Saturday, December 30, 2006

A New London New Year

How do you decide when the new year begins? In New London, New Year's Day is just a prelude to Hygienic Night, which is the last Satruday in January. New Year's Eve passes like a whimper until the end of January blossoms with fresh enthusiasm from New London's artist castes. New Year's Eve is little different from any other New London evening. Hygienic Weekend is when Connecticut's Whaling City blooms with creativity and heart-felt resolutions.

Every year in every way, New London gets better at earning the respect it deserves. Every day, the Devil fiddles with the details and works his tempting magic to make the best possible deal. Do you have a soul? It belongs in New London, Conn., if the city will have you.

Happy New Year to all and sundry! Happy Tomorrow! Happy Today! The clock ticks while time stands still in New London. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. A year in New London is not a prison sentence, it is a kick in the pants to get moving while staying in place. Like a rat on a wheel, like an exercise junkie on a treadmill, like a hamburger on a conveyor belt, New London produces the same product over and over. Why mess with perfection?

We are lucky to be New Londoners. Every day is freshly minted, speared in place by a rusty harpoon that has seen more useful times. Every eve presents even odds for success or failure. Nothing ever ends in failure in New London. When the city stumbles, it marches towards its destiny. Every year in every way, New London only gets better at what it does best.

Whalehead King wishes everyone a hearty Mare Liberum!!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sweet and Tart

Do you know you can buy a roll of Sweettarts in Spauling Oklahoma for 25 cents, a fraction of the Connecticut cost? Your correspondent purchased a roll for 26 cents with tax and had to ask twice to make sure the price was right. The poor clerk thought he was dealing with a European, with the Yankee accent and the unfamiliarity with local currency. Your correspondent shared the Sweettarts with his travelling companion as they drove the straight, dirt roads that crisscross Seminole and Hughes County. They admired the views of grazing beef cattle while they savored the taste of sugar and citric acid packed into colored powder.

Oklahoma must receive the rejects from the Sweettart plant. The whole roll, fifty candies in all, consisted of alternating yellow and purple Sweettarts. The two comapanions remarked on this. The man ate the yellow ones and the woman ate the purple ones. It is hard to tell what flavor they were meant to represent, but they decided bananna and grape came closest.

This reporter bought a roll of Sweettarts at the convenience store on the corner of Evergreen and Ocean Avenues in New London this morning. This food is not a staple of his diet, but out of nostalgia for his recent vacation in the Sooner State, he wanted a little sweet combined with a little tart. There was one pink candy in the mix. The rest were yellow and purple. Amazing.

Equally amazing, this reporter spotted a dazed yellowjacket on the sidewalk when he entered Parade News on a tobacco and newsprint related errand. The insect was logey, a bit dazed in December's upper 40 degree weather, and at a loss to do something on the cement that lines State Street. What does this have to do with Sweettarts? The yellowjacket must have been malnourished. Its stripes were pastel yellow and purple in a pattern found in that fateful roll purchased in Spaulding, OK. Sometimes it is hard to determine between an omen and a coincidence. Time will tell if this has any meaning.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Low Key Adventure

It is good to be in New London, Conn. after spending time in Wewoka, Okla. Your intrepid reporter spent time in the great, oilfield cities of Holdenville and Seminole as well as Wewoka. He visited Okemah, Wetumka, McAleister, Shawnee, Lima, Bowlegs, and New Lima. None rivaled Wewoka for grandeur, but nowhere in Oklahoma rivaled Connecticut's very own Whaling City for energy, entertainment, entrepreneurship, vitality, and vim.

People unhappy with New London, should visit Oklahoma to appreciate what they have. New London is a place beyond compare. The shores of Lake Wewoka and Lake Holdenville and Eufala Lake pale beside the majesty of Connecticut's Thames River and the expanse of Long Island Sound. The land in Oklahoma stretches as far as the eye can see past the hazy horizon. This is one Nutmeg Yankee that prefers to see lumber ships, ferries, lobster trawlers and submarines rather than beef cattle populating the view. There is nothing wrong with Oklahoma, quite the reverse. It is just that Connecticut is more pleasing to the eye.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Santa Loves New London

Even when New London is bad, it is very, very nice. Santa Claus loves New London so much he keeps a satellite headquarters in the abandoned pickle factory on Mountain Avenue. He shares space with a few local ne'er do wells, but overall, he enjoys the accomodations. There is no company like New London company.

Santa Claus comes to New London every year during the tree lighting ceremony in early December, but he is always out and about, in disguise throughout the year. You will sometimes see him sauntering about enjoying his pipe. His years of toy-making have made him an able carpenter, and he assists in rehabilitating some of the city's older houses.

The Xmas spirit is New London's spirit. No wonder Santa Claus feels at home in Connecticut's Whaling City. Your correspondent saw Saint Nick himself at The Broken Yolk this morning enjoying a little dish of baked beans for breakfast. The conversation swirled in the steam off the grill, as it usually does, but the venerable gentleman kept his own company. He nodded hello to this correspondent but focussed on his meal. Santa Clause, like me, was reading the comics section of the Hartford Courant. We both laughed at the same time at 'Mutts.' The cat was dreaming of a white Xmas. So were we.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Discrepancy Explained

There has been some confusion recently about how, on Dec. 10, New London was described as being colder than a witch's teat and a few days later it was described as Nutmeg Hawai'i. Those who have questions have obviously never been to Connecticut's Whaling City, a place so compact and yet so vast it can contain contradictions.

Your humble narrator lives on Post Hill in New London, a summit on which the sun always shines. The waterfront is buffetted by the breezes of the unbridled Atlantic, and thus its climate is more chilly than that enjoyed in the rest of the city. New Londoners despise plagarism. There was once a movement afoot after Coleridge published a famous poem, to rename Post Hill, Xanadu. Sane heads prevailed and the traditional name was retained.

There is a story that the top of Post Hill is the historical location of the Garden of Eden and that the famous apple tree grew where the statue of Nathan Hale now stands. There is only purely anecdotal evidence to lead to this conclusion, but it is true that to the people who live there, Post Hill is a kind of paradise.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nutmeg Hawai'i

Ocean Beach has been called the Waikiki of Connecticut. Much like an island paradise in the middle of the Pacific, New London enjoys pleasant weather year round. It rarely rains in New London, but today was a brief exception. It did sprinkle a bit this afternoon, but not in a way to inconvenience anyone. It was a pleasant shower for pedestrians and for the intrepid souls on motor scooters.

It was just after school had let out and children were walking home with their heads turned up catching raindrops in their mouths. When it rains in New London, people say the angels are weeping with joy. It is Hawai'i-warm in the Whaling City this week and the rain cooled things off to a refreshing temperature. It was a welcome respite from the city's usual cloudless climate.

Winter is coming eventually and snow will fall as thickly as the snow on top of Hawai'ian mountains. New London loves snow, which is why the city's plows take their time clearing the roads. This really is a idyllic city blessed by Mother Nature. Even stormy weather is pleasant.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Post Office Grandeur

The New London Post Office is a setting fit to usher the republic's commerce and communication. It is not usually busy except the moment the service windows open and during lunch hour. During off-peak hours, the post office is usually empty. During December, the story is different. During the busiest postal season of the year, the single file line snakes through the vast lobby at all hours of operation.

The service is always USPS-perfect no matter how many people are in the lobby, but during December you can expect to cool your heels and test your patience like an athelete. Luckily, the lobby of the New London Post Office is a beatiful and noble place in which to waste your valuable time.

This federal edifice has murals commisioned in the 1930s that run along the top of the wall under the ceiling and above the PO boxes. These murals purportedly illustrate the city's illustrious whaling trade. No whales are visible and there is no gore beyond a little pinkish seawater featured in a few panels. A lot of half-naked men hang off rigging on the high seas, but only an antiquarian or Moby Dick fan would realize what these paintings are supposed to portray.

Because they are so oblique, they are an interesting subject of study for people waiting to mail packages. People stare at the murals and wonder what is exactly happening in them. The different angles viewed from the floor do induce vertgo and nausea when studied for a half hour. After awhile, it feels as if one is on the ocean. Once you look at the floor, you realize you are stuck in line, so it is better to let the imagination roam on the vistas painted on the wall under the ceiling and above the PO boxes.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Winter Waterfront Wonerland!

New London's Waterfront Park is a perfect example of your tax dollars at work. It is an elevated sidewalk along the shore of the harbor. In summer this concrete slab gets as hot as a griddle, but at least a refreshing breeze sometimes wafts up from Long Island Sound. In winter the wind does the opposite of refresh. It refrigerates and freezes.

The thermometer today read an unseasonable fifty degrees Farenheit. The breeze conspired against the sun. There wasn't any frost on the cement, but it felt like there should be. New London is blustery cold between November and March. It is a time of year that tests those stout of heart and taxes thier stamina. Only the most walkers brave the park

If people who live far from the ocean daydream about it, they have never been to New London, Conn. on December 10th. The harbor is gray and shining as slate sparkled with mica. It is beautiful in a flinty, New England way. It is also so cold it will kill you in three minutes.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Saeed's and Underberg

Our correspondent, Agent 11, not to be confused with Agent 42, spent time in Frankfurt, Germany. While there, he was introduced to the use of a digestive drink called Underberg. Germans and other northern Europeans make use of Underberg to dissolve heavy meals after hearty consumption and to speed the absorption of vital nutrients.

Agent 11 was poking around Saeed's International Market on Ocean Avenue where Ocean Pharmacy used to be. People familiar with Saeed's where it used to be on Columbus Square, know the shop is famous for cosmopolitan, alimentary delicacies. The former storefront was crowded. The new location is palatial and the variety of treats has quadrupled.

On the top shelf next to the front door, out of reach of children and the timid, Agent 11 spied boxes of Underberg for sale. He smiled broadly, full of good memories of well-digested meals, and he quickly plucked a box of three bottles for purchase.

Underberg is alcoholic, but it is not a cocktail. It comes in three-quarter ounce bottles, just enough to do the trick. Do not take on an empty stomach. Underberg is meant to be drunk when all you have room for is three-quarters of an ounce of fluid. Then it goes down smooth as silk to work its magic.

Agent 11 shared one bottle with Whalehead King accompanied by warnings about its proper usage. Mr. King, used to doing things his own way, sampled his Underberg before his meal. No irreperable damage was done to Mr. King's iron stomach. He has bought his own package of Underberg bottles, but he has learned to use them with caution and always as recommended. His already healthy digestion has been fine tuned through the judicious use of Underberg, available in New London only at Saeed's International Market. Like the slogan says, "It cannot be explained: it must be experienced."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Silver Dollar Gentleman

Can you believe someone went to the Citizens' Bank on Ocean Avenue earlier this week and turned in a dozen silver dollars for paper? The majority were Eisenhowers with an eagle landing on the moon for 'tails.' There were a few Bicentennial coins, with the liberty bell and the full moon on the obverse. There was one liberty head dated 1922 in perfect condition. The eagle on the back was perched at rest in front of a dawning sun.

For our younger readers: Before there were Sacajawa gold dollars, there were Susan B. Anthony silver dollars and before that were Eisenhowers, and they were as big as an demi-tasse saucer. Back in the remote past, before Eisenhower was a deceased former president, Lady Liberty's profile graced the face of the silver dollar. The silver dollars were as popular in thier time as gold dollars are today. Of course, years and years ago, coins were more commonly trusted than bills.

Whalehead King was conducting some routine financial business at the Citizens' Bank on Ocean Avenue. Kim had the stack of silver dollars in front of her while she processed Mr. King's paperwork. Our hero was fascinated. He hadn't seen so many silver dollars since he cashed in his collection when he was fifteen years old to buy a walkman. He peppered Kim with questions as to the coins' origin. She had to tell Mr. King to be quiet so she could finish documenting his wealth. When she finally finished, she told Mr. King that someone had prefered paper to metal.

Whalehead King's eye gleamed like lucre. "I'll take them all," he said with a manic lilt. Kim asked if he was sure. "Of course! I love dollar coins." Mr. King walked down School Street jangling the coins in his hand and studying each in turn. He kept the Liberty Head, but he wanted to spread the Eisenhowers around.

Much to the consternation and amusement of New London's service people, Whalehead King has been spreading his treasure about the city. He pays for beer with a clatter of big coins nanchalantly tossed to the barkeep. He tips by flipping a wide, shiny Eisenhower off his thumb. He went to the gift shop at the hospital in disguise as a German baron by wearing a silver dollar over his right eye like a monocle.

Luckily for everyone, there were only twelve silver dollars and one was a precious Liberty Head meant not to be spent. Whalehead King can milk pleasure out of the most innocuous things, but his eleven silver dollars can't last forever. He spends like a fiend.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

E. Johnson Florist

There are plenty of professional ladies in New London, Conn. The ladies at Johnson's Florist, across from the hospital, are among the most pleasant to deal with. They toil long days pricking their fingertips on thorns and sharp stems to craft beautiful arrangements. Their sore fingers don't dampen their spirits. They smile through the pain of their workaday routnine.

What makes a professional really? It is a person who has given up a part of thier identity to public service. Some do it for pay, some do it for status, some do it because they have no other option. New London is made up of lawyers and doctors of medicine and of religion. There are nurses and teachers and librarians and accountants and scientists. There are florists and bookkeepers and receptionists and launderers. Crossing guards and street sweepers adhere to high standards of conduct.

The most cash-poor of avocations is that of the artist. He never makes money until he is too dead to enjoy it. New London is full of performance artistes crafting beautiful, meaningful lives out of the city's thin air. You cannot swing a dead cat in New London without hitting a member of the creative class.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Best Crossing Guard

The city's most colorful crossing guard is a gentleman who drives down from Montville every morning and every afternoon to ensure safe conditions for the students of Harbor School at the intersection of School Street and Montauk Avenue. Amos is a man with a sunny disposition in all weather. He is good with children, parents and the denizens of the neighborhood who take morning walks and populate the medical offices thick along Montauk Ave.

Amos' heart seems to be as big as his body would lead you to believe. In warmer months he wears a high peaked, straw, cowboy hat he bought for a dollar at a flea market. It makes him more visible when he stops vehicular traffic to guide his little charges through the crosswalks he patrols. He says he wears the hat because the children like it. Some Harbor students call him "Sheriff Amos." In truth, he knows this jaunty topper matches the smile ever present on his face.

Amos has been talking snow for about a week and he hasn't been looking forward to it. He was relieved that yesterday's weather reports had proven false. He razzed Whalehead King about the lack of frozen precipitation. Mr. King loves snow. Turnabout was fair play today, when unexpected flurries turned into something even more beautiful. Amos blamed Whalehead King for today's unpredicted, unpredictable weather. Mr. King claims innocence.

A New London Salute to Amos! He should be nominated Crossing Guard of the Year!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Broken Yolk

Whalehead King recently had breakfast at The Broken Yolk at the end of Montauk Avenue. It opens before dawn and serves people who are up and about early. This makes it very attractive for a man who is up early, early in the day, but doesn't want to go to Norm's Diner in Groton.

Though The Broken Yolk serves contractors and service people who need to get a jump on the day, remember we are in New London's Sixth District, the toniest part of the city. It is an odd place to see dirty pick-up tucks and vans overloaded with tools and construction materials. It is probably the only place in the Sixth District where you will find men in coveralls and baseball caps enjoying a meal.

The menu at the Broken Yolk reflects its chi-chi surroundings. Omletes are made with asparagus, avacado, and capers. Slices or artisinal bread are cut off the loaf with a knife. The cook is a talented chef who looks for the best ingredients he can find, which he combines with a finesse that rivals the food served in the casinos to high rollers.

Best of all, continuing a Yankee and New London tradition, at The Broken Yolk you can order baked beans for breakfast. No one will bat an eye, and the beans are not from a can. They are real beans soaked and slow baked to most perfect flavor and nutritional value.


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