By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. Our first travelers to Massachusetts arrived at Plymouth just in time for Winter, too late for Autumn, specifically tredding on terra firma, December 26, 1620… and were they ever irritated, taking the opportunity to lambast the luckless captain who delivered them so late after a most disagreeable voyage, my dear, anxious for something new and exciting, but not (so they all later agreed) so new and exciting as the standard walloping, punishing New England Winter they came to know so well.
And so the mystique of Autumn, as something worth having and decidedly superior to what follows, was planted at once… and has never waned. And for good reason.
Autumn in New England is not merely a season. It is a mood, evocative, sacerdotal, an essential experience for the sensitive and anyone with the soul of a poet. It is a season that forces us to deal with transition, decay, transient beauty, and history scattered around and through the hamlets, towns, and occasional city. Indeed there is a feeling, never shared with outsiders and casual visitors, that each and every citizen of New England is merely history that hasn’t quite happened yet. History in New England is not merely vestiges of things past; it is present reality, no ghost, but events of long ago, our neighbors still, as fresh today as at inception. This view of ancestors puzzles casual travelers who have no ancestors. They come from places without History… and are, of course, of no consequence whatever. They naturally take umbrage and as many pictures of dying foliage as the traffic allows. We are glad to see the back of them.
It is well known to even the least educated that New England is comprised of six states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut. The least educated, however, know nothing more than that and are not, therefore, in a position to inform you of sundry facts which if left untold to you will create problems for life and submerge your social standing. Here are the facts:
Massachusetts is the largest New England state and offers a dizzying array of important events, people, ideas, institutions, etc. I don’t have either the time or inclination to share these significant details… for that you must visit any one of our dwindling number of bookstores and buy something. We need the money.
Autumn in Massachusetts is most about students arriving at pluperfect academies and institutions of higher learning graced by Corinthian columns and departments of humanities beset by troubles and the budget axe at every side. Such institutions attract the brightest students of the world. Sadly, even these are less educated than their parents, though they pay substantially more for what no one anymore considers a “good” education. Future students enrolled in such places in what is known as the Bay State will come for only a few weeks or even a few days, the prime objective being to say they “went” to (whatever institution they may claim) and to have their pictures taken in front of those venerable columns. Of course, it goes without saying that tuition and fees will not decline; rather the reverse. You will remember: we need the money.
Rhode Island, minute state, longest name.
Rhode Island, the littlest state, suffers from an indelible inferiority complex which has produced in once nick-named “Little Rhody” the insistent temerity of the “mouse that roared.” Rhode Islanders take no guff, and with that chip on the shoulder, defy you to knock it off. Even the boldest think twice before they try…
Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was founded by zealous brethen who grew appalled and aggravated with the sanctimonies and regulations of their former colleagues in Massachusetts and walked to a new destiny, one in which their truth was The Truth. So busy with the business of God, they had no time for the wistful vistas and God-delivered splendors of Autumn.
In due course, after their relationship with God was well and truly cemented and its manifestations — money — began to pour in… Rhode Islanders of means (and there were many) had no time for Autumn… they were busily spending their millions on sad copies of European culture and so nicking their fortunes and ensuring the sniggers of more enlightened, less respectful generations.
Later, in recent years, Rhode Islanders still had no time for Autumn. Gambling, lurid sex, and corrupt politics held sway… and to those who indulged the only season that mattered was the season in which their nocturnal activities waxed.
As a result of all these episodes Rhode Island came to know nothing at all of Autumn… something the more enlightened amongst them should regret, but probably do not.
There was no “Massachusetts” in the Old Country; there was no “Rhode Island.” But there was a peaceful place, a verdant place… called Hampshire. It is no wonder new citizens of the new land wished to memorialize it and pass a nostalgic hour reliving the place they would always remember as “home.” Such a place is a good place to see and to reflect upon the verities of Autumn, its beauty, its sadness that such beauty must be fleeting.
Go, then, to New Hampshire where their by-word is “Live free, or die.” It is a silly motto and would be better rendered “Live free, or fight,” something feisty, bold, gutsy, uplifting. But at least the folks in New Hampshire mean well, though that isn’t always enough. After all, at a time of fiscal austerity, they have wasted millions promoting that foolish motto of theirs.
Now we come to the Holy of Autumnal Holies, a place as sanctified and revered as Delphi. It’s everything that every Sunday travel supplement says it is… villages rendered and revered by Currier and Ives, places so quaint and tidy you are sure they are imaginary. I confess. I love Vermont in Autumn, and so that is when I scheduled my classes at the University of Vermont. One bows low before such a riot of glorious colors and swiftly dying verdure. Still, I have a pet concern… Vermont is not a name of Old England; rather it is a name of Ancient France, for Vermont (“Green mountain”) was an outpost of the Bourbons and reminds us they dreamed imperially, too, if less successfully than England. Perhaps locals kept the name which concerns me because it was tangible evidence that they had pulverized those Frenchies… even to the extent of annexing these words from their language for eternity… an insult to the people most conscious of the outrage of insult. En garde!
As far as Autumn in New England is concerned, after the “in your face” exuberance of Vermont, the rest is dross. Maine, after all, was just a hunk of Massachusetts ripped off the Commonwealth in 1820 and established as a “free state,” to balance the “slave state” of Missouri then entering the Union. But we canny folk of Massachusetts are glad; Mainers are poor and exigent. They really need the money.
And as for Connecticut, the less said the better. Connecticut looks today as it has looked for eons south to New York and Pennsylvania. The folks in Hartford and environs condescend to the rest of New England. We hate them cordially and have made sure to sell them everything we can at inflated prices. You see, they have the money.
At the end…
Now you know about Autumn in New England. Book your tickets at once. Bring the family; the more the merrier. And, remember, bring all your credit cards and instruments of credit. Keep in mind at all times, we need the money.
Oh, and by the way, should you like a little light music to accompany this article, I recommend Edith Piaf singing “Autumn Leaves“, in both Johnny Mercer’s English and Jacquec Prevert’s French. It is superbe. You’ll find it in any search engine. Do it now before the falling leaves have all drifted past your window…
About the Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses.
Republished with author’s permission by Graham Lee – The Income Zone
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