There are many imaginary lines in the world. Some of these lines are reified by rivers, mountains, dirt berms, or other features of the landscape. In other areas, the geography, climate, and flora and fauna do not offer any difference yet, when one cross that demarcation in a jurisdiction, there is an immediate difference in the social fabric, the state of the built environment, and navigability of the paved roadways.
This demarcation is altogether true for New Hampshire and perhaps starkest when entering from the West. Upon leaving the gentle hills of maple sugar, farm bed and breakfasts, and gift shoppes, one passes the welcome sign and depending on the size of the highway, the state liquor store. From there on, the land is of broken small hamlets, roads heaved by frost and low taxes, and the occasional factory blasted by time and Free Trade. While the economies of Vermont and New Hampshire are very similar, and there is certainly poverty in both states, that offered by the Live Free Or Die state seems at times more visible than that of the Green Mountains. Perhaps the abandoned houses and piles of cars and snowmobiles are closer to the road and the weird hippies and descendants of the decadent French hide their midden piles better from the roads and tourist eyes.
Most of the Northeast Kingdom and lower quarters of these sister states enjoy the same air and woods, however, they steward the land in very different ways. This is not to say that Vermont doesn’t have its gravel pits, strip malls, and former tanneries where now nothing dares grow, but in New Hampshire these seem more a part of the unforgiving landscape. There are quaint areas, resorts, bed and breakfasts and eateries as more people are residing in New Hampshire yet it looks much more vacant. Perhaps the residents are a more private sort who came to live in the woods to avoid congregating and fraternal orders found in more social areas of our Great and Storyed Nation.
At one village, the restaurant on the square occupied a historic building of those vast and square sort that Yankees built early n the last century. While occupying an old structure of some simple architectural elegance, the establishment had all the look of a mall food court. The decorations were on the wall as one may staple things in a hurry for a holiday you don’t celebrate. The food was bland in a way that was noticeable to the palate… spiced with a flavour that tasted like nothing. This was one of five recommended restaurants two of these listed being Dunkin Doughnuts and Subway – establishments that most of a certain Raceclassgender may not even consider included as a synonym for ‘restaurant’ let alone included in the solution set of the question “what’s for dinner?”
It seems as if most of the state has this affliction. Things are just straightforward and as-is no-frills. That may not be a bad thing. We don’t need everything to be blah blah foreign or ethnic infused tiddle-dee-dee or fair trade ho-ho-ho or every historic village centre chock full of impulse-by-mongers offering handmade Die Scheiße kann man neben der Straße finden. But it helps…
The Old Man Of the Mountain vanished off the mountain back in 2003. Today from the former viewing site there is a very matter-of-fact depiction of the collapse. There seems to be a basic, “yop, ees agone now” and that’s it. The return to the western lands was over a number of roads heaved and patched. We came upon yet another village that was left behind by history. Empty yet-handsome buildings and slowly decaying formerly-grand homes. It is strange that for a state with over a million souls that so many abandoned places exist. The car crossed a little river, midway on the bridge a sign exclaimed State Line and then on the other side we were greeted by another sign that may as well have read You Have Left New Hampshire. There was a companion village on this side of the river and in most storefronts was some business or at least above the apartments shone with light and life. While late on a blisteringly cold day, inhabitants came and went and perhaps greeted one another along the way. We had left the granite state and returned to the land of Maple Sugar and Gift Shoppes.