Sunday, March 11, 2007




We’re up in B’s hometown for the weekend to celebrate her dad’s 90th birthday. With the festivities over, it’s the Sunday morning after-party hangover. No alcohol was served yesterday, but there was a lot of meat (I myself went “a rib too far”), and for eight hours I drunk the heady wine of time with family.

So early Sunday morning, in a personal quest for a bracing cup of coffee, I join B as she goes out to shop for breakfast and for a few days worth of groceries for her dad.

The hangover feeling was worsened by too little sleep. This town dubs itself “the snow-mobiling capital of the world,” and even though this wasn’t the town’s best season, there are still plenty of these mechanical cockroaches in evidence.

Is there any other sport that matches snowmobiling for building “rudeness to neighbors” into the activity? If your next-door neighbor had a distinctive passion for running his snow-blower – if he though it was the most fun thing in the world, to the point where he ran it under your bedroom window at 3:00 a.m., we could all agree, I think, that that was pretty rude.

And what are snow mobiles, if not tracked, supercharged, self-propelled snow-blowers (except that they don’t aid in snow removal in any way)? And yet no scorn is heaped on snow-mobilers who please themselves by returning to the condo at 3:00 a.m. following a romantic moonlight excursion through the woods. That’s right, 3:00 a.m., because apparently it takes about an hour to ride off the alcoholic haze after 2:00 a.m. bar closing.


Help me out here, if you know the answer: does something about snow-mobile design make it good maintenance practice to idle (and frequently rev) the engine for 20 minutes at the end of a ride, or is it just part of the fun to wind things up with a climactic orgy of sound?

So if I sound a bit critical of the coffee scene Sunday morning, now you know why. There are currently two “upscale” coffee boutiques in a town that has seen the closure of several coffee-and-gift shops over the years. One serves barely potable brew in an ambience of a shopping mall Starbucks, opening onto one of the town’s two grocery stores, Johansson’s Pic ‘n’ Pack.

The other place has better coffee, but in a misguided attempt to impose its religious beliefs on the rest of us, observes a Sunday closing. No coffee on Sunday, forsooth! It’s enough to make me wish that Starbucks would ride into town to kick some ass!

The problem this morning is that we’re not going to Johansson’s for our shopping. Johansson’s was for many years in B’s youth the only big grocery store in town. When a competing store, called Bragg’s, eventually opened its doors, “it split the town in two,” according to B, whose family remained loyal Johansson’s shoppers.

But this morning, as we wordlessly bypass Johansson’s and I say, “Wh– th– ?!” B explains: “They dissed my dad a while ago. He doesn’t shop there any more.”

B’s dad, a retired house-builder, literally built the structure that housed the original Johansson’s, so this switch was like a lifelong Democrat voting Republican. Or maybe the other way around. Aside from Bragg's’ distinctive hunting lodge theme, with a massive elk’s head mounted over the butcher counter, I felt looking around the store that Bragg's and Johansson’s are pretty much Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Both stores, for instance, are staffed by folks over 60, a phenomenon that is becoming more common in vacation areas that attract retirees. I feel very weird about this. On the one hand, I do not for a moment begrudge these folks the extra income. And if the idea is it gets them out of the house and is more interesting than their recreational alternatives, well okay then. On the other hand, what does it say about our society when people are spending their “golden years” working the cold-cut slicer at a deli counter?

We fill up four gallon-jugs with store-bought “reverse osmosis” drinking water for B’s dad. A gallon of water weighs seven pounds, and when the cashier – 68 years old if she was a day – tells me I didn’t have to put all four on the conveyer belt because it involves “unnecessary heaving,” I rush forward to grab them and put them back in the cart. But she's spry, and slings the jugsl one-handed to the gray haired gent doing the bagging. I must have said “thank you” about 50 times to cover my shame.

Hi Oscar,

The old-folks at the store are even stronger than you thought: A gallon of water weighs a little more than 8 pounds. Plus the container weighs something.

Best Regards,

And the 8 pounds is still less weight than an infant grandchild.

(Maybe it was those pesky sexegenarians running the snowmobiles in the wee hours of the morning. Ever consider that?)

pviue - the scene one sees when looking through plastic piping.
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