Tuesday, January 30, 2007

An Obituary

Herbie was one of downtown's most reknowned bartenders, a familiar face most recently at the Galley and at the Y-Knot Cafe. He could often be seen before his evening shift enjoying a draft at one of downtown's other watering holes. He knew the saloon trade. He had been in it long enough. Talkative customers of New London's late night trade have talked to Herbie in one barroom or another.

Herbie had an air about him. He exhaled a perfume that was redolent with how New London used to be. His New London was a city of small tap rooms and shining wooden countertops. It was a city of brass rails, tall tales and endless trivia. He was a part of one of New London's subcultures that still has ties to the whaling trade. Visiting sailors appreciated Herbie as much as the people saw him every day of the year.

Herbie met with an unfortunate medical incident last night. He was at The Galley, a New London bar that inhabits an old-fashioned space that will never be up to current building codes.
For those of us who know Herbie in his professional role, The Galley is a fitting place for him to find his reward. Our sympathies to his family. New London is a little less today.

Monday, January 29, 2007

They Called Her 'Mento.'

A slender young lady with long, curly, red hair decided to experiment with her wardrobe last week. She tends to wear earth tones. Her hair attracts enough attention that she has learned not to showboat with her clothes. Otherwise no one would be able to take thier eyes off her.

A concerned aunt gave this young lady a sweater for X-mas. The aunt thinks her niece should show off her red hair better so she purchased a mint green sweater a shade opposite orange on the color wheel. Our young lady is polite and she thanked her aunt and neatly folded the sweater into a drawer. Her conscience finally got the better of her and she pulled out the sweater last Friday.

She looked in the mirror and felt pretty good about herself. When she got to work, her co-workers immediately noticed and complimented her on her bold choice. She was very happy but still not completely comfortable as she received more compliments from customers throughout the morning. As her confidence started to grow, a certain gentleman arrived. He shall remain nameless.

This man has eyes senstively attuned to color after years of training as a landscape painter. He took one look at this mint green sweater and squinted and stopped in his tracks. He looked right at our young lady and said one word very softly, but loud enough to be heard, "Mento."

The nickname caught on and for the rest of the day everyone called the young lady Mento. She was none too pleased. The next day, she dropped the sweater off at the Salvation Army. The man had meant no harm, but the damage was done. She wasn't angry, he had just said aloud what she already knew. Today she is wearing a white turtleneck with a burgundy cardigan over it. She looks lovely and the gentleman told her so.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Strong Mayor

On March 13th, the City of New London is holding a referendum on how we govern ourselves. The second charter revision committee has presented the council with a proposal to have a strong mayor at the city's head. That would be a novelty New London hasn't experienced for eighty years.

In the 1920s, the city fathers decided a bureaucrat would run the city better than a directly elected representative. The mayor became a figurehead, a golden boy selected by his or her peers, everyone getting a turn for a year. The position is a powerless plum to reward a crony. The City Council, without a mission or a reason to be, devolved into a boring sideshow while the city was run by a faceless, colorless bean counter. The council fiddles while New London declines. The city manager plays the lyre.

This March, New Londoners will have a chance to change the way they do business. Maybe some business will finally get done. As usual, be careful what you wish for. While Whalehead King is all in favor of an active, effective city administration, he has come to love the Whaling City just as it is. Little changes in New London. Our citizens will be in character if they defeat this proposal. The status quo, while disappointing, is predictable. New Londoners love to complain.

We endorse the idea of a mayor with power. We applaud the idea of someone with a vision capturing New Londoners' imagination. If something happens in City Hall, people will take notice and participate. Right now, little transpires in the Council chambers. Meetings aren't adjourned, they expire with no one noticing. New London's government is ineffectual and irrelevant. It is the city's worst enemy.

We need a demogogue. We need a slippery, proficient politician. We need someone to take the lead and take the heat. We need a Guiliani, a Cianci, a Winthrop. We need someone who will poke this sleepy city in the ribs and get it moving. Mark your calendar for March 13th. Think about it. Consider it carefully. Mistakes are lessons from which to learn. New London has learned more than the library contains. Maybe now it will become wise. Remember to vote your best interest on March 13th.

Hygienic Belly

The streets of New London overflowed with overripe fruit and fermented grain. Hygienic Night ushered in 2007. The year has officially begun in the Whaling City. Remember the spirit of this weekend and spread the cheer all year long.

New London's only winter tourist attraction attracted a throng. Downtown was busy after dark and the weather was surpisingly mild. People lined up around the block to see the Hygienic Art Show. They crowded Golden Street Gallery to see the work of the official Hygienic artists. The Oasis was packed with people shoulder to shoulder. The El 'n' Gee overflowed with fun. This is the best weekend to be an eccentric New Londoner.

There was a belly dancer at the cabaret. She was great. She was easily the best thing on stage last night. She was festooned with chains of coins and when she shimmied she sounded like a tamborine. She was New London Perfect. The crowd responded with enthusiasm. She was mesmerizing, weaving a spell with her belly. That's the kind of entertainment we need in a whaling city. She will become a celebrity.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Who is Joey Royale??

Carnie folk have always had a soft spot for the Whaling City. That is why there are always so many rides at Sailfest. One native was so taken with these travelling professionals when he was a child, he ran away to Coney Island to learn the trade.

Joey Royale is a fire-eater. Really, not metaphorically. He puts open flame down his alimentary canal like it is shavings off a snowcone. He mesmerizes crowds with his intestinal fortitude. He digests flame like a simple carbohydrate. During romantic dinners, he eyes the candles. Needless to say, Joey Royale plays with matches.

If you watch those tattoo shows on the Discovery Channel, you've seen Joey Royale's arms. He sports a pompadour that would be approved by both the Sharks and the Jets. He has moved back to New London, and his boyhood chums marvel at what he has become. He is a showman, an impressario, a man with a vision who marches to Calliope's tune.

Besides being a fire-eater, he is a musician. He is so talented with a tune that he was drafted into one of New London's most prestigious quartets. One look at Joey Royale and you know this is a man who is familiar with the mysteries of estrogen and tonic. He is a natural fit. Besides that he is an amateur cryptozoologist and kitchen table taxidermist. He has preserved samples of strange beasts shipped to him by explorers of stranger places than New London, Conn. He once thought of running a jackalope ranch, but figured fire-eating would pay off better in the long run.

Despite his lucrative fire-eating career, Mr. Royale still has a day job. He is a man of many callings who believes children are the future. He is known for his youth, fire-eating, mentor program run through Parks and Recreation as Joey Royale. Under a psuedonym, he works more directly every day shaping the outlook of our region's youth. He is an elementary school teacher.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Business is Booming!!

Who says businesses aren't moving to New London, Conn. to exploit its ripe opportunities? A gala grand opening was held at New London's newest occupied storefront. The glitterati were out to be snapped by The Day's paparazzi. The party started at 4:00PM and the tuxedoes and gowns were out to take advantage of the last hour of daylight.

Every entrepreneur knows to fill a niche that's empty and that is just what New London's latest commercial emporium is doing. Bank Street Pawn has opened its doors with a selection of merchandise priced for the discriminating connoisieur. While chi-chi antique stores have infiltrated downtown New London in recent years, Bank Street Pawn, at 227 Bank Street offers something different from the pack.

The specially invited guests to the grand opening party were greeted by an accommodating sales floor laid out like a fashionable emproium from the Whaling City's gilded age. Bank Street Pawn promises to be one of the smoothly humming engines in New London's commercial juggernaut. The grand opening concluded at the sensible hour of 7:00PM. The revelers, still wound up from the marvels the entertainment provided by hosts Willow and Ozie. Though it was a suitable hour for bed, no one wanted to go home. The party was adjourned to the Thames Club for a round of dances between duckpin bowling frames.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Crystal Clear

The air in New London today is as clear as the crystals hung on the world's largest chandelier which happens to hang over the food court in the Waterford Mall. Yes, the Crystal Mall rivals Versialles, the way New London rivals old London.

Whalehead King found a shiny dime today in the Henny Penny parking lot. He held it up in his ungloved hand, risking chillblains, to marvel at its sparkles that caught the New London sun as crisply as the clouds overhead and the whitecaps in the Thames River. The dime made him squint to see it. He had found it tails-up, the New London way, so he knew today would be lucky.

How lucky was today? It is too early to tell, but if it is like another New London Day, it will be full of surprises, good news and constant change. It will be chockablock with timely topics addressed in depth. It will inform, delight, entertain and inspire. A New London Day will encourage effective democracy to action. I am sure this Day will be full of what makes New London, Conn. what it is.

You cannot make a phonecall with a dime, not even at the Dutch Tavern. You can't put a price on New London, Conn. The city has a value hard to measure with coins. Every yardstick aligned next to New London has the wrong marks. The voice of a people is written on paper. It is inscirved on the charter and the newsboy will bring a more current form to your doorstep. New London, Conn. is a place that wears its heart on the inside of its sleeve.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Kollision Results!

Well, it wasn't boring. Everything unfolded New London Perfect! The Berlin Pilgrim v. Whalehead King in a sparring match of poesy. Excitement was at a fever pitch. No one could wait for a warm-up act. The first line on the bill was reserved for these two gladiators of the spoken word. The combatants opened Open Mike Night with a bang.

On a stage improvised to look like a druid altar complete with evergreen and holly, Mr. King introduced the challenge. A murmur of anticipation swept through the crowd like the courtroom at a murder trial. A video camera was set up to record this moment for posterity. The Berlin Pilgrim took the floor while Mr. King sat back at a respectful distance. The verbal fireworks began.

To listen to the crowd gathered to watch this contest, you would have thought it was the Fourth of July if you didn't knnow it was January 17th. The cries of "ooooooo!" and "aaaaaaah!" sometimes drowned out the combatants as they read their work aloud. By the end of the tournament, both Spinelli and King were hoarse trying to be heard over the applause and the boos.

So who won? There is no definitive answer. The jury is out. We could watch the video and replay the highlights to make a decision, but remember: the night was New London Perfect. Someone left the lenscap on the camera. Some claim The Berlin Pilgrim upset Whalehead King during Round 2 and our hero never recovered. Others claim The Pilgrim never stood a chance and even if he made Whalehead King stumble, good ol' Whalehead remains the people's choice.

Niether competitor is happy with the outcome. Both have already agreed to a rematch in a month. Rest assured, during the next Kream Kollision someone is going to get a Komeuppance!!!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Something Spinellish Is Around.

When you walk past a gaggle of pre-teens waiting for the school bus and they call you spinellish, you can't be sure it's a compliment. Adolescents hate the idea of standing out in a crowd. Conformity to a clique is the rule. When you are spinellish, you aren't the nail that gets hammered down. You are the nail that makes the carpenter bang his thumb.

Sometimes the breeze off Long Island sound smells spinellish. It smells faintly like green tea and honey mixed with aspic and soy milk. It isn't cinnamon or clove or lemon zest. If it resembles any spice, it is closest to a hint of nutmeg.

A butterfly is spinellish while a seagull is not. A moth and a pigeon are spinellish, but not a mosquito or swan. New London, Conn has become a little spinellish in the last year. There is something spinellish in the air, something spinellish on the streets. People have begun to take on spinellish habits and to talk in spinellish ways.

A spinellish storm is brewing today. The clouds are expected to open at 8:00 PM tonight at Kream Coffeehouse, 318 State Street, New London, of course. An umbrella won't protect you.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Good Things Aplenty

What good deeds were performed in New London today? A car was parked on School Street with its lights on. Whalehead King knocked on the door of the house in front of which it was parked. The lady of the house was in the middle of mopping the kitchen and unhappy to be disturbed. She brightened up and thanked her hero profusely when she learned his mission. Case closed and another battery saved.

What good deeds will be performed tomorrow? No one can say. One thing is for sure: Whalehead King is going to match wits against the Berlin Pilgrim's at Kream Coffeehouse on State Street at 8:00 PM. A crowd of cogniscenti is expected to watch this combat of words between the home-town hero and the newcomer. Be there or be square.

Monday, January 15, 2007

So Easy A New Londoner Could Do It.

New London is a city of brooding brows and ruddy complexions. It is a city that knows little of the modern world. New Londoners live in their own Golden Age during which theirs was a city people admired. That is why poets love New London. They also live in a parallell world that is full of promise and attention.

New London is a playground for Romantics. The sublime snuggles up with the mundane. There is ample material about which to feel remorse and joy. New London is the setting for operas and epics yet to be written. Dreamers recognize this fact and flock to New London to do something worth remembering.

There are 168 municipalities in Connecticut, but there is only one New London. There are 23 New London's in other states, but there is only one New London, Conn. There is an old London and there is a New London. In a contest of two, there is a winner and an almost-winner. New London doesn't recognize comparisons. This city is a champion.

The Berlin Pilgrim v. Whalehead King. Wed, Jan 17 at Kream, 8:00PM. Both are champions. At the end of the night one will be a winner while the other will be almost. It is so easy even a caveman could do it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Sizzlling Turkey

I just watched a New London woman challenge a Quaker Hill man to video bowling. She was winning for the first five frames before the tide turned against her. The man rallied and pulled ahead, strike, strike, strike. During the ninth frame, which was a sizzling turkey for her, the woman laughed out loud and said, "I don't mind as long as I'm in second place at least."

That is New London Spirit. That's the Spirit Spinelli and King will bring to the ring on Wed. January 17th at Kream.

Who Is The Berlin Pilgrim??

The Berlin Pilgim is a Nutmegger at heart. He has spent his time in odd corners of the world unimaginable to his current acquaintances. The Berlin Pilgrim is a man of the world, but he is a Nutmeg Yankee at heart.

The Berlin Pilgrim is not cosmopolitan. His travels have taken him to out-of-the-way places. He understands many dialects, but has never lost his accent. He has never gone native. He knows his limitations better than anything else, but he hasn't learned how far he should reach. He has lived in jungles, dormitories, on the road, and under the stars. He has been marveled at for being different from his surroundings.

The Berlin Pilgrim moved to New London, Conn. It is not much different from his other destinations beyond being in the Constitution State. Why would a world-traveller choose New London? Why not? You grow where you are planted. That is written in Latin on The Pilgrim's driver's license.

The Berlin Pilgrim takes notes about his travels in his journals. He impresses by keeping mum. When he speaks softly, people listen. He carries a stick more flimsy than his convictions. The Berlin Pilgrim partakes as much as he gives. The part of a fortune cookie you remember is the message in the middle, not the flavor.

Who Is Whalehead King??

Even a minor genius who has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams has moments of self-doubt before a fresh challenge. Most emperors were stabbed or poisoned. What is hot today will be cold tomorrow. Plans sometimes pay off better than intuition.

Whalehead King hates to trust his luck, though it hasn't failed him thus far. He believes he is up to whatever lands in his lap, but when you lie down with dogs you can wake up with fleas. Mr. King believes with all his heart that he lives in a world-class city that can satisfy his needs. Others don't believe this and Mr. King fears he may catch thier cold.

Intimate with his subject, Whalehead King dashes off whatever is on his mind about what catches his momentary fancy in New London, Conn. If his essays are cheery, it is because New London is very good to him. Mr. King is well aware his adopted home is not equally generous with everyone. His deepest fear is that he will become disillusioned and disenchanted, that he will embrace the obverse side of the New London State of Mind.

Whalehead King writes and writes in the most general way. He is a character who dwells in the universal truths he encounters on his daily errands. Forever on patrol about New London, Conn., Mr King is looking for answers to why he is here. He does more than write. He lives enmeshed in New London's weave, a part of a great city sailing toward its destiny.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Celebrity Shrug Match

Besides local politicitans, which people are well-known in New London? We are obviously using the 'well-known' definition loosely. Besides local politicians, what citizens make a difference in Connecticut's Whaling City? Obviously this is another bar set low, since many people make more of a difference in this community than those employed in its government.

After landlords, New London's predominant caste is its artists. These two set the tone and the tenor of what develops downtown especically, but also farther afield, from Hodges Square to Neptune Park. These two cast the mold of how New London is seen in the world.

New London's personalities are more important than its elected leaders. People make a city, not a charter.

David Spinelli is a pilgrim from Berlin, Conn. who has landed on New London's shore. He has lived here a little less than a year. He is a quiet man who has insinuated himself into a number of the city's subcultures. He means no ill. He is more cure than contagion. He is a modern gentleman who brings a global sensibilitiy to his immediate surroundings.

Whalehead King is a man who has flourished where he has found himself transplanted. He has folded his soul into New London's spirit. His city is his self. No one knows New London like Whalehead King, who knows New London like the back of his eyelids.

Mr. Spinelli proposed to Mr. King that the two match wits and talent in a duel of poetry. Words are New London's favorite medium whether set to music or to coffee shop bustle. Would our man-about-town accept the stranger's challenge? Yes. Mr. Spinelli chose three themes and the two agreed to write three poems, read them in public, face to face, poem for poem, head to head, may the best man win. Length is limited to a half-page per subject so as not to try the audience's patience.

Mr. Spinelli is too unknown a quantity to predict. Mr. King's work is as parochial and folksy as an aristocrat of the gutter can muster. No one knows what the results will be. Odds favor Whalehead King, but the Spinellli Factor looms to upset rational predictions. When the night is done a new head may be crowned as New London's Bard.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Kream Kollision!!!

The duel is on and a buzz is being generated. Tongues are wagging about the upcoming death match between Mr. David Spinelli, The Berlin Pilgrim and Whalehead King. Expectations are high, perhaps exceedingly so.

For the record: No blood should be shed. There will not be fisticuffs. The Pilgrim and The Ambassador are on good terms and neither wants to see the other hurt. Despite the lack of actual violence, this should be an interesting time. Expect a tsunami of metaphors and alliteration in a teacup. If the idea gets your heart pumping, you had better be at Kream Koffeehouse on Wednesday night, January 17.

Mr. Spinelli chose the topics so Whalehead King is on unfamiliar terrain. He will not be able to talk about only New London, or will he? As to what Mr. Spinelli is up to, no one knows. The topics are two serious and one trivial. We all know where Mr. King excels, but what are the challenger's strengths? We are biting our nails in anticipation.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Challenge of the Decade.

The Berlin Pilgrim offered Whalehead King a challenge. He wants to go head to head against New London's Unelected Poet Laureate. Three poems on themes of the challenger's choosing presented in public. Mr. King only writes in prose paragraphs even though he often waxes poetic. He picked up the glove and slapped his adversary on the cheek. "Accepted, sir."

Next Wednesday at Kream Coffee House, Mr. David Spinelli and Mr. Matthew King will alternate readings of their newly written work on three themes of Mr. Spinelli's choosing at Open Mike Night. They are not rehearsing. This is not a cabaret. These are two earnest and erstwhile writers trying to best each other, no holds barred. It is a wrestling match of words worthy of the Ocean Beach Boardwalk.

This is a serious joke. It should be rowdy and enthusiastic, with plenty of applause and hissing. Great ideas will be presented with all the folderal poetry promises, but it will not be dull. Mark your calendar and clear your datebook on Wednesday after 8:00 PM.

Friendly acquaintances, Mr. Spinelli and Mr. King are forgetting their previous handshakes. It will be each man for himself performing without a net. This is the biggest event ever to unfold at a coffee house poetry reading. Everyone will be a winner.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dare To Be Different

A city is a place in which you can remake yourself anew. People come to New London to start afresh and be the people they always wanted to be. The city's society is an ever-shifting collection of characters acting out roles written in the color of desire.

Many people think Whalehead King is a fop, a clothes horse, an overdressed peacock, a pretty boy, or a Gentleman's Quarterly model. He is a dandy rake, but there is one person who exceeds his passion for old-fashioned style assembled with modern panache. This gentleman is referred to as The Baron. Whalehead King has only sighted this sanppy chap twice before today, and all the encounters were years apart.

The first time was in 1998, when Mr. King and a date were enjoying the symphony at the Garde Theater. The Baron escorted a lady to the last row in the loge. Mr. King was wearing a four-button, bespoke suit of black sharkskin with a royal windowpane pattern. He had on a lime shirt with black cufflinks in the shape of motor scooters. His Turkish silk tie was in a perfect half-windsor with a deep dimple centered square under the knot. The Baron was dressed in a silk and velvet, swallow-tail tuxedo, a watch chain draped over his cumberbund. He had a crisp, white bow tie around his neck and a monocle over his left eye. His companion floated by in a ruffled gown with a bustle behind her corsetted waist.

In 2002, Whalehead King was in the antiques store where Olympic Sporting Goods used to be. He was leaving just as The Baron was entering. It was a Sunday morning and Mr. King was wearing his walking-about togs, fashionable and smart looking, but not any more elegant than George Clarke. The Baron also wasn't not formal, but he was wearing tea colored jodhpurs, and a white, two-hundred count, Egyptian cotton shirt. He carried a walking stick capped with silver on each end. The Baron has a long goatee and wears his hair like Lord Byron. Mr. King had to turn and marvel at this creation he had just passed. The Baron studied a Louis the XVI combination chair and magazine rack without looking at anything else.

Whalehead King saw The Baron again today, in 2007. During this encounter, The Baron was a symphony in gray tweed and knit. His slacks and his jacket were subtly different weaves of houndstooth. His motoring cap was cut large without a snap on its bill. The Baron was wearing a cream, woolen, cable sweater and a nubby, slate scarf over his shoulder. He was wearing white, cotton gloves that buttoned at the wrist.

Now, Whalehead King isn't dressed like a slouch during this sighting. Mr. King is decked out in his Romanian cashmere topcoat over a worsted, double-breasted, midnight blue suit with ecru pinstriping. His English tab shirt is cantaloupe, its cuffs secured with Connectiuct quarters and his tie is a constellation of sparkly crimson dots set in utlramarine. He is wearing a dark vest of paisley brocade. His pocket square blooms from his breast pocket like a daffodil. His fedora has been freshly brushed and blocked.

Mr. King can only stare at The Baron and admire this confection striding down the street, uncaring that it is out of place. Whalehead King has no natural adversaries in New London, but there can be only one best dressed man in the Whaling City. Most people think it is Whalehead King. He demurs. He thinks the title belongs to The Baron, a gentleman with whom he has never exchanged words, but whose style he admires. A tip of the fedora to this sartorial maestro.

Shallett's Boiler

The boiler is out in Shallett's Laundry at the beginning of Montauk Avenue. Since the place is usually full of steam and as hot as the Devil's doorstep, the old brick building isn't well insulated. Usually warm and busy, Shallett's is quiet and cold now that the boiler isn't working.

It won't be working for a week. Shallett's boiler isn't exactly new. Its parts have to be special ordered from industrial antiques dealers. The boiler needs a kind of prester valve that hasn't been manufactured for eighty years. Luckily, Mr. Shallett has connections and he located a valve in the Sloane-Stanley Tool Museum in Kent, Conn. They brought it via armored van to the machine shop on Hempstead Street where a replica is being made from brass.

Until the valve is finished, no active laundering is going on at Shallett's. The tailor is sharpening her scissors and needles. The pressers are polishing their irons and sanding off any rough edges. The head presser is offering lessons on the finer aspects of wedding gown preparation. The folders are doing finger stretching exercises and truing all the hangers. The counter ladies have taken the cash registers apart and oiled all the gears.

Business hasn't picked up at other dry cleaners in the city. Shallett's customers are loyal. The modern gentleman and gentlewoman know where to go to look thier best. They don't trust their clothes to just any new shop on the block. They trust their clothes to an establishment with a century's experience. Rather than support the competition, New London's best dressed folk are wearing wrinkled and stained tuxedos and gowns until Shallett's is back humming. The staff can't wait for the rush.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sweet Poison

Be careful what you wish for, New London. Be careful what you wish for. The New London State of Mind usually subscribes to a rose-tinted viewpoint. Tonight, after a long and tolerant incubation, a barnacle has broken the whale's back.

As gentrification sluggishly creeps into New London, things will be worth more as measured by property assessments than by honest values. Look at Waterford just past Jefferson Avenue. That is not a community, that is not a city, that is not progress. It is empty land no matter how many cars park on the blacktop lots. Travel Bank Street past the Charter Oak Federal Credit Union. Do we want those buildings in New London? Do we want that ugly Starbucks? Don't we already have enough coffee opportunities amongst companions, brewed and served by neighbors? Do we need to be part of a machine?

Where do I want my money to go? I want it to stay in New London. Where do I want to work? Close to home, where my heart is. Where do I want to live? In New London, Conn., of course. Contrary and flush with conundrums, New London satisfies communal and personal needs grown at home. He who transplants sustains. This is nowhere truer than in New London, Conn.

I don't want to be sold, I want to make. I want to be left alone to pursue my own interest, while not making a fuss. I am like New London, walking an oft-reapeated path and enjoying the action. Upset the cart and a barrell of sperm oil will fall off and spill all over in a mess that can't be mopped. If things are going well, be careful what you wish for. Things might get better. When they do, they will inevitably get worse.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sultry Romance

An exotic city is just off the Interstate 95 exit ramp. Pulling off the highway leads to a journey through a hot and happening city. New London sizzles even in winter. New London is happening even in the dead of night.

There are cities that are hubs of fashion and style and entertainment and opinion. Some are better known than others. Those in the know go to New London to get their pleasures on the down low before the rest of the world catches on.

New London's captivating paradoxes bewilder suburbanites. You have to be bold to enjoy with both eyes open and unblinking. Close your eyes. You are surrounded by more than eye candy. New London girls look at you with a certain twinkle and sparkle. New London's male folk dress like they just walked out of magazines. The surfaces are the least important aspects of New London. Its how the people saunter and sashay that makes them stick in your mind.

This is a city of mergers and takeovers, but it is all done with style and sultry sensibility. Nothing personal, no hard feelings. Business as usual, done with aplomb with no need for hurry or bustle. Everything is graceful and polite. Everything is done in a post-modern way.

A New England exotica blooms off Interstate 95. Fools drive by everyday. Tastemakers stop for a few relaxing hours of high aesthetics and trendy ideas before their time.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Winthrop Hotel Block

The Winthrop Hotel is the building that houses Zavala, an excellent Mexican restaurant that will have to be desribed at a later date. It really is good, but space constraints don't allow us to do it merit today. Today is about the block of buildings that sit on this parcel without a smidge of wiggle room.

Counterclockwise as viewed from the air: besides the old Winthrop Hotel, which also houses Channel 3 News and some empty offices with excellent views, There is The Galley Restaurant, The prominent, eccentric Subway Building, Captain's Pizza, The Y-Knot Cafe, The Oasis, the old Caruso's building, the Bank Street Roadhouse, a parking lot and a builing that was refurbished to be a hotel/restaurant that has the words "Dining Inn" over its windows but hasn't been either as long as anyone can remember.

For those who don't know, there is a courtyard in the middle of these buildings that isn't used for anything and isn't visited by anyone. The courtyard is about twenty feet square and the sun only shines directly into it at noon in the summer. That is the only space open to the sky in this dense collection of brick, timber, pipes, wires, lead paint, asphalt, tarpaper, tyvek, and ingenuity.

It is the most citified block in Connecticut's Whaling City. If it were a temporary autonomous zone up to code, all the offices and apartments would be rented, every storefront would be filled, and the courtyard would the base of a luxury condominium mixed-use skyscraper taller than the SNET microwave tower. It would make as much sense in Manhattan or Shanghai or some other world-class economic, cultural, dynamic powerhouse of a city.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Unpaid Bills

A nice place to pay your utility and phone bills is at Honey Plus on State Street. Yes, you could write checks and send them in the mail. Yes, you could make the most of modern technology and use your computer. Given the choice between paying bills from the comfort of home and vistiting Honey Plus, the answer is obvious.

This store opened a few years ago featuring candy barrels overflowing with sweets for sale by the pound. The business has expanded over time. There is now a line of off-brand grocery products, handmade incense, tobacco products, glass smoking pipes, hardware, small tools, household sundries, perfumes, hygeine products, clothing a hot dog machine, and assorted gift items for the person who has everything but an Atlantic City ashtray or plastic snow globe.

You can pay your gas, electric and telephone bills at Honey Plus. Here is how it works. You stand in line while customers buy cigarettes and lottery tickets. When it's your turn, you hand the clerk your bills. He tallies the amount on a calculator and you pay him cash. Then the clerk enters the payment information for each company into a clicking, whirring machine hidden under the counter. He hands you a receipt for each utility printed on a stiff, cardboard stub as big as an airplane boarding pass.

Whalehead King drove through the rain to pay his bills today. The machine is out of order until Sunday. Hooray! He gets to go to Honey Plus again next week.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A Little Honey

There is more than a hint of sweet in New London's air mixed with the brine that blows off the harbor. The morning fog is saline, but it has undertones of fructose and maltose. Low tide smells like honey in New London, Conn.

It turns out that New London sits on a petrified sugar cane field close under the topsoil due to tectonic shifts. The Mohegans were once known as the "Saccharine People" before the English settled on the west bank of the Thames River. The Nehantic Tribe were called the "Nutrasweet Tribe." New London has long been known as a place where sweet words are spoken with sweet breath. There is something in the dirt. Even the worms are gummy.

There are no sour babies in New London. Every infant and toddler and pre-teen and 'tween is a confection of spun delight. Once a citizen reaches adolescence, he or she takes on dark chocolate and bitter overtones. They are more citric acidic than puffy meringue. Flavors layer over flavors. Richness is a matter of sophisticated taste. The older you get, the more you mellow. The richer the flavor the more demand for zest.

Both honey and vinegar attract flies. One attracts peacocks and the other attracts ostriches. New Lonodon offers angels' food. It is more than a little bit sweet.

You Have a Friend.

Agent 11 was having lunch at Bangkok City. He was sitting in the window since he was chilled and he wanted to bask in the sun. His back was to the dining room so that he could see the bustle on State Street.

Two young women were seated in the booth to his back. He had noticed them when he was seated by Jennie, who is one of the most pleasant waitresses in the city. The young ladies looked to be Connecticut College students. One had a thick head of blond hair tied into a tangled french braid. The other was a petite, oriental lady with a sleek bob. Over the course of lunch, Agent 11 was treated to the tragic tale of one of the ladies lack of friends. She honestly believed she had no friends and returned to this subject again and again in the course of twenty-five minutes.

Agent 11 couldn't tell which of the young ladies was so lonely. He was too busy tucking into his spicy squid with string beans (6 stars) and talking to his lunchtime companion to smoothly and discretly turn his head like an owl. When he had finished his meal, he fished in his pockets for the antidote to this unknown woman's dilemma. Drat the luck! His pockets were empty.

Agent 11, usually on top of his game, failed one of his repsonsiblities. He was fishing in his pocket for a bumper sticker to drop on the table. This sticker is one of Whalehead King's calling cards. It reads: You Have a Friend in New London, Conn. Under those bold words is the tagline 'www.whaleheadking.com." That is the kind of news a lonely person needs when they are alone in New London. One demerit for Agent 11.

Air Quotes

There is a very attractive redhead who is employed at a New London bank. She has a bubbly personality, which is her best attribute, though truth be told, she is also easy on the eyes. Down boys. She is recently married and if you think you still have a chance, she will remain nameless. I will tell you she works for Charter Oak Federal Credit Union.

This young lady can carry on a pleasant conversation apropos of nothing. This is a valuable skill for a bank teller. How many disgruntled sourpusses wait in line to make a trivial transaction that can't be escaped. A cheerful, chatty teller makes the errand go by easily.

This young lady smiles, laughs and fairly twinkles as she chats. She is a pleasure to listen to and a pleasure to watch. She has a lovely voice, but she has a distracting habit. We all have our faults, some worse than others. On the annoying scale, this woman's habit is rather benign.

When she wants to stress a word in one of her charming sentences, she raises both hands and paints apostrophes in the air. Being a redhead, she is not Italian, and this is the only instance during which she will talk with her hands. Often the word she is "quoting" doesn't need to be quoted, having no double entendre or subtext that needs highlighting. For example: "Good Morning, Whalehead King. It seems to be a 'nice' day for your 'walk' up the street today." After this delivery, Mr. King is curious as to what he is missing in the conversation and what exactly this lovely woman means. He is not alone. He is often stopped in the parking lot where other bank patrons ask if they have been insulted.

This lovely young lady reports that her daughter has started to pick up this troublesome habit. Dr. Spock would recommend rubbing the child's fingers with tobasco sauce.

From One Generation to the Next

Saeed's International Market generates a lot of trash, most of it food related. It is a busy kitchen full of ingredients that cannot be found elsewhere in the Whaling City. Yesterday there were four overflowing cans, and a pile of boxes and bags on the School Street sidewalk.

New London's seagulls are a hungry lot. As you know, the younger a seagull the darker it is. When the birds are born they are as brown as tea. As they grow older they lighten to their more familiar pattern of gray on white with a yellow beak.

Seagulls are naturally ravenous, but New London's gulls have developed a taste for gyro meat and pickled turnips. There is only one place in the city where you can get this combination. On trash day, School Street is crowded with seagulls.

Our man in the field sat on the stoop of 109 School Street keeping company with a black cat. Both watched with varying degrees of interest as the older, whiter seagulls taught the younger, brown seagulls how to open trash bags and pluck out the contents. The birds were very quiet, not wanting to cause a commotion, and the whole affair was conducted with the dignity of a class at Mitchell College. Despite the decorum, when the lesson was finished the street was littered with scraps of paper and wilted vegetables. A while later, the Public Works Department came through. School Street was spotless after they passed. It looked like new pavement had been laid and the air smelled like April. This really happened on January 3rd, 2007.


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