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Ralph Nader Opens A Tort (Yes, Tort) Museum in Winsted, CT

Nader AMTLBy Jamie Larson

Storied public safety crusader, polarizing third party candidate and Winsted, Conn. local Ralph Nader has finally opened the doors to the American Museum of Tort Law in his home town. If a museum dedicated to the history of personal injury law and consumer protection doesn’t sound like the most thrilling way to spend an afternoon, museum co-founder and president Nader says that’s only because you haven’t seen it yet.

“It’s a museum that relates to people’s daily experiences,” Nader says. “These are issues that impact the safety of our air, our cars, our water, our medicine…”

Inside the stately former bank on Saturday, Sept. 26, the museum held its convocation, featuring guests notable in the world of tort, including U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, and a performance by Patti Smith, a longtime supporter and advocate of Nader’s causes. Nader downplays the museum as a temple to his legacy, pointing out that a lot of the legal cases currently featured in the museum are not ones he championed. A notable exception is the museum’s largest exhibit piece, a beautiful red Chevrolet Corvair, the dangers of which Nader famously cataloged in his 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed.

“[The Museum] is about the people, but nothing is enduring without an institution,” says the 81-year-old Nader, adding that the fruit of his labor has always been the institutions he established to help educate and safeguard the public, including the national network of Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG) and now the museum, which he began planning in 1998.

Aside from the Corvair and a few other artifacts, such as some of history’s most egregiously unsafe children’s toys, the museum is filled with large, nicely produced boards that outline famous cases. Frankly, there’s a lot to read in the Tort Museum, but Nader says the examples don’t just dump information on you but provide “points of thought to challenge the visitor.”

Nader says it’s important that the museum convey the value of personal injury law not just as history but as an ongoing fight between regular people and corporations that have done some unspeakably terrible things. Through negligence, penny pinching or lack of ethics, corporations have and continue to maim and murder Americans with a regularity Nader finds alarming. He also feels that those in favor of tort reform are spreading misinformation (like inflated false injury claim statistics) in an attempt to allow corporations to avoid paying what they owe to the people they hurt.

“Media propaganda gives the impression [tort law] is abused,” Nader says, his passion for the issue still raging behind his distinctive gravel baritone. “Less than 10 percent of cases ever reach a lawyer. It is still very hard to negotiate the system.”

While Nader’s legacy as a public crusader is still widely discussed in progressive circles and his name will likely be the strongest draw to the museum, one uncomfortable question shadows the Tort Museum; will lingering Democratic animosity over the perception that Nader’s third-party bid for President of the United States in 2000 cost Al Gore the election (making Nader an accessory before the fact to the Bush administration’s actions) impact museum attendance?

“Only the liberal intelligentsia still have that syndrome,” Nader says by way of addressing the 15-year-old controversy. “There were ten reasons Gore didn’t win. They wanted to scapegoat me. But it isn’t the rank and file that think that. Working people think everyone has a right to run.”

To Nader, issues of tort law are highly political because he sees the vast majority of politicians as subservient to their financial donors in what nearly amounts to a corporate oligarchy. He says there’s much more resistance and animosity towards his museum from the right.

While Nader doesn’t make endorsements when it comes to the current presidential race, he supports a lot of Senator Bernie Sanders’ positions. If former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton becomes president Nader thinks she could be as bad as any Republican when it comes to the issues he cares about, calling her a “Corporatist and a Militarist.”

Nader allows that while Republican front runner Donald Trump is waging a campaign based on hateful xenophobic ideas he happens to blurt out off the top of his head and then decides to run with, he’s glad the blunt mogul is in the race.

“I actually say good things about Trump,” Nader says, his tone lightening. “Trump is putting forces in all directions and some are good. He’s knocking out [Republican candidates] who are corporate warmongers and calls out hedgefunders. And the silver lining is he galvanizes his opponents [on the left].”

Though he may not be willing to say that the new Museum of Tort Law is how he’d like to be remembered, Nader is more than willing to use it as an instrument, another weapon in his still ongoing fight for the public good. And though tort law may not be the sexiest topic for a museum, there are without a doubt some really important historical issues, lessons and truths thoughtfully displayed throughout the museum worth considering the next time you’re cutting through Winsted. And if you’re still on the fence, heck, Patti Smith thinks it’s cool, so who are you to argue?

American Museum of Tort Law
654 Main Street, Winsted, CT
(860) 379-0505

April 1 – December 31:
Wednesday – Monday, 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Closed Tuesdays)
January 1 – April 1:
Contact to schedule a private tour.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 09/28/15 at 01:05 PM • Permalink

Otto’s For Sale: The End Of A Chapter In Germantown

Otto's MarketBy Jamie Larson

In just seven years, Otto’s Market and its genial owner Otto Leuschel have become an institution on Main Street in the small hamlet of Germantown, New York. In 2012, Leuschel also opened Germantown Variety across the street, an updated five and dime as meticulously curated and quality driven as the market. The stores have cemented the former Whole Foods Market VP’s local legacy as a community-oriented master businessman. In many ways, Leuschel has been directly responsible for revitalizing the town and creating a sustainable little business. In fact, the owners of the well-received new restaurant Gaskins credit the stores specifically as one of the reasons they chose to open in the town.

Germantown VarietySo it came as a shock to many when Leuschel recently put both Otto’s and Germantown Variety up for sale so he can move back home to Washington State to help support his now 87-year-old parents.

“It was a very difficult decision because I’m proud of what I’ve built, but at the end of the day it’s a business,” Leuschel says. “I’ve been on the move my whole life and never stayed in one place too long. I see my life as chapters and this was by far the greatest chapter.”

Otto’s Market was originally built as a grocery store in 1927, and when Leuschel purchased the building he did a total renovation of the space to recreate an all-American early-20th century vibe. The atmosphere, and the market’s mix of everyday groceries with specialty and local foods, managed to do what was once thought impossible in Columbia County: bring the longtime locals and metro-transplants together.

Leuschel says he spends time considering every single thing he stocks, and that by selling high-quality (rather than “gourmet”) products, he tries to give the community the feeling that they are never excluded or priced out.

He says the only difference between the two types of clientele is that locals come in when they’re looking for something specific or to get coffee and a sandwich from the back deli, whereas weekenders will often do their whole shop.

Across the street, Germantown Variety essentially became the hardware and home goods extension of Otto’s, selling everything from nails and screws to beauty supplies and children’s toys. The store proved Otto’s wasn’t just a lucky fluke but that, if well run, new businesses could thrive in the out-of-the-way little town. It’s a lesson to be heeded not just by Germantown but smaller municipalities across the region.

From a real estate perspective, Germantown Variety may be an even more interesting property because along with the store, the beautiful 1930s structure also has two renovated loft apartments and an office suite.

“It’s time for me to sell — but I’m also selling something really cool,” says Leuschel, who never thought he would be going back to Whole Foods to run a store in Washington. “For a lot of people these are more than just stores. I’m so happy I was able to be a part of the community. Saying goodbye to the kids I’ve watched grow up is the hardest part.”

Gtown Variety interiorLeuschel’s goal is to find buyers interested in continuing and growing the businesses because they have become integral to the community. But more than that, he has created two stores that could be used as a masters study in business management. During his 17 years at Whole Foods, Leuschel opened and/or ran stores that played a part in the company becoming the giant it is today. He was responsible for opening the first Whole Foods stores in New York City, San Francisco and London, among many others. He says Otto’s and Germantown Variety are run just like a Whole Foods and any buyer could inherit all the successful and proven structures and efficiencies he’s built into the operations. He hopes that also means they would keep on the much-loved and well-trained local staff.

Gtown Variety

The apartment above Germantown Variety.

“I hope to sell it to someone who can carry it on and take it further. I’ve given it all I’ve got, all my tools,” he says, adding that he’s not just selling the businesses and the buildings but the chance to live the amazing lifestyle Germantown has afforded him.

“People get me and accept me and like me and celebrate me. I have to go because my head is going to get too big! I’m cognizant of what I’m giving up. It’s great to be me here and if you want my life, it’s for sale.”

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 09/21/15 at 03:35 PM • Permalink

Six Degrees Of Satay And More At The Indonesian Country Fair

By Lisa Green

When Iin Purwanti presented an Indonesian night at Six Depot in West Stockbridge, Mass. a few years ago, the response from the community was so positive that she vowed she would do more to introduce the art and talent of her native country. The result is the first annual (she hopes) Indonesian Country Fair on Saturday, Sept. 26 in downtown West Stockbridge.

“A country fair is so American,” Purwanti says. But instead of foot-long hotdogs, there will be six kinds of satay (one kind from each of Indonesia’s six major islands), prepared by Priscilya Princessa, winner of MasterChef Indonesia. Taking the place of a B-level country/western act, the Saung Budaya Dance Group from New York City will entertain with traditional dances. A Balinese gamelan group will perform with its traditional set of magical, percussive instruments, representing an integral part of Indonesian culture.

At heart, the Indonesian Country Fair is a food fair, Purwanti says, because food and Indonesians go together, and food provides a delicious way into the archipelago’s cultural richness. But accompanying the food-related activities (including a cracker speed-eating contest, a traditional game played on Indonesian independence day) there will be a batik making demonstration, arts and crafts vendors, and the opportunity to meet representatives from several organizations who work with Indonesian youth.

Purwanti [in photo, right] and her husband, George Cox, are filmmakers who run Outpost, a video production studio headquartered just above Six Depot. With her concentration on filming nonprofit and grassroots organizations, it’s not surprising that Purwanti is eager to foster an exchange between her original home and her adopted one.

“Hosting this event is like merging two big families together — my Indonesian and American family — pretty much like my own marriage with my beloved husband and creative partner, George,” she says. “Lots of introductions and dialogue need to be made and nothing is better than with food and arts. “

Upon arrival at the fair, guests will be given a map of the grounds, a “passport” with six empty circles — one for each of the showcased islands. Visitors who meet up with the island tour guides will get their passports stamped. There’s a prize for those who collect all six stamps.

“I’m excited about the whole concept of giving people a little vacation to Indonesia,” Purwanti says.

Indonesian Country Fair
Saturday, Sept. 26, noon-6 p.m.
6 Harris Street, West Stockbridge, MA

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Posted by Lisa Green on 09/19/15 at 03:55 PM • Permalink

Who Doesn’t Love An Ice Cream Social?

SoCo Creamery, the handcrafted, micro-batch ice cream company started in 1989 by Danny Mazursky and his family, has frequently introduced seasonal flavors (you may have tasted fall’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip or the holiday-inspired Gingerbread). But lately, the Great Barrington-based ice cream maker has been partnering with local taste purveyors for inspiration, and you’re invited to try out the new flavors at an ice cream social on Saturday, Aug. 8 at the Great Barrington Bandstand behind the Town Hall.

Making their debuts will be Windy Hill Farm Blueberry, Taft Farms Harvest Mint Chip and No. Six Depot Heart of Darkness. Ice cream cones will be sold for a $1 each, with all proceeds going to the Great Barrington Historical Society.

The intent, says SoCo President Erik Bruun, is to reintroduce SoCo as the natural ice cream that really reflects the values of New England, and to let people know that the company has dropped corn syrup and carageenan (an emulsifier that’s banned in the European Union) from its ingredient mix.  “We look for purveyors of similarly high qualities who can offer something that makes for good ice cream.”

These new seasonal flavors (as well as the outgoing No. Six Depot Bali Blue Moon, Home Sweet Home Cinnamon Doughnut and Sweet Brook Farm Maple Bacon, which will be available at the event) offer a taste tour of the Berkshires, but they’ll all be in one place. At $1 per cone, you can try as many as you like, and help the Historical Society with each one. The Lucky Five Jazz Band will provide the musical licks.

SoCo Ice Cream Social
Saturday, Aug. 8, 2-5 p.m.
Great Barrington, MA Bandstand at the Town Hall

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/03/15 at 03:12 PM • Permalink

Kent Presents: An Ideas Festival About What Comes Next

Speakers include Jeffrey Toobin, Henry Kissinger, Mia Farrow, Soledad O’Brien, Siddhartha Mukherjee and Paul Krugman. Photo of Krugman: Frank R. Conrad, The New York Times.

By Jamie Larson

It is impossible to overstate the caliber of speakers, the depth of knowledge or the collective value of experience planned for display at the inaugural Kent Presents ideas festival, August 13th – 15th at the Kent School. Thanks to the philanthropic vision and deep personal rolodex of laudable locals Benjamin and Donna Rosen, the beautiful small town of Kent, Connecticut will host some of the greatest minds of our time as they speak on the conference’s heady theme—“What Comes Next?”

With the humble intent of increasing interest in their town and supporting local charities, the Rosens have put together a conference of 70 diverse speakers that include Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, economist Paul Krugman and director of the National Cancer Institute Harold Varmus, all three of whom happen to be Nobel Prize winners. The schedule includes presentations from experts in science, public policy, business and technology including Pulitzer Prize-winning doctor and author Siddhartha Mukherjee, president of the World Monuments Fund Bonnie Burnham, Bloomberg Finance executive editor Christine Harper, New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, director of the Iran Project and former ambassador William Luers and many more.

“They’re coming to a village they’ve never heard of for an event that never existed before,” Donna Rosen says with a laugh. “We hope to establish Kent and Litchfield County as a center for intellectual thought.”

The Rosens [photo, right] were able to manifest this laudable event out of thin air due to the connections they’ve cultivated during a lifetime spent in the upper echelons of business, policy, philanthropy and the arts. Benjamin Rosen is a former venture capitalist, chairman emeritus of Compaq Computer, chairman emeritus and current life trustee of the California Institute of Technology and currently on the boards of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (emeritus) and the New York Philharmonic (emeritus). He is also a former Met Opera board member and Columbia Business School board chairman. Donna Rosen was a longtime contemporary art gallery owner in New Orleans, and is now active in philanthropy and the visual arts, and is a board member of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, and American Friends of the British Museum.

With Mrs. Rosen’s connection to the art world, it’s no surprise the Kent Presents lineup also boasts many notables from the world of arts and media including actress and activist Mia Farrow, CNN journalist and author Fareed Zakaria, Tony-winning Broadway director Richard Maltby Jr., artist Xaviera Simmons, journalist Soledad O’Brien… the list goes on and on.

“We are fortunate to have great friends involved in many facets of life,” Rosen says. That’s a bit of an understatement.

It’s almost hard to parse the scale of Kent Presents with its casual catalyst. Last August, the Rosens were having a conversation with some friends about the Aspen Ideas Festival and how great it would be to have a similar event in Kent, close to New York City but also surrounded by a beautiful landscape.

“Ben said it would be a good project for him since he doesn’t play golf anymore,” says Rosen. “So we founded the non-profit to support local charities and asked (Kent School headmaster Richardson Schell) if we could use the school as a venue and he graciously opened his doors to us. We sent emails to various friends of ours and, to our delight, many said yes.”

Unfortunately, the nearly $2,000 passes to Kent Presents are all but sold out, with a number of seats having been comped to local residents so that the event could be diverse and accessible. The Rosens are pleased and encouraged by the interest and are already looking forward to next year when they may need to expand.

Though only in their start-up year, without any sponsors, Rosen expects to raise a six-figure amount for the local charities selected at a later date by a committee of local residents, not including the Rosens. 

Kent Presents
Thursday, August 13—Saturday, August 15
On the grounds of the Kent School in Kent, CT

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 07/20/15 at 09:37 AM • Permalink

Slideshow + Potluck = Slideluck, A Community Happening

Casey Kelbaugh at a recent Slideluck in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo by John Mazlish.

By Lisa Green

Slideluck, a non-profit organization dedicated to building and strengthening community through food and art, has had a presence in cities throughout the world, but it’s making its first stop in the Berkshires next week, and you’re invited. The event is being hosted by The Barn Gallery at Stonover Farm Bed and Breakfast in Lenox on Thursday, July 16, with the potluck starting at 6:30 p.m. and the slideshow at 8:30 p.m.

Part slideshow, part potluck, Slideluck was the brainchild of photographer Casey Kelbaugh, who hosted the first event in his Seattle backyard in 2000. The idea was to bring artists out of their studios and show their work via slideshow to the community, with potluck meals provided by the guests. Since then, more than 100 cities worldwide have hosted Slideluck events and presented the work of about 10,000 artists.

Each community sets up its own event, backed by the sizable staff of Slideluck, now based in New York City. And while most of the Slidelucks occur in metropolitan areas, Kelbaugh is excited to bring the concept to a rural setting. He’s known the Werman family, owners of Stonover Farm, for years, and they’ve talked about a collaboration for a long time. Suky Werman, who curates The Barn Gallery, was aware of Slideluck — her kids had attended a few of them in Brooklyn — so she was familiar with the concept and always had it in the back of her mind for The Barn Gallery to host.

“Last year we came relatively close, but Suky wasn’t ready, so we decided to plan it out,” Kelbaugh says. “The property is the perfect location — the idea of doing it with a big open barn is so exciting.” Since the first event 15 years ago, Slidelucks have expanded beyond a backyard-type venue, Kelbaugh says, but there’s still an authenticity each time. “We’ve worked hard to keep the community barbecue feeling.”

Werman, who has long been affiliated with IS183 Art School of the Berkshires (she’s currently on the board), sees the event as a way to draw a wider crowd to the art experience. Yes, it’s a way to broaden the community who comes to see work at The Barn Gallery, but the combination of food and slideshow will also, she thinks, attract a more multigenerational crowd. She’s curated the show of more than 20 artists (local and otherwise) from a range of media – photography, painting, ceramics, textiles. Their work will be available in the Gallery, and a portion of each sale will be donated to IS183.

The Slideluck organization sends out a team to help produce the event, with sponsors Brooklyn Brewery and Souverain wine supplying the beverages. Think Tanglewood picnic: come prepared to spread out on the lawn to both eat and watch the slideshow, which will be projected on the barn exterior (in case of inclement weather, the event will be moved inside). What to bring? Keep the Cheetos at home, please, and consider supplying an appetizer, salad, main course or dessert to share with some portion of the crowd. Werman is hoping for a gathering of 150-170 people. Although it’s always tough to anticipate the participation, Kelbaugh says it always works out.

Come for the feast, stay for the show. It just may be the event of Summer ‘15.

Slideluck Berkshires
Thursday, July 16, 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
The Barn Gallery, Lenox

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/05/15 at 11:17 AM • Permalink

Hudson River Exchange: An Event Of Art And Community

HRX VendorBy Jamie Larson

Mixing expertly crafted style with meaningful community engagement, the third annual Hudson River Exchange Summer Market, to be held at the Hudson Riverfront Park on June 27 and 28, will once again showcase artisan makers and collectors in a “curated marketplace.”

The Hudson River Exchange (HRE) is a uniquely rewarding event because it not only gives visitors access to some of the most beautiful and thoughtfully made products being produced here and around the country, it also provides a hub for craftspeople to showcase their work and grow their unique small-scale businesses. Whether it’s handmade clothing, jewelry, artwork, beauty and apothecary items, antique objects, woodwork or other crafts, the Exchange is as much about creating a valuable experience for the sellers as for the shoppers.

HRX Wide View“The HRE has helped me build a local customer base, which has greatly contributed to the growth of my handmade business,” says Silke Jacobs. “HRE is an innovative, positive force in our community that has changed the game for creative business owners in and around Hudson.”

Sellers can become members of the exchange and workshops, and networking is available to artisans, who often work in seclusion. A full list of vendors is available on the HRE website, but the best way to discover something you didn’t know you needed but can’t live without is to simply walk the tents, which are often beautiful displays in their own right.

“The quality keeps going up each year,” says Exchange co-founder Kate Moore. “Now our mission is evolving. We’ll be launching workshops and services for these amazing small businesses.”

HRX CardsThe level of taste, quality and craftsmanship at the Exchange is second to none. Assembling the event is a lot of work for the small organizational staff. Their first event was supposed to be a one-off, Moore says, but an extremely positive response from visitors and vendors inspired them to continue. Now the Summer Market is the flagship event for a growing operation that includes pop-up events, collaborations with CSA fairs and the successful Basilica Farm and Flea event each Thanksgiving weekend.

HRX Catskill Mill Food Truck“One of the reasons we wanted to continue is we saw that artistic people needed a market to sell this beautiful work,” Moore says, adding that they’re showcasing work indicative of an artistic, artisanal lifestyle, not just creations from the Hudson Valley. “We continue to have a strong relationship with local vendors coming from out of town and out of state.”

Free to the public, the event will also include food and drink from chefs including Brooklyn Oyster Party, Catskill Mill Food Truck, Raven and Boar, and a Saturday night bar courtesy of Fish and Game.

Hudson River Exchange Summer Market
Saturday, June 27, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sunday, June 28, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, Hudson, NY

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 06/16/15 at 12:28 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Hudson

By Paige Darrah

“I like that it’s somewhat of a transient town, a place where a lot of interesting bands and writers pass through. I’ve heard people say, “If you don’t like Hudson, wait a day.” —Chloe Caldwell

From an industrial whaling port to a den of vices to an enclave for country urbanites and Brooklyn* expats, upstate’s hippest town, situated between the Berkshires and the Catskills, has something for (almost) everyone.
* Hudsonians cringe when their hamlet is compared to Brooklyn.

1.) Spotty Dog Books & Ale An independent bookshop/literary café/bar, Hudson’s former firehouse is frequented by salty locals, including one dude who walks an imaginary dog on an unimaginary leash. Grab a glass of Sancerre or a local craft beer to sip on as you browse the 10,000 carefully curated titles. The back room is full of art supplies, Japanese mechanical pencils, and fun literary curios like matchbox libraries of banned books and Goodnight Moon tote bags.

2.) A Guy Named Earl The following is an excerpt from a conversation I had at a party in Millerton, NY last December. “Ah, so you live in Hudson. Do you know Earl?” inquired a fellow partygoer. “Earl? No, I don’t know Earl,” I said. “You live in Hudson and you’ve never heard of Earl?” he said. “I don’t know Earl,” I said. Earl is Hudson’s resident celebrity and is representative of the kind of scrappy, grassroots entrepreneurs and artists that characterize Hudson. He paints cartoonish domestic animals and historical figures on pieces of wood he finds laying around. (I have one of his paintings of a dog in sneakers mowing the lawn.) Many, if not most, of the shops and restaurants on Warren Street display “open” signs they commissioned from Earl. While you can buy his paintings at several galleries and shops in Hudson, you’ll get the best deal at Ryan LaPoint’s sign-less basement shop at 518 Warren Street (it’s called Devil In the Woods) where Earl paintings run $40 to $150.

3.) Hudson Wine Merchants I’m always excited to see Lauren in this intimate wine shop. Lauren is an unlicensed sommelier with a penchant for herringbone jackets (which look smashing on her, by the way) who says things like “the Raventos Cava is drinking really well this season.” If you pop in when owner Michael Albin is there, not only will he hook you up with a peppy new rosé…he’ll throw in a relevant anecdote free of charge. For example, Pomponette — a Provençal rosé that’s drinking really well this season — means something like “drunk girl” in French. Bonus: there’s a basket of vintage toys in the corner to pacify the kids as you hunt for libations to take to the adjacent food truck garden.

4.) Whales Hudson was a whaling town during the 1700s, settled by the whalers who sailed up from Nantucket. So the whale is the town’s unofficial mascot and they’re everywhere. Even the street signs are punctuated with Moby Dick’s smiling silhouette.

5.) Food Trucks Hudson is better with food trucks (every city is better with food trucks). The food truck court’s hibernation ended in April, and it’s an eclectic fleet this year. Longstanding favorites include Taste of India and Once Upon A Taco (try the veggie black bean version). New trucks this year, which Rural Intelligence recently wrote about, include Savory (a deli), and Gracie’s (American fare that’s like state fair food but classier). Hudsonians congregate at the food truck court’s picnic tables on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, lending a lovely block party vibe to Warren Street’s 300 block.

6.) Its History of Vices Hudson has always had an underbelly. For much of the first half of the 20th century, Diamond Street (which has since been renamed Columbia Street) was seething with brothels and gambling dens. The Feds did a late-night raid in the early 1950s, during which they busted several complicit police officers. 

7.) Our New Hogwarts-esque Library It’s slated for completion by the end of 2015 and we’re very excited about this. The current library has some charm to it, sure. But the new facility is going into a very cool old building, the circa 1898 Hudson Armory, with that fabulous tower.

8.) Tommy You need an appointment to procure a mani at Tommy’s Luxury Nail Spa, which seems annoying at first, but then you realize it’s part of the charm. This place is part nail salon, part art gallery (you get to stare at Tommy’s impressive still life paintings and listen to classical music during your pedicure). Tommy’s $20 manicures are the best, longest-lasting manicures I’ve ever had, plus he’s funny. ”Is it just you, Tommy? No other technicians?” I asked. “There aren’t any other Asians in Hudson,” Tommy replied.

Photo by Jeremiah Cox/

9.) The Romantically Old-school Amtrak Station Penn Station to Hudson Station in two hours — no changing trains, no taking cabs, no passing Go. The train station itself is sweet, quaint and romantic. The cash-only snack bar is run entirely by volunteers, where you can snag a pre-departure New York Times and a Diet Coke. Its high ceilings and church pews recall the set of a black and white movie.

Photo by Katherine Darling

10.) Moto Coffee Machine (formerly known as Swallow) Made famous by their crumbly, burst-in-your-mouth blueberry scones even Martha Stewart would be proud of, Hudson’s hippest coffee shop relocated and rebranded itself this year. Now it’s called Moto and employs an industrial-chic-meets-grunge vibe. Motorcycle helmets neatly line the cubbies above the sugar and lid station. Owner Aaron Dibben — who is often manning the espresso machine — looks like he went to several Nirvana concerts in the ‘90s. Moto added an artisanal waffle bar starring a French Culinary Institute alum in May 2015, adding a new dimension to a Starbucks-averse town filled with country urbanites.

Other things we love about Hudson, covered by Rural Intelligence over the years:
10 Unusual Gifts You’ll Find Only In Hudson
The Women of Hudson’s 400 Block
Talbott & Arding Cheese And Provisions
The Milliner Guesthouse And Inn
Hudson Basilica Farm & Flea
Shopping for Curiosities
Bonfiglio & Bread
Helsinki Hudson
Hudson at the Holidays

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 06/02/15 at 04:44 PM • Permalink

Kent Needle Arts Retreat: Namaste For Knitters

It takes a bit of chutzpah to open a yarn shop when you aren’t a knitter yourself. And it takes something — confidence, talent, drive? — to be able to say that within less than a decade there isn’t anything you can’t knit or teach.

Nancy Hamilton, owner of Black Sheep Yarns in Kent, Connecticut, gets extra bragging rights: her boutique has been awarded the best yarn shop in Connecticut by Connecticut magazine for the past two years. Since she opened the shop six years ago, she’s created a community of knitters there, built a lending library of knitting and crocheting books, teaches freely to anyone who comes to the shop (regardless of where they’ve purchased their materials) and has invited the authors to give master classes.

The success of those classes inspired Hamilton to organize the very first Kent Needle Arts Retreat, to be held the weekend of May 16 and 17 at the Kent Community House. It will be an intensive gathering of knitterati, featuring two full days of classes led by seven nationally known instructors, a dinner and fashion show at the Fife ‘n Drum Restaurant, and a marketplace.

Hamilton, whose background was in sewing, believes that most knitters are stuck at an intermediate level and all that’s needed to set them soaring is inspiration, coupled with expert instruction. To that end, she has invited highly regarded specialists in color, fit (including pattern modification), fashion-forward design, and advanced techniques such as Continental, Scandinavian, Andean, and Fair Isle knitting (aka: “stranded color work”), as well as Celtic cables and Bavarian crochet.

“I tried to create a good mix,” she says. For anyone who is more than ready to include patterns in vivid colors, elaborate cables, or innovative design in their knitting projects, the Kent Needle Arts Retreat is an exceptional opportunity to learn from some of the foremost instructors in the field.

If all goes well, Hamilton anticipates that the retreat will become an annual event, and given her enthusiasm, there’s little doubt she will make it happen. “I am already booking the teachers for next year,” she says.

Kent Needle Arts Retreat
Saturday and Sunday, May 16 and 17, 2015 in Kent, CT
Black Sheep Yarns
12 Old Barn Road, Kent, CT
(860) 927-3808

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/28/15 at 09:10 PM • Permalink

‘Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury’ A Portrait Made With Love

By Nichole Dupont

Connie Shulman and Laury Sacks.

Imagine the most vibrant person in your life; Sharp-witted, the life of the party, compassionate. The story seems always to begin with this beloved main character, who suddenly starts acting very strange. That’s where Laury Sack’s story began, and it’s in that moment that her good friend, documentarian Pamela Hogan, who lives part-time in Litchfield County, let the camera loose to chronicle the devastating effects of Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) on Laury, just 46 at the time of her diagnosis, and on those who loved her beyond the grip of this mystery disease.
“She was always so funny, and she let the audience know that it was OK to laugh,” says Hogan. “It was unthinkable, and she laughed a lot about it because it just doesn’t get any more absurd.”

Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury” will be screening at the Scoville Memorial Library in Salisbury on Friday, April 24 at 7 p.m. It is the first in what Hogan hopes are many screenings across the country to raise awareness about early onset dementia, FTD and Alzheimer’s, especially for those who are caregivers and families trying to muddle through the diagnosis just as Laury’s husband and two children did. A talk-back with the producers will follow the screening.

Hogan [left], who is an Emmy-award winning producer and director — her credits include PBS’s Wide Angle series, NBC’s “To Be an American,” and her own films such as “Time for School” and Ladies First” — had to find the delicate balance between work and friendship in order to capture Laury’s experience without invading her dear friend’s life.

“We decided that we were going to film two times a week and only at times that worked for her, not first thing in the morning when they were having breakfast or things like that,” she says. “And we had to shoot in short bursts and find out what was going on in that particular week. She always played for the camera, you can just tell.”

Each scene is a backwards milestone: Laury not able to remember common words, Laury struggling to make fennel soup, Laury refusing to acknowledge the home companion assigned to her. The decline is rapid as more and more of Laury gets buried inside and friends family turn into babysitters — including good friend and fellow mother and actor Connie Shulman (Yoga Jones on Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black”), who tries to make a cake with Laury, with some success.
“Turns out, it’s the first experiential film of a person with FTD. Eric [Laury’s husband] says he wished so much that there had been a film like this when Laury — an actor — was diagnosed,” Hogan says. “I like to listen to other people’s stories and Laury was getting me right in my zone. I did this documentary as a tribute to her and I did it because she asked me to, to come and document that year. It was an independent project. I hope it strikes a chord in people when they see it.”

The hope is that the film, and Laury’s life, will be helpful to people like Katie Brandt who just three years ago lost her husband Mike to FTD, a disease which affects 50,000-60,000 Americans, and has no known cure. Mike was only 33 years old when he passed away and the couple had a toddler, Noah, who was born at the onset of his father’s symptoms. Like Laury Sacks, Brandt used humor to get through the situation.

“I had an infant at home, I was taking care of Mike who was really starting to act like a toddler and then my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 59, so he came to live with us. I shrugged my shoulders and was laughing in kind of a crazy way thinking ‘are you kidding me?’” she says. “What else could I do? We use humor as a tool to survive it, otherwise it takes you down with it.”

Not allowing the Job-like experience to crush her, Brandt has turned it into what she calls her “life’s work,” giving talks and presentations to hospitals, research centers, universities, foundations, pharmaceutical companies and even the State House in Boston about her husband’s fight with FTD. She is also a consultant at Mass General’s FTD unit where she works to help families through the process of the diagnosis and beyond. Both she and Hogan hope that sharing their experiences will ease some of the burden and raise awareness.

“I did two sit-down interviews with Laury during filming,” says Hogan. “In one of the interviews, I asked her ‘what do you hope for?’ And she said ‘I hope for the truth.’ I think that’s the closest she’s come to revealing what she wanted us to know about this disease.”

“Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury” screening
Friday, April 24, 7 p.m.
Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, CT

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Posted by Nichole on 04/20/15 at 02:18 PM • Permalink