Glover Day honors a local vaudevillian

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Sophia Cannizzaro gazes in shock and awe at the Golden Barbie trophy she and Susie Perkins won for their rendition of “The Little Waif” at the Johnnie Prindle song contest.  Ms. Cannizzaro left after her rendition of the tragic ballad and returned to find that she had become the proud owner of the coveted award.

Sophia Cannizzaro gazes in shock and awe at the Golden Barbie trophy she and Susie Perkins won for their rendition of “The Little Waif” at the Johnnie Prindle song contest. Ms. Cannizzaro left after her rendition of the tragic ballad and returned to find that she had become the proud owner of the coveted award.  Photos by Joseph Gresser

by Joseph Gresser 

GLOVER — An annual community event with a weight of tradition always faces the risk of becoming stodgy.  Glover Day, with its Chamberlain Run, bicycle race and puppet show re-enacting the story of Runaway Pond, could easily become a snooze.  But the citizens of Glover are too resourceful to allow that to happen.

For the 2013 edition of the town celebration Glover mined a new vein of history and came up with a unique competition — the Johnnie Prindle lookalike and song contest.  In the latter part of the nineteenth century Mr. Prindle was a successful vaudeville performer, who, when not touring the country, made his home in Glover.

Earlier this year a group of his descendants presented a collection of his papers to the Glover Historical Society.  That was the inspiration for this year’s contest, which brought out a group of talented performers each trying to outdo the others as they played and sang some of the songs that brought Mr. Prindle fame and some degree of fortune.

Glover Selectman Jack Sumberg served as the master of ceremonies for the contest, and introduced a novel mode of deciding its winner — the “silent clap-o-meter.”  Mr. Sumberg and his partner in judgment, Linda Elbow, claimed to be able to detect the enthusiasm felt by spectators as they thought about applauding for contestants in the lookalike competition.  He did not reveal the method by which the judges reached their verdict on the best performance of a Johnnie Prindle song.

The first Johnnie Prindle song competition brings out the best competitors.  Here, from left to right, Joan Alexander, Lynne Birdsall, and Celia Latham vamp and preen for their adoring fans as they sing “Ma’s So ’Fraid We’ll Get Stole,” a warning of the dangers faced by those too amply supplied with beauty.

The first Johnnie Prindle song competition brings out the best competitors. Here, from left to right, Joan Alexander, Lynne Birdsall, and Celia Latham vamp and preen for their adoring fans as they sing “Ma’s So ’Fraid We’ll Get Stole,” a warning of the dangers faced by those too amply supplied with beauty.

Mr. Prindle’s songs were written in a wide variety of styles, and some were clearly not intended to be performed by him.  One that was, though, was “I’m Not As Green As I Look,” a piece used in his personation of Ruben Glue, a hayseed from Glover.

Bread and Puppet stalwart Jason Hicks, outfitted in a seersucker jacket and top hat, was backed by Lily Paulina on baritone horn and Hannah Temple on accordion.  Mr. Hicks was progressively drenched by Erin Bell, in accord with the admonition repeated in the song’s chorus — “Let’s push it down into the brook.”

When Mr. Hicks finished the song Ms. Bell threw him over her shoulder and ran off with him toward the Barton River.  He returned, soaked to the skin, during the second act on the bill.

That was a winsome trio made up of Joan Alexander, Lynne Birdsall and Celia Latham vamping their way through “Ma’s So ’Fraid We’ll Get Stole.”  As they peered over their fans and flirted with the audience, Ma’s fears appeared to be well founded.

Geoff Goodhue does his best Johnnie Prindle impression.  He was awarded a pair of sunglasses bearing the image of the Glover vaudevillian for his role in the first Johnnie Prindle song contest at Glover Day on Saturday.

Geoff Goodhue does his best Johnnie Prindle impression. He was awarded a pair of sunglasses bearing the image of the Glover vaudevillian for his role in the first Johnnie Prindle song contest at Glover Day on Saturday.

Johnnie Prindle’s attempt at topical satire was taken on by Geoff Goodhue.  With accompaniment by Lindsay McCaw and bubbles provided by Maura Gahan, Mr. Goodhue sang about a series of impossibilities including police officers making a hundred dollars a day and women getting the vote.

These and other amazing eventualities were predicted to happen “Not this year, but some other year.”

When Susie Perkins and Sophia Cannizzaro took the stage in tatterdemalion with dirt-smudged faces, the program took a sharp turn toward the pathetic.  Accompanied by Ms. Cannizzaro’s fiddle, Ms. Perkins shook a small tin with a few coins in it as the pair sang “The Little Waif.”

Their rendition of the tear-jerker was affecting enough that members of the audience spontaneously left their seats to add coppers to Ms. Perkins small store of wealth, much to the performers’ surprise.  They pulled in enough over the course of the song for Ms. Cannizzaro to buy a refreshing ice cream cone.

Greg Corbino accompanied himself on accordion as he asked the musical question “Who Am I?”  The enigmatic song was billed as Mr. Prindle’s great specialty, but Mr. Corbino, who performed the chorus as a sing-along, failed to supply the answer.

The contest concluded as Lila Winstead sang a sad piano bench song to a lunch bucket.  Ms. Winstead said Mr. Prindle wrote the many, many verses of

Dameon Russell is congratulated at the end of the 2013 Chamberlain Run.  Mr. Russell, who hails from Newport, finished with a time of 31:02.  Second place finisher Max Lockwood of Washington, D.C., trailed by more than half a minute with a time of 31:40.

Dameon Russell is congratulated at the end of the 2013 Chamberlain Run. Mr. Russell, who hails from Newport, finished with a time of 31:02. Second place finisher Max Lockwood of Washington, D.C., trailed by more than half a minute with a time of 31:40.

“The Little Tin Bucket” in an apparent attempt to capitalize on the market for sentimental ballads.  She said she remains unsure whether the Glover tunesmith was copying the trend or satirizing it.

Mr. Sumberg’s silent clap-o-meter determined that Mr. Goodhue was the person who bore the closest resemblance to Mr. Prindle and awarded him a set of sunglasses ornamented with a steel-cut engraving of the master.

Ms. Perkins and Ms. Cannizzaro took the golden Barbie trophy as best interpreter of Mr. Prindle’s songs.

Leah Frost streaks toward the finish line of the Chamberlain Run Saturday.  With a time of 32:55, Ms. Frost ended the eight-year reign of Tara Nelson as Glover’s fastest woman.  Ms. Nelson finished with an excellent time — 35:12 — and took fourth place overall in the race.  Ms. Frost was third.

Leah Frost streaks toward the finish line of the Chamberlain Run Saturday. With a time of 32:55, Ms. Frost ended the eight-year reign of Tara Nelson as Glover’s fastest woman. Ms. Nelson finished with an excellent time — 35:12 — and took fourth place overall in the race. Ms. Frost was third.

Other Glover Day novelties included the defeat of Tara Nelson for the title of fastest woman in the 5.5-mile Chamberlain Run.  Ms. Nelson had held that distinction since 2005, but was outpaced this year by Leah Frost.

Ms. Frost is from Maine, but plans to remain in the area and has been engaged by North Country Union High School to coach its cross-country team.

Red Sky Trading Company attracted a big crowd as owner Cheri Safford played host to a celebration of local foods.  Visitors were able to sample from a farm-to-table tasting menu featuring locally made cheeses and meats, along with produce from local farms.  Bethany Dunbar also read from Kingdom’s Bounty, her illustrated catalog of local food producers, to provide context for the meal.

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

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Tea Leaves explores the mother-daughter relationship

tea leavesby Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle 5-15-2013

Tea Leaves; a memoir of mothers and daughters, by Janet Mason, published by Bella Books, Tallahassee, Florida, 2012, paperback, 202 pages, $15.95.

I celebrated Mother’s Day pretty quietly this year.  My own mother died a little more than a year ago, so it was a time to think of her, which I always do anyway.  My thoughtful adult son came to see me with a basket of flowers.  My thoughtful boyfriend took me out and gave me flowers.  I had spent the week before with my thoughtful adult daughter in California seeing some great new music, some killer whales, and trying — completely unsuccessfully — not to freak out over traffic in Los Angeles.

To pass the time while waiting for airplanes on my way out and back, I brought with me a small paperback I thought might be good to read at this time.  It came to me last fall, when the author gave a talk at the Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick.  Since the death of my own mom was so recent, I had to set this book aside.  A book about a daughter my age taking care of her dying mother was a bit too much for me right then.

Yet, I was intrigued by the parts I’d read.  And I was glad to have it with me on this trip some months later.  Now I’m glad to recommend it as the kind of book that makes you think about your own life.  What’s right with your relationships with your mother and your daughter?  What’s wrong and why?  What doesn’t really matter?  Sometimes reading other people’s experiences puts your own into perspective.

Janet Mason is a talented and honest writer.  Her relationship with her own mother was not perfect, which of course is what makes the book interesting.  More interesting is the fact she is willing to explore the imperfections without dwelling on them and becoming one of those victim writers whose memoirs I can never quite stand to read.

Life is hard.  Being a mother is hard.  Nobody’s really ready for it when she gets the job, no matter how much you might have read or planned.  It’s just not like anything else, and you can’t really prepare.

But somehow the species keeps managing to perpetuate.  Somehow some of us seem willing to take that plunge and become parents.  We do our best, whatever that is.

Ms. Mason was an only child.  Her grandmother and mother were factory workers.  She was the first generation to go to college, and that in itself puts a certain amount of pressure on.  The politics are not the same through the generations, and neither is the sexual orientation.  Ms. Mason is a lesbian, and while that might have put a strain on some mother-daughter relationships it wasn’t a big issue for her mom, who was open-minded in this respect.  The family supports and loves Ms. Mason’s partner, their “unexpected daughter-in-law.”

Ms. Mason’s mother was, herself, a bit of a rabble-rouser and one to question authority or the status quo in general:

When I was old enough, she sometimes took me with her, the two of us marching and attending rallies, waving our matching mother/daughter coat hangers at pro-choice events.  I was the less adventurous one — hanging back and watching with something bordering on amazement as my mother heckled the hecklers and squeezed the balloon testicles of a Ronald Reagan cardboard cutout.

Ms. Mason’s grandmother was a lifelong Republican and Episcopalian, yet she, in her own way, questioned the status quo by getting a divorce in the 1920s and raising her children herself in a time when many other single mothers were forced to give theirs up.

Ms. Mason’s mother developed cancer, which was misdiagnosed at first.  By the time she found out what it was, the disease had spread too far and the diagnosis was terminal.  From then on Ms. Mason spends much of her time with her mother and father.

At first it’s hard for Ms. Mason to understand and accept that her mother is dying:

The next day we had an appointment to see the oncologist whose office complex was next to a shopping mall.  As I sat in the backseat of my parents’ car, I felt lost in long loops, off-and-on-ramps that seemed to go nowhere.  I was subsumed in a hard glittering sense of doom — deep in a nightmare that would not let me wake.

A theme of the book is a mother’s hopes for her daughter — hopes that she will do better, or accomplish more, or accomplish something the mother was not able to do.  Ms. Mason’s mother had very strong feelings about this, and sometimes Ms. Mason feels she has not lived up to her mother’s dreams for her.  Meanwhile Ms. Mason’s mother was a woman of artistic talent and interest, but who needed to work at a basic job to support her family.  Ms. Mason finds a portfolio stashed away with no artwork in it, which leads to feelings of guilt — did she get in the way of what could have been her mother’s success as an artist?

She finds something else to hold on to in these final months — and for long after her mother is gone.  It’s a “School Years” book with report cards and pictures from each grade:

She always asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I wrote it down each year.  It didn’t matter how ridiculous or remote the possibility was.  In first grade I wanted to be a fireman, later a violinist, a gypsy, a scientist, a comedienne, an oceanographer, a guitar player in a jazz band.

My mother let my dreams be dreams.  She did not expect consistency or demand a discipline that would eclipse my childhood.  No one ever asked my mother what she wanted to be when she grew up.  But she asked me every year and wrote down my answers.  As I watched my mother slipping away from me — as painful as it was, day after day — the thought of this book, filled with my earliest dreams and aspirations, was something for me to hold onto.

A simple thing that meant so much.  Tea Leaves is a simple book with a lot to offer.  It’s about figuring out your future, your past and your present.

contact Bethany M. Dunbar at bethany@bartonchronicle.com.

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Guzman experiences homelessness to highlight the issue

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copyright the Chronicle 3-27-2013

Luis Guzman introduces his movie about homelessness, The Nimby Project.  Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

Luis Guzman introduces his movie about homelessness, The Nimby Project. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Bethany M. Dunbar

JAY — When Luis Guzman was growing up in the Lower East Side of New York City, his mother always made too much supper for the family.

Every night, she packed up the leftovers and gave them to her son to take under the bridge to homeless people.

“That’s how my mom raised me,” he told people who came out to see his new movie at the Foeger Ballroom at Jay Peak Friday night.

Called The Nimby Project, it’s a documentary showing Mr. Guzman’s three days living in disguise as a homeless person in the city where he grew up and worked as a social worker before going into acting.

The idea for the film was born one evening in the city, when Mr. Guzman — who lives part of the time in Sutton — was hanging out with an old friend who grew up here, Tim Kavanagh.  The two came up with the idea, and as Mr. Kavanagh put it, “It just flowered from there.”

The movie was made by Pick it up! Pictures.  Jacquelyn Aluotto is the producer and director and chief executive officer of the company, whose mission is to address homelessness, domestic violence, and associated social issues through film.

Ms. Aluotto’s touch has made The Nimby Project more than a straight documentary.  The film is informative, but it’s also quite beautiful — it shifts from color to black and white, shows grainy dark images at times and intricate details at other times.  Blues guitar music is in the background.

Statistics and quotes are shown in between scenes of Mr. Guzman’s efforts to find a place to sleep, some food, and to get people walking by to notice his cardboard signs.  “Love is your Legacy” says one.

Mr. Guzman discussed the project before the premiere showing Friday, answered all questions afterwards, and hung out to just chat with the people who came out.  Proceeds from the premiere event went to Northeast Kingdom Youth Services, which helps youth in transition.  Last year the service helped 34 homeless youth, said Marion Stuart, the executive director.

Lexie Shaw, a teen Miss America contest winner from Chittenden County, read a poem she wrote about homelessness.

The Nimby Project film will be a headliner at the Soho International Film Festival in New York on April 6.

Mr. Guzman said that once he had decided to go homeless for a couple of days, he began to think about how to prepare for that experience.  First of all, his producers talked him into making it three days instead of two.  He would wear a microphone, and there would be security within view but not immediately close to him.

He thought to himself, maybe I should eat less, sleep less, stop shaving, keep socks on for a week, sleep on the floor.

He finally ended up deciding it wasn’t something he could really prepare for.  “I just kind of dove into it.”

He got some hair and makeup work done so people would not recognize him.  He wore a wool cap and thick glasses, a ripped shirt, and he carried a backpack.  He said he got into an argument with his producers, who wanted him to engage with the actual homeless people and get their stories.  Instead, he wanted to just experience it himself.  Also, he said, a lot of homeless people are extremely territorial.

“You just can’t go into their space,” he said.

One of his first stops was a food pantry, where he was given a bag of food, including raw broccoli and other vegetables.

“Eggplant I would not recommend eating raw,” he said.  But the broccoli was good to have.

After that, he headed out onto the streets.  Very quickly, he began to realize that people do not look at a homeless person or acknowledge his or her existence, for the most part.

“You’re a nobody.  Dogs notice me more than people,” he said.

Out of 1,000 people who walked by, one or two would say hello, and a couple of people handed him some money, although he did not ask for it.

The first night he had to find a place to try to sleep.  He found some shelter in a nook near a bus stop, but real sleep was not possible.  Even though he knew he had security around, the city noises and the hard ground kept him awake.

The second and third days of his adventure, sleep deprivation was a big factor.

“What you end up with basically is a broken kind of sleep,” he said.  On one of the nights, he slept in a church,

“Today feels like a very weird day,” he said into the microphone on the second day.  “It’s like I just don’t even exist today.”

Walking by the United Nations, he considered going inside and making a statement:  “I am a citizen of the world, and I would like to address the assembly.”

He decided against it.

“I often think of what kind of world we’re leaving our children, and it sucks right now,” he said into the microphone.

One the second or third day, he made a cardboard sign that said, “I See you.  See me?”

He sat on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum and finally, what he was waiting for:  a woman came up to him and said, “I see you.”

After the film he said that was the highlight of his three-day experience.  The worst part — a bad hot dog given to him by a street vendor when he didn’t have quite enough money to pay for one.  The hot dog was not cooked or went bad somehow, and it made him sick.

Mr. Guzman said he walked about 30 miles in three days because, for the most part, he just felt like the best thing to do was to keep moving.

One man said he looked familiar, and another actually recognized him.  A young man came up to him and said, “You look like Luis Guzman.”  Mr. Guzman told the young man he WAS Luis Guzman and they were working on a documentary about homelessness.

After the film, Mr. Guzman was asked why he told the man the truth.  He said he decided he wanted to be honest, and by then he had been out on the streets ignored for a long enough time that it felt really good to be recognized.

“I needed to acknowledge the fact that somebody recognized me,” he said.

Mr. Guzman said he learned a lot from the experience, and he hopes it will help draw attention to the problem.  He met people who were homeless even though they had nine-to-five jobs.

“Not every homeless person is a nut job,” he said, asking those in the audience to consider how easy it would be to become homeless.  For some, it’s a matter of losing a job, a spouse, or a parent.

Mr. Guzman said making this movie was “the most amazing thing outside of being a dad that I’ve ever done.”

In his mother’s tradition, Mr. Guzman takes his four adopted children and one birth child to volunteer at soup kitchens on Thanksgiving Day.

He said he knows that people can’t give every homeless person they walk by a dollar, but sometimes a simple acknowledgement of their existence could be a bright spot in that person’s day.  If you don’t have money, you can volunteer or bring clean, folded clothing you don’t need to a homeless shelter.

Mr. Guzman has appeared in more than 60 movies, including Crocodile Dundee 2, Carlito’s Way, Traffic, Anger Management, Fast Food Nation, and Disappearances based on Howard Mosher’s book.  He’s also been in advertisements for “naturally aged cheddar hunks” for Cabot Creamery.

He told the audience at Jay that he’s been in Vermont for 20 years so he is no longer a flatlander.  The Northeast Kingdom is a “beautiful, wonderful place for children to grow up,” he said.

“When I first moved to Vermont, everybody thought I was crazy ’cause I was a New York City boy.”

But he loved it here, especially after learning how to build a fire and some things about predicting the weather.  He said he tried and tried to build a fire and when he finally could do it, he was so excited.

“I was down to my last match that day,” he said.

He came to Vermont first to Goddard College and decided he really liked the people, who he said are cool and laid back.

He said he learned that when the cows lie down or the tree branches’ bottoms show, it’s going to rain.  He told his city friends, who laughed at him until they found out he was right.

Some statistics from The Nimby Project:

Three million Americans are homeless.  One thousand soup kitchens turn away 2,500 people every day.  One million, four hundred thousand people in New York City rely on foodshelves.  The average age of death for a homeless person is 47 for men, 43 for women.  Every 53 minutes a child dies from poverty.

Also from the movie, a quote from Mother Theresa:

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”

Mr. Guzman said he was humbled by his three-day homeless experience, and grateful for his own real life and his family.

contact Bethany M. Dunbar at bethany@bartonchronicle.com

 

 

 

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Lydia Spitzer Demonstration Forest dedicated

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northwoods spitzer2

Lydia Spitzer cuts the garland created for grand opening of the demonstration forest named in her honor. The garland was made by NorthWoods Stewardship Center program assistant Meg Carter because it seemed more appropriate than cutting a ribbon. Left to right are NorthWoods Stewardship Center board president Nancy Engels, operations manager Jayson Benoit, Ms. Carter, Ms. Spitzer, and Sam Perron, NorthWoods’ sustainable forestry specialist. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle 2-6-2013

CHARLESTON — “I can’t imagine anything I would be more proud to be associated with,” said Lydia Spitzer at the dedication of the Lydia Spitzer Demonstration Forest at the NorthWoods Stewardship Center on Friday.

Ms. Spitzer donated 1,300 acres to the center in 2008.  She had donated conservation easements to the Vermont Land Trust in 2007.  It is the largest donation the land trust has ever received, Tracy Zschau, regional director of the trust, said Friday.

“All I did was buy a piece of land a long time ago,” said Ms. Spitzer.

She said when she bought the land in 1993, she had thought she might be a visionary entrepreneur and start an enterprise with a school, trails, and other features that would support nature, forestry, and conservation.

She said by her fiftieth birthday when she had not done it, she thought it might be better to connect with her neighbors instead.  Coincidentally Bill Manning had created the Vermont Leadership Center in 1989 with some of the same goals in mind.  In the beginning the center owned no land at all, but in 2005 it got about 100 acres.  The name and structure changed and the center became the NorthWoods Stewardship Center.

Ms. Spitzer has been more than a neighbor all along — more like a friend and fan.  She described her relationship with the center as: “the absolute joy of being in love with this organization.”

She said the staff and board of NorthWoods are the ones who should get the credit, along with her grandfather, Ward Canaday, who made money during World War II with a company called the Willis Overland company that produced Jeeps used in the war.

Mr. Canaday made enough money to start a large trust, and the Canaday Trust has supported lots of arts and educational causes over the years.  In the fall, the NorthWoods Stewardship Center was awarded a grant from Canaday of $185,000 to create the Forest Stewardship Institute.  The grant will cover staff and the institute’s purpose will be to teach sustainable forestry practices to landowners and others.

There are already some hiking trails on the land, and plans are to make some more and link the existing trails, said Trails Coordinator Luke O’Brien.  The land stretches over Tripp Hill to the shore of Echo Lake, where there is one trail already.

When Ms. Spitzer first bought the land, most of it had been cut off with little old growth remaining.  One of her goals was to improve its value for forestry as well as educational purposes.

Mr. O’Brien said there were, at one time, 30 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails, but they were too expensive to maintain as groomed trails.  The new trails will be more likely ungroomed, basically self-service access to the land.

Logging roads will become available as trails as well, he said, for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and hiking and horseback riding in the summer.

Mr. Benoit said the plans are to build a bunk house and more parking lots and access spots over time.  There are three new kiosks with information and a map, and three more are planned.

The institute will be working with the land trust and local Audubon societies, Mr. Benoit said.

Ms. Spitzer lives in North Pomfret.  She has a kitchen designing business called Design Discovery.  She said the land is beautiful, but as an absentee landowner it’s been difficult to keep an eye on it.

“There’s a lovely swamp.  And somebody was putting out half a cow carcass,” she said, to bait coyotes to shoot.  It’s an activity she didn’t like but it was hard to do anything about it from North Pomfret.

Donating the land is a win-win, she said.

“There is nothing I could have done with it that would be better,” she said.  “It’s nice for me.”

NorthWoods Operations Manager Jayson Benoit spoke on behalf of the center, and presented Ms. Spitzer with an ash walking stick.  The NorthWoods Stewardship Center has four permanent full-time employees and other seasonal help.  In the summer there are 80 people working at the center, including the Conservation Corp student workers.

He said the center is approaching its twenty-fifth anniversary and has recently developed a recreation plan and new mission statement.

After each brief speech on Friday there was a round of applause, which included enthusiastic barking by the dogs on hand.  Two of them were Ms. Spitzer’s golden doodles, which are half golden retriever and half standard poodle.  They are named Milo and Hopper.

For more information, see the center’s website: www.northwoodscenter.org

contact Bethany M. Dunbar at bethany@bartonchronicle.com

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Featuring pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital  editions.

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