Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer in the "Nutmeg State"

Four years ago this summer I spent July and August in Connecticut. In case you're thinking of vacationing there, here's my travelogue.

Back from five weeks in East Haddam, Ct. and nearby Chester, Ct. where the musical I’ve co-written, THE 60’s PROJECT (pictured above) is in production. My eternal gratitude to Michael Price and the super folks at the Goodspeed Theatre for their hospitality. support, and bug balm. I’ve never worked with a classier, more professional bunch.

If you love Americana (which I do more than just about anything other than money), the “Nutmeg State” is for you. And Sourtheastern Connecticut was particularly beautiful and affectionately goofy.

Stayed at a lovely apartment. Very tastefully furnished. Naked drawings and statues throughout. Even the drinking glasses featured topless women. It’s like I was in my own house.

A local pet store sells reptiles and “critters”. And if you buy a cage they’ll give you two free “long haired dwarf mice.”

Roadside sign spotted: SCENIC ROUTE, NEXT 0.3 MILES.

A fork in the road -- one sign points to Camp Beth El, the other to Christian camps.

There are few Cajun places in the south as good as the New Orleans restaurant in Old Saybrook. Their noontime special is a FAT ASS LUNCH. I qualified.

“Casual” is another name for “fried” when it comes to funky fun seafood restaurants. Lenny & Joe’s is the best.

People could not be nicer.

Keep a can of OFF with you at all times.

If there’s a ten minute thunderstorm anywhere in Connecticut, power and cable goes off for the entire state. Usually for 24-30 hours. The state symbol should be a flashlight.

As green and lush and gorgeous as this place is in the summer I bet the fall is even better. With all the salt in the Connecticut River the red and gold colors of autumn must be extra striking and vivid.

If you go to Killingworth, take a drive down Roast Meat Hill Road. I’m not kidding. There’s really a Roast Meat Hill Road.

The Merchant House on US 154 sells Vera Bradley apparel (e.g. purses) and fireworks. Ideal for milady terrorist.

The local East Haddam liquor store closes at 8. And all day Sunday. Blue laws are still in effect. You don’t see a lot of Yale students here.

My 60’s PROJECT writing partner, Janet, got a manicure where the top coat was hoof veneer. Beware any beauty parlor where their celebrity clientele includes Secretariat.

Take I-84 to New York. The highway is smooth as glass. The second you cross into New York state you hit potholes.

Boy, they love Nathan Hale. One good quote (“I regret that I have but one life to give for my country”) and the guy is a God. Attractions include his house, his school house, his barbershop, the Dairy Queen where he used to make Blizzards.

Connecticut is also the birthplace of Anika Noni Rose who will become a big star after DREAMGIRLS is released.

The Tylerville convenience store sells worms in the freezer section between Ben & Jerry ice cream and tater tots. There’s something terribly wrong when worms are more expensive than long haired dwarf mice.

Towns have colorful names like Moodus and Old Lyme (the actual home of Lyme Disease).

I felt like I was in Twin Peaks. And come to think of it, after the first week, I never saw Laura Palmer. Hmmmm?

At the local Bank of America drive-thru ATM I waited in line behind a motorcycle gang. Guess they needed some extra cash for new chains.

Good morning! The menu at a Middletown diner leads off with “Breakfast Cocktails.” If you go out for pancakes, better have a designated driver.

Do not pass a market without stocking up on bug spray.

Most restaurants close on Monday nights. Every one that is open sells pizza.

Big tourist attraction in East Haddam is the Gillette castle. I can just picture their knights, all using swords with the patented four blades for a smoother, closer kill.

There is not yet a Starbucks in every small town. This might not be true by the time you read this.

Sign in Centerbrook: CALIMARI RECYCLING. From what TO what???

The ambience is very New England. By that I mean a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner. And their coffee is FAR better than Starbucks.

All you see are people on motorcycles. What you never see are motorcycle helmets. They should rename one of the more treacherous streets Motorcycle Meat Hill Road.

If you bought a house here in 1792 you could sell it today for at least double what you paid for it.

There is better cellphone service in Antarctica than Southeastern Connecticut.

Had lunch at the Griswold Inn in Essex, which claims to be the oldest Inn in America – serving since 1776. There must be a hundred old Inns on the East Coast making that same claim. This one had the very first hand blower in their bathroom. But at the time it was just a guy who blew onto your hands.

If you’re hungry, haven’t eaten in four days and only have one dollar, spend it on mosquito netting.

Larry, Darryl, & Darryl are alive and work at every gas station in the state.

There are wonderful hiking trails. You can see nature at its finest and discover Laura Palmer’s body.

A lot of these small towns look like movie sets. If you like bed & breakfasts, Laura Ashley-like dress shops, tchochkes, and cemeteries this is your heaven.

Some big Indian casinos nearby. For you history buffs, Tony Orlando is appearing frequently.

Based on the number of sightings, I’m beginning to think Connecticut is an Indian word for road kill.

There is a Goodspeed airport in East Haddam. One Cessna, a red shack that says 42B on the roof (no running through long terminals trying to make connections.) and a burned out Quonset hut (the “Admirals Club”). It still takes two hours to get through security. Only airport employee is Grizzly Adams on a tractor demanding $5 landing fees.

In Deep River the ice cream parlor is next door to the tattoo parlor. Perfect for the motorcycle gang that has a sweet tooth.

Only passed through New Haven. Wanted to stop by that venerable jewel of the Ivy League, Yale and tell the students to stop trying to be comedy writers. Go into law or politics for Christsakes! You’re at Yale!

And never got to Hartford. Didn’t want to fight all the tourists stampeding to the Insurance Capital of the World.

But in five lovely weeks I’m sure I saw all the major attractions of the Nutmeg State…except, now that I think about it, nutmeg.


Chez Cerise said...

I live in SECT and you pretty much summed it up! But one thing...Dunkin Donuts is NOT on every corner; in some places there is a McDonald's in between them on the same block!

Lairbo said...

Nathan Hale's a hero in Connecticut because his spy mission was to burn down New York City, something most people in the Nutmeg State still think is a pretty good idea.

A. Buck Short said...

Muchas gracias. If this is a 4 year-old rerun, thanks for reminding me I now have no longterm memory EITHER! I remembered the travelogue, but seemingly none of the content -- so I guess I was entertained twice.

As a former Connecticut Yankee,who lived next to the Nathan Hale homestead in Coventry, I would like to offer one minor correction. Young Mr. Hale's last words with the noose around his neck were actually: “I regret that I have but one li....chhhhhhhhhk! Talk about stepping on a guy's lines. Hysterical records indicate the quote was completed later that day by Abe Burrows, who had been in New Haven trying to fix the third act of George Washington Would Have Slept Here, if They Hadn't Stuck Him in the Room Next to the Ice Machine.

I'd also like to report our Dallas area equivalent of the Tylerville conventience store that relates to your earlier recent blog on punctuation. The Lucas, TX grocery-gas also sells worms-etc. to fishermen on the way to Lake Lavon. The sign on the building in 3-foot letters reads simply, "BAIT SANDWICHES."

Candide said...

What would have been neat would have been if one of the Christian Camps would have been named Camp Bethel. I know there has to be one somewhere.

Daws said...

Jeeezus. I spent 3? 4? summers in Moodus at the Banner Lodge attending sleep-away computer camp. The first summer it was called CCI, Computer Camps International, and for the rest of the summers it was New England Computer Camps. I started off as a camper and ended up as a counselor.

I remember going on booze runs with the older counselors into Haddam to the package store that would close @ 8. I grew up in a town of 6,000 people in NY, and I thought Moodus was the frickin' sticks... but I had a blast. Lots of fond memories. Ahhh...Beth, the older counselor that as Harry Chapin might say, "Made this boy a man..."

Gary said...

While Dunkin Donuts coffee is every bit as expensive as Starbucks, it is nowhere near as tasty...talking strictly coffee now, not the foo-foo, Baskin-Robins 31 additives that make your drink thirteen ninety-five. Just kawfee! The area sounds like a terrific setting for a sit-com. Maybe Newhart meets Claven in retirement.

gottacook said...

Good of you to mention Lenny & Joe's; glad to hear they are still around (just checked online). My family and I would happily return next time we're up there - it's been 10 years. We had been staying at a timeshare resort in Westbrook; the week had just ended, simultaneous with the end of Passover, and we could finally go to a restaurant again. We still wear the L&J t-shirts (from the previous year; I assume they still have new shirt designs every year) that we got for $5 each.

Kristen said...

I don't even need to go home to visit my family this year, you have taken the trip for me.

Too bad you missed the Deep River Muster! Classic Nutmeg state behavior every year.

Tom Quigley said...

Ken: Off topic, but did you notice Larry King sitting behind home plate at last night's Dodgers-Mets game? Poor Larry... He had a look on his face that told you he was wondering "Why aren't Snider, Newcomb and Campanella in the lineup tonight?"... When somebody finally told him that this was 2010, he replied "Oh... So then why aren't Koufax, Davis and Wills in the lineup tonight?"...

yobeb said...

When coffee is the star in the table it needs to be brewed and Dunkinstarmcdo......

danrydell said...

The funny thing about Nathan Hale is not only was he America's first spy, but also the worst, as he was captured about 24 hours into his mission because he kept blabbing to people that he was... on a mission.

Jan said...

Wouldn't you find Laura Palmer in Washington?