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.

The Old Man of the Mountain


In 2000, the US Mint issued the New Hampshire quarter. The image on the back shows the Old Man of the Mountain: a cliff hanging off Cannon Mountain that looked like a bearded man’s profile:


new hampshire quarter


Well, on May 3, 2003, the Old Man of the Mountain collapsed.



What now? Naturally a state committee was formed to decide.



Did they decide to reassemble it? No. (Wise decision.)



Did they decide to commemorate it? Yes, of course. They’ve put up viewscopes that show what it looks like now (not much), and what it used to look like. (Excellent decision.)



But the stupid thing persists. New Hampshire uses it on its highway signs; if you’re on a state road, you see something like this:



new hampshire highway sign



And it’s still on all those quarters, which will be in circulation until Doomsday.



There’s a lesson here somewhere.



Washington is “the evergreen state.” Probably there will be evergreens growing there – some of them, somewhere – even if there’s a catastrophic event. Rhode Island is “the ocean state,” and the ocean ain’t going anywhere.



Here’s an old song (sung by Frank Sinatra) which should have been heeded by the state leaders of New Hampshire:



In time the Rockies may crumble,

Gibraltar may tumble,

They’re only made of clay . . . .





New Hampshire


Partner and I just came back from a couple of days in New Hampshire.



I have lived in New England for almost thirty-five years, and in that time, I have spent maybe three weeks in New Hampshire. So that makes me an expert on the subject.



Partner and I have vacationed in New Hampshire a couple of times, and went up a few years ago for a wake, and have gone a couple of times just for the hell of it (the state line is barely 90 minutes from Providence).  It always struck me as Massachusetts North: gritty and industrial (at least in the south: Manchester, Nashua).  The state line between Methuen, Massachusetts and Salem, New Hampshire is almost invisible: trees and gravelly hillsides on one side of the border, trees and gravelly hillsides on the other.



If you go farther north, you end up in the White Mountains, which are very Robert Frostish and picturesque. A few years ago we made the obligatory drive up Mount Washington, and marveled at the view from the visitor center.  We’ve been to Franconia Notch. We’ve walked around the Flume, which is lovely (Partner still remembers going there when he was young).  We’ve explored the Polar Caves, which have ice in them, even in August.



But then there’s all the other stuff.



New Hampshire, for some reason, is a conservative state. (I much prefer Vermont. Vermont is like your aging hippie cousin, who’s funny and manic and very liberal; New Hampshire is like your conservative uncle, who thinks Obama is a socialist and a fascist at the same time.) On this most recent trip, I saw Romney signs everywhere. (Have you seen his campaign logo? It’s a double-image “R,” something like the Rolls-Royce logo. I think he’s trying to suggest “Ronald Reagan,” and doesn’t realize that he’s also conjuring up the Rolls-Royce thing. Or maybe he knows and doesn’t care.)



Then there’s the whole “Live Free or Die” thing. It’s on their license plates! It’s the state motto! It’s a little – hm – heavy. (Partner always rephrases it: “Live free, then die.” “Live free and die.” I like his rephrasings better than the original motto.)



Also: there is the Old Man of the Mountain. This was a big stone profile on Cannon Mountain, visible for miles, that looked like the profile of an old man with a beard. New Hampshire still uses it on its road signs (all of the New Hampshire state route numbers appear in an “Old Man of the Mountain” frame). It’s on their 2002 state quarter.



The Old Man of the Mountain collapsed in 2003. It looks like exactly nothing now, except maybe a big pile of rubble. (I remind myself that I grew up within sight of Mount Saint Helens, and it blew up. Then I lived within shouting distance of the Old Man, and he fell apart. Is it me?)



Anyway: New Hampshire is green and lovely and full of wild scenery (if you go far enough north, anyway).



(But I’ll take Vermont any day of the week, if you give me the choice.)





I was walking the other day at lunchtime when one of my co-workers called over to me: “The lilacs are blooming over there.”



She gestured over at the animal-rescue place across the street, which has a flowery hedge. And their lilacs were in full bloom.



Lilacs (well, Syringa if you’re a snob) send me into reverie every spring.  The house I lived in when I was very small had a lilac hedge; they were all purple except one, which was creamy heavenly white. The scent was heavenly also. It’s heavy and can be oppressive (I wore lilac scent for a while some years ago, and was probably the bane of the office), but – in small doses, and when you smell it on the breeze on an April day – it’s wonderful.



They remind me of Walt Whitman, and the death of Abraham Lincoln, by way of “When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d.”



They remind me of Milton Berle, who camped it up on the old “Batman” TV series as the dandy gangster Louie the Lilac.



They remind me of New Hampshire, which uses the lilac as its floral symbol, and good for them.



I think they were probably one of the first flowers I ever examined closely. I remember wondering at those huge clusters of much smaller flowers, and having a dim intuition that it was very smart of the lilac bush to make big floral explosions out of hundreds of smaller blossoms.



They are lovely.



Admire them while they last.


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