far too much writing, far too many photos

Remember the auto glass gnomes who were going to appear last Thursday morning and magically replace my Subaru’s windshield? Didn’t happen. Instead, they committed a strange series of blunders that led to me cancelling that appointment, making an appointment with another auto glass outfit instead, for this morning. Early this morning.

Early enough that I found myself awake at six, my inner alarm system far too vigilant, not wanting me to oversleep. A busy morning awaited, I could feel my bod had no intention of slipping back into lovely, lovely unconsciousness. I surrendered, got to my feet, pretended I was a fully conscious, high-functioning adult. At 8:30, I was at the auto glass shop — left them my car, took off in a loaner vehicle: a red VW bug that had endured a lot of rough handling by previous short-term drivers. Spent the morning running from one thing to another.

By 12:30 I was back in my car, the windshield new and absolutely pristine –so completely, unbelievably spotless that I sat and stared at it for a while before cranking the ignition. By one o’clock, I was back out here at the house (sat in the driveway for a minute, staring in amazement at the windscreen — still spotless, a blank slate that future passing miles will write on — thinking about how the bungling of one glass installer had sent me to another who charged 25% less, reflecting on how things always seem to work out for me). The day around me: warm, beautiful, quiet. No vehicles passed on the gravel road, the only sounds were the singing of insects in nearby tall grass and a thrush in the woods across the road. I sat for a while breathing it all in, finally roused myself, got on with the afternoon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dusk, 48 hours ago, northern Vermont

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Overheard this morning in the gym locker room: one male greeting another who had been at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown this past weekend.
Male A: I could see you sweating the cheap booze out of your system downstairs.
Male B: It wasn’t cheap.

España, te echo de menos.

This morning, warm and hazy:

España, te echo de menos.

Two days ago, returning from Montpelier on a classically spectacular north country July afternoon — the kind of day that begins making up for the long months of Vermont winter — as I drove back up this hill’s gravel road, I saw my downhill neighbor, Mo, out watering flowers and tomatoes. Wearing loose, droopy jeans, his 84-year-old body naked from the waist up, eyes covered with wrap-around sunglasses that wouldn’t look out of place on Keanu Reeves. I pulled over, got out, visited for a while.

We checked out buckets of tomato plants that lined the lawn by the road, the plants growing long and leggy, branches with small tomatoes stretching in all directions, threatening chaos. Mo had gone up behind the house earlier to find some support stakes, a bunch of candidates lay piled in the grass by the buckets, ex-saplings ready to do service in the name of summer salads. Mo then showed me some unusual flowers his live-in sweetie, Barb, has cultivated — exotic plants with big, lush blossoms, some in buckets, other tucked away among shrubs, flowering bushes, day lilies.

We retired to the porch to sit for a while, talked about this and that until Barb returned from an errand run, sitting down with us on the porch to page through a copy of the Rutland Herald she’d picked up. Once finished with that, she maneuvered her bare feet through the dog poop mine field that passes as their front lawn, began investigating the future tomato-plant stakes, poking one or two into a bucket as Mo aimed tongue-in-cheek counsel her way, offering to cut down a tree if the current stakes didn’t satisfy, asking if she needed a shovel to get them into the dirt, upgrading that (when her only response was stifled laughter) to a ten-pound sledgehammer. At which point she waved a menacing finger in our direction, telling Mo to quiet down.

Just two kids in love (one in his ninth decade, the other in her eighth).

During that return ride from Montpelier, two big 18-wheelers had roared by me in the opposite direction, one right after the other, rigs looking like big, muscular, elongated dumptrucks. The second whipped past, I heard the hard clink of a small rock hitting the windshield. Saw no stone, saw no sign of damage, continued driving home, finding no evidence of anything wrong. Next morning, as I backed the car out of the garage, a crack caught the morning sunlight, a good six inches long, starting at the lower left edge of the glass, extending out and up. Just like that, as if it had grown overnight. I made the drive into town, noticed at some point that the fissure seemed to be growing. Finding a couple of marks in the glass as reference points, I kept an eye on it as the miles slid by -– sure enough, the bugger was expanding, its length increasing by close to an inch during the trip into town, another half-inch on the way back.

Six or so years back, on a drive back here from the Hudson Valley, I made a fast stopover in Springfield, Massachusetts, where some nitwit apparently saw something he or she liked in my parked car, me off getting some chow. I heard the car alarm, when I sprinted back out to the lot, I found people standing around, the rear window broken, shards of safety glass everywhere, glittering like a ragged galaxy of low-rent daytime stars. No one had seen the perp. — I got my chow, finished the long return trip home, got the window repaired the next day (the insurance company, bless ‘em, covering the entire cost of a surprisingly expensive bill). On getting back to the house yesterday, I called a couple of local auto glass shops, expecting an estimate in the same inflated neighborhood. They surprised me with quotes substantially more reasonable, even offering to drive out here and do the work. I made arrangements, hung up, pleased.

This morning: just before I headed off to Montpelier for the a.m. hours, a truck backed into the driveway, a nice woman dumped a cord and a half of wood in front of one of the garage doors, one more step in the process of preparing for the cold season. In the cab of the truck, a teeny dog stared out at me, the spitting image of the little guy from Frasier

Soon after: me in Montpelier, on the way to the gym. I park on a shady backstreet, lock the car, begin the several-block hike to what passes for the teeny capital city’s downtown. I round the first corner where I encounter an older gent — tall, slim, white-haired with a scraggly white beard, dressed in rumpled jeans and khaki shirt. Bent forward, upper torso at a 45 degree angle to his hips, hands in his back pockets. His gaze drifting around as he stood talking to himself. I say, “Hey,” as I passed, his eyes swerved in my direction, immediately veering away to study sky, sidewalk, passing cars and whatever else registered on his seriously abstracted radar.

At the gym, I enter behind another older guy — also tall, also white-haired, but hefty, beardless, walking with a cane. He heads to the elevator, I skip up the stairs and down the hall to the locker room, begin pulling off clothes, etc. A couple of minutes later, cane dude appears, rounds the corner toward the toilets, disappears into a stall where he settles in and begins releasing clouds of mustard gas strong enough to burn the facial hair off anyone unfortunate enough to venture into the part of the locker room. Whoooeee!

Finished up with sweaty activity, stepped back out into July sunshine and blessed fresh air. Went to my insurance agent to find out about coverage of the windshield work, found out they’ll only cover part of the job, but since we’re talking about a mighty reasonable price, I’m happy.

Tomorrow morning, the auto glass gnomes come and present me with a brand spanking new windscreen.

And the last days of July roll on.

España, te echo de menos.

This morning (far too early), northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos.

A line spoken by Charlotte Rampling’s character in the movie ‘Heading South,’ quoted in an article in yesterday’s N.Y. Times:
“If you’re over 40 and not as dumb as a fashion model, the only guys who are interested are natural born losers or husbands whose wives are cheating on them.”

For the record: this unmarried male finds intelligence in women attractive and considers physical age far less important than factors like quality of heart, mind and spirit. Chemistry — physical and otherwise — is one thing, but linear age doesn’t necessarily mean poop.

I tend to think stuff like that is a no-brainer. Then I read something or hear something in conversation that reminds me plenty of people might feel otherwise.

Ah, well. To each their own.

España, te echo de menos.

In recent days, I’ve found myself slipping into the altered state I experience during summer in these parts. A sensation of well-being and slightly drowsy tranquility brought on by immersion in beautiful weather, lush, green Vermont countryside, and the relaxed summer soundtrack of birds singing and the occasional sound of a car passing out on the dirt road or on the two-lane down in the valley. Every now and then I realize we’re halfway through July, a momentary jolt (understandable, given that the warm season didn’t really arrive here until June gave way to July) lasting until I remember there’s nothing to be done about it except enjoy the show.

A strange aspect of this time of year: I find myself getting up earlier, at least when I’m on this side of the Atlantic. Far too early (though nowhere near as early as many locals). Logical, I guess — on a day like today, when the wetblankets in the local weather biz are busy predicting big heat/humidity, the cool and quiet produced by morning fog that often starts the day in this area seems like a good thing to get up and enjoy. My eyes open around 6 or 7, I get up to dump the ballast, see the green, hushed world outside, find myself heading toward the kitchen instead of back to the bedroom once the morning quick weight-loss routine is finished.

And then it burns off, the thousand shades of green grow brighter, blue sky spreads itself out overhead. With the warm season’s return, I’ve reclaimed the two big rooms that get closed down during the cold weather, and have undertaken to use them better, turning one into a big workspace. Which has gotten me gradually clearing the piles of work material out of the dining room, the default work place up to now. Creating a big space to do things like, er, dine. Sit and read, listening to music or to the summertime soundtrack drifting in through open windows. I’m liking it so much that it’s got me thinking seriously about taking on the work that would be required to turn the two big rooms into year-round living space — bulking up the overhead insulation (currently a few inches of cellulose blown in by previous owners, nowhere near effective enough for real life in this part of the world), figuring out some approach for insulation on or below the floor, maybe handing over the shekels to get insulating shades for the windows. Blah blah blah. You get the idea. Not exactly my idea of a great time, though the result would feel just fine.

Having a real kitchen/dining area means that on mornings like this, I find myself making a genuine breakfast, sitting at the dining table with it, reading. Feeling that strange, tranquil sense of well-being, the day outside moving at its own pace. Hours that usually race by drift along, I find myself strangely at peace with this world, my life. Not a bad place to be.

As I write this, I see it’s only midday. Time to move on, see what I feel like doing with myself.

España, te echo de menos.

Two nights ago, around 2 a.m.: my eyes opened to see the bedroom curtains glowing with soft light. Outside, the moon — full and strangely blood-orange — hovered mid-sky, rendered slightly indistinct by misty air. I got to my feet, headed into the kitchen for a glass of water. Long rectangles of soft illumination angled in through windows, stretching along the floor into the hallway.

Returned to bed, fell back to sleep. Woke up a short time later, saw the curtains had reverted to their normal, non-glowing selves. Got up, glanced out the window — the moon had been wiped away, the outside world lay thick with mist and fog.

Slipped back under the sheets and drifted back to sleep as the sky lightened with pre-dawn color and birds began waking up and announcing themselves. Another summer night gone, another summer morning easing its way in.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

T-shirt seen today in Montpelier:

We don’t run from hurricanes –
WE DRINK ‘EM

España, te echo de menos.

A warm, hazy day after a mild, hazy night. I found myself awake as the sky began easing its way from nighttime dark to dawning light, drifted in and out a bit from there but never made it back to genuine sleep. Eventually dragged myself to my feet, got the day underway. Stopped for a shot of caffeine and a pretty respectable muffin (made with maple syrup!). Hardly made a dent in the inner haze. Went to the gym, did the workout thing (me: so virtuous). The haze cleared a little, I stumbled back out into the summer weather.

Yesterday: me watching the final World Cup match. A few minutes into the second half, the phone rang, I let the answering machine deal with it. Until I heard the voice leaving the message, ran into the kitchen, picked up, and spent the rest of the match watching and discussing the game with me lad Dermot, him in his home in the British midlands, watching the game on the big flatscreen idiot box in his living room. A mixed blessing at certain moments since the version of the broadcast he watched ran a few seconds ahead of the one I watched.

Two things I sorely miss when I’m on this side of the Atlantic: watching high-level European football and friends who are also into it. The former has become less of an issue since I’ve discovered a couple of channels that show plenty of ball from England and Spain. (Brief pause to thank a benevolent universe for satellite TV.) The latter so far remains nonexistent on this side of the water, though one or two denizens of the gym have confessed discovering those same stations and seem to be in the process of getting hooked.

If you saw yesterday’s game, you know what a strange affair it was. A lot of beautiful, world-class play between two strong teams, spiked with less wonderful stuff — a motley mix of elements capped off by two overtime periods that featured the ugly, saddening jolt of watching one of the greatest players of the last half-century losing control for an instant, head-butting an Italian player, a breakdown of discipline that got him tossed from the game. There are those who think both players should have been tossed, given that the Italian had apparently been aiming a stream of especially foul invective at Zidane, sotto voce, so no one else would hear it. That, in fact, was Dermot’s first comment as we watched the moment unfold, that many in his part of the world were mighty unhappy with the idea that the instigator in situations like this went unpenalized, unhappy enough that it had some thinking about how the officiating could be adjusted to address this kind of situation. As in thinking about exploring ways to involve video replay into the officiating process, an unlikely development, one would think, given that the game doesn’t exactly have time-outs.

It was strange to watch that small drama unfold, and stranger to watch the long, hard-fought game come down to a shoot-out, a resolution that turned French goalkeeper Barthez, into the goat after putting in a solid performance. (Then stranger still to stumble across bizarrely uninformed blog rants about the Zidane/Materazzi situation. There are those for whom lack of information is no impediment when it comes to tossing together opinions.)

And then happy Italian players capered all over the pitch as the Cup drew to a close. Dermot’s sweetie, who had been next to him on the sofa snoozing, woke up. In their part of the world, it was Sunday night, 10 p.m., the workweek looming. We got off the phone, I killed the TV, found myself in a quiet house, looking out at green, tranquil Vermont countryside. Dramas transpired off beyond the horizon, here summer life drifted peacefully along, birdsong providing the soundtrack.

España, te echo de menos.

Seen this morning at the weekly farmers market in Montpelier, Vermont. With no explanation of any kind in sight — nothing handwritten, nothing machine printed, nothing said — and no container or hat for donations. Nothing but a strange, wordless tableau apparently emulating the infamous image from Abu Ghraib.

This afternoon: an intruder, caught overnight in a Havahart trap, about to be taken for a short drive and released.

This evening: a hot-air balloon rears unexpectedly into view, on a neighbor’s land.

España, te echo de menos.

I have watched far too many World Cup games during the course of these last three weeks. Far, far too many. And today, while watching the Portuguese team go down before the play of the French squad and some pretty poor officiating, that each team I started out rooting for or wound up cheering on, has gone belly up. Brazil, Spain, Australia, Ecuador, Portugal, Mexico — all of ‘em. It’s got me feeling a bit like the Typhoid Mary of this year’s version of the Cup.

Not that any of that should matter to anyone outside of my personal sphere — a fairly small, exclusive sphere these days, mostly consisting of, er, me — but there it is.

So.

July. Montpelier is flooded with tourist folk, with people on vacation, walking around in summer togs checking out what there is to see. (Not a whole lot in a certain way, given the size of the town, but it’s a small place gifted with an inordinate amount of charm which provides some mileage to the being-in-Montpelier experience.) The rain/gray skies/etc. that’s been a far too prominent aspect of local life since late April has become less the rule. Which has allowed summer to blossom during this last week. Rain and gray skies still come and go, but it’s a whole lot more tolerable when balanced out with spells of lovely weather. Though one can never be sure when conditions will become real damp real suddenly. For instance: this last weekend, me standing out amid happy warm weather greenery, soaking up some sunlight, enjoying the view up the valley. Out of nowhere the blue sky overhead suddenly opened up, rain poured down for about sixty seconds. There were some clouds off to the south that looked like the kind that might heap that kind of abuse on the humans below, but they were off to the south. Well off to the south. Nowhere near close enough to piddle all over me and my neighbors. Makes you wonder.

Ah, well — into each life a little blah blah blah.

España, te echo de menos.

July 3rd. Traditionally the day Montpelier observes July 4th. The town was awash with tourist families decked out in t-shirts, shorts ‘n’ sandals, ice cream and soda got consumed in impressive quantities, at times the smell of meat on barbecues seemed ubiquitous.

Unlike last year, I did not work as a volunteer for the parade today. I did go hang about, however, camera in hand, as this year’s marchers showed up and the whole goofy, sprawling, wonderful procession pulled itself together, lurching slowly into motion. A genuine scene, including all kinds of people representing all kinds of organizations, some political, some humanitarian, some just there to make noise and have some fun. Amid all the noise and motion could be seen:

earthy political sloganeering,

patriotic glitz,

distressed barnyard fowl,

people in kilts,

people in lederhosen,

cryptic messages,

unicycles galore,

and as always, Shriners on go-karts. (Genteel enough, in this case, to stop for wayward pedestrians.)

España, te echo de menos.

This morning, the first day of July — Montpelier, Vermont:

España, te echo de menos.

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