Tag

silliness

Culture, Poetry & Fiction, U.S.

An Ode to Small Towns

In the spirit of Buzzfeed and the general ethos of blogging at present, I would like to begin this post with a list.

You know you live in a small town when…

1. Your customers for lunch show up at your other restaurant for dinner.

2. You run into your “regulars” all over town. They always seem surprised to see you.
3. Going grocery shopping consists of 2 parts socializing and 1 part buying food.

4. “Downtown” is Main Street.

5. Your yoga students show up for dinner, and your dinner customers show up for yoga.

6. When you walk into the local coffee shop, it takes 30 minutes to get to work, because you have to stop and greet everyone already there.

7. When you throw a party and invite people from various parts of your life, there is no need to make introductions.

8. Going to the “City” (Burlington) is an excursion you indulge in about once a month.

9. You expect greetings from strangers, and find it odd when people don’t say hello.

10. At least a couple times a week, someone you know drives past you as you’re walking to work and offers you a ride.

11. Everyone talks about their garden like most people talk about the weather.

12. No one calls you a hipster when they see you a. fermenting things, b. knitting or crocheting, c. baking, d. biking, or e. wearing flannel.

Soon-to-be homemade sauerkraut.
Above all, it is a small, small world when you live in a small town. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. On the one hand, I live for those coincidences and connections. On the other, I hate gossip, nosy neighbors and unattainable anonymity. For better, for worse, or for bizarre, I currently reside in Middlebury, Vermont, and that deserves a poetic tribute…

An Ode to Small Towns

Oh, small towns,
I can’t decide if I love or hate you.
You are full of people who compulsively read Front Porch Forum,
Scanning for nuggets of gossip to purloin,
or petty arguments to join.
Still, your characters rival those of the Big City—
Where else will my neighbor ride his tractor down the road,
Wearing a cowboy hat and white Santa beard as he goes?
Oh, small towns,
I can’t spend a day on your streets without running across a friend, or twenty-two.
If I have news in the morning,
They’ve all heard it by noon.
If I see Main Street I’ve seen all there is to see,
That is, everything but the dump, the gym, and the local brewery.
A night out with friends often ends with drinking tea.
Oh, small towns,
By your community I feel supported-
Strangers offer rides into town
When the rain is pouring.
Yet at the end of the day
When I look around,
I see all the same faces,
Hear all the same sounds.
What you lack in variety you make up for in warmth,
But even so, small towns,
I think my time with you must be short.
~
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Culture, U.S.

Oh, the Characters of Middlebury

One of my favorite things about working in restaurants is the unlimited entertainment potential of observing the characters that pass through. Middlebury, Vermont does not disappoint.
Once, in High School, I took a class in Nonfiction Prose. The first week, the teacher had us walk around the neighborhood, observe the people around us, and write a few character sketches. A few descriptive lines that form a verbal portrait. They can be straightforward or metaphorical, humorous or serious. In what seemed an apt metaphor at the time, and in retrospect more like poor judgment, I distinctly remember comparing my teacher to a baboon. Better choices have been made. Regardless, I love this exercise, and I would like to present to you some of the characters of the – Café. No names, of course, will be named.
~
M— is a tall, odd man. He almost always comes alone and almost always orders a hummus salad to very precise specifications. It is shocking when these two things are not the case. He wears a bucket hat and leans slightly when he walks. Though a bit withdrawn at first impression, M– proves quite garrulous on any subject when engaged. He does not like ice in his water, and he eats very, very slowly.
G—worked in the foreign service, but I would never have heard it from him. It took a long time for him to decide I was worth conversing with at all. He must have his soup piping hot and immediately. He comes for lunch with various friends. Last week, he asked me if I had seen any sea monsters lately in Otter Creek. I suspect he is hiding an eccentric sense of humor.
Mr. and Mrs. – are my favorite regulars. They are understanding, appreciative, and very sweet. They always drink iced tea—many, many glasses—and sit for a while.
C— sits at the bar and has a Switchback beer with his lunch. He might be in his seventies. He speaks gently, likes golf, and has a wife that I have never seen. We don’t have many things to talk about, but he is kind, pays in cash, and tips well.
J—and A—, whether they come separately or together, are strange and, in my opinion, wonderfully entertaining. They have raised friendly banter to an art form, and on a busy day it is best to avoid them as much as possible. On a quiet day, a conversation at their table is a great way to fill up time. J—is tall with very short hair, and always leans in to speak. He likes Caesar salad and sometimes quiche. A—has curly hair and an old, lumbering dog who waits outside.
Mr. and Mrs. A— are always very nice, and they always order the same thing. Always. I could tell you their exact order, but that might give it away. Inside, they like the table in the corner. Outside, the table against the wall. They like straws and lemons with their water, but they only sometimes use the straws. They never tip over 17%.
The I—‘s would be lovely if they weren’t so troublesome. An order for two can be a foot long with all of their additions, substitutions and peculiarities. They usually come for brunch, order more food than I think a person could eat, and finish it. They think the — Cafe is their private kitchen, and we do nothing to disturb this conviction.
The lawyers are very important people. They never have more than 50 minutes for lunch. They like their soups and salads first, and M—with the blonde hair must have her soup extra hot. With all that, they are surprisingly agreeable, and they never linger.
Mr. D—owns something in town. He is also a very important person. He likes his iced tea with no spoon in it. His lackeys drink soda, sometimes; they defer to him in all matters. There are usually four of them; only Mr. D— orders an appetizer. As far as I can tell, only Mr. D— speaks. He takes up twice as much space as those around him, in every sense of the phrase.
~
When I was little, and we had to eat at McDonalds on family road trips, I would order a cheeseburger without the burger. We called it a Toby Special. Now that I am not six years old however, one, I avoid McDonalds at all costs (along with the rest of my family), and two, I order off the menu. I can make myself a sandwich with no bread and nothing on it at home.
When work is slow and I have time to, I often wonder how people come to have such exact, particular peculiarities. Likes and dislikes. Demands. Needs. Are they born that way, or is it a byproduct of aging? Are they raised to need straws in their water with no ice, to demand that their soup be hot enough to give third degree burns, and to require, absolutely, that there be no trace of onion on their burger? Are we all so peculiar in our tastes, only more self-conscious of demanding their satisfaction? Do I just have lower standards? Were our parents less indulgent? Are “characters” just average people whose idiosyncrasies have gone unchecked? Possibly.

Or maybe, as my experience as a server indicates, idiosyncrasy is the norm, and those without restrictions, requirements and specifications are the exception. Maybe this pattern is a unique result of American culture and values. That seems likely, for in all the time I have spent outside the U.S., I have never seen someone order a sandwich without bread.*
~

*That is not to say there is anything wrong, necessarily, with ordering a sandwich without bread. It is simply interesting, and  maybe indicative of something, to observe the frequency of such requests.
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Asia

11 Things I Won’t Miss About Nepal

On the (almost) eve of my departure, I have prepared this short rant, lest you mistakenly believe that I liked everything about my home of the last 3.5 months. The things I will not miss about Nepal are:

1. The spitting. I don’t care if it’s culturally acceptable, hacking and spitting is still gross.
2. The dogs. I have never before felt absolute hatred for any dog, but when gangs are barking outside my window at four in the morning, I am far too sleep-deprived to feel anything else.
3. Specifically Lucky, SIT’s dog.
4. Being talked about in my presence. Yes, I mean you, homestay family. I might not understand everything you say, but I know when you’re talking about me!
5. The staring. It may be a cross-cultural phenomenon, doesn’t mean I have to like it. Besides, this is Nepal, I know I’m not that much of a novelty.
6. Load-shedding. Twice-daily power cuts on a rotating schedule. It certainly made me appreciate the luxury of constant electricity, but I won’t miss it.
7. Rice and potatoes. All the time.
8. The honking. Unneccessary.
9. The baby ladies (“please, my baby is hungry”) who borrow babies and will sell the milk you buy them back to the store and split the profits.
10. The pollution. Carbon emissions control?
11. Kathmandu’s Indian Embassy. Horrendous.

Next stop India!

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Asia, Poetry & Fiction

A Poem About Traveling

Hello from Sikkim! I present you with a brief poem I wrote about our journey here from Kathmandu…

A Poem About Traveling
Ready, set, sit wait stand stand bus sit airport stand
sit wait wait board sit sit land wait wait taxi sit
border wait wait wait jeep drive border wait wait drive
lunch! drive sit sit sit sit sleep bounce
sit bump sit bump sit bump border wait
tea! wait sit sit drive sit bounce sit breakdown
stop. drive stop drive stop drive sit sit
bump sit bump bump bump bump bump.
We made it.
What have I done for the last thirteen hours?

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Asia

Shit Buses Say

They crowd the streets of Kathmandu, barreling down the (undefined) center line at breakneck speed… it feels fast at least.  Painted in a fiesta palette of pinks, turquoises, greens and yellows, these buses sound their cartoon-like horns as they roam the twisting motorways of Nepal.  Many also bear some of the most entertaining, impossibly random English slogans you will ever read:

“You Hold A Special Palace in My Heart”

“Jesus Death 4 You”

“London Dreams”

“Seeking a New Girlfriend”

“See You–
No Time to Love”

“If You *Heart* Seafood You Will Be Popular”

“Speed Control”

“Sexy Boys”

“Jesus Travels”

“When I’m Rich You’ll Be My Bitch”

~
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The Goats of Nepal

Sometimes, words are inadequate. So without further ado, I bring you the Goats of Nepal…
(This is only the beginning; I will be adding to these photos throughout the semester.)

It’s a goat, standing on a cow!!

They’re not goats, but they’re super cute!

Goat in a door.
Goat in a basket.

Sikkimese goats!

Mustangi goats, coming home from pasture.

 Uploading pictures is proving far more difficult than expected. I am off on excursion/trek to Tsum for 17 days, but I will have lots of new and exciting things to share when I get back!

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