Trend spotting -- and hopping -- can be a tricky business.
What could be worse than declaring something cutting-edge, only to find out it's so last year? Maybe redefining yourself each time the style police change their minds. These dangers became increasingly apparent as we waded into this, our first-ever "Hot Stuff" issue. We didn't want to get it wrong, or suggest there was something wrong with ignoring our advice. On the other hand, everyone could use some new ideas for things to do and drink and wear. Take these tips, then, as just that: not a comprehensive must-do list, but a dozen-plus suggestions well worth checking out.
The hot shots in Lords of Dogtown pop their ollies and kickflips in empty swimming pools. The latest lake-surface show-off sport reverses that paradigm; wakeskating is the wet cousin of skateboarding. Towed on a 55-foot rope by speedboats traveling 20 mph, wakeskaters execute their moves on boards without bindings; a sticky surface and special skate shoes keep them on their feet. Alexi Santorineos of Burlington says, "The floating sensation and freedom of movement is like snowboarding on a good powder day." His brand-new North East Wakeboard School (http://www.newakeschool.com) -- offers lessons -- and hot showers -- at a gaggle of Green Mountain lakes.
Phones are all about communication -- and using them to actually talk to people is just the beginning. If you're still using one of the pedestrian tones (yawn) that came with the piece, perhaps you're not aware that snippets of statement-making music are de rigueur, and are available on various websites (check http://www.jamster.com, for one). These jingles comprise a huge chunk -- $2.5 billion -- of the phone-accessory industry. That also includes the phone's "wardrobe": faceplates, flashing keypads or antennas, cases, clips, holsters, etc. When celebs like Lindsay Lohan are decorating their cell phones with do-it-yourself bling-bling, it's just a matter of time before Vermonters are modifying their Motorolas. Boatloads of ready-made, clip-on carrying cases finish the affect. Choose among shiny, black, Darth Vader cases; "Kroo" pouches in floral, animal and camou prints; trendy-cute Hello Kitty variations from Japan; tasteful, upscale leather to match the Beemer. Our favorite so far -- found at J. Lemay in Burlington -- is a silky-soft pouch, trimmed with boa feathers and depicting a pair of adorable pugs. Their collars and tiaras are rhinestone. Good to go!
When you're done reading about founding Americans in 1776, check out what one Amazon reviewer calls "a true American hero" in Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America's Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang by William Queen (Random House). ATF special agent Queen spent two years secretly embedded in a California biker gang called the Mongol Nation, whose members lived up to their barbarian-horde moniker. Maybe Mel Gibson will rediscover his inner Mad Max when he plays Queen in the upcoming movie version. On the fiction side, Christopher Sorrentino has retold the story of the not-so-heroic, but deeply iconic American, Patty Hearst. Trance (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, July 15) plays fast and loose with the heiress' kidnapping by the Symbionese Liberation Army during the hallucinatory 1970s. Early raves from trendy young novelists Jonathan Lethem and Sam Lipsyte make this the summer's coffeehouse read.
This summer's hot cocktail comes from Brazil. Sort of a mintless cousin of the mojito, the caipirinha is a mix of Cachaça -- a sugar cane liqueur -- simple syrup, cane sugar and sliced lime poured over crushed ice. Transparent like a gin and tonic, it's as sweet as a juice-based drink, only lighter -- perfect for warm summer nights when another round of Sex on the Beach seems too heavy. The caipirinha is served in a "high rocks" glass -- guaranteed to preserve the image of even the most insecure Guinness guy.
Studies suggest that exercising different mental muscles can keep you sharper than doing the same old brain teasers day in and out. That's one more reason why crossword crazies might want to pick up on Sudoku, the addictive time-waster that's hot in Japan and going global fast. A nine-by-nine-square grid is divided into three-by-three sub-grids. The object is to fill each cell so that each row, column and three-by-three box contains one of each number from 1 through 9. It's all about logical elimination. How many squares come filled in on the published puzzles determines the level of difficulty. Get started at http://websudoku.com/ -- and make procrastination cerebral.
splendor in the brass
Alex Toth is one busy fella. At the ripe old age of 21, he's already among Burlington's most in-demand musicians. You might've already noticed the lithe kid with the trumpet, blowing hot with the likes of Gua Gua, Rob Duguay, Mountain Mojo Authority and, most recently, the Spielpalast Cabaret Band and alt-rockers Swale. He's also been jamming with Beboparaka, a free-form collective combining spoken word, funk and jazz. "It can happen at anywhere at any time," Toth says of music making. A student in UVM's jazz program, he enters his senior year this fall. Where he goes after that is anyone's guess. If you haven't caught him yet, do it -- so you can say you heard him back in the day.
on the wild side
Blueberries used to be a mushy muffin ingredient. Now they're a "superfood," proven to ward off cancer, boost memory function, reduce cholesterol, improve vision and prevent urinary tract infections. Only thing the little blues don't do for you: pick themselves. Since wild blueberries contain twice the antioxidant power of cultivated varieties, it pays to go a-gathering. Correction: The fruit is free on the south end of Hogback Mountain in Goshen, where the Green Mountain National Forest assiduously maintains a "Blueberry Management Area." You can find more info on their website under "recreation management." Click "day-use" for directions from Brandon or Rochester. Once covered with trees, then cleared for downhill skiing, these Elysian fields start yielding juicy indigo orbs in July. Also look for raspberry bushes among the wild, lowbush blueberry shrubs. There's no limit imposed -- but reselling is verboten. And you'll want to look up occasionally, to get your fill of mountain views.
Questing is back, but today's mini-missions don't involve duels or damsels in distress. A close relative of geocaching, in which treasure hunters use handheld GPS devices to track down hidden trinkets, questing requires only a map, some clues and quick wits. The trail usually leads to a hidden box containing a journal and a unique stamp; successful seekers sign the book, and stamp their own log as proof that they've found the goods. But for many, the real point is the journey, itself. A Hinesburg history hunt investigates tombstones in the local cemetery, while an agricultural adventure quizzes questers about maple syrup and milk production. Almost all are kid-friendly, outdoors and free, and let you set your own pace. The White River Junction-based nonprofit Vital Communities maintains a directory of fun, regional quests in the Upper Connecticut River Valley. It's also easy to go indie -- a waterproof box, a book, a stamp and some sleuthing allow you to choose your own adventure.
The Burlington City Council has yet to make greenbelt gardening a crime, and that's probably a good thing, because flowers and veggies are increasingly coming out from behind houses and replacing the front-yard, monoculture grass. "Once one house does it, it's easier for someone else on the same street to give it a try, and visible gardens build communities," says Jim Flint, Director of Friends of Burlington Gardens. On Poplar Street and throughout the Old North End, small cottage gardens spill over with colorful pinks, irises, roses, daylilies, marigolds and more. The extra time and H2O it takes to keep lawns lush can be a real drain, so some green thumbs forego turf entirely, with mulch or rock gardens weeding out the need for watering, whacking and mowing. More adventurous types make meadows, with wildflowers and native grasses that create habitat for songbird-sustaining bugs and pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Get in on it while you can.
Celebrate the lake's brief, unfrozen summertime splendor without the hassle and expense of owning and lugging all the gear. If your yacht is in dry dock this year, four state parks in the Champlain Islands offer cheap boat rentals -- an hour's splash and dash for only $7.50. That's too hot a deal to pass up. It's also a great option for summer houseguests, a friendly way to tell them to go jump in the lake. Send your visiting nephews paddling before you want to paddle them. Go to http://www.vtstateparks.com for the details.
Ex-Beach Boy Brian Wilson's lost-and-found masterpiece Smile was one of last year's most talked-about CD releases. Originally intended as The Beatles' comeuppance, the project was abandoned in the mid-1960s amidst personal turmoil and paranoia. The notoriously stage-shy Wilson brings his "teenage symphony to God" to Montréal's Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier on August 18. Brian and his regular 10-piece band perform the gorgeously intricate song-cycle with the help of a small string section. The fact that Wilson is with us at all is pretty amazing; drug use and depression sidelined the fragile genius for decades. Pop fans of all stripes won't want to miss Brian's elegiac take on Americana and symphonic rock 'n' roll.
up against the wall
If summer is all about slowing down, one of the best ways to chill is to look at art -- in air-conditioned galleries. Hey, even skaters, bladers and sailors need to get out of the sun -- or rain -- sometimes. And why not get in a little culture while you're at it? One inviting place (pictured here) is right on Burlington's Waterfront: the brand-new Pursuit Gallery, on the southern tip of the Wing Building. The current exhibit, featuring gigantic photographs by Skye Chalmers, presents quintessential Vermont writ large, in all its seasons; the rich colors alone invite gawking awhile. Pursuit is one of three venues to recently join an already thriving Burlington arts scene. But the Queen City isn't sovereign over all the galleries, by any means. A few other recommendations: The stunning stone works at Stowe's West Branch Gallery; political papier mâché at Glover's Bread and Puppet Museum; the calm, cool collections at Middlebury College; eclectic works by emerging artists at nearly any coffeehouse. And of course, if you hit exhibit openings, free snacks and drinks are part of the picture.
Longing for the days when commercial radio was local, or at least interesting? Try going online and downloading a few podcasts to your iPod, laptop or MP3 player. These audio files contain all manner of talk and music. You can even find religion -- the Panton Community Baptist Church now offers podcasts of their Sunday services. Thanks to RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, you can subscribe to your favorites -- like Burlington's Friday Coffeeblogging, featured recently in BusinessWeek magazine -- and get the latest episodes in your inbox, a la TiVo. If you don't already use RSS, or you haven't hopped on the blog bandwagon quite yet, you'll have a little catching up to do before you're podcast-compatible. Podcast Alley -- http://www.podcastalley.com -- is a good place to start. Technophobes, take heart -- listening to and recording these DIY productions will only get easier.
Some female fashionistas are currently getting a kick out of cowboy boots, especially when combined with a long, gauzy, "hippie" skirt, a wide, low-slung belt and the odiously named "wife-beater" tee. This look (which we hope isn't an homage to the Texan in the Oval Office) may be a bit too hot for the most sweltering days of summer. If so, it can be modified with a miniskirt. Of course, a hot spell in Vermont is even shorter than most fashion trends, so not to worry. But if this get-up doesn't appeal, try a retro cotton-print skirt -- a cropped top puts a more-skin spin on the 1950s-style staple. As for guy style? Sorry, but typing "men, fashion, Vermont" into Google did not compute. A cursory glance of the population says shorts and a baggy T-shirt still prevail for fun in the sun. Hello, Queer Eyes?