Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Green Mountain State

Vermont is a remarkable place. If you have not visited, I can't recommend it highly enough. The quality of life is stellar. Most of what you have heard is true. I brag to anybody who asks about the fact that there is no traffic, very little crime, no billboards, good schools. My daily commute takes me through the kind scenery that most folks only get to visit - pristine winding rivers, mountains jutting up about me, rolling hills and farm fields separating the mountain range we reside in from Lake Champlain and the surrounding valley where my office is located.

It has taken me years to uncover all that Vermont has to offer. Like many before me, my early years here were spent going to the real tourist spots - Ben & Jerry's, The Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, Stowe - all heavily trafficked and well enjoyed destinations. Subsequent years found me exploring the natural wonders of the state: mountain biking, hiking, days at the lake. Wildlife is often available in abundance for observation.

The benefits of this beautiful environment are not lost on Vermont residents. People just love the place. The lifestyle is laid back, with endless possibilities just beyond your door. It really doesn't suck.

But much like an onion, there are layers to be peeled from the surface of a community before one truly becomes aware of, and familiar with the subtle nuances that tell the entire story. Stick around long enough, keep the peeler working and you just might discover why Vermont is referred to as the Green Mountain state. Use Google to search for Vermont's second largest cash crop and you'll save yourself the years I invested in discovery.

The place is loaded with weed. If you ever wondered what happened to all the hippies, wonder no longer. I've found them, and I'm convinced that they are hiding in the hills, poised to rise again to glory. There is a plethora of Birkenstocks, VW vans, and peace signs to behold. The town of Woodstock, Vermont is just fifty miles from our home. People sit around campfires and talk about their feelings. Interpretive dance involving unshaven female armpits occurs with merciless frequency. The hills glow in a series of very small fires every night, and potato chips are consumed in mass quantity.

It stands to reason, therefore, that it was only a matter of time before I had a close encounter with a Mary Jane fan. In order to unwittingly further my education in things green, I moved in right down the street from one. An ardent fan, his days were spent researching all things marijuana. His appearance was part hippie, part mad scientist, long hair and bloodshot eyes bearing testament to his pursuit of, well...nothing, as is the case with most burners. Since he almost never left the house, I considered him relatively harmless.

This consideration was proven quite wrong in a series of events that I will try my best to remember, a series set in motion by a phone call I received one autumn night not too long ago.



Neighbor: "Dude you need to come to my house right now, this is not cool!"

Author: "What is not cool?"

Neighbor: "I don't have time to explain just come NOW."

I did. I grabbed Sola and a flashlight and ran down the street to see what had peace corps all wound up. As we made our way up the driveway I shined turned the light to the house, and what I saw had me running as fast as I could to get to the occupants. I was convinced the house was ablaze, and Sola picked up her pace to match mine as we landed on the front porch. I half expected the doorknob to burn me as I burst through the front door, Sola still at my heels.

We forged ahead through the haze and found our neighbor and his Golden Retriever despondent on the living room floor. I was without my cell phone and could not see my way through the house to find a landline. Plumes of smoke bellowed from the kitchen as I shook the two of them, desperate to see any sign of life. I dropped the flashlight, and Sola took a step back as both my neighbor and his dog opened their eyes and started laughing. It took forty minutes to stop them.

Once their gigglefest subsided, I forced an explanation from my less than present neighbor. He had taken a shot at horticulture over the summer, and as the days shortened and frosty nights approached, he had harvested his his baby. He explained to me how he had dried his plant, and stripped the leaves from it for the purpose of making brownies and cookies of a different kind. He layered these leaves on baking sheets and placed them in both of the dutch ovens in the kitchen (without turning them on) and left them there to dry for more than a week while he tended to the buds and stripped away the stems.

Experts say that pot impacts your short term memory, and here was a man on a mission to prove them right with a bullet. He had imbibed, and was hanging out with his dog while playing online poker. He was in the midst of a moderate winning streak when the hunger bug bit. He placed his laptop on the kitchen counter and scrounged for food between poker plays. Once he decided on his dinner he fired up the oven and returned to the living room to give the ongoing poker match his undivided attention.

Cheech and Chong had nothing on this guy. In a matter of minutes his cooking stash was incinerated, and the house was bursting at the seams with smoke. It was this disquieting scene that Sola and I found ourselves in the middle of - for just a little too long. As neighbor Chong surveyed the damage in the kitchen I started to become lightheaded. A quick look at Sola confirmed my fear- her eyes were drooping and she kept asking me where the water bowl was, which was odd considering that dogs don't talk. I wished my neighbor luck in my newly discovered slow motion voice, and Sola and I stubmbled home in the dark, purple elephants and unicorns in hot pursuit.

Both of us passed out. Mrs. Author and I shared a laugh over coffee the next morning as I conveyed the details of the previous evening's smoke show. The cobwebs cleared from my head as the day wore on. I ate like a horse. Our routine resumed.

Sola was changed.

I had not considered the risk, but it was becoming clear that some of that flower power had rubbed off. The first ominous sign: the attack of the bead curtains. Every doorway was adorned with noisy strands, some strung with seashells, coconut shells, heart shaped glass beads. Entry and exit to and from each room was announced with a loud rattle. My tacky radar was lit up like my neighbor's brain.

It went downhill quickly from there. I returned from work one evening to find the stereo on 10, Led Zeppelin rocking the house to it's foundation, Sola waving to and fro with the wall of guitar noise. Nigel and Truffles observed, nonplussed. They had pulled pillows from the couch to their ears and were nursing substantial headaches by the time I found the volume knob. As the music silenced, all that remained was the methodical tap of Sola's paws on the floor as she continued her dance, the music still playing in her head. I ushered her in to the dog room and closed her in for a bit to let her sober up.

I was baffled. I'd never heard of dogs spending time at the Betty Ford clinic, but I knew that I'd better figure out a solution rather quickly. Sola was embracing the culture too readily. I had kept her away from the Golden down the street to eliminate peer pressure. Mrs. Author and I had shown her scared straight videos from the pound - the images of Rotties being hauled out of Cadillac Escalades in cuffs, and Bulldogs doing time for possession apparently having little effect.

I asked Nigel to go check on Sola, but he came flying back to the couch, Sola angrily screaming "I can quit any time I want, stop snooping Magnum P.I.!" The dog room door slammed shut with a bang.

Nigel: There were piles of cash everywhere and it reeked of incense.

I waited a few hours for her to calm down. I continued the mental struggle for an appropriate course of treatment as I cracked the dog room door open to check on my little wayward corn nut.

Not good.

A truly terrifying poster adorned the walls.

Sola rattled her way through the bead curtain again, passing me and running down the hall, out of sight. I made my way back to the living room to find her playing Rock Band on the Wii, singing White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane at the top of her lungs. "Feed your head!" she bellowed, and I truly believe she was in the song. It was all wrong, and remained so for months.

My car was the last straw. I walked out of the office the other day, laptop and keys in hand, twenty minutes late as always. I hadn't been punk'd as much as I'd been "pimped."

Fearing serious hooker traffic, I made a commitment at that moment to end the fierce addiction and reclaim my little girl. I was dangling dangerously from the end of my rope, and I needed to save her at any cost. That night Mrs. Author and I huddled with Nigel and Truffles and share our plan. Once all had it memorized we dispersed - Truffles to the kitchen, Mrs. Author keeping an eye on Sola in the back yard as Nigel produced her rolling papers. We were done in less than five minutes, and Sola was none the wiser as she returned to her spot on the couch.

At seven that evening we were watching news of the financial meltdown when Sola had a meltdown of her own. We heard the flick of a lighter in the dog room followed by a series of coughs that evolved in to a consistent dry hack. Sola came rattling back at us through the bead curtain, demanding an explanation. "Someone raided my stash. This isn't my stash, someone replaced it with garbage, where is MINE?" We tried to talk her down, but addiction is as strong as it is ugly, and she wanted no part of it.

I explained that we loved her and that we all needed her to be healthy and well, and free of her demons. Mrs. Author told her that we missed the Sola we knew. She held up a defiant paw and ignored us. I asked Nigel to produce the evidence. He handed it over and I threw it on the table in front of her angrily.

Sola: I quit I quit I quit I quit!!!!!!!!!!

Mission accomplished.

Nigel: You smoked catnip, you'll never live this down in the dog community.

Truffles: Anyone seen my Joaquin Phoenix beard and glasses?

Sola: I have quit, but as you may have noticed, corn nut is one of my nicknames. You all should really click this button to help me with the transition back to reality. Just keep on clicking into oblivion...feed your head!



  1. How do you come up with this stuff? :) I've always wanted to visit Vermont...maybe someday. :)

  2. Vermont is like the rainbow paradis?

  3. Mommy drove to Vermont with a pal when she was in college in the 60's. She won't talk to us about much from that era, so we will assume she was there to study horticulture like she said. Sola is a brave and strong girl to kick the habit! Smooches from Pooches,BabyRocketDog & Hootie

  4. BOL, catnip... BOL
    Big licks to you

  5. Good luck Sola - it isnt easy! Our mum is currently checking the internet for flights to Vermont. Being a child of the sixties she feels strangely drawn................
    we will try taking her out for a walk to the woods and the fresh air may impact on her brain but at the moment she feels a longing to return to times past.
    love, peace & harmony
    Martha & Bailey xx
    ps we havent gone into the water yet as it is rumoured that bassets cant swim. we believe some can but our mum knows with certainty that she cant!

  6. The things we learn. We thought a dog hooked on grass was grazing, not blazing.

  7. Woof! We will definitely check out Vermont. Woof! sugar

  8. John and Kelly want to know if you like Magic Hat beer? When they lived in Connecticut they loved Magic Hat #9. They also say that they don't know anything about Vermontian horticultural practices . . .really!

  9. Anonymous9:51 AM

    Drugs are bad!

  10. A dog with a catnip addiction? That is just sick and wrong. It’s like being a man and having your favorite drink be a red wine blush of some sort. Just wrong I tell ya! I do hope she gets help soon. ;)
    I have been told before that my father was a glorified hippie. He used to sell leather purses at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA. I think the shop is still there, but the hippie apparently left my father long ago. Or so I think…

  11. I hear John Waters is lined up to produce the movie version of this story.

  12. I'm sitting here beside myself with laughter!

    ;=0) ;=0)

  13. Most days, we think you guys are just not right! Hilarious!!!

    Tinkerbell, Oscar and Tucker

  14. Fudgepants!!! OMG are you kidding me? I'm almost laughing too hard to type! That's outstanding. I needed that today as my family is facing the loss of a dear pet tomorrow. Over the rainbow bridge for another beloved soul. You made me laugh on a day I did not think was possible. Bless you for that. If you want to know what's going on, take a read at Your Mother Knows But Won't Tell You... and I hope you'll become a follower there. Warm canine regards and again, thank you so much for the soul healing laugh. Holly

  15. Oh, I am so glad you're holed up in your house during a Vermont winter and able to come up with stuff like this. Sola, baby, nothing beats a natural high. And, yes, I know that weed is natural. My cats tell me all the time that nip is natural. They need an intervention, too, and God forbid I go barefooted through the catmint by the patio...

    I thought of this commercial when I read your description of your local hippies:

    I didn't know the meaning of the word 'til I read this.
    I'll be right over on the next plane.

  17. What a great story. Vermont sounds beautiful. I hope he over his addiction. And just so you know Ohio is beautiful too, with rolling hills and acres upon acres of farm land, beautiful rivers and streams and the lake and parks and............. just trying to stay grounded here. =)

  18. Our neighbors are from Vermont. They don't talk much about the love generation. I am sure we have seen your neighbor at one time or the other.
    Poor Sola. Maybe she should hang out with Edgar. He has the same addiction. He's more a snorter though.

  19. Wow! You've got some wayward dogs. Don't let the neighbors be bad influences on your innocent canines. Maybe they should find religion - how about cat-lic?

  20. By the way...You've now been tagged. :)

    I hadn't added my victims until after you read it today. Your turn!

  21. What a funny post! Catnip? Perhaps all the cats might want to move to Vermont LOL!

    You rock! Totally, dude!

  23. You guys are SO great!

    Teddy Bear

  24. Crikey.......What a story.

    Pinkies have always wanted to visit New England. They'll have to make sure they don't miss Vermont. It sounds spectacular.

    Noah Willow Tess Lucy

  25. OMFG!! Man that was sofa-king funny :D :D
    Good luck with the demons Sola!
    Peace-out, baby xx

  26. Anonymous10:45 AM

    I knew I recognized those Grateful Dead Bears at the beginning of your story! I have always believed in the power of the flower and that we should make love, not war! There is something to be said for hippie philosophy!! You go dude and doggie!!

  27. That is the funniest damn thing I've read in...well...forever! I shared it with my friend "Pearl" and she and I both had a good laugh. How do you come up with this?

    I would love to know who's who - and who is what... Meaning, I know Sola is a dog, but...

    Wonderful stuff!

    ~Jennifer @ Random Ramblings

  28. Anonymous3:07 PM

    Dude! Where's my pipe? Did the car have little dingle balls hanging all around the windows??
    Come on over to our blog, we left something there for you guys, just leave the weed at home, Pappy is still just a baby, ya know. :)

    Feather, Darla & Pappy

  29. That is a great story. You had mom rolling with that one.. She was thinking of "Tambourines and Elephants"
    Have a great weekend..

    Big Sloppy Kisses
    Gus, Louie and Callie

  30. And I thought all this time that the Green Mountain State meant that people who lived in Vermont had tons of money. Hmmmmmm. Love, Sally

  31. Dude you found my car! Sola come over.. I still have my tape of fast times at ridgemont high.


  32. mom thinks you are a toker...
    Your Pal, Morgan

  33. You're a solid writer, I like this.

  34. Anonymous1:08 AM

    Your definitely a great blogger to come up with this story.This is totally entertaining and outrageous!

  35. LMELFBO!!! (Laughing my every loving furry butt off) That is the greatest story every told. But don't tell my sis Gracie, K? She's the hippie in the house!

  36. Interpretive dance involving unshaven female armpits? Oh, dear.

    I love, loved this story. Probably because I am completely visual and the imagery of your dog singing "feed your head!" while jammin' on guitar hero is too much for me to handle! (And by too much I mean- just enough. Obviously.)

  37. I miss New England like crazy. I miss the Sun Festival in Norwich. The kids miss the Montshire.

    Love the remakes of the movie poster

  38. I grew up in Vermont. Thanks for the hilarious memory jog.

  39. Sola, honey.....yer somethin' else!

    Hmmmm.....New England IS my mom's fav'rite part o' the country......(Hank scratches head). I'm gonna have tuh keep an eye on the ol' gal.