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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Local Gathering Place

This past weekend I travelled up to Vermont again.  After our Memorial Day camping fiasco, we decided that we needed to build a permanent pavilion on our clearing up there so we wouldn't have to deal with tarp's ripping in the middle of a rain storm and getting drenched and cold trying to fix it.  The original plan was to build the pavilion with a low deck, but to save money and expedite the process, we decided on just the pavilion for now.  So this past weekend was the start of it, digging 6 holes and filling them with concrete for the footings.  Instead of heading up Friday as I normally would, I got up really early on Saturday, about 3:30 in the morning, and was on the road by around 5.  Three hours later, I arrived in Vermont and made my normal stop at Floyd's General Store, one of the last remaining, locally owned, small country store.   One unfortunate side effect of the recession that we are slowly creeping out of is the closing of many small, local general stores and butchers in the area where we have our land.  Floyd's seems to be one of the few remaining ones.  But in any case, getting there at 8 in the morning on Saturday, I found the small parking lot packed full of cars.  At first I thought that it was highly unusual, but then I remembered that at least on the weekends, some of the locals congregate at Floyd's for conversation and to keep up on the news and what's going on in each other's lives.  As you would imagine any local general store, the front door to Floyd's is old, creaky, and has a bell attached so anyone who walks through inherently announces themselves to everyone inside.  Take a step in and your greeted by the friendly locals, creaky wooden floors that seem to sink a little with every step you take, and a few rows of food stuff.  I don't know how long Floyd's has been there, but it feels you are taking a journey back in time minus the refrigerated coolers that line the walls.  My main purpose for stopping at Floyd's every time before heading to the property is mainly for ice and beer.  There are no credit cards accepted (although they have recently installed an ATM for the out of towners) and everything is tallied up on a calculator and then punched into a century old cash register.  But I digress.  In the back of the store, where the beer is located, there is also a little area cleared of everything, where you will find chairs in a circle.  Outside of the morning, those chairs are empty, but come early enough, and the chairs, a mish mosh of rockers, old school chairs, and porch chairs are full of locals, talking, bitching, listening, and staying in touch with each other. 
This could be a daily occurrence for all I know, however, I am not normally there in the mornings on a weekday, so I will just assume its a weekend thing.  Normally when you see small groups of people gathered like that, they tend to be on the older side.  At Floyd's, however, its a mix.  Some of them are older, some younger, yet none of them as young as I am.  I guess the people around my age just figure that they can keep in touch with everyone via the Internet.  Its nice to see that small group of people gather to talk, though, instead of staring at a screen pretending they are talking.  That small gathering at Floyd's reminds me of a few places in Connecticut, none with the history or feeling of Floyd's, yet gathering places none the less for elder locals to gather and chit chat.  The two places that stick out in my mind as persistent every day gathering places just happen to be Dunkin Donuts, one in Milford, one in Ansonia.   It doesn't matter if it is late morning or early afternoon, there is always a group of older men at each of these DD locations that gathers, occupies a number of tables within the stores, and talks about the latest news or sometimes, older news.  I rarely go to the Dunkin Donuts in Ansonia as the parking lot is always full and having a cargo van, it is not easy to get in and out of.  The one that I frequent more is the Dunkin Donuts in Milford, the one near the McDonald's off of 95 in Devon.  I have listened to the old men on occasion and they are a riot.  They are your typical old, crotchety men.  Each one of them thinks they know more than the rest, depending on the subject at hand, and they are not afraid to tell the others, "You don't know nothin!"  or "Where'd you get your information...in a book?"  The arguments go back and forth with little headway being made, at least for the time that I am standing in line.  But regardless of the topic of conversation and whether they all agree or not, it is nice to see people, even if they are old, gathering and talking like they do.  Whether it is Vermont or Connecticut, I am sure that these aren't the only two states that have the small local gathering places for the "townies" as I will call them. 
Part of me wonders, however, if this is the last generation to congregate in public over coffee and whatever to talk, discuss, and keep in touch.  I don't know if my generation, once we reach the age where we can become old and crotchety and not give a damn about it, will actually care enough to get out and talk with each other.  Maybe I am just too young yet, but I know that if I live that long, I wouldn't mind being one of those old crotchety men who gather at DD or Floyd's, and drink coffee and bitch about life.  That is, I wouldn't mind doing that as long as there were others my age who were willing to do the same.  We shall see what happens when the time comes.  As for right now, the only place I could actually see myself grabbing a chair and plopping myself down to join in the conversation is at Floyd's.  Compared to the DD's in Connecticut which seem to have a specific group of men that gather every day, I have never seen the exact same group of people gather at Floyd's.  It seems to be more of a random gathering of people, whoever can or wants to make it, and I feel I might actually be able to join in one of their conversations.  That is, provided they want to talk to an of town land owner who is probably at least 20 years younger than the youngest one there.  One day, though, I will sit myself down and talk with them, even if it is just me listening to them and not actually doing much talking.  If I am to eventually build a house up in Vermont, I should probably get to know the people in the area a little better.  Its not like I haven't met most of my neighbors, but to meet other people in the town would be a huge benefit.  Oh well, all in good time.  For now, I raise my coffee to Floyd's General Store and the little local gathering that takes place at least every Saturday and Sunday morning.  Cheers and may your coffee always be fresh and hot!

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