Something tells me I’m ready for Prevagan or another memory miracle cure, since I can’t remember what happened last month, mostly because this month has seemed like a year.
So rounding off past dates, some time in the last decade my soulmate and I jumped into the car to visit old friends and family in the Carolinas, determined to take the scenic routes and avoid I-95, the Maine to Miami traffic jam.
Already touching West Virginia on I-81, we did a side trip east to visit Tom Jefferson at Monticello, and also the University of Virginia in Charlottesville; so memory tells me this trip was a pre-sociopath presidential year. We then backtracked and eased onto the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway; picture this as Vermont’s Green Mountain Parkway that (thankfully) was never built in the 1930s.
Eventually we wheeled through areas like Asheville, Charlotte, Greenville, Columbia, Hilton Head, and tolerated I-95 up to the Raleigh-Durham region. We then departed for the Outer Banks and a highly anticipated four-state oceanside drive, climaxed by the ferry to Cape May, N.J.
Beyond Virginia’s Ocean City, I knew the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel awaited us for the first time in our lives. It was jaw-dropping, approaching a bridge-tunnel seemingly sinking into the sea, somewhere up around Greenland. Actually it was 17-½ miles that just vanished at the other end. Envision a Vermont bridge starting at the I-89 Williston rest area, stretching across Lake Champlain straight to Port Kent, N.Y., to gain some perspective.
The bridge sections were fine — four lanes, two each way. However, when traffic sinks into the two one-mile long tunnels, we were suddenly down to one-way lanes in a not-very-bright tube 130-feet under water, with a steady stream of headlights coming at us. I’ve never been so frightened driving a car, never held a steering wheel so tight, or never had a throat so dry. Forget Stephen King; that was our “Longest Mile” twice in 10 minutes.
All of which brings me to a metaphorical moment.
Four of us locals show off writing on this page monthly. I will next step to the plate on Nov. 19. I don’t have the slightest idea what the topic will be. We Stoweites, Vermonters, Americans will be making a statement Nov. 3 that will impact not only us, but an unsettled world watching our every move. No pressure; only the most significant vote any of us will take in our lifetimes.
We’re all riding in a far more dangerous tunnel right now. The world will be a different place when we emerge at the other end sometime next month.
A lifetime independent, Bush 41 was the last presidential-race-Republican I voted for, in 1992, preceded by a vote for Jerry Ford in 1976. They both lost; to southerners Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, from the region we New Englanders had continued to distrust since 1860.
Yet, 2020 is uncharted territory. I trust no polls. I coughed up cash to groups working toward the common goal. I’m not sure which works better, praying or begging. I’m utilizing both that I might be writing next month about a historical triumph by Joe and Kamala, as well as a recordbreaking flip of the United States Senate. Anything less is a failure to help America stabilize its staggering democracy.
No matter the results, the uncertainty will remain post-election and those worries start at home. That COVID-19 has not gone away in any fashion is obvious; its cure and its vaccine are coming later rather than sooner. Last week’s excellent page one article on the state ski industry’s effort to cover every 2020-21 contingency is confirmation that, at best, this season will be different. Combining that fact with, as the report noted, Vermont’s red-state/county COVID-19 travel requirements, high hurdles remain in hopes of fending off a worse case winter.
That’s something Stowe’s tourism-hospitality businesses don’t wish to contemplate after a disastrous summer, followed by so many empty rooms and restaurants during one of the most spectacular fall foliage seasons in years. Ski industry leaders remind us that two-thirds of seasonal revenues flow to the local communities.
Beyond all this, our own economy is no different than others around the Northeast. Will consumers anywhere even have enough cash on hand to enjoy leisure time activities after 10 months of record unemployment, small business closures and residential foreclosures?
Of course our state, like all the others, is being forced by a despicable human being, who really does look like Mussolini, to solve things the nation should be solving together. Vermont will be remembered as the nation’s best in a bad situation, thanks to Governor Racecar. However, he can’t print money to pay the bills after his much deserved re-election. He can expect that a President Joe will turn our unified attention back to the climate crisis that will take a planet down if COVID-19 doesn’t do it first.
There will be no easy answers starting in November. Will we even get a chance to share a historic rebound victory, or will Joe and Kamala have a virtual inauguration? Will Joe make a unity statement by appointing three accomplished Never Trumpers into his cabinet?
Will a super majority Democratic Congress set justifiable revenge aside and immediately begin addressing the festering human wounds of four centuries, as well as jumpstarting a focused American future? Nothing will be easy and there must be achievement points on the scoreboard in the first 20 months, so not to risk a political backlash pushing us to where we are today.
Still, something down deep in all of us is saying this really is different. In the doctor’s office 2020 means perfect vision. November is going to give us a chance to show the entire world what the real America is made of as it emerges from its deep, dark tunnel.
Dave Matthews lives in Stowe. His column appears monthly. Email letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.