Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ruminations on Summer

Summer is coming to an end. In the swamps, the leaves are already turning, and nights have a chilly edge. We’ve survived the indignities of summer in a tourist area – the congestion, the parking, the bad drivers, and the clueless who don’t know how to behave in public. Most of us have met people “from away” who we enjoyed a great deal. Summer in this area is bittersweet – so many of us are working too hard to be able to enjoy it.

Summer makes folks a little frisky, and sometimes a little crazy. In July, a Manchester man was arrested on robbery charges. It seems he was having a cup of coffee one morning at a local lake, and decided to rob a bank. James Coldwell knew that a bank robber needs a disguise, so he got out his handy roll of duct tape and taped tree branches to his head and torso. He seems to have expected the tellers to believe a tree was robbing the bank. The clever tellers were not fooled, however – and neither were the security cameras. The surveillance tapes were shown on WMUR, and he was quickly identified. Police found leaves and duct tape in his car.

Last week, a man was arraigned in Londonderry. It seems he kept going back to the same gas station, and stealing gas – he pumped and drove off at least 8 times. He used the same car every time, but had different (stolen) plates on it each time. He was picked up on the surveillance cameras, and the tape was shown on WMUR. The police received a number of calls, and were able to find the young man and arrest him. Not a criminal mastermind.

We had our own local silly criminal, last week. Brice Chace was out on probation after being convicted of driving the getaway car after a robbery. Young Mr. Chace allegedly posted pictures of himself on the social networking site MySpace, holding his weapons. He also allegedly posted comments about his drinking and drug use. One can only wonder at the thought process being underemployed here. MySpace isn’t exactly a secret society.

Over in Brattleboro, VT, summer has caused a different kind of friskiness. The state of Vermont has no laws against public nudity. Some towns have passed ordinances forbidding nudity in public – but Brattleboro isn’t one of them. Some local teens have been celebrating summer in VT by hanging out – literally – in downtown Brattleboro. Impromptu nudity has become fashionable for a couple of dozen teens, and has spawned group naked bike rides, hula hoop contests, and skateboarding. There have been all manner of reactions – from the bemused to the hysterical. The bemused seemed to be winning – with everyone tacitly letting nature take its course (cold weather) – until an elderly man wearing nothing but a fanny pack walked through the center of town. Apparently youthful nakedness was one thing – but elderly nakedness was the straw that broke the back of Dick DeGray of Brattleboro’s Select Board. He wrote an emergency ban on nudity on the main roads, within 250 feet of a school or place of worship. DeGray was quoted by the AP as saying, “People have a reasonable expectation that when they are going out, they’re not going to run into any nude people.”

The ban was a temporary measure. A public hearing was held this week, and the ordinance was voted down, in a 3-2 vote. Vermont is often criticized for being the liberal haven of latte drinking, Volvo driving, Birkenstock wearing old hippies – but the people of Brattleboro rejected what liberpublicans love to call the nanny state by refusing to legislate morality. As uncomfortable as the good people of Brattleboro may be with public nudity, they’re even more uncomfortable with making nakedness a criminal act. One board member said it wasn’t up to the town to restrict anyone’s right to dress or undress.

There’s always been a sort of rivalry between NH and VT, a rivalry that always highlights the differences between our two states. The events of this summer illustrate the differences pretty clearly. In NH we have people dressing up as trees to rob banks, and in VT we have people dressing down and having hula-hoop contests. The emergency temporary ban on nudity expires next month – and so does summer. The chill in the air will eventually cause even the hardiest naked souls to reconsider.

“I’m often reminded that the wellspring of Vermont liberty flows from Main Street, not State Street.” James H. Douglas


Anonymous said...

Thats why I live in Texas. Gettin nekked is a year round sport.


susanb said...

And here I was thinking that you lived there because it's an oasis of art, culture, and intellectual thought!!