The hills are alive. . .

Earlier this month, the day of “The Simpsons Movie” premiere in Springfield, I overheard a conversation while I was having a maple cookie at Jamie’s on Main, a bakery and sandwich shop in the center of Stowe. The exchange occurred between a married couple who were somewhere in their mid-50s. Based on the brochures and the map of Vermont they had spilled like playing cards onto their table before them, it was evident that they were visiting our fair state. The following is a rough transcript of their dialogue.
HE: We could always go to naked town.
SHE: Naked town?
HE: You know, that town around here that lets you walk around naked.
SHE: Brattleboro? We are not going to drive all the way to the southern part of this state so you can look at naked people.
HE: You’d look, too.
SHE: No. We are not driving to Brattleboro.
HE: Then what? We’ve already been to Ben & Jerry’s.
SHE: We could try to find where they’re showing “The Simpsons Movie” tonight.
The two of them then turned to me, and the fellow asked if I knew where the film was having it special premiere that evening. They had heard that Vermont was hosting some exclusive preview. Springfield, I told them … the name of the town in which the Simpsons live. Springfield.
SHE: Isn’t that in Massachusetts?
ME: We have one, too.
HE: Is it far from here?
SHE: It can’t be any farther than your big idea that we go all the way to naked town.
Sometimes my heart goes out to everyone in Vermont who works to promote travel and tourism. We have a state that is spectacularly beautiful and pretty carefully preserved, but it doesn’t have a lot of theme parks. That means it doesn’t appeal to everyone. Moreover, Vermont is perceived in some quarters as an idyllic, pastoral throwback: Green mountains, red barns, white church steeples. Cows. Lots of cows.
In others, it is considered an eccentric backwater that spawns hippie ice cream and rusted-out Subarus. A place with something called naked town. (It is probably no coincidence that when Brattleboro isn’t receiving media attention for its tolerance of public nudity, it is being featured because of its annual Strolling of the Heifers festival and parade every June.)
We are known far and wide for phantasmagorically beautiful foliage in the autumn, and for maple syrup — though a sizable percentage of the world hasn’t a clue that the sap runs for but weeks a year in the spring, and all that boiling occurs in March and April. (When I was in Los Angeles earlier this year, a completely sincere individual told me she had always thought the sap ran in the fall because the leaves were dying, and they changed color because they no longer had sap in them.)
In any case, I introduced myself to this couple at Jamie’s and learned they were from Ohio. They were visiting Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, and this was their first trip to any part of New England other than Boston. I took the liberty of unfolding their map for them and showing them a variety of places they might want to visit on a sunny Saturday in the middle of July. I went as far to the south as the Justin Smith Morrill homestead in Strafford, and as far to the north as the Burlington waterfront and the ECHO Center. I also told them about my favorite places in Stowe.
And, yes, I told them they might enjoy a trip to Brattleboro someday, but not necessarily to see naked people.
The man’s response? “Then why? Is ‘The Simpsons Movie’ premiering there, too?”
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on July 29.)

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.

One thought on “The hills are alive. . .

  1. FrozenMadness? says:

    A town of tolerance? Brattleboro? Well, I guess all that parading around sans clothes probably Doesn’t happen much in the winter. Brrrr! Those Vermont winters! So cruel. (But maybe it does). I never fail to marvel at all the people who, when confronted with snow, ice and sleet (not to mention deadly, freezing waters) wish for nothing more than to remove all their clothes and pretend to be a polar bear. Me? I’d just as soon keep my experiences of Vermont Frostiness confined to pints of Ben’nJerry’s Chubby Hubby.

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