Remembering Brooklyn and Vermont

Posted on September 10, 2011 by

I’ve lived in three places: 

Brooklyn, Vermont and Los Angeles. 

I picked up my “street smarts” as a working-class kid from Bensonhurst

Though it’s tempting to characterize myself as a tough guy from the boroughs, I’d be exaggerating if I suggested that I grew up using my fists and my wits. 

My neighborhood around Bay Parkway and 86th Street was really pretty peaceful. 

Occasionally the Italians and the Jews would go at it but – for the most part – ethnic tensions were bridged by common political interests (pro-union, New Deal Democrats) and could be worked out over stickball. 

Charming though it was (with a neo-urban appeal nowadays for its newest generation), Bensonhurst was a place to come from, not a place to land. 

So at 20 I headed to Vermont, amazed to find a completely different world just five hours north. 

Part of the rural (“back to the earth”) migration of the early 1970s, I felt welcomed in Southeast Vermont and fascinated by the traditional New England values of tolerance, community and individualism. 

The state’s current progressive reputation was incubating then, when Vermont was in its latter stages of  liberal republicanism. 

I stayed in Vermont - college, a job at the Brattleboro Post Office, work as a left-wing political reporter – for a decade; then was pulled to Southern California at the start of the Reagan years. 

Prompting these recollections are two events: 

The awful Vermont floods which bruised and battered some of the most scenic landscapes and historic riverside towns in the world and the 10th anniversary of 9/11. 

Though I’ve now spent half my life in the southwest, I’m rooted back east: 

Those busy noisy Brooklyn streets three stops on the train from Coney Island; and the Green River covered bridge (which I was delighted to learn survived the storm) in Guilford, Vermont, six miles north of the Massachusetts boarder. 

I’m glad I moved west and have been very impressed with L.A.’s evolution since I arrived (more cosmopolitan, neighborhood-friendly and left-leaning). 

And, of course, as Southern Californians we’ve had our own calamities – the ’92 Rodney King uprising and fires and the ’94 Northridge earthquake (which forced my infant kids, their mom and me to vacate our “red-tagged” Pico-Robertson duplex). 

So with Americans now facing the worst economy of our lives, maybe I’m just reflecting the national mood this week: 

Wistfullness, uncertainty, some hope and a lot of remembering.

Comments (4)


  1. DK McLeod says:

    …a little touch of EB White, and moonlight in Vermont; nostalgic and nice, in times like these…

  2. i turned from wistful to hopefull thursday night with the president’ speech. after the dow lost 300 on friday, i started feeling wistful again … but stil hopeful … maybe more wistful than hope … a little … ok, a lot ….

  3. Alan Abbey says:

    Lou – We match up in 2 places, and your memories resonate with me. Nicely done.

  4. Larry Smoot says:

    Being of the same generation, I fully understand and feel your words. Those memories I have of growing up in a Northern Wisconsin small town (under 700 people) are what generates my feelings today. My mood is one of utter disappointment. The Congress has become a Congress that is more concerned about politics than doing any real work to bolster our country either economically or where it concerns our basic infrastructure and our most at risk population.

    Republicans in Congress have one plan, “Allow no progress if it is presented by a Democrat.” Of course the Dems are not guilt free either — They too have a problem with being tough on Corporate America and continue to let that Body be the true ruling Body instead of Congress.

    So, as you may have guessed, my mood is pretty pessimistic about our government and what it is willing to do in real life instead of the 30 second sound bite. Sadly true bi-partisanship politics is dead and I doubt it can ever return from this “Politics over people” mentality that permeates Washington today.

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