so far away


I got back from eight days on the road Friday night. I’m used to getting home on a Sunday or a Monday so having a whole weekend available is sort of great. I came back to a Vermont where people were out and about doing things and being pretty cheery about it. The weather passes for warm, the mud has receded, the tree leaves are visible. There was a festival in town, the Fiddlehead Festival (my pix), which I went to with a few friends. I saw sheepdog demonstrations and ox pulls and had a localvore lunch with a few hundred neighbors. Then last night I went out to a friend’s birthday party which mostly took place in the driveway near her outdoor pizza oven which we put pizza after pizza into. The evening wrapped up with home made strawberry shortcake, pound cake, present opening and coffee.

When I was in New Jersey more than one person asked me why I lived “so far away from everything” as I was explaining the ups and downs about working for a teeny rural library. I explained that I like the lazy pace, the casual dress code, the lack of traffic and honestly the lack of humans. I enjoyed the proximity of everything at the Jersey Shore and I’ve got some longtime history with Amherst and the environs as well as my friends who live there, but I’m okay with frequent visiting. Waking up here every day where it’s quiet and slowly, subtly, greening is the thing I always miss when I’m away.

class and classy

It used to be a running joke in college that anyone who called anything “classy” was automatically bestowing sort of the opposite adjective to it; that classy was a word used by a person who had no class. Or used by us trying to be ironic.

I’ve been thinking about class a lot in the past few weeks. We just had our town meeting on Tuesday. I took a few photos. I like living in Vermont because there’s more of a sense that we’re in this together, whatever “this” happens to be. As of a few months ago, Randolph started charging people to drop off recycling at the transfer station. We’ve always paid for trash but recycling was free. I thought this was as it should be, small financial incentives to do the right thing. On the other hand, it was costing the town to get rid of the recycling and the so-called “tipping fees” were actually subsidizing the recycling program as recycling got more expensive to process. There was some discussion of this including one lady who said that she took a bag of recycling and it cost “only fifty cents” the easy implication being if you were going to not recycle over a mere fifty cents, there was something pretty well wrong with you. I think this ignores what it’s like to really live on a tight budget or make tough choices about where your money goes (for the record, I do neither, this is a bit of an intellectual exercise for me) and I have to admit that I’ve been letting my recycling pile up, which is ridiculous.

There was also some back and forth about the Randolph Food Shelf which was asking for something like $1500 this year to help with expenses. A young woman who was pretty new to town meeting was surprised to see people walking out of the food shelf with cakes because, well, she was on a budget and she wasn’t buying cake. She asked about it. There followed a long discussion of how the food shelf system works (cakes are day old, or donated) and who it serves (anyone who says they need it, no questions asked) and it seemed like most people in town were okay with the whole system. In a town of about 4800 people, 350 people had used the food shelf at some point in the last year. Ten percent of Vermonters have used a food shelf at some time. It didn’t look like the food shelf was going to have a difficult time getting their money. Good.

I’ve been travelling a lot on planes lately which is getting more unpleasant as the airlines find ways to save costs. I’m not complaining as much as stating a fact. I’m aware I can stay home. One day, perhaps I will. In addition to charging for checked bags, United now calls the first ten or so rows in the non-first class part of the plane “premium” seating (since they have a few inches of extra legroom) and tries to charge you more to sit in them. It’s not unusual to see a plane taking off with ten empty rows and everyone else smushed into the back part of the plane. After takeoff, people try to move into better seats and they’re rebuffed. Air travel has always come with severe class distinctions: from the order of loading the plane, to the silly curtain in-between first and second class, to additional bathrooms for first class travellers with severe exhortations from the flight attendants to only use your own bathrooms.

The stewardesses on my last flight — as I was smooshed in the back somewhere, but I don’t care too much since I’m short and can pretty much fit anywhere — actually told people it wasn’t fair for them to move forward since other people had paid extra to sit in those special seats. Ignoring the obvious “Well, who created this stupid system?” follow-up question. Then they said something about not using the forward rest rooms because of “safety.” Since it’s pretty well illegal for us to ignore anything they say because of “safety” this is a nice way to make weird arbitrary distinctions and make them unarguable. And yes I know you’re not supposed to gather by the cockpit, but as far as I know, there are no safety ramifications for a non-first class passenger to pee or not pee in a first class toilet. Are there?

Of course, people who can afford air travel in the US are often already in a privileged class, so it’s amusing to get this object lessons in how it feels to be someone who gets things denied to them just because of how much money you have, or are willing to spend. I’m glad I can take it or leave it.


while some merely see a dried beef tendon...

I have this idea in my head that the city is noisy and my place in Vermont is not. This is probably true in a general average sense, but I stayed on Vermont avenue in a third floor apartment and it was pretty silent except for the ocean-like noise of distant traffic. Today, because there was a snowstorm over the last few days, Terry the roof guy is here taking snow off the roof any way he knows how. So, my little treehouse is all BANG BANG CRASH CRASH as snow and ice get broken up and hurled a few stories to the ground. Like me, Terry doesn’t get started too early, so this is mostly fine.

This photo is a beef tendon that was in the pet food store near where my friend Judith lives. I’ll do a longer bla bla “what I did and who I did it with” post about my trip to San Fran, but I liked this photo and my alteration of it. When I go to San Francisco I get to hang out with people who laugh at all my stupid nerdish injokes (“oh hey they said Craigslist at the Oscars!”) and always have the “hang with friends or stay in?” option in a more real way than I do here where sometimes friends are not an option due to the short number of people who are a reasonable drive from here.

Every time I visit the city I feel like it’s a bit of an interview process where the question in the back of my mind is “would I want to live here again?” I’m still at the “not really, no thanks” point but I can feel that tipping ever so slightly towards “not yet”

breathing room

Mystery Creature is really albino porcupine

The birds on the window feeder are officially winter colors now, though the snow hasn’t started in earnest. In fact over the weekend it was a bit of a steambath here which was disquieting. The albino porcupine I read about in the paper is going to blend right in real soon now. I’m done travelling for work for the year (the year of 2008) so it’s time to start looking inward, doing all those house things that I’ve been avoiding — yesterday was all about hanging up pictures and putting receipts away — and starting to finish reading some books.

My problem is that I read big books but they’re bad books for travelling with for one-backpack girl. So I read shorter/smaller books on the plane and then come back and start a new big book without finishing the first one. I have maybe three I’m in the middle of now, but cold evenings mean less time typing and more time in bed with books. Here’s the summary of the last few talks I gave over at Since I last typed I’ve been to Albany and I don’t think I really gave you a summary of my last two trips to Kansas and my one trip to Denver. I’ve been writing a mess of hotel reviews for Trip Advisor and filling in the guestroom photoset.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but I was interviewed for this Digital Nomads site — sponsored by Dell, interviewed by BigThink — about what exactly I do. Sort of scoots me into the “pundit” arena which seems like a weird place to be, but hey maybe it pays better than librarianship and/or lifeguarding! I’ve also been recording a few more pieces for YouTube — me reading stories by Donald Barthelme and Richard Brautigan — the Brautigan story is one of my favorites of all time, I was happy to give it a little more exposure.

I noticed that the “banking” tag on that video meant that a whole lot of people saw it in the first hour it was online. I am having my own banking/holiday issues. There are two local banks in town, mine and the other one. Mine is okay but not great. The other one is the one my friends use. I picked mine because the online banking feature is better and I get fussy over bad interfaces. Mine screwed up my checks. Mine has a few tellers who are sort of snotty. Mine gives me receipts with Christmas trees on them. I dislike this. I’m not sure if I dislike it enough to go waltz across the street and switch banks. The other bank in town probably has Christmas-themed receipts too and then where would I be? I’m aware that I live in New England where this sort of thing is fairly normal to most everyone. I’m aware that Christmas is a national holiday. I enjoy winter, even moreso since I got snowshoes and snowpants. I’m working on my “Celebrate Diversity!” plan early this year. It gets dark early, lots of time to scheme. The Solstice starts December 21st at roughly noon. Soon.

me and my underwear

Every time I travel I think “I should make a packing list…” and yet I don’t have an account on one of those list-making sites and don’t want one. So, for my posterity, here is my packing list for future reference. This time around — trip to Clearwater, Kansas and Denver Colorado — all I forgot were my headphones. Not bad. This is presuming a work trip; for pleasure trips I don’t really care what I remember and forget. At some point I’ll put this all on an index card.

Clothes & etc (backpack)
– one nice outfit per talk
– one knock-around outfit for every two leisure days (wear same outfit to/from home incl. heaviest sweater/jacket)
– one extra pair of socks/underwear/t-shirt/hoodie
– pajamas, tops & bottoms
– belt
– cold weather? hat, scarf, gloves
– swimsuit (always forgotten when I need it)
– jewelry
– laptop & sleeve

Toiletries bag
– benadryl
– melatonin
– toothbrush/toothpaste/floss
– moisturizer
– just in case: theraflu/dramamine/ibuprofen/acetominophen
– matches/smokes
– earplugs
– hair tie
– warm weather? razor

Tech bag
– dongles for video/ethernet
– cord for laptop
– EVDO card
– camera & charger & card reader
– cell phone & charger
– slide-show clicker
– headphones

– wallet w/ relevant transit passes/frequent flyer cards
– printed list of phone numbers & maps
– keys w/ USB drive
– pens
– folder for receipts
– power bar for plane
– velcro tie-down
– little flashlight
– safety pin
– something to read & spare something to read

Amusingly, money is rarely something I need to bring with me. I think I spent maybe seventeen dollars in the past five days that wasn’t paid for with plastic. With ATMs everyplace, this is less important than, say, a safety pin which is actually damned hard to replace.

moving on, up

covered steps up to apt

If everything goes well, I’ll be moving in to this place a little over a month from now. I realize this isn’t much of a photo. It’s a mother-in-law apartment on the back of a nice house about eight miles up the road where I live. Just a teeny bit closer to work and the pool and my friends. Just a little bit further from Bethel and Boston and my family. Mostly good. It’s the most I’ve ever paid for rent and, relatedly, it will be the first time I’ve ever paid rent to live somewhere by myself. The apartment is small and has nice wood floors and insulated windows that look out on to tall trees. It has a guestroom, visitors welcome as always. My future landlady is one of my computer students. We got her her first laptop two weeks ago and just this week I set up DSL in her house. She sent her first email from her house on Tuesday. She is 83 years old.

Ola is getting back in the next week or two so we’ll overlap a little. Her youngest son is getting married at the end of July so there will be a certain amount of hustle and bustle and chaos there. I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to pack up most of my things that are in the common spaces and I have my room and a little more stuff to put in boxes. Anyone who wants to come haul a box to the new place is welcome to come by on August 2nd. I am pretty sure there will be pizza. And likely beer.

I’ve got the time to compose this because I’m waiting in an airport watching my flight to Chicago get further and further delayed. It’s already passed the time that it arrives in ORD after my connecting flight will have departed, so I’m scheming ways to either meet with friends in Chicago, get a flight to someplace else interesting [or more nearby, the LA area is filthy with airports] or prepare to show up in the middle of the night in LA. I suppose I could always drive home and bail on the entire proposition, but I’ve got a nice talk about rural technology to deliver and some librarians to hang out with that i haven’t seen in quite some time. I sort of expect summer travel to go this way. I have comfy shoes and a good book. I’ll get there eventually.