The Farmer’s Market

Montpelier has a farmer’s market every Saturday morning from 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM during the growing season from late Spring until early Fall.  It is a festive atmosphere with both regional farmers offering produce and local artisans offering their crafts.  I was recently approached by Joe Keane, one of the vendors there.  Joe sells Green Mountain coffee, both bagged and fresh-brewed, with the proceeds going to the soup kitchens of Montpelier.

In Montpelier, there are five different churches who sponsor soup kitchens.  These churches do not receive any Federal or State money for doing this.  They do receive donations from individuals and organizations, when available, but take it upon themselves to render this service to the community.  On Monday, it’s the Unitarian Church of Montpelier, on Tuesday, the Bethany United Church of Christ, on Wednesday, the Christ Episcopal Church, on Thursday, the Trinity United Methodist Church, and on Friday, Saint Augustine’s Catholic Church.  All of these churches are located within a few blocks of one another in the downtown area of Montpelier.  Thus, there is a free lunch available to the needy each day of the week, from Monday to Friday.  Having been unemployed and still being quite poor, I have eaten regularly at these soup kitchens, and usually it’s the first food of the day for me, as well as for many others.

Therefore, when Joe approached me and asked if I would like to help him, I readily agreed.  I realized that here was a chance to pay back some of the kindness that had been shown to me by these various churches.  And so, on Saturday, August 22, I had my first experience as a vendor in the Montpelier Farmer’s Market, assisting Joe with the sale of the bagged coffee.  It was a wonderful experience.  Early on, I made a sign stating that the proceeds we derived went to support the soup kitchens.  This had a positive effect across the morning as several people noted it and bought coffee, some of them refusing the change they were due back, telling us to keep it, it being for a good cause.  People do want to help if they are able.

The season is slowing down though, that was evident.  I think it’s because many schools, elementary schools, high schools, and colleges, now start the last week of August.  Labor Day weekend no longer marks the end of summer for many families with children.  Even so, we sold just about all the product that we had, so it was a very good day.  Joe gave me money for lunch, which I spent on my favorite lunch vendor there, a Pakistani family who vends hot food.  Chicken curry, rice and hot sauce – Yum!

The Street Scene

When I first began to explore Montpelier as a possible location to settle down in, I was immediately struck by the vibrancy of cultural influences here which mainly manifested themselves in an active street scene.  There were people of obviously varied backgrounds simply ‘hanging out’ at the outdoor tables of the various coffee shops.  A person would come along and see someone that they knew, sit and converse for a bit, and then resume their previous errand.  There was a bustle and a mood which bespoke an active and rich social life for those that chose to pursue it.  In addition, there were buskers at various locations about the small downtown district, and they added a pleasing musical ambiance to the area with their acoustic and vocal offerings.  One could also see artists sprinkled here and there working on either rendering the lovely architecture of the downtown area or working on more personal pieces.

The intimacy produced by these artistic endeavors and social groupings, although perhaps common for small-town life, seemed more remarkable and pleasant for taking place in a state capital.  Although Montpelier is small by national standards, having a population only slightly greater than seven thousand, nevertheless, the full machinery of government is found here.  The functionaries of the state government mingle freely and easily with the local populace, and except for a slight formalism in attire, it is difficult to differentiate between the two groups.  In an era of big business and vested interests and a growing dislike for the self-serving interests of government policy, it is both rewarding and instructive to see that close ties can exist between the citizen and the state.

The Return

Well, for several years now, life has been tumultuous for me.  This blog has languished as I fought my way through the devastating end of a 12 year relationship with my former fiance, and then the death of a sweet rescued female Dalmatian dog, who finally had to be put down as her arthritis and Lyme disease became too painful.  These events eclipsed my happiness and then extended into a long period of homelessness and unemployment as the economy faltered and all that had once been easy to obtain seemed to be always just out of reach for me.

Now, however, my mood has returned from the dark corridors that it stalked down and I have once again begun to find and respond to the joy of life and the pleasures of reaching out and touching others’ hearts and minds.

I find myself in Montpelier these days with a new job. It only pays minimum wage and it is only 20 hours a week, but after what I have been through, it is like a blessing from Heaven.  So I have decided to resume my blog.  I am not yet sure whether I will focus on the larger issues of politics and the economy which loom before us, or whether I shall simply focus on the day-to-day minutiae that occur in a single life.

I am still living in a homeless shelter, and I have yet to receive my first paycheck.  But I have found hope and, with it, I will achieve housing and eventually will put my life back into some semblance of order.

Fallout from 9/11

In ten more days it will be the fifth anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, near-universally known as 9/11. It is hard to believe that a full five years have passed since the events of that day were so deeply imprinted on the consciousness of Americans. Hard to believe because in spite of the oft-repeated rubric that it “changed everything,” so very little in day-to-day life has changed. Aside from the Administrative arm of the Federal Government having assumed dictatorial powers, it is hard to see the deep impact that such an event should leave on the face and the soul of America.

CNN has announced that it will replay it’s coverage of that day in its entirety, allowing us to relive the horror of that day in its entirety. I imagine that many people will watch the broadcast in the morning and then tune out. It’s not exactly like watching one of your favorite movies again to re-live the experience. It’s more like re-living your last trip to the dentist to have a tooth pulled out. One can only take so much.

But it may be an informative broadcast for the many who believe that the United States and Israel were complicit in the commissioning of the events of that day. I’m sure that many who hold that belief will be watching the events unfold again looking for indications of the engineering of media manipulation by vested parties. It will certainly be instructive to again see smiling former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when asked about the attack and it’s effect on Israeli-U.S. relations, say, “It’s very good,” and then realizing what a gaffe he had made, put on a more serious expression and continue, “Well, it’s not good, but it will generate immediate sympathy (for Israel)”. In retrospect, that remark seems more like something a spymaster would say rather than an ally of America.

The lack of freedom in America generated by the events of that day seems to have no limit and no end. The U.S. Army, specifically the U.S. command in Baghdad, is looking for bidders for a $20 million PR contract to cover the war in Iraq. The only catch is that they want to “monitor the tone” of the reporting. Currently, the majority of the reporting coming out of Iraq consists of reporters in the Green Zone, usually on a high blacony, telling us how things are slowly getting better. But not better enough for them to walk in the streets on a routine basis. So much for the freedom to know what the military is doing in the name of America to the people of Iraq.

Even such innocuous things as taking your kids to Walt Disney World have taken an impact from 9/11. The finger scanning system there has now been upgraded to scan fingerprint information. Although Disney insists this is simply to prevent fraud, which is understandable, what happens if the government decides to subpoena Disney for that information? It’s a minor thing, only affecting those who go to Disney, but it speaks volumes about the nature of freedom in America, where you must produce an ID to get on any interstate bus, train, or plane.

Of course, it’s not only the Federal Government that benefits from tighter control and greater knowledge of the American populace, but large corporations stand to make more profits from a populace who they can understand, control, monitor, and predict. There’s a video on Myspace.com now from George Carlin, who, with his rapier wit, expresses this better than I ever could.

Arrival of Autumn

The promise of fall came to Vermont last night. Although it’s only the last day of August, the clear skies last night (with all the bright stars) allowed the temperature to drop quite low, although we didn’t yet get a frost. When I remembered to check the temperature at 8:00AM, it was 46*F. That’s pretty darn cool for August in my book. But the day warmed up and turned lovely with crisp, cool breezes.

The morning news provided little of note. The TV news media seems fixed on the Jeffs case now, just as it was fixed on the Karr case days ago. 100,000 of *OUR* cluster bombs left in Lebanon through the graces of our good ally Israel for the kids of Southern Lebanon to play near. Little concern in American news for that. Another 43 Iraqi civilians killed today after 35 killed yesterday with hundreds and hundreds wounded. Just a quick comment about that before moving on to all sorts of coverage about one man (Jeffs) and his many wives.

It’s not really news anymore anyway, at least on TV. Stories are ranked in importance by how well they play, how well they ‘sell’ to an American public more interested in gossip than facts. It’s not about information anymore or helping to keep the populace educated. It’s about revenue generation from ads and sponsers. Anything a little too controversial, or requiring the network to take a stand on the importance of an unpopular story, ends up in the byline scrolling by at the bottom of the screen. So it is reported, but minimalized to the point of negligence.

Issues such as depleted uranium, or the ongoing theft of the Social Security fund are given mention in buzzwords, but are never fully explained. Their consequences are never spelled out in such a fashion so as to create in the viewership a sense of the magnitude of the issue or its foreboding nature for all our futures. And, hence, news critical to us all becomes background blather. A sort of elevator music for current affairs.

And we are all diminished somewhat by this. There is no upside. More is hidden than is revealed by the spotty focusing of the media on matters, that in the long run, are trivial.

A recent example of this was the extradition and movement of John Mark Karr, a man whose name will promptly be forgotten as it is of no further consequence. The camera stares out at an empty sky in real time as the viewers await the arrival by air of a man charged with a crime. That ongoing shot of blank, empty sky is purported to be newsworthy by the people who make the decisions about what you will, and will not, be shown. I cannot but think that somewhere along the line, such people became merchants rather than journalists.

Seeing as I am new to blogging and yet I have succesfully started this blog, I would like to give credit to those who made it possible for me to do so. First of all, to WordPress for providing the structured environment which makes it such a painless process to start a blog. Secondly, to Peter Binkley, whose blog is found at Quaedam cuiusdam, who created the template which gives this blog it’s appearance. And lastly, but not leastly, to Harvey of Buskers.org who corrected some minor errors in Peter’s template, and enpowered and enabled me to get this on the web.