Sunday, August 14, 2005


Today my Dad and I drove from Southern Connecticut, through Massachusetts, to Northern Vermont. Despite travelling the length of three states, it was still a shorter trip than if I were to leave Austin to exit Texas any direction but due East towards Louisiana. All I'm saying is, I live in a big-ass state and New England people who complain about distances have a very skewed perspective.

Dad was all giddy about showing me how his laptop could be hooked up to a GPS unit. Terribly geeky and quite useful if lost.

It was on the way and I was curious, so Dad and I stopped at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT. It's incredible; huge rooms, luxurious amenities for the time, and interiors by Tiffany and other Associated Artists.

Mark Twain House

Built in 1873, it was a technological marvel for the time with central heat, flushing toilets, and a telephone. The tour is fascinating and ends in Sam Clemens' billiard room where he also wrote. When the guide pointed out the table at which he wrote Adventures of Huckleberry Finn among other works, I teared up a little bit. No cameras are allowed inside, though you can see pictures at this floorplan.

The museum on the grounds had an exhibit of Clemens' library. He often wrote in the margins of his books, typically scathing commentary. An example:

Mark Twain notation

It reads (with Clemens' comments in brackets), Plutarch's Lives of Illustrious Men translated from the Greek [into rotten English] by John Dryden , the whole carefully revised and corrected [by an ass]. The note on the left reads, "When you come across the pronouns he and him in this slovenly book, you will never know to whom they refer. But never mind—-neither does God."

Here's a hilarious quote regarding Jane Austen:

Twain's hatred of Jane Austen

There's a treasure trove of great quotes, including a few more about Austen.

After that, we drove almost straight through to St. Albans, VT. Along the way, my father regaled me with voluminous description of Vermont and its problems as he sees it, which includes few job opportunities, stodgy farmers opposed to everything, and extreme naivete about the rest of the country. Dad told me about guys that are proud they have never been out of the state their whole lives. Yeesh.

Vermont, much like Arkansas, is incredibly green and beautiful; then there's the people. The majority of the population falls into three categories: dirty hippy Phish-heads, dairy farmers, and what my father refers to as "New England hillbillies". I am exaggerating a bit of course, there's also nine Black people.

The small towns in Western Connecticut and Massachusetts are almost unbearably charming, rather like Gilmore Girls' fictional town Stars Hollow. Cross the border into Vermont and you immediate see trailer homes. My father chalks it up to a lack of taste and pride. I suspect it has to do with economics.

My favorite Dad rant was about the coalition of "I'm aginit" farmers and nature-lovers opposed to putting wind turbines on the hilltops. "It will ruin the view", they say. This is a state that cares very much for "the view". There are no billboards in Vermont. It's really wonderful until one runs up into the reality of energy production. I was close to writing a sarcastic letter to the editor noting my sadness that "the view", while free of wind turbines, would soon be obscured by clouds of smoke from coal and wood fires.


  1. It was a little bizarre to drive west into Oakland and see the hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines lining the hills. Very hypnontic.

    I'm jealous that you went to the Mark Twain house! He's arguably my favorite author ever.

  2. This is what I'm saying, wind turbines can be beautiful on a purely aesthetic level aside from the beauty of renewable energy.

    You should totally go to his house someday, very cool and he lived next door to Harriet Beecher Stowe.

  3. Dear God -- I've never seen his Austen quotes before! I think I love Twain more now than ever. Why do people think Austen's novels are any good? ;_;

  4. I'm thinking of a certain advanced degree in English-holding friend of ours that's partial to her work, though I might be wrong about that.

    Having never read her novels, I donn't have an opinion on their worth, but I have enjoyed the film adaptions.

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