We arrive Saturday afternoon and I have a chance to hula hoop with my beautiful poet Verandah Porche, my nieces and nephew and incomparable great-niece Sadie, and other old friends after one of them, Nan, comes up with a colorful set of huge (i.e., easily circulated around our bodies) hula hoops made of hose filled with water and wrapped with gorgeous tapes. Despite a break of about 50 years, within minutes I can get it up to my neck and then onto my wrist and finally back to my waist, such as it is, followed by a tall cool drink and an hour’s rest.
I cross the country road to the home of Gilbert and Susan, where I’m staying. Gilbert is as great at feeding friends as he is at restoring antiques and entertaining guests at the schoolhouse he restored which is now one of the most unique, sought-after vacation rentals in Vermont. Run don’t walk and then relax in the hot tub.Dinner is served in this antique home full of old beauties of the living and inanimate kinds. We have lamb chops as tall as towers, a potato salad in which the potatoes fight with a garden full of veggies for attention, height-of-the-season corn on the cob, a caprese salad made with tomatoes that have been picked moments earlier and somehow we still manage to ingest Gil’s homemade shortcake topped with succulent raspberries and peaches drowned in thick vanilla ice cream.
Sunday morning we head back across the country lane to pile into a car with “my” kids to negotiate the unpaved mountain roads down to the entrance of Brattleboro, about a half hour away, where an ex-computer geek has set up a roadside trailer selling organic hotdogs and fruit sodas all from local meat and produce. The stuff ain’t too shabby, so stop by Black Bear.
The weekend occasion is the launch of the new CD “Come Over” by my favorite band “The Dysfunctional Family Jazz Band” as a fundraiser for an anti-nuclear organization close to the hearts of the community. I’ve been invited to introduce the band – a pretty big assembly for this auspicious occasion – so I wander around the deck of Gil and Susan’s house overlooking the pond practicing my blurbs for the individuals. I apply mascara and plump up my cleavage in anticipation of being on the same stage as these stars.
There are about a dozen houses up and down this mountain holding good neighbors and old friends. The women climb Belden Hill together every morning, sometimes six of them and two dogs, sometimes three of them and one infant, sometimes two of them in intimate chat. The men can neither imagine making it up there nor understand why to try. But they do have a sense of how much this daily ritual keeps the community together and the women lookin’ so fine. Me? No, I skip it. I never manage to bring the right shoes with me.
Wherever I go among the neighbors, and there’s movement all the time, there are pies abaking and freshly picked fruit on offer and folks showing me their cantaloupes on the vine or feeding me cherry tomatoes that were surely candy in a previous life. Verandah makes me a pie of my very own out of fresh blueberries and handmade crust and I secret it away to bring back to Boston for a private orgy.
At 3:00 people from the rural neighborhood, the surrounding towns and loyal fans from as far away as New York gather on the massive lawn of Tree Frog Farm, up the road, for a potluck fundraising event generously coupled to the CD launch of “Come Over.”
I am myself a bit of a groupie for this band, based on the talents of Patty Carpenter (singer extraordinaire, eye candy and group glue), her daughter Melissa Shetler (brilliant songbird and accomplished human) and Scotty Shetler, Patty’s ex and Melissa’s father, the musical arranger and commander of a plethora of instruments. They are joined by Travis Light, Patty’s son with Chuck Light (the CD producer), a mesmerizing bass player in from California for the occasion. This Dysfunctional Family are surrounded on the stage by a selection of top-rate backup musicians and the singular Verandah Porche, spoken word maestro and precious person with whom Patty wrote the album’s songs. As the MC of introductions, my little bit is quickly completed, and I get to groove to the music of this amazing band and then wait in line for my signed copy of the CD.
The food is sick good, although I mainly dine on Gil’s lasagna and then Verandah’s peach pie. Just can’t do any better than that. It’s time to get back to Boston, two hours away, as I am up early tomorrow for work. I wonder why I don’t live with these people I’ve loved since 1965 (for some) or since they were born, and then I notice people stacking wood, weeding long rows of future foodstuffs, brushing bees away from the food, gathering apples up and squishing them into cider, boiling fruit for preserving, cutting acres of grass – and this is only summer. Oh yes, I’m too damned lazy to do much more than drop by and get my dose of lovin’ before skulking back to my apartment building and concrete reality.
Thanks to Barry Hock for the use of his photos of the event.