Random Thoughts: A Manhattan Native’s 15 Years Living in New England
Let’s talk town fair. Three giant beans on a placemat win a blue ribbon. A kid with a cow on a frayed rope. Walking it like a dog. Fried dough, horse manure. The works. Cora (not her real name) tells me I’ll be cold. My black windbreaker from the Splendid China Chang Jiang cruise ship won’t be warm enough. She hands me a fluffy black UConn sweatshirt and notices the frown on my face when I spot its huge red embroidered letters.
I do not do Husky hoopla. Or Yankee or Mets hoopla. I am hoopla-less when it comes to organized sports. She tosses me the sweatshirt and says, “it matches.”
The Somers, Connecticut, Four Town Fair is 165 years old at this moment. I’m there with my friend Cora who is native to rural Connecticut. Raised on a dairy farm. Cora’s jonesing to show me some local-local culture. We go. Eat fried dough, see the doodlebugs, “adult vegetables,” and children’s collections: dolls, cars, paintings, bottle tops. One kid displays his condiment collection. I love this. I hope he grew up to design Barney’s windows in New York.
Next, the cow pen. We admire prize cows, then prize sheep. I want to hug the sheep. My native Connecticut friend talks me out of it. “They’re nasty,” says Farm Girl. “You’ve got to dig the caked doo-doo out of their butts.”
My pet sheep fantasy ends.
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I drive to Arlene’s house in Higganum, Connecticut. It’s fall and Arlene (not her real name) is giving the party just after dark which I hate because you can’t see a damn thing in suburban Connecticut at night.
Thank God her house is just off the main road, Rte. 10. But where to park? I can’t see the numbers on the houses. Then I get there (I think) and see two houses near each other. Which one? I. Can’t. See. The. Address. Numbers. The house is set back half a New York City block from the road. I’m not walking up to anybody’s house because the last time I did that in Connecticut the homeowner sicked a dog on me. This was in daylight. And I knew I was at the right house to which I’d been invited for this first time.
I didn’t know if Arlene had a dog and wasn’t keen to find out that night. Plus, I didn’t want to injure myself navigating what appeared to be a long wooden gate surrounding the house that might belong to my host. So, I got back in my car and called Arlene from my cell phone, which, in the 1990s was the size of a shoe.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“I think I’m right outside your house, but it’s pitch black; I can’t see a thing. I think there’s a fence here and I can’t see my way around it.”
“I’ll come out,” she said. I could hear the exasperation in her voice. And I don’t care.