Thursday, November 21, 2013

Burlington and Montpelier

Blog VT

So one day ("95 wet chilly miles ...") got its very own blog entry, and now two and a half weeks will also get just one entry.  My blog, my rules :)

Once I got to Montpelier and ate a warm wonderful meal with Twylla, I was whisked up to her house in the hills where she lives with her partner Casey, two cats, and one old Siena dog.  It's a lively and cozy home with a view of a classic Vermont mountain valley.  I would be spending the next two and a half weeks between this home and a couple in Burlington.  For the ease of reading and writing this long blog, I will divide it into thematic sections as follows (rather than chronologically):

Banjo and Busking
The one thing I did the most in VT, besides spending time with Twylla, Casey, and Vicky (another Body Mind Staffer), was singing with my banjo on church street in Burlington. The very first day I arrived to town, I found out the regulations, then went to audition for a permit.  I just so happened to be there at the one time of the week that such auditions are available, so it seemed auspicious enough!  After I sat and played a song for the permit-granting committee, one man said, "is that a song of yours?  Do you have a CD I can buy?!"  I figured they would let me hang around!

Armed with my daily permit (you need to get daily permits for the first few times you play, before you can get an annual one), I set out to find a place to sing.  Church street is a 5-block pedestrian mall, with slow traffic crossing every block.  Because it was getting chilly out, fewer establishments has outdoor seating, so I would just set up where it felt nice and quiet but traveled.

To sum it up, I challenged myself to adapt all the songs I could to the banjo, and as a result definitely picked up my banjo chops (at least as an accompanying instrument).  I remember the last time i busked in Boston when I was 20, and made a consistent $5/hr.  I was happy to find a very receptive audience on church st, and would make $50-100 for just an hour or two of playing!   It helps having a CD to sell.  Weekends were of course busier, and I can only imagine what it's like in the summer!

The best part of busking is that you get to really connect with people who connect with the music you're making.  So many people stop and smile and dance that it becomes highly nourishing to the entertainer.  Kids and grandparents and teenagers and college students and babies, tourists and homeless folks, everyone is on the same plane on the street.  What a gift to get to sing hopeful or danceable or moving songs for everyone!

Sometimes I'd get nice gifts in my banjo case, like a full box of artisan chocolates from the store next door, or a matchbox cover that gives a compelling definition of happiness (I don't smoke it's brought a couple smiles to people who have asked me for a light!). But the best was a paper box - with a beautiful poem on it, sealed at each corner with a fancy sticker, and filled with raspberries, a pastry, and a green Vermont sticker (now on my banjo case) - from a neighboring vendor on my first day.

Vicky wasn't in town until my second week, but she would come sing with me sometimes.  Which was fun because I could just play banjo or sing harmonies, and also fun because people who know her haven't heard her sing before!  It's a great venue.

The only time I performed in a traditional venue was at RadioBean in Burlington.  It's a great cafe and bar with often several music acts every day!  When I played on a Sunday evening, there were a few friends who came to see me, and many people who just happened to be there and were listening quite intently!  Played the entire set on banjo, which was a good first.  Oh and someone actually bought a cd without hearing a single note (I hope he enjoyed it).  Oh and maybe now is a good moment to mention to anyone who got a CD from me along these travels - please drop a line, I would love to hear from you!  I don't even care if you liked the album or not!

So yes, busking was great, probably went out 7 or 8 times.  Hoping to do more elsewhere, but Burlington may have spoiled me!

Land, Horses, and Hot Tub
Twylla and Casey just got a big piece of land near Montpelier, and seeing it was a big motivation for me to get up there.  They have a small high-efficiency off-grid house in the works, and a large barn following close behind.  Should be a great home.

The land is bordered by state forest land and Hunger Mtn.  We took a couple great hikes toward the mountain, and also a walk up the perennial creek on the land.  Didn't spend quite as much time exploring the land, because we took on building a wood-fired hot tub kit.  It was an endeavor, though quite fun, but let's just say that the instructions weren't in touch with reality at all times.  Like when it said "2 ppl 4-6 hrs" (actually 3-4 ppl 4-6 hrs for 3 or 4 days?), or "use all except for the one extra stave of wood" (actually use them all).  I left having filled it a couple times to seal the cracks, and lit one fire, but no soak!

I got to meet the two horses who will soon inhabit the barn, one stubborn older and experienced horse and one super-affectionate colt.  Hazel and Zelda.

I didn't spend a lot of time in vt's capital city, but the very last day I was there, I discovered the most fantastic tea room and herbal apothecary.  Can't recall the name now.  Oh, Tulsi Tea Room.  Go there, can't get much better.  I'm no restaurant critic though so I'll leave it at that.

Speaking of tea rooms, Dobra tea in Burlington is amazing.  Eastern vibe, cozy, enormous tea selection, good music, etc ... I would go there every day of my life if I could.  Or to Tulsi ....  So it is.

VT Vices
So Vermont has a strong culture of pride in its local foods.  It's an incredible thing, and I absolutely stuffed myself with wholesome local staples and treats.  But it's also problematic when there I'd such abundance of high quality chocolates, ciders, gluten free baked goods, gf beers, meat meat meat, coffee, etc ....  If I lived in Vermont I would have to change my policy of, if it's local and well-made, you should eat it.  Lines must be drawn for health's sake.  Oh and a whole shelf of sake selections at the co-op, that's just not fair.

I was convinced to stay a little longer so that I could take part in Halloween celebrations.  Not my favorite holiday, but this was a nice one i spent as a garden gnome.  Who turned out to be a British gnome when Harry Potter (Twylla) showed up.  And a ninja (Vicky) had our backs.  We were also rolling with Slash and a Piñata for a while.

Circus and Big Freedia
A Montreal circus came to town, which was completely mind-blowing.  Cirque Eloize .... I can't even begin ... The second scene involved a woman spinning like a coin, holding herself inside a giant hula hoop, and for uncertain reasons it was the most moving piece of dance I've ever seen.  Then everyone proceeded to defy physics and normal capacity of the human body.  That's as much of a review as I can give, I'll look for a video to share later.

We also ended up at a Big Freedia show, which is beyond words in another way.  A lot (a lot) of booty shaking and some incredible dancers.

Other highlights:
Saw my friend Lloyd who just got engaged! We had a good sing-a along and caught up.

Wrote one full song and a chorus of another!

Climbed mt philo on a beautiful windy evening, and went to the lake front a couple different places.  Cartwheels and yoga with Twylla and Vicky!

Updated my very cold sneakers to very warn and waterproof hiking boots!

Sent home to myself a solid 10 lbs of weight from my bike load.

Change of plans to escape VT
So I had planned to hop on an amtrak train to Baltimore, and even went to find a free cardboard bicycle box so I could try to play by their rules. But their rules are not exactly encouraging to cyclists.  Anyway, I couldn't even get my pedals off to disassemble my bike, and so I reassessed.  Looked for rides on craigslist, and eventually just caught a ride with Vicky to Philadelphia, via her lively hometown in CT.

I must say that trying to do this blogging on a phone is not easy or conducive to me telling full stories.  And I'm really itching to tell about my days currently on the Blue Ridge Parkway!  It's great out here ....  Well, cheers for now!  Next entry will cover Philly to Winchester and start of the blue ridge.

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