We’ll Always Have Paris

I write a weekly newspaper column and chair an arts council so I get a lot of press releases. You just can’t make some of this stuff up.

The nice folks at The Big E sent me this year’s entertainment lineup for the fair.

The Big E, the Eastern States Exposition, is New England’s biggest state fair, with “year-round opportunities for the development and promotion of agriculture, education, industry and family entertainment while preserving our New England heritage.” It culminates in a “field days” festival that starts in September. And it’s a lot more than farm implements.

“It’s your little girl’s squeals of delight every time a cow looks her way. Or the way your husband smiles after finishing a Craz-E Burger, or fried dough, or key-lime-pie-on-a-stick. It’s the look on your best friend’s face as she twirls through the sky on a crazy ride. Or the feeling you get when you catch a strand of Mardi Gras beads at the parade. The biggest fair in the Northeast is filled with amazing little moments. What will yours be?”

State fairs began in the nineteenth century to promote state agriculture, so they have always had livestock, farm products, competitions, and entertainment.

Gotta bring in the rubes.

The Texas State Fair had balloon ascents and “appearances by such notables as John Philip Sousa, William Jennings Bryan, Carrie Nation and Booker T. Washington.” The Iowa State Fair has had more than politicians to entertain us over the years, too.

In 1881, historian James Wilson noted that, “One of the most valuable effects of the [Iowa] State Fair is the fraternizing, humanizing consequences of bringing our people together … No one meets and mingles with 20,000 Iowa men, women and children on the Fairgrounds — the only place they can be brought together — without growth of sympathy.”

In 1922, two locomotives traveling at 10 mph crashed into each other in the second staged train wreck at the Iowa Grandstand. In 1925, more than 100 people entered the new fiddlers’ contest. The new Education Building in 1927 was a great attraction with its second floor art gallery.

The Big E is the only state fair in the nation with six states; the Avenue of States has replicas of each New England state’s original statehouse sitting on land owned by that state. The Vermont Building was constructed in 1926.

In past years, the fair has hosted bands I have booked or know well including Prydein for Celtic rock, the Western swing of Rick and the Ramblers, JimmyT and the Cobras with outlaw rock, Young Tradition Vermont, and many more. My friend Rebecca Padula who played for me at Bay Day this year was disinvited from the Big E lineup because her singing partner moved to California last week.

Some performers are more widely known.

Paris HiltonHidden among the 2015 notes that Alabama will play, that the Big E is ranked as the fifth largest fair in North America, that the Charlie Daniels Band will kick off the proceedings, and the agriculture results, is Paris Hilton.

Paris Hilton? “Yes, this is for real…Paris Hilton has added turntables and headphones to her accessories and is Western MA bound to DJ at The Big E!”

Turns out her debut album sold over 600,000 copies worldwide.

She can sing?

I watched her semi-explicit Good Time bubble gum video which features Lil Wayne.

She can sing?

The Big E had DJ Pauly D perform in 2013, something they called a “big success, attracting thousands of fans to the Fair.”

Paris might draw more, but for singing?

They have a countdown clock. The 2015 Big E with Paris starts in exactly 73 days, 20 hours, 00 minutes, and 00 seconds. I may go this year. I’ve always wanted to watch cow wrangling in Paris.


Mmmmm, Turkey

The Fiscal Times reports that the most popular sandwich in America is … wait for it … turkey.

Gobble GobbleI bought two turkeys on sale and put them in Joe’s freezer next door. We ate one at the appropriate holiday and left the other for the next big company meal.

I had not forgotten that but somehow, when Rufus was here, we spent all our time eating gumbo at Sparky’s or a really amazing pork loin with Ken and Beth and we simply didn’t eat the bird.

After turkey on the list of nearly 1,000 lunch eaters comes ham, chicken, a sub of indeterminate gender and dressing, and deli salad. I’m sorry to report that PB and J is down at number 6 on the Wall Street list and the BLT is even below that at number 7. In fact, the only other good news is that Other outperformed vege, wraps, vege wraps, and fish. Turkey-ham was nowhere on the list.

Other good news: more Americans make their sandwiches at home, schlep them to work, and eat them cold. OK, good for me but bad for restaurant owners. Packing a lunch helps stay within the monthly budget.

“Deep down, you know the truth: Any lunch you make yourself will taste 17 times better than the slimy chopped salad you’d end up buying…” Rachel Sanders wrote on Buzzfeed. Oddly, she includes the peanut butter, pickle, and potato chip sandwich but eschews (heh) turkey.

Do you think those more Americans carry a little, insulated, zippered sack or a Davy Crockett™ tin?

There are about 17,800,000 results to a search for packed lunches for adults. There are even more for kids. And not one that I surveyed mentioned packing a drink.


SWMBO and I had the turkey. And had the turkey. And had the turkey. She gave up her PB and J for Lent. And we had turkey.

Don’t get me wrong. My dad ate a ham-and-cheese sandwich most lunches on most days of his adult life but I really like turkey and I particularly like turkey sandwiches.

True, I bounce around between turkey breast or tuna, ham or sliced egg, chicken or corned beef, and turkey breast. I eat roast turkey breast when I have it. Black peppered turkey. Smoked Turkey. Honey smoked turkey. Black Forest turkey. Chipotle turkey. Cajun turkey breast. Italian herb turkey. Mesquite turkey. Deep-fried turkey. And more. I like most turkey with a slice or two of fresh Florida tomato and a slice or two of seriously sharp Vermont cheddar cheese. A dab of mayo. The bread of the day may be sourdough white, potato, oatmeal, even the honey whole wheat in the fridge right now. I had it on a light rye the other day.

Just as important is a tall, cold glass of milk. Mmmmm.

Thank goodness for PB&J, though, because peanut butter jars are a time-honored tradition for carrying drinks. A peanut butter jar is about the right size, has a lid that seals, and fits perfectly in my cooler.

Back when I did commute to the office instead of rolling down the stairs, I carried a small upright cooler. It had room for a refreezable ice, my Pepsi™ bottle, a turkey sammie, the peanut butter jar of milk, and at least a couple of cookies.

I’m thinking it must be lunchtime.


Sunday Drivers, Two Wheels or Four, More or Less

Unibridge TourIf two guys ride one wheel each, are they really riding a bicycle-built-for-two?

“No,” Liz Arden said. Emphatically.

Sunday drivers — four wheels: We headed West along the Overseas Highway until I saw an interesting house in the distance on Middle Torch. Drove past it; it was interesting but not particularly photogenic. Jogged left and right and left and right and tested the shocks up and down over the frost heaves on Dom Road on Big Torch Key. Saw a plot of land reserved for theme camps out past the end of the power lines and took a bunch of pictures of dead mangroves. I didn’t photograph the thank-you-ma’ams.

We honked and waved as we passed a couple of guys from Brooklyn riding unicycles near the South Pine Channel Bridge but, since we didn’t go looking for Key Deer this time, we didn’t see them on the No Name bridge to No Name Key. I hope they had pizza for lunch.

Fat Albert played peek-a-boo with the clouds. I photographed a homeless fellow living large on Higgs beach as well as a couple of weddings on Smathers beach.

Unibridge TourSunday drivers — two wheels: Keith Nelson and Robert Hickman arrived in Key Weird by unicycle yesterday. Their six-day performance art project commemorated the 100 years of the Flagler railroad bridges and the brand-new Heritage Trail system.

Mr. Nelson and Mr. Hickman pedaled along U.S. 1 from Key Largo to Key West on one wheel during their Unibridge Tour. They said the road quality was the worst in the 6-7 miles leading in to Key West but the Seven Mile Bridge quickly became the scariest part of the trip. It rained, their unicycles are taller than the railing, and traffic passed at 55 or 60 mph. Thwap thwap THWAP!

Mr. Nelson swallows swords and juggles as the Clown Price of the Bindlestiff Family Circus. Safer than the Seven Mile Bridge. Mr. Hickman is an associate professor of sculpture and art at Hunter College, New York.

They completed the trip as part of Sculpture Key West’s 17th annual exhibition. The show runs through March 2013 at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and West Martello Tower.

Mr. Hickman wanted to exhibit a rock sculpted by the highway. He started the ride pulling the rock behind his unicycle but it built up friction in his tire. The heat exploded the tire so they cut it loose about Mile Marker 30 and kept on going.

Everyone sets up at the southernmost point or at Mile Marker 0. Not me. I ran the motor drive about four rolls worth at Mile Marker 1 for the two unicyclists.

Now it’s time to get back to work.

Unibridge Tour

This Flagler Bridgesbridge across Spanish Harbor from Bahia Honda is one of my favorites in the Keys. It’s worth a trip here before the remaining railroad bridges fade into the green waters.

Is It Murder?

Two area men denied their role in the fatal alcohol and drug overdose of a Vermont teen last month. The men, one from Sheldon Springs and the other from Highgate, each pled not guilty of manslaughter for the death of 19-year old Jeremy Chapple. who died after guzzling the booze and Lorazepam they sold to him in an apartment in Swanton Village.

Local police know that apartment as a juvenile gathering place.

According to the St Albans Messenger, one of the men charged “only has one forgery conviction on his criminal record.” The judge released that man without bail or curfew although he can’t leave Franklin County without court permission.

The second man is currently serving house arrest for armed robbery. The Corrections Department is unlikely to release him now.

Lordy, Lordy™.

The paper reported that the first defendant sold four tablets of Lorazepam to Mr. Chapple for $1 each. The other defendant bought him a jug of Jack Daniels. Depressed after breaking up with his girlfriend, Mr. Chapple consumed them in a couple of hours.

Sad story. Sad ending.

But it might not be manslaughter.

It might be murder.

“The death of Jeremy Chapple on June 8 is a tragedy of the highest degree — in other words, an avoidable tragedy,” Franklin County Caring Communities, Rural Partnerships, and the Grand Isle County Clean Team, the primary drug and alcohol coalitions of northwestern Vermont, said in a statement after the court proceedings. “Those who think the only danger that comes from underage drinking is an alcohol-related crash need look no further than this case to see otherwise. Those who believe that supplying an underage individual with alcohol will not lead to trouble for themselves can also learn an important lesson from this. Finally, this death should serve as a clear need for swift action in all our communities when it comes to prescription drug abuse.

“It is our sincerest hope that today’s arraignments will be an important step down a path that helps our whole northwest Vermont community learn important lessons about teens, alcohol and prescription drug abuse, and the need to be ever-vigilant in the protection of our children and young adults. The story of Jeremy Chapple is a story every parent should pay heed to and use as an opportunity to discuss such issues with their children in age-appropriate ways.”

Learn important lessons?

That politically correct statement is too long on hand holding and education and too short on responsibility.

Contrast those semantics with the actions of crusading Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice who charged a drunk driver with murder. “He had a completely depraved indifference to human life,” she told 60 Minutes, “because he acted so recklessly others were likely to die.”

Drunk driving kills more than 13,000 Americans every year despite the publicity, the education campaigns, and the apologetic hand wringing by drug and alcohol coalitions.

7-year-old Katie Flynn was a flower girl at her aunt’s Long Island wedding three years ago. That beautiful day ended in tragedy when a 24-year-old insurance salesman with a blood alcohol content more than three times the legal limit drove three miles the wrong way on the highway before crashing head-on into the Flynns’ vehicle. He killed their driver and tore little Katie’s head off.

The same year Katie Flynn died, Forbes Magazine named Nassau County “the safest region in the United States, with the lowest crime rate.”

District Attorney Rice charged the insurance salesman with Murder, Vehicular Manslaughter, Aggravated DWI, and some lesser included charges. The jury decided that that drunk driver didn’t need hand holding. The jury decided he didn’t need education. The jury decided he needed to take responsibility for decapitating a 7-year old child while he was drunk. Convicted, he got 25 years to life in prison last week. For murder.

Mr. Chapple was an avid outdoorsman who loved hunting, fishing, trapping, four-wheeling, dirt bike riding and playing basketball. And, apparently, alcohol and drugs.

Were the Vermont defendants any less indifferent to Mr. Chapple’s likely fate than the drunken salesman was to Katie’s?

Who will take responsibility for his death?

Full Disclosure: I helped found, chaired, and still volunteer for the local Franklin County Caring Community chapter. I strongly endorse its mission but I also know there can be no learning without accountability.

Momma Made Me

The devil didn’t make him do it. His mother did.

Some things you just can’t make up. This one appeared in the local paper last week.

SOMEWHERE NEAR NORTH PUFFIN — A local man told the Sheriff that he used a water pistol to rob the Town Pharmacy because his mother told him to do it.

“Spoony McGowen” (not his real name), 35, is being held on $50,000 bail on charges of assault and robbery with a weapon and felony narcotics possession. The charges show he pointed a black water pistol at the pharmacist and forced him to load a white garbage bag (with red drawstrings) with morphine, OxyContin, and hydromorphone tablets.

The robber said he gave some of the pills to his getaway driver for borrowing his girlfriend’s car for the robbery and that the driver was supposed to split the pills with Mr. McGowen’s mother for her help. She has not been charged.

He could pay $25,000 in fines and spend 15 years in jail for the $566 robbery.

The street value of the OxyContin is more than $18,000.

Far be it from me to indict the school system but ya gotta think Mr. McGowen was poorly served. After all, he said he robbed the drug store because he had heard about all the stimulus money and “he was tired of being broke.”

Mr. McGowen was broke because he had no job.

He had no job not because he has an extensive criminal history but rather because he does not feel satisfied by his educational experience.

He does not feel satisfied by his educational experience because he quit school in 10th grade at age 19.

Apologists have proven that everything from political incorrectness to forces of nature are not our fault. It is our environment that teaches us how to behave. Or our genes. Or our jeans. At any rate, since we cannot control our environment (except how globally warm it gets) or our genes, we bear no responsibility for anything. It’s not our fault we had no ice or water on hand before a hurricane. It’s not our fault we didn’t recognize that our mortgage payments would be twice our incomes. It’s not our fault government-financed jobs programs haven’t put people to work.

And most important, Robbing a drug store with a water pistol wasn’t Mr. McGowen’s fault.

Mr. McGowen does deserve to go to jail, though. You simply can’t rob a drug store and throw your mother under the bus for it without suffering the consequences.

That said, we still have to revamp our schools. After all, Mr. McGowen is really really bad at his job of being a crook. A squirt gun? He must have learnt that in school, doncha think?

After all, It couldn’t have been his fault.