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Originally published in the Rutland Herald on Oct. 4, 2012. 

It’s been 22 years since Bob Newhart last performed in Vermont, but that changes Friday when the legendary comedian takes the stage at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre at 8 p.m.

During his more than five decades in show business, Newhart has enjoyed success not only on stage but also on the big and small screens, including two critically acclaimed network sitcoms — “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Newhart.”

For Vermonters, “Newhart” holds a special place as being one of the state’s most notable forays into pop-culture relevance. On the show, which aired on CBS from 1982 to 1990, Newhart played Dick Loudon, owner of the fictional Stratford Inn located in a small Vermont town full of quirky locals and backwoods oddballs.

While the series was shot entirely in California, East Middlebury’s Waybury Inn served at the exterior for the Stratford, adding another point of Green Mountain pride to the show.

While Friday’s Paramount performance will not feature Larry, Darryl and Darryl, it promises to offer a glimpse into Newhart’s button-down mind.

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Yesterday, on my way home from work, I came across a couple runaways out for a date on Court Street. Inspired by my photo, friend and occasional collaborator Will White, penned the following lines of verse.

You could say they were in the courting phase
He didn’t mind that she could curse up a blue streak
She didn’t mind that he had an axe to grind
He admired the action on her produce basket
She blushed at his robust undercarriage

Sure, she had a wall-eyed front left wheel, that squeaked when it was cold
And his handlebar grip would slip when it was damp out
But her stately perpendicular lines
Balanced his downtown tweed
And no one could argue their love…
For public free libraries

Rutland City Police investigate a shooting on Cleveland Avenue shortly before 4 p.m. Friday. (Vyto Starinskas/Rutland Herald photo)

[UPDATED (5/1/12): The shooting on Friday, 4/27/12, was accidental and not a drive-by]

(Published in the May 2, 2012, edition of the Rutland Herald) Before we respond to last week’s shooting near Cleveland Avenue with hopeless despair over Rutland’s further decline into darkness, let’s count to five and put things into perspective.

Early reports labeled the incident as a drive-by shooting. Further investigation revealed that it was, in fact, accidental. While this development changes how the shooting is classified, the public’s initial response was no less real.

As word of the shooting went viral on social media Friday afternoon, the tone was dire. Across the Rutland, people clucked their tongues and shook their heads lamenting the loss of town they once knew.

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Photo by Cassandra Hotaling Hahn / Rutland Herald

Originally published in the April 19, 2012, edition of the Rutland Herald.

Last week, Rutland was witness to something unique: A Chamber of Commerce mixer that people were actually talking about. Wales Street became a spectacle as scores of people crowded inside the large tent to mix, mingle and enjoy the complimentary food and drinks.

Donald Billings, chef-owner of Roots the Restaurant — which co-hosted the mixer with Earth Waste Systems — threw down with a menu dominated by locally sourced food. The centerpiece, a pig roast, helped build anticipation as it cooked slowly in Roots’ driveway — its smoky scents wafting through all of downtown a full day ahead of the event.

The buzz around the mixer was unprecedented for these typically humdrum Chamber gatherings. Clearly, the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce knew it had something special, as it was especially effusive in its promotion of the mixer via email, print ads and social media.

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Vyto Starinskas photo

Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 9/8/11.

What a difference a week makes.

As I stood in line at the Rutland Food Co-op last Sunday morning waiting to buy my iced coffee, like I do every week on my way in to work, I paused for a moment to reflect. A week ago (almost to the hour) I was standing in the exact same place.

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Recently, Herald editor and occasional food critic Randal Smathers penned a none-too-flattering piece about the zucchini — a Dylanesque jeremiad that nearly reached “Positively 4th Street” levels of contempt.

In his opinion, the veggie is overabundant, flavorless and ultimately unwanted — a scourge of summer gardens that growers are only too eager to pawn off to friends and enemies alike.

While the piece gave me a chuckle, I had to take exception to his assertion that only “one-in-10,000” people actually like zucchini. I personally know many zucchini lovers out there who openly celebrate their love for the great, green gourd. (Some town even go as far as to hold festivals for it.)

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