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MARTHA SEZ: Those were the days, my friend

March 3, 2011
Somewhere far away there is a tavern where three cronies sit and shoot the breeze.

Recently retired, and not by choice, they are unaccustomed to having so much time on their hands, so much time to do nothing.

Hosni Mubarek of Egypt, Ben Ali of Tunisia and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya order another round while the juke box —or is it satellite radio?—plays their song:

“Those were the days my friend

We thought they’d never end

We’d sing and dance forever and a day

We’d live the life we choose

We’d fight and never lose

For we were young and sure to have our way...

La la la la...

Wonder where they are? Maybe Mexico. Wonder what they’re drinking? Maybe margaritas.

“With salt, or without salt this time?” the waitress asks.

My friend Laura brushed against her car door, then regarded her coat sleeve with evident distaste. The cuff of her black cashmere coat was powdered lavishly with road salt. It looked as if she had been reaching into a box of doughnuts, the kind that are covered with confectioner’s sugar.

You might almost have thought the car was white, but a little streak here and there of gunmetal gray gave away its true color.

Salt, salt, salt. It’s everywhere. It’s getting so you can’t tell the road salt from the snow.

“I don’t even have to salt my food anymore,” Laura told me. “I’ve got salt on my hands. It’s falling off me. I’m covered in salt.”

I have been told salt eats away at the roofs of people’s houses. How can that be? I couldn’t believe it, but it turns out it’s true, the salt somehow gets up that high. Out of curiosity I once dipped my finger into the snow melt in my rain barrel under the gutter pipe and tasted the water. Yes, it was salty. I don’t think it raised my blood pressure appreciably, though.

And I’m not complaining, because what I dislike more than salt on the roads is no salt on icy roads, sliding away out of control through a stop sign into traffic, spinning down a hill, sailing over a cliff.

I don’t know what the town of Boulder, Colorado, does these days to maintain the roads, but when I lived there, the roads were sanded but not salted. I didn’t like their cowboy attitude: “If you greenhorns don’t know how to drive on ice, stay home!”

Although protecting automobiles and environmental considerations might also have figured in.

“I hate the salt. Still, I’m glad they salt the roads around here,” I said as Laura and I headed up to Lake Placid to see a movie. Laura agreed. For some reason, no matter what the weather is doing, it is bound to be worse passing the Cascade Lakes from Keene into Lake Placid. Snow, wind, ice, white-out conditions—you never know what you’re going to drive into.

It was still light out when we emerged from the theater into a cutting wind.  Laura and I discussed the movie, which was less romantic, but also less violent, than others we’d seen. All in all, we agreed it was pretty good.

As soon as we were on the road again, I was back to thinking about the salt. The Town of Keene has a new salt shed to protect its stockpile of state salt. The word shed is misleading, since the structure is huge. More like a salt palace.

People worry about the effect all of the tons of salt we spread on our roads will have on plant and animal habitats. I was surprised to learn that some wildlife experts Believe that sand runoff from the roads is more damaging to trout habitat than the salt.

Sand. I wonder where those three deposed kings of Orient are now. In a desert palace on an oasis? Under a palm tree on some perfect sandy, briny beach?

Remember how we laughed away the hours

And dreamed of all the great things we would do...

It’s hard to believe that it won’t be too long before the ice melts in the sun and we can sweep the floor without accumulating piles of sand and dislodging the last stubborn Christmas tree needles from their hiding places.

And it’s hard to believe and almost too much to hope that democracy is taking hold in the Middle East.

Keep the faith, and have a good week.



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