Archive for July, 2009

sister lovers / sister wives

July 22, 2009

If you really want to feel like it’s summertime, at least a certain kind of dark, anxious but still wonderful summertime, you should listen to some Big Star.


Alex Chilton is the adorable one on the right, the one that looks like your dorky friend who gets flushed and sappy when he drinks.  AND, this fantastic photo is by William Eggleston, who had a darkroom in Alex Chilton’s parents’ back yard in Memphis.

Have a sarcastic summer, everyone!


July 22, 2009

Well, it’s been considerably rainier than June, but summer is still summering along……..


I saw the Binghamton Mets trounce some Tigers farm team on the 4th of July.  Binghamton has one of those charming stadiums where trains go by during the games, leading to fantasies about home runs and open cars and other kinds of Americana.  Also, it’s nice to see a healthy crowd in Bing!

dog beach

I’ve also been spending time at the beach.  Lake Champlain is the perfect temperature in July.  Seriously!


The garden is doing really well and so far surviving most of the rain and hail.  Things are pretty weedy down in the bottom third (next year, I should just plant all that with corn), but there is a tiny tomatillo, my battles with insects seem to pretty much be a tie at this point, and we are REALLY starting to eat the benefits!


Summer vegetable salad: boiled new potatoes, purple and yukon; boiled beets (not in the same water); sliced scallions, dill, snap peas; olive oil, rice vinegar, salt and pepper

Some truly great news in the Free Press

July 15, 2009

I read yesterday that the state of Vermont is applying for $125.6 million dollars in federal aid to expand rail travel in the state.

Do you realize how fantastic this is?

They are going to try to make the Vermonter go faster — that’s the train that takes 10 hours to get to New York City.

They are also going to BRING RAIL SERVICE TO DOWNTOWN BURLINGTON and connect Burlington to Rutland, so that we can hop the super fast trains to New York and beyond.

Dudes, this is awesome!!!!!!!  Go for it, Vermont!!!!!

Is anything I can do to help make this happen?  Can you also add high speed service from downtown Burlington to Montreal?  It’s my dream!


The Quadricentennial and going through the motions

July 15, 2009

So, Burlington has had its festival commemorating the Champlain Quadricentennial —- meaning that 400 years ago in July 1609, Samuel de Champlain traveled down Petonbowk (the waters that lie between), making him the first European to set eyes on it.  Then he named it after himself.

Now, it is my understanding, from the big biography of Champlain that came out this year, that he was a pretty good guy, for an early European colonizer.  He spoke native languages, and was interested in collaborations and partnerships.

And, despite how very suspect the motives and urges of the Europeans who greedily came here were, to be fair, nobody had any idea how destructive the diseases they were carrying were going to be.

That was 300-500 years ago, and we can’t go back.

lake between

Big anniversaries of ambivalent and destructive events are really tough to figure out.  How do you commemorate something like this?  With seriousness?  With regret?  With celebration?

The celebratory commemoration is really a Victorian specialty — 100 to 150 years ago, every little town in Vermont was having a massive pageant to celebrate something or other.  In 1909 in Burlington, there was a massive pageant with Kahnawake Mohawks hired to paddle down the lake, reenacting Champlain’s historic visit (I learned this from a talk given by Kevin Dann last year, correct me if I’m wrong).  This was much easier to do in 1909, because all white people in Vermont knew for sure that all the Indians were long gone from the state.

Thankfully, 2009 is a tougher time for people to do something like that.  So Burlington assembled sort of a mish-mash of artists and musicians, some of whom were from Quebec and some from France.  There were some Abenaki and Iroquois artists in there too, as well as an Abenaki encampment.  And a parade.

I really support paying artists and musicians.  Paying artists is an excellent way to stimulate the economy.  Paying artists is also important for it’s own sake.

But if I had been in charge of the Quadricentennial, I would have mustered whatever ceremoniousness might have still be available to me from those repeating 09s and used it to make some serious commitments on behalf of the state of Vermont to Abenakis and other Native Americans here.

It would include official proclamations about history and responsibility.  It would include addressing poverty in the present.  It would include letting people label their crafts.  It would include not expecting people to show up and perform their culture for tourists for 10 days.  It would include admitting that we screwed things up in the intervale.  It would involve listening and asking questions and not hoping for a single spokesman for the “native perspective.”  It would involve a real pledge to be an ally on the state level and a supporter on the national level.  It might even involve giving up some land.

I would take all the money devoted to drinking beer and listening to music on the waterfront (you don’t have to put a million dollars toward people doing that! people are already doing that on their own dime!) and put it towards research and conservation.  I would commit to a bold environmental goal for the Lake Champlain region.  I would get a bunch of scholars to rigorously do the busywork and collaborate with native scholars and communities, researching and recording stories until we actually know a lot more about Vermont’s real history.  Because we don’t actually know that much.

That would be, I think, a commemoration that connects the past to the future.  Maybe they will let me do it in 2059.

Summer thunder power

July 6, 2009

Last Friday afternoon I had an insane and amazing experience, getting caught on the beach in a huge thunderstorm.


All day it was super hot and humid, lots of pressure building up.   We went out to our garden plot at Rock Point with a bunch of friends for a picnic and to work in the garden.  We weeded away, and then we walked out to Rock Point to swim.  Out there, the water was really choppy and we could see lightning to the north across the lake, so we walked back in and went down to Fred’s beach.  We left our bikes in the woods under a tree and walked onto the beach, just as it started to sprinkle.  I still thought we were on the edge of it, but it started to rain harder, and all of a sudden, it hit!  Crazy wind!  Rain!  Thunder and lightning!  Everyone was running around, wild.  All there was was the woods, the beach, the lake, and the storm.  Dale was running along the edge of the water, feeling the waves and rain whip up into his face.  You could see it coming down in sheets.  I ran back into the woods, trees creaking and cracking and branches coming down around me.  Clearly, the woods were the worst place for me to be.  I felt really scared, overwhelmed, excited, and exhilarated all at once.  I took off, sprinting down the beach away from the woods, running down the beach with the trees tossing all around until I reached the picnic shelter at North Beach.  There were a couple of other people caught under there, two scared little kids with their dad, teenagers, and a guy picking up cans and enjoying the storm, too.  We got cold under there, all wet, and did jumping jacks and rain dances to keep warm.  We waited and waited but the rain wasn’t really dying down, so we eventually just walked back to our bikes and our stuff in a pretty steady rain, and biked all the way home in a pretty steady rain.

I like being scared of the world.  I am glad that the weather is more powerful than me, and I like to be shown that. Especially together with a group of people I love, and in an insanely beautiful way.