Monday, January 04, 2016

A Skeptic's Guide to Connecticut

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

A long day of travel: flying to Newark airport, the train to Penn Station, subway to Grand Central, another train to New Haven, then a shuttle bus to the corner of Chapel and Temple street onto the green of Central Park, ending under a purple sky. Unseasonably warm, dense air. On foot to the Courtyard Marriott, my right knee complaining from all the schlepping of carrying my bags.

I'd managed, in a momentary lapse of judgment, doubly triply quadruply burdened by the heat, my sweat, the overboiling of humanity swarming under New York's Grand Central Station, to break the tow handle of my luggage. Thus I carried it like some atomic weight for much of the journey.

After settling in under the hotel's mediocre WiFi, I marked out a couple highlights on a paper map and made the trek across town, a solitary walk through downtown New Haven which was nearly silent at 8 PM on the Wednesday the week before Christmas.

The pizza (or "apizza", as it seemed deemed here) I chose was Modern's seafood, and it more than met my expectations, a medley of scrumptious alien parts in a cream sauce. Two tables over two men talked of one's time in politics, perhaps remained there still. I caught a few word of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and cannabis.

More than reasonably sated, I trudged over to Christy's Pub, as much an Irish pub as any, decked with flags of presumably Irish football teams. A hockey game played on their main screen, a rabid fan decrying each play as unrighteous. I do not now remember the stouts and IPAs the bartender provided, but I made my way back wearing that familiar heat, my old friend in many environments.

I slept fitfully, missing my feline children in the early hours, the chemicals punishing my pickled cells.

Thursday

Blearily I started the day, a gray wet sky greeting me. I had decided the night before to try the stylish, clean white-tiled brunch cafe nearby (Maison Mathis). Apparently it was a popular hipster hole, with few vacant seats to be found. I ended up sitting next to Ron, an ideas man pouring a fount of ways to improve his country (and to improve his lot in the process); his main tack was what I thought was, unconsciously reworded, universal healthcare. A friendly, personable chap who spoke many miles a minute, a thought train without end. Indeed, I found myself wondering, perhaps uncharitably so, if our meeting was not in some way dangerous, that I might be revealing too much of my personal habits and career and become entangled with his dreams. Eventually a window presented itself and, after a few admittedly patronizing words, I continued with my day's walk to the Peabody Museum of Natural History.

A smaller building than I'd imagined, it more than made up for its size via sheer density of quality exhibits and exquisitely detailed dioramas. My god, the detail in those scenes woke the heart within my aged chest, such were the memories they invoked, old ghosts rising from dark, neglected times. The dinosaur exhibit was pretty out of this world too.

My mind filled with history, both personal and of a worldly nature, I sampled a local dirty spoon by the name of Clark's Dairy Diner or some such, with an actual ice cream counter. I had the macaroni and cheese with lobster, a larger feast than the name might imply. What quality draws me to these dingy corners?

Next was a local cafe, "Koffee?", populated with students nosedeep in their Macbooks. Myself, I polished off several games of Hearthstone, my constant prison.

Returning to my room, I picked up a protein shake for my evening's workout. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies happened to be playing, a suitable video as any to exert myself to.

The remainder of the evening found me sitting at the bar of a local dive (Three Sheets), my wounded knee all but forgotten. Jovial was the atmosphere there; how much of this was the town, and how much was the students? Or my brain soaked on ridiculously named beers: "Blue Point Oatmeal Stout", "Ommegang Grains of Truth", "Stubborn Beauty Conqueror", "Kent Falls Sweatpants". In any event a smile crossed my face many times, such was the air.

Friday

Due to it being the holiday season we (myself and David, who rejoined me this day from his outing at a casino) had found it necessary to split the trip's lodgings to two locations, and this Friday saw me taking the bus to my next temporary home, a kind of townhouse complex on the other side of town, its location a source of many misgivings. The closest eatery sat inside a furniture warehouse, and beyond that the walking options were meager; I deeply regretted not bringing my more comfortable shoes.

I did get to sample some decent pizza in The Hill area of the city, and pasta from Brazi's, the city a veritable haven for such foods.

Saturday

An early day to get ready to meet the rogues. To meet this end we took an Uber, the driver well-mannered and obliging, to the theater, a 10-minute drive along the I-91 S. We introduced ourselves to the SGU hosts and met the other winners, an enthusiastic couple from New York. I am uncertain as to whether anyone recognized my much-labored-over costume, but the minutes passed quickly.

Oh, as to the Star Wars film itself, why, I cannot say that it was an absolute flop. Sure, it lacks originality and little substance in the logic department but the SW universe was hardly ever anything more than action and heart. And I do believe The Force Awakens sets the stage for coming films, raising the bar of expectations considerably. It was actually funny in places, and fun in most others.

The treat that topped the viewing (oh, and the Cinemark theater had impeccably comfortable seating) was the after-party at the Novella household: food and drinks, lightsabers, the film's strengths and weaknesses, banana plants, and two live tapings of the show on the SGU bridge, as displayed in their 10 year anniversary show. A day to remember, at least for this skeptic.

Sunday

What could possibly follow up such heights? Sunday David and I walked the downtown after a delicious supper at an Italian pizza restaurant (Abate), deep in the heart of NH's Little Italy, sampling various bars and watering holes, unable to find one that met our bachelor standards.

All in all, a good trip. I need to remember the importance of comfortable footwear, and location is so key in my enjoyment of a lodging. The rogues were very kind and gracious hosts. New Haven's a pretty small university town that I'm unlikely to visit ever again. And paying extra to avoid schlepping between cities is worth it.

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