Wednesday, May 31, 2006

New London Fight Clubs

On Monday, May 29, The Day printed an article entitled 'Family Restoring City Buildings...And Pride.' The patriarch of this family is quoted as saying, "There seems to be a sense of pride among New Londonders. New London seems to be doing its own thing. It's not going to rely on the Utopias, the casinoes, although that's part of the attraction."

New London has always followed its own eccentric orbit for better or for worse. Usually for the better. New London exists in a universe all its own. I didn't know there were casinoes in New London County. I have since checked, and it turns out they are rather popular. Who knew? If New Londoners want to gamble, they pitch pennies in the alley or play poker at secret, speakeasy locations that will not be printed here.

Did you know that there are two fight clubs in New London? Yes, some of our upstanding citizens gather once a month to pummel each other, no holds barred. If you watch the statistics at L&M's emergency room, you'll soon figure out which nights are fight nights. No, I will not tell you where the fights are held or who to contact to join in the fun.

Yes, there does seem to be a sense of pride in New London. It is a pride that doesn't take any guff. It's a new car, prettiest girl, swelling lump in the chest. The kind of pride you get when a country singer belts out "God Bless America." That's the kind of pride New London has. You better believe it, Mister.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Manwaring Building

Red brick and sandstone are harmoniously paired in a symphony of business-oreinted grandstanding. As pleasing as its streetfront is, the rear of the buidling is where the real action is. A pedestrian bridge surprisingly links the Governor Winthrop Parking Garage to State street via the Manwaring Building lobby. This bridge is a poetic exercise in cement. It is the longest concrete span in Nww England cast without the use of rebar.

Currently home to offices, this building once contained the New London School of Business. The gold letters painted on the upper story windows remained long after the school relocated. A clever vandal with a razor blade, a former student, altered the letters. They stayed in place in their changed condition for many years. When the vandal was through, the windows read: New London School of Sin.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

New Londonitis

A fever has swept through New London and it isn't yellow. It isn't scarlet fever either. The month is May and spring fever is rampant, but this is something different. Gold fever has been endemic in New London for decades, and this may be a new strain. A strange malady has overtaken Connecticut's Whaling City without warning. Everyone who catches it has the heebie jeebies.

Some people get the chills and some people get the shakes. Some get glassy eyed and some get starry eyed. Some people have cotton mouth, some are tongue tied, others are dumbstruck, and a few are lucid. A wave of boosterism and pride has washed over New London, Conn. The citizens of this city have been siezed by fits of vim, pep, and zip.

After you've been bitten by the New London bug, you get stuck in a rut of eternal optimism. If you leave New London too long, you suffer withdrawal. The most effective cure is regular sips of Lake Konomoc tap water. New London pharmacies sell bottled water, bottled air, and boxes of New London sunshine.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Why I Visit Meridan Street

The best thing about Meridian Street isn't The Beauty Box, though "the box" does take second place. Nancy's Salon, with its art deco design is a tres moderne place to get a hair cut and the other services they offer. People often press thier noses against the salon's glass looking at The Beauty Box. They know that if they stepped in once, it would change their life.

The best thing about Meridian Street is not the Guitar Mechanic. Mr. Nash is a very pleasant, soft-spoken gentleman. He is polite and very talented at what he does. He is an assett to Meridian Street, but not in The Beauty Box's league.

So what could be better, more life changing than a trip to The Beauty Box. OK. I'll tell you.

Stand at the southwest corner of Meridian Street and Governor Winthrop Boulevard and look down at the sidewalk. The plaque set in the cement on this existential corner says it all. The cement here was poured the same way every brick was laid and every timber was nailed into place. No one thought how quaint it would look when they were done, they just did it. New London, like this corner is about being true to one's code. This corner has nothing to prove or commemorate beyond itself.

This is a local landmark for those in the know. It distills the New London state of mind down to its essence. Transients may not catch the New London state of mind. They see some of the city's more run down aspects, but not the things that warm the cockles of our hearts. Those in the know, know better. If New Londoner's attitude is invisible to casual observers, so are the words cast in bronze on this corner. The plaque reads: NO DEDICATION INTENDED. Whoever had the idea to memorialize these words was a genius. Of course, we'll never know who he or she was. Just another anonymous New London hero.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Trolley Information Booth

Located at the corner of Eugene O'Neil Avenue and Golden Street, the last of New London's trolley booths performs a vital role in the city's bustling tourist economy. The booth originally served the Cedar Grove Cemetery, way out on Broad Street on the Waterford border. It was moved to a corner just past the train station in the 1980s. To be more conveniently located to parking, and at a site where automobile traffic is coming into the city rather than leaving it, the booth finally settled into its present location.

The booth was built in 1893. This year, it got a new cedar shingle roof. It is open most days from 10-5, and staffed by volunteers who pass out brouchures and give directions. Most of the volunteers have a healthy love of New London and the gift of gab. They don't mind discussing the city's history or tutoring the unindoctrinated.

Hidden on the back wall of the closet inside the information booth is a wooden plaque inscribed with pencil. It reads, in impeccable handwriting:
Relocation and rebuilding by:
JULY 1986
The little trolley booth is a work of fanciful, Victorian architechture, like many of the buildings that make up New London's streetscape. If you need to find your way in the city's maze of streets, feel free to stop by. The friendly volunteers who staff the booth will be happy to see you.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Curious Laws, Part 1.

In 1929, the Circus Nip Shoppe opened on Broad Street a block away from the elementary school. The shop sported a neon sign in the shape of a clown holding a spangled hoop through which tiny liquor bottles did somersaults. The full of glory of the sign was only apparent after susnet when the flashing neon really glowed in the dark. Even during the light of day, it was a jolly piece of signage.

Prohibition had just been repealed, and the school marms were disturbed that thier students would have to walk to class and home again past this seductive clown. They felt the use of this child-friendly figure would tempt the children to sample sip-sized bottles of demon schnapps. They circulated petitions throughout the neighborhood to ban the inappropriate use of circus imagery in the city of New London.

Enough signatures were mustered that the ordinance was brought to a vote in City Council chambers. The proprietor of the Circus Nip Shoppe argued that his sign wasn't meant for children. He is on record as saying, "When adults overindulge in the products I sell, they become clownish. I am trying to discourage our youth from imbibing intemperate spirits by showing how foolish they can become."

The neighbors were up in arms and they weren't about to be swayed by reasonable arguments. The measure passed without much discussion between the councillors. To this day, according to city statute, no advertisements can be displayed in New London that utilize circus characters for non-circus purposes.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Clothes Hanger Thumb

The report of Micheal Rix's discovery of the first housefly of spring has prompted some questions abouth Mr. Rix's physical malady called clothes hanger thumb. This is an occupational hazard commonly found in the laundry trade.

Medical doctors and physical therapists can easily spot this condition. Its main symptoms are excessive callouses and dry, scaly skin in the crook of the thumb where it conjoins with the other phalangeal bones and ligaments. This condition, over time, is often accompanied by hypertrophy of the proximal thumb muscles, localized digital neuritis, and an atrophy of the natural webbing that normally cushions the thumb joint from trauma.

Clothes hanger thumb is caused by repeated minor insults to the afflicted area when the patient uses the thumb joint to support wire clothes hangers weighted down with starched shirts and pressed pants. Laboratory coats, hospital exam room johnnies, curtains, suit jackets, and ironed table cloths also add stress to the pressure points used to transport finished products to the customer. Many laundry professionals carry more than one clothes hanger at a time in the crook of their thumb as a matter of efficiency. This only exacerbates the condition.

Mr. Rix is a jack of many trades. He has learned and used many skills over the course of his life. Over the past serveral years he has had a rewarding career as a laundry quartermaster. Every morning, he loads his van with finished cloth goods prepared at an extensive dry cleaning depot located in central New London. He then drives to locations across eastern Connecticut to make deliveries. At each destination, he carries hangers full of clean textiles from his van to various receiveing ports.

Among delivery truck drivers, Mr. Michael Rix is a living legend. Man and machine are perfectly matched as Mr. Rix deftly navigates Connecticut's highways and twisty backroads. Mr Rix steers his van with a nonchalant, practiced bravado. His radio is permanently tuned to a national news station and his job takes him all over the Nutmeg State's landscape. His is attuned to the events and the issues on the international stage as well as at the smallest, local level.

Among laundry men, Mr. Rix is a standard to which apprentices aspire. While he favors his left hand for light deliveries, at larger clients he has used both hands, each supporting two dozen hooks heavy with laundry. During a blizzard in 2003, Mr. Rix carried an entire university dormatory shipment in one trip from his van to the building's back door. He used his driving hand and his clothes hanger hand, and when he ran out of room, he hung the remainder from the back band of this baseball cap. When Mr. Rix waded through knee deep snow to successfully make this delivery, the staff at the loading dock gave him an extended standing ovation. One gentleman tried to provide musical accompaniment by playing The Battle Hymn of the Republic while Mr. Rix made his way through the snow. Unfortunately, he was using a paper towel wrapped around a comb so he didn't have the range of notes he needed. All he could manage wat Taps, but it was a stirring feat to witness nonetheless.

Mr. Rix comes by his clothes hanger thumb honestly. It is a badge he has earned. Sometimes it troubles him when he lies in bed and feels it throb after a long day. Most of the time he is happy to hurt in the service of a job well done.

Mr. Rix, all of us who wear clean clothes salute you with gratitude. Ole!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Preview

I have received quesitons about the nature of 'clothes hanger thumb' mentioned in the report on Mike Rix's discovery. I have reasearched this condition in the library at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, and prepared a dissertation on this medical condition.

People have also asked to learn more about Michael Rix. Media exposure tends to feed on itself and generate a hunger for details. I admit, since I have met Mr. Rix in person, he is a remarkable fellow who deserves more credit for the many services he provides not only to New London, but to the great state of Connecticut.

Today is a sunny day and I am a man of liesure. I am not going to post more than this appetizer. I have neglected already posting my clothes hanger thumb treatise becasue I have been on reconaisance in Middletown, Conn. It was a long and arduous journey to this outpost, and once there, I missed the benefit of New London civilization. I will be spending today recharging my batteries. Tonight or tomorrow, the world will be able to read about clothes hanger thumb and a little more about Mr. Rix a real man who may as well be made up.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

New London's House

New London's physical boundaries contain a little more than five square miles. Its structure contains a soul beyond measure. Lotuses grow out of the ponds in New London's arboretum. Algea and seaweeds thrive off New London's beaches. They choke the upper reaches of Alewife Cove. Mussels scale the rocks around Winthrop Neck. Horseshoe crabs crawl like slow dinosaurs onto New London's shores to silently mate in peace under May and June moons.

Cats prowl through eelgrass and trash. Swans build fortified nests they protect from intruders. Geese lead lines of yellow hatchlings to the lip of the surf then back to drier land. No one sees baby pidgeons, but pidgeons are everywhere downtown, picking at cracker crumbs and french fry nubs.

New London's dogs are tame not feral. Cats wander thier neighborhoods in lazy command of the territory. Raccoons and opossums foray on dark patrols. Rats roost in neglected crannies. They scavenge fish tails and clam bits and scraps of sandworms left by seagulls and fishermen.

Seagulls are New London's most common bird, followed closely by crows. There are bluejays and cardinals and sparrows and robins and chickadees and bumblebees. Pests are rare in New London. Colorful characters crowd the streetscapes and gardens and parks and salons.

New London's cemetaries are full of buried memories. Flowerbeds burst fragrant blooms. Lawns wave green blades ready to be trimmed. Wild scallions swell thick bulbs under the soil. Clover is feathered pink in white with three or four leaves. Buttercups tell the truth.

Living, human New Londoners walk and drive across the city's pavement. They animate New London's environment with arguments and friendships, with alliances and plans and vendettas, with salty talk and soothing tones. New London's human popluation arranges points of view in a horizontal hierarchy that resembles ordered lawlessness. Little is accomplished beyond the deciding. Endless discussion keeps New London abuzz.

New London contains more than a hundred linear miles of sidewalks, and most of them are cracked. Where there is a breach, ants escape to forage and explore. Termites gnaw New London's timbers. Asbestos shingles protect many older homes from threat of outside fires. Bricks neither burn nor keep out winter's chill.

New London's oldest house is the Joshua Hempstead house. Its walls are loosely packed with seaweed for insulation. Its floors are scuffed by three centuries of shoes. The man who built this house kept a diary. Those who want to get to New London's bones can read the pithy words he wrote.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mike Rix's Discovery

During the last week in March, hardworking local New Londoner, Michael Rix made a startling announcement. He had seen the first housefly of the season. While the housefly is a common pest that disrupts meals and awakens people from a perfectly good midsummer sleep, these insects are absent from New London in winter. Whether they hibernate during the colder months or migrate to southern climates around October is a matter of debate.

Mr. Rix, who suffers from clothes hanger thumb, has a job that allows him to travel. From his professional headquarters on the corner of Bank Street and Montauk Avenue in New London, Mr. Rix visits locations in Mystic, Groton, Montville, Waterford and Niantic over the course of any given day. His routine takes him to a number of different environments where he can observe how the seasons change over time.

Mr. Rix reported that the fly he had seen was fat, black and slow. Its size was particularly noteworthy, being about the length of a bit of pimento. Its girth suggested tht this was a mature housefly that had weathered winter well. Its speed suggested that March's chill had some effect on its muscles, but it was still fast enough to escape being swatted.

Mr. Rix announced that he had spotted the fly and he predicted spring would soon follow. He made this announcement in front of a number of witnesses. The word went out around town and no one else could claim to have seen another housefly yet this year. The local media were contacted and Mr. Rix gave interviews, describing in detail what he had witnessed. Mr. Rix's discovery was published and two television stations carried the story. Mr. Rix is very telegenic, and he presented the best possible face New London has to offer.

Just as Mr. Rix predicted, spring has begun. Several more housefly sightings have been documented. Daffodils and jonquils have bloomed and the trees have started to bud. Birds have returned to New London and thier songs fill the pre dawn air. The heating oil companies have stopped making deliveries.

As a reward for his sharp eyes, the Mayor of New London officially recognized Mr. Rix for the good news he brought the city. She read a proclomation before the assembled City Council and presented Mr. Rix with the key to the city whch was specially made from a leftover slug at Radick's Rapid Locksmith and spray painted gold for the occasion. Unfortunately, Mr. Rix lost the key a week later. Because he has clothes hanger thumb, it is sometimes hard for him to hold small objects. It is an occupational hazard.


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