So while I have not seen your faces, or that many faces of anyone at all, I wonder how many faces you have seen? The healthy safe requirement is 6ft, not acres stuck up in your house. This time makes me curious, are we no longer social creatures?
Is the virtual experiences we receive through Netflix, Fortnight, and Facebook plenty. Maybe there is some truth to the supposition that the little grey aliens with big heads and fingers are, in reality, us coming back from the future. Why, what do we need with tall muscular bodies if all we do is sit in front of a box and exercise our mind and fingers. Is that future fine with you?
How many of you have looked up a good friend you have not seen in a while and relished in their company. I was hoping more of us will, but I fret it is not so. Maybe there is still hope, it has been winter in which is a time we tend to shut ourselves away from each other. Partly due to a hibernation itch that is brought on when the sun chooses to hide for several months each year. Is it the weather; just not warm enough to enjoy the great outdoors?
Well in 2 days I get to see another batch of strangers, some faces will be familiar, as the state parks reopen in NJ. I will head back to Double Trouble State Park and ply my flute on those who pass by for a smile or a conversation. Though I find myself in the most densely populated state in the country, I find few besides these hikers who make a pretense of being sociable. I met a few who will stop and talk, but rare are the few who follow up with a call after an exchange of numbers happen. Maybe this will have changed as the park reopens.
Sometimes you restrict something and the desire for it grows. You restrict a rubber band’s desire to be at rest and it snaps against the pull you place upon it. Has this forced isolation forced people to be social once more, probably not. Once all of these restrictions are removed we will, like lemmings, just throw ourselves off the social cliff back into our jobs and commute. We could of found a silver lining in this virus to end the ten-year social virus we have lived through, but in truth, we will live the life of the frog in the slowly boiled pot.
There are times when you wish for someone to prove you wrong and this is my time.
So when I was little we would travel back to my mother’s home town of Norseville, NJ and visit my Aunt Donna and Uncle Bob. My mother was raised with Donna since the crib. Their parents were good friends, almost like sisters. So when they had kids they raised us together since the crib, well at least till we all reached our teens.
Whenever we visited them it was like an open house with friends and family walking in at all ours up to the wee hours of the morning. There was always a game of Yahtzee or Scrabble to be had. This was the same neighborhood where they would leave a pot of coffee on the stove and the kitchen door open for visitors while they were out and the local church always had a skating night, bowling night, dance, or fair to get people together. At this time having a family and working was nothing that could stop people from spending time with one and another.
So this March was Bob’s and Donna’s 50h anniversary so we traveled to Moneta, VA to see them. Their kids and spouses put together a surprise party for them which left these two speechless. Good people, good food, and music were had and created some great memories these two would cherish for the rest of their lives. People from all over the east coast ventured to this affair. Then after it all, we got to sit with them for a more intimate gathering. Much like the old days. Stories were passed along, including some embarrassing toddler stories they shared about me.
Then they welcomed our other old friends from my old neighborhood that were living nearby in Lynchburg, VA. Lynn and Don Wirth were Cub Scout leaders for our neighborhood. Their two sons Shaun and Robin along with myself learned a lot from these two great people. Meeting them at Bob’s and Donna’s was the first time I and my parents have seen them in almost 30 years. Don was always the same gentlemen who always reminded you about something extraordinary that you did before he was going to say hi. I found out he shared my expertise and spirit as a goalie with his students in the classes he taught within various war colleges. Col. Don Wirth was Delta Force and the logistics expert for General Norman Schwartzkopf Jr. for the Gulf War. I also found out that he was the president of the martial art style I was trained in. My Sensei Comparato was the Grandmaster and Don was right below him in Kosho Shorei Ryu Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu. Go figure…
Then we went to Charlottesville, VA and I visited some wonderful stores. Locals call it C’ville. The town had a great pedestrian shopping area with a central lane and several side streets extending from it. This central lane was part of Three Notch’d Road which was named by the three notches in the tree used to mark it. A young Virginian named Jack Jouett was woken by a passing British cavalry sent to capture the Virginian legislature including Gov. Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Nelson, Jr., and Benjamin Harrison V. Jouett rode on the Three Notch’d Road to bring warning to Jefferson at Monticello prompting them all to flee to Charlottesville to hide in Jouett’s father’s Swan tavern before escaping again on Three Notch’d Road over the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Originally Charlottesville was a Monacan village called Monasukapanough. Colonialists later name Charlottesville for Charlotte Sophia, consort of King George III of England. It grew as a tobacco-trading point and later became famous as the home of presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe and explorers Meriwether Lewis and George Rogers Clark. Orange, located 26 miles (42 km) northeast of the city, was the hometown of President James Madison. The University of Virginia, founded by Jefferson and one of the original Public Ivies, straddles the city’s southwestern border. Today it is the home of the Virginia Festival of the Book. Which unfortunately got canceled because of covid 19 scare. Please help them out if you can to cover cancellation costs and still visit the various bookstores in Charlottesville that depend on sales from the festival to continue each year in business.
The many shops I visited were 2nd Act Books owned by the gracious Daphne, Rock Paper Scissors where Mara was a great help providing me with some great stationery, Anna was great (who was a Conan fan) at Telegraph Art & Comics where they had some great illustrated books about The Dark Crystal, Then New Dominion Bookshop just had a wonderful looking store, then the woman at the Blue Whale Books was wonderful and I wish her arm much healing, then Maggie was just full of whimsy at Alakazam Toys, and great old-world hospitality and food was to be had at Blue Ridge Country Store. At the end of the lane in between all of these shops was a low long wall which invited people to put a little art on it. Many chalk drawings were added to it by a bunch of little scampers. Also make sure you visit Ike’s Underground, for he is truly the most interesting and helpful character out of the whole bunch I had met.
Afterward we went to Little Lake VA to visit our cousins Elmarry and Charles. We had a great meal at a local Italian restaurant and headed back to their place to catch up. Charles introduced me to a Photoshop alternative for the iPad called Affinity, and Elmarry introduced us to the BBC comedy Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Now Elmarry’s mother Eleanor was my Grandmother’s sister who used to check out our muscles as we were growing up to see if we had a grape or grapefruit… Eleanor was the shortest of the sisters who would go galavanting at the nightclubs dancing up a storm in the roaring 20s. They had fast cars and would spend many afternoons on the polo field. Plus I believe they were all over 6ft.
Their father might have been the son of Edward H. Hulton Sr. who created the 2nd largest newspaper chain in England. Their father might of told his father to go to places and moved to America where he ran the print shop for JH Tooker Print Co. printing Broadway, silent, and talkie posters including Gone with the Wind. There was a Horror movie poster show presented by Kirk Hammet of Metallica at the PEM in Salem MA. The first poster in the show I had seen could of been printed by my great grandfather. It was a poster for the lost Lon Chaney film London After Midnight.
Edward Hulton the Younger (who my great grandfather started out to be) supposedly stayed in England and became a Baronette, but he really was a Mr. Lytham that Edward Hulton the Elder met at the track. A year after my great grandfather left for America there was someone running the papers in his name and his father had died. At one time Mr. Lytham offered my great grandfather the family fortune, but he refused it saying he was the Hulton’s here and they were the Hulton’s there. Lytham died within the month after his return to England. This was after he sold the papers from under the England Hulton’s to a Lord Beaverbrook who was a Nazi sympathizer. Edward Hulton III in England became famous for The Picture Post magazine and as a character in All Creatures Great and Small as Lord Hulton.
Why did I sidetrack into family history? History is important. It tells us where we came from. It gives us a map of events and people that should not be forgotten. It leads us sometimes back on track. Like the road of Three Notch’d Road it preserves us. It links us to a series of logic. For example, how can you understand the modern car fully if you don’t understand the horse carriage it was based on? Sometimes important stuff gets forgotten that we should find again. I use an old bronze razor that sets up my beard nicely because it holds the heat from the faucet; why are we using plastic razors now that don’t? Family history preserves us. Ideas like a community that gathered around a church that went beyond religion, leaving a pot of coffee behind for friends, inviting your close friends into your home as aunts and uncles of your children, taking hikes, meeting at social clubs, dancing, and smiling are all things I learned from my family that made a recipe for the communities they lived in. So I don’t think it was a bad sidetrack at all.
Then again as I travel around the country looking for community, I will bet you a turnip or two that I will find many sidetracks. Sidetracks can be profound. My Uncle Al made a sidetrack that helped bring about Yogi Bear! My great Grandfather brought us movie posters for Gone with the Wind, Cabin in the Sky, and touched a mystery about a lost movie, after he brought the daily news to England through his Daily Dispatch. His father had a sidetrack from being a compositor at the Manchester Guardian printing his own newspaper about the horses at the track till he got fired and met a sheep dealer who set him up with his own newspaper. The sidetrack brings you into strange connections. My grandfather Captain Ralph Dowgin (NJ State Trooper) worked for Norman Scwharzkopz Sr. after a trooper suggested that he sidetrack from the practical jokes that were going to end him in jail and my den leader Mr. Wirth ( Presidential appointed Col. Army) was sidetracked into a dark warehouse that in time led him to work for Norman Schwarzkopz Jr. Who knows where a sidetrack will bring you and what impacts they might have. My grandfather led to Christine Whitman’s political career and Mr. Wirth planned the victory in the Gulf War. But, the biggest sidetrack and connections I wish upon my journeys is, to connect us to one another again. Wishing we all can see each other as much as Fred and Barney did, which my Uncle Al helped bring about.
I have lived on the North Shore of Boston, mostly in Salem, for almost thirty years. While there I have made over 5,000 good friends. Salem was a very walkable town in which a fifteen-minute walk could take up to an hour or more. Every fifteen feet there was another friend and another conversation. In the early 90’s there was a community of a few hundred, between the ages of 21 and 60, that would gather to dance and listen to some of the finest live music in the country. Just in Salem, we had 12 venues within walking distance and about 7 others within a 10-minute drive. In any of these places, you were guaranteed to see at least 50 familiar faces. Planning your day was not necessary, you could just walk out the door and know you were to meet someone you knew and have a grand time.
Then beyond the public sphere, we would entertain each other in our houses with holiday parties and gatherings just to share food and conversation, just because. Ivan would drop a side of beef in my fridge the night before and a case of Nantucket Nectars. Then we would invite 20 people out of a group of 50 that would rotate through for his dinners. He would cook and I would entertain and clear. Many people would stop and chat Ivan up when he was cooking, but he was doing something he loved. Especially since he did not have to fly out into the pasture and butcher a stolen cow in Bolivia like his old group of friends would do. Drinking some malty dark ales and my homebrewed melomel, mead brewed with fruit juices, the conversations just flowed. Then I held the annual Jul time Glog Party where they would bring something goofy to hang on my Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Metal fish, condoms on a stick, barbed wire Christmas wreaths, broken sunglasses, and people on a coat hanger hanged or hung from the tree. That would be followed by the Queercorn Parties. Aquarius/ Capricorn group birthday parties for about 8 of us that shared this celebration month. On our 40th my friend John Archer let us borrow his mansion that was written up in the New York Times, The Salvaged Mansion, for the party as Steve and Downey cooked for us all with food from his catering company. Many fine and hilarious moments we shared through time.
Beyond that, we went hiking and swimming. Behind an old mansion in Ipswich we found an old picnic lodge on a Native American spiritual site where we crafted tables and benches within, around a massive fireplace. We sat after hiking and told stories and shared jokes around the fire. This was a place we came out to for a few ‘after family’ Easter gatherings; like old tribes from Norway and Ireland would of done in days gone by. In Boxford, my friends would dress up with capes and swords and sneak through the woods to ‘The Rock’ and set a fire with a goose on a spit. There were many great castles to drive to. Driving up Rt 127 or RT 133 was a way of life. Just follow any state route 1, 1A, 97, 127, 133, or 35 north and you were to find some of the best country roads and attractions for a good old day trip you could hope for. In the winter it might be a sledding park with Greg and his nephew and niece. In the Spring one of the many fruit stands with fresh bread, fudge, apple turnovers, and such. In the Summer there were trips to Tod’s Farm to pick through their massive antique market spread out on a small farm. Visits to Castle Hill where Pete would stand above a castle wall and ponder the possibilities of his minions gathered on the lawn below. Then fried clams at Essex Seafood and more antiques in Essex on 133. We swam behind the castle of Gordon College and Hood’s Pond in Topsfield. Dove off Thunderbridge. Mountain Biked along Rt 128 in the woods. Walked on Viking ships or seen them sail in the distance. Then in the Fall, we would hit Connors or Russel Orchards for cider donuts and harvest outings. Eerie Events behind the Phillips Library with a fire and ghost stories; we were always up to something after work. We didn’t wait for the weekends.
Then on Tuesdays, we had a roundtable of five or so friends talk over history, current events, alternative history, quantum science, and more laughs and beers. We would sit back in the Irish/Scottish Old Spot by the fire and just enjoy ourselves. Some really good minds expounding on the finer points of life. Just some really good conversation on a quieter night. Fire or campfire, we were not that picky. We just liked the company.
Even beyond this, I recall my mother’s stories. She grew up in Norseville where the Norwegians moving out of Brooklynn built up bungalows on the weekends until they could move in full time. They had a local church that organized their social life. Strangely enough, the church was not that churchy, but a community center. They put together the roller skating and bowling night weekly. They had the dances you could meet your spouse at. The harvest home carnivals that brought the town together. The Norwegian dinners with the young girls dressed in traditional dresses serving their elders who missed Norway. In my time so far, I have not experienced this. I have not tried the Mason Lodge, the PTA, the Elk or Moose, Book club, or food pantry. I mostly have experienced the organic social gatherings outside of an organization. Now I am wondering if that is all that is left.
For there is no more time, at least that is what the people I know think. No longer do we gather at each other’s homes, hike, or swim. I drive or more often than not bike alone up all of those routes. Antiques are left for later generations and Tod’s Farm has gone out to pasture. I see most of my friends yearly and ask what have they been up to; working is the usual answer. Which makes catching up easy… People don’t call, but text. You feel connected to them through their posts. Those few friends I get out, is after several false starts. It does make me feel much more grateful for my Wednesday lunch with Don and my Thursday game of pool with Roger which are always steadfast. I just have Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday where the biggest conversation I have all day is ordering my Lapsang Souchong tea.
Somewhere in between a hope and a joke I wish I was a horrible person and all of these great people I have called my friends are having great adventurous lives without me. That I was so horrible that they just can’t put up with me; because that would mean they were not just working and sleeping their lives away. That social activity was not displayed within a 6′ x 3′ device, depending on your wifi signal.
I have read the secret to having peak experiences is to be around others that are having peak experiences. So I am about to set forth through America and see where I would like to build a home. A place where they still see their close friends weekly if not daily. A place that has time for each other. After the light is returning after the Winter Soltice of Christmas I am looking for a rebirth this Spring as I head out around Easter. I will be looking for those people who are having peak experiences. I am not sure if I will find it, but I am looking for Northern Exposure, Evening Shade, The Goonies, the cèilidh in Nova Scotia, the family Pow Wow (Not the trinket variety), the lake where everyone gathers, the wood everyone tromps through, the porch with the fiddle and flute, the midnight Yahtzee game, the Callaloo with the endless pot of rice, the tea kettle left behind the open kitchen door waiting for friends when you’re out.
If you interested too, follow this blog and see where I have been and the people I have met. Maybe I will come across a place you might have been looking for? Maybe a place you felt like you have been to already, maybe not in this life though. Somewhere just out of reach of your memories. Somewhere you almost could touch. I will be posting pictures of the places, the events, and the live music. I will also be posting about the great souls, musicians, authors, inventors, and the like when I come across them. Maybe I will even get to the strange places Tyler Franks keeps posting about…
So keep following this blog. Who knows you might find a community too!
P.S.~ The funny thing is, most of the good times were before we had cellphones to capture the events ad times we had. So the really good times are just left to our memories. Strange all of the gatherings stopped happening after we had easy means of recording them…
Today we are faced with an overpriced housing market within San Francisco, New York, and Boston which is leaking out to the Midwestern cities of Des Moines, Pittsburgh, and others. Why should this be?
In this weekly blog post, Or at least an attempt at it, we will try to offer alternatives to this reality for many. We will proposition you to think differently; asking you why should we still focus on transportation hubs on rivers and oceans as the only centers in this nation for a profession and greater wealth. With the advent of the internet, working remotely, and We Work there is no need to exclusively center ahead these traditional hubs for commerce.
Granted, manufacturing, illegal drugs, and distribution companies will always rely on these traditional hub cities models; but, why should all the other industries that do not cater to them? Why does a software company need to be on the ocean? Why does Uber need a corporate headquarters on a river? Does Apple need to be in a big city? We can move back to the country.
Everything cycles in this world. At the turn of the twentieth century, there was a demand for factory workers, so many moved off the rural farm and centered on these transportation hub cities. Now in the 21st, these towns are so dense it is time for them to Super Nova. In doing so we will see a trend for people to move back into the interior of this country. Everything in this universe is reactionary. It gets too dense it either implodes or explodes. So will society.
So what would this new rural living look like? If we can get high-income wage owners to work remotely inside the areas once populated with more deer or cows than people, they will bring a demand for the amenities that once were only found within the cities to the little towns. Then others will follow and build restaurants, theaters, music venues, boutiques, and coffee shops that will provide for them. Would this ruin a small town?
One of the things that happen when major cities get oversaturated, the little boutique towns fill up and push the locals out; not if we make all the towns boutique-like. Outside of Boston, you have Salem, Newburyport, Portland, and Portsmouth in MA and NH. These are the quaint beautiful towns that offer the amenities you expect to find in Boston within a beautiful rural setting though. Why can’t Haverhill, MA or Danvers, MA have the same culture?
No, we should not have Starbucks brand the look of these downtowns making them cookie-cutter catering to an elite, but make them vibrant and offering something for everybody in town to be entertained and fulfilled by. For some this could be a top-notch sportsman center like Kittery Trading Post, for others this could be an Opera House, and then still some would just like a place like the “Brick” on Northern Exposure.
Now the Brick, it offered a place to meet the whole town in. It had the old world general store feel. A place you did not have to purchase something every time you entered, but you had to provide a good story though. Recently in urban centers, they are making little parks out of parking spots on the side of roads, but who has time to sit in them. Before these towns have been placing patio furniture in parks for people to enjoy, but no one uses them. Why?
To have a community, we need time. One way to get more time is to cut the commute. The walk from the bedroom to office in your bunny slippers cuts frustration, saves the planet, and makes driving a joy again when you cut the number of cars on the road by 90%. Working remotely could do this. It would be the first step to community again. Do we need to guilt people into community at first?
My mother’s church in Norseville, NJ built a community she still returns to at least once a year. They provided the carnival, the smorgasbord dinners, dances, bowling, ice skating, and many more events where they met their spouses and kept their families together with. Granted the church provided the guilt to do so… If you have a good church that works for you that does this still, great! But, we can provide these things without the church as well. So should we guilt people to be selfish and then share their free time?
Trouble. Trouble eliminated trouble. It was a game of pure luck. There was no real skill, just a bubble, and a bouncing dice. It provided the excuse to gather and bullshit without any real competition or sore feelings. Everyone got a turn to win as the conversation flowed. For poker night, a board game night, or fishing is just the vehicle for people to gather and have a good time bullshitting. It helps us forget the trouble in our lives and keeps us close enough to help remove the trouble that arises.
Honestly, I am just fed up seeing my best friends once a year for them only to tell me they have been working lately! We need to get back to living like humans and not bees. Plus, if it wasn’t for all of them turning into hermits I would be angrier that I am being forced out of my town due to the high rents leaving and the poor situations to live in. I need to find a place where there is community once more.
I find myself limited in my potential happiness if I am the happiest in town, and my happiness is sinking. For to have peak experiences you must be around others who are having peak experiences as well. When you are around those just getting by or find themselves stressed or depressed, guess where you are heading…
So this weekly post will discuss things I have mentioned in more detail and offer examples where good things are happening. It will also offer ideas for towns to become self-sufficient without taxes. Imagine a town that has a sever farm that pays for the roads, schools, and hospitals? We might have a town that pays its citizens instead… So come back next week and see what we come up with to improve our lives.