Movie Review: 20th Century Women

There’s a local connection to a scene in 20th Century Women, now playing in the Savoy Theater’s downstairs movie lounge.  Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), a teenage boy, is given a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves, a seminal book on women’s health and sexuality.  The local connection?   One of the original twelve authors of OBOS,  Jane Kates Pincus, lives just down the road in Roxbury.  This unintentional Easter Egg for Central Vermont helps frame the portrait of Director Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical film about his mother as portrayed in the character Dorothea (Annette Bening).

The flavor of feminism in 20CW is a blend of two generations.  Dorothea, born in the 1920s, must adapt her sense of individualism and adventure to a sexual revolution of female orgasms, menstruation, and women’s health.  She doesn’t need a man to raise her son, but she’s not a progressive champion for equal rights, either.  Dorothea keeps private things private and refuses to deep-dive into therapeutic exercises or discussions.

“My Mom is from the Depression,” Jamie explains to  Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a boarder in his mother’s sprawling house.  _DSC1083.NEFDorothea’s hero is Amelia Earhart and her personality is charged with the free-spirited energy of Kate Hepburn.  But her aspirations to become a pilot are grounded so she takes up technical drafting, marries, has a son, and becomes a single parent — never to have a serious relationship again.  Dorothea is a charming survivor.  She looks defeated in her role as a mother, yet inspired by a new era of womanhood.  It’s not surprising when she asks Abbie, as well as Jamie’s crush, Julie (Elle Fanning), to help her son become a man.

20cw_julieThe result isn’t the trite male fantasy some of you may have just imagined.  Abbie becomes the fun, insightful 20-something sister who responds to Jamie because he’s already become the kind of good man his mother fails to see.  Julie, on the other hand, continues to use Jamie as her asexual emotional doormat — a relationship he eventually redefines.

Not included in Dorothea’s invitation to help her son grow and mature is William (Billy Crudup), another boarder who is, perhaps, the film’s unsung hero.  He is the most dependable and caring person in the house, constantly repairing plaster and woodwork, fixing cars, and coming to the rescue in times of emergency.  Some 20CW reviewers typify William as a “lost soul” but I would argue that he responds to others’ needs in a way that, lacking his presence, would empty the heart of Dorothea’s home and leave it chaotic and lonely.  William’s sensitive, Giaia-Earth worldview would be gag-worthy if not for his palpable sense of loss and loneliness, combined with his manly roles as a sexual healer, faithful companion, and constant DIYer.  But William isn’t the kind of man Dorothea wants Jamie to become.  “They have nothing in common,” she explains to Abbie and Julie.  And it’s clear later on that Dorothea isn’t into William’s spirituality.  When he tries to teach her meditation, she emasculates his Lotus position with an exasperated eye-roll and a lunge for a pack of Salem cigarettes.  william-20cw

So what’s left for Dorothea now that she’s outsourced child-rearing to two Sexual Revolution generation feminists?  She doesn’t seem to realize she’s losing her son while attempting to adapt to a new world of punk music and dinner table discussions about Abbie’s and Julie’s periods.  She spends a lot of time looking more like the “lost soul” archetype other reviewers have pinned to William.  Dorothea doesn’t share her deepest thoughts — she exhales them with sighs of menthol smoke.  She accepts the changing world around her but appears baffled by it.  And all the while, Jamie holds her accountable for letting him go.  He knows he can make it on his own, but his mother remains a distant enigma no matter how charismatic she may be.

Annette Bening’s performance is stellar in the portrayal of the complex, intelligent, independent single mother who Mills still seems to struggle to understand.  In his epilogue, Jamie (Mills’ persona) says, “I want to tell my children about their grandmother, but I know it’s impossible.”

Who among us doesn’t feel the same way?  Who among us can fully comprehend the most important woman in our lives, no matter what century we live in?

Playing through January at the Savoy Theater’s downstair movie lounge.

6:00 & 8:30 Evenings.  1:00 & 3:30 Matinees Sat & Sun

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Women in Local Government: Where are They?

I’m proud to say that, with nine months under my belt, I’ve stopped banging heads with at least two of my colleagues on the current board.  With them, I’m beginning to help create opportunities instead of controversies.  These two members will continue to serve for at least another year and I look forward to working with them, whether we agree or disagree on any issue.  Thanks to Ken Goslant and Dave Maxwell for your good work.

Deadline Looming

There are two Selectboard seats up for grabs in March.  The deadline to hand in petitions is January 30th.  It’s time for some new faces, and the first question that comes to mind is…

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Where are the Women?

I’ve been scratching my head the last few years, wondering why there’s a striking absence of women on Northfield’s Selectboard.  We have gender diversity on the School Board, Planning Commission, Recreation Committee, and Conservation Commission.  Northfield is represented by two women in State Legislature and one in State Senate.

But it looks like Northfield considers local governance to be men’s work.  I can think of only three, maybe four women who have helped hold the reins of the Town over the course of my lifetime.  My guess is, this is true for the entire history of Northfield.  What’s up with that?

Why Does the Selectboard Matter?

There are a lot of good people doing a lot of good work in Northfield.  They invest time, money, and expertise into projects which are close to their heart.  But much of their work depends on executive decisions by the Selectboard.  You want a park?  Go to the Selectboard.  You want to beautify the downtown?  Go to the Selectboard.  You want to…  you get the picture.  

Members of the Selectboard serve in the capacity of all three branches of government.  Executive, Legislative, and quasi-Judicial.  That’s a lot of power.  The bottom line:  if you’re not on the board, you must depend on those who are.

It’s Time for New Faces

As of today (Jan 11th), no one has announced a bid for office.  The incumbents are gathering signatures to claim another two and three years of leadership.  As in many small towns, people vote for who they know.  Maybe it’s time to vote for someone you don’t know.  Or at least, someone who’s never served on the Board before.  A little fresh blood can go a long way.

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Economic Development: From Planning to Action

NCDN has been super-busy with a lot of behind-the-scenes work since our January 19th meeting one year ago.  Meetings, phone calls, reports, registrations, more meetings — you know, all the stuff required to create an organization, build partnerships and get buy-in from our community.  So now it’s time to meet again.

So Save the Date!   The next NCDN public meeting will be January 20th at the Brown Public Library Community Room.  To help you remember, just click the Add to Calendar link below:

Here’s what you can expect to hear!

  1.  NCDN accomplishments in 2016.   Not surprisingly, economic development work involves meetings, phone calls, emails and site visits.  You may recall the Night on the Common we coordinated in July.  Or you may have participated in our “New Look for Northfield” survey.  But our work has been much more extensive than these two activities.  We’ll take a few minutes to let you know what we’ve been up to.
  2. What’s next!  NCDN has defined our goals and vision.  We’ve crafted specific strategies to achieve concrete objectives.  And we’ve written it all down in the NCDN Executive Summary.   You’ll get a copy of this important document at the January 20th meeting.  We’d also like to hear your ideas and feedback in the days following the meeting.  Special thanks to Ro Pelletier for providing a draft review back in June!
  3. A whole lot of Thank Yous!
  4. And the question, What do you want to do? 

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NCDN has helped set the table.   Now it’s time to apply for grants and implement strategies.  We’ll give you a run-down on project areas.   Is there a specific project you want to help tackle?  Do you have time or expertise you’d like to contribute?  If you can’t participate, do you have some bucks to throw into the kitty?  Economic development requires coordinated, behind-the-scenes commitment.  Northfield needs Tiger Teams to roll up the sleeves and get down to work.

Who do we need?  Everyone.  This is just a short list.

  • Benefactors.  Northfield needs to demonstrate financial commitment as we seek corporate and institutional donors.  We also need to raise funds for a matching grant application by February 15th.  
  • Real Estate Agents.   There’s a new demographic of homebuyers in Northfield.  Let’s talk!
  • Local Business Owners.  Define your needs.  Are you interested in tax incentives?  Foot traffic?  Marketing?  What’s on your short-term and long-term wish-list?
  • Mountain Bikers.  You’re part of a huge growth opportunity.
  • Grant writers.  You know how much you’re needed.
  • Are you connected to Developers?  We need you to tap into your networks and help close deals on new construction projects.
  • How about Website Developers?  Northfield needs a vibrant, interactive, content-driven site.
  • Photographers.  We need a portfolio of images to highlight Northfield’s beauty and vitality.
  • Policy Wonks.  You know who you are.  Northfield desperately needs your expertise.  We need a sophisticated, innovative local government and committees.  We need people who can match local planning with state and federal programs.

So save the date and attend the meeting January 20th!  In the meantime, think about how you can contribute to economic development.  Share your expertise!  Write a check!  Spread the word!  Get involved!

And as always, thanks for your help!

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Fat Santa is coming to town, and bringing business with him!

Wha?  Who’s Fat Santa?  Everyone knows Santa is a jolly old soul with a beard and a well-rounded belly.  But Fat Santa is Mr. Claus’ more physically fit cousin.  He doesn’t need 12 tiny reindeer (plus Rudolph) to pull him around.  Nope.  Fat Santa comes to town on a ground-grabbing FatBike!

Why is he coming to town?  Noah at Bicycle Express, a long-time friend  of the skinny Claus, has invited Fat Santa to Northfield for a FatBike race in his honor.  The race is this Saturday starting at 10:30 am sharp.  Location:  the Norwich University Shaw Outdoor Center, at the base of our beloved Paine Mountain.

How does Fat Santa bring business to Town?  In a recent interview, Fat Santa demurred with an aw-shucks response.  “Noah at Bicycle Express is really the guy bringing the business to Northfield.  I’m just bringing holiday cheer to the race.”  Fat Santa continued,
“I’m sure you’ve heard of Santa’s Helpers.  Well,  my Helpers are a little different.  FatBikers bring the gift of cash wherever they go.  You’ll probably see them lifting a mug at a brew pub or chowing down at an eating establishment after the race.”

Is Fat Santa real?  Definitely.  He’s as real as his cousin Claus.

What are the details of the festivity and how do I sign up?  You can get all the details on The Fat Santa FatBike Race facebook page.  Who else will be there?  Wow.  At least 24 men and women riders will be coming from as far North as Burlington and as far South as Lyme, NH.

Last Question:  What’s a FatBike?   A FatBike has an uber-lightweight frame and big, gnarly fat tires.  It’s designed for all season riding.  They plow through snow, float over mud, shovel through sand dunes, and ride like balloons across the rockiest terrain.

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Mary Freeman

mary-headshot-draft-1I’m taking a break from local issues today to share news of my mother’s passing.  She was known by many in the Northfield community, some of whom may wonder of her or who may wish my father condolences.

My sister and I wrote her obituary yesterday.  It felt like we were writing the resume of her life.  There’s really no way to capture a sense of soul in a brief, factual chronology of a loved one’s work, accomplishments, and interests.  But for the record, I’ll share the obituary.  Then I’ll add something a little more personal.

Mary Freeman (1938-2016)

Mary K. Freeman of Northfield VT passed away peacefully on November 25, 2016, in Sarasota, Florida.

She is survived by her husband, David Freeman, two daughters, Betty Capron-Herrick and Rosie Laquerre, two sons, Richard Freeman and Nathan Freeman, seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren as well as many beloved nieces, nephews and their families.

Mary felt a deep commitment to her work, her community, and social life.  She was a dot-the-I’s-and-cross-the-T’s bookkeeper and was a fixture at the Follett Bookstore at Norwich University.  Mary served as a Lister for the town of Northfield and was a long-time member of the Northfield Business & Professional Association.  Mary was Treasurer of the NBPA for several years.

Mary put in countless hours with David to create the inaugural Labor Day Parade and Bicentennial Celebration in 1975.  She and David were honored to have been named as Grand Marshals of the Labor Day parade for their behind-the-scenes dedication to our community.

Mary was a member of the Northfield Historical Society and a parishioner at St. John the Evangelist church.  She was an active member of the Eastern Star, serving as Chapter Secretary in Northfield.

Funeral services will be held May 20, 2017 with arrangements by Kingston Funeral Home.

Condolences may be sent to:

David Freeman
1800 Englewood Rd. Unit 165
Englewood, FL 34223

On a personal note, I’d like to say to those who have lost a parent, I now know your pain.  My heart is with you if you have experienced such a loss.  For those who haven’t, my heart will be with you when that time comes.

My mother was a good and fine lady, likely much like yours.  She was resistant to change, but when my father led the way she adapted and found new ways of finding happiness.

One of the most significant changes was the sale of their home on Freeman Road.  The Freeman family isn’t broad in numbers but we are deep in local heritage and tradition.  The idea of moving off the hill wasn’t popular with my mother, but the reality of retirement and the need to downsize was evident.  My parents made a new home closer to town and began to winter in a Gulf Coast town south of Sarasota.  I must say, her smile was vibrant in Florida.  She danced, rode a bicycle, and went swimming in her retirement community.

My father, David, stood by my mother’s side as her husband, life companion, and over the last few years, as her primary caregiver.   He’s reached an important milestone in his life more dramatic than any other, and one I can’t possibly imagine.  My hope is that he finds a new happiness in the years to come.

Rabbit Hollow Road Closure

A very concerning note landed in the Selectboard email inbox yesterday.  On Monday, bridge inspectors from VTrans recommended the closure of the Rabbit Hollow Bridge.  From the date-stamp on the photos in the report, it seems like this recommendation came immediately after inspection.  The report and accompanying photos are pretty grim.  (Click here to read the report.)

**The northern floorsystem has been compromised, as all of the steel stringer ends are more or less unsupported due to extensive bearing pedestal deterioration.  The I-beam pedestals below each of the seven (7) stringer ends at abutment #2 have failed.  All have heavy corrosion and extreme distortion from buckling.  The end of the deck and floorsystem at the northern abutment is now basically cantilevered off from the last floorbeam, which is roughly fifteen (15) feet to the south of the bridge end.  Under light loading, the wood plank deck defects significantly and the interior stringers have dropped away from the deck interface.  The now “floating” stringers are also subject to significant distortional and rotational forces, as they lack lateral restraint.

Fortunately, the Railroad owns the bridge, so it seems that Northfield residents won’t bear the cost of repairs or replacement.  Moving forward, the Town, VTrans, and Railroad will have to communicate and determine a repair/replacement schedule.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of the Rabbit Hollow Bridge on BridgeHunter.com.  Photo Credits go to Michael Quiet, who says, “Despite its small size and rusted appearance, the bridge is significant to our transportation heritage as an early and unaltered example of its type.”  Thanks, Michael!

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Former Select Chair requests emails

Before We Begin…

I’d like to thank three confidants for their advice on how I might respond to this issue. They have provided very different and very wise recommendations which have been invaluable.  I can’t say enough how much everyone’s feedback is important to me.  If there’s one thing I pride myself on the most, it’s my ability to listen to others and attempt to do a better job tomorrow than I’ve done today.  Thank you.  

With this in mind, I’m sharing information to speak about a larger issue than emails.  There’s a bigger picture about Northfield government which can be described in two sentences.  I’ll get to that below.  Regarding the headline, today’s post is mostly a Who, What, Where, When, Why article.

Readers, if you don’t want to read about “politics” this isn’t the post for you.

What’s this about?

Former Select Chair John Quinn filed a public-records request for emails under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  As you can see in the picture above, Quinn made his request via the Town Manager and cc’d the current Select Chair, David Maxwell.

Who’s emails?

Quoting Quinn’s email pictured above:

I am formally requesting under the freedom of information act, any emails between Nate Freeman and the Northfield police department employees. I would also like any emails between the Northfield police department employees and anyone with a @mychamplainvalley.com email And Any emails between Nate Freeman and emails that end in. @mychamplainvalley.com

MyChamplainValley.com is the website for the Plattsburgh/Burlington television station, WVNY.

I have complied with the request.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve posted links to my emails at the bottom of the page.

Who’s John Quinn?

Quinn served as member and Chair of the Board from 2011 to March 2016.  He also presided over the attempted ouster of Police Chief Jim Dziobek in 2015.  The attempt was rebuffed by a public outcry.  This incident is relevant today because what happened under his leadership provides context to his current request.

Why did Quinn name the NPD, WVNY, and myself?

Apparently, John thinks the NPD and myself may have contacted WVNY about a public official’s private legal woes.  For the record, this didn’t happen.  There are no emails which suggest such a connection.

On October 15th, the State Police issued a standard press release on its website regarding a Northfield public official.  On the same day, WVNY published a very brief article on its website, MyChamplainValley.com.  It reads like an article written directly from a press release.

Quinn appears to have a conspiracy theory that some of Northfield’s public officials are involved in the dissemination of public information.

What’s the subject of the WVNY article?

A public official is under investigation on a private-life matter.  I won’t’ discuss it here because, no matter how disturbing the allegation, his private-life business isn’t related to municipal business.  It’s only newsworthy in respect to the fact that he’s a public official.  Besides, I have to work with him.  If you want the details, please look it up yourself.

How does a private issue become a public issue?

Simple.  Public officials in Northfield have been called upon to respond to an FOIA request for emails.  Quinn is attempting to connect a line (which doesn’t exist) to a private-life matter.  Quinn should have known this when he made his request.  He should have also known that his email to the Town Manager is, equally, a public document.

What’s the Big Picture?

Northfield has a government with a hush-hush culture.  There’s a good-ol’ boy attitude that’s completely out of alignment with good governance.

Here are my emails

I’ve provided my emails to and from the Northfield Police Department in fulfillment of Quinn’s FOIA request.  You can read all of them by clicking on the links below.

Since my election last March, there have been 10 email conversations between myself and the Chief.  In our first conversation I asked about Northfield’s heroin & opiate problem — and from there our conversation continued.  I have no emails to or from WVNY.

Thank You

Once again I’d like to thank everyone who gives me feedback on local issues.  I believe I have been straightforward in my differences when I challenge my municipal colleagues on local issues.  Thank you for understanding how and why I feel compelled to share this post.