Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Take on Elegance:


Elegance - I wish I had it! 

By Manfred Rieder

When I grew up in my grandparent's home in Austria in the 50's, "Elegant" was a painting by Gustaf Klimpt (above is an excerpt of his wonderful painting "friends"), or my grandfather's portrait of the great conductor Herbert von Karajan, complete with his shock of white hair, baton poised, ready to conquer the Salzburg Music Festival. I actually attended some master classes by Karajan at the Mozarteum and he was truly "elegant" in his subtle nuances, the underpainting of his orchestral readings, the muted brasses, the almost inaudible oboes.
I shall never be elegant. I could possibly dress up well in my good suit and have my hair done, but I just don't have what it takes. Once a Volkswagen, always a Volkswagen. There were no Bugattis in my family, no Hooper bodied Rolls Royces, no Lamborghinis, not even a lousy Amati fiddle. Just normal folks. However, I know elegance when I find it. Last week I visited an ailing friend who has been wheelchair bound for seven years. He had his table impeccably set with a lone flower in a vase, two finely polished glasses on a lovely table cloth and a good bottle of red wine decanted well ahead of my arrival, so that we could enjoy the wine at its finest. This man cannot change his diapers but he is well spoken, well shaven and apologetic not to be able to rise to greet me. If this is not elegance, I do not know where to find it.
For some years my  late wife Nancy had worked at the East Side Restaurant in Newport City and there elegance abounds, not only in the physical beauty of some of the wait or kitchen staff but in their bearing vis-a-vis customers, often despite personal opinion or problems. The "show must go on" and they do it so well, I am dumbfounded of how so many people in the restaurant business, underpaid and often socially not on the grand scale of public opinion can perform day after day in an elegance which often not only surpasses the patrons but is meant from the heart without any pretensions.
Elegance surrounds us but it has to be found in the minutiae of daily life. A simple flower can be as elegant as the best Monet painting, a reflection of the moon in a pond, the smile of a well mannered girl at the grocery store. or a well crafted letter written to a friend or received from one. I have traveled extensively and I still recall the elegance of tribal songs in a Kenyan village or the majestic sight of a lone giraffe on the Serengeti. And there is the majesty of a sunset on the horizon of an ocean or the incredible sight of brook trout under a bridge in a clear stream. Nature is the great teacher of elegance, because she needs no makeup, no handlers, no artificial light. It is there for us to enjoy the never ending elegance of our surroundings even in their simplest form,from the parachutes of dandelions to the fine texture of a walnut shell.
Birds are elegant, even pigeons. Just watch them go about their daily work - they are among the Lord's greatest creations, so immensely beautiful and elegant in flight and graceful in repose. I do not think that Calvin Cline or Yves St. Laurent could create a picture of elegance like I saw a few days ago on my way to Derby, an 8 point stag in full majesty in a field. He looked like a lord striding about his grounds with grace and dignity.
Of course, since I love music, there is elegance in works such as "Appalachian Spring" or "Fanfare for the Common Man" by Aaron Copland, or the incredible adagio from Dworak's "New World Symphony". This is aural elegance far superior to me than a lot of other music as it appeals to the simple elegance of man, is based on folk songs,elevated by the genius of a composer to soar above and make us simple folk feel "elegant" and appreciated.
In Japan,the late master of haiku poetry Masaoka Shiki is revered as the embodiment of literary elegance. His 17 moras, in three phrases of 5, 7, and 5 moras respectively, have set the standard for haiku poetry which is another embodiment of human elegance as a simple story, a moral or a greet feeling is condensed into an incredibly elegant tiny text of words.
Elegance can also be found in mathematics, in chemical formulas, in a well composed thesis or in a newspaper article. To a degree it sets apart the common dross from the shining example, the laborious meandering of words to Hemingway's sparse prose, the "I have a dream" speech by Martin Luther King, to the ravings of a lunatic African dictator.
I also admire architectural elegance. The Vietnam memorial in Washington is the embodiment of elegance as, (for me), is the new triangle at the Louvre in Paris.There is immense elegance in bridge construction as well. My grandfather was a bridge architect and he approached every project with the same intensity a painter would harness to sketch out a new masterpiece. "A bridge must not just bring people from one point of the valley or the river to the other, it must blend in, be not offensive to the natural surroundings and must be built to last for 50 years". This was his credo. He also stated: "Every bridge has a limited life span and people must be made aware of what that life span is, otherwise they will have huge problems later on".Well, he was my embodiment of "Elegant" and right now he would have a bit of fun with the problem of  most of America's bridges. Some of his have lasted for 90 years.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

And so it Begins: Lots'a Dust Coming to Newport City

Colorful posters in the boarded up buildings promise a new beginning

Soon to disappear: A part of the Spates block

Work started on Main street

By Manfried Rieder Starhemberg

Last summer, the publisher of this paper, Ken Wells,  wrote an enthusiastic front-page story which was titled; "The Future is Now", in which he summarized the vision of local developers Stenger and Quiros for the Renaissance Block downtown Newport City and the proposed waterfront development on the east side where they envision a huge hotel and marina complex compete with convention center and new restaurants..
Well, the future has begun but unfortunately, before the lights come on in the future Utopia, the walls are tumbeling down and it has begun with the reconstruction of the former "One Stop" gas station and convenience store on Main street. This building will house a new Maplefield gas and convenience business and restaurant but for the next few months its dust and noise but the locals do not seem to mind as much as the fact that now there are only two places left for a quick beer or cigarette or snack purchase, Little G's and Jimmy Kwiks.
But the big problem will come when the Spates block will be demolished this year. It encompasses almost a quarter of the downtown core and while many, from the mayor on down point out that it has been run down, business has not thrived and change is needed, is is nevertheless sad to see the colorful old buildings disappear forever to be replaces by chrome and glass. Sadly, the mayor is right - Newport must create an improved tax infrastructure and re-invent itself if it wants to get out of the stangant status-quo it has been in for a couple of decades. While it is romantic to dwell about what is about to be lost, more future minded citizens point out the old homily" The Dog is Dead". Well, may the old downtown rest in piece and let us hope that Ken Wells' prediction of the future will bear fruit. For now however, start hording dust masks and be prepared to wash your car a lot.

No More Need for Bootleggers - Vermont's Liquor Industry Thrives

By Manfried Rieder Starhemberg

Superb display of Vermont made liquors at "Little G's"

Barr Hill Gin - the local favorite

Well received since it began: Sapling Vt. hand crafted liquors

Owner George Azur exchanging the local news with a friend

A Newport landmark: Little G's at the causeway bridge

Its been a long time since prohibition where the area thrived with bootleggers crossing the dark forests of Vermont on their way south to deliver the Canadian booze to thirsty consumers in the warmer latitudes of New England. Now Vermont has a thriving liquor industry and the home grown products are becoming known internationally. This is in part due to the efforts of the staff of Michael J. Hogan, the enthusiastic commissioner of the Vermont Department of Liquor Control.They publish an elegant quarterly publication which showcases new Vermont products in every issue and with one of those in hand we went to see how the product looks like.
In Newport City there is only one state licensed outlet, the famous and long established Little G's. It sits on the edge of the causeway bridge and is a morning gathering place of local dignitaries and truckers, hunters, loggers and the people from the grain company across the street. Other than coffee and breakfast, sundries and gossip, there is a superb display on liquors and when asked if we could see some of the Vermont booze featured in the newest "Spirits Guide", owner George Azur raised his eyes slightly and following this hint found above our head a sign advising that this scribe was standing next to the display of Vermont made products. A reporter from the "New Yorker" would possibly have been able to figure this out by his lonesome.
"What are the best sellers ?" we asked and George pointed out an almost empty shelf of  Barr Hill Gin. "I can't keep enough of it in stock - you see there are only two bottles left right now". The other favorites seem maple syrup flavored products, many made under the brand name "Sapling" and include cordials, Whiskeys and Bourbons.
The array is impressive ranging from Vermont Ice Apple Cream or Maple Cream to the great Dunc's Mill Maple Rum or their award winning Elderflower Rum. Most other Vermont producers also stick with variations of the vodka, rum, bourbon and whiskey theme but by varying ingredients to subtly flavor their potions have created a unique drinking experience influenced by locally grown berries, syrups or fruit.
So, if you are interested in a novel drink, build your own mixers around this new crop of Vermont distilled treats. George Azur will gladly aid you in selecting something unique.

Passport's Consumer Report: Newport's Garages

East Main's Trademark Sign is Snowed in
By Manfried Rieder Starhemberg

Wherever you go in northern New England there is that last remnant of a gentler, more civilized side of America: The Local Garage. Sometimes there is even a car dealership without towering signs and chrome and pinstripe filled showrooms the size of the swimming pool on a Carnival cruise liner. One such place is Hayes Ford in Newport, pretty much the same for the past four decades, no shiny Lincolns or Ford trucks inside, just friendly people who do more for local charity functions than most churches manage.
Let us start there. We bought two vehicles from Hayes in the past year, one a 2000 Volvo wagon, the other, aptly (and hopefully in jest) reading in white shoe polish on the front windshield "Heavy Metal", a 1984 Chrysler 5th Avenue.
Both needed some TLC, namely the Volvo which had a strut sticking right up to the edge of the hood. Ever the optimists, we purchased the car "as-is" and dragged it across the street to the East Main garage, assuming that with one of us working a second part time job, we may get the old car going in some style. It was ready the next day. Instead of a strut replacement, quoted as costing $ 650.- by a Burlington Volvo dealer, owner Mark and his elves put a $ 35.- upper strut mount in it, charged us one half hour of labor and 5,000 miles later the old girl is still going strong. Actually, we visit there again later.
The Chrysler needed to get state inspected and since East Main no longer does inspections, they suggested I see Mr. McAlister and his merry men at K&N Auto, another long established local business on the road to Derby. The dreaded phone call came that afternoon: "You need three new tires". After a brief discussion of our fiscal standing we were told that maybe they could find us some good used tires and they did the next day. When we brought the car it has white wall tires as befitting a 30 year old survivor but when we picked it up all tires looked the same. "We turned the good one around so that the whitewall is on the inside" chuckled the friendly lady behind the counter who is also in charge of a collection of funny hand knitted hats made by her family and sold next to the battery display. Another great garage experience for us.

Hand knitted hats and new batteries at K&N

Two weeks ago our Volvo decided to start making expensive sounding noises right on Main street and since frugality and fear of life and limb precluded us to have it towed to either of the two garages we had  such great experiences with, we limped down to Ray's Auto Service on Coventry street, two blocks away from our home. The whole gang was at lunch in the office but we were assured of a diagnosis that afternoon and so it happened. The center drive shaft mount had shed its mortal coil, victim no doubt of the excessive accumulation of salt encrusted rust. While we mentally calculated the available credit card balance on the new Discover card, we were assured that they could probably find a used part by the morrow. They did not because their supplier in Coventry only had a similarly rusted piece on hand but the garage went all out and obtained a brand new mount from Volvo, had it shipped in, installed it and charged us less than $ 230.- for all that work and hassle. Once again, just for our personal entertainment, we called a large Volvo dealership and the price quoted there was $ 500.- for the same job.

And now to end this consumer report on three local garages: Just this morning, Wednesday, Feb. 19, the Volvo decided to illuminate the "Check Engine" display on the dashboard. We whisked it over to East Main which was on our way anyways and after visiting with Princess and Sprocket, the two resident dogs in the reception area/meeting room for locals/gossip center and waiting area for car-less clients, owner Mark dispatches helper Josh and his hand held computer to plug the Volvo into the magic analyzer.Fife minutes later the light was gone, the mechanic having been able to reset it on the spot. The charge? Nothing. A friendly handshake and free advise"If it comes back on you may need a new oxygen sensor but don't worry about it".
We now can happily summarize that if you live within driving or towing range of Newport and have problems with your car, truck or possibly your antique tractor - do not despair. Courtesy, excellent mechanics, friendly service and generous hospitality abounds in this city.
The Volvo behind East Main

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Need a goat or tractor? Maybe a violin or ski boots? Find it here:

By Manfried Rieder Starhemberg

I know, it is not normally done that one newspaper gives a review of another paper but since I moved back to Vermont I have been enthralled by the "Green Mountain Trading Post". It is certainly no competition for any of the other fine print media the state of Vermont is lucky to still have, rather, It is a mixture of an excellent literary magazine and the Sears catalog of 1920.
On its front page the "Trading Post" proclaims to feature :the best original writing in the North Country. And it is and for 43 years has showcased some of the very best poetry, fiction, memoirs and either uplifting or deeply saddening stories of the lives of Vermonters of all ages.
Published every other week and eagerly awaited in Newport by this writer and others, it still only costs 75 cents and  for that a reader will get 28 pages of pure joy. The stories for which the paper pays "check cashing money" make up the front section but then the fun begins: I always look at the "miscellaneous" and found things from my 20 ft wooden extension ladder ($ 20- in great shape) to a lovely old solid wood door with a large glass insert which set me back $ 15.- For $ 50.- I found two almost brand new tires and for $ 25.- I could not pass up that vintage Gilbert school house clock.
Right now I am lusting after that 12 inch planer and table with extra knifes because I cannot afford, not do I have the space anymore, the vintage Ford tractor. However, if it were not right at the New Hampshire border, I should like to see the collection of model airplanes and engines.
About the only thing that cannot be found are personal advertisements, probably in keeping with the paper's motto "No News is Good News". But if you need breeding bunnies or turkeys, fertile pheasant eggs or the occasional Angus bull or a flock of alpacas, this is your shopping paper for you.
What I like about it most is that every advertisement has a telephone number and you will reach real people not some scam artist as you are likely to encounter on Craigslist. I recently purchased a stained glass lamp in need of repair which is one of my hobbies. In the course of this purchase I found out that the gentleman who advertised it shares another hobby of mine, old clocks. He is also of my age, a charming old Vermonter, raconteur of the first order and a joy to know. The man I bought my $ 15.- door from delivered it to me for free from Derby even though I had offered to pay him for this service. He did share a beer with me after we dragged the door upstairs.
As the advertising going goes: "Priceless". For everything else go to Amazon or eBay but for me and my simple needs, the Trading Post will stay a part of my shopping experience unless old age or my wife puts a stop to it...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Fridge Full of Money - Thanks to Craigslist

By Manfred Rieder
updated Jan. 29. 2017

I recently put up a vintage car for sale on Craigslist. The price was $ 3,500.- and within a few days I was contacted by a buyer from Massachusetts who asked us to open a Paypal account so that he may send me the money immediately. I did so and sent him an invoice. Within a few hours I received a Paypal confirmation that the money had been deposited in my account. When I checked my Paypal balance, there was so such deposit. The "buyer" had faked a whole list of Paypal notices and what initially alerted me what that the language was grammatically somewhat questionable, something that never happens on Paypal. So I contacted Paypal and they told me that the guy was a fraud artist. The clincher was that he had "overpaid" me and wanted me to send him the amount of the over payment immediately via Western Union money transfer. Not this old guy!
Anyhow - this was the first one.

Last week another "buyer" wrote to me and told me that he would send a check immediately but would make it out to a larger amount (see check above) so that I could send a cash-withdrawal to his "Shipping Company" after I had deposited the check. The shipping company is a woman with the name Shauna Rogers in Topeka, Kansas, no other information given.
When I got the check I called Maida International which supposedly had issued the check and they told me that - as I had assumed, this is a fake check and that they had about 20 inquiries of the same nature within the last week alone but that the police claims to be powerless to do anything until someone is actually dumb enough to send those people money. Sadly, there are probably people out there gullible enough to do so and when the fake check bounces, they are screwed and could possibly even be prosecuted for tendering a forged check if they already spent the money and have no way to repay the bank. The bank does not give a hoot about the fraud perpetrated on you - CAVEAT!
Now starts the fun part: I also had placed an advertisement offering to do manuscript editing or ghost-writing services and since then I had more than 40 "job offers" which all have one thing in common, the folks out there give me money up front, urge me to cash the check and immediately send all but $ 400.- or $ 600.- by Western Union to my "supplier" or others designated to provide me with things required to do the job. I have more than 30 checks decorating my refrigerator, my office and even hung some up in the work shop. Those checks are of course all counterfeit with the  logos from Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of Montreal and other well known institutions brightly printed.

All the checks received are issued by well known companies who, when contacted, have confirmed that many other people had told them about this. Western Union has a very good site in which they try to advise people about those scams but sadly, for every hundred fake checks mailed out, there are about 10 percent of the populace who actually are dumb enough to deposit them according to the Internet Fraud Division of the Justice Department.
So watch out when dealing with people on Craigslist - this seems to be a very common kind of internet fraud these days.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Sitting the MAC"; Artists Contribute Time in Newport's Arts Center

 By Manfried Rieder Starhemberg

Jeff Fellinger is one of more than 55 artists who comprise the cadre of dedicated artisans, knitters, painters, wood crafters or sculptors who are represented in the MAC Center for the Arts on Main street in Newport City. "We all contribute one day or two half days every month and a percentage of our sales to the Center. In exchange we have our own space to showcase up to five pieces, replace them when they are sold and we know that someone is always here to take care of our work and our guests" explains Fellinger who is also a noted restoration carpenter and musician. He will be on Tour for the next three weeks, thus he "sat" the gallery on Tuesday so as not to get into arrears with his promised working time.
Monday the Center begun its annual Winter Art Sale which will continue until February 22.
The current exhibition is an eclectic mix of paintings, hand crafted wood items such as Fellinger's cutting boards and cheese boards to intricate small pieces of furniture or exquisitely knitted hats. There is lovingly sculpted jewelry and enchanting sculpture including a well executed bust of Abe Lincoln.
The show is as really fine presentation of North East Kingdom creativity in all its myriad forms and the high quality of the work shown deserves not only praise but will hopefully be seen by many visitors.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Collector, Hoarder or Packrat?

By Nancy Kenney

I used to own a company which does house cleaning. Much has been written lately about "hoarding' which apparently the medical science now links to manic depression or other unmentionable diseases of the brain. I take umbrage with this. Many of my clients are "collectors" of a variety of things, so is my husband. After almost 24 years I can testify that he is about as sane as anyone I have ever met but I cannot fail to notice that every one of the rooms in our home is crammed with "stuff". I really do not mind because a lot of it is really nice. And I am an unindicted co-conspirator because just last week at a church jumble I saw a basket of lovely glass fruit which I had to have. On top of our refrigerator reside nine vintage mixers, we have waffle irons and toasters from the 30s and Manfried just dragged in a 50 year old commercial bread mixer. "Just in case the one we use now breaks down" was a good and acceptable explanation.
The Honda motorcycle in the garage is a bit more suspect, my old guy is not licensed to drive it, would probably kill himself if he did, but "the price was right". So was the price for the 1995 Range Rover which currently costs us a good portion of our retirement account to sit in the back of a friend's barn in Abercorn awaiting expensive parts made by cousins of Her Royal Majesty the Queen in places called "Castle Bromwich" or "Brown's Lane". Eventually, this will come home to Newport after we deal with the paperwork to "import" this Canadian foreign car...The 1958 folding Velosolex moped may be useful if the gas prices go any higher but first we have to find a fuel pump for it which may need the services of the French secret service.
Did I mention clocks? There are about 30 of them, many of which will make the most ungodly racket at all hours and half hours of the day and the night. I finally confiscated the keys because it was either that or no more shared bedroom. Of course under the TV is the box of about 200 wrist watches, some of them actually work. The 50 or more paintings I do not mind, he painted them and he has a right to look at them. I wish we'd go back to selling them but he cannot be bothered. "They will appreciate over time" is one of the stock answers. Hard to argue this if you wish to stay happily married.
Anyone needs ship models? He makes those in his spare time and we have our own fleet. It is incredible how much dust a three foot long intricate sailing ship can accumulate and there is no way to clean all those lines and masts and braces other than with a coarse paintbrush. HELP!
Books? You want a few hundred? He won't even notice them gone because there is not a single week when he does not adopt another two dozen. He is the only guy I know who will donate six years of hardbound Popular Mechanix from the 60s to the church sale and then buys them back at a premium because he remembered a story about something "in one of them" that he cannot live without.
His other infatuation is hats. We own probably 30 large vintage hats, enough to outfit the next spaghetti western. Along this of course he owns at least a dozen of those ankle lengths great coats. I am lucky there is a space for my winter jacket in the closet.
Me, I am immune to this, well maybe I do overdo the figurines a little bit and there has been the occasional new cat added to the livestock. All the extra vintage china I bought for a household of two? No problem, just in case anyone ever comes to visit we shall be all set. 450 vinyl LP's? I can have a hobby too, can't I?
And those antique dolls are so adorable, just look at them....

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Thunderous 2-Strokes, two Million Dollars of Iron and Azure Sunshine - Newport Rocks!

By Manfried Rieder Starhemberg
There is a particular joy for an old gear-head like me to see, hear and smell a highly tuned old two stroke racing snowmobile thunder across a measured course on lovely Lake Memphremagog at up to 140 miles per hour. The snow flies behind the track, the driver is hunched deep over his handlebars and quickly disappears in the distance.
There were more than one hundred machines racing behind the East Side Restaurant today, February 1 and hundreds of spectators were at hand to enjoy the spectacle in brilliant sunshine with the skyline of Newport providing a superb visual backdrop.I figure between the cost of the racing machines, the trucks, trailers and equipment, there was more than two million bucks on the ice today...
Ken Wells, publisher of the Newport Daily Express superbly announced each rider and the times posted and a collective murmur went up every time one of the contestants hit over 100 mph.
The restaurant provided an outside bar and snacks which were enjoyed by many, including myself and Nancy. The sausages and the hotdogs were yummy!

Youngster Jonathan (#33) on his beautiful machine was a real crowd pleaser

Last year's blustery weather had short cut this perennial favorite event at Newports Winterfest celebration but this year more than made up for it with riders coming from as far away as New York state.
Newport rocks - and on a special day like this with events everywhere from the park, Prouty beach and the Gateway Center and of course all along the ice fishing shacks along the lake shore, this beautiful city shows that she can pull her petticoats up and dance with the best tourist places in the North East.

Ready, set....

a spectacle for all ages

and go.....

long shadows on the track

playing in the snow

beautiful vintage Sachs engine

another superb vintage racing machine

fun on the lake

lovely Tamara makes lunch

and always - beautiful Newport in the background