robertisenberg

Small-Town Celebrities

In Vermont on June 23, 2009 at 12:00 am

Christmas in Vermont 020 

When my parents first came to Vermont in the 1970’s, they stopped at a service-station. The state was crawling with hippies and bohemian drop-outs by that time, so it made sense that the owners used the station to sell home-made ice-cream. The two owners were old friends, a guy named Ben Cohen and a guy named Jerry Greenfield.

Today, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is a global, multi-billion dollar corporation. And Cherry Garcia is delicious.

For such a tiny state, Vermont is packed with celebrities. Michael J. Fox and David Mamet have houses in the Green Mountains, and they have each contributed to Vermont-themed movies.

In my childhood winters, I would take ski-trips to Breadloaf, home of the Breadloaf Writers Conference, and skate-ski to Robert Frost’s mountain home. It’s fitting that Frost’s domicile is an isolated building, given how thoroughly the man suffered at the hands of other people. Small wonder, after losing most of his family and committing his sister to a mental hospital, that Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

For the Middlebury Community Players, I performed in a production of Dracula with David Moats, who soon after won a Pulitzer Prize (and state’s first Pulitzer for journalism). The next year, I performed in Follies with Ron Powers, who won the first-ever Pulitzer Prize for TV criticism and co-wrote Flags of Our Fathers. I went to elementary school with a kid named Sam, whose father, Gary Margolis, was shortlisted for the Pultizer in poetry. For a long time, I just assumed that every small town was crowded with Pulitzer-winners.

My Mom is friends with the world-famous novelist Julia Alvez, who lives in Middlebury, and so does governor Jim Douglas, who has occasionally stopped by my parents’ house for political talk.

John Deere grew up in Middlebury, but he didn’t invent his tractors until he moved to the Midwest.

I have sung Handl’s “Messiah” in a Middlebury Church with Dr. François Clemmons, who is better-known as Officer Clemmons from “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I’ve corresponded with Bill McKibbon, one of the most respected environmental writers of the past 30 years.

But I still haven’t met Trey Anastasio. I’m working on it.

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