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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To be continued!
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