June, 2008

Vrrrooom to Move!
Catching a Ride & Shooting the Breeze with Four Motorcycling Hotshots

Traveling solo by motorcycle along the Blue Ridge Parkway in West Virginia, Marilyn Morin Roberts, 60, had pulled over to enjoy the spectacular views and take a break from her long trip. Turning back to her cushy Honda Gold Wing Trike, the mild-mannered mortgage broker from Colchester was unnerved to find an ominous-looking character striding intently toward her.

"He was dressed all in black, with a long white beard, and long hair," Roberts recalls. "I just held my breath. There were other people around, but they were all Harley riders too, looking a lot like him. A few tough-looking women were in the group, but I somehow didn't expect any help from them, me being the old lady on the trike!"

The man stopped directly in front of her bike, crossed his arms, and appraised her with a serious look. "Lady," he said, "I don't know what they call you, but I'm gonna call you Trouble. Now that my wife has seen your bike, she doesn't want to put her ass back on mine. Would you mind terribly if we checked out your bike?"

In the four short years that she has been riding, Roberts has logged thousands of miles and already has numerous tales from the road of places visited and colorful characters encountered.

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Judy Mirro

Revel in Opera's All-Consuming Passion this Summer!

Some of the most beautiful music for voice in the Western tradition was written for the female heroines of Italian tragic opera. Never mind that these women are usually dead of tuberculosis, murder, or suicide when the curtain closes. Each time they bring their un-politically-correct stories to an end with that final, fainting aria before collapsing onstage, they break our hearts - and we love them for it.

Two classics in the "woman must die" vein are the highlights of this summer's opera-going season in Vermont: Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata, performed by the Green Mountain Opera Festival in Barre, and Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème as presented by the Opera Company of Middlebury.

La Traviata - literally, "the woman who strayed" - takes place in Paris in 1850, just two years before it premiered in Venice, Italy. Violetta Valèry has "strayed" by becoming a courtesan - a rare position of prestige available to single women at the time, but one that meant ostracization from "good" society. To make matters worse, she has consumption, as tuberculosis was then known.

Based on the novel La Dame aux camélias by Alexander Dumas, the opera traces a six-month romance between beautiful Violetta and her high-society lover, Alfredo Germont. The relationship is doomed from the start, as the courtesan well knows and tries to make Alfredo understand. But love overrules reason - that is, until Germont senior steps in to break up the liaison. The scandal involving his son has endangered his daughter's chance to marry. Self-sacrificing Violetta agrees to give up her lover, but a frustrated Alfredo reacts by insulting her in her own salon. With unremitting remorse, he delivers his apology to her on her deathbed as she sings of looking down on Alfredo from heaven. The wayward woman, Verdi implies, has been redeemed through love.

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Wendy Hoffman Farrell

Amanda Fortin: Ready to Nail it with ReCycle North's YouthBuild Program

Amanda Fortin is standing on a ladder, affixing a drip edge to a garden shed. She takes a few swings with her hammer. "This nail is not going in," she reports to her instructor, Adam Stillman. "Try over here," he suggests. Fortin aims and swings again - and the nail goes right in. She smiles.

Fortin, 24, is one of 12 students currently involved in the YouthBuild program at ReCycle North, a job training, education and leadership development program for low-income young adults ages 16 to 24. She recently enrolled in the program after spotting a recruiting flier which read, in part, "Women are encouraged to apply." Had those words not caught her eye, Fortin probably wouldn't have considered the program, which provides comprehensive job training experience in the construction industry, along with educational and leadership development opportunities. Intrigued, she called YouthBuild Program Director Andrew Jope for more information. After their conversation, she felt confident the program was a perfect fit. It would allow her to earn her GED and further her education, meet new people in Burlington - she's from New Hampshire - and gain confidence in her ability to fix things herself. "Now if something breaks, I can fix it," she says with a smile.

The YouthBuild concept began in 1978 in New York City, the brainchild of Dorothy Stoneman, a Harlem-based community activist, who envisioned the program as a way to teach skills to underprivileged youth while also revitalizing impoverished neighborhoods. YouthBuild has existed in Burlington for 15 years and has been run by ReCycle North since 2004. "The YouthBuild model is really on to something," Jope says. He believes it does an excellent job of providing important opportunities and resources to those underserved by the public education system. "No one falls through the cracks here," he avers.

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Amanda Fortin