Thursday, October 31, 2013
Living The Potemkin Life
[Thanks to my friend Andy for sending this video along]
Love, love, love that guy's speech. That Pepperidge Farm accent is actually getting pretty rare in Maine. I live in western Maine, and you hardly ever hear it around here. This delightful fellow is in Deer Isle, about two or three hours dead east of here, right on the Maine coast. Western Maine isn't Yankee. It's more continental polyglot than Albion. People have a distinctive twang here, but it's more like a frostback NASCAR lilt than ayup.
The Intertunnel loves stuff like this. They treat the discovery of such work online as akin to unsealing Tutankhamen's tomb. While I've never done it myself, I've seen it done lots of times. Landscapers for tony houses in Massachusetts routinely split granite in this fashion to make outdoor steps while I was working alongside them doing something else. Feathers and wedges. Of course, there's one gigantic bit of handwaving involved with the video. Someone's got to drill those holes, and drilling holes in granite is no picnic. Most use an air hammer. The wedge and feather work is the easy part, if more fun to film.
I was told that our colonial ancestors used to split rock in quarries by drilling holes in a line, which must have been very hard work indeed, then filling the holes with water and waiting for the winter's hard freeze to expand the ice in the holes and crack the block loose. Most heavy stuff out in the landscape, prior to the internal combustion engine, anyway, was moved in the winter on sledges. Loggers like working in the winter because it's easier to drag big boles over frozen ground with no puckerbrush around.
This fellow and his wife(?) run a hostel in Deer Isle. Of course it's an eco-hostel, because moral preening adds oodles of enjoyment to any Potemkin vacation. I find such quirky people interesting and generally enjoyable, and people have been known to lump my family in with such quirkies, which is all right by me; I just have no appetite for the intellectual horsehockey necessary to think that subsistence farming is "ecologically" less intrusive than a two bedroom ranch filled with people that buy beefsteak tomatos at the Stop &Shop. New England, and especially Maine, is now empty, and that emptiness has been filled in with lots of trees, not pavement, because subsistence farming for everyone was shot dead a long time ago, and there was no longer a need to flatten the entire landscape to plant a few wan acres of the barely edible, looked after by people one hard winter from destruction.
If you do things for yourself, Intertunnel viewers are quick to praise it, generally, unless it's self-defense, of course; but there's a limit to what's sensible, or even possible to do on your own, and you rub up against that limit pretty fast. It's ridiculous to poop in a hole in the ground with a solar panel on the roof over your head and talk about sustainability. Solar panels aren't made in a shed, and you don't swap last fall's rhubarb crop for them. Your hammer came from Home Depot, not a forge in the back yard. And money made right next to a smokestack and spent with you out in the landscape is still the same kind of money.
They're interesting people, and backbreaking work is fun -- if you're visiting. Why can't people leave it like that?