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March 19, 2013
By LEE J. KAHRS
One of my most vivid childhood memories is sitting at the kitchen counter with my little brother, John, drawing. I was perhaps nine, he a year younger, and we would each have sheets of white drawing paper and colored pencils or markers or crayons. I would often draw a bucolic barnyard scene, where the buildings were to scale but the horses and cows had elongated backs and too-short legs.
Minutes would go by, and when I felt I had put everything I had artistically into my barnyard, I would glance over at John’s paper. There, he would be putting the finishing touches on an exact rendering of a P51-D Mustang World War II fighter plane. Or, if it was after 1977 and the birth of the “Stars Wars” phenomenon, a perfectly drawn Stormtrooper.
John has always been an artist, and he has always been fascinated with mechanics and flight. He was a quiet, left-handed, redheaded kid who played the accordion and liked making paper airplanes. Around the age of eight, he started snatching my mother’s thick paperback romances and creating stick figure flip book movies in the margins. The stick figures would fight each other and then the winner would put down his sword and walk off the page. It was like a little paper stage.
On Sunday night, 1 billion people watched my little brother walk onto the world’s biggest stage to accept the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, his directorial debut, “Paperman.”
Everyone is from somewhere. It’s the somewhere that shapes who we are. Feel free to embraceJohn,Vermont, because his connection to this place helped build him into the man and the artist he has become. We are a family of valleys, and while that kitchen counter was in theHudsonValleyin our native state ofNew York, starting in first grade we spent all of our summers here in theLake ChamplainValleyat a camp inWest Addison.
One of the many gifts our parents gave us was their teaching schedules and summers off. We spent June to Labor Day here, leaving the camp after breakfast and often not stepping indoors again until dinner. We had true freedom, as long as we were within earshot of my mother’s dinner bell. There was Ghost in the Graveyard, flashlight tag, sailing, tree forts, bikes and swimming — lots of swimming. John and I would spend so much time “exploring” underwater that Mom would urge us to give our red-rimmed eyes a break. And on rainy days, John could be found drawing, or doing an airplane model, or making another flip book.
It was a tough place to leave in late August, new jeans and sneakers from Fishman’s in Vergennes packed among our things. Back to school.
High school was not easy for John, but he got through it. It was art school that really propelled him toward the future. After a year at Pratt, skip to the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design, 1988, when the school started a fledgling animation program during John’s senior year, and the rest really is history. Jump to his first job with Blue Sky Studios inWestchester,N.Y.(the folks who brought you the “Ice Age” movies) and John’s lonely life as a reverse commuter, his inspiration for “Paperman.” In 1994, it was on to California and Pixar Studios, where John spent a magical decade working on the now classic animated films like “The Incredibles,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Cars.” Then he headed to Disney, and when Disney and Pixar settled their differences and joined forces, John was once again in the right place at the right time.
Vermontis the right place for us as well. Sprawl led my parents to retire here years ago to live year round. I followed in 2002, fleeing post 9/11New York.
Our connection to this landscape is deep and enduring, and it is being passed on to the next generation. John comes back for a week every summer to the same plot of land on the lake that my parents bought 40 years ago, and his sons, Ben and Johnny, look forward to it all year. It’s important to him that hisCaliforniaboys have that touchstone ofVermont. It is something he cherishes, something he considers worth handing down, and even at the tender ages of 11 and nine, Ben and Johnny would be dismayed if they couldn’t make their annual pilgrimage to theLake.Missionaccomplished.
It’s a surreal experience to watch your brother win an Academy Award, but I told him earlier on Oscar Day that I always, ALWAYS knew he would do great things. Sitting with my parents in their living room last Sunday night, we watched the Oscars together, and when the announcement came, we jumped up and down and screamed with disbelief. My mother started to cry, my father’s eyes were wet with overwhelming pride, and as they embraced, I heard my father say, “That’s our son.”
The phone started to ring and didn’t stop all night. That was a problem because I saw online that John told the press he’d been trying to call but couldn’t get through (my parents don’t have call waiting). He said he felt terrible because he forgot to thank his parents when he accepted his award. He did finally reach us and apologized to my mother, who quickly told him not to worry about it.
“You guys let me do what I wanted to do,” he said. “And that made all the difference.”
As our family and friends continue to reel from this overwhelming experience, parents take notice. That could be your child, so a word of advice: Sometimes when you have a quiet, left-handed redhead who likes to draw, the best thing to do is … let them. They may grow up to win an Oscar.
January 12, 2013
December 27, 2012
2012 was a mostly good year for Masha and Linda.
Masha completed her freshman year of high school which turned out to be a surprisingly good experience for her. A bigger pool of kids meant new friends and social circles. Sports was a big part of her success. She is playing three sports and has met some good and motivated kids. She is also taking honors classes, and doing well in those.
Over the summer, she got her first “real” (non-family and friends) job. Although she is only 15, Wendy’s manager Rod Belock, a nice man I worked with at the Rutland Herald a long time ago, got a recommendation about Masha from my piano teacher (not about her musicianship) and took a chance on her. Her first couple of days were a little overwhelming, but she caught on quickly and is doing well. She is continuing to work during the school year, and managing her own money–a certain amount each month for college, and car expenses when that comes along.
The car is not that far away. She got her permit last summer, and turns 16 on March 17, 2013. Yikes! I can’t wait, and can wait, at the same time!
While Masha was making some good transitions in 2012, Linda took a big step backwards when she broke her right femur just above the knee in late February while skiing at Killington. She spent the rest of the winter and spring in rehab and exercise mode. The good news is that she is all better. No limp and only a little weakness while climbing stairs. After initially giving up skiing, she will likely be back on the slopes again in 2013.
Linda also published two books in 2012–an updated edition of her popular history of Pico, Vermont ski resort and the development of alpine skiing in this country. The other book is a memoir titled, In and Out of Darkness: Losing vision, Gaining Insight. Linda published her memoir as an e-book in late 2012, and has already received some very gratifying feedback and comments on it. You can read more about it on her website:
To download In and Out of Darkness, go to: http://smashwords.com/b/256018
December 19, 2012
Listening to local author Linda Goodspeed’s new book, In and Out of Darkness: Losing Vision, Gaining Insight, was the perfect therapy this past weekend. I had met Linda while walking for White Cane Awareness Day back in October, but I had no idea of her background. Back in the 80’s, she had been one of a handful of female sports editors atRutland,Vermont’s newspaper – the very city whose streets we were walking at the event! Or that she was an avid skier who earned the privilege of covering the 1984 Winter Olympics inSarajevo.
To add to her adventures, she worked her way into a Russian courtroom convincing the judge, through translation nonetheless, that with help from family and friends, her blindness would not prevent her from being a capable and loving single mom to a little Russian girl who needed her (besides, who doesn’t need help when raising a child!). In reading her book, I felt like I was right there with her through her journey of diminishing vision; I loved how she fought when she needed to, conceded when necessary, and adjusted her career as time went on.
There are always complications involving transportation and parenting with low vision or blindness. Comparing notes on such ordinary shared experiences provide comfort, but getting to hear about a person’s unique adventures that come about as a result of adversity are what provide the intrigue. And you never know, it could be the person walking right next to you who will provide the tale. If not, you can always pick up a good book . . .
Linda’s book is available on Amazon or Smashwords.
November 28, 2012
November 2, 2012
I now know what it’s like to be a rock star. Or at least holding hands with a rock star.
Last Saturday night at the Halloween parade inRutland,VT, the largest and oldest Halloween parade in the country, I was marching hand-in-paw with Scooby Doo. Thousands of people, kids, Moms and Dads, teenagers, older people, many in costumes, stood four and five deep, sometimes eight or 10 deep, along the parade route. People were on rooftops, in second and third story windows. The weather was mild, the moon full, And we were a hit!
Everywhere we went, kids screamed, people clapped and yelled, “Scooby!” Scooby!” “Scooby Doo!”
We smiled and waved back. “Scooby!” “Scooby!” “Scooby Doo!”
My friend Bob Boothroyd, a volunteer with the Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports program, which sponsored our float along with two other state organizations for the blind, was Scooby Doo. Bob’s friend Nancy, dressed as Thelma held onto Scooby’s left paw. With my wig and white cane, I had hold of Scooby’s right paw.
“Scooby!” “Scooby!” “Scooby Doo!”
Dave D’Angelo was a cow, Melissa Hoellerich a cat, Ebe Fernandez a butterfly, Nancy Gordon Mr. Peanut, Katrine Hughes a clown, Cathy and Rick Pingree a cowgirl and a long-eared bat. But the biggest screams and cheers were saved for, “Scoobie!” “Scoobie!” Scoobie Doo!”
October 23, 2012
Not many skiers from 1937 are still with us. There is a 90-year-old who skis regularly at Pico. But so many of the originals who helped found Pico, Vermont 75 years ago, and make it into the special ski mountain it is, are gone, or hung up their boards.
But as Pico celebrates the extraordinary milestone of 75 continuous years of operation–one of fewer than 30 ski resorts inNorth Americathat can claim that distinction–skiers everywhere will be able to ski like it’s 1937.
Pico will miss its original opening day on Thanksgiving. But no matter. In honor of its 1937 birthday, Pico will offer a $19.37 lift ticket on this year’s opening day weekend, December 15-16. Another great birthday gift Pico is giving toVermontstudents is a $75 season pass. AnyVermontstudent, K-12, can ski all season long at Pico for just $75.
Value and giving back to the community is the Pico way. Pico manager Tracy Taylor says parties and such to mark the anniversary will be scarce. He prefers offering Pico’s loyal friends and fans lots of value programs like a $19.37 lift ticket and $75 student season pass.
So here’s to Pico: 75 years and counting! Happy birthday, and many more!
September 8, 2012
By LINDA GOODSPEED
This past August marked the 22nd anniversary of Janet Mead’s death. Janet founded Pico ski resort in 1937 with her husband Brad Mead. Pico is one of the oldest ski resorts in North America, and I was reminded of the anniversary of Janet’s death because I have been working on a special 75th anniversary edition of my popular book, Pico, Vermont.
Brad Mead died in 1941 at the age of 37 in a boating accident, leaving Pico to Janet to run. Their daughter, Andrea Mead Lawrence, 9, when her father died, went on to win two gold medals in skiing at the 1952 Winter Olympics. Both Brad and Janet, who died on August 23, 1990, are buried near the summit of their beloved Pico.
Pico has a rich and wonderful history. It pioneered many skiing firsts, including the first alpine T-bar lift inNorth America, the oldest volunteer ski patrol, and one of the most successful junior racing programs in the country. But its history is also marked by many travails and tragedies: Brad’s death, the death of Swiss ski instructor Karl Acker, Andy’s coach who bought the mountain from the Meads and also died young. At one point, Pico even slipped into bankruptcy. But it survived and has never missed a season in 75 years, a remarkable achievement.
I like to think of Brad and Janet Mead, who first brought and nurtured that special feeling and character that marks Pico, as safeguarding and keeping that spirit alive from their summit resting place.
June 25, 2012
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