There are a lot of trees in Connecticut. Probably in all of New England. It’s like stepping back in time to when the Puritans first rolled up on the bleak American shoreline. Forests as far as the eye can see, except now there are mansions and bustling cities interspersed among the leafy green. Even with the occasional break for modernity, the woods were almost as difficult for me to get used to as it must have been for the Puritans. Traveling from the vast, sunlit plains of Wisconsin to the dense, shadowed forests of New England – I can see why early Americans migrated west.
New Haven in particular reminded me of a charming college town modeled on Oxford that was mistakenly placed in the middle of a virulent ghetto. Two blocks from the staggeringly beautiful cathedral of books that is the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, I found similarly staggering poverty among crumbling townhomes and monolithic apartment blocks. I couldn’t imagine George W and his Yale cronies rowing and wearing polos and talking about investments when the surrounding largely black and hispanic community is so busy just struggling to survive.
Maybe it seemed worse to me because I was working in a hospital in the so-called “bad part of town.” Coworkers discouraged me from walking to work, even though the hosptial was only a handful of blocks away. My first morning in New Haven, a coworker came up to me at breakfast and told me I should ride to work with him in the taxi he called. Not “asked me to join him” or even “suggested I join him.” Simply told me I would be coming along. It being 7 A.M., I couldn’t muster to willpower to give him the stink eye and grumble, “I ain’t scurred.” But the next day (and ceaselessly after that), I walked. It’s just poverty, man. An impoverished community is no guarantee that I’m going to be mugged in broad daylight. Pardon me if that seems overly confident, but I’ll take my chances and experience life a little bit.
As much as I might claim to be scurred of nuthin’, I did mainly stick to the Yale campus in my post-work jaunts. It’s a gorgeous campus, though, why would you want to leave? As an admitted sucker for fine architecture, I was slack-jawed more often than not, admiring the spirited details in the endless array of Gothically-styled buildings. As it happens, New Haven is also the “other” cuisine capitol of New England, after New York and Boston. I could barely open my mouth without accidentally shoving a meal into it. Clam pies, sandwiches the size of my forearm, indian dishes that tasted like delicious, salty fire – whatever it was, down the hatch. I even dined on pacific tuna for some reason. Wrong ocean, but a double excellent choice, primarily because the meal came with flash-fried spinach which is my new favorite thing that I’ll never make because it seems hard.
New Haven’s lone geographic feature, the East Mountain, did not disappoint either, with its expansive vistas across the Long Island Sound and a stunning view of the setting sun. Driving to the top of the mountain, it seemed only prudent to hike to the base and back up again – I needed to get the lay of the land in case of an emergency, after all. Lacking real shoes (or clothes), I made the descent and ascent in flip flops and an Oxford shirt, yet still managed to pass the locals on a series of staircases cut from the sheer cliff face. Just take me to the real mountains already, my god. What am I even doing here. It’s like putting Spider-Man in a field and telling him to save the day. What’s he gonna do, swing between the stalks of wheat?
Yale has a pair of art museums that are superlative, a word that essentially means “beyond compare,” so I don’t know why anyone would use it to describe anything. I guess the museums would compare favorably to other art institutions. They certainly didn’t lack for big names, having several walls soaked in Picasso and Monet and Van Gogh and etc. I was more intrigued by the large print Lichtensteins, one of my favorite artists. The British Museum of Art was wonderfully informative about the different stages and styles of British art, although I suspect I was the only person reading the plaques before admiring the art.
Traveling in general seems to invigorate me more than any other activity. Take this direct quote from my notes: “detroit airport, sitting next to that fountain, feel like a million bucks, inspired to take on the world and all my creative projects and CHANGE FOR THE BETTER.” Literally wrote in my notebook in all caps. I think it goes without saying that I should probably just hit the road for good.