Sunday, February 21, 2016


Cross the Potomac River from Maryland into Virginia or cross the Hudson from New York to New Jersey or cross into Connecticut from Massachusetts and you need a road side sign telling you you have crossed a state line.

But put a blindfold on me and drive me from New Hampshire to Vermont, or, for that matter, push me out of an airplane and let me parachute to ground and as soon as I can whip off that blindfold  and look around, I know I am not in New Hampshire; Vermont looks very different. 

It's all valleys and steep hills which are, well, green. It's a little like parts of West Virginia, with its hollows, but there are red barns and covered bridges all around, so you know you're in northern New England, not the inbred environs of WV, and there are no coal mines. 

Drive along the country roads, many of which are unpaved as you seek out the cross country ski areas, or the cheese farms, and you notice another thing which distinguishes Vermont from New Hampshire: A lot of Vermont is really rural in a way New Hampshire is not, and really poor, in a way New Hampshire is not.

Income disparity is also much more striking in Vermont. New Hampshire has it's monster McMansions, along its seacoast and up at Lake Winnipesaukee, so there is real money in New Hampshire, but it's more like the money you see in the Washington, DC suburbs: it's BMW/ Mercedes money, not Rolls Royce/ Bentley money.  Vermont has the latter.

We stayed in Quechee this weekend, looking for snow, of which there was not much, but we were able to find enough, just north of town in Strafford to get in a full day of cross country, just enough so you feel you could not have gone another hundred yards, and were lucky to find the parking lot when you did.  

Then drove down to Woodstock, where the streets are lined with stores which, at first glance, look like what you'd find in Georgetown, or Annapolis or Camden, Maine, until you go in.  At Foot Prints, the walls were arrayed with Spring fashions in a way that all the designs and colors harmonized, so each wall became a canvas.  There were pretty little sweaters in primary colors and contrasting collars and cuffs, for a cool $400 each.

 The Woodstock Gallery is gorgeous, again the paintings by different artists harmonized so you might have thought the entire space was color and design coordinated. Couldn't afford any of the original art there. 

Everything in Woodstock was just beyond my reach, financially. There is clearly real money skulking about Woodstock, and it's all just a mile or two from unpaved roads and dilapidated houses.  The money is, presumably, mostly from out of state.

Vermont's got New York on one side and Massachusetts below and people with money from both those places have found they can buy a lot of land and build in Vermont.  This does not seem to bother the natives one bit, who seem pleased to see the money flow in, and winters like this one, where out of staters stay home are pretty bleak. 

You do get an intimation where Bernie Sanders got his feeling for income disparity, though, driving around Vermont.  You see the struggling, the poor and you see the rich. 

You don't see a lot in the middle.

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