Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: Bennington, My Bennington

From left: Celia, Jean, Pam, Cathy, Hank, Sarah, Melissa, Ryan
(Joey Kulkin photo)

BENNINGTON -- Coincidence. Love it.

So yesterday I revealed much and topped the entry with the Seinfeld library clip featuring Mr. Bookman. Then many hours later, at the close of another long business day, about 8 in the p.m., I engaged in a wonderful Banned Books Week chat with ...

... wait for it ...

... two librarians from Boston.

You can't make that shit up.

The two female friends browsed the gallery for an hour; my kind of browsers. They ultimately walked to the counter with a cat-themed trivet:

Before walking out into the dark night of Bennington, My Bennington, they stopped at a case on the counter that displays license plate bracelets. They dug 'em big-time.

As a businessman you have to make decisions. Fiddlehead at Four Corners has featured these cool bracelets for a month or so but customers have yet to cotton to them ...

... these two librarians, however, loved 'em, so I told each they could have one on the house as long as they wore them and promoted them and told folks they can buy 'em at

They agreed. Then, what with them being librarians, we talked about Banned Books Week and tentatively agreed to work together to put on a few events for BBW '13. Yesterday was the last day of BBW '12 -- which was the 30th anniversary of the event.

About an hour before the librarians bought their trivet, a longtime friend by the name of Melissa brought her daughter, mom, aunt, brother and uncle into Fiddlehead. They're the folks in the photo at the top. There's Melissa and Celia and Hank and Ryan and Sarah and Cathy and Pam and Jean. They're from Bennington and Buffalo and Hartford and New Sharon (Maine) and Bucks County (Pee-Ay).

Melissa is a good girl. She and I go back to my sportswriting days at the Bennington Banner circa '95 and '96 and part of '97. 

We hung out a lot, especially at Mickey's. Mickey's was the watering hole Banner newsies congregated at after deadline, between 12:30 and 3 in the a.m.

Mickey's. Mickey's burned down about 10 years ago.

Before it went up in flames, the downstairs of Mickey's was a pizza joint owned by a crusty old Grecian by the name of Alex and his sailor-mouthed wife, Pauline. 

Alex. I never remembered his last name and just called him Alex Greekopoulos. He was the Greek version of my dad. He looked like my dad, eerily so. 

Alex smoked Camel fags cowboy-style -- without filters -- and in the same seat at the bar every night he drank hard whiskey, slow. The crusty old Grecian could knock 'em down. 

Alex Greekopoulos. I wish I had a smartphone back in those days. Alex needed to be photographed in his seat at the right-corner of the bar.

Back downstairs ... I spent a lot of money at Mickey's on meatball subs and pizza and, my favorite, chicken gyros. I always ordered the same gyro: extra chicken, no lettuce and lots of white sauce, whatever the hell that creamy stuff was.

"Forrrrr youuuuu, Joey," Alex always said, and I loved how he rolled his R's, "I geeve you extra cheek'n."



Anyway, Melissa worked downstairs at Mickey's. And at night she drank upstairs. 

After the split with a girlfriend, I hung out with Melissa, who had a boyfriend who kept causing her a bit of the heartache. I liked Melissa back then. I can't remember what we might have had in common, but we had a good time hanging out and watching Fiona Apple videos and drinking, and I'd be nice guy friend and listen to her boyfriend troubles even though I really wanted to jump her bones. But I never pulled the trigger. I've never had the ... whatever it is ... to jump on another guy's girl. 

Eyeballing is one thing, the other is quite another, bubba.

So, Melissa and I always stayed just friends.

Melissa is a sharp girl, a strong mother, and her literary idol is Hunter Thompson. She knows his stuff like she knows every aspect of her spunky teenage daughter's life.

She offered ideas about the gallery this summer. We agreed that moving this here and that there would add energy to the joint. Hence, the Feng Shui'ification of Fiddlehead began in earnest, and lo and behold customers started buying left and right and center.

The gallery owner said sales rose 500% on my watch.

Melissa helped me slide Jeeves the Absent-Minded Butler from near the Animation Vault to the beautiful glass-topped bank centerpiece that was used for withdrawal and deposit slips. She told me if certain color schemes worked or not. 

Melissa works at Goodwill up the street and understands buyer habits, and I appreciated her insight and suggestions for the gallery.

She always tells customers that they should go down the street to Fiddlehead at Four Corners if they want cool arts and crafts ... so she's a pretty good person, always looking out for those she cares about.

Two days ago Melissa brought Celia and her mom and aunt into Fiddlehead. Her aunt bought a few things, which was cool. Last night, Melissa brought more of the family gang into the gallery, and they eyeballed everything, and bought a lot. 

I chatted up Melissa's mom and aunt and uncle and at one point took a group shot because they kind of wanted a group shot after Melissa told them about this blog and how I engage customers and tell quirky little stories about them and about myself and about them and myself together in relation to life and coincidence and all that good stuff.

"You're good, Joey" is what Melissa said to me under breath as I chatted up her mom about this ceramic piece or that glass bowl. Or was I chatting up her aunt? Uncle? Can't remember, but I know it wasn't Celia. She was too busy being bored out of her skull. Poor Celia.

The gallery was hopping at that point.

It was, after all, Saturday Night Columbus Day Weekend, and the leaf lovers had descended upon Bennington en route to Arlington and Manchester and West Dover and Dummerston and Wilmington and Killington and Pawlet and Sunderland and Chester and Rio Blanco and Randolph and Shaftsbury and Saxtons River and Brattleboro and Townshend and Bellows Falls and Saint Albans all of the nooks and crannies in the Green Mountain State.

If you haven't come to Vermont, you haven't lived life to its fullest. 

This state was built to drive.

There is no better stretch of road in America than the 44 miles of Old Lady 9 -- Bennington to Brattleboro and back. Curves and swerves and ups and downs, engineered to perfection, and the only way to enjoy Old Lady 9 is "windows down, volume up" ...

... same with Route 100, better known as "The Spine of Vermont" -- from Whitingham all the way up to Canada, eh? ...

... the same with Route 11/30 from Manchester through the heart of ski country all the way to Springfield on the eastern border ...

... the same with Route 7 -- the most-traveled road in Vermont -- from Pownal through Bennington and all the way up to Burlington and beyond ...

... you want the best driving experiences? Drive Vermont.

Leafers are peeping. 

The leaves are turning. Green into yellow and red and orange and blaze ...

White River Junction (Joey Kulkin photo)

... green soon to be brown, soon to the ground. 

Leaves we ignored yesterday but love today will be dead tomorrow, covered in white.

But anyway ...

Last night scores and dozens of peepers packed Fiddlehead.

Last night, Benningtonians packed Fiddlehead, too.

In this case, Melissa's family joined the peepers.

Lovers of art American style co-mingled in the marble bank turned gallery.

Thanks, Melissa's Family, for supporting the arts. 

And Thanks, Melissa ...

... Forrrr youuuu, I geeve you one of dogs Celia wanted. Weech one?

Wood dogs fore sale at