Jump to content


Photo

Brattleboro, VT


  • Please log in to reply
69 replies to this topic

#1 GG Mora

GG Mora

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 9,234 posts

Posted 29 November 2004 - 10:27 PM

When you live in a place where there's close to nothing, little somethings can bring great cheer and relief. And Brattleboro is a town full of pleasant little somethings. Over time, I'll add as much as I can here. For now, the things that redeemed the world for me last weekend:

All of this was made possible by the facts that a) the children were at their Mother's for the week and b) Mr. Mora had the weekend off.

Brattleboro's Latchis Theatre is the nearest cinema where one has any hope of seeing anything better than Hollywood's latest steaming turd. No stadium seating...in fact, the seats are so old as to be upholstered in mohair; this is a good old-fashioned movie theatre. Two weekends ago, I took myself to see Vera Drake (which I was greatly moved by) and last weekend the Mr. and I took in Sideways (which we both found hilariously entertaining, though not the earth-shattering masterpiece some critics would have us believe).

After the flick, we wound our way up through the new parking garage in town – a necessary evil that greatly improves the downtown experience – and reloaded the metered-ticket before slipping into McNeill's brew pub. I could only complain that McNeill's is perhaps too brightly lit. Otherwise, it's a terrific pubbing experience. Three of their best ales – Dead Horse, Duck's Breath, and Extra Special Bitter – are available in “Cask Condition”, which I didn't know means “hand-pulled” and, thus, exquisite. All other offerings (only their own) on tap. Always an interesting and convivial crowd; one might find a retired couple with their college-aged kids, 20-something groovesters with the new baby in tow, neighborhood aesthetes and amateur philosopher-drunks. Me and the Mr. each had a couple pints of bitter and tore through a basket of roasted peanuts in the shell before meandering across Elliot St. for dinner at India Palace.

I'm hardly an expert on Indian food, but I consider the eats at India Palace to be better than average. We started with samosas, and went on to Lamb Vindaloo, Paneer Shahi Korma, Ghobi Parathas and a small dish of raita. The lamb was a bit dry and the Vinadaloo not as fiery as it sometimes is there; otherwise everything was on the money, though we both sort of bottomed out on account of stuffing ourselves with peanuts aforehand.

We passed on taking in a fairly substantial Warhol show (the Jon Gould collection) at the Brattleboro Museum. I'm not a great fan of Warhol, but this show is significant enough that it warrants a visit on some future weekend. The show's up though the beginning of February. Warhol Show details.

#2 ranitidine

ranitidine

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 3,727 posts

Posted 30 November 2004 - 12:30 AM

I really think Brattleboro is one of America's greatest places. How did it get like that?
"Say not the struggle nought availeth...."
Arthur Hugh Clough, 1819-1861

Arise ye prisoners of starvation
Arise ye wretched of the earth

#3 MyKong

MyKong

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 891 posts

Posted 30 November 2004 - 01:56 AM

Haven't been to Brattleboro since I was prat, when we spent time with mummy and daddy's artist friends who have a farm there.

GG--I so hear you on small pleasures found in the 'wilderness.' Given the dearth of restaurants and eye candy in my parts, trips to Hanover and Burlington are such treats. Lately, we went to Smokejacks in Burlington and the Canoe Club in Hanover.

Brattelboro is on my trip south 91--damn, that is pretty country.
"I remembered the old joke that defines eternity as two people and a whole ham." Maurice Naughton

#4 Rail Paul

Rail Paul

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 19,199 posts

Posted 30 November 2004 - 02:04 AM

There's (was?) an old fashioned resto on the main square in Brattleboro, very granola and hippie crunch. I remember having breakfast there years ago, very 1970s vibe. Prob wouldn't remember the name even if I heard it.

Vermont is a very "diner" oriented state. There are many still at crossroads and on the old highways. Holding the McDonalds crowd at some distance, though fewer than before...

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#5 GG Mora

GG Mora

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 9,234 posts

Posted 30 November 2004 - 02:11 PM

There's (was?) an old fashioned resto on the main square in Brattleboro, very granola and hippie crunch. I remember having breakfast there years ago, very 1970s vibe. Prob wouldn't remember the name even if I heard it.

Hmmm. There's not really a “main square” per se. But back in the 70's, Brattleboro was very much a hippie town (and is still unapologetically unmainstream) and there were mostly hippie restaurants and not much else. The one that stuck around was The Common Ground, which only went out of operation a few years ago. I think it still functions as some sort of gathering place for a crowd that still adheres to the hippie ethos, it just doesn't serve food to the public. Which is a good thing. The few times I ate there back in the 80's, it was because I was poor, the food was cheap and I needed to eat. Purely subsistence. And the place was filthy. (Cleanliness is, like, so materialistic).

There's still some funk to the restaurant scene, but there's a lot of good food and some very good restaurants.

#6 GG Mora

GG Mora

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 9,234 posts

Posted 10 January 2005 - 05:12 PM

Another lazy Saturday in Brattleboro. It was snowing to beat the band, which added greatly to Brattleboro's charm. And snow seems to heighten the already elevated community spirit.

After parking in the “downtown” garage (what a luxury to know we wouldn't have to scrape the car clean when we got back) we bopped into Sam's Army/Navy so I could buy a cheap hat; I'd neglected to bring one & wandering the streets in the snow with an exposed head somehow lacked appeal. A quick $12 for a fleece pillbox, and I was good to go. Sam's is a great place to shop for sporty (as in “technical wear”) clothing and footwear and camping equipment. And hunting gear, if you're into that sort of thing. Plus they have a huge selection of Carhartt workwear, Woolrich, and Johnson Woolens, all of which pass for high fashion in our world. Curiously, there's a popcorn machine on the main floor, so shoppers are often toting around – and munching from – a bag of fresh popcorn.

Next up, I needed some little birthday gifts for a few girlfriends. Brattleboro has recently been inundated with shops peddling luxury bath & body products and home accessories; in the last 3 years, no less than 5 have sprouted up in the two-block downtown stretch. These shops seem to be the avant-garde of gentrification, so they may bode well for Brattleboro's future. Its past has been a bit shaky, so this is a good thing. Anyway, between two sweet little shops – Disa and Melange – I came away with some delicious smelling “bath bombs” (compressed balls of essential oils and salts that fizz restoration into your bathwater) and a few little pots of equally delicious smelling body butters.

While I was busy shopping for girlie stuff, Mr. Mora checked into the music store in between to browse the used CD selection. In a typically Brattleborian turn of events, the shop clerk at the first store I went into forgot to give me back my debit card (and I forget to get it!), but had been standing outside the door watching the snow when I came in, and had overheard Mr. Mora say that he'd be in the music shop. When she realized our oversight, she left her shop and ducked next door to return the card to my husband.

As we slogged down towards the Food Co-op, we made a side trip into an antique/junque store to see if there was anything we couldn't live without. There wasn't, but there were several pretty brass bedframes ($199ish), a lot of unimportant but serviceable and attractive chests of drawers, an old library card catalog (also $199), a very curious standing fireplace insert lined with fire brick that would function to throw heat into the room, some horrid chairs, a lot of junque. Fun, anyway.

Nothing much from the Food Co-op, but had we wanted it, there is an excellent cheese selection, some very good wines, and a lot of organic produce.

From there, we crossed to the Brattleboro Museum to see the Warhol Show. For a small museum in a one-horse town, this is a stunning show. Such is their luck to have such a plum fall in their lap due to a former board member's friendship with the brother of Warhols' one-time “companion”, Jon Gould. Gould left in his estate – and the show includes – among other things, the complete Myths and Endangered Species series, two lovely pencil drawings of fish, painted with watercolor (very unusual for Warhol), a painting on which Warhol collaborated with Basquiat, and – from nearly 100,000 unpublished black and white photographs Warhol took in his “private” time (not his Polaroids) – about 50 prints which have their first public display here. To see a show of this quality on such an intimate scale is quite refreshing, though the museum's “production values” are a little lacking, and in some cases just bizarre. A passageway between two galleries (the museum was formerly the Brattleboro train station) is inexplicably masked in what looks to be aluminum foil. Everything in this small space – even wainscoting, doorknobs and light switches – appears hermetically sealed in crinkly, shiny silver, with idiotic strips dangling from the ceiling. Whatever.

In a darkened room off the main hall, Chuck Workman's Superstar runs in continuous loop. At close to 1.5 hours, though, the film is nearly impossible to watch in its entirety in this cramped room with inadequate seating. Better just to rent it or something once you get home.

We slipped into a Korean restaurant – Shin La – for a quick lunch. I had a nourishing bowl of bi bim bap and Mr. Mora had a bento-box type lunch special comprising a cucumber handroll, some spicy fried & sauced chicken, a glass noodle and vegetable affair, and some rice. With a beer each plus tip, just nudged $30.

Our last stop was Adivasi, and Indian Imports store, where I picked up a beautiful steel 8" masala dabba for $15.95, along with a few pounds of basmati rice and bag of mung dal. Adivasi carries some beautiful second-hand saris, and a lot of other lovely things, like rugs, pillows and jewelry.

I hope my quoting prices doesn't seem gauche; my intention is to give the reader a sense of the local economy.

#7 ranitidine

ranitidine

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 3,727 posts

Posted 10 January 2005 - 11:52 PM

Brattleboro has recently been inundated with shops peddling luxury bath & body products and home accessories; in the last 3 years, no less than 5 have sprouted up in the two-block downtown stretch. These shops seem to be the avant-garde of gentrification, so they may bode well for Brattleboro's future. Its past has been a bit shaky, so this is a good thing.

Haven't you ever heard the expression,"Be careful what you wish for. You may get it."?
"Say not the struggle nought availeth...."
Arthur Hugh Clough, 1819-1861

Arise ye prisoners of starvation
Arise ye wretched of the earth

#8 GG Mora

GG Mora

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 9,234 posts

Posted 11 January 2005 - 01:40 AM


Brattleboro has recently been inundated with shops peddling luxury bath & body products and home accessories; in the last 3 years, no less than 5 have sprouted up in the two-block downtown stretch. These shops seem to be the avant-garde of gentrification, so they may bode well for Brattleboro's future. Its past has been a bit shaky, so this is a good thing.

Haven't you ever heard the expression,"Be careful what you wish for. You may get it."?

Yes, of course.

I think Brattleboro has enough diversity to maintain its balance. It doesn't need to continue to be a haven for the anitestablishment to the exclusion of small retail successes.

#9 ranitidine

ranitidine

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 3,727 posts

Posted 11 January 2005 - 01:41 AM

You'll be sooooorrrry!
"Say not the struggle nought availeth...."
Arthur Hugh Clough, 1819-1861

Arise ye prisoners of starvation
Arise ye wretched of the earth

#10 Rail Paul

Rail Paul

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 19,199 posts

Posted 11 January 2005 - 02:43 AM

I can remember when Manchester Vermont was just a traffic light, a gas station, and two small diners at a crossroads. Now that it's a few thousand outlet stores, a major traffic bottleneck, and merits its own bypass highway, perhaps its 1965 residents could look back on that Elysian delight.

Of course, they sold their shacks for millions to the Gap, Ralph Lauren, Chelsea GCA, etc and are enjoying the good life seasonally in Florida and Utah...

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#11 GG Mora

GG Mora

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 9,234 posts

Posted 11 January 2005 - 01:45 PM

I'd like to think that couldn't happen to Brattleboro, but anything is possible. I do believe that there are a whole set of conditions that contributed to Manchester's development – chief among them the availability of undeveloped real estate within the downtown area coupled with a lack of land use regulations or a cogent town plan at the time – that don't exist in a town like Brattleboro. Also, Manchester now stands as an example to every other town in Vermont of what can happen without scrutinous planning and regulation, and is the focus of careful study for town managers around the state.

I've watched the descent of Manchester at close range (well, from about 12 miles out). I was here when the first outlet went up, when a developer bought a hardware store and got permits for improvements & a few months later, the hardware store had been leveled and there was a towering Crystal Palace on the site. All down hill from there. Pockets of sanity remain, but by and large, Manchester is a soulless hell. It's widely referred to among the locals as “Zippy”, since for real people with real needs, it's largely a big 0 (zip).

Here's a nasty little bit of Manchester history: about 15 years ago, a local business owner gave money to the town to build a small “park” in memory of his wife. The “park” consisted of about 500 sq. ft. of plantings and concrete with a bench in the middle, all tucked between two parking lots along Main St. It became a meeting place for local high-school kids, since there was absolutely nowhere else in town for them to hang. So they would congregate there with their skateboards, and sit around on the bench smoking cigarettes and drinking soda (honest...the ones who were smoking dope and drinking beer had the good sense to do it at someone's house). Town officials considered this a threat to local commerce, thinking that Hummer-driving Giorgio Armani shoppers might be put off by long-haired baggy-pantsed kids hanging around on the streets, and would stop coming to Zippy to spend their money. So you know what they did? They ripped out the concrete and the bench and planted more bushes, so the space can no longer actually be used for anything. Yeah. Ripped out a memorial to a dead woman so that the children of people who live here year round and pay taxes could be displaced in favor of the shopping crowd. Neat, huh?

#12 Rail Paul

Rail Paul

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 19,199 posts

Posted 11 January 2005 - 02:56 PM

Without digressing into political themes best discussed elsewhere, I've always believed an active, engaged citizenry is the best defense against the despotism you've described. Doesn't always work perfectly, but better than most.

Works with restaurants, too. Engaged diners, willing to give candid feedback, and vote with their bucks, support the kind of chefs they deserve.

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#13 GG Mora

GG Mora

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 9,234 posts

Posted 11 January 2005 - 03:09 PM

Manchester has a very active, engaged citizenry. I am a very active, engaged citizen, but not of Manchester. I can attend all the meetings I want and make my voice heard, but I can't vote on the issues there.

I am active and engaged and vote in the town of Londonderry.

#14 Rail Paul

Rail Paul

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 19,199 posts

Posted 11 January 2005 - 04:20 PM

Manchester has a very active, engaged citizenry. I am a very active, engaged citizen, but not of Manchester. I can attend all the meetings I want and make my voice heard, but I can't vote on the issues there.

I am active and engaged and vote in the town of Londonderry.

My comment was not meant to be critical of you, merely that the citizens of Manchester must be comfortable with their government, or they would have thrown them out already. From your description of what they did with the park, tarring and feathering might have been more appropriate. :rolleyes:

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#15 9lives

9lives

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 1,025 posts

Posted 15 January 2005 - 03:36 PM

While Manchester, VT seems to be now known for outlet stores, when I think of Manchester I think of golf. 2 great courses..Manchester Country Club and the Equinox..a Rockefeller resort that's been there forever.

Of course, I'm coming as a visitor..not a resident.

http://equinox.rockresorts.com/