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Hackie Helped

My name is Steve Sgorbati, and I am the town clerk in Sudbury, the hometown of “Gerald,” the subject of the “Hackie” column [July 14] entitled “Back to Hortonia.” I just wanted author Jernigan Pontiac to know that, on July 15, “Gerald,” as he called Charles Knakal, suffered an acute myocardial infarction and passed away in “minutes,” according to the death certificate, at or around 3 a.m.

He had been down to Connecticut with his family on the weekend of July 9 for the [funeral] services of his wife and came back up on to Sudbury on the 11th. His family left him on the 12th, but were calling several times a day to check in. On the night of the 14th, at 10 p.m., he spoke to his daughter, who told him she was coming back up on the morning of the 15th. Sadly, it was she who discovered his body.

I wanted to thank “Hackie” for helping Charles get into the house. When I went to check on him on the evening that Pontiac dropped him off, he said the taxi driver was really nice and had helped him get into his house. So, thanks for being kind to a resident of Sudbury.

Steve Sgorbati


Swine Are Fine

Oh, please. Can’t these flatlanders find something else to be “shocked and saddened” about [“Feedback: Ad Abusive to Animals,” July 14]? The ad for the Vermont History Expo was funny, as is a greased pig race. I have only ever seen one, but the pig was having as much fun as the children who were chasing it. The pig is an intelligent animal, but it is not defenseless, and it is generally no smaller than the children who are chasing it. The children, by the way, get quite as greasy as the pig, and probably experience much more humiliation, landing in the mud as piggy escapes again. The theme of the expo, “Back to the Land Again,” repeatedly illustrated the historical connection between humans and animals. The ad had one shortcoming: For all that was wonderful about the History Expo, it would have been more fun if there had been a greased pig.

Bonnie DeGray


Bogart Goes Back

You mentioned that “back in the day” Steve Bogart used to cook at River Run before opening A Single Pebble [“Sharing the Fare,”; July 14]. Your memory doesn’t go back very far. Way before River Run was even born, back in the ’70s, Steve used to take over the kitchen at the old Tubbs Inn Restaurant in East Montpelier on nights that it was closed. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, he used the kitchen at Philura’s on the Barre-Montpelier Road in a similar way. As a co-owner of both Tubbs and Philura’s, I remember those adventures with Steve quite well. After we sold Philura’s, and the new owner went out of business, that location was where Steve opened the original A Single Pebble.

Judith Jones


Lost ’n’ Found

I’m writing to clarify a point in Dan Bolles’ interview with Eugene Nikolaev [“The Odyssey of Eugene Nikolaev,” July 21]. In the interview, Bolles asks, “What about the ‘lost’ album? The legend goes that Joe Egan has it at his studio and won’t let anyone near it.”

While I can’t begin to speak for Eugene or guess what his answer might have been as to why I still have it, the real reason is simple: It’s not my material to release. Complicating the issue is the fact that it was never paid off. To suggest that I “won’t let anyone near it” makes me sound like Gollum. Ain’t so. Once a master tape is paid for in full, I turn it over to the client. I’ve always done business that way, and it seems reasonable to me. If Eugene wanted it to be released, it would be. He says I’m “sitting on” it. It feels more like babysitting.

The real bummer is that it’s a great record. It stands out in my memory as one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve been involved with. The songs are great; Eugene’s production ideas were great; it was a blast to make. I would love for it to be released, and I’d be proud to have my name on it.

Joe Egan

Essex Junction

Egan owns and operates Egan Media Production in Colchester.

Patriot Gamesmanship

I take issue with Kevin J. Kelley’s review of Stephen P. Kiernan’s new book, Authentic Patriotism [“Giving Up on Government,” June 30], in which Kiernan, a respected Vermont journalist, celebrates and seeks to stimulate civic activism. Kiernan portrays the United States as an unjust society, with a vast and growing gulf between rich and poor, unequal health care, a depressed economy, futile and endless wars, and so on. He argues that our two largest, most powerful institutions, the federal government and free-market capitalism, are no longer capable of solving our most severe problems. In particular, special-interest lobbying and campaign funding, partisan gridlock, and an unsustainable national debt have sapped government’s capacity to have a significant impact.

For Kiernan, our remaining hope is citizens — authentic patriots — who do not wait for government or the market to solve our problems. He gives us detailed case histories of successful private organizations such as the Innocence Project, Volunteers in Medicine and Sustainable South Bronx, each of which began with a single individual determined to correct an injustice.

Kelley slams Kiernan’s characterization of these altruists as patriots as oxymoronic, nationalistic, narcissistic and narrow minded. He even faults Kiernan for failing to exhort Americans to tackle Africa’s problems, since “hardly anyone starves to death in this country.” He must have skipped Chapter 4, in which Kiernan convincingly justifies calling his heroes patriots, “not just old-fashioned do-gooders.”

This book infuriates Kelley because he wants to believe that government can still work. We just have to push President Obama to fulfill his campaign promises and persuade Congress to cut military spending enough to solve all our health care, criminal justice and education problems. And he calls Kiernan naïve?

Kelley cannot forgive Kiernan for writing the wrong book. He wanted to read a different book, one that would “make the case for collective political action.” Maybe he should write it.

Hal Cochran


Give Unions Their Due

Thank you, Seven Days, for devoting an entire issue to social responsibility [July 14]. Vermont is indeed home to many businesses that remain profitable while doing the right thing. However, let’s not forget what spawned the notion of “capitalism with a conscience” — labor unions. It seems poet Gil Scott-Heron was right when he said the revolution would not be televised or, in this case, printed.

Don’t look any further than Barre to see the roots of Vermont’s social-responsibility movement. European immigrants flocked to the city to join the booming granite trade, a heavily unionized industry to this day whose artisans produce some of the finest monuments the world over. Barre granite cutters founded a union in the late 1880s, among the first ever in Vermont.

Using their socialist beliefs as inspiration, in 1900 the cutters built the Barre Old Labor Hall, a National Historic Landmark, as a community center for promoting sustainable living, fellowship, education, activism and social justice. Along with activists nationwide, Granite City residents risked life and limb organizing for good jobs, fair wages, safe workplaces, reduced hours, environmental stewardship and workers’ compensation, health care and unemployment insurances.

Today, organized labor still pushes an agenda steeped in social responsibility and has a visible presence in the political arena. Unions were among the first to draw attention to Wall Street greed, exportation of jobs to cheap overseas markets, mistreatment of workers in the oil fields and coal mines, wealth inequality, human rights, affordable housing, green jobs, preservation of social services, and universal health care.

If wonderful organizations like Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility and [companies like] Seventh Generation make progressive capitalism newsworthy, then so be it. Publicity well deserved. Next time, just please give props to the original working-class heroes who taught us there is nothing wrong with making money if we respect people and the planet.

Matthew A.M. Lash

South Burlington

Lash is marketing and business development director of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 300.

Tea for Two or More…

It was great to see coverage of the Tulsi Tea Room [“Tea Time,” July 7]. However, the lovely Ms. Thompson was inaccurately credited as sole owner; in fact, the business is collectively owned and run. I hope you’ll acknowledge the hardworking team and let readers know they are seeking more folks to join them!

Dalice Costa


Off the Markowitz

I was disappointed with the Seven Days article about Deb Markowitz [“On Your Markowitz,” July 14]. I wondered if the interviewer had even met her, so dry and “reportery” was the piece. One of Deb’s strengths is her dynamic personality: inspiring people to work hard toward a goal; rising to meet every challenge. Her unwavering determination and indefatigable energy are two main components of the success she would achieve as governor.

Vermont is intensely localized. Each of the candidates is going to be supported by his or her local constituents. Especially because, as has been noted, there is little difference between them in terms of policy and ideas.

So how to choose? There again, the interviewer missed the key component to Deb. She is the only candidate who has consistently shown that she can beat Brian Dubie. And this, of course, is what must happen. We cannot afford to promote a politician who sat by while Jim Douglas sold our power-generating rivers to Canada, then proceeded to champion Vermont Yankee.

Instead of presiding over a move to make Vermont energy independent, they saddled us with a crumbling and destructive power source and gave the boon of our own rivers to another country. This is just one example, though an egregious one, of the mistake it would be to hire Dubious Dubie. Beyond Markowitz’s proven abilities and incredible tenacity, that is one powerful reason to vote for Deb in the primaries. We cannot afford to quibble among ourselves while the opposition further erodes the strength of our state.

L.K. Walker


Freaky Fact Checking

I was so excited to see an article about “circus freaks” [“Shock and Awe”] billed on the cover of the July 14 issue! I have a great deal of fondness for sideshows and interest in their history and outlook.

It was nice that the author seemed to take such a respectful approach to the topic, but it would have been even nicer if that respect had resulted in adequate research into her piece. Aside from the numerous minor factual errors (e.g., Tom Thumb was about three feet tall at the time of his marriage, not two; the famous freak retirement town is Gibsonton, not Gibsontown), the article was made up almost entirely of broad generalizations and misstatements based on the author’s preconceived notions of freakdom.

Saying that “some states banned freak shows altogether” is a misleadingly cherry-picked presentation of a long and complicated legal history. Blaming the decline in popularity of freak shows entirely on a nation’s burgeoning conscience is a lazy underrepresentation of the truth. Asserting that all freaks are inherently noble characters is an insultingly one-dimensional depiction. Stating that every one of them just suddenly gave up and moved to Gibsonton to suck up unemployment checks in the 1980s unfairly and inaccurately portrays them as indolent parasites with no aspirations or work ethic.

Worst of all, the entire piece was an obituary to a field of entertainment which is not dead! Sideshows and freak shows have experienced a renaissance in the past decade or so. There are many working freaks across the United States, including one with strong ties to Vermont. Fire eater, juggler and bearded lady Jennifer Miller has worked with Bread and Puppet Theater and performed with her own company, Circus Amok, in Vermont numerous times.

Molly Hodgdon

South Burlington

Cider Rules

I am writing in an effort to clear up what appears to be a bit of confusion as it pertains to Woodchuck Hard Cider and the recent Vermont Brewers Festival [“Side Dishes: Booze News,” July 14].

Although we are disappointed that Woodchuck was not allowed to participate in the festival again this year, we were not singled out. It appears that local cider makers are not allowed due to a lack of space (driven by the success of the event).

Lastly, I wanted to set the record straight about the “petition” that is mentioned in your article. The link, the words written and the petition itself were 100 percent drafted and posted by a Woodchuck fan. This was not done by the company.

We, too, are a small brand and continue to respect/appreciate other craft companies in the state. We would never want to hurt the image of the festival or any of the participants.

I hope this past weekend was a huge success and that this hasn’t detracted from the excitement that is generated around this event every year.

Bret Williams


Williams is president of Woodchuck Hard Cider.

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