Twist and Shout

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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Vignettes from Vermont: Chicks Who Rock

Candice Harwood and her strummified fingers (AGD photo)

BENNINGTON -- The tips of Candice Harwood's thin girly fingers and thumbs are battered, bruised, calloused, shredded and swollen, and let's not even get into her nails, cuticles and knuckles. Strumming and picking axes and ukes for hours and days and weeks and years since she was a little girl has caused the friction that batters and bruises and callouses and shreds and swells her thin little girly fingers and thumbs.

The 18-year-old Chicagoan let Art Gallery Dude photograph her most important assets after an impromptu riff inside the Graffiti Vault at Fiddlehead at Four Corners today, a riff on Lenka's "Caught in the Middle" that secured her spot on "Graffiti Vault Unplugged!" thanks to those rocker fingers and a sweet little set of pipes.

Graffiti Vault Unplugged! is Fiddlehead's newest gig featuring Greater Bennington musicians who'll perform in the world's only bank vault turned Graffiti Vault turned Graffiti Vault music stage with kick-ass acoustics. We totally riffed on MTV Unplugged! but did MTV ever stage its show in an old bank vault? Exactly.

Anyway, AGD will stream all acts live on YouTube and promote the music makers.

Bennington teenager Seth Bartholdi of the band Vice-Versa and North Adams guitar god Tommy Marshall will be the first two acts on Graffiti Vault Unplugged!

We're all about equality here at Fiddlehead and want female musicians to perform too and things have fallen into place quite well the last 24 hours with the confirmation of drummer Justine Curry and now Candice Harwood.

Justine is a 28-year-old from Pittsfield, Massachusetts ...

... who plays in the band Immune Friction with her boyfriend Christopher Dayton. They live in Pownal. Justine also sings, dances and acts but is most at home with sticks in her hands. She entered the Web-only drumming contest "Hit Like A Girl" and finished 4th in the world.

AGD heard about Justine's success and hired her to give his goddaughter drumming lessons for her 9th birthday. Addie has a kit but hasn't really shredded yet so why not now? Her first lesson was last night and from early reports she kicked ass.

"She has natural rhythm," Justine said. "She's very mature for her age, she's very polite and she listens -- which is huge for kids trying to learn music."

So as we have it, 4 musicians are booked to perform on Graffiti Vault Unplugged! But AGD is looking for more talent. You know the drill, just stop into Fiddlehead with your music toy and we'll go into the vault for a little test-run.

Here is a little photo shoot with Candice after her one-song gig, and below the photos are videos of Candice and Justine as well as Seth Bartholdi and Brandon Olson of Vice-Versa.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Vignettes from Vermont: 0 Tacos, 2 Bangers, 1 Dinghy. And It's On, Gallery Owner Chick!

A Fiddlehead at Four Corners customer looks at the print of "Dinghy"
by Brian Hewitt of North Bennington. Read about that day HERE
and buy more of his work HERE

BENNINGTON -- Art Gallery Dude has serious competition from Gallery Owner Chick.

"Hey, I sold Seuss long before you were ever here," Nina Lentzner playfully sassed AGD 24 hours after she sold a Brian Hewitt print on canvas titled Dinghy but only because AGD took a rare day off to putz around and seek out tacos from the taco truck guy in North Adams. Months ago a Fiddlehead customer told AGD that this taco truck guy makes soft tacos with corn tortillas. Soft tacos made with any other kind of tortilla is nonsense.

AGD tried to playfully sass Nina about usurping his role but she's a quick sasser-backer.

Anyway, El Coche didn't show up in his taco truck yesterday and, in fact, he's closing his taco truck and moving to Pennsylvania because his partner found an opportunity he couldn't pass up. The only way El Coche's taco truck stays alive is if somebody in the Berkshires steps up to take over.

But anyway.

Atop AGD's bucket list at Fiddlehead at Four Corners is "Sell Hewitt Work" and he has busted his hump and worked angles galore trying to achieve that goal and here comes Nina selling one of the North Bennington oil painter's works after just 35 minutes behind the counter.

Maybe I should just turn in my letter of resignation, AGD told Nina.

She rolled her eyes and sassed him.

Who bought Dinghy? No idea because Nina forgot how to work the new credit card processor and had to punch in the numbers so below the signature it reads IMPRINT CARD.

"Hey, we had the same machine for 10 years," said Fiddlehead's co-owner, who has an MFA from the University of Iowa

"I've shown you how to work it 5 times -- swipe the card, hit the yellow button, push in the price and hit the green button," AGD said. "Pretty simple."

So she made life easier for herself even though she really won't be back behind the counter any time soon ...

She does remember this much:

1) During the sale Phish was singing "Bungalo Bill" (in the show the Vermonters paid homage to the Beatles' "White" album.

2) The couple who bought Dinghy are Fiddlehead regulars from upstate New York and they bought the print for their college graduate son because he had a dinghy growing up. And, the mom loved that the price was right.

Art Gallery Dude is happy for Gallery Owner Chick and her newfound art-selling prowess. He's even happier for Brian Hewitt, who recently sold 2 original oils to the Vermonter whose front porch he painted ...

So there you have it. Art Gallery Dude takes a day off and some uppity fill-in by the name of Gallery Owner Chick goes and sells a piece by one of Fiddlehead's most prominent artists.

No corn tortilla tacos ... someone else selling a Brian Hewitt piece ...

... so AGD found comfort in bangers and mash from Lil Britain, Vermont's best fish and chips joint and certainly the best spot in town to watch the Premier League.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Vignettes for Vermont: George Plimpton's Idiocy Rings Familiar (play the Soundcloud while reading)

Bennington's first sunny morning in a week yet ...

"That's my bicycle," I said.
"I ride it around New York," I added idiotically

BENNINGTON -- That's what Paris Review founder George Plimpton said to Bill Clinton the day he walked POTUS into the literary mag's office. It's a funny bit of self-attribution in this story that AGD read Saturday night.

AGD latched onto the " ... I added idiotically" bit of self-attribution, especially the idiot, because he feels the same way when self-critiquing the whole Art Gallery Dude shtick after a big event such as Mayfest. Not to say AGD is an idiot, although he might be slightly retarded because of the head injuries, or the drugs, or both. No, it's just that AGD sounds idiotic every now and then in the engagement videos he makes at Fiddlehead at Four Corners.

It's tantamount to this:

"That's my brain," I said. "I hackeysack it around Fiddlehead," I added idiotically.

Indeed, George.


Paris Review social media curator Justin Alvarez posted this on Facebook page yesterday:

"The writer is always to some extent in exile, wherever he is, because he is somehow outside, separated from others; there is always a distance." -- Ismail Kadare.

It's a teaser quote from the Review's 1998 interview with the Albanian author of the 1970 book The General of the Dead Army.

Two things:

1) The woman who won the Fiddlehead at Four Corners photo contest Saturday is a free spirit who lives in Kosovo part-time, and she took this photo of Kosovoans sitting at a bus stop near Albania ...

Jane Swensen photo; Jane won Fiddlehead's photo contest (here)

2) She also worked for President Clinton. Coincidence is a helluva drug.

3) Guess there's a third thing, too: Ismail's quote pretty much defines AGD.


Time isn't as long as it used to be. The anticipation of a deed two weeks away always felt like 9 months away. Now 9 months blast by in the blink of an eye. Exerted and exercised braincells galore in the weeks leading up to Fiddlehead's Mayfest'ivities. Burned so much energy creating contest for "Chalk It Up 3!" in the months leading self-publishing. Then the book launches and no one gives a flying fuggut and it's like "Why do I try?" Forty-eight hours later the free beer flows, then ebbs, party's over, and the crest of a wave of people breaks back to sea, anticipation having given way to the deed, and all that's left after the party is the pretty art and the marble bank counters and the gold chandeliers and the silent vaults and the ghostly mezzanines ...

... and the art gallery dude sitting in a chair behind the counter, bereft. 

The next two weeks will be here tomorrow. Time, time, time, see what's become of me.


Joey Lauren Adams, when she was hotter than Georgia asphalt, delivered a great line in the quirky, seen-by-12 movie "The Pros and Cons of Breathing in L.A." and it goes something like this: "If you have one leg in tomorrow and one leg in yesterday you're pissing all over today."

Which is why I'm going to stop waxing about yesterday's deeds and tomorrow's anticipations and go stand on the marble stoop to photograph Bennington's Memorial Day parade that's happening right now about 25 feet away ...

... and back after 25 minutes. 

You want a parade, bubba, here's a parade:

Barbara Roan's top 10 photo

The parade also featured marching brass sections and cloggers clogging on the flatbed of a moving truck and vets from Iraq and Afghanistan and fire trucks from Bennington and fire trucks from North Bennington and fire trucks from Pownal and fire trucks galore. And a father, son and their brown lab. And a shirtless Benningtonian smoking a cigarette 2 feet away from a newborn. Bennington, My Bennington.

And that cow with a purple hoof? That heifer is pointing to a photo in the back room at Fiddlehead, to the photo she took that finished in top 10 in the gallery's photo contest. 

Who is she?

She is her ...

And her ...

And her ...

Read about her (here) then come check out her top 10 photograph at Fiddlehead.


Strange thing happened not long after Ms. Theatrical Heifer mooooved on (thank you, I'll be here swu'out zee week) and left Fiddlehead, back to the parade crowd. Customers started coming in. Vibe of the mood changed. Or maybe the mood of the vibe changed. Either way there was a tectonic change of mood. And vibe. And 3 hours after the sales, chit-chat, Parisian Graffiti Vaulting and 2 fantastic craps, AGD feels chipper and charged. 

It probably helps when customers tap into his source code and stroke his ego.

"You're really easy to talk to," Fran from Milford, Connecticut, told AGD as he scoured the Web to find her 6 mugs she desperately wanted. "You should be a psychologist."

Art Gallery Shrink ...

...  hmm, that has a good ring to it.

Then again, it might sound idiotic, which is par for zee course.

Sylvie from Paris and Nancy from Nantes by way of Connecticut;
"Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" is France's national motto
Then they chalked up "the essence of France" -- wine, bread, cheese
As will Tabbie of Bennington and Mary of Indiana
who appeared in "Chalk It Up 2!"

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Vignettes from Vermont: Happy 13th Anniversary, Fiddlehead at Four Corners! (or how the "old marble bank turned art gallery" celebrated Mayfest '13)

Get used to doing this, buddy ...
(Joey Kulkin photo)

BENNINGTON -- Joel Lentzner didn't graduate Bennington College then go to Iowa to get his Master's in Educational Administration only to end up pouring beer in a Vermont art gallery.

Yet there he was yesterday in his Vermont art gallery, pouring beer after beer after beer.

Free beer after free beer after free Northshire beer.

In that regard Joel's idea worked on a day rain kiboshed Bennington's biggest street party -- Mayfest. The wet, gloomy weather that soaked Bennington all week struck again and forced most of the 150 Main Street vendors to pack their art tents and fried dough makers and hit the road hours before they wanted to. Which must have hurt in ways many cannot conceive because "15,000" usually is the number town officials put the Mayfest crowd at every year so losing out on "15,000" potential sales means an awful bottom line to vagabond vendors who pay between $150 and $275 for a Mayfest permit (here) and depend on every penny they make to recoup that cost before profits kick in.

At least vendors can make back some losses if it's a 2-day event but, alas, Bennington's party runs just 7 hours for one day during mud season.

Fiddlehead at Four Corners wasn't immune to the rain either but the "old marble bank turned art gallery" soldiered on and celebrated its 13th anniversary with a Mayfest party that crawled for the first 90 minutes then picked up about 2 o'clock and flourished till 8.

Free beer after free beer after free Northshire beer enticed plenty of bummed-out Mayfesters into the gallery. Once inside, they stayed awhile. Great beer does that

Indeed, when it rains Fiddlehead pours Bennington's best beer.

"It's smooth, like a lighter beer," Adam Thompson of Bennington said of the Battenkill Ale. Compared with the beer he's been drinking lately, "I like it better. I usually drink Coors Light, but this is better than that."

"It's really good. Good stuff," Trish from Ithaca said of the Battenkill Ale. "It's light but has a lot of flavor to it." Her boyfriend, Chris, drank Equinox Pilsner. "Very drinkable. I could definitely have a few of these."

Art Gallery Dude captured Fiddlehead's best Mayfest with these bullet points:

* opening show for Olympia Hostler, the award-winning painter from Rumson, New Jersey, and yoga and wellness practitioner who brought 9 more pieces to Fiddlehead, including the never-before-seen "Chakra" series; there's a lively video below featuring AGD, Hostler and Paul Harris, who prides himself on being a patron of the Bennington arts scene

* exhibit featuring winners of Fiddlehead's photo contest; a Wisconsinite who worked for President Clinton and has strong ties to Southern Vermont College athletics won 1st place and $100 in Fiddlehead cash

* 20 sales from mugs, Christmas ornaments, vinyl record bowls, glass Saturn bowls, Buddha candles, ceramic tumblers, glass golf plates, Lodiza Lepore photographs of the Bennington Monument, gorgeous glass vases and John DeAmicis lithos

* 6 videos of gallery-goers tasting and reviewing Northshire Brewery's Battenkill Pale Ale and Equinox Pilsner, to interviews with award-winning painter Olympia Hostler and winners of Fiddlehead's photo contest

* 42 photographs of life at the party

* red cups galore of beer ...

... free beer from Northshire Brewery at 108 County Street in Bennington.

"Nina and I are really happy with the way things turned out," Joel Lentzner said; Nina being his wife, whom he met as a freshman at Bennington in '87 and with whom he opened Fiddlehead at Four Corners on Memorial Day 2000. "We probably would have made three times more in sales if it didn't rain but this was the gallery's best Mayfest."

Here is AGD's chronological visual in pics (click to embiggen) and vids ...

Bruce Norman and his frau Cheryl
(luge story on Bruce to follow this week)

Christie from East Dorset buys 2 stoneware mugs from Middlebury
(watch a video of Christie below)
Rest of the selection HERE

Longtime Bennington teacher Judy Pennock points to her top 10 photo
in Fiddlehead's photo contest

Here is Judy's photo looking toward the four corners. Stunning!

Jane Swensen won the contest with this photo ...

This is Jane Swensen ...

Read Jane's bio HERE

Jane worked for President Clinton and her son is the new men's basketball coach at Southern Vermont College, which completes Friday's Beltway-Bennington riddle. She was in Kosovo yesterday and missed Mayfest but here's a Q&A with her.

Olympia Hostler showed up and showed off her 9 new pieces ...


"Blooming Ohm"

"Power of Insight" (6th chakra)

"Heart Power" (4th chakra)


"Relational Power" (2nd chakra)

"Personal Power" (3rd chakra)

"Root of All Power" (1st chakra)

(watch a video of Olympia talk about her work below)

2 more mugs sell. Mugs make great gifts. Click HERE

And the 5th mug sells

The beer from Northshire Brewery arrives!
Russell Harwood from Bennington is the first taster

Trish and Chris (watch their video beer review below)

Adam and Kayla of Bennington (watch their video below)

Olympia Hostler talks with a fan of her work, Paul Harris of Bennington

Upon closer inspection ... (watch a video of Olympia and Paul below)

Jeff bought a repurposed Jimi Hendrix vinyl bowl;
for a story behind the Fiddlehead's vinyl click HERE

Dan Malmborg went to Georgia Tech,
Charlotte Malmborg just graduated from Lehigh U.;
upon closer inspection of the words below the hawk ...

The rest of the Mayfest Graffiti Vaulters ...

Dried milk, huh?

Olympia talks to Ann Webster-Lang of the Vermont Arts Exchange

Lou contemplated buying the Janis Joplin vinyl bowl

Elise and Elizabeth were part of a quartet of hotties from NYC
whose hubbies were playing golf at the country club

A third from the trio, Maureen, bought a Christmas ornament

While Elizabeth bought a Bonnie Doone golf plate (more here)
and Lodiza Lepore photo of the monument (more here)

Northshire brewer Earl McGoff (right) chats with folks about his craft beer

... while Northside's other owner, Chris Mayne (right),
talks beer with Trish and Chris

Olympia Hostler in front of her acrylic-liquid polymer paintings

Minutes later she chatted up Elise and Elizabeth

She also loved this glass vase from San Carlos
and bought it for a friend's wedding gift;
3 other San Carlos vases HERE

Marjorie Berg of Ho-Ho-Kus
bought a Saturn Bowl (here)

And then Mrs. Berrrrrrrg bought a Buddha candle
and 2 John DeAmicis lithos. She was in town
for the 80th birthday party of a friend

Joel and Carson whose "heart was healed in Bennington"
(see Graffiti Vault picture above)

Mark Schiffner of Bennington points to his top 10 contest photo

Watch the video of Mark explaining his photo below

AGD and Mark chatted it up for an hour and then he left.

It was 8 o'clock. It was raining, still.

It was drippy this morning, too.

Here's to another 13 years at Fiddlehead at Four Corners.

We'll check on Joel in 2026 to see if he has moved up the ladder to burger flipper.