Tri-state Travel Wonders

We’ve spent the past week circling around the the confluence of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont.

On Sunday night we went to the last night of the 2002 season for the Northfield Drive-in, which is located exactly on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border between Hinsdale, NH and Northfield, MA. It was their annual Labour Day quadruple feature (Monsters Inc., Signs, Mr. Deeds and Reign of Fire: we stayed for the first three). It’s a wonderful drive-in, and possibly the one I’ve attended that best matches my memories of a “classic” drive-in from my youth: a large kids playground out front, lots of families with lawn chairs (some with barbeques who came early for dinner) and a genuine cross-section of people from goth teens to huge families. Their projection building and canteen were in an interesting location, much closer to the screen than most and sunk down almost underground. Best canteen server I’ve ever received, anywhere.

On Tuesday we passed through the same eye of the same needle on our way to North Adams, Massachusetts, which is the unlikely home of MassMOCA — the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. North Adams is an otherwise decaying mill town (think Bangor, Maine) in far-western Massachusetts that has been somewhat revitalized by the founding of a funky art museum in the shell of the abandoned factory buildings in its downtown core. The spaces are huge, and so offer themselves well to the exhibition of huge pieces of art. I’m not an “art guy,” at least in the goatee sense, but I was awed and impressed. Well worth a day trip from the Boston area if you’re in New England.

By virtue of our tri-state follies, we’ve been in Brattleboro, VT twice this week (and I’m on my way there after I post this, as my friend Stephen is taking the train north from Brattleboro to Montreal this evening). Brattleboro is a weird, weird town. If you’re travelling from the east, it’s the gateway to Vermont, and it certainly plays that role well, especially if you consider the liberal food-loving part of the Vermont gestalt.

Our first meal was at an Indian restaurant. Not a great meal, and the service was severe. But nice to have dal and currie in the middle of our travels. Our second meal, two days later, was at an all-organic Asian-inspired restaurant run by the same people who used to run Latacarata in Peterborough, New Hampshire. All organic means all-organic, from the meat to the vegetables to the wine. I had the “Zen Meal” from the menu, a $16 set of entrees served in a Japanese bento box; there were snow peas served with sesame seeds, some tasty dumplings, rice with seasoning, several variations of tofu, and a very clean tasting squash soup. The service was delightful — even with Oliver having an infant nervous breakdown freakout through much of the meal — and the meal ranks high on my lifelist.

Before we left Brattleboro we stopped by the Brattleboro Cooperative grocery store, which is a cooperative in the “locally, cooperatively owned and run” sense, not the “owned by a pretend cooperative based in Halifax” sense that we are used to in Charlottetown these days. It was, quite simply, the grocery store of grocery stores, and almost enough to make us think of picking up and moving to Brattleboro. Another place worthy of a stop if you’re in the area, if only to get ideas for your home community.

Tomorrow I’m off to Quincy, Mass and Nashua, NH for a server relocation, Saturday’s our last day on the lake and Sunday we begin our trek home to the Island.

David Bierk, 1944-2002

In the late 1980s I had a small office on George St. in Peterborough, Ontario above Kelsey’s Nutrition Centre.

I shared the office with an 80 year old sculptor who smoked very pungent cigars and only came in to work once or twice a month. Our shared space was filled with cragly nudes and vats of clay, and at the back of the room was a small washroom, the only one on the floor.

At the front of the building on our floor was a huge open well-lit space that was the studio of painter David Bierk. I knew David by reputation — he was one of the founders of Artspace, an artist-run centre in the city, and several friends of mine had works of his in their homes. David pretty much kept to himself, as did I, and we only really saw each other when he came back to get water from the washroom we shared.

My strongest impression from those times was from David’s stereo: Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat had just come out, and David listened to it. And listened to it. Over and over and over and over. He must have loved it. Oddly, this didn’t bother me, and I love the album myself to this day.

David Bierk died this week of cancer. I heard the news from my friend (and former Peterborough resident) Ann, and only knew that David had been ill at all just this morning from my friend Stephen, who lives in Peterborough and was on the crew that worked on the studio that replaced that floor on George Street for David — another large space just down the street.

May he rest in peace.

Drool Flood

As he has almost every other time we’ve flown, Oliver’s developed a wee cold in the days after our flight from Seattle to Manchester. The result is a flood of drool, but otherwise few other ill effects.

We are settling in to New England lakeside life nicely, finding places to buy bread and milk, discovering where the coffee and ice cream are good and so on. And, of course, negotiating the proper balance between Quality Family Time and Quality Work Time.

We found a “Type II” PFD for Oliver today (at Wal-Mart — $7.50) that claims to keep the infant head out of the water. Tomorrow we’ll try it out. Lifejackets and PFDs here in the USA all have a very helpful Coast Guard brochure attached to them, when aided us greatly in choosing the right one for Oliver; we would do well to emulate this in Canada.

It’s the middle of the off-year election season here in New Hampshire and, with the Governorship up in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the television is full of attack ads, counter attack ads, “we promise not to attack” ads and so on. Every street corner is festooned with placards, talk radio is full of politics, and the papers are full of opinion page opinions on school taxes, income taxes and property taxes.

Tomorrow we’re off to northern New Hampshire to rendezvous with my old friend Stephen Southall who is being dumped in Littleton by his burly athletic buddies in transit from Newfoundland to Peterborough, Ontario. Maximum Fun will ensure, I’m sure.

PFD vs. Lifejacket

Being as we are here in the heart of the Monadnock region, a veritable vacation paradise, and that we are staying in a house on a lake that is equipped with various recreational boats, it seemed like a wise thing to invest in a lifejacket for wee Oliver.

So before we drove down we went off to Canadian Tire and bought a solid looking Buoy-o-Buoy brand lifejacket.

And last night we decided it would be wise to try Oliver out in the lifejacket to see what would actually happen were he to fall out of a boat and need the lifejacket to keep him, well, alive.

We were not pleased with the result: left to its own devices, the Oliver + lifejacket combination resulted in an Oliver face down in the water. This is not a Good Thing and, I assumed, not what a lifejacket is actually supposed to do.

So I phoned Buoy-o-Buoy in Guelph, Ontario and talked to a very helpful woman who explained the situation.

We had not, as it turned out, purchased a lifejacket at all, but rather a PFD. I always thought that a PFD — it stands for personal floatation device — was some bureaucrat’s semantic reinvention of the word lifejacket. But I was wrong: a PFD is not a lifejacket.

A PFD, it seems, is simply designed to help an otherwise fully-functioning person float. A lifejacket, on the other hand, is designed to roll you over onto your back and thus to keep your face out of the water.

Which is obviously what we want to have happen with Oliver.

So we’ll be off in search of a bona fide life jacket (Buoy-o-Buoy sells them too) and we’ll try that out with Oliver to see if the result is any better.

If you’ve got a wee one of your own you may wish to check to see what sort of lifejacket or PFD you’re using before you take them on the water: you may be surprised.

27 Hops from Home

As I type this, I’m dialed into my Earthlink account from the Holiday Inn Express in Seattle. For some reason known only to the Packet Gods, traffic from here to my own server gets routed from Seattle to Portland to San Fracncisco to San Jose to Palo Alto to Sacramento to New York to Montreal to New Brunswick and finally to Charlottetown. 27 hops in all. And at the end of a slow modem connection, it’s like computing through thick jello. At least I can take some solace from the fact that my packets are travelling through most of the North American cities where exciting tech stuff was born; perhaps some of this will rub off?

Johnny and Jodi’s wedding went off without a hitch (well, okay, the wedding cake did fall over, which is technically a hitch), and we really enjoyed ourselves. We took the ferry from Nanaimo down to Vancouver this morning, and then drove down to Seattle this afternoon.

A note on the ferries: the Washington State Ferries trip we took from Anacortes to Sidney was much more pleasant than the BC Ferries trip we took today in almost all respects. Washington accepts online reservations and then deducts your reservation fee from your fare; BC Ferries simply tacks an extra $15 on your fare to let you reserve. Washington has an excellent, information-rich website, whereas the BC Ferries site is confusing and hard to navigate. The Washington ferry was clean, well serviced, and had plenty of seating; the BC ferry was dirty, smelly, had about 2.3 times more people than seats, and a 30 minute wait to even get into the cafeteria. If you’re going from Seattle to Vancouver Island by ferry, I’d highly recommend the Anacortes to Sidney routing.

Johnny and Jodi are off to Zurich on Tuesday morning for a well-deserved honeymoon, vacation and reunion with Jodi’s nannypast. Catherine and Oliver and I are in Seattle on Monday for random jangling around, then back to Harrisville, NH for 10 days for a sort of working vacation in New England.

More as the situation develops.