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Rumble Strip

A Society, Culture and Travel podcast
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  What most people outside Vermont know about Christine Hallquist is that she was the country’s first transgender gubernatorial candidate. But it’s not what she ran on–and it’s not even what was most interesting about her campaign. The day before election day, Christine and her team had just finished a fourteen-county Road to Victory Tour,  which involved going to places like Lunenburg, Vermont, population 1302. And this wasn’t her first visit to Lunenburg. Christine’s campaign focused on rural Vermont, on people in small towns in far flung places, and many of the towns she visited over the course of the campaign had never even seen a gubernatorial candidate before. In my book, that’s what made her candidacy special. Not to mention the fact that the odds were against her–no ones beaten a gubernatorial incumbent in VT in 56 years. I asked her if I could follow her around in the days leading up to the election. She said yes. And I did. I watched her planting Christine signs along Route 2. While she was at it, she righted a few sandwich board signs for Sunday night bingo that had blown over. She made countless calls and took credit card numbers from donors on the phone. I guess it’s possible that other gubernatorial candidates do all this. But I doubt it. Here’s Christine Hallquist in her final push for governor. Welcome. Thank Yous Thank you Teddy Waszazak, David Glidden, and Cameron Russell. Thank you Mark Davis for producing this show with me. Thank you John Van Hoesen for giving me the idea for this story. Phone by Cameron Russell.  
Plain Life
A few weeks ago I got a call from my friend Susan Randall, the private investigator you might remember from previous shows. She said that ‘T.O.’–a former client in a federal public defender case–had just been released from prison seven days before, after serving a six year bid. He was trying to figure out what to do next and also clearly trying to figure out how to manage the world outside prison. Where people are just walking around.  Susan said she and T.O. were having lunch and she asked me to join them. After lunch, T.O. and I drove down to the waterfront in Burlington to talk in my car. I wanted to try to understand what it’s like to be seven days out of jail, with no housing, no money, and no family. I wanted to know what it’s like to adjust to freedom after years of confinement. Here’s what he said.
Sylvan Esso is a Good Band
  The first time I learned of Amelia Meath was in an email exchange. She’d written me a nice note about Rumble Strip and at the end she wrote–in rather an understated way–‘P.S. I’m in a band. It’s called Sylvan Esso.’ And because I’m old, I’d never heard of Sylvan Esso. So I looked her up online and I spent the rest of that night listening to every version of every Sylvan Esso song I could find, really loud and over and over. If there had been an album cover, I would have been clutching it to my breast. Ever since their first single in 2013, Sylvan Esso has gotten famous pretty fast, and they tour all over he world. Last month they played in Burlington, and I spent a rainy day talking with Amelia and Nick in their tour bus before the show. We talked about their music, touring, and the complexities of success. And there’s a lot of music in the show. It’s like a musical. Links For links to their albums, tour schedule, and all various and sundry, visit
Crime and Punishment Under Trump
Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a memo to all federal prosecutors, with new directives for charging and sentencing in criminal cases. He’s directed federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most severe penalties possible and pursue mandatory minimum sentences where they’re available. We’re headed back into the war on drugs from the 80s and 90s…a war that did not end drug use or make anyone safer. Instead it ripped apart families, packed American prisons and resulted in long sentences for a lot of non violent drug offenders. Everyone seemed to agree that it was a disaster. Hell, even the Koch brothers agreed.  During the Obama administration, there was bipartisan support for sentencing reform. And for the first time in decades, federal inmate numbers were down, and the Justice Dept made plans to stop sending inmates to private prisons. But last month, Sessions decided to relaunch the war on drugs. This is a show about a new dawn, a new day…crime and punishment in the Trump era. Credits This show is produced in collaboration with Seven Days. Click here for Mark Davis’ article on Jeff Sessions’ new charging directives. Dan Sedon, Mark Kaplan, and Lisa Shelkrot are some of the smartest, most accomplished attorneys in Vermont. If ever you’re in trouble, I highly recommend calling one of them. You will be in excellent hands. For more information on each of them, click on their names below. Dan Sedon, Esq., Sedon and Ericson, P.C., Chelsea, Vermont Lisa Shelkrot, Esq., Langrock Sperry & Wool, Burlington, Vermont Mark Kaplan, Esq., Kaplan and Kaplan, Burlington, Vermont Music for this show is from Vermont musicians Peter Cressy, Brian Clark, and Mike Donofrio Many thanks to Susan Randall, Mark Davis and former U.S. Attorney Charles Tetzlaff for their help on this show.
My mother used to say that everyone should waitress at least once. So I did. And I failed. In this program, I talk with some of the finest waitstaff in central Vermont about life in the business of serving your food. Appreciation: Thanks to Jay at Sarducci’s and Brian at the Wayside Diner for lining up interviews in these two fine establishments. Additional interviews with Josh Larkin and Jodi DeGuzman.
Farewell Mark Johnson
[soundcloud url=”″ params=”color=ff5500&inverse=false&auto_play=false&show_user=true” width=”100%” height=”20″ iframe=”true” /]For twenty-five years Mark Johnson hosted The Mark Johnson Show, first up in Burlington at WKDR, then at WDEV here in central Vermont. Last month he retired from the show. Mark kept us company on our commutes, in our kitchens and on job sites all over central Vermont. And if you live around here, you’ve either called the show, known the guest, or known some of the callers. The show was smart and relaxed and personal and Mark was very much…himself. I always felt like maybe the show was happening right across the road from my house. That’s how ‘local’ it felt. I invited Mark over to talk about how he produced a two-hour public affairs show for twenty-five years all by himself. He shares some high points, a few low points, and you’ll also get to hear a little from Governor Shumlin. And a caller named Marsha. Welcome. Next month Mark’s heading back to his native tribe of print journalists, and will be working with the online news site, VTDigger, as a senior reporter/editor. COMMENTS WELCOME: If you have a comment or a story about Mark’s show, there’s a comment box below. That would be nice. To hear your stories. Your comments. PHOTO CREDIT: The banner image of Mark Smith and Shap Smith was taken by the Vermont Press Bureau.
Police Log
[soundcloud url=”″ params=”color=ff5500&inverse=false&auto_play=false&show_user=true” width=”100%” height=”20″ iframe=”true” /] You can learn a lot about a place from the local police log. A couple weeks ago I was reading the Times Argus, and I read a police log that I was sure held some kind of message for me. There was a lost key, a found wallet, and a woman in yoga pants seen walking down Sumner Street. There was a dead deer missed by a car and a living deer hit. What could it mean? I’m going to start running periodic police log shows. If you know of small newspapers around the state that run good police logs, leave a message at the bottom of the show page here. I’d love to hear about them. This police log comes to you from the Barre Police, as published in the Times Argus. It is read by writer and radio producer Scott Carrier. Scott is coming out with a podcast of his own pretty soon, which is very good news. I will let you know when and where you can find it when it starts. Here is a picture of Scott in sunglasses. Music by Hayvanlar Alemi. The song is titled Crossroad Metamorphosis
A Long Day on the Road
“In the cathedral, priests with long black beards and scarlet robes are gliding through the shadows…I feel faint. It’s the heat, the fatigue, frustration — whatever, but there’s a lump in my throat and my eyes are filling with tears. The cop is starting to make big signs of the cross in the air. If w don’t get out of here quick, we’re going to convert.” This is a story from Larry Massett about a very, very long day in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, in 2002. This story aired originally on The Savvy Traveler in 2002, and on NPR’s Hearing Voices. [soundcloud url=”″ params=”color=ff5500&inverse=false&auto_play=false&show_user=true” width=”100%” height=”20″ iframe=”true” /]  
A Beer with Ben Hewitt
[soundcloud url=”″ params=”color=ff5500&inverse=false&auto_play=false&show_user=true” width=”100%” height=”20″ iframe=”true” /]Twenty years ago, Ben Hewitt and his wife Penny bought forty acres of land in Cabot, Vermont and started their first homestead. In Vermont, the word ‘homestead’ generally refers to people who build their own houses and live self sufficiently to one degree or another…with varying degrees of success. One of the most important characteristics of the homesteaders I’ve known is a deep affinity for the physical world. Knowing how it works, and how to live in it. Ben and Penny and their two boys are some of the most committed homesteaders in this state. They run a small hill farm and raise ninety percent of their own food. Ben makes a living writing about this life they’ve made. I visited him at his new homestead in Stannard, and we sat and talked by the woodstove that currently doubles up as the cookstove. And we drank some really good beer. Welcome. If any of you out there are homesteaders and you have a picture from your homesteading life, I’d love to feature it at the bottom of this page. My friend Robby sent me a CLASSIC, which you’ll see below…and I’d love to add more… Credits Ben Hewitt’s blog is HERE. Music for this show was made by Brian Clark of Calais, Vermont. You can listen to more of Brian’s music HERE.   Robby Porter, Calais VT 1973. Photo by Alex MacPhail…for bettter resolution, click here.   “Hunting is an important part of putting meat on the table on my homestead.” –Robin Follette   ​Shivani Arjuna’s homestead, Coulee Meadow Farm Doug Welch and his oxen, Buster and Bud, in the northern Adirondack foothills.
Today, a true story about two strangers who meet and talk very late one night on a northbound NYC subway. The story is from Otto Trautz, and was originally told live on stage at extempo, central Vermont’s totally excellent live storytelling event. And if my name were Otto Trautz, I’d have great stories too. Welcome. To hear more true stories live onstage, visit extempo’s website here.  
Police Log, March 2015
  The sock went missing in November, was encased in ice in someone’s driveway, and yesterday it was released. The end of winter is nigh everyone. This is for real. It’s time again for a sampling from the Barre and Montpelier police logs, as reported in the Times Argus. This month saw a disproportionate number of shovel incidents. There were keys lost and found. A juvenile was out of control on Crest Street. Come listen. The police log is read by radio producer Scott Carrier. Scott’s new podcast, Home of the Brave, has LAUNCHED, and I highly recommend you subscribe to it. He’s one of the most interesting radio producers anywhere. I’ve spent whole days binge-listening to his shows. It’s  time well spent. Music by Hayvanlar Alemi. The song is titled Crossroad Metamorphosis
Solidod, An Apache Original
This is a show produced by Larry Massett, for NPR’s Hearing Voices. It features remarkable stories from Solidod, the last remaining member of her village of Mescalero Apache who lived on the edge of Death Valley. Here’s Larry’s introduction…. “When I first met Solidod she was living alone in a tiny room in a rather depressing subsidized-income apartment complex in Florida. She herself was anything but depressing, though. A few minutes after we met she showed me the little knife she carries with her in her buckskin purse. “But Solidod,” I said, “that’s kind of a dangerous knife, isn’t it?” I said- meaning, dangerous for an 80-year woman. “Yeah, it’s sharp, it came with a good knife sharpener” she laughed, “but it would be better if it was rusty. So the cut would get infected in case I stab somebody.” Wow, tough lady. Tough, but also funny, curious, brimming with energy, and a world-class storyteller. As she told me about the adventures of her life I realized she’s been everywhere and done just about everything: horse-trainer, bodyguard, trans-Atlantic sailor, carpenter, gardener, artist, you name it. And she’s busy. She spends her days zipping around town selling the t-shirts she paints and the jewelry she makes, checking on old friends and chatting up new ones. Most people her age seem to be winding down; Solidod’s just getting started…” Thank you Hearing Voices for allowing me to air this show. It’s a favorite. Here is a link to Solidod’s book.
Big Job
This week’s episode is about one of life’s hardest and most humbling jobs. Parenting. You’ll hear stories about potty training, power struggles, living with teenagers, character-driven parenting, and negotiating new relationships with grown children. Plus some stories about beaches and dead birds. The hour features two interviews. Melissa Burroughs is a mother and teacher, and has worked extensively with families. The show also features an interview with a mother of two grown daughters. She talks about how parenting changes when the kids have grown and gone. She prefers to go unnamed.
Piano Practice
Here’s a short story about my son and piano practice and parental rage.
The Eyes of Sibiu
This is a story produced by my friend Larry Massett. A few years ago Larry took a trip with public radio personality Andre Codrescu. Andre grew up in Romania in times of hardship. After twenty years as an American citizen, he feels he’s lost the local taste of the land where he spent his youth. Larry Massett records the story of a man now in the role of “tourist” in his radically changed native land. THANKS TO HEARING VOICES This program originally aired on Hearing Voices, and airs on Rumble Strip Vermont with permission by Larry Massett and Barrett Golding. Thank you both for letting me share this. It’s one of my favorite stories and it’s one I listen to over and over. And over. And over. Larry wearing a hat in Montana
Raw Tape
  This is an unedited interview I did with a young man in Barre, Vermont in 2011. He gave me permission to use this tape, but I’ve chosen not to use his name in order to protect his privacy. I’ll call him ‘O’. I had interviewed O once before, when he was on furlough and living in Barre. About a year after that first interview I interviewed him again. I was curious about how he was doing after having maxed out his jail sentence. We met at the apartment he was living in with his girlfriend and daughter. According to O, many in his family–his dad, grandfather, uncle, cousins–have been in and out of jail for as long as he can remember. I wanted to know how this family history affected his thoughts about his own life prospects. I go back to this tape over and over. Pieces of it show up in other stories I’ve made, but there is more ‘content’ in this raw tape than any story I could write or edit. Warning: There are references to sex and violence in this interview.
Jessamyn West. Technology Lady.
[soundcloud url=”″ params=”color=ff5500&inverse=false&auto_play=false&show_user=true” width=”100%” height=”20″ iframe=”true” /]Jessamyn West is a library activist and computer technology savant who lives in central Vermont. She’s also kind of Internet famous. Jessamyn was one of the original moderators for the community blog MetaFilter—which is like the civilized version of Reddit. She was recently contacted by the White House for her thoughts on their choice for the next Librarian of Congress, and she speaks internationally about the digital divide. She’s also got WAY more Twitter followers than me. And probably you. No offense. Jessamyn has worked as a technology consultant in libraries all over the state, and she holds open hours at a local tech center helping people with their computer problems. In this interview, we talk about her passion for public libraries and the role of the modern librarian. And we talk about how different people manage their personal relationships with their personal computers. Which, as we all know, is complicated. Jessamyn Links Jessamyn has a long bio. Wikipedia says it best… A link to other links by and about Jessamyn Site where Jessamyn writes about library related things Jessamyn’s exhaustive and awesome Donald Barthelme fan page Here’s a transcript version of our interview, on Medium. Some great clips and commentary from the interview, on MetaFilter
Last Chapter
  Rob Mermin and Bill Morancy lived in neighboring apartments in Montpelier, Vermont. They were best friends.  And when Bill was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he asked his best friend to help him die. In 2013, Vermont passed the The Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act, or Act 39…our version of Death with Dignity. The legislation allows eligible Vermonters with terminal diseases the option to be prescribed medication that will hasten the end of their life. In 2015, Bill elected to use Act 39 to end his life, and he asked Rob to help him. This is a story primarily about their friendship–and the months, days and moments leading up to Bill’s death. To learn more about Rob Mermin and his illustrious career as a mime and the founder of Circus Smirkus, visit here. The music for this show was made by Vermont musicians Brian Clark and Mike Donofrio. And you heard from the original film soundtracks of South Pacific and Carousel, both by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The piano licks in this show were made by Vermont pianist Marie Helene Belanger Kudos for Show Notable podcast, AV Club, June 13, 2016, for Last Chapter Audible Feast, June 11-17, 2016 Rob Mermin
Driving around with Susan
Last summer I interviewed my friend Susan Randall, a private investigator. Susan trained me as an investigator, and we’ve spent whole days driving around the state of Vermont, working on cases and talking. We never run out of things to talk about. So I figured it was time to do another show with her. In this conversation, we talked about the criminal justice system more generally than before, and we ended up talking a lot about parenting…single parenting in particular. Come drive around with us. If you haven’t heard the other interview with Susan, you might want start there. It’s called VT Private Eye. Here is a picture of Susan and my boy Henry and her girl Lena, a zillion years ago.
Mind Windows
Mind Windows is a public radio program that gives your mind a chance to open its windows. Open them and then…see what happens! Our guest today is Morgantha Prentiss, a director with New York’s off Broadway Lynx Throttle Theatre. Last year, she co-created and directed the musical, Lambs and Order, in which actors re-create the classic police procedural but as a musical, and with a cast wearing paper-mache lamb masks. The musical was a hit. It was extended several times, and transferred to New York’s Public Theater where it got was nominated for an OBIE for Best New Musical. Credits Mind Windows is written by Sarah Miller. It might become its own podcast but for now it will make periodic appearances on Rumble Strip, and I have no doubt it will open your mind. The part of Morgantha was read by my friend Kate Gleason, an actor and director who lives in Denver Colorado with her dog Emerson. Sarah Miller is a writer who lives in Nevada City California. She has a dog called Merle. Recording studio and technical support by Ms. Tara Falk with the help of her dogs, Trout and Kate. The music for this show was purchased from a stock music house. It’s called Starlit Landscape.
Graffiti Photographer
Steve Grody has dedicated his life to his passions. He’s an accomplished swing dance teacher. He’s a self defense instructor. And in the last twenty-eight years, he’s taken tens of thousands of photographs of graffiti in his hometown of Los Angeles. This is a conversation about the decades he’s spent wandering alleyways, climbing under bridges and through tunnels,  documenting this ephemeral art. This program is produced by Bianca Giaever. She’s a writer, filmmaker, artist and radio producer, and recently I heard a story she made with Jay Allison that was sublime. It’s called Two Years with Franz, about the Pulitzer-winning poet Franz Wright. It’s beautiful and I highly recommend it. Her college film, the Scared is scared was named Web Video of the Year by USA Today but more importantly, it’s awesome. More about Steve You can see Steve Grody’s photos in his book,  Graffiti L.A., Street Styles and Art, and he has curated and contributed to graffiti art shows at MOCA LA and the Pasadena Museum of California Art. Steve Grody’s blog Ted Talk with Steve Music A Day At The Racetrack, by the musician Julian Lynch Additional music by Zubin Hensler and Jacob Blumberg  
Son Lux
  Son Lux is a band that doesn’t live comfortably in any genre. Their sound is massive, anthemic, but it’s also strangely intimate. The rhythms are incredibly complex, and it’s shot through with these bright details of sound. The project started in Ryan Lott’s brain in Cleveland, and then it grew by two–guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang. They’re all composers and producers and improvisers. I think it’s fair to say they’re all wicked smart. I interviewed Ryan Lott just two days before he went out on tour for their new album, Brighter Wounds. We had a really interesting conversation about where music comes from, and how he makes it. Or where he finds it… LINKS Image of Ryan by Zenith Richards Band image by Lisa Wassmann Website for Brighter Wounds A lot of Son Lux Music NPR review of Brighter Wounds
Vermont Private Eye
[soundcloud url=”″ params=”color=ff5500&inverse=false&auto_play=false&show_user=true” width=”100%” height=”20″ iframe=”true” /] This is an interview with a very old friend of mine, and the person who trained me as a private investigator. She taught me everything from basics like how to look up criminal records to the very advanced skills I learned. Susan Randall has been a PI in Vermont for fifteen years. She works on the some of the biggest cases in the state…and she’s really good. Susan can find anyone, and she can get them to talk about anything. And most of the time she’s working on fifty to seventy-five cases at the same time. Last week I went over to her house. We lay in deck chairs in her back yard and we talked about the job. About crime, lawyers, and what it means to give so much of your life to exploring dark stories. Susan Randall does criminal defense work in both federal and state court. She also does civil litigation. In the past ten years she’s started to focus on creative storytelling that’s necessary in sentencing mitigation work. She works primarily in Vermont but has worked all over the country. She runs Vermont Private Eye with her partner, Andrew Bartnick.
This fall my friend and I were going for a walk and as we walked past a small barn set down off the Upper Road in Calais, we heard someone from the barn call up to us and say, ‘You wanna come see some pigs?’ Of course we wanted to see some pigs. John Rowell showed us his new piglets and I went back a few weeks later to hang out with John and his brother Eddie and record a conversation. Here’s a few minutes from that night.
Robert Ford Last Ambassador
  Robert Ford served as the last U.S. Ambassador to Syria. He arrived in the country right before the protests began there in 2011 and he was witness to the beginnings of the civil war. In 2012 he was pulled out over security concerns, but he continued to work on the crisis in Syria back in DC until 2014, when he left the Foreign Service. Robert Ford now lives with his wife Alison in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, which is about as far from the Middle East as you can get. We met in his living room on a rainy day last week, right after the chemical attack in Syria and right before Trump’s military response. We talked about his personal experience in Syria and the role of diplomacy in the Middle East. Kudos Delicious Ingredients: The Best Podcasts for April 15-21, 2017
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Podcast Details
Mar 17th, 2014
Latest Episode
Nov 7th, 2019
Release Period
No. of Episodes
Avg. Episode Length
16 minutes

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