Back on the Grid: Stories From Higley Hill

The outside world came into my house last Thursday. It was delivered by two very handsome young men. One guy looked like Ray LaMontagne. If you don’t know who he is you can watch this video.  That song played in my head quite frequently while I wrote Life Is All This. After last Tuesday night, the line “yesterday is gone, yesterday is dead, get it through your head and walk away” now haunts me in a different way, but I digress.

The other cable guy had shoulder length dark hair along with dark almost black eyes and looked like a Native American I wouldn’t mind sharing a teepee with. We were supposed to get cable on Wednesday. The day after the election seemed like perfect timing. I had missed the ugly non-stop political discourse provided by organizations calling themselves the news. But now I was wary. Did I really want 24/7 news access? I had become comfortable with my wifi coffee shop routine and my barstool at the Saloon and the best parking spot outside the town hall. Home was a sanctuary. A news free zone.

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The sunset view from Higley Hill

On Wednesday, I was given a reprieve. It was raining. Duncan, the guy who owns a mountaintop and provides our local cable and fiber optic wifi connection, doesn’t do installations when it’s raining. They rescheduled us for Wednesday.

Wednesday’s cable guy was close to my age and very helpful. He works alone and started at a telephone pole across Higley Hill in front of the Trump supporter’s house then moved his truck to a logging road that runs along the stone wall that marks the end of our ten acres and climbed another pole. My husband picked up a new skill by helping with traffic control. He can now add this to his resume and work for the highway department if all those infrastructure projects Trump is promising come through. You know – the ones the Republicans wouldn’t approve when Obama tried to do it during the Recession.

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Rich helping out Wilmington, VT

Either way, with the future so uncertain we will need to be prepared for anything. My husband has a lot of survivor skills too. Things like how to start a fire, make a lean-to for shelter, and forage for nuts and berries. I’ve always said if I was ever on the show I would want to be on his team.

Everything was hooked up and ready to go but there was some kind of problem with the wiring in our basement. The cable guy said his son would come back on Thursday. “Ray Lamontagne” is apparently the expert on wiring complications.

There was something very stabilizing and comforting about people doing their jobs while the world imploded. Vermont is a different kind of place, and I’ll be writing more about that, but I knew it was happening everywhere. Americans were going about their everyday lives because they had bills to pay, food to put on the table, kids to get to school. Thinking about that made me calm and nervous all at the same time.

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Working Americans Brattleboro, VT

Our schools are a mess. Twice this week I spoke to teachers who told me about a shortage of special education aides and classes filled with kids who have IEP’s (Individual Education Plans if you’re not familiar with the lingo). It’s hard to manage a class with kids who act up or need special attention. The kids who only need a decent education often get lost in the shuffle. I have no idea what will happen to public education over the next four years.

Then there’s healthcare. I can’t go there. Yet. I’ll cross that bridge soon enough. I am almost certain I along with 20 million other Americans will be losing health insurance. I always knew the consequences of this election. I am a left wing liberal who has been living, working, and traveling through rural America these past few years. A college graduate who became a self employed bookkeeper-an entrepreneur as both sides of the aisle like to refer us-who late in life found herself making thirteen dollars an hour as a temp in South Florida and being asked to provide financial statements for a million dollar bank loan. My husband paints houses for a living and my kids have college loans. I’ve straddled both worlds, the left wing liberal living the blue collar life, and I understand the anger and frustration. I also realize by saying this that in the candidate of Hillary Clinton I no longer saw the Democrats as the party of working people but of Wall Street. So this all came as no surprise to me. I was for Bernie. Social justice and equality for all are non-negotiable for me, so in the end I voted for her. But again, I’m rambling. It’s hard not to.

“Ray” came back up from the basement and fiddled with the TV. He asked for the remote. I told him when we moved from the Inn I packed everything but the TV and somehow my husband lost the remote.

“Oh, I’ve lost a few myself. That’s okay.” What is with guys and the remote? He reached behind the TV and Pop! there it was. We were on Fox and someone was gloating and talking about how Hillary blew it.

“Yo!” Ray shouted, and changed the channel. I have to admit he was a very nice distraction. I also thought I might want to cancel the cable, or was it too late?

We left the house and the new cable connection on Friday for the Cape. I was going on a girls weekend and my husband had some work to do for a friend. This week has been full of endless discussions, text messages, and debates with friends and family about how did it happen and whose fault is it. I was exhausted and depressed. Wine, female friends, a massage, early Christmas shopping, and a trip to an art gallery were just what I needed.

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And Then Beside Me at the Cahoon Museum of Art Cotuit, MA

Question. Did anyone notice the lack of lawn signs and bumper stickers or am I the only one who picked up on this? A few Trump signs came out about a month before the election.  I saw far fewer Hillary signs and I didn’t see many bumper stickers on either side of the divide. Here in Vermont I did see cars with Bernie peeking out the back window which said Don’t Blame Me. I voted for Bernie. I need to get two of these. The Trump lawn signs were all over rural Rhode Island, a blue state that went for Bernie then Hillary. The Vermont signs were prevalent west of Brattleboro where the houses have peeling paint. Abandoned cars , beat-up old RV’s, and tractors are a part of the landscape.

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Along Route 9 in West Brattleboro, MA

Michael Moore was right. This election was about a revolution, a molotov cocktail thrown in revolt of income inequality, bankers who never got prosecuted, stagnant wages, and loss of jobs. A primal scream that shouted Listen to Me.

You can’t run a democracy and tell the citizens to eat cake. A vote is a powerful weapon, and the white middle class hurled it. Bernie was screaming the same thing and I wanted a revolution too but the Democrats didn’t listen. They picked their candidate from the very start and she was the wrong woman at the wrong time in history. Much of my anger is leaning in their direction. I am now a woman without a party.

Sadly, I am now also a woman with TV again. We got home in time to catch the Patriots game on Sunday night. They lost to the Seahawks. Monday we turned on the news. The weather forecast was good to have again. Old Man Winter is knocking on the door and my husband and I had decided it wasn’t enough to just look out the window and see if it was snowing. Here in Vermont we need to load up the wood inside the house, make sure the batteries in the flashlights are working, and the fridge is full.

I did miss Charlie, Norah, and Gail. This morning the news of Stephen Bannon from Breitbart news as chief White House counsel made me sick to my stomach but the CBS morning team is running a segment called A More Perfect Union and this morning the Pushy Moms  gave me a great idea. I too can help kids apply to college. After all, I helped my kids get scholarships and financial aid. What will happen to financial aid I do not know. There are so many things I do not know going forward and I think a lot of Trump voters are in for some major disappointments. It’s unfortunate the rest of us will be sharing that disappointment. Anyway, my kids wrote killer college essays but some kids might need help with that and I am a writer.

The real Ray Lamontagne was writing a love song. It is true yesterday is gone but this is no time to walk away. Our communities are going to need us and we need to pitch in. Step up to the plate. It’s amazing how many sports analogies relate to life. One thing that needs to end is the media treating politics like a blood sport.

Besides the Democratic elite, I am mad at the media. I expect to see real news from here on out, especially after I got that so-called apology letter from the NY Times. Going forward, I want explanations on how Trump’s proposals will effect average Americans, the middle class who voted for him, and I want it explained clearly. I was an economics major and a tax preparer. Not everyone understands the implications but it’s the media’s job to explain it in clear, unbiased language. Just the facts. If we are pitching in and stepping up to the plate, the media needs to do their part. One thing that needs to end is the pundits treating politics like a sport. When “Ray” shouted “yo” and changed the channel on my resurrected TV that’s what we were receiving over my new cable line. A shouting match of he said, she said. Nothing to do with anything of consequence.

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Ten Houses For Every Hobo Brattleboro, VT

Even one of my favorite writers, Timothy Egan, disappointed me the other day when he wrote this: When Trump tries to ignore the provisions of a global accord to curb climate change, and charts a path for the United States as a rogue nation, the resistance will come from the millions of young Americans who found a voice in old Bernie Sanders.

Throughout the primaries the New York Times never just wrote Bernie Sanders, if when and when they wrote of Bernie which was rarely. It was always the socialist democrat Bernie Sanders. His campaign was repeatedly described as quixotic. And here we are now hoping for a resistance led by young people who found a voice in OLD Bernie. Tim Egan needs to read Stephen King’s On Writing. Adjectives like that are misleading clutter. Come on, even I know that.

Okay. I have to put it behind me. The definition of liberal is forward thinking, enlightened, reformist, favorable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms, tolerant, and open-minded. More than ever these qualities are being put to the test. Whether I like it or not, Trump is going to be my president. If I can find a silver lining, he did say some of the same things Bernie said about jobs and a rigged system.

We have to get out there and keep fighting. We have to hope for the best and protest the worst.

As my character Sam Ryder says in Life is All This, “I am a writer. I have a voice.” And there was this:

In Sam’s mind, politics had real life consequences. As the presidential election of 2004 reached its fever pitch, he felt swift boated from all sides by people who didn’t like him and his loved ones. He was worried about his son living in a world where it was okay to use real people, someone’s dearly loved child, as a political pawn to garner votes from the intolerant base. And what about his brother Joe, injured on a swift boat in the Mekong Delta? Intolerance was everywhere and it cut like a knife through the heart of his family.” ~ Life Is All This, Sheila Blanchette

Well, here are. We need to be vigilant. Each and everyone of us need to shut off the TV and get active. We need to reach out and help those in need, whoever they voted for. Politics has consequences and we are all about to learn that lesson the hard way.

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