far too much writing, far too many photos

Further commentary from the Langdon Street Bridge, Montpelier, Vermont:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

I glanced at the calendar today, realized with a start that we’re into September’s home stretch. The days continue growing shorter, the local landscape has finally begun to show the first substantial tinges of the wholesale turning of color that means deep, irrevocable change moving in. I know because I’ve seen glimpses of it in the scattered moments between fog and rain that have shrouded this part of the world during the last couple of days, blotting out land, sky, expansive vistas.

I don’t, in general, mind overcast weather. However, there’s something about the stretches of gray that take hold in autumn northern Vermont’s which gets me longing for the simple pleasure of sunlight, of countryside stretching off in rolling green waves of ridges.

So the photograph below is for me. An attempt at a visual equivalent of comfort food.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

[continued from entry of 9/21]

Alicia eventually opened the door partway, blinking as if half asleep. Not yet understanding the turn her evening had taken. Rod shoved the door open, pushed her aside, stormed into the apartment, I followed. He began yelling, working himself up into a genuine state, Alicia trying without success to piece together a coherent response, me watching it all, waiting. And at some point, Alicia’s verbal stumblings incensed Rod enough that his hand whipped out, slapping her, her mouth dropping open as her head jerked back, eyes opening wide with surprise. I found myself going at him then — this despite him having several inches and 30 or 40 pounds on me — my perspective of the room suddenly shifting as we wound up on the floor, rolling over and over while we grappled until he came up against the wall.

Alicia got us to stop the wrestling, the only evidence of round 1 a small hole in the wall plaster left by the heel of one of Rod’s shoes. And the event continued in that veing — bouts of verbal chaos giving way to stupid moments of physical grappling. I have a memory of the three of us in the kitchen, he and I locked in a combative stance, holding each other’s shirts, his other hand brandished as if he were going to try and lay me out, my hand locked on his arm, turning the moment into a stalemate, despite his threatening rantings.

Sometime later, Alicia got me to leave so they could talk — her the only person who had actually been struck, despite all the showy physical goofiness between Rod and I. No one bore any wounds or physical marks, despite all the hooha.

Rod calmed down in the weeks that followed, eventually pairing up with a student from the department, the two of them ultimately tying the knot. Alicia and I remained a pair — a mismatched pair, it became clear with time — until she got a teaching job at a university in West Virginia and relocated to that part of the world.

And life moved on.

Fight #4: Much shorter story. Or at least I’m going to keep it short. For two reasons: (a) it was so fast, it hardly qualifies, and (b) it digs into family history whose earth doesn’t need to be turned.

What I’ll say is this: it involved my oldest brother, a guy substantially older than me. We didn’t have much of a relationship until I hit high school, when he apparently thought I’d become old enough (and thereby conscious enough) to be worth the effort. What connection we had turned out to be a rollercoaster ride, him often manifesting a sharp-edged insistence that he had the right to behave however he wanted in relation to me. An attitude I grew less tolerant of as years passed.

And of course our dynamic cut in both directions — we both combined to produce it. One of the last times I saw him, my clear refusal to accept his attitude of sovereignty had shifted into active assertiveness of me being me — at times unnecessarily so, I’m sure. Which produced sparks, finally resulting in a moment when he physically attacked me, a scuffle that passed like the ones with Rod, brief grappling, me essentially holding off an assault, blows threatened but none connecting. Flaring up then over almost as soon as it started, the old man rushing to the doorway as the action stopped, angrily aghast, then putting a hand against the wall, bowing his head, the other hand against his forehead for a moment before pulling himself together to yell at his two sons in furious amazement.

And that is essentially it. Four brief bouts, none serious enough to produce cuts, bruises, shiners, puffy lips. Nothing, really, compared to some folks’ history.

Which is fine with me.

*************

Primal sentiments from an anonymous slacker — the Langdon Street Bridge, Montpelier, Vermont:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

As I sat here at the computer this morning, I heard a sound from the living room — a thump, as in something striking the picture window. I glanced over, my head turning in time for me to see a couple of tiny forms on the other side of the glass, falling out of view. A trip outside revealed two small bodies, a pair of goldfinches that had flown into the window, now resting in the grass, appearing limp, fragile. I picked them up, checked for signs of life, found none. No breath, no hearts beating — necks apparently broken, the bodies giving up the ghost in the instant of impact. Not a bad way to pass over, that — in flight, a state I can only imagine as one of pleasure, making an instant transition. No lingering, no drawn-out suffering.

The only other instance of something like that during my time in this house: one quiet night two, three years back as I sat in the living room, the shades down, the place silent. Silent until a sudden thump against the same windowpane, loud enough to make me jump, my heart suddenly beating hard and fast. I pulled the shades, saw nothing. A walk outside produced the same nothing — no body, no sounds of nearby animal life. Moonlight, nothing more. Next morning I found the smudged outline of a body with wings outstretched on the window’s outside surface, a body with around a two-foot wingspan. An owl, probably, coming up against the glass, recovering quickly, disappearing into the night.

I carried the goldfinches off away from the house, laying them in tall grass where I imagine they’ll provide sustenance for a host of other creatures.

Two little beings — here one moment, gone the next. Temporary, of limited duration. Like most everything in this life of ours.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Two mornings ago, under heavy fog:

This morning, clear as a bell:

**************

[continued from last entry]

Cutting to the chase: not long after that evening I found myself back at Rod and Alicia’s place. For the real event. About to plunge into illicit activity. Sanctioned activity, sort of, given that the host couple had thrown the occasion together. But still. After the previous evening, Lisa had wisely decided to bail, leaving Rod to line up another partner for the evening — another theatre department student.

And there we all were. After a bit of preliminary pseudo-social blah-blah, Alicia and I retired to the bedroom. Candles, clean sheets, etc. Especially etc. An evening that turned out to be about far more than overheated thrashing around in bed for Alicia and me, cementing something — a mutual consent, an intention to get serious about what we’d started. A connecting that continued messily on in the ensuing weeks and months, causing abundant drama and angstful happenings.

A truth: the two of them had, on some level, for some time, been looking for a reason to split up. I became it.

Months later. Alicia had moved out of the marital home into an apartment miles away. She and I saw ever more of each other, becoming gradually, cautiously more open toward the rest of the world about our twoness. Cautiously, because some tensions remained among the involved parties, the situation not yet having reached a point of actual tranquility.

One evening, at her place. After bedtime, the lights off, the two of us falling asleep. The phone rang, Alicia picked up to find Rod on the other end of the line. Talking about being lonely. Fishing, apparently, for company, maybe for an invite to come over. I listened to the faint buzz of his voice, feeling badly for him. I listened to her clumsy, confused responses, her not wanting to hurt him, but also not wanting to disclose that she was in bed with me — me feeling badly for her and at the same time getting the feeling that it would mean trouble if she couldn’t get firm, say goodnight, get off the phone. But she couldn’t, and at some point Rod understood why. I heard him yelling, demanding to know if she had somebody staying over, heard her stammering, non-responsive answers, Alicia completely unprepared for a situation like that. And then he’d hung up, the post-phone-call air in the bedroom vibrating with the energy of the exchange.

I had a bad feeling about what had happened, found myself sitting up, swinging my legs over the side of the bed. A part of me urgently counseled getting out of there, going home, the impulse growing in intensity as I sat, indecisive, unable to marshal movement. Minutes passed, me frozen in that position, until I finally got slowly to my feet, pulled on clothes, tried to get out the door without feeling like I was abandoning Alicia. And when I stepped out into the night air and headed down the apartment complex’s driveway to my car, I saw Rod striding up the driveway, face set in an expression of intense anger. He ignored me, steamed past, disappeared into the building. I heard his footsteps going up the steps to Alicia’s flat, found myself turning around, going back inside and up the stairs after him, to the landing where he stood pounding on her door, demanding to be let in.

[to be continued]

Madrid, te echo de menos.

It’s looking and feeling more like autumn with every passing day. Early darkness. Stretches of gray, rainy weather. Waves of birds passing through, stopping to scare up food. The mornings bring gangs of robins and flickers, spread out across the lawn — hunting down crickets and other critters before disappearing, continuing the flight south. Leaving a growing silence in their wake as the number of crickets diminishes with each wave of travellers, the quiet occasionally broken by the calling of Canada geese passing overhead. (Or gunfire from hunting-happy local rifle-toters.) Two days back, I noticed the swelling silence outside had become more profound than normal — even the crowd of local birds normally partying wildly at my feeder had disappeared. Stepping outside revealed why: three hawks flying in long, slow circles directly above. I stood and watched, they finally pulled out of the spiral, drifted away — also heading south.

Two weeks from today I’m also out of here, making my own migration back to Madrid. Preparations continue, blended with work in and out of the house, some routine, some seasonal. Today I tackled a task wisely avoided all summer long: pulling the stovepipes apart (including the six-foot insert that comes down from inside the chimney), dragging them outside for the annual cleaning. Easily as much fun as a bout of drunken self-castration. I am so grateful no one was on premises with a tape machine recording the explosions of swearing during my most extreme moments of joy.

This morning’s fog gave way to sunlight, the first in a couple of days. It’s now coming up on 4:30. Lengthening shadows stretch across the yard, clothes on the line earlier swaying in a breeze now hang motionless in still, cool air. The hours slip away. Thursday brings the autumn equinox, the nights grow longer.

Ah, well. That’ll change in a few months.

***************

[continued from last entry]

Fight #3: Long story. Long, strange, a bit goofy.

Me in college, my second or third year. I’d gotten to know a woman in directing class, the wife of one of my theatre profs — him three or four years older than me, her a year or two older than him. Interesting folks. Bright, talented. Her: witty, attractive, with a high-wattage smile. Our senses of humor meshed, the amount of time we spent hanging together slowly increased. Until one day she invited me to a dinner at their home. A social evening, with the two of them and a fourth person, a female student from the theatre department. Not your run of the mill social event, though. No, no. Kind of a test drive, a gauging of chemisty before taking another, much bigger step.

The joy had apparently bled out of Rod and Alicia’s [names changed] marriage sometime before I knew them. Bled out, evaporated, died away. Leaving a restless, uninspired pairing — leaving Rod, moreover, deeply unsatisfied with their sex life and wanting better. Which led him to suggest exploring open marriage, the two of them exploring sexual relations outside of their relationship. With Alicia and I getting progressively closer, she logically sounded me out. And in the discussion that followed, it became clear we were both feeling more than just passing interest in deepening our involvement. Me being a clueless knucklehead, I didn’t balk or think twice, at the idea of taking on something of that potentially troublesome class (involvement with married woman), getting entangled in a complicated situation with the potential to unleash life-altering drama of supreme goofiness.

Came the night of the dinner, I showed up at their place — a tract home in a housing development off campus — found myself passing the evening with Rod, Alicia and Lisa, a graduate student from the theatre department. A perfectly decent evening spent with three perfectly decent people, but with an undercurrent that endowed everything with a strange, slightly uncomfortable edge. Dinner (spaghetti), conversation (this and that), an after-dinner game (Group Therapy? something past its vogue and redolent of weird times), saying good-night, heading home to mull over the event and the prospect of odder events to come.

[continued in next entry]

Madrid, te echo de menos.

This morning: woke up in the early hours from a strange, vivid dream. Lay thinking about it for a while, found it not only wouldn’t fade like most dreams do once I open my eyes and slide back into waking life, it seemed to extend tendrils of meaning out into other, earlier parts of my existence, my thoughts following them, the process going on and on.

The dream: me, in a church of some sort. Not for what some might call worship — there with someone else, a woman, either sightseeing or me simply tagging along while she took care of business of some sort. While she spoke with someone, I wandered down an aisle, walking close to the pew ends, trailing my hand along their top edges. At some point, a guy approached from behind me — tall, nondescript, wearing glasses — wanting to pass. Which should have been no problem, except that he didn’t want to take the simple, logical route of going around me in the aisle — he wanted me to get out of the way so he could walk right alongside the pews. I’m not sure his presence even registered with me until he was hovering directly behind, making physical gestures designed to push me out of the way.

If he’d said something polite — some version of ’sorry, mind if I get by?’ — I probably would have stepped aside, let him pass. With him making moves calculated to intimidate me into getting out of the way, however, I found I had no intention of doing so, finally came to a halt as we reached a pillar, told him to back off and go around.

He seemed to take me standing my ground as a welcome challenge, as the perfect excuse for a physical confrontation. Smiling, he took off his glasses, put them in a pocket, advanced to within inches of me, began verbal intimidation. And as he started in with threats, apparently intending to take things to a more intense, physical level, I reached out and smacked his head against the pillar. Didn’t even think about it, just did it. Took him completely by surprise, him apparently not expecting any kind of aggressive reaction from me. So I did it again, two or three more times, the guy dazed, unresisting, until someone rushed over and stopped me.

I woke up not long after that, from a scene in a police station interview room of some kind, me being questioned.

My first thought on coming to: I have seen too many episodes of Law & Order.

My second thought: I can’t remember the last time I got into a physical fight. And I don’t think I would need more than the fingers of one hand to tally up those events. In fact, if the memory banks are pumping out a product of any accuracy, it will only take four fingers to do the job.

Fight #1: at age five, a brief bout between me and Norman Nielsen. Brief because the pudgeball me of that era outweighed skinnyass Norman by a hefty, decisive margin. Don’t remember what provoked the conflict, but it ended as soon as I got him down on the lawn and sat on his chest. Post-event, my mother seemed to find me defeating Norman that way to be hilarious, nearly doubling over with laughter any time the subject came up. Hmmm. (Norman: a good guy, actually. Became a drummer in later years. Wonder what became of him?)

Fight #2: four or five years later, in the school playground. No idea, once again, what provoked it, but I found myself on my back, Arthur Goldfinger sitting on my chest punching my face. I think he thought he was a badass — but as soon as he got up, I did too, unharmed, quickly forgetting about it.

Home life in those years had become heavy with violence, my mother in particular grabbing The Stick (a length of thick doweling she kept up on the stove in the kitchen) and whaling away at me any time her temper got the best of her. My two older brothers were many years older and off in their own lives, so that I essentially found myself alone in the house with the old lady most afternoons until the old man returned from work. Making me a convenient target. My only defense: a defiant smile that I tried to maintain no matter how wildly she was swinging away at me, trying to show that none of it had any actual effect. Which only pissed her off more, of course, so that she’d go at me more intensely. Compared with that, Arthur’s silliness felt like assault by powderpuffs — I waited it out then went on with the day.

(My mother: not a bad person by any stretch. Just lost, unhappy, trapped in a life that had gone off in directions she hated, with no emotional/psychological resources except the dogma of the Church, which didn’t do the job. And I suspect she found herself occasionally on the receiving end of a blow or two from the old man as their matrimonial life drifted downhill, both of them at the end of their tethers, quietly desperate.)

The physical goofiness at home continued until the day I grew big enough to grab the hand holding The Stick, bringing all that kind of excitement to an immediate end.

Some growing up in violent homes deal by seeking out fights away from home, using something they’re already familiar with to vent rage, confusion, all that. Had the opposite effect on me — I didn’t see the sense in getting into fights. Getting hit hurt. I already went through plenty of it, why seek out more?

And many years slipped by before I found myself in another fight.

[continued in next entry]

************

Dusk, mid-September, northern Vermont:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Early warning:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

If it weren’t for darkness falling around 7 p.m., this could easily be a July evening. Hazy, warm, crickets singing away. It’s nice to be able to sit out on the stoop in nothing but shorts, only the occasional no-see-um spoiling the fun. Shorts/stoop season is brief in these parts — a bug bite or two is a small price to pay for that kind of simple pleasure.

Spent the morning sitting in front of the ‘puter. Spent the afternoon up on a ladder slapping paint on house trim (then cutting lawn, then practicing piano). No music playing, few cars passing on the gravel road. Just the sound of crickets and their cousins, punctuated by birds carrying on in the trees near this end of the house. Quiet. Meditative.

Spent yesterday working as well, never managing to come to complete consciousness (after having woken up in the wee hours, taking a long, long time getting back to sleep). Felt kind of like wading through molasses as I went about the day, the simplest things requiring effort, focus. Happened to glance at myself in the bathroom mirror around 9:30 yesterday evening, the eyes that stared back were beyond fatigued, beyond bloodshot. Red in a way that instructed me to listen to my bod and crawl into bed without delay. Did that, got a better night’s sleep — packed with dreams, none of which I brought back to waking life.

A long, hazy dusk is now underway outside. I need to make chow, relax a little. Maybe I can coerce myself to drag my adorable booty in the direction of bed at an early hour again. We’ll see.

Later.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

This morning, fog burning off:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

What I wrote yesterday about the early morning phone call? This morning: 7 a.m. Same scenario — phone rings, turns out to be someone calling about the for-sale item.

It comes as no surprise that after I spend time going on about yesterday’s excessively early call, another materializes in short order. The good part: both mornings I was up early for other reasons. And it all has me cracking up at life’s goofy sense of humor. It’s not like it’s a real hardship, after all — a glance 1500 miles south supplies a quick shot of perspective. I’ve got a warm bed to pull myself out of, a dry house, a working phone, people wanting to give me money in exchange for something I’m not using. Blessings abound.

This morning’s caller took my request to try again at a later hour with more grace than yesterday’s. The day continued.

Morning fog is normal here during the warm season — it’s been particularly intense this week. Thick, gray, lasting well into mid-morning, then slowly giving way to spectacular September days. Drove into town through this morning’s pea soup for the annual car inspection, the manly gym thing, errands, etc. Little autumn color to be seen so far. That’ll change. Soon, I bet.

And now back home, with work to be done.

On to the day.

***********

A few paragraphs about the power of one.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

This morning: woke up early from hours of long, complex dreams, all set in a city I’ve never seen in 3-D life. The last part featured Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg, both of whom seemed to be pursuing me for some obscure reason, tirelessly, tenaciously. Not sure I knew exactly why in the dream, I sure as hell don’t remember why now. That Tom Cruise smile: relentless, impressive, scary. Or at least the dream version of it was.

Good thing I woke up early. Sometime before 8 o’clock, the phone rang, a friend who was to come over this morning canceling out. At five of eight, it rang again, I picked up expecting to find my friend on the other end again. Turned out to be someone calling in response to a for-sale handbill I posted in Montpelier yesterday advertising a never-used generator. At five of eight, I am nowhere near high-functioning level and so let the caller know the hour was too early, asked him to call back later in the day. He sounded confused and/or put off by my firmness, has not rung back.

The last few nights have turned cold enough that the storm windows went down Sunday evening and have gone down every night since. The days, meanwhile, have been classic September fare — golden, the air filled with insect music, butterflies galore hanging about and monarchs passing through on a regular basis. A bit dreamlike in their beauty (puncuated by gunfire from down the valley on Monday, Labor Day, which just upped the surreal factor). Ah, autumn in New England.

The days, meanwhile, seem to be flying by at hair-raising velocity. In just under four weeks, I’ll be back in Madrid — a thought I am so far having trouble wrapping my teeny little brain around. Preparations have already begun, blended in with work around the house. My body, meanwhile, is seriously jonesing for downtime, as in couch or lawn chair for hours at a stretch, reading/snoozing. Ah, well.

On with the day.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

This morning (far too early):

Madrid, te echo de menos.

[continued from previous entry]

Our suggested remedies to the problem: reduce the road’s speed limit (we assumed it to be the town default limit (35), asked for 25 or 30), post signs. Failing that, post signs along the lines of ‘Warning: 4th class road ahead — difficult passage.’ The Board committed to nothing (with gracious, somehow sympathetic objectivity), said that they weren’t sure if the town default limit applied to our road or not, that the first step would be to look that up. With that information, what to do would then be deliberated.

We thanked them, sat and listened to the rest of the meeting until Mo wanted to get back home.

A week later: I stop by Mo’s place, he mentions that he thought something had been posted at the bottom of the hill. I go take a gander — sure enough, a brand spanking new sign’s appeared right off the two-lane, reading ‘SPEED LIMIT: 30.’ The Board found the information, decided to waste no time in doing something with it. Another neighbor mentioned a second sign had been posted at the other end of the road’s third-class section, and ‘4th Class Road’ signs had appeared at either end of that stretch. Beginning that day, the number of cars passing through decreased, continued dropping in the following days, finally settling near the level it had been before the increase three years ago. With most of the drivers now staying within the limit. A major change, producing a whole different vibe along the road. Got me feeling real damn good and in a funny way came as no surprise, just confirmed the feeling I’d had that going to the Selectboard would turn out well.

I showed up at the Board’s next meeting, last Monday. They seemed surprised to see me, seemed even more surprised when I thanked them for the fast action, appeared pleased when I described how things have gone, expressed cautious optimism.

The following day: stopped off at Mo’s, asked what he thought of the situation. He appeared a bit confounded that the traffic sitch had changed so much, that the outcome was so positive. Same with my uphill neighbor. As if any interaction with any government body is expected to be a waste of time and any experience falling outside that expectation is confusing.

Me, I’m obnoxiously content.

Life here has grown increasingly busy as I’ve slipped deeper and deeper into work mode. Late yesterday afternoon found me up on the extension ladder, spreading a layer of primer over an exterior section of the house I’d scrapped/sanded in previous days. Birds came and went at the feeders, their chatter the only noise, the not seeming terribly concerned when I worked near them. The sun slipped down in the western sky, it’s last light extended out from over the treetops in radiant shafts.

Seen today in the men’s locker room at the gym in Montpelier:
– A gent stripped down, showing a multiply-pierced scrotum. Looked like two or three bolts — I couldn’t get an exact count. I saw the flash of metal out of the corner of my eye, he turned around, facing away, before I could get a better look. He remained turned away, standing in a corner, looking down toward his nether region, hands busy doing, er, something — impossible to tell what exactly. Checking for lint? Polishing metal? Don’t know. The other males politely ignored the guy. I considered asking him (nicely, of course) what the hell he was doing, but restrained myself, left him alone.
– Another guy — tall, rangy, with long feet — toweled off, post-shower, then pulled a pair of black socks from his locker, sat down on a bench. He stretched one sock like a piece of elastic, then inserted it between his toes like a towel, running it briskly back and forth in an apparent drying/buffing operation before putting it on. Repeated the procedure with the other foot. Then stood up, pulled on clothes, sauntered out of the room, almost like a normal human being.

We’re a weird bunch, we male people.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

A note to the stalwart few who waded through far too many entries concerning the DELE exam I took in Madrid back in May: the results arrived today. Late, on one hand, because they told us grades would be posted on the web in August. Early, on the other, because traditionally, hard-copy results don’t show up until October.

The outcome: I passed the bugger. Not summa cum laude — no surprise, given how difficult the exam turned out to be. But considering that when I began prep. in early March I wasn’t sure I’d pass the intermediate level and wound up taking the superior level, I’m satisfied.

************

Anyone who’s visited this page more than one or two times may bear painful emotional scars be aware that my modest fiefdom is located on a hill 15 to 20 miles northeast of Montpelier, Vermont. Out in the country, on a narrow gravel road (a third-class road, according to local standards) that climbs the hill, becomes a fourth-class road — meaning just this side of a trail– at the top and meanders down the hill’s far side past this area’s old one-room schoolhouse and out to Pekin Brook Road, another third-class thoroughfare that connects with other parts of this rural town. A handful of houses lay scattered around the hill, three along this mile-long third-class stretch, two more along the mile-long length of fourth-class road. A quiet place with little traffic. Or was.

Three years ago this summer, area folk apparently realized this road cuts through from the two-lane blacktop that winds along the valley floor to Pekin Brook. Seemingly overnight, traffic tripled or quadrupled, a lot of it zipping through at well over the limit. Looking to save time, to get where they were going via a short-cut, the ones coming off the two-lane in a 50+ mph frame of mind, not grokking the residential, low speed limit dirt-road thing. And what the hell — no speed limit was posted. Probably seemed like a time-saving, pick-your-own-velocity free-for-all. Which might have been understandable if it weren’t for the size of the road and the fact that two of the three houses on this stretch front right on it, with kids, old folks, all that.

I have not been especially crazy about the shift from peaceful dirt road to ersatz highway and hit the tipping point when I went out to get the mail about five weeks back and some knucklehead in a big, blue muscle car came tearing up the road, barely slowing as he passed within a foot of me. That got me talking to my uphill and downhill neighbors. I mentioned taking the situation to the Town Selectboard as a safety issue, asking for help — turned out my unphill neighbor had attempted that some years back, asking to get the road’s speed limit reduced. He said he ran into the classic we’re-vermonters-you’re-an-outsider attitude, left the meeting with nothing material to show for his attendance. He’s a genuinely good guy, this neighbor, a smart guy, but in the minimal time I’ve spent in his company I’ve noticed a tendency to sometimes display sharp, confrontive displeasure when he feels wronged in some way — not necessarily a bad thing, though possibly counterproductive should it surface in a Selectboard kind of sitch. He originally offered to accompany me to the meeting, wound up not being able to attend. My downhill neighbor, on the other hand — Mo — was available and agreed to come along. Providing an automatic end-run around the vermonter/outsider thing, given his family’s lived in this town for generations, he’s lived here all his life, has lived in that house for 60+ years. Not that I anticipated trouble. No, really — I had the distinct feeling the experience was going to be a good one, whatever the practical results.

Came the evening of the Selectboard meeting, I picked up Mo, we drove winding dirt roads over to a part of the town called Gospel Hollow. An old, white church nested there functions as the town meeting space, we walked into a basement room, found the five members of the board getting ready to convene, a handful of other folks talking, finding seats. Vermonters, all — country folk, dressed in hot weather duds.

I could see everyone taking note of Mo’s presence, whether or not they called out a greeting. Our matter placed first on the agenda, Mo’s simple showing up clearly added weight to it. When the moment came for me to describe the situation, mention the concerns shared by everyone on the road, ask for help, suggest a couple of approaches we’d come up with, the Board listened with gratifyingly focused attention. Mo had trouble hearing everything in the following discussion, when he finally spoke up all other talk stopped. He didn’t say much, but his simple expression of concern had a visible impact.

Himself:

[continued in next entry]

Madrid, te echo de menos.

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