The landscape changes suddenly out of the Albany/Schenectady corridor into southwest Vermont. Route 9 changes to Route 7, billboards and traffic vanish. Suddenly an obelisk towers (I want to veer onto the side road and touch it, but my thumbs and politics are already opposable) over the valley in which Bennington nestles, famed for its writing workshop, and, according to Wyn Cooper, a place I'm more likely to run into John Gardner's ghost, since he spent much time there. I stop in town for coffee and a walk up and down the main drag, festooned with statues of people very much like an Americana statue I recall from Santa Barbara of a guy washing a window, kid sitting on his shoulders. He's here, too, or his brother, along with numerous others by the same artist. It makes me think of State Street, but it's only three blocks long, no Museum of Art or Anthropologie or Restoration Hardware or Saks. It's quiet and cute, and I don't see a chain anything, so I get a cappuccino at the non-Starbucks and head east over the Green Mountains toward Brattleboro, toward Wyn and Shawna's place in the mountains above Marlboro.
I nearly missed the turn off of Route 7, but slammed on the brakes, thankfully no one behind me. The pavement vanished and I was on back roads into the low mountains, ultimately along the Green River until I found Wyn and Shawna's driveway--steep gravel up to a lovely home with a large deck. Wyn and Shawna were there with open arms and smiles, but Shawna had work and rehearsal, so I wouldn't see her much till later. I felt immediately welcome. Their house is gorgeous, filled with art and broadsides and books, ensconced in maple and pine forest just up the hill from the Green River. After catching up about the drive, etc., Wyn readied to take me to the "swimming hole" at an old wood damn beside a covered bridge about ten minutes from his house. I suspected immediately that this would be a lovely place to look for mushrooms and, while he was getting ready, I stepped outside and found a chanterelle in the woods just steps from the back of his house. When he came out, we jumped in his sweet '63 MG and headed into the village down the river a bit. He swam while I balanced on the rocks. I was ambivalent about getting in. I'd have to undress. Wyn explained that nudity was legal in Vermont unless a community passed a specific law against it. Still, there was a couple there from NYC and, more importantly, the water was chilly, so I just stayed with the rocks and the river music and enjoyed the scenery and the sweet air. We chatted briefly with the NY couple before we headed back to the house, then into Brattleboro to shop for provisions--by provisions, think wine--to go along with the Memphis barbecue Wyn planned to pick up for dinner after Shawna's rehearsal.
We went into town and it happened to be a first friday artwalk evening, and we walked through several very cool galleries and Wyn introduced me to a few of the area artists and gallery owners. We stopped at a local brewpub for a beer, and Wyn knew everybody, it seemed, so he had to make a few rounds around the room. I sipped my beer and enjoyed the atmosphere. Wyn sat down and we enjoyed our pints. The server was also a friend who had acted with Shawna, and Wyn explained that she would soon be off to Guatemala, plans unspecified. She recognized my Califone T-shirt and we talked a little about the music before her next round was up and she had to leave. Life in Brattleboro is good. I have finally been to Vermont and I can retire the first poem I ever published ("Lunchtime in Vermont"), which was, to be kind to it, an exercise in line breaks and immature mindfuck postmodernism, as I understood it at twenty.
Later, we picked up the barbecue, supped late, and drank later--excellent barbecue washed down with big wines, including a lovely Italian Aglianico Rubrato and a Turley Moore Earthquake, both gorgeous wines with barbecue. Good wine and good food don't matter, though, if the company isn't up to the sensual pleasures. Wyn and Shawna, on the other hand, as we all love fine foods and grand vins, would make peasant bread and a jug of dago red a royal meal. We talked late, too late, about Shawna's impending performance, friends, poetry, music, art, politics, love, and who knows what else? I was there and it was a perfect evening. All I can say is thanks for my good fortune, my good friends. I hope I can return the favor one day.