It was just last week, or the week before, that I caught a drowsy bear wandering between my chicken pen and woodshed and chased it away with snowballs scooped from one of the shrinking snowbanks. It can’t be more than a few days since my wife mapped out a 2000-square-foot garden and said she would take over the mowing this summer, to get some physical exercise. Just yesterday I cleaned the chimney, dragged out the extra hose for the outside shower, installed the window screens, and picked up the new chicks. Now the oldest maple in the front yard has one limb gone to red leaves; black-eyed Susans tower over the kale and squash; the grass mocks us in patches a foot tall all around the yard; the chicks are nearly big enough to integrate, and it’s too cold to shower outside. What the hell happened?
What happened is the same thing that has been happening, at least for me, since about 1956, when I experienced my first summer vacation. So long were the New Hampshire winters that every year I entertained excessively ambitious plans for the eternal summer, when snow and cold and school would shrivel into a single shudder on the periphery of memory. So much desperate fun had I envisioned during the dark months that the endless possibilities paralyzed me, and after school ended I did nothing but read, ride my bicycle from one end of Davis Hill Road to the other, and — when I turned eight or nine — wander down to the beach. Before I knew what had hit me, my parents were taking me to Labnon’s department store for those dreaded school clothes, and I was scouting for small books to hide behind my school readers.
The phenomenon of the amazing shrinking summer continued through high school, after which I supposed it would end, but in retrospect it only got worse. For a dozen years the visceral yearning for bare ground, warm sun, and pure freedom multiplied the ten summer weeks in my mind, but the next thing I knew August had turned cool and the torture began again. With graduation in the steaming Kennett High School gym, I thought I had begun the summer that would last a lifetime, and in a way it has, with decades passing as quickly as the weeks used to. One day I was hitchhiking away from Kennett with a backpack, looking for Civil War battlefields, and the next I was signing up for Medicare. What the hell happened?
My wife still suffers from the disappearing-summer blues. Unlike public-school teachers, she doesn’t get the summer off, but her schedule is at least slightly relaxed, which gives her just enough time for her own projects to realize how busy she is during the school year. The approach of September always hits her hard, as the abundant energy of late June is compressed under the contraction of time and sapped by the demands of an impending semester. Free weekends during the school year begin with a joyous Saturday and end with Sunday-afternoon syndrome, but August consists of one long Sunday afternoon.
It may only seem worse for us here, because the warm season is so short and the school year so cruelly long, with a host of snow days and an extra week of vacation for the sake of the ski areas. Yet the perception was the same even before our school districts adopted year-round schedules based on agricultural needs. Maudlin lamentations about the fading light and vanishing visitors, so common in the Labor Day editorials of Paul Blanchard’s “North Conway Reporter” in the 1960s, echoed just as plaintively from the late-summer numbers of “The Idler,” published in North Conway at least as early as 1880.
The passing of each summer must have imparted much greater poignancy in the days of “The Idler,” for the seasons stand merely as a metaphor for life itself, and in 1880 most men and women considered themselves lucky to reach the half-century mark. Each summer meant more because they saw so many fewer of them. In my own youth the biblical threescore and ten applied generally, but today healthy, active 80-year-olds abound. That has afforded my generation some comfort in the math of biological degeneration, but by 65 it is clear that the halfway mark lies far behind. After that, the end of every August brings too vivid an image of all the wasted summers that we can never reclaim.
William Marvel lives in South Conway.
by David M. Shribman
BERLIN — For more than a half-century this was a capital in moral isolation — and the capital of moral isolation.
Throughout the reign of Adolf Hitler, Berlin warped the physics of Europe. It was at the center of Europe geographically, but utterly isolated morally. With the exception of a few near-sighted ideologues such as Charles Lindbergh, hardly anyone regarded Germany as anything but a threat to human values and, ultimately, to humanity itself.
Then, from the Berlin airlift of 1948-1949 to the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and all the way to the collapse of the wall in 1989, East Berlin was isolated both geographically and morally. It sat behind a concrete barrier designed to keep its citizens fleeing from a country, East Germany, that was little more than a police state stuffed with swimmers, rowers, gymnasts and spymasters — and nauseating coffee made with repellent fillers like chicory and sugar beets.
Today Berlin is a bustling city of commerce, parliamentary government, even tourism. A visitor is drawn not only to the beer gardens and the marvelous food court on the sixth floor of the city's trademark department store, KaDeWe, but also to the macabre sites of Nazi tyranny and communist despotism.
Indeed, right across the street from the Brandenburg Gate is an explanation for tourists of the Berlin Wall. The account is in German, English, French — and Russian. It explains how the city was carved into four zones after World War II and how, a decade and a half later, the great barrier went up.
This was one case where good fences did not make good neighbors, and it is hard to repress the thought that the presence of a Russian-language narrative on the tourist kiosk is anything but a rebuke, a not-so-subtle reminder of the Soviet role in dividing the city with a concrete partition.
Today Berlin is no longer isolated, though the memories from World War II and the Cold War remain searing. But the city still stands as a symbol of how ancient capitals of great nations can become isolated.
The obvious modern analogue is Moscow, today morally isolated from nations on every continent.
The rest of the world rooted for Russia when communism fell, hoping it might become part of the commerce of nations, and not only in the financial sense. Green shoots of democracy were visible, and early signs of productive capitalism were evident. Today, of course, we know that the democracy was ephemeral and the capitalism was held hostage by a crude cartel of oil oligarchs and business gangsters.
All that was before the separation of Crimea from Ukraine, the testing of a cruise missile in violation of an important arms-control treaty, and the downing of a Malaysian plane crammed full of tourists whose hand luggage of toys and toothpaste underlined the savagery of the rocket attack that dropped it from the sky. Russia has become an international pariah — a phrase used by the Financial Times, which added, frightfully, that "a dark new era in East-West relations will begin."
Berlin offers lessons from four of the most tragic episodes of the 20th century: the German blank check to Austria-Hungary after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914; the ascension of Hitler in 1933; the Berlin airlift in 1948; and the Wall in 1961.
Now we are deep into one of the signature episodes of the 21st century. It occurs as Germany is asking whether Hitler's "Mein Kampf" should be allowed back into print; its copyright is held by the state of Bavaria and expires in 17 months. I'm inclined to argue that the book — though hateful, though repugnant, though impenetrable — should be available in print, and my argument is rooted in both of the tragedies for which Berlin stands as a symbol: Nazism and Soviet communism.
Both ideologies stood firmly against the principal value of the Enlightenment: the free flow of information and the freedom to examine the assumptions upon which every culture and every country is founded. Both Nazi and Soviet regimes banned or burned books, but the ash heap that matters to us all today is the one upon which Nazism and Soviet communism now rest.
In famous commencement remarks in 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower railed against the barriers to free thought that communism represented in the Cold War. "Don't join the book burners," he said. "Don't think you are going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book, as long as that document does not offend our own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship."
Today, a visitor to Berlin walking along the streets where books once burned inevitably thinks, too, about the journey, more than five decades ago, of Eisenhower's successor, another veteran of World War II, to the divided city. John F. Kennedy's speech on that occasion is remembered for the "Ich bin ein Berliner" flourish that so ruffled the Soviet bloc. And yet the paragraph that follows is perhaps more searing:
"There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the communists. Let them come to Berlin."
The Kennedy speech, and indeed his entire visit, required real physical and moral courage, far more so than that of presidential candidate Barack Obama, who undertook a risk-free trip to the city in 2008. One was a challenge to Nikita Khrushchev, the other to challenge John McCain.
Today, Vladimir V. Putin stands in a position not so different from that of Khrushchev, in opposition to all the Enlightenment values cherished in the West. Time magazine suggested the world may be sliding into Cold War II. Perhaps it is.
So perhaps this is the time Mr. Obama truly is needed in Berlin. Perhaps this is the time for an American president to stand before the Brandenburg Gate, or to walk along Wilhelmstrasse and pass the very building at No. 64 that once was occupied by Rudolf Hess, Martin Bormann and Joachim von Ribbentrop, and to throw a challenge to a Russian tyrant and what Oxford historian Timothy Garton Ash calls the "ideologies of resentment." Indeed, as the 35th president might say across more than a half-century to the 44th: Let him come to Berlin.
Last week in Los Angeles, a 100-year old water pipe broke, and spilled more than 20 million gallons of water. That’s a day’s worth of water for about 100,000 people. According to a story at Grist.org, due to our aging water infrastructure, ancient pipes leak 7 billion gallons of treated drinking water every day. Most of our water infrastructure was put into place during the early part of the 20th century. It’s now languishing in disrepair because we have other national and state spending priorities. We aren’t willing to invest in our country, because it would mean spending less on offense, and it would mean creating jobs, and that can’t happen while the Black Guy is in the White House. All that dripping water is something to chew on as we await the coming water wars.
It is an election year, and around New Hampshire, politicians are gearing up for the primary on Sept. 9. The signs are coming out, and so are the usual talking points. “Cut spending!” “No New Taxes!” That’s been the GOP mantra since I moved to New Hampshire 30 years ago. It’s been successful because it is easily absorbed and repeated by low information/low intellect voters. As a plan for running a state, it has not been successful – any more than it would be a successful business plan. A business that doesn’t invest in itself will eventually go under. We’re seeing what becomes of a state that doesn’t invest in itself – all the states around us are bouncing back from the meltdown of the economy in 2008. Our neighbor states invested in education and infrastructure. They began planning for the future. New Hampshire remains obstinately stuck in the past.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, over half of New Hampshire’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition. New Hampshire reports the need to invest $847 million in drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years. We need to invest $1.2 billion in wastewater infrastructure over the next 20 years. We all know that there are hundreds of red listed bridges that need fixing, and that our state park system has unmet needs of about $100 million because we don’t fund the park system properly.
With all of that in mind, I looked at the websites of our top gubernatorial candidates. Andrew Hemingway wants to offer tax cut incentives to bring new businesses here. He wants to create a business friendly atmosphere, which in Hemingway speak means “a regulatory and tax structure that is inviting to small and large businesses.” Nowhere in the “Solutions First” section of his website is infrastructure even mentioned. We’ve heard all of this before.
Walter Havenstein, the Maryland resident who wants to be our governor, has a snappy graphic and a three-part plan on his website. It seems that our problem is business taxes and high electric costs. Havenstein blames the high electric costs on REGGI. Perhaps it is unfair to expect a recent emigre to be familiar with what the Seabrook nuclear plant did to our energy costs, and how PSNH has managed itself over the years. He also adds the usual mantra of no income/no sales tax. No unions. Passing right to work will send a strong message to the whole country that we are open for business! We need qualified employees! The university system better shape up! We need to eliminate regulations and fees! And so on.
This is all in his plan for The Economic Transformation of New Hampshire. If it sounds curiously familiar, it’s because it’s the same plan we’ve heard from every GOP candidate for the last 30 years. The word infrastructure is never mentioned in Havenstein’s 3 point plan. He does, however, pat himself on the back for his career at BAE Systems, a company that relies entirely on government contracts. Walt may be a stranger to New Hampshire, but he’s no stranger to feeding from the public trough.
Havenstein and Hemingway have both taken the Americans for Prosperity pledge. The Koch funded AFP is desperate to ensure that New Hampshire residents don’t have health insurance or roads and bridges. The more pledges a candidate signs, the less creativity or actual thought is required of them.
Governor Hassan acknowledges the need for modern, safe, transportation infrastructure on her campaign website, and touts her accomplishments in investing in business-backed plans for investing in road and bridge projects. She’s the only candidate who uses the word infrastructure on her campaign website.
None of the candidates mentioned telecommunications infrastructure at all. The idea that we can somehow continue to struggle to move into the 21st century without dramatically improved telecommunications infrastructure is befuddling.
A great deal of high volume whining goes on about the transportation fund. Many people seem to think that somewhere in the highway budget is buried treasure that’s just waiting to be properly spent. The Bartlett Center for Kochenomics insists that it’s the carve outs from the highway fund that are the problem. It is true that money from the highway fund goes to the Department of Safety, and sometimes to other departments. The trickle downers are aghast upon their fainting couches at the very thought! What they don’t ever acknowledge is this: If New Hampshire doesn’t raise enough revenue to run the state properly, then departments will continue to rob Peter to pay Paul. That’s how the New Hampshire budget has worked for as long as we can all remember.
Infrastructure investment isn’t a sexy subject. It does not inflame the passions of voters. Addressing New Hampshire’s infrastructure needs won’t be cheap. The longer we put it off, the more costly it becomes, and we’ve been putting it off for decades, because NO TAXES/CUT SPENDING. Guns get people wound up. Infrastructure bores people. Roads, bridges, and drinking water are all essential to our state’s economic future, and all we’re getting from our candidates are the same old non-solutions from the last three decades. Its no wonder the future looks bleak – we can’t seem to find candidates who have any interest in it.
Susan Bruce is a writer and activist who lives in the Mount Washington Valley. Visit her blog at susanthebruce.blogspot.com.
It is just past seven-thirty on a glorious summer morning and already the playground is filling up. In the background to the right is our Victorian train station, our classic village landmark, and beyond in the mist are the emerging outlines of the near ledges, and the distant Moats, resplendent in their mid-summer best. Bobbing little heads mix with colorful strollers and parents in bright summer togs, chatting and watching simultaneously, as new parents always do. Yet another generation of young families has discovered our four season valley, and in turn our gem of a community center right in the middle of town. Here is the hub of the village, a free and open and welcoming place for young and old to gather and do things together. A true community center it is; and has always been.
On the site of the twice burned Kearsarge Hotel right next to Schouler Park, Harvey Dow Gibson added to his long list of good ideas the establishment of a new community center with a large hall and full basement where people could gather for all manner of activity in every season. It was 1949 when the designs were drawn and construction begun, but he did not live to see the building opened. His daughter oversaw the completion, and from the moment it opened its doors, the North Conway Community Center has lived up to its name.
The most renowned years were those of the Kim Perkins era, a stretch of forty years where just about anything that happened in North Conway had the benefit of Kim’s energy, enthusiasm, and deft touch. From dances, to food tents, games, concerts and kids parties, tireless NCCC staff and volunteers were everywhere and the Community Center was, simply stated, the place to be. Generations of young people grew up shooting baskets and stealing kisses during dances, and everyone seems to have a community center tale of their own. While the playground officially became part of the center much later, as a child and the late fifties and early sixties I played there often and it was simply one big happy place.
In recent years the center has grown long in the tooth, as any sixty-four-year-old building eventually does, gradually growing tired and unable to perform its original function. At last, the long-awaited, and much debated new facility will be open less than a year from now and will bring back the idea of a true Community Center by offering a spacious, safe, purpose-designed facility in easily maintained spaces just to the south of the playground. Meanwhile, the original building will be restored for ancillary uses such as RSVP offices, overflow indoor space, and, at last, public bathrooms adjacent to the park. And all of this is happening at zero taxpayer expense.
All this matters because as a community we need a reason, and a place, to get back together. With so many distractions competing for our time, we have lost the connections that once came of lingering conversations on front porches, bowling leagues, and potluck dinners. Where we once knew everyone, today we hardly know our neighbors. It is time to rekindle this important and elusive flame.
It has taken ten years of planning, and seven years of wrangling, to at last offer the community the gathering place that we have missed; and not a moment too soon. Construction will soon be underway, so please join us in making it happen.
Tim Scott lives in Jackson.
When two dozen Conway men and boys reported to their new regiment in Concord, in August of 1862, they found themselves under the command of Enoch Quimby Fellows, of Sandwich. Unlike most volunteer officers appointed during the Civil War, Fellows had at least part of a West Point education — but, alas, surviving a course of study does not always prove competence.
Fellows, who was born on his father's farm in Center Sandwich in 1825, seemed never to finish anything. He taught one term of school, then took a notion to study law and began preparing for college with a view to that career, but changed his mind and sought an appointment to the Military Academy. On July 1, 1844, he entered with the class of 1848, brushing shoulders with future Union and Confederate generals like George McClellan, A. P. Hill, Ambrose Burnside, and the future "Stonewall" Jackson. He maintained good academic standing and deportment, always ranking in the top quarter of his class, but in the fall of his third year he resigned. Later he claimed that his father had wanted him to work on the family farm, but it may be no coincidence that young Fellows had just spent the previous summer at home, and that soon afterward he married a Sandwich girl. West Point cadets were not allowed to marry.
Thereafter, besides pursuing farming with his father, he subsisted on political appointments, starting with doorkeeper of the state senate, and next — thanks to Franklin Pierce — as inspector of Customs in Boston from 1854 until 1857. With the emergence of the Republican Party as a dominant force he began showing Republican sympathies, and at the outbreak of the Civil War the governor appointed him adjutant of the 1st New Hampshire Volunteers; when that regiment mustered out, after three months, Governor Nathaniel Berry commissioned Fellows colonel of the 3rd New Hampshire. The historian of the 3rd Regiment remarked that Fellows "was not quite ready to buckle on the armor." In other words, he was not up to the job, and he left leadership of the regiment to his executive officer. In the spring of 1862 Fellows left for home on a 60-day furlough, but by granting so long a leave his superiors revealed that they considered his services superfluous.
While on leave, Fellows submitted a resignation on the grounds of health, but Governor Berry persuaded him to take command of the new 9th New Hampshire. Rumors circulated in mid-August that he had resigned again, but evidently he reconsidered. Three weeks after reaching the Army of the Potomac, the 9th New Hampshire was thrown into battle at Antietam, where both Fellows and his regiment gave a disappointing performance that ended in abject flight from the field. A couple of peaceful months followed, but when the army undertook its next offensive, late in the fall, the 37-year-old Fellows resigned yet again, complaining of rheumatism. A Portsmouth newspaper hoped that Governor Berry had finally had enough of Colonel Fellows. As the editor put it, "the man who twice resigns in the face of the enemy 'because of ill health' is too sick to be appointed again."
Then it was back to farming with his father, who died in 1869, so at the age of 45 "Colonel" Fellows finally gained control of the family estate. By 1870 he was calling himself a real-estate broker, and a decade after that he told the census marshal he was a "capitalist." He invested in a bank in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in the fledgling Carroll County Trust Company. President Grant appointed him collector of internal revenue for Carroll and Belknap Counties, and he served in the legislature. He owned an elegant home on Maple Street, adjacent to the Sandwich Town Hall, and by 1889 he was described as having a "handsome income." That didn't stop him from seeking, and taking, a disability pension in 1890, citing the rheumatism on which he had justified his resignation.
The wealthy usually enjoy much deference, and Fellows was no exception. He often appeared as the featured speaker at patriotic celebrations, and while the men he once commanded may have snickered among themselves, they treated him with nothing worse than gentle irony in the accounts published during his lifetime. He died at his son's home in Tilton on May 6, 1897, and went to his grave in the village cemetery on Grove Street with all the pomp the local Masons and Grand Army chapter could provide.