My First Trip To Brattleboro

Brattleboro is a little town by regional standards. We’re 200 miles north from New York City. 100 miles northwest of Boston. Between these two major cities there are many big suburbs, some smaller cities, their smaller suburbs, and a smattering of even smaller semi-rural townships. Most, perhaps nearly all, are bigger than Brattleboro.

But by Vermont standards Brattleboro is somewhat of a monolith; third largest town in the state, behind Burlington & Rutland. The state’s capitol, Montpelier, is I believe the 4th largest town in Vermont. Brattleboro is the only town in the state, besides Burlington, to have three exits off the Interstate highway. Burlington has 4 or 5 exits off the Interstate.

The Interstate highway doesn’t run through the state’s 2nd largest city, Rutland.

Brattleboro is an odd town by any standard.

One odd thing about Brattleboro is the Brattleboro Retreat. The Brattleboro Retreat is located just past the end of Main Street.

The size of a small college campus, the Retreat is one of Brattleboro’s defining landmarks; a thread through the local fabric; a swig of Kool Aid from the punch-bowl of town lore.

It’s been here since 1834. Back then it went by a different name: the Vermont Asylum for the Insane.

I spent my first year of high school two hours north of Brattleboro at a school called St. Johnsbury Academy. I had a teacher there at the Academy named Mr. Thurston. Mr. Thurston taught freshman algebra. Or, more precisely, he was paid to. I for one learned no arithmetic skills from him.

He was about 6 feet tall. Middle aged. Sported a cop-wannabe crew cut. Real dumb looking jerk. Taught girl’s basketball. Screamed louder than a constipated hyena.

“TOBIN!!” He would bellow at the beginning of class each day. “Did you do your homework last night??”

Now there’s a dumb question! Did I ever do homework? No.


I am an exceptional student. I learn eagerly. Plus I think the mathematical language is a groovy way to meet aliens.

But I never did a single homework assignment in Mr. Thurston’s algebra class.

Why? Because he was a gigantically lousy educator.

Dude couldn’t teach an ape to fart smelly.

When I told him I didn’t have my homework Mr. Thurston got ugly. Uglier than vomit – bulimic cannibal vomit. That’s how I felt when he screamed at me. A thousand watts of shame.

Why did he scream at me every day? Not to goad me into doing homework. Contrary: his purpose was best served when I didn’t.

His purpose?

Just to be an asshole. To make life perceptibly more miserable for his fellow human.

Because it made him feel off-rocked jolly.

“What I need,” I thought to myself, one morning soon after I’d turned 15, when I profoundly needed to not be screamed at, “Is a good Excuse to miss algebra class today.”

Yeah. I thought of a wicked killer one too.

“I tried to hang myself last night.” I lied to the school nurse. “I need emergency therapy!”

2 easy.

I was whisked without delay to the psychiatric ward for adolescents at the Brattleboro Retreat. The doors locked behind me. Splendid! I need tight security. Or else Mr. Thurston screams cruelly & hurts me poor brainz – especially in the mornings.

But not when he gets locked out of the cookie jar by nice people on my first trip to Brattleboro!

Crazy. Yet effective; I was released in early summer from the mental institution formerly known as Vermont’s Asylum for the Insane. Never went back to St. Johnsbury Academy. And never saw Mr. Thurston – that nut-less slug humper – again.


7 Responses to “My First Trip To Brattleboro”

  1. 1 galloway March 19, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    Mmm, small town, 200 miles from NYC, interstate highway…

    I have reason to be in NYC sometime during the summer. If I was to cruise up to Brattleboro would I be able to find you?

  2. 2 Sporz March 20, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    He doesn’t get any more cookies outa you that time. I would have to say that it is unfortunite that some people have to get thier cookies that way. Sounds like Brattlebourough offerd up an alternitive. You wanted to get out of class for just that day? Or did you know they would shlep you down there? I mean, three squares and some peace and quiet with no homework was probably what you were lookin for anyway. That sounds better than school. Thats what I was lookin for. I did a swan dive off the top steps of the stairwell at my house to achieve somthing similar, but, it only got me two weeks off by way of “concussion”. Awsome story. Full of grit and colorfull imagery. I personally enjoy “nutless slug-humper”.

  3. 3 leightoncooke March 20, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    Something we have in common. I also have a lot of homework at the moment. I believe you also have a Cardiff in New York? I come from Cardiff in Wales, which is why I ask.

  4. 4 Mike E March 21, 2007 at 11:06 pm


    Sporz dude: while I’m not glad you had a similar experience I’m grateful that you seemingly dig what I tried to accomplish — both that day when I was 15 & the story I just wrote about it. You know, I only meant to cut class for a day but when they whisked me off I was filled more with gratitude than complaint.

    Bummer you got only two weeks R & R for that bump on your head…

    G: The train runs out of Penn Station in Manhattan daily & drops you off about a 4 minute walk from the bar I’m in while I write this. See ya there dude — unless I haul off & meet you in the City.

    Leighton: awesome to see you. I just looked up Cardiff. I’ve spent a bit of time in the City. As well as due north from NYC — Upstate, as they say. Cardiff though is more ‘out’state; northwest of anything. In a part of the state I’ve never wanted to visit. I’ll likely make it to Wales long before I’ll have anything first hand to report about the town in New York which shares your no-doubt lovely hamlet’s namesake.

    Stay Happenin!

  5. 5 leightoncooke March 26, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    Greetings from old Amsterdam to New Amsterdam.

  6. 6 andrew whittaker December 28, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    This was a completely random encounter — but i used to be in Thurston’s math class too. He was a completely tyrannical bastard. A friend from the dorms used to sleep in the front row and one day Thurston brought his foot up under the desk and kicked it loudly BOOM. (This friend later died in a car crash in CT, probably unrelated to the math incident but who knows man.) He was always doing things like that and i transferred to another class, and my st jay friends ragged on me for that but at least i didnt have a nervous stomach everyday. Such as the day i forgot TO BRING MY TEXT BOOK TO CLASS.

  7. 7 Bratt-Spun January 6, 2009 at 2:23 am

    I dont remember my first trip to Brattleboro,
    nor my last.
    Which, of course was today.
    I could have used the Retreat,
    the last couple of months,
    My bitch had 12.
    That`s alot of shit.
    I miss the old days.
    Falling out.
    Scaring people.
    but not intentionallly,
    another real good reason for the Retreat.
    Never been,
    Lucky I guess
    No more falling out,
    It just aint the same,
    without Mike e

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