They Like Me Back Home

So hey, someone in my hometown noticed my recent post about the Latchis Theater marquee – and now it’s in the paper!

It seems that Jeff Potter, editor for the Brattleboro-area indie weekly The Commons, enjoyed what I had written (apparently, we have a mutual affinity for my bad jokes), and he very graciously offered to publish my piece in his distinguished paper.

Yeah, I know. I’m totally famous now. And it only took seven blog posts to get there!

Seriously, though, I was flattered by Jeff’s offer, and I’m honored to be featured in this week’s edition of my hometown’s exciting new weekly!

Be sure to check it out, and enjoy!

 

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On the Latchis Theater Marquee

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(Photo credit)

“Impatient Truck Driver Destroys Latchis Marquee,” reads the alarming headline from yesterday’s Brattleboro Reformer.

For those who may not know, the Reformer is the local paper in my hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont. And the Latchis Theater is the place I called “work” for three years before I moved to Seattle in 2001. Both the town and the theater hold very special places in my heart, so this crazy bit of news hits close to home – literally.

It’s been a rough few months for Brattleboro’s historic and normally quite lovely and vibrant Main Street. Back in April, a fire nearly destroyed the iconic Brooks House, displacing about 80 residents and a dozen or so beloved local businesses (no small blow for town of Brattleboro’s size).

And now this nonsense.

The Latchis Memorial Building is another true Brattleboro icon. Built in 1938, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, and is one of only two authentic Art Deco structures in the entire state of Vermont. The Greek Revival-themed interior of the Latchis Theater is one of downtown Brattleboro’s must-sees. Even Rachel Maddow recently saw fit to give a televised shout-out to Brattleboro’s “awesome, old, independent movie theater.”

Personally, my favorite Latchis Theater memory was the time James Earl Jones came to host a special screening of Doctor Strangelove. While introducing the film, he indulged his audience with a dramatic, Darth Vader-voiced, “May the Force be with you.” I’m not gonna lie: it was possibly the most thrilling moment in my Star Wars-geeky life. (And I know, I know. That was never an actual Vader line. But I was so schoolgirl-giddy in the moment that I totally let it slide.)

Anyway, while working at the Latchis Theater, I fulfilled a number of regular duties: projectionist, concession seller, ticket seller, ticket taker, popcorn sweeper and floor un-sticky-er, to name just a few. Also, candy taster (unofficial), and seat warmer (if the movies were good).

But probably my least favorite of these tasks was the weekly changing of movie titles on the three-screen theater’s dual-sided marquee. New movies started on Fridays, so every Thursday evening – rain or shine, blizzard or hurricane, zombie stampede or alien-robot invasion – up the ladder I went.

For a guy not terribly keen on heights, the situation was less than ideal. Keeping my balance on a rickety, fifteen-foot ladder while trying to loosen the previous week’s jammed-on film titles – and then doing my best to securely affix the new ones – was no simple chore.

Pulling from a heavy bucket of steel letters that dangled precariously from the ladder’s side didn’t help much either. Most of these decades-old letters were rusty, jagged, and thoroughly grimy. (And, according to Mr. Latchis himself, banned by OSHA many years prior. But whatever). And they had a peculiar aversion to staying put on the marquee panels (hence the forceful jamming).

All the while, I prayed that no one passing on the sidewalk below would unwittingly kick out the ladder, or be unlucky enough to catch a jumper-letter with their cranium. I also hoped people would refrain from stopping and staring (because they did that. It’s a small town), or trying to take my picture.*

Meanwhile, limited marquee space sometimes called for awkward and increasingly cryptic abbreviations like “CROUCH TIG HID DRAG,” “B WITCH PROJ,” and “SWEITPM.” (Care to take a crack at that last one?)

With these, one had to be very careful not to confuse or offend. I’m just sayin’ – my handiwork probably had a few passersby wondering who this fool on the ladder was calling a “b-witch.”

But at least there was a little hazardous-duty pay involved. My minimum-wage base got a two-dollar bump for every hour spent up on the ladder. I know, right? That was two bucks extra per week! Suckers.

Just before I departed my job at the theater, I was permitted to hang a brief farewell message – to myself – on the marquee (because I’m modest like that). I don’t exactly recall what I decided to say – about myself – but it was, no doubt, very touching (because I’m generous like that).

Anyway, in all seriousness, I love the Latchis Theater. It is a genuine treasure in the heart of my hometown. And as much as I may have griped about my often-menial chores as a lowly movie theater staffer, I consider it a great privilege to be able to say I once worked there.

Of course, I know the building will be just fine. A destroyed marquee is a relatively superficial wound for a sturdy block, and for a resilient community.

But the thoughtless dolt behind the wheel of that truck did more than just rip a fancy sign from the face of an old building. He demolished a small piece of my hometown, and with it, a little bit of my own personal history. And that makes me a little sad.

I may have hated changing that crusty old marquee. But I never wanted it to disappear.

_ _

*One night, while on marquee duty, I looked down and noticed a guy with a fancy-looking camera slowly strolling by. I didn’t think much of this at the time, but two days later, there it was: A huge photo of my backside splashed across the FRONT PAGE of the Reformer. The image had nothing to do with anything. Just a great big picture flashing my ass-end across most of Southern Vermont and parts of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The caption simply read, “A man changes the Latchis Theater marquee.” Now, I know I have a lovely posterior. That’s a given. But it’s not really that newsworthy, is it?

Farewell to a Friend

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Yesterday my friends and I said goodbye to a former colleague and dear friend, Bryan Hutton.

From The Herald (Everett, WA):

Bryan P. Hutton, 27 years old, born June 29, 1983 in Seattle, WA died June 25, 2011 in Seattle, WA. Bryan was raised in Mill Creek, WA graduating from Jackson High School. He then graduated from the U of W with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree and was hired on at Microsoft in 2005. He started out as a paralegal and moved up the ranks quickly. He just recently was promoted to E Discovery program manager. He brought a wonderful and positive attitude to work.

Bryan was in a good place in his life, he had varied interests, was involved in his community, loved family get togethers and spending time with friends. He had a great love for travel and had the opportunity to travel many places these last few years with close friends. One of his most memorable was to Australia. Bryan was a unique individual with a wonderful sense of humor and a keen intellectual curiosity. He was well liked by everyone that crossed his path; he gave us so much happiness.

We are very proud of Bryan and how he lived his life. He will be missed so much.

Bryan was every bit the unique individual with a great sense of humor and keen intellect described here. Saying he was well liked by all perfectly describes the way I knew and remember the guy.

He and I became friends soon after we both started working at Washington Mutual Bank in 2005. I remember that Bryan, always funny and sociable, immediately hit it off with everyone in the branch, including our hundreds of daily customers. It wasn’t long before Bryan and the rest of our crew evolved into a tight-knit group that, despite our busy lives, diverging career paths, vast geographical separation, and increasingly occasional get-togethers, would always consider each other dear and lifelong friends.

I knew Bryan as a charming, genuine, and seriously smart guy who was as fun-loving as he was easygoing. He could always be counted in for our many after-work Happy Hours and WaMu-gang reunions; a Portland road trip here, a Las Vegas wedding there; even the odd surprise birthday dinner thrown together at the last minute. His lively and sweet-natured presence always enhanced these gatherings, and forever enriched our lives.

Bryan left us far too soon, and I sincerely regret not getting to know him even better than I did. But I know that he was loved, and I know he will be missed. And I only hope that this small tribute is worthy, and my brief reflections do him justice.

I know I speak for all of our friends when I say farewell to you, Bryan. You will always be remembered fondly – never far from our thoughts, and living on in our hearts.

Kruger Time: My Guest Post for The Everywhereist

Is it bad form, when one has neglected his own blog for so long, to post a link to another blog he’s contributed to more recently?

Whatever. I’m gonna do it anyway.

I promised to write this guest post for my friend Geraldine’s far more distinguished travel blog about a zillion years ago. After no small amount of “gentle cajoling,” I finally got my act together and wrote this hopefully funny little piece.

In it I write about my November 2009 visit to Kruger National Park in South Africa. For this trip, I tagged along with my boyfriend Mike and his friends Julia and Allison, who were all traveling to visit their old college pal Jon.

For me, Kruger was the absolute highlight of the trip. In fact, it fulfilled my lifelong dream to someday travel to Africa and get my safari on. I’ll just say, the park did not disappoint.

Read all about it here. And enjoy!