me a certain attorney who is generally making things DIFFICULT had called twice to say she was objecting to a continuance I had filed blah, blah, and then on the phone for a status conference in someone else's case, a subpoena rolled in on the fax for someone who was not reachable and so on and on. Suffice it to say that the Clif Bar and cup of cubed pink grapefruit that were supposed to be breakfast sat in my drawer til after lunch. Friends, this is not my way. I did eat a bowl of veggie minestrone at lunch, running it at 1 PM in advance of a 1:30 hearing, after realizing I had forgotten (!!!) to eat so much as one crumb to that point in the day - unless you count the coffee I had at 6:30 AM. Where are the violins? Send in the clowns! Something.

OK, so I did manage to leave the office before 5 PM, which is like the middle of the day for big city high paycheck lawyers. (I am, literally, the opposite), but I had to rush to pick up my kids and two others before 5:15 PM. I am on single parent duty this week. They might have put those kids on the curb or put a lien on them if I got there after 5:15. It was close. So, since I was not rushing for cocktails, but to chauffeur four kids (10 and under) nearly an hour over dark, country roads from their school, I feel I still deserve sympathy. A Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown Christmas tune came on my ipod while the kids yammered in the back seat and, though I hardly ever drink, there's nothing like a little piano jazz at the end of a long Friday to make a person crave a Bloody Mary.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that I had, totally against my nature and all odds, spent a day as a Vegan. No, wait, I drank a chocolate milk while I was plying the kids, each with his or her own preferred flavor of chip. Well, like a lacto-ovo, or, I guess, "lacto-sugar" vegan? Wow.

Maybe I'll even refrain from snacking now that Spirited Away is on the DVD player. Maybe I'll even try to carry on tomorrow.

My friend Alison from England told me at a party last summer that she had been trapped in airport the day before the party and had bought a copy of Skinny Bitch to pass the time between being refused flights. She said it described all the horrible things done to animals destined for consumption. It detailed all the bad health effects from sugar and cheese and all those things I normally eat, and the rewards of fabulous looks that come with eating no meat and no crap. She said that day that she was going to try going Vegan. OK. I thought. Good luck with that. I didn't say that, of course, (although I couldn't resist telling her about a line from the Simpsons, when Lisa falls for an environmental activist and meets some Very Pure types who won't eat "anything that casts a shadow." Alison laughed at that). Knowing my own utter inability to diet, I expected her resolve to fade within 72 hours.

Well, Alison was back in Vermont last week and we had dinner. She was 25 pounds lighter. A new woman. Her husband cooked us a proper roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings. She ate some mushrooms and turnips and stuff.

Maybe there is something to be said for being really busy at work. Hmmm. Must go finish that herbal tea...

BTW, I borrowed that vegetable picture from a website called The Green Rabbit. It's all about eating local and organic. Maybe ...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Consolations of November

When chill November’s surly blast
Made fields and forests bare.

Robert Burns, "Man was made to Mourn."

Around here, it is basically agreed that November pretty much sucks. Well, the hunters, and they are legion, would disagree but I don't hang out with them, unless you count my brother, who spends more than I earn in a year on hunting this-that-and the-other around the world but, never mind about him. I am here today to talk about November. Stay on task, Woolfoot! Surly blasts, bare forests and fields, Vermont is, apparently, a lot like Scotland in November as per Bobby Burns.

The two biggest industries in our state are tourism and dairy farming, not necessarily in that order. November sucks (there's that word again) for both of them. The cows are still in the fields when the days are sunny, as it was today, but soon Bossy and Betty will be shooed into the barn for the duration. The tourists also disappear: leaf season is over and ski season has not yet begun. These weeks are known by hotel keepers as "stick season" and not many people will drive from New York or Boston and pay good money to see the sticks of Vermont. Also, we have just turned the clocks back and are now plunged into darkness just after lunch, or so it seems. So, around here, November is the red-headed step child of the calendar (about as popular as his scouring and soggy, red-chapped hands sister, March).

But - you knew this was coming - November has its bright spots. Happily, today was one of them. The light was thin, but it broke through whispy clouds and gave the day a special light, a kind of atmospheric Mona Lisa smile.

Also, as you can see from the "before" (summer)

and "after" (today)

pictures of the Corn Maze just off the Stowe Rec. Path, that Maze is waaaaay easier (and cheaper) now than it was in August. I defy anyone to get lost out there. And the farmer is no longer demanding $6.00 per head to give it a whirl.