Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A Return To Real Winter

In an earlier post I mentioned the correspondence I had with the large American retailer L.L. Bean in which the store said that, sadly, it carried only a limited amount of product made in the United States because its suppliers had gone out of business. Turns out their assertion about the lack of American clothing suppliers is not necessarily true.

While on a trip back to the U.S. we came upon a store in Woodstock, Vermont called Vermont Flannel that sells very high quality 100% made-in-America flannel shirts, night dresses, and other clothing times. The manager said that L.L. Bean used to carry their products but no longer does so. According to the manager, Bean wanted the company to sell under the L.L. Bean label and give up its own identity. When Vermont Flannel refused, L.L. Bean dropped the product.

When generalizing about the lack of American clothing manufacturing it would be useful if giant retailers like L.L. Bean were less evasive and more accurate.

I would appreciate it if someone could explain to me the habit of urban professional American males wearing their baseball caps indoors. Is the roof leaking? Is it too cold in the restaurant? Does no one tell them they look like total dorks? During all their expensive education did no one ever tell them that it is simple good manners to take off your hat indoors? I can understand the habit in certain parts of the country where the dress code is ‘red-neck chic.’ Guy pulls up to the diner in a rusty pick-up truck complete with the well-stocked gun rack and mangy dog in the back. The greasy baseball cap and four - day growth go well with the mud-splattered overalls and the menu of grits and ham. The baseball cap with an agricultural- equipment- company logo sort of complements the whole image. But in Woodstock, Vermont where Herman-the-hedge-fund-manager with a Harvard MBA pulls up in his spotless $60,000 Porsche Cayenne and walks into the five-star hotel in designer jeans the effect of the baseball cap, often reversed in imitation of some Bronx gang-banger, is more than ridiculous. Someone should tell him in the kindest possible way that his attempt to look like an extra in Deliverance really doesn’t work.

If We Don't Have It, You Don't Need It
Natives in my home state of Vermont, if you can still find any, are known for being laconic. A typical response to stranger asking if you have lived there all your life is “Not yet.” The state is also known for its small town General Stores that carry everything from chain saws to sandwiches. Few are better known than one called Dan and Whits in Norwich, Vermont. The store is very proud of its abundant merchandise and displays a challenging sign in its window. “If We Don’t Have It, You Don’t Need It.” Wal-Mart take note.

We drove up to Quebec City on a clear, freezing  (-15 C) day to meet my brother and his wife. Northern Vermont was snow covered and essentially empty. Mile after mile of trees and snow and snow and trees.

Northern New England in January
I had heard that the border crossing into Canada after 9/11 had become more formal, but it still took no more than 30 seconds. The province of Quebec is very proud of its French heritage, and provincial Fleur de Lys flag is much more prominent than the Canadian Maple Leaf flag. It is easy to forget that not that long ago France controlled a huge slice of North America from New Orleans up the Mississippi and what is now the Midwest U.S., along with all of central and eastern Canada. Quebec remains the only walled city in North America and retains much of its Gallic charm and heritage. You don’t have to speak French, but it is appreciated if you do.  It was also nice to see shops proudly proclaiming that their products were ‘Not Made In China.’ The city somewhat resembles Istanbul in that it is high on a cliff, surrounded on two sides by water and protected by a land wall. The wide Saint Lawrence River flows from beyond Montreal, past Quebec to the Atlantic Ocean 300 miles away. This time of year it is mostly frozen forcing the ferries and ocean-bound cargo ships to smash through the ice on their way to clear water. 
Chateau Frontenac On A Chilly Evening

The Saint Lawrence River from the Chateau Frontenac

There were even some demented souls who thought it fun to take a long row-boat across the river, paddling where they could and then leaping out and pulling the boat across the ice before plunging back into the water. Needless to say we enjoyed this spectacle from the comfort of a warm lounge.


jaz@octoberfarm said...

this is one of my favorite cities. do they still have the toboggan run by the hotel?

David Edgerly said...

Yes, The toboggan run is still there and very busy.