Delaney: Keeping it real

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(HOST) Commentator Dennis Delaney has been thinking about kitchens, carpenters, and getting the job done.

(DELANEY) Living in Vermont has great perks. The environment is glorious, and we try to keep it that way. In recent years we’ve developed some traffic bottlenecks that may make you want to swear, but we really aren’t crowded. Our state government is often referred to as "romper room," but we love it anyway. Even mud season makes us realize we have earned spring. And yet there’s another sometime joy to Vermont living that has to do with real people. You know, salt-of-the-earth people who build stuff with their hands and operate on trust.

My latest encounter with people like this happened right in my kitchen, as we tackled a renovation we had needed forever.

It’s a project everyone dreads: Demolishing the heart of a house – the kitchen – to build a new one. Everything from the old kitchen disappears into piles and corners. Need mustard for the hot dog you just grilled in a pan on the hotplate? Tough luck. You’ll never find it.

Yet something happened in the midst of the mess and rubble that I wouldn’t trade for ten new kitchens. Here’s how it happened.

On the cusp of Burlington’s South End stands Handy’s Lunch. It’s been there since Noah sailed the Ark, if not before. I stop there every so often for breakfast. You want something fancy and impossible to pronounce? Go somewhere else.

So, one morning at breakfast I was unloading on the proprietor, Earl, that the Delaneys needed a new kitchen, and where was I going to find a carpenter? As I was grumbling away, a man came in and sat on the stool next to me.

Earl nodded in his direction. Confused, I said "What"?

"There’s your carpenter," replied Earl.

Earl was right. The carpenter’s name was Tim, and he did a first class job. Tim never went to trade school; he learned his skills from his dad; he’s self-employed, and he raised five kids on a carpenter’s salary. He’s a grandfather and pays $500 a month for health insurance. Tim doesn’t advertise. He just goes to Handy’s Lunch for breakfast.

With Tim came Ike the plumber. Ike, too, is self-employed. And as he worked he gave us a running commentary on the politics and taxes of his hometown of Burlington. Better than any local paper.

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