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Least and Most Favoritest Things about Living in Vermont! (Part of the Ramble Thing)

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Least and Most Favoritest Things about Living in Vermont! (Part of the Ramble Thing)

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I'm officially behind in the ramble thing! BUT all of the SWG stamp stuff is up-to-date, so I should have a little more freedom this weekend to catch up.

[personal profile] independence1776 asked what are my least and most favorite things about living in Vermont. I was not allowed to count distance from family and friends as my least favorite thing. (She knows me and wasn't letting me off that easily! :)

I've been living in Vermont for eleven months now, and the Green Mountain State and I are very much still in the honeymoon phase. Most of the things I miss living here are pretty petty. Tops would have been that there is nowhere to get Indian food short of going to Burlington ... but then one of my colleagues connected with a local caterer who does Pakistani cuisine--very similar to northern Indian cuisine--and we had our first lunch day at work yesterday, and I had a most delicious cauliflower in butter sauce. We're hoping the caterer will have been as happy with business from our school as we were with her food and will be willing to deliver to us on Fridays going forward.

So I can hopefully no longer complain about the lack of Indian food.

We don't have--or at least we haven't found--what I consider a truly good Mexican restaurant in the area. Not on par with some of the places we had in Maryland. America's Taco Shop is good for lunch, and Aguilera's in St. J's is decent, but I miss Cinco de Mayo and El Rodeo from Maryland.

(However, we have the best Thai food I've ever had right in Newport, and good sushi as well.)

Also, very few people know how to make good iced tea up here. Most places--if they even have it--get it from a soda machine. Blech. Very few places brew it fresh, and fresh-brewed iced tea is my absolute favorite drink, and I do miss that being an assumed beverage at any restaurant. We went to dinner at Cajun's on Wednesday, and they did have fresh-brewed iced tea, and ohmymy was it a treat.

(However, Vermont has amazing hard cider. I'm not sure that drinking hard cider instead of tea is a step in the right direction, but it is something that Maryland doesn't have the same quality of.)

Most of the things that people complain about here don't really bother me. When we first moved up here, people warned us, "There's no place to go shopping!" Since I don't like shopping, I don't care. People complain about the snow--there is still snow visible of Jay Peak!--but having lived all but this year in a place that was cold with little snow, I'd rather have the deeper cold and snow: just-above-freezing and damp weather is far worse, in my opinion! It's more miserably, and all winter is the stick season that Vermonter's lament between the melting of the snow and the sudden burst of spring. Then we were warned about mud season, but the Coventry road guy is exemplary, and we're not clean-car people anyway, so we don't mind that our car is brown either from mud or dust for most of the year. (It's cleanest in the winter because of the snow!)

Now the easier list: the things I love about living here! First of all, I love living in a place where the ratio of trees to people is pretty high. I don't think that people living packed together is an emotionally or socially healthy state of existence. What I observed often in Maryland was that people tended to regard other people as obstacles or obstructions, and they behaved toward each other accordingly. And why shouldn't they? If you come into glancing contact with thousands of people each day--whether driving, walking, or shopping--then why should you see them as people when their needs get in the way of your needs? And what incentive is there to behave civilly? You're likely never going to see them again. I observed over and over again people making choices that were, at best, uncivil, unkind, and disrespectful and, at worst, dangerous or even life-threatening (like some of the shenanigans that are commonplace on the highways of the mid-Atlantic). I marvel that I wasn't killed driving to and from my school in Maryland. There were a lot of close calls, and I think: Do I want to live in a place where my life is worth less than some douchebag in a BMW getting home to his McMansion thirty seconds faster?

What was worse was that I found myself falling into the kinds of thoughts that made such behavior possible: not the outright dangerous stuff but the uncivil, misanthropic variety. I would find myself loathing the person who took what I deemed to be "too long" in the line in front of me--actively seeking something to hate about them, even if it was as petty as how they looked or dressed--because they were in my way or wishing harm on someone who cut me off in traffic. I was becoming hateful and I'm not that kind of person. But when you're elbow to elbow with other people--mostly strangers--day in and day out, how can you not become, to some degree, that kind of person? (I realize that some of it is my driven personality--the lion personality that I was angsting over the other week! It's also worth mentioning that I lived in what was considered a rural county in Maryland, so I did get a reprieve, but not enough it seems.)

Anyway, here it's different. People treat each other differently, with more consideration and kindness. I don't think I've once, since living here, been standing in line and thought, "What the fuck is taking this person so long?!" whereas that was a pretty common refrain in my head in Maryland. Life moves slower here because you can afford for it to. There's no traffic, and the vast majority of aggressive driving is limited to the tourists. (Bobby and I play the license plate game where we see a person driving like an ass and try to guess where they're from. 90% of the time it is either Massachusetts or Quebec--places packed with people, where interactions become competitive rather than cooperative and where the ratio of trees to humans is low.)

I love that independence and self-sufficiency is valued here, whether being able to care for oneself or our community, region, and state being able to provide for ourselves. Bobby and I had gotten pretty good at local sourcing in Maryland, but we spent half of our Saturdays some weeks running hither and thither to that market and that farm ... which is also not exactly the most eco-conscious choice when you consider the gas we were using in the process. We were unprepared for how much we could source locally--truly locally, within a short distance of our home. Our supermarkets here all sell local products, not to mention multiple smaller, specialized markets. There are very few chains here. Most businesses are locally or regionally owned. It is illustrative, for example, that one of the few chain restaurants we had--a Pizza Hut in Derby--is closing. No one is surprised. We have several excellent local pizza places here, so the attitude is why would we need a Pizza Hut? From Coventry, we can drive the same distance to go to Parker Pie, one of the top pizza restaurants in Vermont. Why wouldn't we?

Bobby and I have both found that we really fit here. We miss people in Maryland, and I miss the land itself, which is the land of which I was born and will therefore always be deeply connected to, but we do not miss the strip malls and McMansions and chain restaurants and stank attitudes and traffic and aggressive drivers and difficulty sustaining one's household in a way you find ethical because producing your own food is not seen as a basic right but it imposed upon my laws and zoning regulations and HOAs (which we didn't have in our neighborhood Maryland! over my dead body!!) and nosy, meddling people who complain just to complain. (Coventry, on the other hand, has no zoning laws at all and so is highly attractive to homesteaders.) We have both made friends here and feel like we belong. I sometimes think I must be dreaming, that a place like this can't really exist that values self-sufficiency and independence and a rural life and the environment and art and progressive politics--rarely do all of those things mix--but either I've been dreaming for eleven months now or it really is real.

It may well be that, over time, the small-townishness of where we live will get to me like the impersonal press of people once did--tonight at dinner, I saw two people from my school and our server knew of me from being friends with the teacher I replaced--but I actually like people here, and there is such a match with my values, that I have trouble seeing myself unhappy here the way I was rapidly becoming--maybe even was--unhappy in Maryland.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • Sounds like a terrific place to visit or even have a vacation home. But how do people who cannot operate a car or afford to own one live in a place with no public transportation? Speaking as someone with a disability (vision) that prevents them from driving I cannot even imagine.

    Interestingly enough, although I cannot say that this is still true now, there was no place in Mexico when I lived there, not even tiny rural hamlets in the mountains or jungles, that was not reachable by public transportation. Now shopping was another issue--but, like you, I don't like to shop.

    • We have Rural Community Transportation. A few of Bobby's students--who live in some of the more remote parts of our supervisory union--use it to get to and from school. Never having used it, I can't attest to how good of service they provide, but it's not like we're completely without options.

      I wish the U.S. had better public transportation all around. That is not just a rural issue: Baltimore had one light rail line and one metro line (and they went to most of the same places). DC had a fabulous metro system if you didn't mind paying the price of a decent dinner out to use it. We can blame the auto companies for the lack of public transportation. They paid cities to pull up their trolley tracks. (Baltimore once had an extensive trolley system. One hundred years ago, we could have taken the trolley from Ellicott City--where we lived when we first got married--to Baltimore easily. Today? We'd have to drive.)
      • It's bad everywhere. The town where I grew up does not even have a single taxi company in the entire town. When I was a kid, there were a few and if someone needed to use one (like my grandmother, at my age and with the same eye condition), it was generally a five minute wait.

        There were also trolley, bus services, and railway services throughout that entire area. Now there are two long distance buses that stop there daily which might take one somewhere with a larger bus station. But no local transportation.

        Transportation has kept me in NYC for at least the last five years and made me only able to consider other urban areas if ever seriously consider moving. There was an article in a local paper recently about older people who retired and left NYC and moved to Florida who are moving back because of transportation issues. Just my very narrow view of the world.
        • Likewise, there used to be a passenger train that ran to Newport, which is 12 minutes from our house. You know the dilemma: Waterbury (which is the most convenient Amtrak station to us) is over an hour away. The tracks that run to Newport are still in use--they run through the wildlife management area across from our house--but only for freight. A few freight trains go through each day, but I guess there is no demand for a passenger line to the northeast anymore.

          It matters for you personally, of course, but it's an issue I think everyone should care about. Not only because a lack of reliable public transportation (as always) burdens the most vulnerable people in our society but because all these people driving places when they could take a train or a trolley or a bus is terrible for carbon emissions. I'd much rather ride a train. I detest driving and love having my comfy seat and x number of hours to read and play on my computer minus the hassles and indignities of air travel or driving. Maybe when we get a railroad lobby that rivals the automakers and the oil/gas lobby.
          • I was riled up when I read the latest report by Stephen Hawkins that we only have 100 left to live on this planet. Cars have always been the scariest risk factor for me as the largest single source of air pollution and without air nothing else works. So I was sort of being a complete Chicken Little when I started this comment thread. I'm sorry! I did not mean to be obnoxious.
            • I didn't find it obnoxious. I think we agree, as far as I can tell. It's clearly possible to have a public transportation system that includes suburban and rural areas; we used to manage it here, and they manage it in Europe and elsewhere! I don't see how to make that happen, though, as long as monied interests control our political system. The best we can do are programs like RCT that are locally managed and supported by progressive organizations. (Now we're back to the local vs. systemic issue again! This is perhaps an illustration of why I don't think systemic change is possible under our current system, although I keep tilting at that windmill nonetheless. I doubt Vermont as a state would give a fuck about elders/people with disabilities in the NEK. Our statehouse sends frequent clear messages that they don't give much of a fuck about the NEK, and I don't see why this would be any different. Would the federal government care to implement a program to aid elders/people with disabilities access public transportation here? LOL OMG that's funny.)
              • Would the federal government care to implement a program to aid elders/people with disabilities access public transportation here? LOL OMG that's funny.

                OK. You made me laugh out loud! They did try that kind of thing once, my mother's generation, and worked really well--not transportation per se but Social Security, for example. So let's not try that kind of thing again!

  • very few people know how to make good iced tea up here. Most places--if they even have it--get it from a soda machine.

    Oh dear, that sounds dreadful.

    What a lovely, happy-making list. It really does sound like you've found "your place".
    • It's pretty gross. I drink it sometimes because I want something more than water but don't want alcohol, and I try my hardest to not drink soda.
  • Vermont sounds beautiful. Your description reminds me of Connecticut.
    • Likewise, western Maryland is very mountainous and isolated. (I'm guessing western Connecticut is similar? My husband and I joke around that Maryland and Connecticut are twin sisters separated at birth.) We often talked about moving out there until we discovered Vermont.
      • Heh, I have caught myself sort of picturing Connecticut as a slight cross between Maryland and Vermont while reading your posts, myself. (Not that I know Maryland or Vermont well enough to know how accurate that picture is!)
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