This is one of those times where I want, so very badly, to do something…but I don’t know what there is to be done, or what I can do, myself.
Today was “Octobrewfest” at Mount Snow. Mount Snow is my “home mountain” – aka, the place where I have my season pass and do most of my downhill skiing…but it’s a little bit more than that. Mount Snow is a great institution and a business worth having my customer loyalty. They were at the epicenter of the natural disasters wrought by Hurricane Irene. The town downstream of them, Wilmington, was nearly obliterated in the floods, while Mount Snow, occupying – necessarily – a position of High Ground, made it through the storm in relative safety.
Why do I feel, then, that they are worth my Personal Shout- Out? Because in the wake of the storm and its devastation, they cancelled most of their fall activities – thus sacrificing considerable revenues. Why? Not because their facilities were adversely affected. No. It was because they understood – quite rightly, in my opinion – that the repairs to the infrastructure that were necessary not for their own personal well-being, but for the well-being of the entire region, would proceed more quickly and effectively without travelers on the roads than if they were obliged to handle vehicle traffic while the repairs were being effected. That is, they sacrificed their short-run cash flows in favor of the long-run cash flows for everyone in the area.
Why else? Because – thanks to Facebook – I saw that they had invited anyone in the region who was rendered homeless or without power and water to come by the base lodge to get a hot shower and a dry bed. I know from great personal experience in Texas that hot showers, hot food, and dry beds are at a premium in the wake of a natural catastrophe, and I also understand how incredibly important something so simple can be to people who are forced to participate in the recovery from such a catastrophe.
Why else? Because I discovered, after the fact, and due to no publicity machine on their part, that Mount Snow had any quantity of heavy equipment on hand (due to the much-vaunted replacement of a main lift) and that a significant component of that equipment involved Earth Moving Equipment (EME). And that, in the wake of the storm, they abandoned their personal short-term interest to send that EME out into the community to restore driveways, private roads, and small lanes…so that the local municipalities – already overwhelmed by the consequences of a fucking hurricane hitting Vermont – did not have to worry about these things. I don’t know if Mount Snow received compensation for this donation of labor and equipment, but given the general tenor of the information release wherein this news came to light, I expect that they did not. This didn’t make it into the public eye thanks to any PR machine on Mount Snow’s part, mind you. This came to light through a third party, who had been informed of this by the deeply appreciative recipients of this aid.
So, as I said, the fact that they offer tremendous skiing and the best ski school in southern Vermont aside…this organization behaves in a righteous manner. One that we can all approve of.
So, they cancelled a lot of their individual money-makers because they felt that adding the traffic for these events would only impede the heroic efforts of the public-works department – and, as I said, quite right they were in that assessment. Today, they made up for it by holding a massive Octobrewfest – loads of local and Vermont craft breweries – and combining it with the annual craft fair.
Now, the annual craft fair requires a bit of discussion of its own. The artists represented in this craft fair are typically “local” artists. And these are people who we – should we have cared to do so – watched their shops disintegrate in the face of flooding not six weeks ago. They are artists who watched their entire oeuvre of original art dissolve and be carried away on the surface of torrential flood waters. They are people who lost the products of years, and years, and years of hard work, in the space of hours. And, because this is Vermont, an area that is not notoriously subject to things like hurricanes and flash floods did not have FEMA flood insurance.
One of these individuals, whom I met today, is Ann Coleman. Please, please consider shooting a spare $10 or so to her fund. Her gallery washed away – the entire freaking building – with 37 pieces of her original art inside. If you have kids, ask yourself how hard it would have been to lose your kids’ entire oeuvre in some wholly-unexpected natural disaster. Then tell yourself – as you’re feeling the pain of losing whatever precious little drawing they did – that this is the source of the income you have to keep them in coats, shoes, and peanut butter sandwiches for the next three months. If you’re of an artistic bent, as I am, ask yourself how it would feel if you had some ravening monster come into your house while you were out having a beer, and slash the hell out of your favorite painting/drawing/sculpture/whatever it is that you do. Then remember that you’d been counting on that to pay the heating bill and buy food for the next month.
And then, when you’re really feeling the pain of this, click on this link and donate a measly twenty bucks to this woman through Paypal, because, frankly, I’d do it for you. And for many of you, I have done it for you, or for some cause you feel strongly about. Or, if you’re feeling really generous, go buy some of her work.
This is a woman we would all know. She’s smart, she’s approachable, she’s a good artist, she wears funky jewelry, and she basically lost her entire livelihood in the space of 4 hours in late August. Click the link. As I said, if I haven’t already done it for you, I would do it for you, if you needed it.
This was my first visit to Vermont since The Disaster. It was every bit as painful as I thought it would be, too. Every time we drove over what is clearly a brand-new patch of pavement, every time we drove over what is clearly a brand-new bridge, every time we drove over a section of road that was comprised of rocks and fill…where in April, it had been asphalt…I knew. Every time I passed a house out in the country marked with “NO TRESPASSING” signs, I knew. They’re not worried about crack whores and thuggery, not in the rural areas of Vermont. No. Those signs had been posted for houses that were known to be no longer structurally safe…and they were hoping to deter the local teenagers from daring each other to go in.
We passed a house that I recognized, quite well – it’s a log cabin, with a long porch facing away from the road, set in a thicket of trees. I’ve envied this house many times, because I knew that it must be a sheer delight to watch the deer and moose come out of the woods to the creek at dusk. Now, however, the porch is gone and it sits on a mudflat, with no trees anywhere nearby.
The businesses in Wilmington are shuttered or boarded up, six weeks after the fact. I know no one had flood insurance to cover these losses. We’re looking at twenty families who have lost their livings. They are hard workers. They are college graduates, and farmers, and brewers, and baristas, and waitresses, and cooks. They are artists, and booksellers, and yarn spinners. They have families, and they have mortgages. If you didn’t feel the need to cut loose with a donation to Ann, above, consider cutting loose with some cash for these guys. I’m not asking for 500 bucks for petes’ sake. I’m asking for the price of a pair of meals at the local diner. It’s nothing I haven’t donated myself, many times. If you can spare change for homeless dogs and cats, how about for desperate craft brewers and cooks?
I have already made donations to every site I’m featuring on this post. AND I’ve made donations to people who have been left homeless by the Texas wildfires, to shrimpers put out of work by British Petroleum and the Deepwater Horizon, and to dogs and cats throughout the country. And to farmers in the mid-west, and to the Red Cross. And to fifteen different charities serving New Orleans. I have given to your causes. Now you give to mine. They need this. It makes a difference.
Driving up to Mount Snow, we traversed a section of Route 9 that had been washed out seven times in 2 miles. The fresh blacktop was a slap in the face. The one thing I wanted to do at the Octobrewfest (other than to kick back a few beers) was to drop as much money as reasonable into the local economy. And even then, I felt that it was a cheap gesture.
When I was confronted by Ann’s shop (above), I told her that I had seen the devastation on YouTube, and that it hurt my heart in general, and that as an artist, I could not imagine the agony of losing a lot of original art to floodwaters. And every word of that was true. And I told her that I was so very sorry about what had happened, and that if I could make any piece of it go away, I would. And I was so sorry.
And it was 100% true. It does make my heart hurt. It does give me pain. I would trade at least one of my permanent teeth if I could make this go away.
And, at the same time, none of this matters. I felt that every word from my mouth was cheap. I felt that it was hollow, and superficial, like I was at a funeral receiving line for a professional colleague saying, with meaningful insincerity to the family members “I am so sorry for your loss.” I was. But it didn’t matter. Because I couldn’t do anything. I could not make any of it not happen, and me and my constant dribbles into the Bucket of Need couldn’t slake any of it. I wanted to take the house with the NO TRESPASSING signs and rebuild it. I wanted to put the porch and trees back on the log cabin. I wanted to open Dot’s again, and bring back the 37 pieces of art that this woman lost. I wanted to make the roads never have been washed out. I wanted, as badly as I have ever wanted anything, to make it as though this horrible event had never happened, and people had not lost their lives and people had not lost their livelihoods. I wanted to take away the sleepless nights, and that feeling that I am sure they have, when the rain starts to patter on the roof, of sick fear that everything is about to be lost again. I wanted to make it all go away.
I can’t do any of this at all. All I can do is kick in a small amount of money – so small that I fear it is nearly meaningless – in the hopes that it will help people rebuild. I can only ask all of you, who read this, to do the same. Because while I know that my $30 doesn’t mean much, if 10 of us do this, that’s $300, which is a great deal more helpful. And while it will not make it as though this has never happened, it will…help.