Hubbardton, Vermont: Zen Mind, First-Generation Mind

April 17, 2021. Hubbardton, Vermont.
Soundtrack:
Druids – Yeyin

“We need to hike,” she told me.

“Yes.”

It was never an argument. As I may have mentioned by now, Vermont is nothing but woods. She alleges that she is a green witch. Woods are green. For my part, I liked the experience of being out in nature before all the eggheads started publishing fringe studies suggesting that a walk in the woods and eating fruit is better for your mental health than blowing rails of Pixie Sticks and watching 10 hours of Netflix alone in your bed.

There was also Beefton to consider. He forgets he’s a lethargic couch ornament when you take him into the woods, and goes caroming through the underbrush, gasping like a sleep apneiac in a doomed effort to catch wildlife. The furry little golem is too slow to catch other dogs, let alone squirrels or rabbits, but we must imagine Sisyphus fulfilling his evolutionary pack-hunting imperative. “Sweet dreams of the chase, and a mouthful of blood,” as Thomas Harris put it.

The Witch and I had both grown increasingly feral over the quarantine, I from my anachronistic training regimen and unyielding dedication to my unga bunga bullshit, and she from her penchant for collecting and cataloguing rocks, a pursuit she regarded as equal parts secular and spiritual. The prowling and hauling had left her long limbs knotted with muscle, and I found her nonchalant ability to move faster than me along hiking trails both impressive and irritating.

So why, then, had we spent so much of our brief time in arboreal oblivion locked in the haunted farmhouse, gnawing steak and charcuterie?

“It’s still raining,” I said.

“Well, we can’t just not hike in Vermont,” she said. “But a lot of the trails are washed out because it’s ‘the muddy season’?”

“The muddy season.”

“Yeah.”

“When you say washed out,” I asked, “do you mean we’re wading upstream? I’ve got the big waterproof boots. I’m good to go. Never had to use them when it’s 40 degrees, but I gotta get out of this room. The chair is whispering again.”

“What?”

“Nothing. Never worry about it. Washed out?”

“A lot of it is hills and canyons,” she explained, gesticulating in a fashion both attention-deficit and highly Italian, “so the trails just… wash away. Wash off the mountain.”

“So it’s like a cliff. Hiking cliffs, like mountain goats.”

“Maybe? Good thing we got Cap stelliums to go around, huh?”

“Athena sends her soggiest battles to her antsiest soldiers. Beefy! We ride!”

Beefton launched from his concrete mattress and stretched into a flawless downward dog pose to evince his readiness.

“It is a good day to die,” Beefy said, though not in so many words.

The rain didn’t stop, but it shuffled its feet and hesitated long enough for us to find the Taconic Mountain Ramble, known and beloved far and wide for its Japanese Zen garden trail.

“Look at all that infrastructure,” I said. “There’s no way this leads to a state park. We’re going to get out of the car, and a cannibal hermit is going to put us on meathooks in his basement.”

“We’ll have to steer clear of basements, then.”

“He’s gonna take our skin, Witch,” I said. “You roll around in cocoa butter all the time, and I subsist on water and fish oil. Finest hides in Vermont right now. You saw the Vermontians at the restaurants. Woeful skin. Like the before pictures on a ProActiv commercial.”

“It’s because they’re always drinking maple syrup, I’ll bet.”

This was true, and disgusting. Maple syrup is to Vermont as ouzo is to Athens, in that no matter where you go, what you order, or what time of day it is, they will give you a little cup of it. I asked for hot sauce for my french fries, they asked “hot sauce or wing sauce?”, and I said hot sauce again. They brought me a little ramiken of wing sauce, and my highly refined palette immediately determined that some rabid anarchist jackal poured maple syrup in it.

“Gross,” she added.

We parked the car and I covered my bases.

“Beefy, there will likely be an abduction attempt. I need you to eat our kidnappers before they eat us. Your bloodline reaches back to the molossus, the great Roman dogs of war. You were bred for this.”

Beefton leaned across the center console and licked my face.

“No, dammit,” I said. “I need your war face. Who wants blood? Huh? Whom wanna drink blood?”

His ears lifted higher onto his head.

“I do,” he said.

“You wanna get a little blood? Huh? Who’s a blood drinking boy?”

“I am! I drink blood!”

I opened the back door and he uncoiled like a spring, bolting out into the forest teeth-first, jowls waving in the cold mist.

“Go get ’em!” I said. “Save yourself! Kill them all!”

We followed the trail down past an incongruous trailer. The Witch suggested the park rangers probably used it when the trails were open during the non-muddy season, but that first sign suggested that the great state of Vermont wasn’t funnelling too much of that good maple tax lucre into the parks system. Just beyond the trailer was The Spot.

Which, conveniently, faces away from the trailer, keeping you leaned back in the Adirondack, off balance and too distracted by nature’s splendor to notice the chloroform rag until it’s too late.

We wended our way into the Zen garden, which was gorgeous even in shitty weather, and must be incredible when it’s nice out.

There were two huge boulders with chairs at the top, but only one was accessible. The ladders were washed out from the other one. We could have feasibly freeclimbed it in the summer, but with the frozen moss and our wet, clunky hiking boots, we opted to take turns on the first.

Beefton flew into a screaming frenzy when we climbed the ladders, which were arranged in short, tiered platforms, not unlike the level design of the original Donkey Kong. He found his way up one, then panicked and jumped back down, slamming his chest against the earth and using the bounce to propel himself in a noisy, savage loop around the whole little lagoon. Fortunately, he is indestructible, and learned an important lesson about ladders.

We loitered on the rocks, amassing karma until we got hungry enough to go find something else undoubtedly made with maple syrup.

Love,

B.

Reykjavik: On We Sweep With Threshing Oar

Saturday, September 21, 2019. Reykjavik, Iceland.
Soundtrack: Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song

Fish and chips should fix this. We dropped into a fish and chippery and ordered the standard fare. They tried to upcharge us three American dollars for tartar sauce, so we ate them dry, with salt and vinegar.

“I am not a narcissist!” yelled a Swede at the other table to his bros. “I tell you why. You know why? 9/11. Worst day of my entire life. I still remember what I was wearing on 9/11! My blue shirt, and my white khakis pants.”

“Some would argue his believing that’s proof count as narcissism,” I whispered to Ladygirl. “But it’s not like I’m a professional.”

“We’re not saying you’re a narcissist,” said his French bro. “We’re just saying, we have things we don’t want to joke about, and you joke about them. So we joke about this.”

“2,977 people died!” the Swede yelled. “2,977! It was the worst day of my life! You tell me not to joke about it when the worst day of your life kills 2,977 people!”

He then started monologuing about the true heroism of the first responders, then stepped outside with one of the other bros for a smoke.

The remaining two were venomous.

“What a fucking asshole,” the French one said. “Absolute narcissist. Do you hear him? ‘The worst day of my life’? I can think of some people who had a worse day than you!”

“Yeah,” said the other one, whose accent I couldn’t place. “2,977 of them.”

“Idiot. He always does this. He just likes to yell.”

When the squad reconvened, they offered him 1000 krona to drink the entire bottle of vinegar.

“What is 1000 krona?” asked the Swede.

“I don’t know,” said the French guy. “I have bill that says 1000 on it. You want it or not?”

“How about half for 500?”

“Okay, yeah.”

The Swede took a sip of the vinegar and choked and sputtered all over his table, to riotous applause.

It was 5 o’clock somewhere. Brewdog had become a sort of base camp, but we were on the wrong side of town and wound up at the other resident craft brewery, Session.

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Westerbro IPA #beer #bastardtravel

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Most of their beers were named after Game of Thrones. Flaunt it if you got it.

Braxton joined the party and we did a quick lap around the city in the rental car. The previous day, we had ranged out to one of the hot springs, a place of scenic vistas and oppressive Silent Hill fogs, called Reykjadalur.

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shimmyin up #hiking #bastardtravel

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For you linguists out there, Reykja- means “smoky”. -Dalur is valley, -vik is bay.

“You know, it’s weird,” Braxton told us after this exposition as we made our way through the beers. “Almost all other languages name their places after defining characteristics. Only in English do you get things like “Scranton”. What the hell does that mean?”

“Town of Scran,” I said. “Scran is the feeling you get when you’re there.”

“What’s it mean?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “But it’s fitting on phonetics alone.”

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#hiking #reykjadalur #bastardtravel

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When we arrived at the trail, an American with an outlandish handlebar mustache was stretching his calves on the back of his car.

“If you guys are going up to soak, you might as well stop now,” he said, not even pausing in his calesthenics. “It’s been raining too much. It’s too cold to go in.”

We exchanged a look.

“I mean, it’s still a beautiful hike, if you like wind and rain in your face,” he said.

“We’ve been getting plenty of wind and rain in the face these past couple,” I said. “I think I’m immune now.”

“Welcome to Iceland,” he said with a shrug.

We decided we’d come too far and hiked up the hill, where it immediately began to downpour in earnest.

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Burble burble #hiking #geyser #bastardtravel

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“You know, in this past week,” Braxton said, “we’ve already hit the monthly average for rainfall in September? In five days.”

“It’s because of me,” Ladygirl said. “I’m cursed. It’s following me.”

“Global warming is a hoax,” I said with a wave of my hand. “These damn millennials should take a lil peep at a job application.”

Three miles uphill in the increasingly severe rain. The ground became quicksand, and at intervals both Ladygirl and I plummeted into the mud up to our thighs. The madness took hold and we splashed clean in the river that was, as promised, too cold to soak in.

But that had been yesterday. Today, we were wrapping up our viking adventure. We did a lap around Reykjavik, then returned the car and celebrated with more beer.

Braxton took us to a flea market where everything cost as much as it did in the shops, which means it wasn’t a flea market. It was just a market. It called itself a flea market, and outside we gathered more icelandic lamb hot dogs.

They also had this atrocity, masquerading under glass as cake.

We had nearly run the full gamut of Reykjavik. Iceland still had some volcanoes and glaciers to offer, as well as the dreaded Necropants, but none of those were accessible without buying another plane ticket, and I had places to be.

Still, there was one last stop to make.

The Lebowski Bar was conveniently located across the street from Kaffibrennslann, perhaps the finest cafe in Reykjavik. Since I’d spent nearly every morning of my stay  sucking down cappuccinos and tickatackin there, I couldn’t avoid the Lebowski bar. I could feel its pull like a neon, bowling-themed Charbydis.

I resisted until my final hours in Iceland. The burger (“the Lebowski burger”, innovatively) was decent. They seemed to really shine in the White Russian department.

“Listen!” screamed drunk white women at the waitress. “I got a question, and I need you to be honest with me.”

“Ya?”

“Is this an American bar?”

“Um-”

“Cuz we don’t wanna go to an AMERICAN bar. Like, do locals come here, or did you make this for us?”

“It is bar based on American movie,” the waitress said, “but it is not an American bar. I don’t like American bars. I like this bar. If it were an American bar, I would not like it.”

Her logic seemed somehow flawed, but the fleet of American ladies bought it.

We bade our farewells to Braxton, thanking him for all the rainy hikes and smashed fish, then headed to the bus depot to get out to the airport.

“The next bus doesn’t come until 8,” she said apologetically.

“Our flight’s at 9,” Ladygirl said. Her eyes did the thing where they get real big.

“Maybe another bus company? I will look for you.”

Across town, another bus company would take us at 7. The drive is an hour, which would give us enough time to through security and on the plane. The problem was, the other bus company was a half hour away, over a bridge and across a superhighway.

We rolled them bones. It immediately began to rain.

I won’t leave you in suspense.

Or will I?

To be continued…

Love,

B