Thanksgiving with the Von Trapps

It is strange indeed to be at the Trapp Family Lodge in northern Vermont as the world is chaotic with conditions not unlike those that forced the Von Trapps to flee their native Austria for Vermont in the first place. We arrived two nights before Thanksgiving, and it was already a cold and exquisite snowscape. We like to go at Thanksgiving because the restaurant there serves up an incredible meal, ...

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Rowan Oak

I’ve always assumed Faulkner was drunk when he named his house because there is no such tree as a rowan oak. There is a rowan tree, also called a mountain ash, and sometimes it’s referred to as rowan ash, but that’s as close as we get. It’s a bushy tree of northern climes with red or white berries, and in some myths its reputed to ward off malevolent spirits, and ...

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Hyper-Content in Big Sur

The first time I’d ever heard of the Big Sur was my freshman year in college when I picked up Richard Brautigan’s novel A Confederate General from Big Sur. Brautigan was a writer who came just after the Beats but whose work resembled some of theirs, that stuff you love when you’re nineteen and even feel rebelliously deep and profound just reading in large part because it contains so many ...

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Moose Safari

It was not in my youth that I developed a lasting affection for the moose, and that is not unusual, given that I grew up in southern Illinois where any sighting of a moose would have been a harbinger of the apocalypse. It’s possible that my first taste of moose love began in college when I was introduced to Moosehead Beer, my favorite, but I suspect my deep and durable ...

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The Mounds and The Arch

I grew up in southern Illinois, near St. Louis, so I went to the Arch dozens of times, but I never went to Cahokia Mounds. The Arch is an amazing architectural structure, and the view from the top is remarkable (even if it is a little unsettling on windy days when you can feel the Arch slightly swaying), and underneath is a fine museum dedicated to Lewis and Clark and ...

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Great Graves: John Hancock

John Hancock. Patriot, revolutionary, President of the Second Continental Congress, first and third Governor of Massachusetts. Also a Mr. Big Bucks, one of the richest men in the original thirteen colonies. Like many of our super-wealthy, he didn’t do diddley to earn that fortune but rather inherited his uncle’s mercantile business. Thus, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that he wrote his signature so famously large on the Declaration of ...

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Grandma Moses and the Bennington Museum

Before we get to Grandma Moses, I need to make a public service announcement: If you are driving to Bennington, Vermont, from the west, once you hit Hoosick, New York, you will be told that in that village you can visit a home, not the home but a home, of Chester A. Arthur, America’s 21st president, a portly type who assumed the presidency after the assassination of Ohioan James Garfield ...

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Waffle House Things

Things happen at the Waffle House. A few days ago, a man was shot inside a Waffle House in Norfolk, Virginia, and a couple days before that, in Crowley, Alabama, a man crashed his car into the Waffle House before leading police on a car chase. Also this week: two men in Florida who’d been shot at in their car drove to the local Waffle House for help, and in Memphis, a ...

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Woody’s Library Restaurant

I was very excited to eat dinner at The Library. It’s located in Carmel, Indiana, an upper-income suburb of Indianapolis, quite probably the whitest city in America though not to be confused with Boston, which only wishes it were the whitest. (I stole that line from a satiric novella about our times called Now Playing by Erik Simon. If you thought it was funny, you should check out the book. ...

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Hildene: A Lincoln Summer Home

I’ve spent enough of this lifetime hearing about the limelight woes of children of celebrities. I’m not saying there aren’t certain hassles of being in the spotlight, but those are far preferable to the actual pressures of, say, not getting enough food this week because your single mom makes minimum wage or not keeping your fingers warm enough to do homework because your dad fell off of an eight-foot scaffolding ...

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