Johnsbury, 4 July

Dear Karl Ove, I’m writing from a room in the Fairbanks Inn in Johnsbury, Vermont. Alice booked this place because they allow dogs. In May we succumbed to our son’s demand for a dog. We are now a family of four: three humans and a beagle. Ella, the beagle, is cute and well-behaved. She had no problems riding in the car all day, so it seems that this trip might go smoother than I expected.

When I woke, after making the coffee, I got to work loading the Volvo station wagon. Alice had most things packed already so it was just a matter of working out a closest-packing system in the car. Tomorrow we will arrive in St. Nicholas, Quebec where we will be occupying a house for four days. Since we’re staying in a house and not a hotel, we have packed all manner of items we think we might need like toilet paper and cooking utensils. One of the reasons we prefer renting houses to staying in hotels is that we like to cook our own food. Alice is a much better cook than any employed at most “professional” restaurants. I’m sure we will have a few of our meals out while we are on this vacation, but for the most part we’ll be eating and drinking at in our temporary, rented home. So even though we are away we will be home. In fact, the service we have secured our lodging through is called Homeaway. Spooky?

As I mentioned we are at the Fairbanks Inn now. I’m absolutely drained of all energy and look forward to falling asleep as soon as I finish writing this letter.

We left Long Neck at around 8 a.m. There are lots of people on the road today. It’s the first Saturday of the summer, I mean of the summer break, after school is out. So I guess lots of people are doing the same thing we are. But I would have thought that more people would be celebrating the Fourth of July, our Independence Day, rather than spending the day traveling.

Traveling with a dog is a new experience for me. I’ve been tasked with policing the dog’s bodily functions. So when we stopped at the rest area this morning, I put Ella on her lease and walked her around the poopy area. Americans are absolutely disgusting people. I can’t believe I share a nation with these nasty brutish slobs who don’t pick up their dog’s shit. The area where I took Ella to “do her business” (our polite euphemism) was an absolute mine field of dog shit. The state of Connecticut even supplied plastic bags for people to pick up their dog’s shit and dispose of it, but no! They’d rather just leave it like fucking barbarians. I am truly ashamed for our nation. Evidently, to be American means to be comfortable with leaving shit around for other people to clean up or to step in.

When Ella became part of our family, I said to my son that I didn’t want to be the guy walking around the neighborhood with the bag of dog shit in his hand. Well, guess what! I’m the guy in the neighborhood with the bag of dog shit in his hand. And I can’t believe how much dog shit there is on the sides of the streets in my own neighborhood. Now, when I walk Ella and she shits, I am happy to reach down with my plastic bag and pick it up. I hold the shit in the air and say, Look at this people. I’m not leaving my dog’s shit in your yard! No, I clean up after my dog. When I’m walking Ella, I can’t wait until she shits. I want her to shit so that I can pick the shit up and have my plastic shit bag of honor to carry around to display to my neighbors. Strange how one’s life goes.

An espresso for the road.

Alice was true to her word. We arrived at the Whetstone Station in Brattleboro, Vermont just as Germany and France were getting under way. We sat at a table with a view of the river. The match was on a large screen in the interior of the dining room, but there was no sound. Instead we listened to Alt-Rock while Germany and France played their silent match.

They wouldn’t let us bring Ella into the restaurant, so I went out a few times to check on her. She was sleeping comfortably in the back of the car. I left the sunroof cracked so that she wouldn’t get too hot. But she was fine. The temperatures are in the sixties and it’s overcast and rainy. Not so much rain that the interior of the car will get wet if I leave the windows cracked. The rain is more of a mist. I worry about people thinking that we are abusing our dog by leaving her in the car while we sit comfortably in the restaurant eating and drinking and watching the World Cup.

Unfortunately, it took us longer to get to Johnsbury from Brattleboro than we budgeted, so I missed most of the first half of Columbia-Brazil. There was such chaos when we arrived at the Fairbanks Inn. During the interval I walked Ella around the grounds so that she could pee and shit if she needed. Then we fed her. I was able to sit and have a beer during the second half of the Columbia-Brazil match. All I remember is that Columbia played like thugs. I’m no fan of Neymar, but I felt bad for him, his injury.

After the match I took Ella for a longer walk. There is a school just up the hill from the Inn. I know they don’t want people walking their dogs on school grounds, but I knew that I was not going to leave my dog’s shit behind so I decided the rules didn’t apply to me.

Johnsbury is an odd little town. After walking Ella around, I took her back to the room, then I took a longer walk all on my own, all the way up the hill to the downtown area. What I wanted to find was a place to buy some interesting beer. The only place that was open was a little bodega. The beer selection was nothing to speak of. I bought a couple of bottles of pale ale, some bread and cheese and took it back to the hotel room.

My major impression of Johnsbury is its emptiness. The lack of people. We are staying just off the highway and the downtown area is at the top of the hill and the only place open is a bodega. There’s no one on the streets. No cars. No body walking around. It’s like we’ve come to a ghost town. What adds to the strangeness is that the streets are completely torn up. Evidently, the town is undergoing some major roadwork and half the streets are complete ripped up, down to dirt and rubble. The buildings are intact but one could almost imagine oneself being in a war zone.

I’m going to quit now and retire to bed. Patrick is playing video games on his iPad. Alice is reading. I’ve brought some books along which I’m looking forward to reading. Homage to Catalonia by Orwell. Time the Refreshing River by Needham. And David Goldblatt’s book on Brazilian soccer, Futebol Nation. What do I feel like starting with? I suppose that after Brazil’s win I should read Goldblatt’s book.

Cheers! Donavan