Melancholy on the AT
Today is such a melancholy day. Don’t ask me why, I can scarcely figure it myself. Something about the weather, or perhaps it’s just this town. It’s so kitsch it hurts the eyes to look straight at anything. My life at this point doesn’t mesh well with kitsch (or its more cultivated cousin, posh, either). I’m practically homeless for god’s sake! Well, I certainly look it anyways. Backpack slung loosely over my shoulders, scraggly (though recently cleaned) beard hanging off my face, freshly clipped and still dirty fingernails attached to the ends of my hands, dirty salvaged sweater thrown over my lean hiker hide. Yea, I look homeless, plain and simple. This is Manchester Center, VT, and damn does it do a good job making a hiker like me feel broke and inferior. Welcome. Welcome all.
Anyways, back to the weather. It’s 65° in August and feels a lot closer to a crisp 40 in October. It rained for three days so town was definitely the right move. Remember the last time you were soaked to the bone and the cold clung to your feet and hands like scratchy old socks and gloves someone tossed in a gutter by the side of the road? Yea, that’s about how we all felt the past few days. Everyone knows the only cure for such things is a steaming hot shower and an even steamier, hotter cup of coffee with a halfway decent book (hopefully not streaming) on your lap. There you are, that’s why we’re here. I don’t know what’s worse, the bitter rain-soaked cold or the sweaty blistering heat. Either way, thank god for towns. Even kitschy tourist joints like this one where you can actually smell the money dripping off the people and the cars like so much stinking sweat. At least they have air conditioning and central heating. I don’t suppose I could handle this too terribly long as a hiker, the 30 second stares alone are enough to add acres of dirt to my already shabby clothes. No matter, I’m leaving soon. And the coffee is damn good, I must admit.
We played golf last evening. Yes, proper golf with the clubs and the balls and the tees and the beers and we even put all this paraphernalia to something which resembled proper use! We were particularly handy with the beers portion. We weren’t trying to fit in or anything, that would have been well past impossible, living somewhere out past the 10th green, I think. But we did have a grand old time chinking the little white devils down the fairway with nothing even resembling skill. Damn that was fun! I think the last time I tried to play golf I was around eight and far more interested in using my clubs as their name suggests by trying to whack my brother rather than getting that stupid white ball in a hole 300 yards away. They say if you’re not good at golf by about age seven then it’s time give up the dream of becoming the next Tiger Woods. Oh well, one more ridiculous dream down the drain, not that I ever cared in the first place. I may go chasing down a tee time at some point in my future, however. That was just too much fun not to try again. Maybe next time the course will even have holes longer than 100 yards to muddle my way through.
I can only imagine what a miserable sight we must have been to the other more affluent tenants at The Palmer House where we stayed, the fellow who’s van we nearly gave a pseudo-hail-damage makeover to, in particular. All the hotels here have ridiculous names like this. I’m convinced it’s an all out effort to suck the cash for a five-star hotel out of its patrons’ wallets while marginally hitting the three-star mark (when they jump EXTRA high). So, naturally, we booked a room for two and illegally crammed five people in to cover the exorbitant rate. This is standard hiker procedure for any town, of course. How the hotels don’t ever seem to catch on after years of offenders passing through is beyond me. We didn’t have any issues, as per usual, even after borrowing five golf clubs and a horde of extra towels (scraggly beards are notoriously difficult to dry) and thoroughly enjoyed the amenities, however many stars they had.
I’m sitting at a little table writing before I take off for the day and I happen to be right next to the bathrooms (came for the outlet, stayed for the outhouse). A woman just refused to use the available and lockable single-stalled men’s room on the premise that it was the men’s room. People are so silly. This is of no importance whatsoever, just thought I’d share.
I need another cup of coffee.
I still have to resupply before leaving town today and I’ve been putting some real thought into my lunch choices. I feel like a kid in middle school again, trying to decide between grease-drenched pizza and a cardboard hamburger. I think it’s time to shift from ultra-processed pepperoni and hard stinky gut-destroying cheese to my DIY equivalent of a Take-5 candy bar: peanut butter, honey, pretzels and chocolate on a pita. These are the sorts of monumental decisions I’m faced with every day. I love this whole ‘freedom of choice’ bit. As I’ve heard Captain say a billion times, “No parents, No rules, No bedtimes!” The funny thing is I don’t ever really worry about such things back home, either… Still, sometimes I like to pretend my mum makes me take four bites of broccoli before I can have Rocky Road ice cream for dessert. It makes me feel like a real rebel! Jeez my life is lame…
I’m pretty much in babble mode now. I’ve bitched enough about town, told of the only truly unique experience attained here and making more comment on the terrain underfoot would seem painfully redundant. Life just isn’t always that interesting, even when you’re walking across the country with your house on your shoulders. Some days are incredibly dull indeed. No views, No interesting people to talk to, No campfires to stare at and nothing interesting to eat. Come to think of it, lots of days are like that. It’s not so much different from normal daily life after all. No matter where we are, the moments we all live for are sprinkled into this life-batter like so many tiny chocolate chips. We just hope there are a few in each bite when the cookies come out of the oven.
I can see the whispy white blanket of clouds sitting on the mountaintops outside the window of my makeshift coffeehouse office. I wish that phrase was less of a misnomer, “blanket of clouds.” It’s extremely disappointing when you finally climb the few thousand feet and discover the clouds are much closer to damp washcloths than blankets. I suppose I’m just dreading the inevitable rain which is sure to fall on my head the second I get back on the trail. It’s so warm and cozy here in my winged office chair with my luxuriously hefty ceramic goblet of coffee, complete with free refills. But all good things must come to an end. It’s time I quit waxing philosophical and get my nicely muscles calves back in action. Side note: we decided last night the golf course has probably never seen the likes of such glorious calf muscles in all its years. It made us feel special, briefly. That’s what I’m going to leave you with. Imagine the calves. The beautifully muscle-rippled calves.
Cheers all. Take care.
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Manchester Center … I hope you got some pancakes. You are in the land of real maple syrup. Take advantage.
Great post. Joni and I were just in Manchester Center. We survived the rain and now we’re on a bus back to NYC before heading up to Hanover.
Was great to very briefly meet you on the trail at some shelter with a painfully long downhill slog to water. Anyway, not sure if you remember, but figured I’d drop a note.
Keep reading, keep writing. We’ll be following along!
Great post Library! You have an amazing grasp of the English language and I appreciate the way you wax on. Tell Captain his pop says hi and Keep On Keepin On! If there’s anything in particular that you folks want on the trail all you have to do is ask and I’ll send a package. Happy Trails my brother.