Overheard on Vermont’s Rodeo Drive

The other day, the sun high and the sky cerulean, I wandered up and down Burlington’s very own Champs-Elysees – our Rodeo Drive, our Via de’ Tornabuoni, our uniquely Vermont strada di sophistication. Church Street. I love the Marketplace, especially in the summer: I shop, I eat, I eavesdrop. I listen to a little music. A little over two years ago, I shared with you a few snippets of actual conversations I overheard. Here is what people were saying this month.

“I would have paid $100 to see Michelle Obama. But I would have needed to spend another $100 on clothes. So I just went to Moe’s and got a burrito.” (Woman chatting with two friends.)

“I like my cargo pants. They have pockets. There’s even a pocket for my phone, see?” (Defensive young man in his early twenties to a friend who, apparently, was not enamored with cargo pants.)

“No, Sweetie, Champlain – not champagne. I mean, it would be cool if the lake were champagne. But it’s not.” (Mother to her young daughter)

“This place would be perfect if it weren’t so bloody hot out. This is, after all, why they invented indoor malls.” (Male who seems to want days that are sunny – but not hot and sunny.)

“Oh, my God, I have no idea who I just sent that picture to! Quick, give me back your phone and show me how it works!” (Teenage girl who had just posed with Dennis and Sansea Sparling’s classic statue, “Leapfroggers.”)

“I’m thinking we have our meeting here [outside on Church Street]. Really, that conference room is a freakin’ cave.” (Young businessman on a cell phone.)

“Honey, you smell like Abercrombie & Fitch. I don’t care that you have a bag from American Eagle. You smell like Abercrombie & Fitch.” (Mother to her teenage daughter.)

“Yeah, it was a good weekend. I waxed my car and my wife her waxed her – never mind.” (One of two men having lunch at an outdoor table at the Church Street Tavern.)

“Yes, Ben and Jerry are real people. If you want to make someone up to sell stuff, you use, I don’t know, elves or tigers.” (Mother to her young son.)

“It’s a diaper. I don’t mind. I’ve been cleaning up the dog’s for years.” (A new father to his friend.)

“Maybe the Echo Center is a bunch of caves. You know, waterfront caves. You go there and shout and the echoes are cool. ” (Male tourist with a map, standing in front of Leunig’s and gazing down College Street toward Lake Champlain.)

“I read somewhere that originally they were going to put the names of all fifty states in the bricks, but there were too many. So, they used countries instead.” (Very knowledgeable middle-aged woman.)

“I love Beatles cello. You don’t hear it often enough.” (Very knowledgeable – and sincere – middle-aged man, nodding and listening to a street musician play “Yesterday” on the cello.)

“Is this conversation going to be in your column?” (Yes.)

This coming Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday is the Church Street Marketplace and downtown Burlington’s annual summer sidewalk sale. It’s a great opportunity for a little retail therapy and the chance to savor the sights from an outdoor table at a restaurant or bar. Just keep your eyes – and ears – open.

(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on July 24, 2011. His next novel, “The Night Strangers,” arrives on October 4, 2011.)

Chris Bohjalian
Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of eighteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Guest Room. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, and The Double Bind.

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