by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
July 27, 2007
DUMMERSTON, Vt. - Ninety-two-year-old Reba Goldstein of Ft. Lauderdale likes to clip stories out of the newspapers and give them to her friends. This week she cut one out of the Miami Herald and gave it to my mother. "Does Joyce know about these nudes in Brattleboro?" she asked. Of course my mother called me immediately.
I explained to her about newspapers' silly season, the dog days of summer, when news is scare, political leaders are either on vacation or the colonoscopy table, and legislatures - like ours and Iraq's - are missing in action. Even when there's no news, newspapers still have to fill their pages, and so they go for "Man Bites Dog" stories and other silly things. That's how a one-day story of a few teenagers taking off their clothes in a heat wave managed to have legs for two whole years.
In fact, I pointed out, what used to pass for silly-season stories are now filling the papers even when there is hard news to report.
But it started me thinking. Here in Brattleboro we're inundated with silliness. Since we're always talking about tourism dollars and the "arts economy" (which. as a writer, I read as "too many artists, no economy"), why not take advantage of our growing reputation? I'm thinking along the lines of Disneyland, but with our own special twists. Call it Brattleboroworld.
The complex would center on a faux "Main Street" running from the Brattleboro Museum and Arts Center to the Exit 3 roundabout. The real Main Street would be part of it, of course. Once we get to the Commons, though, I envision permanently mounted theatrical flats painted to look like red-brick building fronts. (And remember, plans now exist to turn the north end of town, Putney Road, into that kind of faux village anyway.) The flats would block out the shopping malls and parking lots and give the street a unifying look.
Then we would lay down a set of trolley tracks and run cheerfully-painted trolley cars up and down the whole length of the street. (We should do that anyway - it was a mistake when the town pulled up the original trolley lines and handed the town over to cars.)
Visitors would find many parks, each with their own special rides and events, and each supplying employment to a different segment of area residents.
Hippieland, for example, would feature a lot of coffeehouses, vegan restaurants and places in which to be nude. It would have to be heated in the winter, but we might want to locate it along the river - where Northeast Cooperatives once was - so that in the summer people might swim.
Activistland could be at the old King's Bowling Alley on Putney Road, where young people recently tried to block the building of a truck stop. Tourists could gather there in groups, then be bused to the gates of Vermont Yankee to protest nuclear power. (An economically advantageous deal with the plant's owners, Entergy Vermont, would have to be negotiated first.
I envision a huge Bread & Puppet-style puppet of Entergy's owner coming out on stilts and threatening each group. A smaller puppet of Gov. Jim Douglas would be in his deep pocket.) At specific times, police in Keystone Cops outfits would "bust" the tourists' heads with soft stuffed truncheons or taser them with "Star Wars"- style fake lasers. (Real tasers would be reserved for actual area residents.) Then the police would "arrest" the tourists, take them to a mock court, and, of course, let them go.
Farmworld would look remarkably like the Brattleboro Farmer's Market, which is, in my humble opinion, pretty close to perfect.
In Woodchuckland there would be junk cars on cinderblocks, deer antlers on cabins and angry people still cursing the "flatlanders" who moved here 30 years ago and "changed everything." It would be next to Huntersville, manned by the Brattleboro Police Dept. where, right now, bears seem to be in season.
In Progressiveland there would be petting zoos with people of other ethnicities, ceramic bowl-making to symbolically represent starving people who conveniently live in faraway places, and many activities designed to let visitors feel like good people - until plans are unveiled to build affordable housing in their backyard. Then everyone has to move back to Activistland.
Conservativeland would feature men in business suits and women with good haircuts wearing makeup, stockings and high heels. The big ride would be the "Wealth Management Roller Coaster," where, if someone puts money into the subprime market, they get thrown out on their butts. Douglas (The real one, this time, not a puppet. Or maybe that's coals to Newcastle?) will come down at noon every day to cut a ribbon and open another truck stop or Wal-Mart.
Artistland would be down by the museum, of course, and be full of galleries, studios and workshops. Events would include painting murals on walls, making sculptures out of "found" objects (because clay and paint are too expensive) and lucrative poetry writing. The big daily event would be when the artists try to sell their work before having to leave for their shifts at one of the park's many fast-food establishments.
At the end of Main Street there would be a special glass-case exhibit featuring the last person who managed to be gainfully employed in Brattleboro.
And at 5 p.m., there would be a parade down the whole of Main Street with everyone singing, "It's a Small World, After All," followed by a biodegradable fireworks display.
All this, of course, will be built in a sustainable and low-impact way that will not increase the town's carbon footprint.
Did I miss anyone? Well, don't blame me. Both Reba Goldstein and I can only quote Will Rogers, who famously said, "All I know is just what I read in the papers."
A collection of Joyce Marcel's columns, "A Thousand Words or Less," is available through joycemarcel.com. And write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.