Our 2022 Road Trip #19: Buy Buy Burlington

Big Joe Burrell statue in Burlington, Vermont

A 2010 statue of Vermont jazz legend Big Joe Burrell, who played with the likes of B.B. King, Count Basie, and Phish.

We’re not high-end shoppers who get caught anywhere near boutiques, jewelers, perfumeries, fashion trendsetters, or home decor artisans unless they happen to be next door to the retailers we’d rather visit. And by “we” I especially mean “I”. Anne’s collecting habits are modest bordering on spartan, whereas I’m the one on the lookout for brick-and-mortar purveyors who cater to my hobbies and pop culture interests. Fortunately Burlington had just the district for us.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Since 1999 Anne and I have taken one road trip each year to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. After years of contenting ourselves with everyday life in Indianapolis and any surrounding areas that also had comics and toy shops, we chucked some of our self-imposed limitations and resolved as a team to leave the comforts of home for annual chances to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between. We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

For 2022 we wanted the opposite of Yellowstone. Last year’s vacation was an unforgettable experience, but those nine days and 3500 miles were daunting and grueling. Vermont was closer, smaller, greener, cozier, and slightly cooler. Thus we set aside eight days to venture through the four states that separate us from the Green Mountain State, dawdle there for a bit, and backtrack home…

With the morning rains entirely dissipated, the afternoon was lovely for walking from the Lake Champlain waterfront to downtown Burlington. They weren’t exactly next door to each other, but we felt like pushing ourselves partly as an exercise challenge and partly to hold onto our parking spot. I wasn’t eager to rejoin the Vermont stop-and-go-and-stop-and-go-and-stop-and-go-and-stop-and-go-and-stop-and-go traffic any sooner than necessary. Fortunately the walk was far from boring.

giant child's jack made of fire hydrants

Art installations along the day’s path included a giant child’s jack made of fire hydrants.

Chalkboard sign reading "Come In We've Got AC!"

Some businesses boast fringe benefits for customers.

Old-fashioned theater marquee in Burlington.

Another addition to my marquee collection hints Jackson Browne is still alive.

Lake Champlain mural.

Another mural to go with the ones we’d seen over by the lake.

Gryphon restaurant in Burlington

We’d already had lunch and wouldn’t be around for dinner, but the Gryphon sounds exactly like the sort of restaurant we’d try for the name alone.

Green Mountain Club historical marker.

Fans of historical markers or Green Mountain references can come together for this sign, which otherwise didn’t have much to do with us except in the distance you can see City Hall.

Apart from being a convenient public bathroom stop, their City Hall is at the south end of Church Street Marketplace, the destination shopping area for the “Queen City”. Church Street was one of their first major north-south thoroughfares, built at the end of the 18th century. Circa 1969 early discussion began for turning a stretch of it into a pedestrian mall, with input from a planner who’d handled a similar project in Copenhagen. Two blocks were closed off in 1980, and the Marketplace was officially dedicated September 15, 1981, during the first year of the first term of Burlington Mayor Bernie Sanders. A 2004 makeover expanded that to four blocks, the length we had fun walking. Some of the original architecture dates back to the 1820s, while there’re ostensibly Art Deco renovations here and there, none of which I noticed, but their literature claims it’s around.

Fun trivia, apropos of my interests: funding for the Marketplace was made possible in the ’70s by a grant secured by team effort whose players included U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, one of the most politically successful comic book fans in American history. Between his career and his lifelong hobby, he’s acted bit parts in five different Batman films, voiced a small role in a Batman animated episode, and written introductions to several DC trades. Longtime MCC readers can understand why I feel compelled to throw this in here.

Church Street Marketplace marker in Burlington

Next to City Hall is the official Marketplace historical marker, one of the sources of that large paragraph up there.

Deer and Bear Fountain deer sculpture

Other flourishes around City Hall include the Deer and Bear Fountains, installed by artist Frank Stout in 1982. Here’s the deer…

Dear and Bear Fountain bears statue.

…and here are the bears. Alas, no water today.

1816 Unitarian church in Burlington, Vermont.

The Marketplace has two poles taller than all their surroundings — on the south end, City Hall; on the north, the Brick Meeting House of the Unitarian Universalist Church, built in 1816.

By the time we reached the church, we’d walked a healthy eight blocks from the car and were surprisingly not dying of heatstroke. The weather and the walk were just that pleasant. All along the brick path, a small crowd mingled throughout the afternoon. Street performers included a violinist, an electric guitarist, and a guy who appeared to be selling imaginary ballpark snacks. Anne graciously let me step inside a few shops and indulge myself.

Crow Bookshop, Burlington, Vermont

At Crow Bookshop I picked up a recent edition of Catch-22 and Ryan North’s “chooseable-path adventure” To Be or Not to Be. Crow carried infinity-percent more Ryan North selections than the average bookshop back home.

Burlington Records music store

The selection at Burlington Records was 90% vinyl, but I found a few CDs to take home, including Social Distortion’s first album (the only one I was missing) and Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong’s solo reggae album.

Earth Prime Comics in Burlington.

I knew in advance Earth Prime Comics was closed Mondays, which softened my heartbreak.

Anne was okay tagging along and even happier when we stopped for snacks. As you’d expect of Vermont, there was a Ben & Jerry’s, but our groceries back home carry their wares and we had B&J-related plans later in the week. Apropos of the past 24 hours, we instead headed over to Lake Champlain Chocolates, one of the company’s three locations.

Lake Champlain Chocolates!

Also to their advantage: the line was shorter.

Champwich chalkboard sign at the chocolate shop with a drawing of Champy the monster

Our old pal Champy told us we’d come to the right place.

Anne holding an ice cream cone at you.

Anne prizes her scoop of maple butter pecan on a waffle cone.

While m’lady enjoyed her ice cream, I tried a drink they called the “Old World” — a cup of drinkable chocolate, 54% dark. Not a hot chocolate, not chocolate milk, not Yoo-Hoo or Choc-Ola. Just chocolate. That kept me going for a while.

Eventually the Marketplace ran out of blocks and we had no choice but to make the long walk back to the car. My feet were sore because my shoes were in the early stages of falling apart — a condition that would keep deteriorating until their swan song a week later at Fan Expo Chicago — but we were surprisingly not yet exhausted. Since 2015 Burlington has boasted 100% reliance on purely renewable energy sources — wind, solar, and all that ubiquitous wood. Sometimes for us humans, fun is also a great renewable energy source.

Bits of art kept peeking around the periphery as we drove toward our final stop in Burlington.

Waterfront Diving Center mannequin in Burlington.

A boating supply shop mannequin reminds passing boaters of their safety needs.

Traffic box painted to look like an aquarium.

A fish-tank lightbox in front of a Best Western.

sunshine painting on a lightbox.

Open up your heart and let the sun shine in!

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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