spring | 2012 issue #5
The Fate of the Skatepark Vermont Joy Parade Obama in VT Prohibition Pig Black is Beautiful Street Styles Comedy btv magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com 10% of proceeds from this issue go to Localthread Motion
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thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
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thread magazine | spring 2012 | issue #5
10 Still Can: Obama in Vermont John Flanagan 16 Vermont Joy Parade Zach Despart
22 On the Waterfront: Burlingtonâ€™s Skatepark Dilemma John Flanagan 30 Black is Beautiful Jean Luc Dushime 34 Prohibition Pig Alex Mackay 38 Behind the [Comedy] Scene Nathan Hartswich & Chicky Winkleman 44 Fashion Conscience Jennifer Kahn
This is Thread Magazine issue #5. The signs of spring and summer are certainly here - the notch road is open again, your coffee has ice in it, and if you live in the Old North End like we do, the familar sounds of yelling season are starting to fill the air. In our short existence since last August, Thread has evolved and grown in ways we never expected, thanks to the remarkable support from the community and other local businesses. This issue is by far our finest work to date, and we’re proud to simply put it out for you, Burlington.
The following pages contain a little bit of everything, and we had a blast creating this content. We’ve been crammed in a school bus with the vivacious crew of Vermont Joy Parade, heavily sniffed by German Shepherds and corralled into Obama’s press prison with dozens of journalists, sipped unbelievable whiskey libations at Prohibition Pig, and hit the streets for a photo session with Burlington’s beautiful shop owners. And as for our cover feature; we donned our press caps, conducted old-fashioned face to face interviews and pored through public records at City Hall for Thread’s first investigative feature about the situation surrounding the skatepark and Waterfront North project. Enjoy.
Ben Sarle, Editor & Publisher and The Thread Magazine Syndicate
thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
masthead PUBLISHER/EDITOR Ben Sarle firstname.lastname@example.org COPY EDITORS David Scherr Courtney Butler CONTRIBUTING WRITERS John Flanagan Zach Despart Alex Mackay Nathan Hartswick Chicky Winkleman Margo Callaghan Jennifer Kahn Colin Hunt CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS/PHOTOGRAPHERS Jean Luc Dushime Oliver Parini Nissa Kaupilla Hailey Schofield Elliot Dodge deBruyn DESIGN CONTRIBUTORS Britt Boyd Special Thanks to: Brendan Foster, Trina Zide, Kirsten Merriman Shapiro, Miro Weinberger, Mike Kanarick, Alison Lockwood, Chad Rich, Amy Rosenfield, BCA, Nathanael Matthew Asaro, Juniorâ€™s Pizza, and friends & family for all the support
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ink & pen illustration by Hailey Schofield haileyschofield.wordpress.com thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
Still Can: Obama in Vermont words // john flanagan photos // ben sarle and oliver parini
Above: The crowd eagerly anticipating Obama’s appearance on stage. Left: President Obama wrapping up his speech at the University of Vermont. photos // Ben Sarle
Barack Obama speaking to a UVM crowd about health care, clean energy, abhorrent tax cuts for the super wealthy, the values of small business, and using war money on education instead is somewhat like convincing a crowd of middle school girls how cute the Biebs is. But just because the president had an easy sell doesn’t make the messages less important. As he noted on his March 30th address at the Patrick Gymnasium, his was the first presidential visit to Vermont since Bill Clinton ate at the Oasis in 1995. Far from facing a shoo-in election, Obama said he needs voters already on his side to sustain their 2008 gusto in quelling a looming Republican takeover. “The last thing we can afford to do is to go back to the same policies that got us in this mess in the first place,” he said. The campaign’s fundraising event began with a brief concert by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. I’d tell you about it, but the media was corralled into a dance studio elsewhere in the building during the band’s set. Reporters read updates of the goings on via Twitter and Facebook posts by regular at-
tendees. Speeches by Governor Peter Shumlin, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senator Patrick Leahy were also off-limits to us. One journalist proposed a game of dodge ball with the red, white, and blue exercise balls stacked beside the full-length mirror, and a table of Fox News correspondents discussed meatball subs. Senator Patrick Leahy walked in at one point but the Obama campaign’s media wrangler, Amy Rosenfield, hustled him out immediately. “She seems to be all upset,” he muttered on his way out. After hearing the muffles of Potter and her gang, and enjoying the luxury of a port-a-potty escort, we were finally led into the main gymnasium. Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright” echoed from the rafters as we got our first glimpse of the crowd. The majority was dressed casually. Some sported Obama shirts, one of which read “We Will We Will Barack You,” and not a dearth of attendees neglected their go-to flannel. I also remember being surprised by the number of babies. The general vibe of the hot gym felt like we were all waiting for a band to start.
The Higher Ground employees packing up the Nocturnals’s gear probably helped stoke my observation. Mayor Miro Weinberger and Senator Leahy sat stage right of the president’s podium. At around 2:30, the Tom Petty song that had been playing faded as Jeanne Morrissey, the president of construction and contract business J.A. Morrissey Inc., took the stage. “My entire staff is out buying lottery tickets because that would be more likely than me being here today,” she began. In her speech, Morrissey used her business as an example of how Obama administration polices, such as the Recovery Act’s tax credits, helped push small businesses through the recession. J.A. Morrissey’s revenue dropped by 50% when the economy turned for the worst, she said, adding, “I knew we were in for a tough journey, but I knew we were in it together.” Morrissey stated she was able to retain all of her employees because of “President Obama’s leadership and vision, along with the swift action and commitment of Vermont’s Congressional Delegation in assisting thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
Above: Burlington’s Mayor Miro Weinberger walking down the tarmac with President Obama. Left: Secret Service at the airpot awaiting the arrival of Air Force One. photos // Oliver Parini
“An economy that’s built to last is one that supports scientists and researchers,” he said. “It’s not just about belief.” BARACK OBAMA
local community partners.” After concluding, Morrissey introduced Obama to a hysterical crowd. The grinning president shook the foremost hands of a waving sea and ran up the stage’s steps. After his hellos, his “Go Catamounts,” and his thank yous, Obama offered condolences to the family and friends of St. Johnsbury teacher Melissa Jenkins, who had been kidnapped and murdered days before
the speech. A somewhat awkward gaffe was the president’s mispronunciation of Governor Shumlin’s name (“Peter Sum-lin”), though he breezed through “Miro Weinberger” without difficulty. The first few minutes of his half-hourlong speech were dedicated to reviewing his administration’s successes over the past four years. He cited a long list of achievements including guaranteed equal pay for women, rescuing the American auto industry, passing the Affordable Care Act, reversing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, ending the war in Iraq, bringing justice to Osama Bin Laden, and helping businesses add four million jobs to the economy over the last two years. “None of this has been easy,” he reminded the crowd. “We’ve had a little resistance from the other side.”
The president gave his address in a tone more identifiable as that of a candidate’s than of a current official. Obama expressed frequently his disconcertion of the Republican Party’s current ideals, and riffed upon his Square Deal-inspired “fair shot” rhetoric. “It was a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, who called for a progressive tax income,” Obama said. He mentioned other former Republican presidents, such as Eisenhower and Lincoln, as examples of leaders who understood the benefits of a bipartisan country. Obama said he no longer identifies this spirit in the present Republican Party. “Their philosophy is simple: you’re on your own,” he said. “That’s a cramped, narrow conception they have of liberty. And they are wrong.” Boos flooded the room when the opposition’s desire
Right: Senator Leahy being escorted out of the colorful media room by Obama’s press wrangler Amy Rosenfield (left). Below: Senator Leahy prepping his camera for Obama to hit the stage. photos // Ben Sarle
to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens and to cut education funding were mentioned. The majority of the president’s speech focused on challenges ahead and plans his administration has for the next four years. As he addressed the still-too-low poverty level, an audience member yelled out, “Love you!” The president, without missing a beat, rejoined with his famous “Love you back.” The crowd cheered as if Phish had just played “Fluffhead” backwards and a stone-faced Obama waited out the applause. The president’s goals for his second term include nurturing an economy that’s “built to last.” He stressed the importance of American innovation and his desire to retain foreign-flung jobs. “I don’t want us to be known for buying and consuming,” he said. “I want to build and sell things all over the world.” Some of the afternoon’s biggest cheers followed the president’s spoken desire to “make our schools the envy of the world.” Supportive yells swelled to ballistic screams as he drove home the importance of teachers, the futility of standardized testing, and necessity to knock down a proposed increase of interest rates on student loans. Subtly the president also knocked Christian Fundamentalist tendencies to deny the existence of climate change and to advocate against stem cell research. “An economy that’s built to last is one that supports scientists and researchers,” he said. “It’s not just about belief.” Greater research capabilities, he said, could help lead the country towards the next clean energy breakthrough. He did quote from the Bible in his
praise of American values. “I am my brother’s keep, I am my sister’s keeper – that’s a value,” he said. Preparing for his raucous finale, Obama alluded to what he calls “The Buffett Rule,” in reference to billionaire investor Warren Buffett. The rule states that those making over a million dollars each year shouldn’t pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries. “This is not class warfare,” he said. “This is basic math.” Again, cheers from the audience drowned out his words and temporarily abated only just before he finished. “I’m not a perfect man. Michelle will tell you that,” Obama joked. “And I’ll never be a perfect president. But I made a promise to you that I would always tell you what I believe, and
thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
that I would always tell you where I stood, and that I would wake up every single day fighting as hard as I know how for you. And I have kept that promise.” He repeated that last sentence three times, though the third assertion was barely heard beneath the ecstatic crowd. He concluded by shouting “God bless you and the State of Vermont!” and walked off-stage to Raphael Saadiq’s “Keep Marchin’,” shaking more frantically waving hands before disappearing
behind a blue curtain. On my way out, I asked audience member Bill Oetzel what he thought of the speech. “This country needs him,” Oetzel said. “To change administration now would be insane.” Col Julien, an Economics major at UVM said he was most impressed with the tax-related issues Obama discussed. “Senior citizens shouldn’t stretch to
“This country needs him. To change administration now would be insane.” BILL OETZEL
make ends meet,” Julien said. The wooed crowd seemed dazed as the gymnasium emptied. Outside, vendors sold pins to commemorate the event. Senator Sanders was wearing a funny hat and playing catch with some kids. As I walked back towards town I saw the “Impeach Obama” guy unchaining his bike from a Davis Center bike rack after another hard day’s work.
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words // zach despart images // ben sarle
“Has anyone sharpened the juggling knives?” says Galen Peria, a.k.a. Duke Airplane, holding three 12-inch blades while standing at the front of a veggie-oil powered school bus. This is about as surreal as it gets. Seven musicians, myself and Thread editor Ben Sarle cram onto a few benches on the front half of the bus. We’ve caught up with Burlingtonbased Vermont Joy Parade on a break in their travels. The group just finished a tour of Europe, and is about to embark on a six-week domestic tour to promote their new album, New Anthem. Vermont Joy Parade was formed in 2008 by Benny “The Captain” Strosberg on banjo, Devin Robinson on Resonator guitar and Ben Aleshire on cornet. They’ve since expanded to a septet, adding Anna Pardenik on guitar and vocals, Galen “Duke Airplane” Peria on piano and accordian, Taylor Smith on bass fiddle and trombone, and Dan Fancher on drums. It’s a cloudy afternoon and the bus, nicknamed the “Zeitgeist Apparatus II,” sits outside a home in South Burlington neighborhood. “Whose house is this?” Sarle asks. No one has an answer, but none seem too concerned. For Vermont Joy Parade, the fine details aren’t important. In our conversation, it’s hard to discern where fact blends with fiction and back to fact again. But that doesn’t seem to matter. All and all, Vermont Joy Parade is an eclectic, energetic bunch. “We’re made up of two high school dropouts, four college dropouts and a professor of music,” jokes Aleshire. “We’re like a failed reality television show,” Peria adds. Jest as they may, it’s hard to classify VJP — and this resistance to any sort of label is something the band enjoys. VJP proclaims their genre to be “Suspender Fusion” and “Futuristic Old-Time” on. It’s not hard to see how influential old time music is thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
for the band — throughout the interview Smith plucked along on a three-string gas can banjo. The instrumentation is unconventional — a smattering of horns, strings and vocals. A septet gets crowded quite quickly, yet the musicians serve to compliment rather than overpower each other — they’ve each found their niche. TM: So what’s the story behind the bus? “We pulled it out of a swamp with 16 coal black stallions,” Peria says, adopting a Southern drawl so gritty you’d swear he was the warden from Cool Hand Luke.
There was, in fact, a Zeitgeist Apparatus I. By all accounts it served the band well, but died shortly after returning to Burlington —“like an animal coming home to die on the front porch,” says Peria.
It’s a school bus all right, right down to Bluebird logo and ceiling escape hatches. The body has been painted a fire engine red. The band’s name is emblazoned in black block letters across the sides.
So Vermont Joy Parade found themselves in a jam — one week out from embarking on another tour with no bus to take them. But find a new bus they did, in Maine.
It’s one part Partridge Family, two parts Magical Mystery Tour with just a hint of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
“It was literally filled with lobsters,” Pardenik recalls. “We had one week to refurbish it and convert it to run on vegetable oil.”
The interior is crowded with instrument cases, food and supplies. A half dozen oil on canvas works hang from the walls — painted by Strosberg and friends of the band.
“That’s not true,” Aleshire clarifies. “The bus is a symbol… a time capsule,” ex-
“A bunch of folks in the community came out to help us paint it,” says Peria. “It was really
TM: I’ve frequently seen your bus parked outside of Radio Bean for an extended period of time. Do you guys just keep feeding the meter? How is that allowed? Peria: It isn’t. We’ve gotten a ton of parking tickets. Pardenik: But we pay them. The group recounted how their bus had been towed, despite the fact that they were playing events the City hired the band for. TM: What’s with the veggie oil? Strosberg: “I was touring with the Jugtown Pirates and we were touring in a bread truck, and we spent all our money on gas. We found someone who could teach us how to convert to veggie oil and we were like ‘wow, this is it.’ It’s the only way for independent artists to sustain themselves without help from a major label.” TM: Where did the name Vermont Joy Parade come from? Strosberg: “We tossed around a lot of names. We wanted something that would reflect where we came from because the band really fermented in Burlington. We all met here and incubated here. We were sort born out of circus energy and being on the road and being nomadic.” Robinson: “We didn’t want to call it a circus because it wasn’t totally that. We wanted a name that people understood, but was also up to interpretation.” Peria: We wanted to leave something up to the
Above & Left: Vermont Joy Parade performing at Burlington City Arts on March 31, 2012. photos // Ben Sarle
“Jared Leto (of 30 Seconds to Mars) saw you in the park today and really liked you. Would you like to open for them?” And of course we all said “who?” imagination. Their ties to Burlington are strong. Strosberg attended UVM and played Slade Hall and house parties downtown as a member of the Jugtown Pirates. TM: Why tour in Europe? Parkenik: It all started when I decided to sell everything I own and move to Europe. So I bought a one-way ticket. And soon Benny and Galen came along. As soon as they showed up we started busking in the streets of Berlin. We billed ourselves as The Piano Moving Company, a division of Vermont Joy Parade. Peria: Germany was great. Lots of pretzels and beer and indigestion.
names. Holy Smoke Off, Duke Airplane and the Radio Bean Doorman. TM: You guys must have some anecdotes. Aleshire: We were playing in this big flea market in Berlin. That was like our bread and butter — 10,000 hipsters, all buying things. Pardenik: We got an email after playing Mauerpark, which is what it was called, that said “Jared Leto (of 30 Seconds to Mars) saw you in the park today and really liked you. Would you like to open for them?”
Club. Did you take the gig? Aleshire: Yeah. We got invited to play these 15,000 seat arenas, Pardenik: We were playing one arena the night before Paul McCartney did. Peria: Of the motherfucking Beatles! (In case any clarification was needed) Peria: We got in trouble because we kept mispronouncing his name (Lee-to) in an interview we did for a documentary.
Peria: And of course, we all said “who?” (The bus erupts in laughter) Jay Leno?
“I looked it up on Wikipedia and it and it said Lee-to!” Peria contends.
Pardenik: So after some Googling we were like “oh, that guy from My So Called Life!”
The instrumentation for those first arena gigs was rudimentary at best. Galen recalls using the first sound check.
Various incarnations of VJP under different TM: Yes, and Requiem for a Dream and Fight
thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
“The accordion case that Dan [Fancher] was using as a kick drum was the first piece of equipment that we soundchecked in this massive concrete auditorium, So the sound guy says over the PA ‘can we get a little more of the suitcase there?” he says, as the bus erupts in laughter. “The whole building was shaking. It was one of the most visceral experiences of my life.” Strosberg: We were playing gigs every night in Berlin for about six weeks. The music scene there is just so hot and thriving. Everyone goes out every night. The clubs are full. It’s really exciting. Pardenik: It’s a smokers paradise. Strosberg: There’s smoke everywhere, the wallpaper is peeling, there’s candles… Aleshire: ...there are no fire exits. It’s great. TM: Where did you guys stay over there? Obviously, you didn’t have the bus. Strosberg: We stayed in a stinky little apartment. Pardenik: Well, several stinky apartments. We were moving all over every week. TM: You said you spent some time in Poland? 20
“We all sleep like rats with our earthly possessions around us,” GALEN
Peria: We spent a week in a half in Poland. It’s one of the most magical places on Earth. The people, the fans; they’re amazing. It’s like Eastern European Texas hospitality. Strosberg: “I’ve never played so drunk in my entire life. I mean, you can’t be onstage and not drink the shot they give you.” Aleshire: “They love getting foreigners drunk. It’s like their pastime. They mix [vodka] with cough syrup and call it something weird.” Strosberg: We did a few days in Prague. We played at the University at this Bohemian underground cavern. We met up with some really great bands — Fenster, Ken Nash.
The band decided not to install a bathroom on the bus; the rationale behind that decision was simple. “I don’t want anyone doing their business five feet from where I sleep,” Galen explained. TM: What’s with all the circus stuff? “We murdered a bunch of clowns,” Peria asserts. “Benny and I spent some time in Central America traveling with a Mexican circus,” Aleshire contends.
TM: How do you all fit on this bus?
It is wholly unclear which account is more accurate. For Vermont Joy Parade, it seems of little importance where fact and fiction meets, or if they even intersect at all. It’s all a great story.
“We don’t,” they say in unison, with a sense of pride and just a hint of disdain. But perhaps Duke Airplane says it best.
“We all kind of do our own bit,” says Strosberg. “Juggling, clowning, miming — it’s waxed and waned over the years.
“We all sleep like rats with our earthly possessions around us,” Peria says.
Pardenik says she’s a contortionist, while Peria contends that much of the band’s circus antics
on their first tour centered around stripping. Pardenik: No, we’re not doing it. TM: I saw you on Church St. the other day and the crowd was cracking up at you guys. “On Church St. we used to call ourselves Bob Kiss and the Hot Licks,” says Robinson. The fact that there’s a new mayor in City Hall has forced VJP to abandon that pseudonym. But they keep on alright —billing themselves last week as as Miro and the Weinbergers. Strosberg: It’s really important for us to go out and play for people that wouldn’t normally come to the show. The people that really need the music are the people walking to their jobs every day. We can burst their little bubbles of alienation. Peria: For me, playing in unorthodox places is one of the most satisfying things we do on the road. We did a mini-show in the children’s section of an Alabama Wal-Mart.
TM: Wait, really? You turned down a Smirnoff commercial? Strosberg: Yeah, they were going to cast us in a spec shoot for Smirnoff. But they wouldn’t pay us enough. Smith: They offered us $7,000. TM: How would you feel about that? Is it selling out? I mean, you’d be getting a ton of exposure. Pardenik: We actually argue about this a lot. Devin: I’d much rather have someone like us after seeing the band play at some dive bar rather than after recognizing us in some commercial.
cohol. I feel like we’re advertising when we’re playing in front of a big sign that says Coors Light. I don’t personally like to support that. The best places are house parties, living rooms, basements. Taylor: We’re open to playing speakeasies and moonshines. TM: I don’t think there’s a band out there that doesn’t struggle with that. Pardenik: Yeah, there’s a constant discourse with the seven members. We’re always having a dialogue with each other about what are ethics and morals are in this collective. Strosberg: I mean, we played with Jared Leto. I mean, their cultural appropriation is out of this world. Anna: It’s difficult to navigate.
Ben: I like to play in venues that don’t sell al-
TM: How long did that last? Peria: About a minute and a half. Then we got thrown out. It was one of the highlights of my musical career. There was also a player piano at a McDonald’s in Asheville, N.C. that Benny and I played for about five minutes until we got thrown out. But we got a standing ovation from the McDonald’s patrons! But to be able to reach out to people who are just submerged in the culture and never see anything that’s out of the ordinary and shake them up a little bit… that’s one of the highest experiences we have artistically. TM: What are the highlights of your tour coming up? Pardenik: We’re playing the Kentucky Derby. Peria: The Kentucky Derby is going to be vile and depraved! Benny: We’re open to playing some Occupy Camps Devin: If they pay us the right amount! Aleshire: You can see us in a Smirnoff commercial coming out soon. thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
on the waterfront: the burlington skatepark dilemma All images: Nathanael Matthew Asaro in Burlingtonâ€™s current skatepark.
*a thread magazine investigation by ben sarle & john flanagan
words // john flanagan photography // ben sarle
urlington’s waterfront is no stranger to conflict and change. The region’s development began when the Champlain Canal ferried lumber and stone in and out of Vermont throughout the first half of the 19th century. Years later, in 1849, a rail line came in. Lumber and rail yards stretched across the harbor as Burlington became the third busiest port in the Unites States. Images of the waterfront from the early twentieth century show burned and dilapidated ghosts of a once productive area. By 1954, plumes of smoke from the coalpowered Moran Plant drifted up the hill and through the lakeside neighborhoods. A proposition for an elevated highway spanning the length of the waterfront was proposed and shot down in the 70s. 1990 brought the Burlington Waterfront Revitalization Plan, responsible for much of the Frisbee-friendly, swinging-bench panache seen now. While the park’s southern segment draws crowds with the Echo Center, Splash, and a sunset view Kipling once considered among the finest in the world, the north end of the park, with the hulking edifice of the Moran Plant and a rotting skatepark closed since last year, retains the sketchy disrepair of earlier times. Waterfront Transportation Improvements North, a.k.a. the Waterfront North project, aims at changing the area’s unpleasantness. Funding for the project was obtained from a competitive $3.15 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovthread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
...Kiebel’s decision to reverse his initial Act 250 ruling just hours after obtaining the last federal permit required for finalizing the project’s planning stages... ery, or TIGER, grant awarded to Vermont by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Another $150,000 for a new 20,000 square foot skatepark, part of the encompassing Moran Plant/ Waterfront North project, has been secured from Penny for Parks. Penny for Parks began in 2008 as a one cent dedicated tax that generates an estimated $350,000 each year towards funding Burlington’s city parks. The Moran Plant/Waterfront North project entered recently into a new phase of antagonism when Peter Keibel, one of Vermont’s two District #4 Coordinators, concluded that the revamping requires an Act 250 permit amendment. According to the State of Vermont’s website, the Act 250 permit “provides a public, quasi-judicial process for reviewing and managing the environmental, social, and fiscal consequences of major subdivisions and development in Vermont.” Earlier, Kiebel deemed the permit unnecessary. The new decision ties up the redevelopment process until an environmental court hearing, for which the date has yet to be set. The skatepark, which has been part of
the proposed makeover since its inception, now lies at the forefront of a bitter dispute between the Burlington Skatepark Coalition (BSC) and a group called Friends of the Waterfront, consisting primarily of Lake Street residents and their neighbors. Notable appellants to the city’s plans include Magic Hat co-founder Alan Newman and local artist Jude Bond. Brendan Foster and Trina Zide have owned Maven, a skateboard shop on Cherry Street in Burlington, since August of 2005. Two years ago, the couple hosted a meeting at the Fletcher Free Library to discuss the waterfront’s redevelopment and the fate of the marred skatepark. “There was finally a chance where we could get something concrete,” he says, punning on the coalition’s desire to replace the park’s existing sheet metal and rotting wood with concrete. Since April of 2011, the BSC has drafted and submitted grants, worked with the Parks Department during the new park’s design process, hosted community outreach events – including tables and voting stations at Burlington’s Farmer’s Market. They’ve also
held fundraising events such as “Go Skate Day,” “Raise the Gnar,” a silent auction at the annual Art Hop, “Shred for Bread,” and most recently, the screening of a full-length skateboard-themed comedy, “Machotaildrop.” By November 2011, the group had raised a total of $23,683.33 The BSC solicited the park’s $42,550 design from Micah Shapiro of Gindline Skateparks, a Seattle-based company whose resume includes top-notch skateparks in the U.S., Canada, and Japan. Foster says the new park would require minimal maintenance if built with the proposed concrete. “Kona is 40 years old,” he says, citing the famous Florida skate mecca. Shapiro’s Burlington design incorporates nods to the proposed park’s unique locale. A lake-facing Plexiglas wallride, a “sail” bank, and a Champesque “Vermont Manual Pad” will underscore the waterfront’s esteemed charm. Foster says skaters first encountered opposition to their plan after earning the Penny for Parks funding. He says neighbors argued Penny for Parks money had to be used to repair
existing parks, not to build new ones. “But it doesn’t say that in their mission statement,” Foster says. According to the City of Burlington’s website, eligible projects for Penny for Parks funding “include the repair, renovation, replacement, or expansion of existing park facilities as well as the construction of new facilities in existing parks.” In December, after the funding had already been approved by City Council, State Representative and former mayoral candidate Kurt Wright authored an amendment on the issue. Regardless, former Mayor Bob Kiss, a skatepark supporter, sent the resolution back unsigned. Kirsten Merriman Shapiro, no relation to skatepark designer Micah Shapiro, is the Special Parks Manager at Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO). Merriman Shapiro was reluctant to discuss the skatepark until conferring more on the issue with newly-minted mayor, Miro Weinberger. She does say, however, that she heard of Kiebel’s decision to reverse his initial Act 250 ruling just hours after obtaining the last federal permit required for finalizing the project’s planning stages. Act 250 is the last recourse for the Friends of the Waterfront. Voicing the issue on behalf of those upset with the proposed changes is Alison Lockwood, a resident of the 200 Lake Street apartments. “The whole project smells like rotten fish,” she writes in an email to the Friends of the Waterfront Coalition, obtained (legally) by Thread. “WE NEED YOU NOW!!!” she continues, “before the city makes the mistake of passing another funding resolution for the skate park.” According to Brendan Foster, Lockwood contacted Peter Kiebel about the Act 250 permit and encouraged his changed decision. “It was weird for them to be corresponding directly,” Foster says. Zide identifies the situation as “the one percent versus the 99 percent underneath a magnifying glass.” The couple also notes that Lockwood’s stepsons were once waterfront skatepark regulars. On a recent sunny afternoon, Allison Lockwood sits at Burlington Bay overlooking the lake and rattles off an encyclopedia of information surrounding the waterfront’s redevelopment project. She cites questions posed to voters in the late 90s as the origin of her exasperation. Lockwood says at that time, CEDO asked voters about Tax Increment Financing (TIF), which grows a region’s tax base by incentivizing new private development in the district. “When the city asked for those funds,
Above: The new concrete skatepark designs by Grindline.
“I’m supportive of TIF funding,” MIRO WEINBERGER it was like asking for a blank check,” Lockwood says. Her concern centers on the city’s optimism that property value would increase as the dilapidated land becomes regenerated. Studies on Burlington’s Waterfront district, posted on CEDO’s website, show TIF has been successful in the past. In 1997, before it became a TIF district, the waterfront’s tax base showed a value of $42,902,900. The current value sits at $119,812,100, an increase of $76,909,200. Improvements to the waterfront since becoming a TIF district include Lake Street reconstruction and extension, the construction of a waterfront
fishing pier, Urban Reserve acquisition, and parking garages for Lakeview, Westlake, and College streets. “I’m supportive of TIF funding,” says Mayor Miro Weinberger, “but it needs to be used lawfully and carefully.” The mayor says he plans to use the Waterfront and Downtown TIF districts to help create jobs. He also says that while he still needs to review the intricacies of the project, he’s generally in favor of the Waterfront North/Moran Plant redevelopment. Concerning the skatepark, he tells Thread, “I’m not a skater myself, but I think it’s a great sport thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
and understand why people love it.” Alison Lockwood is also concerned with disparities she identifies between CEDO’s plans and their current proposals. She claims the city’s original application for TIGER Grant funding never mentions a 20,000 square foot skatepark. Though the skatepark’s expansion doesn’t appear in the application’s project description, an attached site design, dated June 6th, 2009, shows a “Street Skate Park” and “Transition Skate Park” in congruence with PDFs of the current design posted on CEDO’s website. Also listed in the August 13, 2010 application is a plan to establish a Green Mountain Children’s museum, a family adventure facility – Ice Factor – which includes ice and rock climbing, and a Community Sailing Center. Though Lockwood writes in the email previously quoted that the Sailing Center has been “ignored in the plan,” CEDO’s PDFs show the proposed center and abundant boat storage located immediately beside the skatepark. The city’s TIGER application concludes that the project “will create over 675 temporary jobs and have a $49 million impact on the local economy.” During our conversation and in her emails, Lockwood accuses CEDO of planning to host “X-Games-like events that would draw up
Above: wtf is a tif?
to 111,000 to 200,000 people.” In a Power Point presentation compiled by BSC and CEDO, slide 15 does list “Large Scale National Events” as an opportunity offered by the new skatepark, though no mention of the X-Games or specific crowd sizes are posted. The most prominent of Lockwood’s
complaints orbits the Act 250 dilemma. She cites the city’s tendency to violate the act’s conditions by holding festivals and events beyond given time parameters. “The types of things that were going on last year were over the top,” she says. Kiebel’s initial decision, she continues, was based upon what the city told him. “When he saw the actual scope of the project he said ‘Whoa!’” she says. Though Kiebel could not be reached for comment to confirm the basis of his initial decision, he writes in his Jurisdictional Opinion to Lockwood that his original opinion of April 2, 2008 was based upon the understanding that the Moran Plant/Waterfront North project was not an extension of the encompassing Waterfront Park redevelopment plan. “However,” he writes, “it appears the facts available from this issued JO [reveal] that the Waterfront Park projects are bound by a common plan,” and thus qualify as “a Material Change” to the original development plans. This legal hitch, his statement shows, triggers the necessity of an Act 250 permit amendment. In an attempt at compromise, Lockwood suggests skaters build their park on Burlington’s vacant southern connecter, at the interchange of I-189 with US 7. Her proposal bolsters the “not in my back yard” mentality skaters say is fueling the dispute. “If you want to encourage good behavior?” Merriman Shapiro says, “You put things in
the center of activity. You don’t put it off to the side.” Brendan Foster agrees: “The money is tied to the waterfront location. If we have to move it, we’re down to zero dollars. The skatepark’s already there and it should stay there.” In 1998 City Council selected the waterfront as the skatepark’s site because of its proximity to the bike path. Merriman Shapiro says the decision was also an attempt to not further marginalize the city’s youth. Skaters have been surprised to hear Alison Lockwood insist she’d like to see the waterfront skate site refurbished, a claim she repeated to Thread. “Print that!” she says, “Get that out there! I told them I’d help them fundraise!” Her pro-waterfront skatepark remarks clash significantly not only with remarks made in her emails and elsewhere in our conversation, but with the consternation she harbors towards the park’s past goings on. She says skaters leave
beer cans behind and frequently break into the park after hours. Concerts and events, such as the EMS Nor’easter Festival, have irritated the issue considerably. “The fear of large events in Waterfront North or the Skate Park is based upon the real experience that those of us who live here have had in the last few years,” she says. “I’ve had people shootin’ up in my driveway during concerts.” With the Act 250 dilemma churning through the court system, all developments and waterfront events, including rerouting the bike path, increasing parking, revamping lighting, Moran renovations, proposed job-creating opportunities, and concerts and festivals could be stalled indefinitely; the Friends don’t get their sailing center, the skaters don’t get their park. But is Alison Lockwood a youth-hating miser? Absolutely not. She’s an incredibly bright and well-spoken woman who’s pored over 20 plus years of waterfront-related docu-
ments due to a natural concern for the well being of her community. She’s actually quite nice, too. However, as Mayor Weinberger says, “All Burlington residents have an equal voice.” Brendan Foster relates how Burlington has been lucky enough to host a vibrant youth willing to sustain the city’s unique aspects that draw tourism and prospective students. “As a business owner,” he says, “it would be a shame to lose this.” Community members can follow the steps next taken in court to help determine whether skaters and the “Friends” see stagnancy or change on the waterfront. “If it turns out we need to apply for Act 250,” Merriman Shapiro says, “supporters and non supporters of the redevelopment can come out and have their say. The community can show the District Commission how they feel.” thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
Peru: Home is where you hang your hat Chew the fat Shoo the cat It is where your family sat of blood of mind of memory There is no guarantee How will you feel? Where you want to eat every meal It could be a solid oak table or a mailbox with your name on the label Home could be just a fable an unachievable dream a place free from the obscene maybe its a travelers location: Any destination a place you discover your vocation It could be a tree the place where your roots ought to be ‘cause life now flows free what comes next year? If I were only a seer For now home is here where family and friend are near It is clear Friend and family blur into one Transient transitions and travels are done for now this couch this white wicker chair this school, this town this stair this bar, this shop is fair For this mountain, this lake and the mountains beyond the lake this is my stake, my city, my home And most of all, I am not alone
*written here in the o.n.e. from a porch on peru
9 6 C h u rc h St B u r l i n g to n V T 0 5 4 01 phone 802 864 2800 fax 802 864 3602 Stella-Mae.com
thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
Black is Beautiful
by Jean Luc Dushime
About the project I started working on this personal project after reading an article in psychology today titled â€œWhy are Black Women Less Physically Attractive than Other Women?â€? I felt challenged and reminded of my childhood back in Rwanda. I grew up surrounded by strong and beautiful black women As a social storyteller, I felt compelled to explore this notion of beauty and race in America. 30
I started taking photographs using an old medium format Yashica Mat camera. I wanted this process to be organic and fun. So I started shooting my mother, neighbors, friends and people I knew in the community. This project has reconnected me to my roots and reminded that beauty has no definition or boundaries. The subject in these photographs all immigrated to America. Most of them live
in the Green Mountain State or have ties with Vermont. These wonderful lives are thriving in America, despite cultural differences and language barriers. They are business owners, college graduates, mothers, grandmothers, middle schoolers, still learning to walk... I want to share with you what I see when I look at them and I hope you see them for who they are.
thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
About the artist
My name is Jean Luc Dushime and I am a self taught photographer/ filmmaker. I am originally from Rwanda, where I was born and lived until 1994 when the Rwandan Genocide took place. My family and I fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo where we stayed until another war broke out. In 1996 we were
forced to walk 4000 miles across the congolese jungle. For 6 months we hiked, saw across powerful rivers, got stock in quick sands, fought against pygmies for food and cross the mighty Congo River twice. After the journey we end up in the Republic of Congo where we lived for 7
year before we were settled to Vermont in 2004. My past has shaped my life as an artist. People ask me what I do and my response I am a cocktail of skills. Photographer would be simplifying my intellect and my desire to interact with the world
through other medium such as video and writing. I would say that I am a social storyteller and the medium used depends on what I want to convey. I have seen pain and death but I have also witnessed the resiliency and determination of people that despite the difficulties in their lives they find strenght to laugh and love; for
me that is what I call living. My mantra is to capture the humanity in every person i photograph. Share stories,spread joy, raise awareness help people get closure, heal and find the way. I have learned to enjoy every single moment of my life. I want to be
relevant and make every single breath count.
see more at: dushimejeanluc.com thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
Prohibition Pig 34
Above: Prohibition Pig’s Penicillin Cocktail will cure what ails you.
words // alex mackay photos // ben sarle Chad Rich is a man happily obsessed with tiny details. From top quality ingredients, to a vast selection of premium beers and cocktails, to the sourcing of his business card, this is someone who seeks perfection at every step and won’t stop working until he achieves it. Fortunately for his diners, this particularity is something from which they can reap rewards. Thus is the setting for The Prohibition Pig, the new barbecue-inspired restaurant that occupies the former location of The Alchemist, a locally revered pub and nationally recognized brewery that was flooded by Tropical Storm Irene last August and subsequently vacated. Faced with the daunting task of replacing a neighborhood staple with something (gasp!) new, Mr. Rich has successfully escaped the shadow of a Central Vermont giant. He has reinvented the space from the flooded basement up and created a business that seems as if it has existed forever yet benefits from the innovation, excitement and creativity of something new.
The opportunity to start with a blank slate in an established location isn’t lost on Rich, who saw the community’s attachment to the previous tenant and the central location near Burlington, Stowe and the Mad River Valley as major reasons that Waterbury was right for the launch. “Running a restaurant in this location is something I’m honored to be able to do. I’m so thankful to all the people in the community that have been supportive and I love having a business in a town with so many great people around us.” With a long background in the restaurant industry, Rich has been partial to barbecue since his family traveled the South looking at schools where his brother could play college baseball. Rich’s father had long been trumpeting the tastes of southern barbecue, then a regional delicacy in a time before The Food Network brought the cuisines of foreign lands to our living rooms on a steady weeknight rotation. When the Riches were finally able to eat as a family at an authentic Carolina joint, Rich’s
mom thought the chopped pork looked like something out of an upset stomach. “I thought she was going to get us kicked out of the place because she was laughing so hard,” Rich remembers, with a laugh all his own. Rich’s reaction to southern meat was vastly different than his mom’s. This and future authentic barbecue experiences were precursors to long-lasting relationships with hog farmers and pit masters as he began to create a baseline for his own take on an American favorite. His ideas developed over the course of many jobs and even more business plans, and when the time seemed right, he was willing to take a risk and start the long, arduous process of making his vision a reality – a fact lost on some customers still hoping to walk into The Alchemist. For those needing to relive some of that old 2011 charm, there are eleven former Alchemist staff members working throughout the kitchen, restaurant and bar, a fact that Rich has relied on a since The Pig first opened a few thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
Above: Some blackened green beans accompanying the sliced beef brisket.
“Running a restaurant in this location is something I’m honored to be able to do. I’m so thankful to all the people in the community...” CHAD RICH, owner months back. “Having these people back has been a huge plus for the business. The skill set was there, they are all pros and we didn’t need to do nearly the amount of training we would have done in a normal opening.” In the tradition of other high-end taprooms around the state, The Pig has an impressive, even intimidating, 24-brew selection, with different regions, styles and strengths represented in-depth. You can get everything from Schlitz served in a chalice to thick, dark, ABU heavy brews served in a glass better fit for a port than a porter. The Pig offers half sizes, maximizing your opportunity to sample while lightening the financial load. And what better way to leave room for cocktails? The cocktail list of classic favorites and in-house inspirations feels like something
from a hipster mixology den in Williamsburg or The Pearl circa 2006, with concoctions indirectly alluding to Hemingway passages, wealthy grandparents and hot jazz. But the drinkable offerings at The Prohibition Pig are well researched for a refreshing and balanced taste. Most notable are “The Last Word” – a combination of gin, chartreuse, maraschino and lime – and the “Penicillin Cocktail” – contrasting bright, sweet notes of ginger, honey and a smoky, earthy finish of a Laphroig floater. Yes, that’s right, a Laphroig floater. Equally impressive is Rich’s ongoing development of a selection of non-alcoholic “Slow Your Roll” cocktails based on a wide variety of bitters and served complete with a grown-up presentation for the one driving home. Rich feels strongly that serving pre-
mium beer and run-of-the-mill spirits defeats the purpose of doing either. Instead, he does serves both premium beer and spirits both. “There is a time and a place for both great beer and great cocktails, and we want to give people the option to come in here and choose.” This means that the bar itself becomes a notable space of its own, with substantial offerings and points of major accomplishment. For customers not necessarily looking to gorge on large portions of meat, the beer and cocktail area of The Pig can serve as a mainstay for cultural rituals like the after-work drink, a beer with friends or a classy first date. The food menu is chock full of barbecue standards like hush puppies, brisket and pulled smoked chicken as well as innovative spins on Southern fare like fried pimento cheese balls with chili pepper jam and a burger with a fried green tomato and housemade bacon. The ingredients are sourced locally but not necessarily advertised, an issue Rich is constantly reexamining. The integrity of the food is what is most important to him, not necessarily the branding of it. “Local food should be what we expect. I almost wish restaurants had lists next to their food if it wasn’t coming from a local source.” Most of the meat is smoked in a custom built smoker that can fit a half hog when necessary. A caddy of sauces and spices comes to the table along with dinner, and these flavor additions range in taste and viscosity from the spicy vinegar end of the spectrum all the way to the tangy sweet tomato side. Speaking of sides, The Pig’s are a mix of the expected and the new, with standards like collards, baked beans and coleslaw as well as Brussels sprouts, corn relish and mini sweet potato muffins served warm with maple butter. The possible combinations of dinner and sides are extensive, and with parties of two or more sharing is probably the order of the day. The sourcing, preparation and seasoning of the food is once again a labor of love, with complex spice and dressing combinations accompanying both meat and vegetables in spades. The atmosphere, food and drink at The Pig add up to convey that Rich and com-
pany have set out to “do things right” from start to finish, an approach that deserves praise and encouragement in a food world of lowest common denominators despite emerging trends. The staff and management of The Pig are dedicated to serving items that have had their own history, however brief, within the restaurant itself. The drink menu may seem cliché to some in its urban style, but it’s comfortable to the bartenders and extremely well executed. The products are sourced with integrity and presented as such. The menu is born of creativity, and with it the willingness to work out kinks that are the result of trying something new. The plan is to keep the innovations coming and make The Pig another Vermont standard for locals and tourists alike, a draw for people coming to the state to celebrate food. Rich’s plans extend to a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar at Sunday brunch starting on Memorial Day, a still in the basement to join the trend of local craft spirits accompanying local craft beer, and a line of sauces available for retail sale, another addition to the ever growing list of products proudly displaying the moniker “Made in Vermont.” In the end, a night at The Prohibition Pig is personable, filling and fun. Handsome space, potent drinks and satisfying food, all driven by a man constantly looking for ways to improve – the sort of business that is rewarding to visit and easy to support.
Above: Panko fried pimento cheese starters. Below: Bart pouring one of the Pig’s many unbelievable brews.
“Local food should be what we expect. I almost wish restaurants had lists next to their food if it wasn’t coming from a local source.” CHAD RICH, owner
thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
Above: Comedian Chicky Winkleman contemplating his life choices at Burlingtonâ€™s Levity Cafe. 38
BEHIND THE [COMEDY] SCENE An inside look at Vermont’s standup boom
words // Nathan Hartswick & Chicky Winkleman image // ben sarle Aaron Black is nervous. The 26-year old redheaded law student and standup comedian surveys the crowd at an upscale restaurant in Manchester, Vermont. As he watches a predominantly upper-class audience of fiftysomethings file in for a Sunday night comedy show, he reviews his prepared list of jokes. “I’ve been working on writing cleaner material,” Aaron remarks, “but a lot of what I find funny is dirtier stuff, so that’s what comes easily.” He pages through a rumpled yellow legal pad that alternates between his law school notes and joke ideas. Aaron isn’t a shock comic, but he is worried that his style may not go over well with the middle-aged crowd enjoying their ravioli and cabernet. His humor often treads a line – he has a pretty graphic bit about nude men in the sauna, and the joke about the toothpaste can’t be reprinted here. When he takes the stage, Aaron does… all right. Not great, but he doesn’t bomb either. Some jokes get huge laughs. Others are met with silence, which Aaron fills with wisecracks to alleviate the tension. After it’s over, he heads to a table in the corner, shrugging in a “coulda been worse” fashion. It’s a learning experience.
His 12 minutes onstage is indicative of what it’s like to be a standup comedian – in Vermont or anywhere else in the country. “Wait a second,” you may be saying to yourself. “There are comedians in Vermont?” And if that’s the case, you won’t be saying it for long. In the 80s and 90s, you might have been hard-pressed to find a comedy night anywhere in the state. Occasionally a hotel would book a show featuring somebody from New York or Boston, but there were no local shows or comedians to speak of. Over the last decade, however, the Queen City has developed a robust, diverse local standup scene with multiple weekly shows and nearly 100 comedians who regularly take to the stage to make strangers laugh and to hone their craft. The only real question is: why did it take so long? Burlington is a college city with a vibrant, diverse culture and a thriving arts economy. We’re into independent art, film, theater, literature, music, fine food and wine, and craft beer. We’re a town full of hippies, urban professionals, college students and postgraduate hipsters. Four months out of the year the city is freezing and dark; we use entertainment, alcohol and sarcasm to get us through thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
1980 – 2002
Hunt’s (later to become ShaNa-Na’s), the Radisson Hotel (now the Hilton), and the restaurant that would become 135 Pearl produce occasional shows with out of town comedians.
Josie Leavitt begins teaching standup classes at the Flynn, and kicks off a quarterly showcase at the FlynnSpace called “Stand Up, Sit Down and Laugh.” The following year, she forms the “Vermont Comedy Divas,” a group of four women that produces a regular show at Higher Ground.
West-coast transplant Jason Lorber begins performing standup in Burlington. There are exactly two comedians in the area: Jason and NYC transplant Josie Leavitt.
Boston native Kathleen Kanz begins producing a quarterly show at the Black Door in Montpelier to give herself and other Vermont comics more stage time. She is famously egalitarian, and these equal-opportunity showcases become an important gym for local comics to work their comedic muscles.
Higher Ground, which has been producing infrequent shows with national headliners (sometimes inviting local comics to open for them), hosts the first annual Higher Ground Comedy Battle. It is populated chiefly by drunk frat guys daring each other to do standup, and strange vaudeville acts who have crawled out of the woodwork.
those bleak winter months. Why the hell didn’t this liberal New England mountain town have a comedy scene before? Whatever the reason, it’s thriving now, thanks to the persistence of a whole lot of people who are passionate about making people laugh. Funny People, Serious Ambition When Jason Lorber and Josie Leavitt moved to Burlington from California and New York respectively, they were the only two gay, Jewish standup comedians in town. Maybe that’s because they were the only two standup comedians in town. They began producing modest comedy shows in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Josie started teaching a standup comedy class, turning out new talent on a regular basis. Comics like Kathleen Kanz, Nathan Hartswick, Tracie Spencer and Tony Bates emerged with the itch to perform and the skills to produce, launching their own showcases. Colin Ryan founded the first regular open mic. More consistent shows began happening at venues throughout the state. By 2009, 2010 and 2011, a critical mass had been reached; a booking agency called Vermont Comedy Club; a studio called Spark Arts (offering standup and improv classes); and a comedy club called Levity Café all appeared in town. Comedians were more plentiful, more polished, and the audience for local comedy grew considerably.
brash, youthful energy of Kit Rivers and Kyle Gagnon to the measured, intellectual quips of Ryan Kriger and Colin Ryan – from the grouchy and endearing Pat Lynch to the likeable oddball Will Betts. Despite their differences in approach, the comics here are very aware that they are all in this together. Perhaps in 10 or 20 years, comedy in Burlington will look more like the cutthroat world of Boston or New York, but for now the performers here all use the same word to describe their homegrown scene: community. “Newcomers are welcome and accepted,” says Raymond Wayman, a relative newcomer himself. “No one is excluded.” Raymond, a resident of Plattsburgh, was so inspired by what has sprung up in Vermont, this month he launched AdirondackComedyClub. com in the hopes that he can build a similar community on his own side of the lake. “It’s supportive,” says Cori Marnellos, a dry, dark-haired comic who was nervous to grab the mic the first few times she tried standup. “I don’t know if I would still be getting up there if I didn’t feel so supported by the people who have been doing it longer than me.” Comedian Melissa Moran agrees. “The Burlington standup world is like a huge, supportive snowball,” she says. “I have no idea where it’s headed, but I’m excited and grateful to be along for the ride.” It Ain’t Just Vermont
Local comedian and charity maven Tracie Spencer begins producing benefit shows for local nonprofits. (Tracie will later become a member of the Vermont Comedy Divas.)
All in the Same Boat Although Burlington’s comedy scene is, like the national average, comprised mostly of white males between 20 and 30, it is becoming more diverse. And the sensibilities of Burlington comics run the gamut – from the
Comedian Nathan Hartswick co-founds VermontComedyClub. com with a couple of pals (John Lyons and Chad Smith). The site sports a calendar of Vermont’s fragmented comedy happenings, and VCC begins producing a quarterly showcase at Higher Ground’s Showcase Lounge.
Comedy hasn’t just been growing in the Green Mountains – it’s been on the rise nationally. And it’s no wonder; with a tanking economy, two lengthy wars, natural disasters, partisan political gridlock and a host of other reasons to despair, laughter is a hot commodity. When the
Kathleen Kanz starts a monthly showcase at the Monkey House in Winooski. She also launches a single annual show to feature Vermont comics, dubbed the “Green Mountain Comedy Festival.”
world is in turmoil and nothing makes sense, comedy points at our shared miseries and lets us laugh in the face of our collective hardship. “People tend to flock to comedy when times are tough,” Cori Marnellos says, “and shit ain’t getting any better. We comedians can take comfort in a failing economy and environmental disasters, I think.” Moreover, our national culture is being shaped by a generation of young people without a clear path from college to the working world. When baby boomers graduated from school or came out of the military, they typically stepped into a steady job and kept it for the next 30 years. Generation X, Y and the millenials often spend a decade or two after college under-employed, exploring their passions and hobbies as potential careers. This generational shift is conducive to more young people pursuing comedy – not just as an occasional weekend hobby, but as a lifestyle choice and a possible career path. Aaron Black (remember him?) is a holdover with one foot in each camp – the diligent law student following a prescribed route to a fixed career, and the impulsive performer seriously considering making a go of it as a professional comic. Not-So-Strange Bedfellows The rise of standup comedy in cities like Burlington seems to follow the recent playbook of the music industry. With the web fragmenting audiences and allowing individuals to act as their own content distributors, smaller cities have become more relevant on a national scale, bringing once-regional culture to a national spotlight. Twenty or thirty years ago, opportunities to perform (whether music or comedy) may have been infrequent if you didn’t live in
Local comedian Colin Ryan begins hosting a monthly comedy open mic at Patra Café, a 40-seat Vietnamese teahouse in Burlington.
The Green Mountain Comedy Festival grows from two shows to six with the partnership of Kathleen Kanz and the Vermont Comedy Club, now evolving into a legitimate booking agency.
For the first year, the Higher Ground Comedy Battle begins to look less like a hodgepodge of crazy drunk idiots and more like a polished show of excellent, homegrown talent.
Colin Ryan and Pat Lynch create a showcase with a unique crowd-participation element called “Crowd Control.” They also take over the monthly Monkey House show from Kathleen Kanz.
Out of hundreds of comics, five from Vermont are invited to perform in the “Funniest Comic in New England” contest at Mohegan Sun in CT. Three of them make it to the Top 10.
Ryan Kriger, comic/lawyer transplant from NYC, buys Patra and converts it into Burlington’s comedy club, Levity Café. Local comics Carmen Lagala and Kyle Gagnon manage the place and run the counter, respectively.
New York or LA (or “feeder” cities like Boston or Seattle). But in recent years, smaller cities like Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon – and yes, Burlington, Vermont – have developed robust music scenes. And now they’re developing comedy ones, too. These comedy scenes are even mirroring their indie music counterparts stylistically. Much as independent, alternative music has enjoyed a boom since that industry’s paradigm shift, alt-comedy has benefited from its own shift in the last few years. This year’s SXSW music festival, for instance, offered eight days of comedy (twice that of two years ago), many featuring geeky, offbeat acts like Marc Maron, Eugene Mirman and the like. And just as a few notable bands have done, big name comics are beginning to change the rules of promotion and distribution. It’s hard not to think about Radiohead’s 2007 “In Rainbows” album (a “pay what you want” internet self-release) when talking about Louis CK’s 2012 standup special “Live at the Beacon Theater” (a $5 internet self-release). Granted, both acts have large fan bases, and amateur comics can’t pull off such stunts any better than unknown local bands. But the self-distribution model may be a smarter long-term goal than pursuing a conventional recording contract – for musicians or comedians. Plus, while there has always been crossover between the music and comedy industries, these days it seems more prevalent than ever. Zach Galifianakis and Demetri Martin incorporate music into their acts. Comics are showing up in music videos, opening for hip artists, and even collaborating with musicians on projects. Everyone from Aziz Anzari to Fred Arminsen to John Oliver is working intimately with musicians. As Dave Chappelle offhandedly
Nathan Hartswick and his wife Natalie Miller found Spark Arts, a performing arts education space, and launch an earnest effort to bring improv to the area. Offering dropins, standup/improv classes, and an official improv team.
remarked in the documentary film Block Party, “Every comic wants to be a musician. And every musician thinks they’re funny.” The relationship between the two professions is closer than ever before; it seems only natural that the evolution of one industry should follow that of the other. Comics and Audiences The comedy in a given place usually reflects the audience in a given place. Vermont comedians – and the style of comedy Vermont audiences enjoy – tend to be intellectual, sharp, and a little bit edgy – without being raunchy. (By contrast, go to a club in Connecticut or Boston and you’ll hear ten times as many dick jokes.) As much as the Vermont scene has exploded in recent years, comedians and their audiences are still learning how to interact with one another. Sometimes the comics here can ramble, feel unpolished, or be afraid to talk back to a heckler. Audiences can be overly polite, not quite understanding the energetic give-andtake required of them at a comedy performance and being afraid to laugh at taboo subjects in front of their friends and neighbors. To put it bluntly, the comics need to tighten up, and the audiences need to loosen up. “I think we need to celebrate what it’s become, but we also need to be careful not to get swelled heads about it,” says local comic Tony Bates. “I consider myself a beginner. This ‘scene,’ if you want to call it that, is really in its infancy.”
The Green Mountain Comedy Fest (happening May 21-27 of this year), will triple in size over last year, offering more than 20 shows at a dozen venues throughout Vermont with over 80 local comics.
tinue to do so in the coming years. Vermont Comedy Club has begun producing shows in other parts of Vermont and New England, exporting the “brand” to other locales, as well as booking more corporate and private events. Up-and-coming comics like Phil Davidson, Adam Cook and Kit Rivers are creating shows of their own. Levity is experimenting with new forms of evening entertainment. Professional national comics are taking note of Burlington as a potential stop on their east coast tours. And Spark Arts is charging ahead with improv comedy classes and performances. If you thought Burlington comedy made big strides in the last decade, wait until you see the next one. And then there’s the Green Mountain Comedy Festival – that little startup fest that begin four years ago with a single show. This year, from May 21 to May 27, over 80 local comics will perform in more than 20 shows, in a dozen different venues around the state. One of these comics will take the festival stage after nervously scrutinizing a yellow legal pad filled with jokes. Aaron Black, in his quest for that next big laugh, is always eager to learn and improve, and smart enough to know that the only way that happens is through performing as much as possible. And thanks to the recent standup explosion in town, he’s getting the chance to do that a lot more often these days. “It’s all good experience,” Aaron says. “You could ask me to perform on a street corner for dirty nickels and I’d be down for it.” Luckily for Aaron, with the way things are going in Vermont comedy, it’s fair to say that’s one gig he probably won’t need to take.
The Future of Vermont Comedy Just like an infant, the comedy scene has grown and changed rapidly – and will conthread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
Above: Archie’s Italian herb-marinated portobello burger. Right: The famous salmon burger.
archie’ s words // margo callaghan photos // elliot dodge debruyn
Dick Hess, owner of Archie’s Grill on Route 7 in Shelburne, hasn’t been at it that long. His “neighborhood grill” opened not quite two years ago. It was his calling; a passion for cooking and a gift for making people smile made opening a family burger place a natural idea. Another natural idea was to use as many fresh, natural products from area farms in creating his menu as possible. Be really happy that these ideas and passions came to fruition, because a burger, hot off the grill from Archie’s is everything a burger should be: juicy and all-natural, made from beef raised not 10 miles down the road. From there, the toppings range from classic (think onions, mushrooms, and bacon) to more upscale (chipotle sauce and goat cheese). Like all the other sandwiches on Archie’s menu, the burgers are served on a beautifully browned potato roll. And on the subject of potatoes, it is somewhat of a secret as to how Hess delivers some of the finest fries around: hand cut on premises. Ditto, the house made potato chips, which are liberally sprinkled with Cabot Cheese and have become one of the area’s favorite snacks. 42 40
Believe it or not, Hess manages to keep the
vegetarian, fish, fowl, and pork crowd coming back for more too. My last trip into Archie’s found me with a Portobello “burger” nestled in the colorful blue and white paper-lined basket in which all sandwiches are served. The ‘shroom came marinated with Italian herbs and topped with roasted red peppers and goat cheese – on the aforementioned yummy roll. And I’ve had the Salmon Burger too, drizzled with a zesty caper and dill mayo. These are so tasty that it makes me think that I could be a happy vegetarian someday – except, I love meat. What I haven’t yet tried is the Pulled Pork, or the Fish Sandwich also on Archie’s menu. Every one of these sandwiches comes with those house made chips and a small fresh salad. You have to look really hard to find a sandwich – or any other menu item – for more than $8.99. There are a few other options that round out the selection process, appealing to all: salads, chicken wings and hot dogs! Is there anyone that leaves Archie’s Grill hungry? Not if Hess has his way. On the most recent night I was there, the reasonably sized plasma screen TV in the dining area tracked the University of Vermont
basketball team’s NCAA bid. But Archie’s isn’t a sports bar. The dining room has room to seat about 40, and seated this night were probably five families, a few college students, and two silver haired couples. That speaks to the appeal this place has to everyone. There are at least three beers available on tap, as well as two very respectable wines (a Malbec and Pinot Grigio). For the much younger set, Hess has a special macaroni and cheese as one of the options on his “kids” menu. Finally, much of what Archie’s Grill really is can be visualized by Hess’s selection of wall art: quintessential Norman Rockwell prints are displayed on the walls. Of particular interest is that they feature some of Hess’s family as Rockwell’s characters because the family hails from Rockwell’s hometown of Arlington Vermont. And if one were to summarize the shared characteristics? Natural, authentic, and welcoming. Archie’s summer hours start April 15, opening 7 days a week at 11:30 a.m., until 9 p.m. And you can look for Hess to crank up Archie’s “creamee” machine around the same time!
chef leu’ s house Above: Chef Leu’s unbelievable pad thai.
words & photo // margo callaghan The Chinese word for fish is homonymous to the word “overabundance”, so being served a whole steamed fish is a symbol of good will. And good eating, as Chef Leu’s delicate tilapia was served to me and my dinner guests a few weeks ago. It came atop a pungent pool of thin brown miso and soy with a clear ginger zest. A bouquet of lemongrass and scallions offered a crisp texture to the soft uncious meat of the white fish. The selections made by my dining companions highlighted the many Asian territories covered by Chef Leu’s menu. One diner took advantage of the relatively new Thai dishes now available at Leu’s. An overflowing plate of Pad Thai (with chicken) was his choice. And he was happy with not only the degree of heat, but also the subtle sweetness of the plate. It was a win both by
standards of quality and quantity. There was enough left for lunch the next day. (Which, btw, is typically the case: what is already a reasonably-priced menu is made even more so by the amount of food offered on each plate and the cheerful readiness of servers to pack up the leftovers—perfect for lunch the following day.) Another friend dining with me that night made the choice of Flaming Ambrosia, representing the Mandarin side of Leu’s talents. Our waiter, Chi Chi, adroitly spooned the flaming sauce over the two enormous pieces of chicken that had been deep fried and served with the classic pineapple and cherry fruit.
My husband decided on a surf and turf combination: sea scallops and slices of prime beef in a rich brown sauce. Chi Chi introduced the surf and turf to a sizzling hot pan tableside
before serving. Crisp green pea pods accented both the color and texture of the dish. It was a winning combination.
It ended up that we all ventured away from what would be considered our “typical” Chef Leu selections and tried something new. And we were all more than happy with our selections. I am going to try to “broaden my Chef Leu horizons” over the course of this lunar year (it’s the Year of the Dragon) because I have never been disappointed when I do so. Yet for some reason, it takes an act of congress for me to move away from my favorite Viet Nam Salad with Spring Rolls (the flavor of the fish sauce is remarkable!). Ditto for my husband to give up his pork lo mein, which is served at our house frequently thanks to Chef Leu’s take out menu. But we are always happy with the results when we travel to new locations on the menu.
plans for dinner tonight? Archie’s Grill 4109 Shelburne Rd Shelburne, VT 05482 802.985.4912 archiesgrill.com
Shanty on the Shore 181 Battery Street Burlington, VT 05401 802.864.0238 shantyontheshore.com
Pistou Restaurant 61 Main Street Burlington, VT 05401 802.540.1783 pistou-vt.com
Chef Leu’s House 5761 Shelburne Rd Shelburne, VT 05482 802.985.5258 chefleu.com
thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
fashion conscience BY JENNIFER KAHN Hair by Hannah Wall, Justin Cruz Salon Makeup by Kirstin Minton, ‘Makeup by Kirstin’ Photos by Ben Sarle DESIGN BY BRITT BOYD I don’t consider myself a fashion expert, but a fashion observer. The women in Burlington are more fashion conscience than fashion conscious. Among all ages, body types, and skin tones there are certain aspects that make up Burlington women’s style. I’ve assembled five looks that stand out around Burlington, sourcing each look from a specific shop in town. With the help of the shop owners, we’ve come up with some wonderful outfits with pieces found in their shops and jewelry I’ve designed. To add to the authenticity of all this, I wanted the owners or their staff to model the wares. After all, there aren’t many who pay more attention to the evolving landscape of Burlington style than these women. What strong, smart, sassy women they all are and what beautiful models they make! I just love Ben’s photos of them around town.
Jennifer Kahn loves Vermont. She attended UVM and has lived in Vermont for 15 years. For a decade she’s been making jewelry and selling her work at Trinket, BCA’s Artist Market and local craft shows. Her jewelry can be found online at jenniferkahnjewelry.com and her new style blog, Kahnvert, can be found at kahnvert.com.
dinner out Trinket 32 1/2 Church Street Sweet Lady Jane 40 Church Street
There’s never a shortage of excellent places to dine in Burlington. Rachel Strules, owner of Trinket and Sweet Lady Jane, was just who I had in mind for the “Dinner Out” look. She’s always a perfect combination of sophistication with an edge. Rachel and her staff provide unique merchandise, great customer service and helpful fashion advice. She carries a mix of classic styles and current trends among her clothing and accessories and often hosts fashion shows right in her shop. Here she’s wearing a silk leaf print cami by Covet. Covet fuses organic and sustainable fibers with modern styling. The pants are made by Rachel’s favorite LA designer, Corey Lynn Calter, who designs all of her own prints. Her jacket is by Emu. She’s wearing my Long Leaf necklace, layered with my Edgy necklace and large brass Crescent earrings.
thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
professional Salaam 90 Church Street, Burlington 40 State Street, Montpelier
Here professional doesn’t mean boring. Comfort is still key but so is color, pattern and material. While Salaam stores cover many styles, I thought it was apropos for the Burlington “professional” look. Andrea Miksic, designer and owner of Salaam, creates clothing that flatters a real woman’s body. She hand selects European fabrics in a variety of lovely prints and bold solids. She and her staff work out of a converted barn on her property in Plainfield, Vermont and the fabric is sewn in New York. Both Salaam stores also wholesale to boutiques all over the country. Here, Julie Winn, one of the Burlington store’s co-managers, is wearing all Salaam clothing: a print tank, turquoise flappy skirt and wrap cover. The purse was made by Latico Leathers; shoes provided by Stella are Esska’s “Hoop” in black. I paired the outfit with my Tear Drop earrings, Branch pendant, turquoise Throat Chakra bracelet and Agate bracelet.
yoga Yogarama Athletica 100 Main Street
Burlington is always ranked one of the healthiest cities in the country. It seems like everyone here practices yoga. The Burlington Yoga Conference is right around the corner (May 4th-6th) and you can find all your apparel at Yogarama Athletica. Jessica Kim is the owner and also an instructor at Bikram Yoga Burlington. She is wearing a Tees for Change, fair trade shirt made from bamboo and organic cotton. This company plants a tree for every tee sold. Her leggings are the Hatha Solid Capri Legging by Lucy. Her yoga mat is made by Jade, from eco-friendly natural rubber containing no PVC or ozone depleting substances. Jade also plants a tree for every mat sold! Jess is wearing my Crown Chakra pendant, matching earrings and bracelet. My newest line of jewelry, Chakra Kahn, has really been embraced by the yoga community.
thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
on the town Stella Mae 96 Church Street
Whether catching music at Nectars or a show at the Flynn, a night out in Burlington is sure to be fun, filled with fashion and fierce footwear! Stella Mae’s philosophy is “every accessory worn by a woman should be fabulously distinct.” They carry a carefully selected collection of shoes, clothing, jewelry, hats, and handbags. Owner Llyndara Harbour is wearing a dress by YA and the Coclico “plath fringe heel.” Vermont resident, Lisa Nading, is a designer for Coclico, this ecoconscious brand. The footwear is developed and produced in Spain. They are committed to sustainability, always looking for materials and practices to be more environmentally friendly. Llyndara is wearing one of my new Wrapture arm cuffs and brown feather Talisman earrings.
farmer’s market Clothing Line 163 Cherry Street
Going to the farmers’ market is a favorite pastime here. For this casual look, I chose the Clothing Line. In addition to her large selection of affordable vintage ware, owner Heather Beal loves to promote local artists and carries many lines made by local designers. I love Heather’s style; it’s very bohemian, layered, comfortable and carefree. Here she is wearing a secondhand top and wrap and a skirt by Amy Wild of Where Designs. Amy Wild creates clothing using vintage, antique and recycled materials, including lace dating back to the 1800’s! Heather is wearing my long feather earrings, Charming Tree Necklace, Key Chain necklace and lace and leather Cuff bracelet.
thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
During the colonial era, hard cider was the most popular alcoholic beverage in america. The average family in the late 1700â€™s had seven children.
thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com
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threadmagazine issue #2 early fall 2011
thread magazine | spring 2012 | threadvt.com