Weather Report from Never Never Land: the Election

The last of the Presidential debates for this election go around is tonight and Americans will have to decide between Monday night football or a different kind of football.

Back in Lincoln’s day, a Presidential debate had no moderator and no time limit but it did have reporters equipped with the latest media gadgets, a pad of paper and a tray of flash powder. Instant polling didn’t happen on the scene until about the same time as instant potato flakes. Could there be a connection?

Politics is like a bowl of glutinous fake potatoes. Take dried out rhetoric, smash it around, add a little water of credibility, and stir it to a frenzy. Pop it into your mouth and vote for your favorite. American politics may be just as malnourishing to the soul of the country as potato flakes are to the body. But don’t take my word for it.

Americans have a short fuse, short memory and an even shorter attention span. If it’s bullshit you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s the quandary: you get elected, you inherit a fire-breathing Godzilla-size financial mess, two wars, and an imploding economy. You get six months to fix it. But fixing it means you have to push, prod and demand from the same crowd that supported the burgeoning mess in the first place. And they have a vested interest. You don’t fix everything in six months. Pity. You must be inept. Maybe if we dig around in the back of the closet we can shake the dust off someone to replace you. Hit the wash button and it’s Election 2012.

Welcome to America, the land of potato flake politics. We need more than Fix-A-Flat for this election. There’s nonsense here. One of these men has a country to run in volatile times plus weeks on the stump. The other has a good night’s sleep.

Folks get polarized every four years. The guy you says ‘Hello’ to you at the water cooler and asks about the wife and kids is now the jerk who pontificates and spouts half-blitzed out political truths about immigrants, old people, poor people, young people, the Welfare Cadillac food stamp shopping who’s your Daddy urban ünter mensch, and what really should happen to uppity women.

The media is the Great Flogger of the American public. Long gone is The Last Great Senatebalanced journalistic inquiry, and the willingness to take the time to read and review the candidate’s arguments and check the facts. The direction of a country’s destiny is a sound bite.

Listen, just think of it as a reality show that’s going to get cancelled in a couple of weeks. It may be compelling, but it’s no Honey Boo Boo.

And while you’re at it, ask yourself: who you gonna vote off the island November 6?

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Headlines from the West Burville Gazette: It’s gonna be a hot one, folks! Part 2

When we snuck away from Sheriff Les Good a week or so ago, he was popping Tums and speculating on why Hooter and the other Counter Dwellers were slinking around. It just might be time for some surveillance…

Hooter and Bunchy were deep in conversation spiked with grunts and wheezes.

“This surprise party ain’t a good idea, Hooter. I said that before.”

“Yes, you did. Now pick up the other end of this sack.”

The sack was a hundred pounds of prime little red butterfinger potatoes Hooter had acquired from Bucky LeBlanc’s Fancy Fruit and Vegetables Emporium over in Higgins Corners. Nothing was too good for Sheriff Les and the possibility that a belly full of butterfingers would contribute to dropping the final thirty-seven hours of scraping paint and spit shining sidewalks.

“If we can pull this off, we’re free men,” Hooter grunted as he heaved the potatoes into his pick-up.

“And if we don’t, Hooter, we’re gonna be on some chain gang the Fecteaus probably got going the other side of the county.”

“You seen one of them “chain gangs”, Bunchy?”

“No, I ain’t. But people talk,” Bunchy shot back. ” They say old Zeff Ott come to a bad end on one of them gangs.”

“Never heard of him.”

“Just ’cause you ain’t heard of him don’t mean the Fecteau’s weren’t at the bottom of that well.”

“What well? What?”

“Never you mind, Hooter. Just remember I said so,” Bunchy pointed out as he walked away.

“What’s gotten into him?” thought Hooter.

At about the same time as Hooter and Bunchy were chucking potatoes, the Sheriff was watching Ardent slope through the front door.

“How ya doin’, Ardent? Good, now get in here,” yelled the Sheriff.

“What you want? Pernell and me’s got some state business over in East Bugbee,” Ardent shot back.

“I got a job for you two. Gibson and that bunch over at the diner. I want some surveillance. I’ll supply the snacks,” the Sheriff said with a particularly toothy grin.

Ardent surveyed the Sheriff’s piggy little eyes and the unsettling way his teeth seemed to grow points when he mentioned Hooter.

Sheriff Les cleared his throat and launched into a story even little Prudence, listening at the door jamb, thought was a bit far-fetched. According to what Prudence and Ardent could make out, Sheriff Les was considering that Hooter and the boys were planning something even stupider than their usual stupid. Maybe even something worthy enough for the national news. Sheriff Les started sweating just imagining how he was going to explain this one to the voters.

“Listen here, I want you and Pernell to surveillance those boys. Follow ‘em around. But don’t be seen. I’ll get Prudence to whip you up some coffee and sandwiches and those bitty cakes with the chocolate filling and I want your butt cheeks stuck to the seat until you find something.”

“I’ll talk it over with Pernell and get back to you.” Ardent gave the Sheriff one last look like maybe Sheriff Les was scooting around the edge of being over the edge and make a beeline for the door.

“Don’t give me that crazy eye look, Fecteau,” the Sheriff yelled at Ardent’s back.

“I got you now, Hooter. I got you now,” he grinned.

Back over at the Double Axle, Dayrel, Flock, Lambert and old Mel were contemplating a menu they were pretty darn sure would be a palate pleaser.

“Something with lots of ‘tatoes Hooter said,” announced Flock. “He’s over at Bucky’s pickin’ up a sack o’ them little ‘tatoes what look like little fingers with bumps.”

” How’s about some of Mabel’s Cowboy Coleslaw?” suggested old Mel. “I’m partial to them little marshmallows and them beans she stirs in.”

“Hooter wants an old-fashioned picnic and that’s what we’re doin’. I ain’t trying my hand at no la-di-da French stuff,” Dayrel chimed in.

“It’s a surprise party. Remember? You can’t be lugging no fancy stuff over to the ball field and retain the element of surprise, ” Lambert pointed out.

And the menu planning meandered off in a new direction…

“Prudence, I want you to call your brother Orcutt and tell him we gots ourselves a situation and get his ass over here pronto,” barked the Sheriff.

Prudence was on her break and getting a bit het up over the handsome but depressed and brooding Dunsmore Cavendish and his unrequited passion for the third under-chambermaid, Mary Louise, over at Beardsley Manor. In the distance, somewhere over the chill moor, she heard the Sheriff bellow. “Now what?” she said, slamming down her Candlelit romance.

“Call Orcutt and tell him to get in here.”

“I’m on my break.”

“Get on the horn, Prudence. Do it now,” hissed the Sheriff as he headed past Prudence toward the lock up.

Prudence gave him a look that was anything but her usual convivial flutter and twitter and punched in Orcutt’s number.

“He wants to see you. Now.” Prudence slammed down the phone and drifted back across the moor to the place where Dunsmore waited…

Hooter backed his truck up to the ramp behind the Double Axle.

“Flock, Dayrel, heave them taters down the cellar and guard ‘em with your life,” Hooter wheezed. “Damn, a hundred pounds sure weighs more than it used to.”

“What you on about, Hooter?” old Mel asked. “Why’s we guardin’ them ‘tatoes? I ain’t dyin’ for no tater salad, if’n that’s what you got in mind.”

“These here red butterfingers are the cornerstone of our freedom, boys. Now chuck ‘em in the cellar.”

After five minutes of swearing and grunting a hundred pounds of prime baby potatoes were nestled against the cellar wall of the Double Axle and Ho0ter was surveying the menu the boys had worked on for the past five hours.

“Hot dogs and hamburgers? That’s it? That took five hours? Damn, boys, this ain’t gonna get us more’n maybe ten hours off that thirty-seven. Keep at it.”

By the time another hour had elapsed, the Counter Dwellers had devised a menu that highlighted some of the best of West Burville cuisine. Old Mel was the first to say it, ” We get an “O” for “original, boys. I don’t think anyone’s put them ingredients together just that way. Except maybe Effie Squires, Edna’s sister. But she passed on right after, kind of funny like…”

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A small praise of Great White Sharks

What’s grey and white and has 300 teeth?

It takes a lot to get me past first gear. Sharks do it. They do it for most people. They stir up some primordial stew in our subconscious. Take the young blonde to my left. She’s about to have the shock of her short life…

Please. Don’t look.

Let me introduce Bruce, probably the most famous shark in the world. If it wasn’t for Steven Spielberg and Bruce and that damn John Williams and his music I would probably still be able to swim in the ocean. Or a pond. Or a river. Or a lake. Or anyplace else that doesn’t have a drain.

This weekend is JAWSFEST, a crazy mix of people in shark hats, oceanographers, movie fans, movie stars, shark watching tourists, marine biologists and the media all cooked up together into a chowder out on The Vineyard. It’s THE place to be this weekend when the island morphs into Amity Island. Here’s the schedule.

Did you know that in just seven days, August 14, Universal is releasing the Blu-Ray re-mastered and up-mixed edition of JAWS? Spielberg oversaw the project, a frame by frame restoration of the 1975 film. Has it been that long? Summer just isn’t the same anymore.

This is the BIG one, the film that kicked off a panic over shark attacks (even if you lived in Kansas), kicked off a fishing frenzy that empowered every macho fishernut with access to a boat and tackle to rid the ocean of its most valuable apex predator, prompted Discovery to do an annual series about sharks and shark behavior that’s celebrating its twenty-fifth season this summer, and spurred a multi-million dollar industry with products named after Jaws.

Let me tell you a quick story: when I was a younger and working at the Plymouth (MA) Town Hall, the Harbor Master, Angelo, a descendant of many generations of seagoing Portuguese, and the man who knew the harbor as well as he knew his own name, suggested it might be a good idea for me to see the harbor and some ocean wildlife.

As we cruised along, getting further from land, and while I was admiring the sea gulls, the sunshine and the…

Wait a minute!

“Why are all those gulls over in that one spot?”

“I dunno, let’s go see.”

“You sure?”

“Yup. Might be something to see.”

When we got closer I could see the water was at the boil. Something I couldn’t see, something huge, was making the ocean bubble and the gulls squawk. I can still remember wanting to roll up into a fetal position in the bottom of the boat. Angelo shut down the engine and there we were, two people in a small wood boat, immobile in the water.

“Take a look.”

Peaking over the side of that small boat was probably the bravest thing I’ve ever done. My mind was stuck on “What the hell is that? If it doesn’t see me, maybe it won’t eat me. Can it smell me? Can it smell fear?”

“Stand up and look. And don’t fall over. You might want to brace yourself to keep yourself from bending over the side of the boat.”

Bracing, yes. Bending over the side? No. Not after what I saw.

Twenty, maybe thirty, yards from the boat was the first shark I had ever seen. The dorsal fin is all you really see at first, tall and straight as a mast. It was attached to a dark torpedo shape headed our way. There was a moment when I wondered if this was really happening, if sharks ate boats or just the contents, and would I ever see land again ’cause I’d never leave it again. But the Harbor Master never turned over the engine, never turned the boat. He just stood at the wheel and chuckled.

Coming alongside the boat was a massive shark with a dark grey back, white belly and black eyes. I believe it looked right at me before it treated me to a side shot of its open jaw and teeth as long as my hand and serrated. I was terrified. But I was hypnotized too by the danger and the power of the shark. With a belly roll it sunk below the water. And the boat.

The shark circled for maybe a minute but it made its point. It took me most of that short time to realize it wasn’t intent on ramming the Harbor Master’s boat. The Great White was as curious about the interlopers in its territory as I was curious about how anything so deadly and so grand could be in the ocean. It was like a National Geographic picture come to life for a kid from a place far from the perils of the ocean.

The last I saw of it was the dorsal fin submerging and surfacing, submerging and surfacing as it made its way to wherever it would find another seal.

I look back on that encounter as some kind of religious experience: a mix of fear, panic, and amazement.

I respect sharks. I am awed by them in a way that nothing else reaches me. I believe they are magnificent, completely evolved. On a planet doomed by imperfection and folly, they are perfect lifeforms. A chance for us to reach back through history to a time when the earth was ocean and their giant ancestors ruled the waters.  The greatest of the apex predators.

I worry about sharks and the cruel fishermen who cut their fins away and leave them to drown. Who is the real predator for a bowl of soup?

And I worry about vacationers who don’t have God’s good sense not to play in an area where seals swim. Get the hell out of the water, people.

Most of all I worry that sharks will be blamed for their instinctual behavior that draws them shoreward to the seals that have come closer this summer enjoying an abundance of food and over-heated waters.

Did you know that when you see the video of sharks off the California coast or hear of an attack in that area, that what looks like a shiver of sharks (and, yes, it’s called a “shiver”) is in fact a few of only an estimated 440 Great White Sharks along the entire coast from Mexico northward and across to the Hawaiian Islands? So huge an area of water, so few Great Whites.

Did you know that Great Whites are on the Endangered Species List? It’s estimated that only 3200 of these giant fish remain in the oceans, hunted to near extinction for their teeth that bring $600-$800 per tooth and record prices approaching $50,000 for a full jaw. And no one should discount man’s paranoia of an apex predator that can’t be tamed in an alien and hostile environment in which we are only marginally tolerated. We all need our nightmare food.

I’m with the sharks. I have been since the first time I saw a Great White. There are people who swim with sharks and sharks who allow shark researchers to hand feed them and pat their heads. Is it possible to have a connection with  creatures our media mythology has hyped with words: “savage”, “merciless”, “evil”, “demonic”, “vengeful”, “killing machines”. Do sharks have a life that includes periods of sleep and solitude, rearing young and endless miles of swimming? Do they only eat what they need to survive and not gorge like two-legged predators? You bet.

I love to misquote Alphonse Toussenel, “The more one gets to know of men, the more one values sharks.”

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Headlines from The West Burville Gazette: it’s gonna be a hot one, folks!

August is a strange month in northeastern Vermont, one day it’s on the sunnyside of 90 and the next you’re pulling out the turtlenecks. If you happen to be in West Burville you might consider a slice of Linda Mae’s Pecan Festival Fantasy Pie washed down with a steaming mug of Bunchy’s Coffee Bean Caravan over at the Double Axle Diner, open under new management…

The languid days of an unusually hot dry summer had crisped up the lawns in front of the picture perfect white houses of West Burville. Drought that had devastated the American heartland had ignored the hilly region of Piney Woods County in this remote corner of the Green Mountain State. Still it was hot as a bejeezus and the interior of the Double Axle Diner steamed in the afternoon sun as the sluggish ceiling fans stirred the heavy air.

Hooter was perturbed.

It had been three months since Judge Herbert “Jolly” Overshot had ruled in favor of The State in the case of The State of Vermont v. The Counter Dwellers et al. Memories die hard in remote Piney Woods County, VT, where a good story and bad behavior are intertwined in a cocktail of redneck justice and law-abiding citizens stirred around with the occasional flatlander. The tale of what happened opening day of last fall’s deer season had spread like hot chicken manure on a compost pile and caused a standing room only crowd at the Piney Woods County Courthouse in early May as Hooter and the other Counter Dwellers were sentenced to a hundred hours of community service each.

Despite pleas that there just wasn’t “nowhere hereabouts” to serve that amount of time and it would interfere with folks ability to get a good hot meal and Ludovico had to get back to his logging truck, Sheriff Les Good had assured the Judge he could fill up the time and the deed was done. After a month of painting fences, sprucing up the flower beds in front of the Sheriff’s Department, crocheting with the Ladies Aid Society, and chaperoning the lawless Pluette kids to their summer school sessions, the Counter Dwellers wanted out. With thirty-seven hours to go they’d run out of patience and ways to embarrass themselves.

Hooter had an idea. What if they invited the Sheriff and his boys to a big old-fashioned upcountry bar-b-que and had a few burgers and some backslapping and a couple of beers and that would be that? As the reasoning went, no one could resist a summer afternoon of pitching horseshoes and shooting the breeze on county time. If they could make the run up and the event take thirty-seven hours they’d be home free and clear. The fly in the ointment was the failure to inform the Sheriff of their plan.

“I got the perfect idea,” Hooter opened. “Suppose we come up with a way to get rid of them last thirty-seven hours in one swoop?”

Bunchy, Dayrel, Flock, and Lambert all nodded their heads like those little kewpie dolls with the springs on their necks. Old Mel chewed his gums and waited to hear the rest.

“And what if said idea involved the Sheriff and food?”

The heads nodded faster.

“One thing them boys like to do is eat. Let’s cook ‘em up a bar-b-que that’d do Linda Mae proud.”

General agreement.

“We got just one issue. It’s got to be a secret. We’ll get everything ready then lure ‘em over here and set upon ‘em with good times!”

Flock wasn’t so sure about the “luring” part. “You sure we shouldn’t tell those boys first? They can get real mean, Hooter.”

“It ain’t “luring”, Flock, it’s more like a “surprise party”.”

The head nodding resumed.

Over the next week, Hooter and the other Counter Dwellers tackled their community service with an enthusiasm that put Sheriff Les Good in a dark mood. “What are they up to?” he growled.

Sitting behind his scarred oak desk decorated with twenty years of coffee rings and a year’s worth of reports, the Sheriff was becoming increasingly agitated. Heaving his belly over his belt buckle and planting his Enforcers on the linoleum he stalked to the door. Yanking it open, and nearly off its ancient hinges, he yelled toward the cavernous office and the petite woman sitting at the desk, the long-suffering Prudence Fecteau of the Fecteau law enforcing clan and the Sheriff’s personal secretary, “Get me Pernell on the horn. And if he ain’t around get me Ardent. I got a job for the two of ‘em.”

Spinning as best he could on his non-skid soles he headed back into his office and slammed the door hard enough to make the frosted glass quiver. He had some thinking to do. Settling his bulk behind the desk Sheriff Les Good waited for the knock on the door.

To be continued…

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Off to see the wizard

When you can’t drink anything after midnight and you don’t get liquids until around 5 the next afternoon, you develop a very small agenda: go to hospital, get fixed, drink something.

You might also bargain with yourself to do bad things: “maybe just a toothpaste cap full. How bad could that be?” I don’t think you realize how many images of liquids there are until water or coffee or tea or juice becomes about as accessible as Area 51. What you might ignore or only stare at in passing becomes a lust object: those big pump things full of coffee, giant pictures of running water, bottled water, kids splashing in water, people with 20 oz. of refreshing liquid. And the one that nearly finished me off: an enormous picture of a cup of hot coffee in a bright green mug with those little bubbles around the side and the steam rising and I could just smell that aroma and my knees almost buckled. Welcome to the hospital and why did I come in through the nice Miami style cafe instead of some grungy corridor?

Now let me tell you what happened after that…

Good things! It’s wonderful to go to the hospital and come back better than you went in. That’s the idea. What you try to keep far from you is the sense that you’re being followed down the halls by your own mortality. Despite the sense of comfort and “it’s gonna be a cakewalk” that surrounds you, everyone knows the deal. But go ahead, provide me with an iron-clad guarantee and a wink when we all know better. Roll the dice, hope it’s not snake eyes.

Some of the defining moments that are vivid in the middle of the muddle that drugs will do for you are saying “adios” to your kids as they wheel you away, seeing the door of the lab and knowing it would really be bad form to jump off the gurney and run screaming down the hall, realizing that the room is not made entirely of steel and inhabited by demonic aliens as you had conjured up on your last sleepless night at home, and that the people behind the masks have names. There was also being told I might wake up in the middle of the procedure (I did) and that it might be “painful” (it was) but, hey, just ask and we can do something about that (they did). All in all it wasn’t too bad.

Which brings me back to my room. There has to be a way to buffer the noise in a hospital room. Somewhere there is research grant money for this. I swear that someone was mowing the lawn at 3 a.m. outside the window. I was five stories up on a cement courtyard. Someone was yelling random comments about the Olympics across the hall and the monitors on the other side of the curtain were serenading me. When one nurse came in at 3:30 a.m., and I was deep in my Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House, she asked if she could get me anything. My request for an espresso garnered a cold smirk.

Still, for good and all, it might have been noisy but at least everyone on my floor this one night made it through to the soggy pancakes in the morning.

Here are some of the tips I picked up during my stay: always test drive a car in either a rainstorm or a snowstorm and take it to an empty lot where you can slam on the brakes and do donuts, if you’re going to Russia make it a river cruise, never trust a man with a pinkie ring, don’t make the IV nurse laugh when she is playing thread the needle in your arm, ask for a “no moon” johnnie, limit political conversations because the cardiac unit is no place to get all het up over the coming election, get your children to make outrageous promises like “if you survive this I’ll buy you an iPad”, thank the nice person cleaning your room, find out the first name of everyone treating you, bring earplugs.

They sprung me at teatime. I was most grateful. When someone observed that you don’t go to the hospital to get any rest, they wouldn’t get an argument from me.

By morning, I’d logged in over 24 hours of insomnia, was probably not as lucid as I thought I was judging from some of the looks I got when I laughed at my own jokes, and was ready to hit the road. Pity I wasn’t allowed to drive.

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The transcendental heart

If you read Indie Albany on a regular basis you might have noticed that I’m something of the black sheep of the family. First, I write then I just stop. I’m like the “off” ox on the team. It’s not a lack of inspiration that stalls me. And it’s not a lack of remorse for goofing off. What seizes up the fingers on the keyboard is an abundance of good ideas. They’re everywhere!

Let me illustrate….

If you saw the film “UP” then you might remember the dog, sort of a crazy lab mix, tail thumping and tongue hanging out. Folks who know me compare me to that dog. I like to think it’s in a nice way. The hard cold fact of it is I’m just not good with STOP! And I’m not so stellar with GO either. I’ve started (and failed to finish) posts about living in my car trolling back and forth across the state for work, languishing in a hellhole of a historic building, weeds in the garden that might be smarter than they look, and something nasty I saw one night. Honestly, there really are just too many squirrels that need chasing.

Which brings me to Tuesday forenoon and a compelling reason to stop. As you head out the door around noon to contemplate whether it’s going to be tuna on rye or a salad for lunch, someone highly skilled, an artist really, will be contemplating my heart…from the inside. I will not, however, be awake to enjoy the festivities taking place in the cardiac cavity but I plan to stick around for the big rousing finale: waking up in the recovery room. I suspect that I’m a classic case. I missed the whole “the good die young” thing and I believe the eternal tug of war will proceed just as well without adding me to the team just yet. I have a few more good stories left in me.

For instance, I was visiting West Burville last weekend on my Grand Tour before I’m off my feet for a week when I ran into Hooter. As it happened I caught up with him as he was endeavoring to find a marginally legal way to circumvent community service while looking like he was doing the appropriate amount of groveling before the bench. Nothing’s ever as it seems in West Burville.

He told me the most amazing story of something remarkable and inexplicable he saw when he and the other Counter Dwellers were keeping vigil in the woods awaiting the arrival of the Great Horned Owl, a mythical critter native to the Piney Woods. I should forewarn you that he meant “native” in the way some of those things H.P. Lovecraft said he saw were “native”. He promised a full detailed description of the apparition for publication. And as the reporter at large for The West Burville Gazette I have a duty to publish. I much prefer that to the alternative, perish.

I also learned that I have a capacity for three years of tolerance that has allowed me to co-exist with a variety of quirks of the architectural kind in a house with more holes in it than Swiss cheese and a mouse with a limp. And there was that one time a month or so ago when I had the bejeezus scared out of me by something that looked back.

I’ll explain later.


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Words I Hate: staycation

Americans have a tendency to make things up. Politicians get hired on purpose to make stuff up, so do folks in foreign policy, and so do TV commentators who spew their made up horse puckey opinions as if they received it from the burning bush. Some of the worse suspects in this disreputable bunch are the “trend watchers”, those self-professed arbiters of all that is worth having or being or doing.

It seems as if we have run out of ink to write letters, lost the ability to hold a lengthy conversation and not report the event later as “I couldn’t get away from the guy”, and most lethal of all, we’ve dimmed our ability to express in a complete sentence a complex thought. We Twitter or spill our dinner selection on Facebook.

Yes, I’m a bit of a grump.

Which brings me back full circle: somebody please explain to me what a “staycation” is because I really want to know.  Not to get ahead of myself but here’s what I think it is: the economy is perched on the edge of the Mariana Trench and those “trend watchers” I mentioned want us all to make merry by staying at home and doing dishes, washing laundry, mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage. It reminds me of the time one frigid January weekend in northern Vermont when the neighbors decided to throw down some beach towels on the dining room floor, put on their bathing suits and sunglasses, spin a few discs of luau music, and serve drinks with little palm trees stuck to the side. I believe that repugnant event may well have been the first “staycation”.

Speaking of which: what is a “trend watcher”? Is it like a bird watcher without binoculars and a vest with a gazillion pockets? Or is it some kid in a shiny suit pompously defining what’s “trending” right now? Because I don’t get “trending” either. Is it the same thing as “what’s happenin’ “? I suspect the former is an attempt to influence with the subtly of a cattle prod my purchasing, my politics, my religion, and the cause of some celebrity or other with excessive cleavage. The latter rose with pot smoke sometime in the 60s.

I could be wrong. Maybe these “staycation” things are the way to go. Who says the way to have vacation fun is to empty the bank account or run up the credit card. Maybe going small is in for the long haul. Houses, dogs, cars, vacations. What else can we micro-size? Does it make us less informed to stay home and read a book? Does it make us insular and intolerant not to travel beyond our own backyard or the local beach or the mall? I wonder.

I’m an old-fashioned girl and I really do believe we should see America before we set out to see the world. I realize the danger inherent in all of this America-centric travel is seeing Americans. Not that this is a bad thing but it sounds a lot like more of the expanded backyard thing. But imagine what else there is to discover in America away from urban areas and on the back roads that hatch mark the land? Sea to shining sea, baby.

One of these weeks I’m going to point the vehicle west and see where I get on a few tanks of gas. If I travel across America looking for the best of the unexpected like the guys from American Pickers or Stephen Fry in his black London taxicab and touch down in each state will this be a kind of upmarket “staycation”? After all, I’m stay-ing in the US of A.

When I was a kid the ultimate family vacation was travelling across America to see Yellowstone and the Painted Desert and travelling Route 66 until you finally wound up at the “real” Disneyland. Either that was the makings of a lifetime of memories and family stories or the ultimate “staycation”. You be the judge.

In the end it probably doesn’t matter where we go or what we do once we get there. Here or there, it’s no nevermind. The more compelling issue is that fewer Americans are allowing themselves time to stop. Full stop for more than a long weekend. Time was come hell or high water you stopped for a week or more and vacated. Go or stay you clicked off. More folks went somewhere than stayed. It was what you did. You “got away”.

Now, answer me this: if you staycate do you ever truly click off? Or does the close association of home and work mean you never truly rest your DNA when you decide to hang out at the house? It might be cheaper in the short-term but shouldn’t it really be measured in the long-term consequences to health and longevity and job performance? And maybe to the making of family memories and the human need to leave a legacy of something besides work?

Here’s what I want you to do: go ahead, get in the family wagon. Go somewhere. A tank over and another back. Get out there and see what there is to see. And report back…

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