Thursday, August 5, 2021

Live Free or Die!

Is there a third option?

Vermont and New Hampshire are an interesting exercise in contrasts.  Both States look alike, in shape, only one is an upside-down reversed image of the other.  And they lay there, back to back, or front to front, chock-a-block in Northern New England.  Speaking of which, I met an English chappie who moved here and he said it made him feel like home.  He was from Hampshire, and this was New Hampshire.  "Yea," I replied, "We got really original with the names, early on - New Jersey, New York, New England, New Hampshire... even Virginia and Georgia paid homage to the old country!"

Vermont always had a reputation of going its own way, even early on - they didn't join the United States until 1791 - being the "Republic of Vermont" before then.  Like Vermonters of today, they were very stoic and reserved, and wanted to see how this revolution thing played out before making any rash decisions.

Vermont - like New Hampshire today - was largely Republican, having a succession of Republican governors, even one today. Vermont gave us "Silent Cal" Coolidge, the last really Republican President.  Of course, in the early years, the GOP was the party of the North and the party of abolition. A lot has changed since then, and the parties have switched sides, so to speak, and continue to flounder as they constantly reinvent themselves. What the GOP is today and will be in ten years is anyone's guess.  Once Trump is dead, will the GOP be the party of Eric?  I doubt it.

Vermont today has this reputation of being a hippie hangout - a land of political correctness, of bread and puppets and Ben and Jerry's.  And perhaps that reputation is not deserved - there are plenty of conservatives living in Vermont (no doubt fuming) just as there are many liberals living in New Hampshire.  Yes, New Hampshire went for a Democratic nominee in 2016 and 2020 - but the race was a lot closer there than in Vermont.

But New Hampshire, well, it is a different beast.  People take "freedom" seriously, but to them, freedom means the right to buy and set off fireworks, have no muffler on your car, truck, boat, or motorcycle, and the right to ride around as fast as possible in some internal-combustion-engine-powered machine.  It is like rednecks with money up here.  What people in Georgia or Florida would be like if they won the lottery.  The culture of belligerence abounds.  Yet, oddly enough, they stop for pedestrians - or at least the cars with New Hampshire tags do.  Not so much for the Massachusetts tagged-cars.  Boston drivers are, well, infamous.

But it could be because I am in a tourist area, and half the people are from out-of-state - folks from Boston with money who have million-dollar homes on the water.  A fellow next door commutes to work by helicopter - an older Bell JetRanger - and he makes quite a racket every evening when his pilot drops him off.  Yesterday he landed twice - "Apparently, he forgot his briefcase," Mark quipped.  No one seems to notice or care.  In many other States, people would melt down over the noise.  Well, that and the class-warfare thing.  Imagine commuting by helicopter in Ithaca - it is just a non-starter.

The lake is nice - and huge.  But it is what I call a "wake lake" - constant wake from motorboats and jet skis.  Only a few brave souls out on kayaks or paddleboards - although they are on racks all along the lake, I guess for show.  Not many sailboats, either.  Just penis boats and even penis party-barges.  Who knew you could put 600HP on a party barge?  Or that a party barge could cost over $100,000?  Back when I was a kid, if you had an outboard motor with 100HP you were filthy rich.  Today, you see boats with 1200 HP clamped on the transom.  I am not sure why.  We are a far wealthier country today - but no one wants to hear that.

Of course, there are other lakes and "ponds" as they call small lakes in the Northeast.  We went Kayaking at Pillsbury State Park, and it is nice to paddle on a lake or pond or whatever, where there are no camps or "look at me!" houses lining the waterfront - and no penis boats pointlessly zooming up and down the lake again and again (Gee, that's fun for... about ten minutes!).  Small children are continually amused by motion and noise, it seems, everywhere. So there are quiet, out-of-the-way places, particularly up in the mountains and further North.

New Hampshire has great scenery and the roads are certainly an improvement over Vermont's pavement. And yes, there is no sales tax, so you buy three things at the Dollar Tree, the bill is $3.  But there is a restaurant tax, oddly enough.  How they make their money is anyone's guess.  I am sure they collect it somewhere.  It is like Florida with "no income tax" but don't ask about property taxes and sales taxes - ouch!

The great labor shortage rears its ugly head.  On the boat tour, there was only one bartender and a very long line.  She had an assistant - a young man named "Ted" who was trying to pour draft beers and ending up with cups of foam.  "You'll never make it at the fraternity house, Ted!" I said to him.  The lady laughed.  Ted kept opening the taps full blast, and it wasn't working.  Unfortunately, I was "lined-humped" by a guy with a thick Boston accent.  He kept bumping into me and I finally said to him, "Line-humping isn't going to make the line go faster, but it is going to piss me off!" and he traded places in line with his wife.

By the way, in a situation like that, why bring all four members of your family to stand in line?  It makes no sense.  Worse yet, after spending 20-30 minutes in line, getting to the head and saying, "I'll have an... uh.... uh... what do you have here anyway?" This after the crew handed out menus to everyone on the ship as they boarded, too.  No wonder the line was so long.  Yes, I am a misanthrope. Who the hell likes people?  I mean, in the aggregate.  I run into folks who say they love people.  Really?  Have you paid attention to what goes on in the world these days - or historically?  There is a lot not to like, but I digress.

All that being said, I am looking forward to heading to Maine.  Maine has its own weird issues - I guess every State does.  I got some flack from someone in Vermont for being "from" Georgia - people who have never left the North have weird ideas about the South.  He was going off on how "conservative" people were in Georgia, until I asked him, "Which State handed the Democrats the majority of the Senate - with not one, but two Democratic Senators, just recently?  And which State's Republican governor and Secretary of State certified the election for Biden, even though it may mean the end of their political careers?"  Yea, it is easy to be liberal in the Northeast. On the other hand, Massachusetts is the State that gave us Governor Romney, right?  And there as many racists in South Boston as in the South.  People in glass houses...  But I digress.

It is a funny thing, but people love to say they are "from" somewhere, and unless you lived in the same place for five generations, you are "from away" as they say in Maine.  As if not exploring the world is some sort of accomplishment.  My parents met and got married in Boston and lived there for many years.  My sister lived there as well.  My hippie brother has a farmhouse in Cambridge, if you can believe that.  It isn't hard to find, it is the only one with an abandoned Volvo with expired Vermont tags in the side yard.  Only house on the street with a side yard, for that matter.  Yet he would not be deemed a "local" even though he's lived there for decades.

It is also interesting that people up here, when they have one of those stickers in the shape of their State, don't have a sticker in the shape of Vermont or New Hampshire or whatever (kind of a formless blob) but a sticker of all of New England, which, if you think about it, makes sense, as the area is about the size of most other States.  It is a region, not a State per se. There are few places, outside of the Northeast, where you can drive an hour or so and be in three States. Well, maybe the panhandle of Idaho, perhaps.

Nonetheless, it is interesting to visit New Hampshire, even if just for a couple of weeks.  For too long, it was just a place we drove through on the way to Maine.  It has its own charms, and its own weirdness, just like any other place.  Live free or die!  Seems kinda harsh, though.  And somehow, freedom to me, means more than just making a lot of noise.  But then again, I'm weird.