"Se la Pietra Sapesse Parlare"

I did drive over to Barre this evening to see this film. The Labor Hall was packed, mostly with older folks that could remember some of the earlier times depicted in the film, but there were a smattering of all ages in attendance. When the film covered well-known local characters and events the crowd would twitter in recognition. Barre's kind of hurting (depressed downtown, major crime and drug issues, no money, etc.) but it was nice to be in a place with a real palpable sense of local history, if only for an evening.

The Labor Hall is looking for volunteers and maybe I'll contact them to see what opportunities exist, it might be interesting to spend time poking through the archives... anarchism, socialism, etc., themes that appeal to me, and it would put my fancy (and kind of useless) BA to some use.


Birds of a (colorful) feather

I had to go the hardware store yesterday and bought an inexpensive bird feeder (a clump of sunflower seeds held together with honey and gelatin, if there are any bears waking up hungry in the woods... I may have something larger than songbirds in my backyard) and it worked like a charm, the goldfinches hadn't been around until I put this out.

Things are slowly greening up here but it is a very slow process, I have some bulbs that have come up, but still no flowers yet.


I'll fly away

There's no particular reason post this here now; it was taken around Christmas in RI. This image is what resulted after driving a large SUV (not my vehicle) through a flock of seagulls in a parking lot by the sea, camera in hand.


Red Star over Barre

There are a couple of events early next week at the Labor Hall in Barre to commemorate "May Day" which in this day and age seems kind of neat -- and also old fashioned and incroguous in this era of globalization, mass layoffs, and grossly excessive 'executive compensation.' Maybe I'll drive over on Monday night to check out the film that is being shown.

Monday: BARRE-Se la Pietra Sapesse Parlare (If Stone Could Speak) World premiere of film about Italian immigration to Barre. Sponsosored by Barre Hist. Soc. Labor Hall, FREE, 7pm.

Tuesday: BARRE-Primo Maggio. Italian dinner, cash bar, speaker Rudolph Vecoli on "Origins & History of the Workers' Holiday." Spons. by Barre Hist. Soc. Labor Hall, $18, 6pm.

The dinner on Tuesday might be fun as well, but I will probably go to this event instead:

MONTPELIER: Author Crystal Zevon. Reading/signing "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon." Bear Pond Books, free, 7pm. Info. 229-0774.

(Suddenly, Vermont, specifically Barre, is Zevon country, Jackson Browne is playing 2 sold out shows as a benefit for Ariel Zevon's organization, and ex-wife Crystal has a memoir out, which is reviewed here (also covered in the Free Press) and is also local. Tenderness on the block...)



From the field behind my condo tonight, finally signs of life, it is noticeably colder here than in the Champlain Valley where I used to live, so even at the end of April, plants are just starting to come to life.


Top Down

Just an image to serve as a reminder of spring, from the classic car show in Stowe last September. I dimly remember my father owning a MG (British racing green, but a hardtop) at one point in the very distant past which seems a little out of character as he was/is a pretty practical guy.

This photo was taken on a very bright day and when my camera was quite new... a rather awkward combination. The electronic displays are very hard to read in very bright light, so it was a matter of pointing at an object and hitting the shutter button and hoping that the image would come out OK. I still have the same problem but I am more familiar with the device so I get slightly better & more consistent results.


The glacier has melted, but there's still snow in the High Peaks

There has been snow in my dark and rather damp little patch of front yard since the Valentine's Day blizzard. As of today, however, it is finally GONE. Good riddance, winter came late but seemed to last a long time.

I climbed Algonquin in the Adirondacks yesterday with Ongyel. It started out as a hike, became a fun adventure, then evolved into a misadventure, which in turn became a serious situation in a very remote spot, but from which we finally extricated ourselves. It was a very long day for me as I left the house at 5:45 am and returned at 11:30 pm, tired, sore and chastened.

Colden, Marcy, Gothics, Giant, etc.

Me, eating lunch and looking out over the void.

An innocuous looking "Spruce Trap". These figured prominently in our difficulties.

I'll put together a post later that describes the situation in more detail. We were lucky to get off the mountain in one piece, and I have to say, that it was 100% my idea, to venture out there, which proved to be an extremely unwise thing to do.


Not much happens round here

... I have proof. With my usual flair for the dramatic, this was supposed to capture birds eating sunflower seeds on the patio while I was at work. However, now that the snow is finally gone I think they have better things to do (sex?). And yet when I woke up this morning, the sunflower seeds were all gone, something came by in the night and helped themselves.

If nothing else it's worth hearing the 'soundtrack' which was recorded separately.

I will be hiking in the Adirondacks tomorrow with Ongyel, who is leading the trek to Nepal in the fall, we should bring back some pictures, it is supposed to be a spectacular day. I have visions of Algonquin and Colden, I have climbed both mountains before, but not on the same day, and not when there is snow.

Ashamed to be a man

In the late 90s I worked at Together Networks, one of the employees was Laura Winterbottom, she was a very quiet person who kept to herself and I don't recall ever speaking with her at length. Eventually the company broke up and I didn't hear of her again until her brutal murder shocked Burlington a few years ago. Her attacker was, of course, male.

Then in August 2006 some guy got pissed off at his ex-girlfriend in Essex, Vermont and went on rampage at an elementary school, killing two teachers. Again, the perpetrator was male.

And, last autumn, Michelle Gardner-Quinn, a student at UVM, walked back to campus (a matter of a few blocks) from downtown with a guy... and was raped and murdered. The perpetrator was a man who preyed upon women. There are other local examples I could cite (Patricia Scoville, raped and murdered while bike riding in Stowe... etc.).

There isn't a direct connection between these brutal acts and the recent random violence at Virginia Tech, except when news of a shooting on campus started to show up online... I knew it was a male carrying this out. Women don't seem to act this way.

And, looking at Iraq, the people both inciting the violence, and carrying it out... are male as well.

All this makes me kind of numb. I feel a kind of collective guilt, shame and I doubt myself in my interactions with others -- particularly women. What is it about the male experience that makes random violence part of the equation? Is the sex that good? Or is the lack of sex so bad and frustrating? How did Cho Seung-Hui scramble the synapses in his brain... did he choose to submerge himself in flickering unreal images of violence? Who knows.

All I know is that it's just another day of tragedy and that it does change both how I view myself as well the larger world -- I find that I expect bad things to happen, if something larger than September 11 were to happen, I think I would respond with 'well, it's not like we didn't see this coming'. On both a micro and a macro scale there seems to be a whole a lot negative energy and ill will in the world today.


Faint signs of spring

...finally. I planted one small clump of bulbs after Thanksgiving and it looks like they survived the winter and are starting to push through the cold damp loam. This photo was taken Sunday, this morning these shoots are covered with a new layer of slushy snow, but it won't last long if the forecast for the coming week is correct.

Feed the birds: Some salted, roasted sunflower seeds drew a satisfied customer in the rain.


Gods of procrastination

I really got remarkably little done yesterday. I had some work (as in my Monday-Friday 40+ hours/week job) to do at home which I started but didn't finish and I still have to do my pain in the @ss Vermont taxes and file the whole package. Instead of doing anything productive (and necessary) I spent the day watching old Sopranos episodes (the Stowe library has seasons 1 - 4), aimlessly being online, and playing with my camera. Above is a shot of the windowsill in my kitchen, a Ganesh, two Buddhas, a rock from the Adirondacks and a porcelain figurine that was included with a box of tea, quite an oddly sentimental collection.

Today I must do what I didn't complete yesterday but still the motivation is lacking, perhaps the atrocious weather -- more mixed snow and rain -- is affecting me. And instead of attending to the tasks on hand I am busy blogging and following Paris-Roubaix on cyclingnews.com.

Finally getting around to finishing my taxes did make me think of Henry David Thoreau and how paying taxes can be seen as acquiescing to the way things are here now. On a Federal level I'm sure my tax payment wouldn't cover even a fraction of some guided munition being expended daily in Iraq or for 15 minutes of treatment for some badly wounded soldier being put back together at Walter Reed hospital. I'm really disgusted by the lack of debate about the cost of the current war -- in both lives and money: Fat and happy in the USA at war. On a local level, Vermont will not implement a SMALL tax on 'gas guzzlers' (re: SUVs) because heaven forbid that there be some disincentive to own a large, heavy, dangerous to others, environment degrading vehicle. And attempts to raise the gas tax (which would be used to pay for transportation infrastructure, not to mention disincenting people from driving, and encouraging shorter commutes, less sprawl, etc.) are verboten as well.... I really think that it will take a catastrophe for people to change, subtly doesn't cut it.


Naturally curly red hair

My sister -- she lives in southern Maine -- visited me the day before Easter which was nice, I missed my mom's Easter dinner as I was in Montreal. It was a fun visit and was the first time she had seen my new place. Her daughter, my niece, is a very cute and precocious child and I made a short video, it's really intended for family, but hey, it's not like this blog has a huge readership, and part of having a site like this, is foraging for 'content', so here it is. There is a red hair gene floating around somewhere in my family background, and the curls must come from the father's side...

Close readers of this blog (I doubt any such personages exist) will note that the art on the wall has been previously featured here and here. The post I wrote about having a Bumbeck painting is probably the most popular single page on the site, for some reason, there are fairly frequent Google searches for "Stefan Bumbeck".


Another six inches

(sounds like the title of a cheap porn movie)

But no, it's not a tawdry skin flick, it's yet more snow. The snow is unusual and the sustained cold at this time of year is even more so; winter doesn't seem to be in any hurry to go away. So here are just some prosaic images out my front door this morning.


Waterbury: Memories of the sun

It's kind of a cliché, but:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

-- The Waste Land

There hasn't been much in the way of 'spring rain' lately, spring snow is more like it. Today another sloppy winter storm is moving in with mostly snow, and there have not been many soft warm sunny spring days so far... a string of cold gray days that has felt more like mid March than April. Fortunately I have been busy and hence have not noticed the weather much.

These photos were taken on March 31st, which was a kind of a tease, it was cool but absolutely clear, I spent some time wandering around town with my camera. Even though I have lived here for more than six months I am still getting to know the area. I know that these images have no particular merit as I am still learning how to get the best images out of the camera. I have found that it seems to perform best in these conditions -- strong daylight.


Montreal: Easter in the cold gray city

I spent Easter in Montreal with my girlfriend. Winter has returned, it was gray and cold. On Easter Sunday we just walked down St. Catherine's in the afternoon as there wasn't too much going on; ducking into coffee shops, news stands and finally an Irish pub to get warm as needed.

I figured that Chinatown would be going full blast in spite of the holiday and this was very much the case, it was strange to be walking through shops selling the best of bric-a-brac from the East (where does this stuff come from?). We had dinner at a little hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant and then went to a play at the Centaur Theatre.

All in all it was a pretty fun trip but walking around on pavement for the better part of two days did make me appreciate the muddy hiking paths near my home in Waterbury. I also noticed that I looked at the surrounding small Vermont mountains with a new perspective on my drive to work yesterday after wandering through the city with its highrises and cold dirty winds whistling through the public spaces.

I lugged my camera around for the whole trip but didn't really use it very much due to the unpleasant weather. Maybe next time...

Guy selling photographs in the Old Port

Small souvenir of the trip


Stalking breakfast

This bird looks quite intent on the task at hand. I know this blog is fast becoming just a random collection of not very interesting snapshots (not that anyone cares) but I have been too busy to sit down and write much lately.

I did succeed in doing my federal taxes last night and I discovered that all of my carefully hoarded receipts from moving were of no use to me at all, according to the IRS, a move has to be more than 50 miles to be deductible.... hmmph, that is frustrating. Also I was having visions of redoing my kitchen -- which is old, and not that attractive -- with my refund... maybe I'll just buy a new coffeemaker instead. That would be more in the budget with the amount I'm getting back.


Winter, resurrected

All signs of spring to date were just a tease; it has been a wet week that steadily became progressively colder and now there is several inches of new wet snow on the ground. This isn't at all unusual but what normally happens is that the sun comes out and the snow disappears very quickly. The cold is supposed to last through the holiday weekend so the snow isn't going anywhere.

I will be spending Easter in Montreal and am hosting a small dinner gathering tomorrow evening, and I MUST do my taxes, which will probably put a crimp in blogging for a while.


The real "Midnight Modern Conversation"

For reasons that I will not go into here, I was given a print of Hogarth's painting (slightly different from the engraving) Midnight Modern Conversation. I had the print framed at Axel's Frame Shop in Waterbury (excellent service!) and it now hangs over the table in my condo. I don't, however, usually end up drunk and rolling on the floor, as depicted in the painting.



After a nice weekend the weather has turned cold, rainy and foggy, the kind of days that make me glad that I have a job to go off to. So here is another splash of color on a gray cold day -- and the forecast mentions the chance of accumulating snow later this week. This was taken at the Stowe Farmers Market last September.

Other photos in this sequence: Blue (& also here) and yellow.



It really doesn't take too much to amuse me sometimes. I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon stalking the crows that hang out in my condo complex with my camera. They are pretty ballsy, cocky birds; they strut around and make lots of noise.

Really high mountains

It's funny how unintended consequences can play out. Earlier in this double zero decade I was on a professional roller coaster involving many quite unpleasant situations. This in turn led me to enroll, on the State of Vermont's dime, in a very short professional certificate program at Champlain College. My role in this was really very passive, I was not seeking to go back to an undergraduate environment at that particular point in time, but the opportunity presented itself, so off to school I went...

I wasn't working so I took two classes on campus in the daytime; I figured that there would be at least some adult students in the classes. This, however, proved not be the case at all, I was vastly older than my classmates, which made it a very peculiar -- but not negative, just strange -- experience. One of my classmates at Champlain was a guy named Ongyel Sherpa who was originally from Nepal but who had come to Burlington though the efforts of a local optometrist who was involved in voluntary eye care efforts in the Himalayan region.

Anyway Ongyel -- his family has a long history of involvement with trekking and mountaineering in Nepal -- asked me if I wanted to do some hiking so we snowshoed up Mt. Mansfield one February day. Then in 2006 we drove over to Conway NH and climbed Mt. Washington together on a great March day, it was warm and there was no wind, very unusual conditions for that mountain.

Earlier this year Ongyel emailed that he was organizing a three week trekking trip to Nepal in October 2007 and "did I have an interest in going?". After giving it a little thought I said "sure". I am usually pretty frugal and for a long time my idea of a vacation was a weekend jammed into a room at a Motel 6 at a bike race somewhere with other racers. But I turned 40 a couple of years ago and I figure that you can't take it with you: It's hardly now or never but I would like to do this sort of thing now while I am still willing to put up with a certain level of privation and discomfort.

I'm not sure if trekking -- it's not really mountaineering, and anyway I think that a lot of climbing these days is a sport for bored rich people (got a spare $100K? Go climb Everest...) -- is my ultimate vacation but I am looking forward to the trip. I hope I don't end up marching around Nepal with hordes of Eurotrash tourists for 2+ weeks but it will be a chance to live in a really dramatic landscape without all the trappings (hopefully) of American suburban living. It will be a chance for me to experience another culture (and the 'Third World'), see some really high mountains and take lots of pictures.