Vermont versus New Hampshire

vermont vs nh

New England is made up of six smallish states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

The territory is small, but the terrain varies greatly, and the weather varies from state to state: Vermont and New Hampshire and Maine get snow in October and November sometimes.

There are other subtle differences too.  I swear, when Partner and I drive over the border from Rhode Island into Connecticut, I can see a difference: Connecticut is more rural, and woodsier, and wetter. What happened? Did Rhode Island farmers do something that Connecticut farmers didn’t do? Or is it just my colorful imagination?

Maine is different from the rest of the New England states too. Portland aspires to be a hipster / cosmopolitan destination, but the state itself is – as Parter said recently – “Tennessee North.” It’s visibly poor and rural. No wonder it elects Republican senators to Congress.

And then there are Vermont and New Hampshire.

Vermont feels liberal and free. I love it there. I love the breeziness of Burlington, and the wind off Lake Champlain. I loved the time we spent in Bennington. I loved Rutland.

New Hampshire? Meh. It’s dull and conservative.

When you drive north into Vermont, it feels as if you’ve entered a different country. (It was a different country, for a couple of years there.) When you pass from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, it feels like – hmm – like you’re still in Massachusetts. You really haven’t gone anywhere.

Vermont is different. Vermont is independent. It’s strange, and funny, and determined to be so.

New Hampshire is dull and New Englandish. It’s got all the things you expect it to have.

Vermont is independent and hippyish. It wants to be different. It has all the things that New Hampshire has – mountains and lakes and forests – but they’re more interesting, somehow.

Kids: if you have a choice between New Hampshire and Vermont, visit Vermont. Eat some ice cream. Have some cheese.

And tell the Vermonters that I sent you.

Elizabeth Warren, Scott Brown, and the Sacred Cod of Massachusetts

Scott Brown, the loathsome incumbent junior Senator from Massachusetts, is now running for reelection. He (horribly enough) won Ted Kennedy’s seat two years ago, when the Democratic Party in Massachusetts was too lazy to run a campaign, figuring that they’d win in any case.



The Massachusetts Democratic party was wrong.



Scott Brown won by being cute (he was a Playgirl model) and riding around in a pickup truck (which he’s doing again currently) and being ingenuous, and pretending to be very much a man of the people.



Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate in 2010, did absolutely nothing to campaign for herself. She was smug enough to believe that the legacy of Ted Kennedy was enough to win the seat for her, even if she did diddlysquat to earn it.



The Democratic Senatorial candidate this time, Elizabeth Warren, is not making that mistake.  She is strong and smart and capable. She’s made a few missteps, but she’s a good person.



(I’m a Rhode Islander, so I’m not voting in that election. Our two Senators are firm and fervent Democrats.  But we Rhode Islanders are deluged with Massachusetts political advertisements, so I speak from knowledge.)



In his adverts, Scott’s usually driving around (yet again!) in his pickup truck, talking to “regular folks.” He even shows images of himself with President Obama, portraying himself as a Republican who can compromise with the Democrats.



(Don’t you believe it. He voted with his party most of the time over the last two years.)



But here’s the thing that irritates me the most: he’s been running ads about the local fisheries industry, about how “government regulation” has been destroying the Massachusetts fishing industry, and that he’s been fighting to protect the fishermen.



Fact: the fisheries outlook in the North Atlantic is bleak at the moment, because the North Atlantic has been entirely overfished. The trademark fish of Massachusetts – including the sacred cod – are now endangered. There is now officially a fisheries “disaster” in the North Atlantic.



If you like cod and haddock and suchlike, prepare to pay a lot more for them, or switch to salmon and tilapia.



And if you’re a Scott Brown admirer, remember that things are never as simple as they seem in a political advertisement.



And for you Massachusetts readers: vote for Elizabeth Warren, kids. You’ll regret it if you don’t.


Tornado warning: southern New England


Partner and I were on Cape Cod last Wednesday when the tornadoes marched through Massachusetts. Cape Cod is normally pretty placid weather-wise, but the water was very choppy that morning, and there were some big ominous-looking clouds up in the north. We knew there were some storm warnings, and even hail –



And then we heard the tornado warnings on the radio.



We knew we were out of harm’s way. But northern Rhode Island was on tornado warning for the entire afternoon. Central Massachusetts got hit, especially Springfield, where there were several deaths, many injuries, and extensive damage. We spent the evening watching weathermen breathlessly Telestrating the map, talking about debris clouds and rotation and the Fujita scale.



Do you understand that this doesn’t happen here?



New England is not Tornado Alley, by any means. New England is famous for the changeable nature of its weather; didn’t Mark Twain himself say, “If you’re not happy with the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes”? And God knows we get storms, sometimes pretty ferocious ones. But tornadoes we do not get.



One more sign that the weather is changing, and the world is changing.



It kills me that people do not get this. But here’s the thing: it’s not that they don’t get it. They just pretend to believe either that it’s God’s great plan, or that it’s just the way weather works.



Oh, no. Not in this particular epoch, dear hearts. We have turned the page, mostly through the stuff we’ve plentifully sprayed – mostly carbon dioxide and CFCs, but lots of other interesting stuff – into the atmosphere. Also overfarming and overdevelopment. Also miscellaneous pollutants. Also –



Anyway. The world is changing. And we helped.



We’ve passed the point of no return. Even if Sarah Palin herself (who, in a motorcycle rally a while back, said something stupid like “I love the smell of those emissions!”) were to begin recycling today! – it wouldn’t make a bloody bit of difference.



I don’t think we’re doomed.



But I think there are going to be a lot less of us in a hundred years.



And, in a very little while, I won’t be around to snark at everything.



Won’t that be lovely?



Ah me. How very old the world has become.




Old Cape Cod


Partner and I spent a few days on Cape Cod last week. It’s barely an hour away from Providence, but it’s a different world altogether. The weather is milder. The light is softer. The air is different.



It is so bloody quaint that it makes me want to hold my head and moan. Little white houses buried in rhododendrons and wisteria. Little shingled houses with American flags flying on the porch. Little brick houses with wizened cherry trees in the yard. Oh my God!



Little old ladies are everywhere, having brunch and powerwalking and selling taffy. Handymen and landscapers and lifeguards are everywhere, big and burly and suntanned. And all the convenience stores sell t-shirts three for ten bucks.



We stopped for breakfast at – where else? – The Breakfast Room. “Room,” by the way, was spelled, not with two Os, but with two fried eggs. (Partner: “Well, we gotta eat there. I mean, look at the eggs on the sign!”) We had eggs (what else?) and coffee and toast. An older couple came in after us, sat nearby, and regarded the menu dolefully. “Well,” the husband said after a few minutes, “it looks like they just serve breakfast.”



Even the geography is quaint. Take Dennis, for example, where we stayed. You’ve got South Dennis, and West Dennis (which is also “Bass River”), and Dennis, and Dennisport, and East Dennis (which is just north of South Dennis). I finally found North Dennis on the map; it’s a mile west of East Dennis.



The same naming pattern is repeated for Sandwich, and Harwich, and Yarmouth, and Falmouth. (I won’t even tell you about the Upper Cape. You’re not ready for that. It’s like quantum physics.)



You’ve never seen many birds. I understand now why people go nutsy for birdwatching on the Cape. Eighteen different species of bird were perched on the hotel sign when we pulled in, arranged (I think) either by size, or alphabetically. I lay half-awake one morning, listening to the dawn chorus of birdcalls, and I think some of them were just making the calls up, to show off. I mean, really: “Peep peep peep peep brrr brrr brrr toowhaa toowhaa”? What the hell kind of bird does that? An imaginary one?



We ate at Captain Parker’s in (West) Yarmouth our first evening there, as we usually do. Partner adores their clam chowder, and the fisherman’s platter, which is served on a plate the size of a laundry hamper. I had the mussels marinara; the mussels were local, and huge, and terrifying. (Partner told me later that a kid at the table behind me was watching me dissect and consume my mussels. To be fair, they were prehistoric.)



Take it away, Patti Page!


Patti_Page_-_Old_Cape_Cod.mp3 Listen on Posterous




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