Burlington Man Says Trade Skills Would Make Kids Less Dependent for Routine Repairs

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Brendan Hamilton, 28, has lived in Vermont on and off for about ten years. “I started undergraduate at UVM in 2006. Went back and forth between here and Massachusetts for a while, but I’ve been here steady for about four or five years now.” He lives in Burlington.

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think the community of Burlington is strong?”

Mr. Hamilton: “Yes, compared to other places I’ve lived, which is basically just the suburbs of Boston. Strong community.”

Vermont Gossip: “How so?”

Mr. Hamilton: “I just know a lot of my neighbors. Kind of the way the city is built. I feel like the things you have to do, for example, grocery shopping, whenever I go to City Market I see lots of people I know. I know people that work there, so it’s like even when I’m doing non-social things, you see people. It’s a small enough town, and I think that’s particular for people my age cuz there’s so many 20-somethings here. It’s just very concentrated people between like 24 and 30. And to have a city built like that, fosters community. You know, we’re at an age we don’t have families. We’re being social, going out, work in town for the most part. So that sense of community, and also just the sense that I know the politicians around here because it is a small community. City counselors, the mayor makes himself available at coffee shops and stuff like that. I think that’s pretty valuable.”

Vermont Gossip: “What’s newsworthy and relevant in your life right now?”

Mr. Hamilton: “I’m kind of at a steady thing right now, working. It’s spring break, I work at the University, that’s noteworthy I guess. A couple death’s in the family I guess fairly recently…”

Vermont Gossip: “Sorry to hear that.”

Mr. Hamilton: “That’s okay. Uncle’s, grandparents, kind of things that happen, but yeah for the most part things are pretty steady, even keel right now.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you like living in Vermont?”

Mr. Hamilton: “I do like living in Vermont. Burlington’s starting to feel pretty small for me at this point. I’ve been here for enough time that I’ve kind of seen everything, and I think I’d like to move either to a bigger urban area or to a really rural area. So like getting out of Burlington and Vermont. Getting out to a property.”

Vermont Gossip: “Is there anything that isn’t being covered by the local media that you would like to see be covered?”

Mr. Hamilton: “To be perfectly honest I don’t follow local media too much. I read the Seven Days but mostly just for the cultural stuff, like the music and arts scene in Burlington. Then I follow national level news and international news, but as far as what’s going on with the school system in Burlington or housing situation, I’m not too keen on that.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that there are tensions between new Vermonters and old Vermonters?”

Mr. Hamilton: “Yeah. In the context of Burlington, I would say, yes. Families that have been here for some time…rent’s getting pushed up essentially by people like me who come to the University or one of the universities in town and really like it and decide they want to stay. And when that happens you get crowded. It’s not that affordable a place to live. You need two working parents to afford an apartment anywhere in town, and even still the apartments are pretty crumby, for the most part, unless you’re in that next income bracket with two incomes that are substantial. I think that’s where tension comes from, just the old story: gentrification. We’re coming in, there’s people who have been here for generations, and there is a culture clash. For the most part white young liberals coming in and kind of changing the city in many ways to serve us. You know, with the foodie culture that pops up around here…it’s hard to go out for dinner for under ten bucks because of that. You’ve got spend $20 for a cheeseburger. I mean it’s a good cheeseburger, but not everybody wants that. Not even myself, sometimes I just want a regular cheeseburger, and you’ve got to drive out of town for that.”

Vermont Gossip: “Who do you see as leaders in Vermont?”

Mr. Hamilton: “I would say the responsible business owners that are from here. So I’m really proud of companies like Seventh Generation, Ben and Jerry’s, lots of the solar companies that have been popping up and doing pretty well alternative energy stuff. I consider those people to be the leaders of what’s happening and what I hope continues to happen at the state-wide level.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe elementary school students should be taught how to grow food in a hands-on environment?”

Mr. Hamilton: “Yes. Definitely. I mean even if it’s just an after-school program or something, just make it available. In the same way you make sports available, you know, I think it’s as if not more valuable for kids to be involved in that.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that high school students who have an interest in it should learn how to make furniture from sustainably harvested Vermont wood?”

Mr. Hamilton: “Yeah. I think shop is really good. I don’t know what the situation is with shop class in Burlington. I know where I came from in Massachusetts you could only take shop class if you were really struggling with your school work. It’s a complicated situation cuz in a sense I suspect what the school does is they want to get those kids out of the classroom, which I don’t think is the fair approach, and on the other hand they want to start teaching those kids a trade. So in a sense they’re kind of like giving up, so I think that’s a silly way to treat shop. I think it should be available to all students and it should be encouraged. It’s a good skill. I mean people don’t really know how to do stuff any more. You know? Like fix a door. They’re calling a handy man to come over. It’s like, just do it yourself. It’s not that complicated. You just need experience with it. We should give that to kids I think.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think Hollywood is corrupting the minds of our youth with all the sex and violence and parties that are found in movies?”

Mr. Hamilton: “No. I don’t have any reason to suspect that’s the case. I think kids have always been partying and being irresponsible and having sex and it is a problem, and it’s something that parents should keep an eye on, but it’s also what kids do, and I think have always done. It might get normalized by Hollywood in the sense that it becomes okay, but I don’t think it’s really a problem. I’m not concerned about it.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that our instincts are as complex as other animals?”

Mr. Hamilton: “Yes. And I say that…humans sense danger and threats and stuff like that. We respond to those things in our environment I think so yeah.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that emotions are instincts that were selected by nature for our survival?”

Mr. Hamilton: Yeah. An emotional response…yeah I think that would be instinctual.”

Vermont Gossip; “How do you feel about refugees in the state?”

Mr. Hamilton: “I am pro…I have no problem welcoming refugees here, to live here. I don’t know a lot about those programs, my impression is that it’s been rather successful. I live pretty close to that housing complex that’s over on Riverside Ave where I believe lots of refugees are re-settled. I mean I think it’s great. If at a national level people have a problem letting people into this country who are not ‘American’ quote unquote, Vermont seems like the type of place where people are more open to it and we should take advantage of that. Welcome refugees.”

Vermont Gossip: “Would you like to see more light rail built around the state?”

Mr. Hamilton: “I don’t know what the need is for something like that, you know, if that would accomplish things that a bus system cannot accomplish. The only times I really have to travel in Vermont is like down to Middlebury or to Montpelier for which I find buses pretty useful. I mean you have to go in the morning and in the evening so it is limited in that sense, but there’s often only like three people on the bus so I wouldn’t expect them to you know just be running empty buses back and forth. I’m more interested in long distance travel: helping people in Vermont get down to places like Boston and New York City, which the bus system does. I’m not sure if a train can do it cheaper. Amtrak is usually more expensive and takes a pretty long time. I don’t see any need for more trains.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think political correctness in Vermont is a virtue or a problem?”

Mr. Hamilton: “I think that the Left definitely has a problem with sensitivity. I think sometimes people on the Left…people on the Right as well…but I think on the Left it’s particularly problematic for what the Left wants to accomplish in terms of social racial justice. People are really worried about being offended or about offending someone and I think being honest is a lot more important than that. Not disguising what you think with clever language. So in that sense I feel like if it is the fact that people in Vermont try to be politically correct more often than people in other places, yeah, I could see that being problematic. I don’t think political correctness in short is itself a virtue. I mean there’s a threshold you should be respectful and responsible, but you should also try to be objective and honest and open and that way we can have real dialogue.”

Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would make it illegal to charge women more than men for the same goods and services?”

Mr. Hamilton: “Yes.”

Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would provide all Vermont service veterans who have PTSD with service dogs and a lifetime of free dog food?”

Mr. Hamilton: “Yeah.”

Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a private initiative to raze some of the property in Rutland and Burlington and build three story apartment buildings like Brooklyn or San Francisco?”

Mr. Hamilton: “It’s a good question. If Burlington wants to grow, they have to grow up. They have to go up. There’s not really that much space left. And you know it’s a balance because there are a lot of really nice old homes in Burlington, which I’m sure was the case in Brooklyn, and they all got knocked down. So I think there should be a responsible approach that involves the community and the property owners especially in that process. What I would fear happening, you know the apartments they put up in Brooklyn were often really nice, like Brownstones. There was a lot of money around when they did that. And I could see them putting up pretty crappy apartments in Burlington just based on the types of people that own a lot of the property where all the college kids live, on Buell Street into the old north end. They don’t take care of their properties, so I don’t know why they would be willing to put up nice apartments. Cuz they don’t live in them anyway. I feel like the first step to doing something about the housing situation in Burlington is holding property owners more accountable and doing something to regulate what’s becoming an out of control renters market, and that it’s not a renter’s market. The market is working very much against people who want to rent property. It makes it pretty hard for people to get out of their economic situation when 75 percent of their income is going to rent. So I would be okay with building up. I was just looking at the photographs of what they want to put down here. Fourteen stories, something like that, I think that’s kind of absurd depending on what’s going to be in there and how accessible it will be for the community. I don’t see why you need to jump from what two to three stories suddenly up to 14. So we’ll see. I’m not thrilled about that project just based on what it would do to the skyline, what it would do to people’s view of the lake from various second and third story porches on this hill going up. From the university from people who live on this side of the street, stuff like that, is really going to shorten the day. It’s going to block the sun for a couple of hours.”

Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a website that aimed to pair apprentices with master tradesmen?”

Mr. Hamilton: “Yeah, that would be really neat. Cuz I tried to get into carpentry a couple of years ago. And it can be tough you know if you didn’t grow up doing that thing and you want to start doing it you need someone who is willing to work with you. And I think there’s probably a lot of people out there that would be happy to have somebody who is trying to learn the trade working under them. I don’t know who’s going to pay them. I would assume the master would have to pay the apprentice. Maybe it would be unpaid for a while or it would depend or vary, but yeah it strikes me as a good idea.”

Vermont Should Embrace Bill that Would Outlaw LGBT “Conversion Therapy” on Minors

Vermont legislators will be considering a bill that would outlaw LGBT conversion therapy on minors. The lead sponsor of the bill is Senator Brian Campion who, according to the Vermont Press Bureau, came out to his parents around age 12 or 13. His experience, he reported, was positive.

The article notes that this is not the case for all children, some of whom are kicked out of the family or face stigmatization.

I strongly believe that having a population of LGBT people in the midst of the human species is selected for by nature and should be celebrated. My experience with gay men and women is that they are very supportive and friendly to younger generations. LGBT people humanize our race and bring out the best qualities that the human species has to offer. I believe this is because they recognize their own differences with people who identify as straight and celebrate the differences of others, making them more inclusive.

Vermont has led the way on equal rights for the LGBT community and it should lead the way here. There is no need to convert the LGBT community to being straight. This is especially true for youth, who may experience–more than older generations–confusion about their blossoming sexual orientation.

Being gay is not a choice, it is an orientation that is built into the human psyche. I believe that many men and women fall into a range of sexual orientation that spans straight to gay, and that not all people necessarily fit a boxed definition for their sexual orientation. For example I believe that very few people go throughout life without homoerotic attraction at the least. I’m sure they exist, but they are certainly an extreme minority. Men can recognize when another man is attractive. So can women.

It is our responsibility to stand up for the minority of teens and children who come out to their parents at a young age. The last thing they need is to face conversion therapy for their perfectly normal sexual orientation.

Burlington Lab Tech is New JV Ultimate Frisbee Coach, a Growing Varsity Sport in Vermont

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Sebastian Ventrone, 24, has lived in Vermont his whole life. He lives in Burlington.

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think the community of Burlington is strong?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Yeah, everyone’s pretty tight knit over here. Everyone knows each other. That’s kind of what I like about it, you can go anywhere around Burlington and see someone you know.”

Vermont Gossip: “What’s newsworthy and relevant in your life right now?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I’m about to start coaching high school JV ultimate at South Burlington High school.”

Vermont Gossip: “Ultimate frisbee?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Ultimate frisbee, yeah. It became a varsity sport last year.”

Vermont Gossip: “Cool. Was it a challenge to get it implemented as a sport?”

Mr Ventrone: “I think the board has been trying for a couple years now to get varsity status and right now it’s in a trial phase. I haven’t really been a part of that. I was just hired as a coach to help develop the program. I think they’re definitely having some hurtles just in terms if how ultimate works and just how varsity programs work.”

Vermont Gossip: “Did you play a lot growing up?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Yeah, I’ve been playing ever since high school, I went to South Burlington. Then in college as well.”

Vermont Gossip: “Nice. Is it pretty competitive?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Yeah, I’d say so. Compared to when I was playing, it’s definitely a lot more competitive. I thin there’s about eighteen teams and when I was there there was maybe only about six or seven. I think ultimate is the fastest growing sport right now in America.”

Vermont Gossip: “What do you do for work?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I do research at UVM. I’m a lab technician.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you like living in Vermont?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Yeah, I love living in Vermont. I’ve been here my whole life. I like hiking. I guess Burlinton-wise you can kind of be in this little bit of a city and then you can just drive twenty, twenty-five minutes away and you’re out in the country, and just away from everyone if you want to be.”

Vermont Gossip: “Yeah. It’s hard to stay in Vermont. How did you manage to do it?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I got lucky I guess. I worked  as under grad in this lab and they just offered me a job at the end of my senior year and I’ve just been working here, trying to figure out what to do next.”

Vermont Gossip: “Nice. Cool. Are you married?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I’m not.”

Vermont Gossip: “Have any kids?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I do not.”

Vermont Gossip: “Is there anything that isn’t being covered by the local media that you’d like to see covered?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I mean honestly, I guess not really. Well it’s because we’re in Vermont, so the whole Bernie election scene. He still gets a decent amount of coverage here, but compared if you look at the national news I feel like he’s not getting the coverage, but because we’re in Vermont, I think we are still getting pretty much everything that we want, in terms of the elections going. I don’t have cable so I don’t really watch the news on a regular basis.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that there are tensions between old Vermonters and new Vermonters?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Maybe a little bit, just because old school Vermonters, I guess maybe they’re just a little more old school in their thinking. But not really because Vermont is still a pretty liberal basis, and just living in Burlington I’ve talked to many older generations and there’s still kind of the same mind set that the younger generation has right now, in terms of just how the world works I guess. In terms of political wise, and environmentally wise, there’s definitely similar thinking. I mean there’s definitely like that sub-set of the older generation that is just a little bit more conservative, I guess. But overall I’d say tensions aren’t that high, at least in the Burlington area, but this is definitely a more liberal part of Vermont.”

Vermont Gossip: “Who do you see as leaders in Vermont?”

Mr. Ventrone: “As leaders? I don’t really know. I guess [Governor] Shumlin, but other than that I’m not really connected that much.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that elementary school students should be taught how to grow food in a hands-on environment?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Yeah, I think that’s definitely very useful. It would be a very useful class, I mean, I just had…like an environmental kind of learning program, but I think farming would be really cool. Some of my friends are doing that out in California right now and it seems like the kids are really enjoying it.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that high school students who have an interest should be taught how to make furniture our of sustainably harvested Vermont wood?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Yeah, just like Essex kind of does, right? I feel like if there’s a program and a kid’s interested in it they should definitely be allowed to do that. It’s definitely a useful profession and stuff.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that Hollywood corrupts the minds of our youth with all he sex and violence and parties that they feature in movies?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Eh, not really. It probably definitely give the younger generation ideas, but I don’t think it really corrupts the youth. I mean just like every day experiences however, you realize that what happens in movies isn’t what happens in real life. So it’s more giving people ideas, but I wouldn’t say it leads to corruption.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that drugs are a problem in Vermont?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I guess. You hear stories, yeah I guess it is in some areas of Vermont it’s a problem. Here I don’t see it, but from just what I’ve heard in the news it seems like it is a problem in some spots.”

Vermont Gossip: “What do you think could be done to combat that? Do you think that that’s rebellion against authority? Is it poverty?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I mean it could be some poverty, I don’t really know how you can really combat that except just education and trying to get more people out there trying to stop it. But people are going to try what they want so…”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that our instincts are as complex as other animals?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Yeah, I don’t see why not.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that emotions are instincts?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I don’t know if I’d count them as instincts. I mean it’s definitely a part of our being I guess. I mean animals have emotions, too, I guess, but they’re not really instincts.”

Vermont Gossip: “How do you feel about refugees in Vermont?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I’m alright with it.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you support it?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Yeah.”

Vermont Gossip: “Would you like to see more light rail built around the state? Trains?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I don’t think we really have the need for more trains in Vermont. Maybe just make the Amtrack better for getting out of Vermont, but I don’t really see the need for a rail system to go through. The state’s so small, I mean buses and stuff would be fine.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that political correctness is a virtue or a problem?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I think there is definitely a need for it. I think sometimes people can take it too far, in terms of what is politically correct, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that people are taking it more seriously nowadays, I think it’s good but I think sometimes people do take it a little too seriously.”

Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would provide all Vermont service veterans who have PTSD with a service dog and a lifetime of free dog food?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I mean I would support it, I definitely think that would be a huge cost, but it would be a very beneficial program, so if it was in our budget I don’t see why not.”

Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a private initiative to raze the Victorian houses and build three story apartment buildings in downtown Burlington?”

Mr. Ventrone: “You mean destroy the houses and replace them with apartment buildings?”

Vermont Gossip: “Yeah.”

Mr. Ventrone: “I mean I kind of like some of the old Victorian houses, so I think that could be a shame for some of the older ones, but at the same time we do really have a housing crisis in Burlington so more apartment buildings would definitely be nice. So I guess if the house is really run down, like wasn’t enough money to fix it, I would say go for it, but if it was a perfectly working house I don’t see the need to.”

Vermont Gossip: “Would you like to see high tech jobs come to Vermont?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Yeah. I mean more jobs in Vermont is always a good thing. More tech jobs would be pretty cool too. I’m more in the bio industry, but bio tech would be very cool. That way I could stay in Vermont I guess instead of having to move elsewhere for jobs.”

Vermont Gossip: “What do you think could be done to bring them here?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I really just think it’s space and population. I mean, there’s nothing we could just add that would make them want to come here. It’s really more what people want. I think it’s more just because the population is too small is the reason they’re not here. The way we’re set up you can’t really have many more.”

Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a website that aimed to pair apprentices with master tradesmen?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Yeah. That could definitely be useful in terms of younger people trying to find something.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that Vermont youth are told often enough that having a family and kids could be one of the most satisfying things they ever experience?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I think kids hear it enough. I think it’s probably more how their family relationship is working in terms of if they think that’s something they want to do later in their life. You can be told all you want, but it’s really more in your personal experiences that’s gonna make you want to do that in your future.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that we should be telling youngsters to be on the lookout for a life mate early on?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I don’t think so. I think it’s more personal experience. I mean, I’d say you should definitely encourage people to go out earlier and have that experience, but it’s not something that you should be forcing, like telling them should need to do that. You need to live your life your own way.”

Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would de-criminalize operating a driverless car while under the influence?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Wouldn’t that be the whole purpose of that car? If someone gets drunk it’s better that robot cars take them home I guess.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you know who you’re going to vote for for the next governor of Vermont?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I have not been keeping up to date with the new candidates, so I can not endorse anyone.”

Vermont Gossip: “Who is your favorite Vermont band?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Probably Grundle Funk right now, or Linguistic Civilians actually. Linguistic Civilians is my favorite Vermont band, well they’re more like hip-hop group.”

Vermont Gossip: “What’s your favorite Vermont brew?”

Mr. Ventrone: “Honestly, Long Trail Double Bag.”

Vermont Gossip: “How do you feel about the promises of synthetic biology? Genetically engineering organisms…”

Mr. Ventrone: “GMO’s and stuff? I think I need to see more research on it to see if it’s detrimental to our health. Right now I guess it’s still too early on to see if it has any side effects on us. Right now I support doing it, but I would still like to see more research on long term effects.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you lament that we’ve lost courting rituals or do you think they’re still alive and healthy?”

Mr. Ventrone: “I’d say they’re still alive. I mean it’s all based on personality and stuff in terms of who wants to do that.”

Is E.O. Wilson Right? Should we Give Half the Earth Back to the Wild?

We need more farmers and mechanics and tradesmen running our legislature. David Zuckerman, a farmer and senator running for Lieutenant Governor, is a prime example of the types of people Vermont should be electing into the legislature. Intellectualism has its perils: being too devoid of the passion to just survive against all odds. So does rigid dogmatism to a scripted political mindset. There is no way that a state of 600,000 can be defined by only TWO parties: Republican or Democrat.
 
My dad said this morning that we’re due for a hot summer. There are going to be more of those in the future and that’s not good for human survival. It is said that if we don’t dramatically curb our greenhouse gas emissions soon the Middle East will be too hot to live in in less than 100 years.
 
As Stephen Colbert said of this a couple months ago, “Finally peace in the Middle East.” 
 
I know he’s trying to be funny, but doesn’t it seem like some percentage of living humans actually want to see an apocalypse in their lifetime? Take, for example, North Korea’s behavior recently: indicating their interested in nuclear war with America.
 
I certainly don’t. I think we should be spending every living breathing second of our lives thinking about what we want to leave to our children, and their children. We want a wild earth. E.O. Wilson recently suggested that humans retreat from half of the world and give it back to the wild. I don’t think this will ever happen, but it could be the right idea.
 
I believe there are too many humans on the earth. I don’t believe any human has any more right than another to live here, but I don’t think earth can support this human population for very much longer. I wish our intelligence was on greater display because I think if we were smart about it we could prepare for the future. But I believe we are overpopulated as it is, and that we must dramatically slow growth.
 
Europe has already done this on its own. I believe it can happen in North America, India, Africa and in China. But right now, we have a model for economic prosperity that depends on ever-lasting economic–and therefore, population–growth. We should be teaching the youth how to farm and grow their own food in America and in Vermont especially. We should teach them to limit their families to two children and be on the lookout for a life mate early on and keep their vows to be monogamous because their is something special about finding and keeping a true love for all time. There was once a time for big families. No more. We should aim for food and energy independence in this country and in this state if we cannot do it in this country.
For too many there is just a sense of auto-pilot: just depending on the assumption that the powers-that-be know what they are doing and that we are on a sustainable trajectory to survival in the future as a species. This is not the case. Capitalism removes the king from the equation. It used to be the duty of a king to think about his people and think through their survival. That was, of course, if he wasn’t corrupt and selfish, but not every king was corrupt and selfish. The current prince of Britain is deeply concerned about poaching wildlife.
Nowadays, there are no kings running the country, just egotistical capitalists like Mitt Romney who never gave a damn about the earth to begin with. They have no concept that when we destroy it in the name of capitalism that consequences like Flint, Michigan, happen. Suddenly our water is contaminated, then our food, then our pollinators die off. It’s all the consequences of what scientists are warning about and humans are ignoring. Why? Ask yourself. Why are we ignoring the warning signs? Why don’t we get back to a more pastoral way of living? It’s better on the senses.

Burlington Teen is Learning Guitar; Doesn’t Care for Vermont Weather

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Charles Hemingway, 19, has lived in Vermont all his life. He lives in Burlington.

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think the community of Burlington is strong?”
Mr. Hemingway: “In some ways, yes. I feel like there are some things we could do to make the community stronger.”
Vermont Gossip: “How could you make the community stronger?”
Mr. Hemingway: “I feel like if the police would crack down more on what’s going around, than targeting specific races, because I’ve noticed a lot of that.”
Vermont Gossip: “What’s newsworthy and relevant in your life right now?”
Mr. Hemingway: “I’m learning guitar finally. I’ll be the third member in my family.”
Vermont Gossip: “What do you do for work?”
Mr. Hemingway: “I’m actually jobless right now but I am searching. I’m hoping to get a job at Applebee’s.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you like living in Vermont?”
Mr. Hemingway: “It’s nice. I feel like I’ll move at some point though. I don’t really care for the weather but…”
Vermont Gossip: “Yeah, you’re going to move out of state?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yeah.”
Vermont Gossip: “Is there anything that isn’t being covered by the local media that you’d like to see be covered?”
Mr. Hemingway: “No, I don’t pay attention to the media very often so, no.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that there are tensions between old Vermonters and new Vermonters?”
Mr. Hemingway: “I don’t know, like I said I don’t pay attention a whole lot. I’m sure in some ways there are.”
Vermont Gossip: “Who do you see as leaders in Vermont?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Bernie.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that elementary school students should be taught to grow food in a hands on environment?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yes. It will definitely help them further on, in the rest of their life. They’ll be able to grow their own food and eat healthier than we do nowadays.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that high school students who have an interest in it should be taught to make furniture from sustainably harvested Vermont wood?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Definitely.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that Hollywood corrupts the minds of our kids with all the sex and violence and parties found in movies?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yes, there are definitely movies, and it’s not just Hollywood’s fault, it’s parents’ fault for letting their kids watch those kind of movies. So you can’t blame just Hollywood. They definitely don’t do any help.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that our instincts are as complex as other animals?:
Mr. Hemingway: “I think so.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that emotions are instincts that are selected by nature for survival?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yeah.”
Vermont Gossip: “How do you feel about refugees coming into the state?”
Mr. Hemingway: “It’s a good thing that Vermont does it, but I really think they should pay more attention to the youth themselves. I mean right now I’m homeless, and I’ve been living in one of the few programs that helps homeless youth. They should definitely pay more attention to the youth than the refugees.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that the Vermont political and academic elite are too politically correct?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yes.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe schools should teach students about our natural instincts and teach us to follow our good instincts?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yeah.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would make it illegal to charge women more than men for the same goods and services?”
Mr. Hemingway: “No.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would provide all Vermont service veterans who have PTSD with a service dog and free dog food for life?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yes.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a private initiative to build three story buildings with storefronts and narrow roads in downtown Rutland and Burlington?”
Mr. Hemingway: “No.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you want to see high tech jobs come to Vermont?”
Mr. Hemingway: “What do you mean by high tech?”
Vermont Gossip: “Technology jobs.”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yeah. I know there’s a lot of Vermonters who are really good at technology, a few of my friends are good at it but there are just not not enough jobs around here.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a website that aimed to pair apprentices with master tradesmen?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yeah.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that Vermont teens are told often enough that having a family and one or two kids, could be the most satisfying thing they ever hope to experience?”
Mr. Hemingway: “No.”
Vermont Gossip: “They could be told more?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yeah.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think we should be telling youngsters to be on the look out for a life mate early on in life? Because that might be the best time that they find a life mate?”
Mr. Hemingway: “I don’t know. If you believe that’s true then I’m not against it, but I think you should let your kids look for a partner whenever they’re ready.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would decriminalize operating a driverless car while under the influence?”
Mr. Hemingway: “No.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you know who you’re going to vote for for the next Governor of Vermont?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Nope. I’m not big on voting, so…”
Vermont Gossip: “Who’s your favorite Vermont band?”
Mr. Hemingway: “I don’t really know Vermont bands. Actually I ought to get into that.”
Vermont Gossip: “How do you feel about the promises of synthetic biology? Which is genetically engineering organisms for everything from growing salmon faster to killing off mosquitoes.”
Mr. Hemingway: “I’m not really sure how I feel about that. That’s the first time I’ve heard about it, so…”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you lament that we’ve lost courting rituals or do you think they’re still alive and healthy?”
Mr. Hemingway: “I think we’ve lost some.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you like to see them come back?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yeah.”
Vermont Gossip: “Are you on Facebook?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yeah.”
Vermont Gossip: “Are you interested in networking with fellow Vermonters?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yeah.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you support legalizing pot in Vermont?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yes.”
Vermont Gossip: “What do you do for hobbies and recreation?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Practice guitar, come around walk around Church Street.  Hang out with friends.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that we focus too much on the economy and not enough on basically surviving together?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yes.”
Vermont Gossip: “What do you think is the most pressing issue of our time?”
Mr. Hemingway: “The way kids act nowadays. I mean it’s sad to see ten, eleven year olds walking around with iphones and stuff and things like this, and complaining when they don’t get what they want. When I was a kid I was out in the back yard playing with sticks and it was perfectly fun.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think climate change is a serious threat?”
Mr. Hemingway: “I think so.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a carbon tax in Vermont to push us away from carbon fuels?”
Mr. Hemingway: “Yes.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think most Americans make a livable wage?”
Mr. Hemingway: “I believe most do, most that choose to find an actual career. I feel that those who chose to stay with their high school jobs don’t exactly make a livable career, but that’s their choice.”

Castleton Man is Battling One-to-Five in a Million Cancer

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Vince Diamond, 76, has lived in Vermont for 30 years. He lives in Castleton.

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that the community you live in is strong?”
Mr. Diamond: “Yeah, relatively. You always know what’s going on. They’re always involved in doing something. For instance building a police station, new fire house, building a new town office. The historical society…other than that I can’t think of much else.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you know a lot of people in your neighborhood?”
Vince Diamond: “Not a bunch, no. I used to be the animal control officer so I met a lot of people that way.”
Vermont Gossip: “What’s newsworthy and relevant in your life?”
Mr. Diamond: “Not much of anything right now, other than hoping my cancer goes away. A really bad kind, a one in a million kind. I have cardio fungioitis. It’s like one to five people in a million get it. I got eight, nine more chemo treatments after ten radiation treatments.”
Vermont Gossip: “Are you retired?”
Mr. Diamond: “Very. Always have been since I moved up here, I made the mistake of thinking I’d find a decent job. I have two degrees, one in mathematics one in electronics, doesn’t do you any good up here though.”
Vermont Gossip: “What did you do for work before you retired?”
Mr. Diamond: “I designed electronics for space.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you like living in Vermont?”
Mr. Diamond: “Oh, I love it.”
Vermont Gossip: “Are you married?”
Mr. Diamond: “Very.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you have kids?”
Mr. Diamond: “Yeah, I have one daughter. She lives in Jersey.”
Vermont Gossip: “Is there anything that isn’t being covered by local media that you’d like to see be covered?”
Mr. Diamond: “I can’t think of much, other than identifying a little more about the candidates running for Governor because I find I don’t know much about them, and I would like to know a little more than I know, but I don’t much go out of my way. I usually vote just straight Democratic. Except I’ve heard good things about [Republican candidate Phil] Scott, so I don’t know. Hopefully I’ll find out more before the election.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that there are tensions between old Vermonters and new Vermonters?”
Mr. Diamond: “Once I thought there was. I don’t think it exists anymore though. There’s too many new Vermonters, they outnumber the old. So it’s just like I don’t think it exists anymore. I think it did twenty years ago, but not anymore.”
Vermont Gossip: ‘Who do you see as leaders in Vermont?”
Mr. Diamond: “Leaders? uhhh…[Representative Peter] Welsh. Certainly the Governor. [Senator Patrick] Leahy. Not much beyond that.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that elementary school students should be taught to grow food in a hands on environment?”
Mr. Diamond: “That’d be something beneficial, outside of the abysmal job they do of teaching. So that would be something positive.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that high school students who have an interest in it should learn how to make furniture from Vermont harvested wood?”
Mr. Diamond: “That would be something positive, yeah. It would give them a skill that’s worthwhile. Yeah, I’d be for that.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that Hollywood corrupts the minds of kids with all the sex and violence that it has in it?”
Mr. Diamond: “Not even slightly. Look at the internet, that does a good job by itself.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that our instincts are as complex as other animals?”
Mr. Diamond: “Mostly. Mostly. Certainly not as keen. Our eyesight, our smell, our hearing it’s not up to par with many animals.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that emotions are instincts?”
Mr. Diamond: “No. No, not really.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would make it illegal to charge women more than men for the same goods and services?”
Mr. Diamond: “Oh god, that’s just unthinkable. Something like that is just not worth talking about, it’s like stupid.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would provide all Vermont service veterans who have PTSD with a service dog and free dog food for life?”
Mr. Diamond: “I don’t know about for life. They deserve something, but certainly not for life.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a private initiative to build three story buildings in Rutland, make it more like Brooklyn or San Francisco in downtown Rutland?”
Mr. Diamond: “I don’t see why not. It’s more efficient use of the ground, so I’d be for that.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you like to see high tech jobs come to Vermont?”
Mr. Diamond: “Oh, god yes. Yes, definitely.”
Vermont Gossip: “What do you think could be done to bring them here?”
Mr. Diamond: “Well the first thing you have to do is create some kind of an industry. There has to be some industry to draw them in. That’s very difficult to have entrepreneurs do it. It just doesn’t exist in this area, at least not that I’m aware of. Yeah, I certainly think it’d be beneficial, but very difficult to do I’m sure.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a website that aimed to pair apprentices with master tradesmen?”
Mr. Diamond: “Yeah. That’d be a good idea, yeah.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that Vermont teens are told often enough that having a family could be one of the most satisfying things that they ever hope to experience?”
Mr. Diamond: “I don’t know. When I came here my daughter was grown so I have no way of knowing that.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think we should be telling youngsters to be on the lookout for a life mate early on in life?”
Mr. Diamond: “Not really.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would decriminalize operating a driverless car while under the influence?”
Mr. Diamond: “If you’re operating a driverless car, the car is doing the operation, so why would it matter if you’re stoned. It just doesn’t matter. Yeah sure, I would.”
Vermont Gossip: “Who’s your favorite Vermont band?”
Mr. Diamond: “Don’t have a Vermont band that’s a favorite. All my bands are so off in left field, that you’ve never heard of ninety percent of them I’m sure.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you lament that we’ve lost courting rituals or do you think that they’re still alive and healthy?”
Vince Diamond: “Oh, I think they’re dead. I don’t think there’s any rituals at all anymore.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that we should bring them back? Or do you think that it’s better that way?”
Mr. Diamond: “I think it’s just let human nature take it’s course.”
Vermont Gossip: “Are you on Facebook?”
Mr. Diamond: “No.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you support legalizing pot in Vermont?”
Mr. Diamond: “Yeah I sit on the fence. I don’t see any harm in it, but there’s some problems that I really haven’t seen good solutions to. For instance: how to keep it out of the hands of kids. Pot in itself I think is harmless stuff. It should be legalized in that sense, assuming they know how to keep it out of the hands of kids and assuming they come up with a way of checking if someone is stoned on the road.”
Vermont Gossip: “What do you do for hobbies and recreation?”
Vince Diamond: “Jeez, not much nowadays. I’ve done so much. I sled dogged for years, twenty some odd years. I don’t do much anymore, a little bit of cut glass that’s all.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you know who your state representatives are?”
Mr. Diamond: “No.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that we focus too much on the economy and not enough on basically surviving together?”
Mr. Diamond: “I don’t know, I can’t answer that question.”
Vermont Gossip: “If you could give one piece of advice to a group of youngsters, what would it be?”
Mr. Diamond: “Get lots of education. As much as you can possibly get, in as many areas as you can get it.”
Vermont Gossip: “What do you think the most pressing issue of our time is?”
Mr. Diamond: “The lack of education for decent paying jobs. That to me is more of a bother than almost anything else.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that climate change is a serious threat?”
Mr. Diamond: “Oh god yes.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a carbon tax?”
Mr. Diamond: “Yeah.”
Vermont Gossip: “What’s your favorite Vermont restaurant?”
Mr. Diamond: “Jeez, it used to be Hemingway’s but they closed. Don’t have a real favorite anymore. Trying to think, we occasionally eat at uhh…nope no favorite.”
Vermont Gossip: “What could be done to keep Vermont children safe from sexual predators?”
Mr. Diamond: “Jeez, I don’t know. Educate them. Educate them in the way predators use to entice kids into their snares.”

Confessions of a New Gossip Columnist

by Ron Powers

Ron Powers is a Pulitzer Prize-winning and best-selling author who lives in Castleton, Vermont. His latest book, “Nobody Cares About Crazy People” comes out in November. Here is his column:

When the Proprietor of this blog asked me if I wanted to write an occasional column, I said “sure.”

I have spent a lot of my adult life writing columns. Come to think of it, I wrote some columns even before I was an adult, or even a fully-formed human: in other words, a college student.

(Note to college students: Kidding. Kidding. Kidding.)

Truth to tell, I was a little pumped up by the very fact that this guy, this Proprietor, evidently had heard of my reputation as a column-writer. This fellow has his ear to the ground! The fact that he and I share a last name should not be taken by anyone as a sign that family connections were involved. Nor should the fact that I paid for his college education. Well, me and my wife.

These are all pure coincidences, easy to explain, and no fair-minded person would take them as evidence that favoritism based on family ties was involved in my selection.

Anyway, yeah, I figured I could handle this column-writing thing. The Proprietor calls this site Vermont Gossip. Therefore, I guessed I would be a gossip columnist.

Hell, I knew all about gossip columnists. I used to work not twenty feet from a legend of the breed. His name was Kup. Well, actually his name was Irving Kupcinet, but everybody called him Kup. That was the way he liked it, and that was what he called his column. Kup. Kup’s Column.

This was in Chicago, many years ago, not long after the Great Chicago Fire, as memory has it. There were four bustling daily newspapers in the city back then, and I was a hustling young reporter at one of them, a morning tabloid called The Sun-Times. My desk was toward the rear of the city room, just a step or two from the door that led out to the corridor. If you made a quick left turn on the other side of that door, you were standing in front of Kup’s office. You were in the presence of majesty and power.

Kup’s office was so close that I could hear his phone when it rang. It rang a lot. I could even hear his typewriter keys clicking. (Yep. We had typewriters then. They were a new invention.)

Kup was among the last of his line: a line of glamorous rat-a-tat deadline tattletales and name-droppers who were stars of the big-city dailies in the Golden Age of newspapering. Their line stretched back to Walter Winchell and Hedda Hopper and Earl Wilson and Louella Parsons. Fed by telephone tips and scoops from publicists and anonymous callers, these power-brokers filled their columns with nightlife doings and names of the famous: movie stars, politicians, sports stars, CEOs. A favorable mention in one of their columns could mean fortune and glory. But a whiff of scandal could end a star’s career, send a governor crashing to defeat, trigger a splashy celebrity divorce.

Kup played the majesty and power part to the hilt. The whole city bowed down to him. The owners at his favorite restaurant, the high-priced Pump Room, always kept a special booth with a round table reserved for Kup and members of his party. Even when the place was mobbed, nobody else could sit in it. It was Kup’s table. On the nights when Kup made an appearance, the entire restaurant would fall silent and a frantic young waiter would rush over, bearing a white telephone with a plug-in cord. He would place the phone on the table and plug the cord into a jack, so that Kup could keep on getting tips and scoops while he ate. I am not making any of this up.

On the rare occasions when he deigned to stroll from his baronial office into the lowly city room, the glowing tip of his cigar would appear first. All the sweaty reporters and editors would look up and fall silent as the cigar lengthened, like a 747 being towed out of its hangar. This could go on for twenty minutes or so. Finally the great man himself would emerge into view behind a puff of cigar smoke. We underlings would gape at him.

Kup was a big man with broad shoulders. He had been signed by the Philadelphia Eagles out of college, but a shoulder injury kept him out of the game. He kept his black hair slick with tonic and always sported dark glasses, even indoors, and was never seen in anything but a shiny black silk suit, except for the occasions when he wore an even blacker tuxedo.

He always looked—oh—a little out of place when he visited the city room, among all the reporters in rolled-up shirtsleeves and ink smears on their noses and gravy stains on their loosened neckties. Even the men looked sloppy. But he loved it when we would (obediently) get up and drift over to him in groups of three and four, to shake his big paw and “talk shop” with him. Kup liked to be thought of as just one of the boys.

Fat chance.

He was actually a pretty nice guy when you got to know him. But nobody ever got to know him.

So, anyway, that was Kup: my model as a gossip columnist. He was the first guy I thought of when The Proprietor invited me to write a column for Vermont Gossip. No problem!

I already owned a black suit that I’d bought a few weeks earlier, my first in decades. It featured an extra pair of pants. I knew I could find sunglasses at any Rite Aid. I didn’t smoke cigars or anything else, but I supposed this could be negotiated. I thought about asking John Rehlen, the owner of the Blue Cat Café in Castleton, to keep a table permanently reserved for me. (I’d bring my own mobile phone.) But then I thought about the look that John would probably give me, and when my shakes subsided, I decided against it. Maybe when I had got established.

My final preparation task was to familiarize myself with the exact nature of Vermont Gossip. For most of its brief existence, I had been cooped up in my study, slaving over a very challenging book manuscript that required constant online research and fact-checking as I wrote. I had next to no time or energy for reading much of anything else, including Vermont Gossip, it embarrasses me to say.

But hey! No problem! The name said it all, right? Vermont Gossip! All I would have to do is wear my black suit and keep asking myself, “WWKW?” (“What would Kup write??”)

To be on the safe side, though, I decided to surf through a few of the blog’s archives. Just to see if celebrities’ names were printed in bold-face type. That sort of thing.

And, well, dang!

I closed the file a couple hours later with an entirely revised idea of what The Proprietor had in mind: for my column. And for the website Vermont Gossip itself.

No scandals. No celebrities. No tidbits about Mel B branding Victoria Beckham “a b*tch.” No “Wasn’t that Taylor Swift getting cozy with Calvin Harris at the Miss Lyndonville Diner?” No hints that Rusty DeWees might be getting back together again.

What I found instead was something even more interesting.

I found interviews with the sorts of people who never get their names printed in gossip columns, which is nearly all people.

People who work as recyclers, and administrative assistants, and kitchen-workers at colleges, and schoolteachers, and factory tilemakers, and nursing assistants, and workers at transitional housing centers, and people who have no work at all.

These are people who form the fabric of Vermont.

Here are some of the things these people are, based on their interviews: they are people who tend to cherish or believe in Vermont. They are optimists, people of good cheer. They support the state’s communities and its popular culture. They are people with concerns, usually based on first-hand observation: about the plight and fate of adolescents, about the creep of drugs and drug-related crime into neighborhoods. They are people who think about the political world and who tend to know their political representatives, and to have opinions about them. They are people of faith.

Here are some of the things these people are not: they are not whiners or nihilists. They are not people who speak in the received, manufactured language of political posters, bumper stickers, entertainment catch-phrases or the crippled cryptology of internet shorthand. They are people with dogs and friends and with other people who depend on them.

These, then, are the people who come to life on Vermont Gossip: not cookie-cutter entitled celebrities or pols with rehearsed tag-lines; but, on the other hand, not the anonymous, raging, chanting, and interchangeable figures who routinely are drained of their humanity by indifferent network interviewers and camera crews.

I realized, as I surfed through these archives, that The Proprietor is following an entirely different tradition of writing about people. It is a mirror-image of the Kup tradition (lovable as the big guy might have been). This tradition is not as flashy as what we usually think of when we think of “gossip,” yet it is infinitely richer, more layered, and more valuable to the fabric of community—and to the country—than the gossip of scandal and name-dropping and splash and dish.

The Proprietor is roughing out a version of oral history here.

Oral history has taken many forms and served many purposes. I believe that The Proprietor (whether he consciously knows this or not; and he may; I have not asked him about it) is following in the footsteps of the greatest American oral historian of them all. His name was Studs Terkel.

Like Kup, Studs was a Chicagoan. A neighborhood kinda guy, and brilliant. He had wild white hair and he chewed his cigars to the stump and I think he wore the same red-and-white checked shirt for about 68 years, and he talked out of the side of his mouth. Tough guy.

He went through his long life—he died in 2008 at age 96—with a tape recorder and a penchant for walking Chicago’s streets and working Chicago’s crowds and knocking on Chicago’s doors and getting “ordinary” working people to talk to him. And talk, and talk, and talk: to talk until they had emptied out their memories and their hearts. Studs drew out the intelligence that often remains buried in these “ordinary” people, because no one else really bothers to ask them much of anything beyond “How’s it going?” He uncovered the poetry that is embedded in their “ordinary” vernacular speech, the same poetry that Mark Twain heard. He uncovered truth-telling, and complex ideas, and silliness and joy, and also despair: patterns and varieties of thought that tell a different story than “the mass consumership” or “the mass electorate” or “the mass audience” that far too often stand for public opinion. That truth-telling and poetry and joy and despair formed the content of many wonderful and famous books by Studs: “Working,” and “Division Street: America, and “Hard Times,” and “The Good War” (an oral history of World War II) made Studs one of the most celebrated writers of the 20th century. He turned the interview—oral history—into a literary form.

Chicago journalism back then was a big wild raucous zoo of bickering hard-drinking—and unusually gifted—family. We all knew each other; not well, usually, but we knew each other. I knew Studs, just as I knew Kup. Kup knew Studs. Studs knew Kup. It was a helluva time. Don’t get me started.

I liked Kup. He was a great character, a guy who enjoyed playing the role of Kup. But I worshipped Studs Terkel. He shaped my ideals as a newspaperman and as a writer. I think he would let out his famous cackle if he could somehow know that another young journalist is following his trail as well.

Whether or not my son is really following that trail, I don’t know. Never asked. But I am proud to be working for him. And I’ve put my black suit back on the hanger. With both pair of pants.

Castleton Professor Knows Twiddle Members, James with Them; Plays for Farmer’s Market

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Robert Waugneux, 68, has lived in Vermont on and off for about 50 years. “I’ve lived in Vermont for twenty years,” he said, “but I’ve been coming to Vermont, I went to Norwich, I’ve been coming to Vermont for over fifty years. So between going to school here and travelling back and forth and living here, about fifty years.”

He lives in Castleton.

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think the community you live in is strong?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Yes.”
Vermont Gossip: “How so?”
Mr. Waugneux: “I think that there’s a sensitivity to people’s needs. I mean we have our dysfunctional moments also, and they’re quite obvious in the news, but I think the community as a whole is pretty intact. I think that they would respond to any type of need that they would have within the community. I do, believe that. I truly do.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you know a lot of people in your neighborhood?”
Mr. Waugneux: “I know a lot of people in my neighborhood.”
Vermont Gossip: “What’s newsworthy and relevant in your life?”
Mr. Waugneux: “The fact that we have a very active community that’s involved with the university. That’s extraordinarily cool. We have a very active community, between the university and the community I think the connection between the two is extraordinarily important, and I think it’s being done very, very well; and I like to feel as though I was a part of that, and I am a part of that. Martha Moller in particular is a very, very significant player in that who’s taken it with Susan Day and a couple of other people. I think your dad’s also involved with it sometimes. So yeah, I think our community is strong from that perspective and I think the most fun thing, I mean I play music so I do an awful lot of stuff with the school and the community. Whether it be playing music for the farmer’s market, which I do, which is opening June, 2nd, and I’ll be there for that. So I’m just an active member in the community, but I’m not a sign carrier, I’m not a door to door guy. I’m just very visible and I model the behavior that I respect, which is kindness to others and awareness of other people and hopefully if I can be a hand, ask me.”
Vermont Gossip: “What do you do for work?”
Mr. Waugneux: “I’m an adjunct professor here and at Norwich University as well as I’m a professional musician.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you like living in Vermont?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Very much so. I moved back here.”
Vermont Gossip: “Are you married?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Yes.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you have any kids?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Yes, three.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that there is anything that isn’t being covered by the local media that you’d like to see get covered?”
Mr. Waugneux: “No, not really. I mean I think we have a pretty high profile, even our shenanigans with town hall, fire department, police department. All that stuff is pretty out in the open. The other things I can’t think of, no we’re doing fine, and if I don’t know about it I can’t talk about it, but the things I am aware of that people seem to have a little bit of conflict or let’s say rub, yeah everybody talks about it, nobody hides. So, I think we’re alright.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe there are tensions between old Vermonters and new Vermonters?”
Mr. Waugneux: “I don’t see it here. I see it as close minded Vermonters versus open minded Vermonters and I think that we have some close minded people, and they could live anywhere. They could live in New York City, they could live in Oregon, it’s just they’re close minded. And do we have them here? Yes we do. But I don’t think it’s the old versus the new. I just think it’s a close minded person versus an open minded person, because Vermont is an attitude, and you can’t hide behind closed mindedness. I don’t care where you are. If you’re closed minded nothing’s going to happen. If you don’t want to see new things, you want to stay stuck, that’s your business, but don’t project that as being people that are trying to create problems. No, people see what’s happening and they just want to be a part of something that’s happening.”
Vermont Gossip: “Who do you see as leaders in Vermont?”
Mr. Waugneux: “I think Vermont is a very independent state. I think that anybody who has a cause can become a leader. I don’t think we look at leaders like that. I think Bernie now is the main picture, but he’s a lightning rod also so I don’t really think that we do that as Vermonters, I think that we are pretty independent thinkers, and I’d like to stay that way. I know I am, and people that I know feel very much the same way.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that elementary school students should be taught how to grow food in a hands on environment?”
Mr. Waugneux: “I don’t see why not. I don’t have a problem with it. I think you should learn as much as you can about existence, survival, nurturing. It’s not about growing food, it’s about understanding how it all works. That we’re all one here and that we share a planet, and learning how to do things that can be helpful to the planet and to yourself, what’s wrong with that?”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that high school students who have an interest in it should learn how to make furniture from sustainably harvested in Vermont wood?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Oh, absolutely. Anything that you can do for yourself to enhance your situation on this planet, whether it to be to help others or to help yourself it doesn’t matter. The benefit for all, it starts with you. It always starts with you, so if you’re learning something, you’re going to share it. It’s just the way it works. Whether you share it through people seeing it buying it, or sharing it through your friends who also help you, or whatever. Yes, absolutely.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that Hollywood corrupts the minds of our kids with all the sex and violence and unrealistic versions of life that it projects?”
Mr. Waugneux: “I think the media in general does that. I don’t think it’s just Hollywood. I just think the media in general has a propensity to really promote some pretty awkward thinking and model thinking which pretty much tells you how to be. They attack one’s identity, especially the vulnerability of young people. Adolescents are very vulnerable so yes, but the media in general does that. I don’t think it’s just Hollywood. It’s the media.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe our instincts are as complex as other animals?”
Mr. Waugneux: “More so. I just think, because we think and we can adjust. I think we’re far more flexible than most animals.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that emotions are instincts?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Oh, absolutely, but I think that some people cultivate their emotions a little bit more than others do, and some people don’t want to acknowledge their emotions. That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. They just refuse to acknowledge them. So yeah.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would make it illegal to charge women more than men for the same goods and services?”
Mr. Waugneux: “No. I think that’s wrong. Equality is equality. Nobody should be paying more for anything. Everybody should be paying the same price.”
Vermont Gossip: “So you would support legislation that would make it illegal to charge women more than men?”
Robert Waugneux:”Oh, absolutely. I think it’s ridiculous what they do with birth control pills. What they charge for them. I think female products in general, they pay more, and I don’t get it. They don’t get the same benefits that males get. They don’t, in their healthcare they don’t. So yes, I think that that would be a great idea.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would provide all Vermont service veterans who have PTSD with a service dog and a lifetime supply of dog food?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Oh boy, that just depends on the diagnosis. It’d have to be a real diagnosis, not just simply ‘I have this’. So, yeah, if the proper channels were followed for diagnosis and that happened, sure why not.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a private initiative to build three story buildings, like Brooklyn has or San Francisco, in downtown Rutland, with narrow roads that would make it more pedestrian friendly?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Yeah, I like anything that’s pedestrian friendly. Anything that creates neighborhood and humanity, I’m definitely all about that. Much more so than what we have now.”
Vermont Gossip: “What can be done to bring high tech jobs to Vermont? Or do you think high tech jobs should come to Vermont?”
Mr. Waugneux: “I have no opinion on that.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a website that aimed to pair apprentices with master tradesmen?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Oh sure, sure.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that Vermont teens are told often enough that having a family and children could be one of the most satisfying things they ever hope to experience?”
Mr. Waugneux: “I just think the idea of cultivating the concept of family in general and relationships. Forget family, just the word relationships. How does one create a meaningful relationship?  I don’t care what the family looks like, it’s the way people relate to one another within that construct that matters to me. So I have no issues at all with the concept of family when it’s necessarily the way they look at males, females. I don’t care what a family looks like as long as it’s a loving relationship where people are respected for being individuals, that’s what matters the most to me.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would decriminalize operating a driverless car while under the influence?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Driving under the influence is a bad deal. That’s like having a war on dandruff, how are you going to possibly control that? You can make all the laws you want, it’s the enforcing the law that makes the law work. I don’t know how to answer that except the way I just did. So do I say yes to that? Sure. But is it enforceable? Who knows.”
Vermont Gossip: “Are you interested in writing a column for Vermont Gossip?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Sure, I’d love to. I’ve written many of them. Not for you guys, but for people in general. That would be great, but I’m not a main streeter. I am definitely from a different end of the field. I believe in telling the truth for one, some people don’t like the truth. But yeah, I would love to. I have some certain educational agenda that I would like to promote for everyone, not just for mine. I think we’re doing a grave disservice to learners. I think standardization is criminal, it should be arrested. Those people should be put in jail. Mental jail, I don’t mean real jail. I have definitely an ax to grind with regard to education in the country, not just in the state of Vermont.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you know who you’re going to vote for for the next Governor of Vermont?”
Mr. Waugneux: “No, no I don’t.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you have a favorite Vermont band?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Twiddle, because I had some of the members in my class. I know Ryan, I know them all very well. They’re all my friends. They’ve played with me. We’ve played music together and everything else. I mean real music, recorded. So yeah, Twiddle.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you lament that we’ve lost courting rituals or do think they’re still alive and healthy?”
Mr. Waugneux: “I think they are, they’re just changed. Social media’s changed an awful lot of that. So I think that the courting rituals, if you want to use the word rituals, as I would know as I’m a lot older than most kids here then yeah. But has it changed? I just think that what has changed is the delivery. But there are courting rituals, of course there are.”
Vermont Gossip: “Are you on Facebook?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Oh yeah”
Vermont Gossip: “Are you interested in networking with fellow Vermonters?”
Mr. Waugneux: “I do.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you support legalizing pot in Vermont?”
Mr. Waugneux: “Oh yeah. People always should have a choice. I always believe that. If you take away people’s choices, then what’s next? Take away one choice, what’s next? I have no problem with that. Except the consequences you must accept for you choice. I don’t believe in all of a sudden finding Jesus and all the sudden I’m better now, oh no, no, no all your choice. Once you make that choice, live with your choice. If a better choice comes along, then make a better one.”
Vermont Gossip: “What do you do for hobbies and recreation?”
Mr. Waugneux: “I play music and I read.”

Ludlow Lady Works at Transitional Housing Center for People Exiting Prison

alice

Alice Johnson, 24, lives in Ludlow, and she has lived in Vermont on and off for her whole life.

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think the community you live in is strong?”
Alice Johnson: “I think so, it’s pretty strong. It’s a ski town so it a lot of out of state, it’s a 2,000 population town, but in the winter it’s 10,000 with all the out of state homes and all that.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you know a lot of people in your neighborhood?”
Alice Johnson: “Yeah in Ludlow and Rutland. I work and go to school in Rutland and I went to Castleton. Everyone knows someone around here. It’s a small community. Which is good and bad I suppose.”
Vermont Gossip: “What’s newsworthy and relevant in your life now? Promotion?”
Alice Johnson: “Right now a lot of it’s I guess school and I work at a transitional housing center in Rutland for people exiting prison, and so the drug concerns in Rutland are a big piece of my work and a lot of the problems surrounding poverty and just the social welfare of the whole community.”
Vermont Gossip: “What do you think could be done to tackle the drug problem in Vermont?”
Alice Johnson: “To be honest it starts at the level of, I guess poverty because people are trying to think of ways to treat drugs and drugs alone, but it starts at a very basic level. It’s kind of drug abuse is an all encompassing issue. So I think more attention needs to be paid to mental health in general as opposed to just ‘someone has a drug problem’. There’s probably a reason for it.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you like living in Vermont?”
Alice Johnson: “I do. I do. I think it’s my favorite place to live.”
Vermont Gossip: “Are you married?”
Alice Johnson: ” No, I’m not married”
Vermont Gossip: “Is there anything that isn’t being covered by the local media that you would like to see covered?”
Alice Johnson: “Um, gosh, local media. I guess nothing stands out that’s not being covered. I think more attention should be paid to education, I always say that. It’s kind of broad but schools around here a lot of the art programs like in small towns like in Ludlow, they’ve kind of cut the art and music programs. Which there’s not a lot of money to go around, but arts in school and just better curriculum is important, I guess.”
Vermont Gossip: “The average American moves once every five years and high school students tend to move away for college. Do you think that this has the affect of ripping communities apart?”
Alice Johnson: “Uh yeah, I wouldn’t say rip it apart, but it definitely doesn’t benefit when people are moving out of state. It’s better to keep people in state in terms of the economy.”
Vermont Gossip: “Who do you see as leaders in Vermont?”
Alice Johnson: “Leaders in Vermont… I would say that there are some politicians that are good leaders. Of course Bernie Sanders, you may have heard of him, but there are some representatives that have done a great job, but I think more of it is teachers at all levels, Kindergarten through college level. I’ve had a good professors here at Castleton and at College of Saint Joseph, so I think a lot of people to look for, look to I guess for leadership are educators.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that elementary school students should be taught to grow food in a hands-on environment?”
Alice Johnson: “Oh, absolutely. I think that’d be great. It’s good for them to know that stuff, but it’s also I think a fun activity. It’s good to be outdoors.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that our instincts are as complex as other animals?”
Alice Johnson: “I think our instincts are more complex and they’ve changed a lot in terms of how people always say, this goes back to mental health, everyone seems to be stressed out, have anxiety, depression, depressive problems and I think that goes back to our instincts. Things trigger us to be fearful or fight or flight that probably shouldn’t, but they do because we react to things. So I think we’re much more complex than any other animal.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that emotions are instincts that were selected by nature for survival?”
Alice Johnson: “I do not believe that emotions are instincts. I think that emotions have really nothing to do with our survival. I think they’re maybe a branch off of some instinct, but I don’t think that emotions are crucial to our survival.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation in Vermont that would make it illegal to charge women more than men for the same goods and services?”
Alice Johnson: “Oh, absolutely. No one should be charged more just because of their gender.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legislation that would provide all Vermont service veterans who have PTSD with a service dog and free dog food for life?”
Alice Johnson: “Yes, absolutely. I think that’s a great idea.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a private initiative, or a public initiative, have you ever been to Florence, or Brooklyn or San Francisco?”
Alice Johnson: “I used to live in Brooklyn, yeah.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support an initiative that would make Rutland more like Brooklyn?”
Alice Johnson: “Um, in terms of…?”
Vermont Gossip: “Three story buildings, pedestrian friendly…”
Alice Johnson: “Uh, pedestrian friendly yes. Three story buildings aren’t that tall, so sure, but none of that skyscraper, I wouldn’t want it to be more commercial or industrial oriented, I think the small community, small city works well for Vermont.”
Vermont Gossip: “What do you think could be done to bring high-tech jobs to Vermont?”
Alice Johnson: “I think a lot of it starts with schools in Vermont having those kinds of programs, whether it’s at a community college level or a higher level. Computer services, anything to do with science and technology I think in this state is lacking. I know schools have programs for that, but none of them really specialize in that. We have Vermont Tech, but more of that, more technical schools I think.”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support a website that aimed to pair apprentices with master tradesmen?”
Alice Johnson: “Absolutely. I think that’s being lost. A lot of the concept of once you graduate high school you have to go to college, I think it’s messing up a lot of people and it’s making it so people have skills they’re never going to use. I think that’s a great idea. Apprenticeship is a great idea.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that Vermont teens are not told often enough that having a family and children could be one of the most satisfying things that they ever experience?”
Alice Johnson: “Yeah, well I think definitely. But I think part of that is that Vermont’s a pretty progressive state. There’s a lot of stuff, at least in my generation that say ‘family and kids, that was your parents and your grandparents thing’  but I think it’s like anything: for some people it will have great benefits, for some people it won’t.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you know who you’re going to vote for for the next Governor of Vermont?”
Alice Johnson: “Next Governor? No, no idea.”
Vermont Gossip: “Who’s your favorite Vermont band?”
Alice Johnson: “Vermont band…hmm…I know Twiddle. I have a lot of friends who are big fans, I’m not a huge Twiddle fan. I’m not really familiar with a lot of Vermont bands. I’m not really sure.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you lament that we’ve lost courting rituals or do you think they’re still alive and healthy?”
Alice Johnson: “I think they’re still alive and healthy.”
Vermont Gossip: “Are you on Facebook?”
Alice Johnson: “I am on Facebook.”
Vermont Gossip: “Are you interested in networking with fellow Vermonters?”
Alice Johnson: “Sure, why not?”
Vermont Gossip: “Would you support legalizing pot in Vermont?”
Alice Johnson: “Absolutely.”
Vermont Gossip: “What do you do for hobbies and recreation?”
Alice Johnson: “Oh let’s see…hobbies, I like to walk. I go on a lot of hikes, not really this time of year, but as it gets warmer and snow melts, even though we haven’t had much snow, but hiking…I like to drive around. Swimming in the summer, stuff like that.”
Vermont Gossip: “If you could give one piece of advice to a group of youngsters, what would it be?”
Alice Johnson: “I guess I would tell them not to worry too much about what they want to do for work, or for the future. Don’t think too far ahead, think about what you like to do. Don’t think about what’s going to make money, what diploma is going to look awesome or not, just think about what you like to do and just be nice to everyone, because that’s important, especially in this day and age.”
Vermont Gossip: “What do you think the most pressing issue of our time is?”
Alice Johnson: “I think in the long term perspective it’s the environment, because everything else is on the environment. So you could argue whatever issue, but if we don’t have the earth, if earth is melting, or whatever people are saying it’s doing, then we’re screwed. But on a more short term level I think a lot of it is poverty in the United States and the whole world. But in the United States economic equality. That’s why I’m voting for Bernie Sanders because everything he speaks about is what I’ve believed in for five or six years now, ever since the Occupy Wall Street movement. I think that’s the starting point for every other issue.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that climate change is a serious threat?”
Alice Johnson: “I think it’s a threat. I wouldn’t say it’s a serious threat, but that goes back to the long term thing. In a hundred years it will be a more serious threat. But as of right this moment, not really.”
Vermont Gossip: “Are there any hidden gems in Vermont that you know of?”
Alice Johnson: “Definitely the Northeast Kingdom. Lake Willoughby is beautiful. People always talk about how Burlington is a great city, it is, it’s a nice place. I think Saint Albans, Vermont, it’s really cool they’re rebuilding a lot. They’re adding a lot to it, it will become the, I think it’s the next Burlington. So you’ll see that in the next ten years or so.”
Vermont Gossip: “What’s your favorite restaurant?”
Alice Johnson: “There’s a restaurant in Rutland called The Palms. It’s an Italian restaurant. Very good Italian food.”
Vermont Gossip: “What do you think could be done to protect children from sexual predators?”
Alice Johnson: “I think continuing the strict offender registry protocol and also just education for kids themselves. The whole stranger danger thing. When they get into Kindergarten start saying ‘there’s certain people you can trust and if you don’t know them you can’t trust them.’ But unfortunately a lot of the child predators are within the radius of people they do know. So it’s not this elusive character. It’s people they probably know that are more likely to abuse them, so that’s where it gets really complicated, I guess.”
Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe in stricter sentencing for offenders?”
Alice Johnson: “Yes. Sentencing in terms of prison time, maybe. But I think there need to be more rehabilitation. You can’t really rehabilitate a sex offender, but a lot of counseling. Just throwing people in prison isn’t solving anything.”

Op-Ed: Combating the Heroin Epidemic in Vermont; Understanding What Drives Youth to Use

As a former Vermont youth who experimented with marijuana and alcohol as a teen in Middlebury, I think it’s important to share my experience in order to combat the drug problem in Vermont.

One issue that comes up in interviews with Vermonters over and over again is hardcore drug use in the state. Interviewees share stories about seeing it in their communities and how it is tearing communities apart.

Back in the late 90s, I found that I was a socially awkward teen and unsure about my purpose on this earth. No one told me that I was part of a long history of human beings who were struggling to survive on a sometimes hostile planet. No one told me that I would have to fend for myself someday. In short there was a lot of ambiguity from adults about just what this life is all about.

So I turned to alcohol because it was featured in the media. I turned to drugs when my peers, whom I thought were cooler than me, introduced me to marijuana. I found that using drugs and alcohol took away my social awkwardness and allowed me to fit in. I didn’t know that my friends in this respect were only “fair weather friends” who saw me as a target for buying and consuming drugs and alcohol with them.

I have never tried heroin or pills, but I have to think there are similarities between myself and heroin and pill users: not understanding the meaning of life and sensing that adults don’t either, having social anxieties, being confronted by media that features partying and casual sex for youth and being confronted by a lack of future opportunities.

How I think we can help

I think that we can do a better job in Vermont of instilling pride in our youth for being born or living in Vermont. We can teach the history of this state and emphasize the legacy that our youth can leave behind when they are dead and gone. We can do a better job of telling our youth that they will one day be responsible for their own survival. We can do better at teaching the trades and gardening and messaging the trades and gardening as a more reliable source of employment and survival than white collar jobs, which float ethereally on the backs of blue collar workers. We can encourage our youth to be lifetime citizens of Vermont who have the chance to deeply influence their hometown communities.

We can shut off the television and prevent our youth from watching media that portrays partying and casual sex as a rite of passage. We can do a better job as a secular state of messaging the importance of family: the one they live in today, and the one they will start tomorrow. Blood is thicker than water. No one will support you and love you as unconditionally as family. We can message youth to stay close to their parents and their relatives. We can remind them that they may one day have to support not only their own children, but also their parents.

We can also get youth involved in non-binding decisions that this state makes. Obviously the youth can’t vote, but they should be sharing their input with state leaders all along the way. Somehow we should provide youth with the avenues to make their ideas and concerns known at the state level.

We can also do a better job at providing youth with social opportunities. This means that as adults, we can all do a better job of getting to know our neighbors. If there were dances that youth could participate in that weren’t expensive, or even better, free, it would get them out of the isolation of the house where drug use festers in boredom. There used to be lots of dances. Dance is culture. Vermont kind of sucks the culture out of other societies and doesn’t cultivate its own culture. Sponsoring dances in our communities could reinvigorate Vermont’s own culture.

We can abandon the pretenses that come with being liberal or conservative. Instead of seeing ourselves through a political lens, we can see ourselves as united Vermonters. My experience in this state has taught me that adults consume and behave based on their political inclinations. Liberals drive Volvos, conservatives wear camo, etc. We can stop consuming based on our political values and projecting ourselves based on our political values and start projecting ourselves as united citizens who want to participate in the survival of our species in Vermont. How does this contribute to drug use? When the youth sense that adults are not united nor are they interested in uniting, it seems like the only thing adults are interested in is themselves. This teaches the youth to behave the same way. Not good. Then comes drug use in the absence of adults and connection with adults.

Youth need to have a purpose that they belong to. They need to feel welcomed in their community. Our purpose is survival and procreation. I believe this is self-evident based on how much of our species’ instincts are oriented toward procreation. It is important that the youths find a life mate early in life and share that sexual energy, which plays such a large role in the psyche, with a loving partner with whom they will one day have a family, not casual sex with multiple partners. The media says this is okay, but experience tells a different story: this hurts people and damages respect from peers.

Youth also must be on the lookout for people coming into our communities from out of state. Drug traffickers stay at a host’s house and sell drugs through that host, never exposing themselves to their victims. Youth and police should cooperate to root out these foreign invaders selling hard drugs in our state. Again, through messaging survival and the animal instincts of procreating and keeping one’s own DNA going forever, the harmful impacts of hard core drug use should be seen as a threat to Vermont survival and health.

I think that by bringing back the importance of family we can do a lot to combat drug use in Vermont. The goal should be to keep family names alive in communities and pass on work from one generation to the next. People used to have last names based on their trade and they would pass on that trade to the next generation. Family and dances and social cohesion are important to combating drug use.