Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Wolfeboro is a recession-proof town. As long as you can figure out a way to nuzzle the sweaty crevices of the wealthy, you will be reliably trickled upon.

Long after communities of lesser charm and entrenched wealth have shriveled in the drought, those of us who can remain in Wolfeboro's oasis will suck our bit of seepage and hope for better days.

Strange vibes in the old 'boro these days. The working class is scared. Even some of the bourgeoisie seem a little worried. The higher climbers, who try to suck the visiting rich for a bit more, have farther to fall if the economy contracts so much that the slightly smaller fortunes can no longer afford to exude their dew.

Anyone who tries to earn a living in the year-round economy of the region will feel a pinch until this period of economic correction comes to an end.

What exactly are we correcting? The fact that anyone making less than a quarter-million a year was able to live comfortably? God forbid.

The bike shop needs to play its cards carefully, but cycling is on the rise, with all the media coverage emphasizing the benefits to your wallet and your planet if you push bike pedals instead of gas and brake pedals.

The cross-country ski shop faces a greater challenge. The super-rich don't ski Nordic, and they don't ski downhill in New England. Our few benefactors will continue to benefact. Because they represent solid fortunes of robust wealth, they will probably maintain their level of contribution to the non-profit trail association. But the retail side needs many more customers than that. I get my stuff at cost, and I can tell you I'm not going to buy anything new this winter. I'll be lucky if I can afford the propane to keep the house at a baseline 45 or 50 degrees so the woodstove has an easier job making up the difference to 60 or so.

Back in the olden days, spring, summer and fall were spent preparing for winter. Cut, split and stack wood. Plant, tend and harvest crops. Can and preserve vegetables and fruits. Most of northern New England isn't really great crop land. That's why people migrated away in droves whenever better farm land opened up during westward settlement.

When short, steep rivers could power mills and factories a short distance from the coast, New England could thrive as a center of manufacturing and invention. As soon as transportation shifted predominantly to land, New England's terrain made it too much trouble. Factories powered by fossil fuels, close to railways and then highways, could do it all cheaper and more conveniently.

Life persists here because it is a habit. Wealthy people invest in recreational homes here because it is pretty. Few of them have any desire to know the challenges of the full year here. They just use it as a backdrop for whatever their New England fantasy might be, and then pull back to their real home bases or to better ski country or tropical refuges when the leaves fall off the trees here.

How many of them are battening on profits from trading in oil futures and dripping too little of that gain into the local economy for the year-round characters in their New England theme park to afford to run their cars and heat their homes over the eight long months until the luxury crowd returns?

One can't really ask. And one would not get a straight answer anyway.

Those who have a spare fifty or eighty thousand lying around might be able to convert their homes to an economical and ecological combination of geothermal and solar power. So once again the people who don't really desperately need the benefits are the ones who can afford to get them.

On the other hand, if we did nothing -- if we subsidized the price of oil and drilled wherever we felt like it--we'd only delay the inevitable crash that would take out the same weak players.

I don't have the perky codependency necessary to do well in service to the rich. As a technician I can rely on my expertise to keep me in demand, but I'll only ever get so far. It's worse in the winter, where I work on display for the entire day in front of a very critical audience. Technical prowess counts for much less. That clientèle is looking for a cheerfully servile attitude. They know I don't have it and can't even fake it.

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