Twist and Shout

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

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday, Huh?

What Fiddlehead usually is like on Wednesdsays (Susan Roghair photo)

BENNINGTON -- Wednesday has been the quietest day of the week at Fiddlehead since the doors opened 13 years ago. The weekenders and Monday stragglers have passed back through Bennington on the way home while the next wave is 48 hours away, unless there's a Thursday surge.

But not today, Wednesday, August 7, 2013, at least not for 85 minutes this morning then another 75 minutes before quittin' time.

It begins when the cropped-head UPS dude pushes his dolly into the gallery, a dolly stacked with boxes. "That's not *all* for us, is it?" the counter boy asks as he envisioned a mountain of goddamn packing peanuts. The no-nonsense UPS dude replies "Yup." Oy.

Counter boy begins to slice open one of the boxes from Banner Elk, North Carolina, when a married couple walks into the gallery, tired and sweaty from a brisk morning walk around downtown. "You're in luck," counter boy tells the woman half of the couple, "because we just received work from the most popular potter in here." He open the flaps and unwraps one of the pieces from butcher paper -- no fucking peanuts! She likes the mug he shows her.

"Soon as we get his mugs they're gone in a few weeks." She sort of nods but isn't interested.

He asks where she's coming from. "Cleveland." "Cool. My dad's side of the family has deep roots in and around Cleveland Heights. One of my grandfather's brothers owned the biggest record store in Cleveland Heights" Hubby thinks he knows which record store counter boy is talking about. Counter boy knows little about the Cleveland Heights side of his family and quickly fires off a Facebook message to a relative he's Facebook friends with but never met, who lives in New Castle, western Pa., not terribly far from Cleveland Heights.

A minute later, North Bennington oil painter Brian Hewitt walks into the gallery to pick up two of his original oils from the Park McCullough House series because he's bringing them to his show in Manchester. "You're in luck," counter boy tells the woman "because this is Brian Hewitt, an oil painter with a great story, and his work is up there in the mezzanine." Within minutes Brian and the woman stand in front of his pieces on the mezzanine ...

A minute or two later, Kc Tiffany of Shaftsbury walks into the gallery. Fiddlehead sells her world-class pottery, and counter boy is perfectly comfortable touting her work as world-class even if she's 16. KC is part of this story, too, but not till later so keep reading.

The Clevelanders -- David and Wendy -- walk to the counter to ask how late the gallery would be open today. He answers. They say they'll be back and counter boy is, like, uh-huh, sure, and tells them the legend of "The Bebacks" and ends the story by saying "So here's a little incentive to come back -- I'll give you 10% off." This intrigues them. They leave the gallery -- interior door, foyer, front door -- and walk back into Bennington. Bye-bye, Clevelanders, nice meeting you.

Brian finishes paperwork to take his pieces and that's when counter boy realizes that Brian has not met KC the 16-year-old potter, and vice-versa, so he introduces them. Brian leaves minutes later. Fiddlehead is empty except for counter boy and KC. Her eyes are sad. Bad news; or not-so-good news depending how you look at it. She's been trying to fire her new wares in a kiln across town so that she can bring them to Fiddlehead, which has sold her work for a few months. But miscommunication with the woman in charge of the kiln may have ruined the whole lot and KC is bumming. On top of that she's headed to Buffalo in a few days to see if she and Buffalo State might be the right fit, and because of the kiln firing fiasco she doesn't think she can bring her new stuff to Fiddlehead before Friday. She thinks counter boy will be frustrated by the revelation. He is but has so many things going on that he doesn't show it, which surprises her.

Minutes later the Clevelanders come back, and that *does* surprise him because, well, the "Bebacks" rarely be back. Counter boy's relative from New Castle messages back: Leo Mintz built the Record Rendezvous in Cleveland. In 1936 he married Betty Kulkin then opened Record Rendezvous in '39, and that is the connection with counter boy's connection to the biggest record store in Cleveland. Here's a little story about Leo Mintz, rock 'n' roll king of Cleveland (

Minutes later Wendy walks to the counter with a Star of David trivet. Counter boy asks if she's Jewish. Yes. "Did you have a bat mitzvah?" Yes. He says his bar mitzvah was in '84.

One thing leads to another and Wendy tells counter boy about her mom and the Holocaust -- how her mom avoided the concentration camps and lived to tell about it.

A few minutes into the story, KC leaves the gallery. Later she'd say "You just seemed busy." Such is the life of counter boy as he gives full attention to a member of the tribe as she shares a Holocaust story about Mom.

Mom was born in Hannut, Belgium, with the help of teenage mid-wife Jilberte Delfosse, daughter of Gabrielle and Gaston Delfosse. The family hid Mom till war's end. Mom returned to Belgium several times over the years to visit Jilberte, still alive at 88, but Wendy made her first visit in June. She flew to Germany, where her brother works, then drove to Hannut to meet Jilberte at the house, owned by an Englishman who never knew the importance of his property and was quite taken by the story.

"66 years years later it was really cool to go down to the cellar where my mom was hidden," Wendy says. One of her sons attends Williams College just down the road from Bennington. His name is Gabriel, named after Gabrielle Delfosse. The experience moved Wendy like few things ever have, ever will. "It would be like going back to the house Anne Frank was hiding in," David said, "and meeting Anne Frank."

David and Wendy pay for the trivet and one of Lodiza Lepore's photo cards then leave.

Thank you, Clevelanders, for coming back.

Fiddlehead is quiet again, first silence in 75 minutes except for the music of a '68 Dead show from Jones Beach, meshing with the mad energy in his mind. What a long, strange encounter, he thought.

And now this silence, this respite after the hubbub on what normally is a quiet Wednesday, allows counter boy to photograph the new pottery, the glass, the wood. He's familiar with the pottery because Steve Williams of Banner Elk, North Carolina, has just one design, "Moon Over Carolina" and it's a wonderful design. And he's familiar with the Kentucky boards because Fiddlehead has sold them well the last few years. But Mad Art ... Mad Art always delivers new and exciting eye candy, which is a tribute to Fiddlehead owner Joel Lentzner and his artistic eye. The most gorgeous piece this time ...

... is a tall, square vase called Apple Tree and counter boy, being a lover of red, gushes over the lusciousness of the red in the apples and along the top lip. Lindo!

Just when it seems as though the usual Wednesday quiet is going to settle upon the gallery, the bells of the interior door jingle and into Fiddlehead slow-shuffles a pair of elderly women. They shuffle past counter boy who thinks they'll be gone in a few minutes. 

Instead they shuffle and waddle for 15, 20, 25 minutes. One of them pulls a framed litho off the Wall of DeAmicis then shuffles up to counter boy and asks if Fiddlehead sells any Vermont-made pottery.

He walks around the counter and walks her to the stoneware of Tom Homann of Middlebury. She goes meh. He walks her to another table that has a large serving bowl by David Lasser of Londonderry. Meh again. Just one more Vermont potter, KC Tiffany the 16-year-old from Shaftsbury. And it's a bowl that counter boy doesn't really expect to sell because she threw the piece as a 14-year-old and it's really just a placemat of sorts till the new stuff arrives this week, hopefully.

That doesn't stop counter boy from promoting a 16-year-old Vermont potter whose talent belies her age. And it's not faux promotion. She's very good ( I'll put her work up against any other Vermont potter, bubba. "Her pieces are thick and sturdy and they're among the best things we sell," counter boy says. She appreciates these selling points and especially the one about KC being 16. In a thick Alabama twang she says "I'll take it."

If you had told counter boy to make a list of 1,000 things that might come to fruition today, the idea of a blue-haired Alabaman buying a 16-year-old Vermonter's pottery wouldn't even spring to life. The whimsical John DeAmicis with pretty red tulips? Of course. Art like that is right up her alley. But this bowl? Come on, pop.

Her name is Hope Duve -- "Du-VAY?" and she smiles when counter boy gets it right on the first try -- and she lives in Huntsville, Alabama. Counter boy smiles back as she says Huntsville because one of Fiddlehead's best customers is Huntsville lawyer Leigh Daniel and one of counter boy's first roomies in Long Beach in the early '90s was Steve Irvine, a Huntsville boy and one of the Press-Telegram's best sportswriters of his generation there.

As this bizarro little chat and sale takes place, Hope's friend Berthelle -- another old Alabaman who moved to "the northern neck" of Virginia 20 years ago -- has become quite enamored with the Caron Miller Collection wraps, especially the 24x96 turquoise shim. She wants it like a baby wants its bottle, which means she needs it and needs it now now now!

Counter boys walks over to Berthelle as she stands in front of the mirror admiring herself draped in this exotic silky fabric. "I wear a lot of black," she says with a twang like Hope's. She asks counter boy a question and he quickly weighs the pros and cons to the answer he's about to give her. She likes the answer but still has him hang it up again. She changes her mind 30 seconds later, worried that the wrap won't be here when she returns, so she pulls the turquoise shim off the display bar and walks to the counter to pay. Well, only after wrapping herself in the shim and hamming it up for the camera. Cute.

Wednesday, huh?

Hours of quiet followed.

And then ...

Rudi Yniguez, who goes to Williams College, walks into Fiddlehead at 5:10 and makes a beeline toward the stairwell. Counter boy, was, like, she's definitely getting something. Counter boy wasn't expecting this, though: Rudi walks back over and tells counter boy that she was at Midnight Madness with her mom a few weeks ago. Her mom loved -- capital L -- Brian Hewitt's print on canvas called "Harrington Road" and now daughter wants to buy it for mom.

Counter boy has learned a few lessons about selling Brian's work by now so Rudi ain't walking out of this joint without the piece. He gives her a price tells her to go pluck it off the easel.

"All of the paintings in her house are of barns," Rudi says, "but this one will standout."

"Harrington Road" is mom's Christmas gift.

"You could have given her pottery or glass or jewelry or a nice scarf," counter boy says. Rudi smiles and says "It was the right thing to do and I'd like to see it hanging in her house so it's a win-win."

Wednesday, huh?

An hour later, this geology teacher from Pittsburgh bought a hand-warmer mug from Walla Walla. Walla Walla!