An old chum is visiting me soon and I mentioned that, while I am still writing daily, I am no longer engaged in the stream of consciousness type of prose that was my stock in trade in the city where I earned my moniker, Whalehead King. I thought I would see if I still had that old WK magic when it came to writing about Connecticut's Whaling City, a place without peer, where you can raise a family and make a good life.
There is no shame in loving New London, common sense to the contrary. New London has always been very kind to me from the first day we made our acquaintance. The city has woven its identity into the matrix of my bones. It is why I still refer to myself, a few years after I regretfully moved away, as Whalehead King. New London remains my paramour.
So, off the cuff, without revision, in the way I used to pen my fever dream essays about my former home, I came up with what follows, written with typical, trademarked, WK panache. I don't think I've lost my touch. Let me know if you disagree.
Read this like I would, aloud with a serious, sonorous voice in front of an audience. Every sentence a distinct thought. Enunciate. Savor the vowels and let them roll off past your teeth. It helps if you are little bit tipsy with poetry. Take your time, pause after periods to let the words hang in the air. Keep a straight face through it all. When you are done, go out on patrol, wherever you live, and keep your eyes open and ears bent for the delights that lie in your path...
New London: a nightmare more soothing than a daydream. New London: placental and nourishing in its abundance, as supportive as an amniotic bath. A burp, a hiccup, the contented smile of a babe that follows the release of a bit of gas: New London.
When you cut the cord, there’s no going back, there is nothing to rope you in. Untethered and grounded at once, what lies past the horizon is the limit on a wild, New London sleigh ride. Indian corn pops. Nameaug hops and bops, hip to its own groove, busting its own moves. History books are written by the victors. Stumblebums and hoboes make their way along aimless, nameless paved-over cow paths, bumping into bankers. New London is a place in which a person can be wide awake and never be sure what, exactly, is going on.
There is a nick on Connecticut’s belly. There is a damp scab that demands to be picked. There is an itch, an urge, a pang, and a gnawing. There is a city that sings itself a lullaby. It is the same city that shoots itself with epinephrine to get a jump on the jive and forgets the sting that made it lurch. History has an episodic memory. Loll away your days in New London. There are worse ways to spend your time. If time unfolds like flower petals on a spring day, New London blooms like an flaming, sea green orchid unconsciously attracting passing bees tempted by the flavor of its nectar. There are no dead leaves in New London, only mulch.
Time is not money in New London. It is gilded with filigreed zinc and asbestos, vinyl clapboard and weathered brick, ornate with the curlicues of Victorian gingerbread from better days past and more better days to come. History is etched in moss on slate tiles heaped for a landfill. Ashes to ashes, oil to lamplight.
Hope and manna steam in New London’s porridge bowls. Lights dot the harbor. The tide washes in and the tide washes out, anything clean is the stuff of pure spirit. You can count the new bucks and thin dimes in New London on both hands, and take off your shoes. A Hindu statue doesn’t have enough hands to grasp the fruits that spill out of New London’s fishy cornucopia. Slippery as an eel and doubly elusive, New London can be put in a pot, but it cannot be stewed. Any simmering is under the surface.
A city of sperm and baleen is founded on dreams. There is bedrock under the banks and states of New London’s streets. Pick an intersection, walk one way, find yourself where you began. In a New London state of mind, angels gather in barrooms and discuss the news of The Day. The best news remains unreported. There are things in this world that cannot be put into words. Shylocks wink to each other. New Londoners shake hands.
If anyone reckons the span of New London’s five square miles of land, remind them the city contains an unrivaled harbor. Look upward at the stars and say there is no limit to what a thoughtful, sentient soul can aspire toward within New London’s borders. Scuff your boots at New London’s neck if you wish. If wishes were fishes, New London’s dreams would be bigger than whales that tack starboard through the depths of uncharted oceans. If wishes were fishes, the catch in New London would flood the market, lowering the price of aspirations.
To all the girls I loved before... To the city that still haunts my slumber... To the good citizens of New London, Conn., who continue to fight the good fight, come what may.