Sunday, June 03, 2007

New London Camels

The camel is the mascot of Connecticut College, a private liberal arts institution located on College Hill, next to Quaker Hill in New London, Conn. Alumni like to say, “You know you are traveling if you arrive by camel.” Camels are not native to southeastern Connecticut. Few people know why the camel is Connecticut College’s mascot. Now you will know why.

The Pausipeg is New London’s resident sprite. He has lived here longer than anyone else. He lived here when New London was called Nameaug and he lived here before the place even had a name. He was all by himself for many years, which may explain why he always mutters to himself.

The Pausipeg claims to have crossed a glacier to get to the mouth of the Thames River. Everyone knows the Pausipeg hates to walk long distances, which is why he rarely leaves New London city limits. The Pausipeg acknowledges this. When pressed, he will tell the listener that he crossed the glacier riding a camel. A camel, along with the Pausipeg, was the first animal to grace New London’s shore.

If you ask the Pausipeg to draw a picture of a camel, the drawing looks like a potato stuck with four toothpicks. As the millennia roll by, the Pausipeg’s long-term memory is getting hazy. The Pausipeg says that when he reached Long Island Sound he knew he had reached his journey’s end. The Pausipeg says camel meat is the best thing he has ever eaten. He complains that he hasn’t had a good camel meal in ages.

In honor of the Pausipeg, Conn. College students hold a barbecue featuring camel steaks on the menu. It is an annual ritual. At the end of the festivities, they leave a plate out on the lawn for the Pausipeg to sample. Unfortunately, the Pausipeg doesn’t have a date book. In fact he has only a vague sense of time. He always forgets the date, and by the time he remembers he is deep on a bender in some shady downtown barroom, too stumbly to make his way up College Hill.

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