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In This State: Puerto Vermonta
by Stephen Morris
In this morning's email box, there is an inquiry from a UVM student looking for a summer internship with my publishing company. I write back to ask her to send me a resume and a writing sample.
Next comes a message from my friend, Rob, who is a builder of green homes just across the lake in West Chazy. I've just featured him in an article and the magazine layout artist has requested a headshot. I email him, he emails me back, I email the layout person, he emails me back. Job done, thank you very much.
Work, work, work, work ... work, work, work, work.
While my morning travails are linked to Vermont, none of the activity actually transpires in Vermont. I am sitting on the open deck of Garroway's, a funky watering hole surrounded on four sides by the Pasaje de la Mona, the sea where the Oceano Atlantico meets the Mar Caribbe. Garroway's is the personification of Caribbean funk, located in the beachy town of Boqueron on the west coast of Puerto Rico. Warm breezes are wafting over my nearly naked body, and I am sipping on a crackling cold Medalla beer. This is the last place in the world you would expect to find free WiFi, but here it is, and connected I am.
Just to complete the picture, Rob happens to be in Panama at the moment. The UVM student is doing a semester abroad in Belize, and the layout artist works from home in tiny Caspar, California, just north of Mendocino. The state of Vermont appears to have some very squishy borders.
Suddenly, the inspiration strikes. With all this talk about Vermont seceding from the United States to create a Second Vermont Republic, here's an alternative plan ... let's merge with Puerto Rico and create a new entity called Puerto Vermonta.
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This makes a lot of sense.
But first, for readers who have never been there, let me describe Puerto Rico. It's exactly like Vermont. Well, maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but work with me. Replace New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Quebec with an aquamarine sea. Now, make every day the same temperature as the Fourth of July. Other than that, just like Vermont!
Both states have Green Mountains. Theirs are a little taller and pointier. The skiing in Puerto Rico is abysmal. Then again, the beaches around here are nothing to write home about, and the pineapples are terrible.
By Vermont standards, Puerto Rico has a lot of people, but that's good, because Vermont is running out of people. We could start an exchange program, one old Vermonter for ten young Puerto Ricans.
To give a sense of what Puerto Rico looks like, I will just put on my wordsmith hat: Ring the state with West Lebanons, clusters of big box stores ringed by fast food satellites. Separate the malls with spiny back mountains, rainforests, and arid woodlands. Don't skimp on the nice beaches. Now, take all the wooden frame houses and make them constructed with cement blocks, their exteriors painted with bright pinks, greens, and blues. Take the white people and make them brown. Add a few extras pounds for eating a diet too heavy in rich, beans, and fast food. Finally, take the reserved, suspicious people from the Green Mountain and make them are free and fun-loving. Make them dance.
That's Puerto Rico, a clone of Vermont if ever there was one.
I was astounded to wander in to Garroway's after a morning on the nearby beach and find people pecking away on their laptops. When I inquired, I was told that Boqueron's natural harbor makes it a popular haven for the Caribbean yachting set, and the sea travelers like nothing better when they hit shore than to plug into the 'net to check their email. Supposedly Columbus landed here in 1493, and made a beeline for Garroway's.
So, as I'm WiFi-ing in Boqueron my UVM student is in Belize attending a natural building course. Rob is stalking the exotic quetzal (it's a bird) in the jungles of Panama. The designer rushing to meet deadline is just north of Mendocino, California in a tiny town by the Pacific where on a spring day you can watch whales spout while hearing sea lions bark.
Meanwhile, according to the forecast I receive from MyCast.com, back in Vermont it is 2 degrees below zero,, meaning that the sap will not be flowing today. Believe it or not, these things seem important here on the deck at Garroway's. In fact I find the news so depressing that I raise my Medalla to signal the waiter that I'm ready for a second. This beverage is an insipid imitation of real beer, at least by Magic Hat or Wolaver standards, but it works in this setting.
For the Vermonter, further salt is rubbed into the wound by the fact that cell services in Boqueron is five bars, meaning that the phone actually works. I call my home office, check my messages, and return calls without the person on the other end realizing that I am close to naked with warm, tropical breezes caressing my body.
When I bought my cell phone, I was assured by Verizon that my office was safely ensconced within their service territory. In truth, the only place my cell functions at all is if I stand on my tiptoes, and lean my head up against the window. If I am really lucky, there's enough of a connection for me to say "I will call you right back on a land line," which my caller probably hears as "will you write back online."
It's a marriage made in heaven. Puerto Rico is like a state, but without all the baggage. Unlike the Killington secession (which would have necessitated the world's longest suspension bridge from the Connecticut River to Bear Mountain) the merger of Vermont and Puerto Rico is the most civil union since apple pie and cheddar cheese. Viva Puerto Vermonta!
Stephen Morris makes believe he is working, but he's really connected via his laptop and cell phone from the deck at Garroway's. Reach him at Stephen@thepublicpress.com.
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