Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Josh's Trip to Keene, Part 1: Hipsters, Rednecks & Juggalos

As my friends know, I'm now working as a freelance technical writer. I like it a lot. I tend to alternate between the urge to hunker down and tear through an assignment, and not wanting to work on it at all, and the current setup allows me to do that. (Try doing that at a traditional job. "Oh, I don't  feel like working today. But I'll work really hard tomorrow!")

I work from a home office and handle all of my work through email, dropbox and phone conversations. My car is in lousy shape, and we haven't gotten around to fixing it yet because I really don't need to travel all the much. The truth is that I tend to be a bit of a homebody anyway, so I don't really mind.

Earlier this past week, I heard Jen talking on the phone downstairs when I was putting Lily to bed one night. She comes upstairs after I'm done and says, "Okay, I've talked to various family members and I've got activities planned and I'm borrowing a car, so you're free to go up to New Hampshire."

I was like, "I'm going up to New Hampshire?" and Jen assured me, gently but firmly that I was. And I can understand her feelings, because she's been prodding me to get out and do more things and doing it this way kind of obligated me to follow through, rather than offering a mealy mouthed excuse for why I couldn't go and then staying home playing video games all weekend. I think this was as much a vacation for her as it was for me.

So, I made my plans and packed my bags and after we got Lily on the bus, we went up to Jen's job and then I headed off to New Hamster. I was staying with my buddy Tim. Long time readers of the blog may remember Tim from this post and here's an account of his trip down and our visit to the Barnes foundation if that's not enough Tim for you.)

I've been driving up to Keene for as long as I've been driving. I must have made over fifty trips in the twenty-odd years and in any sample of that size, you'll have good visits and bad ones.

This was one of the best. I drank Moxie, ate grinders and had a wicked good time.

Moxie: All the taste of J├Ągermeister but none of the alcohol.
The trip up was fine. I made good time and didn't get arrested. It's about 300 miles up to Keene, and I made it in about four and a half hours. (I don't like driving, so I want to get it over and done with, so I try to go straight up without stopping.) Before I knew it, I was in Keene, land of a thousand traffic circles.

Seriously, the stupid things are all over the place.

I like the town. Jen and I lived in the area for a couple years after getting married. It's a college town in rural New Hamshire, and as such, is a peculiar mix of rednecks and hipsters. (If I see another twenty-year old guy with a trenchcoat and a walking stick, it will be too soon.) When I voiced my observation to a friend about the demographics of Keene, she asked if I had seen the juggalos. I thought she was kidding, but apparently a group of them run a store on Main Street.

I do like college towns, and I lived in the area to have a certain fondness for its quirks (but not so long that I was sick of them.) It has seen better days. I took a walk through the Colony Mill, an old mill that had been converted into an enclosed mall and it was a ghost town. I wish I would have taken some pictures to illustrate how empty the place was. I'll do that next time and I'll submit them to Labelscar. (It's a pictorial blog chronicling dead malls.) I went in for a cup of coffee and they didn't even have that. I asked Tim what had happened and he said, "It was decimated by a culture bomb. The bomb known as e-commerce."

Tim got out of work at 3:30 on Friday, so we got together, watched the end of Moneyball and then had some dinner. We swung by the place where my friend Steve works and after that I went with Tim to a local bar for the surprise party for a friend of his and then we turned in early because he had to work the next day.

I walked around town for a bit, and was reminded that I was Keene by the hastily cleaned up vomit on the sidewalks. This was really pleasant. It was cold, but not windy, and there were a few flurries. I walked over the meet my friend Steve and his son for breakfast at a place called the Pub. It was decent. I had a breakfast burrito. They did something I had never seen before, but which I thought was pretty clever. They had some trivia in the center of the place mat, and the answers to that trivia in the ads surrounding it, making a customer more likely to read the ads than he otherwise would be.

Isn't that a neat idea?

I went with Steve to drop off a t-shirt to his daughter and then we hung out for a bit. This is getting long, so I think I'll break it into two posts.

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