Being Thankful for Hartford

October 18, 2010

I have generally not been shy about my feelings concerning Central Connecticut and my grudging residence here. I came for my darling wife and her darling job – a very fine job, I should say, and worth the move. But to me, having lived most of my life in New York and Boston, taking up residence in a suburban town in the orbit of a small, economically morbid, inland city was like moving from Earth to one of the moons of Neptune – because like, it’s not even Neptune, where I live – you know? It’s in Neptune’s orbit. (This suburban ennui was made more acute by my previous job which, while engaging and righteous, required a lot of driving over long distances, which tended to cement my notion of Connecticut as a centerless, sprawling, car-dependent blah-land.)

But over time, and especially in the six months since I took a job in Hartford, I’ve started to come around. Maybe it’s just that I’ve now had enough time to get to know the place and to develop a good group of friends. Either way, yesterday was a perfect example of why I am, in spite of myself, happy here:

On Saturday, Max had been a raging grump, in that irrational but surprisingly articulate way that six-year-olds can be. At bedtime, after the umpteenth fight over some trifling silliness, I sat him down on my bed to ask what was the matter, and with some coaxing he told me that he felt like I was always paying attention to his brother and never to him. This is true, if inevitable, in that Reuben, who is three, just needs more help with stuff. Nevertheless, I figured with his mom away on a trip, Max could use a little coddlying, so I promised him that on Sunday he and I would go on an adventure, just the two of us. (It bears mentioning that the very fact that I have the resources and the time in my life to worry about the emotional ups and downs of low-grade sibling rivalry and to devote energy to assuaging them is something worth its own dose of thankfulness.)

Luckily, my dad is in town to help me with the boys while Anna is away, so Sunday I left Reuben with him and Max and I headed out around midday. First, we went to Sol de Borinquen bakery on Park Street in Frog Hollow. Like magic, a parking spot right in front opened up for us as we arrived, and we popped in and grabbed one dulce de guayaba for Max (sin polvo, of course) and one quesito for me. From there, we went down to where Maple Avenue runs south into the Berlin Turnpike and took a right onto Jordan Lane, the dirt road that snakes up onto Cedar Mountain between Cedar Hill and Emanuel cemeteries. (I have written about this place before.)

About a quarter mile up the road (which, according to Google Maps, is called Russell Road at this point, rather than Jordan Lane), further vehicular progress is blocked by a large chain-link gate. Fortuitously, though, beside the gate is a little pull-out area perfect for parking, and beside that area is a path around the gate. So Max and I began our hike.

Max explores Cedar Mountain in Newington, Conn.

And just like that, with the happy weekend bustle of Park Street only five minutes behind us, we were in nature. We walked between the two cemeteries, listening to birds all around us, hearing the bushes rustle with unseen animal life as we passed, and talking without hurry about the sorts of topics most concerning to six-year-olds (sharks, principally, and outer space, and the feasibility of digging straight down until one hits lava). We saw blue jays and hawks and many other birds we couldn’t identify (well, Max identified them as woodpeckers, but they weren’t), plenty of squirrels in full mid-Autumn food-gathering frenzy, and at least one rabbit. We tried (unsuccessfully) to catch a butterfly, and discussed at length the desirability of keeping a butterfly as a pet. Max scanned the ground for “animal signs,” and while we did not see any tracks except those made by cemetery backhoes, Max did find holes in leaves made by caterpillars, to his great satisfaction.

On Cedar Mountain, looking for "animal signs"

And then, just as the sun was starting to feel hot and Max was starting to get tired, we reached our destination, a mile from where we started: a clearing at the edge of a cliff beside a quarry, providing a mighty view to the west and north:

Max enjoys a guava pastry and the view, Newington, Conn.

And damn, Sol de Borinquen pastries are so good.

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One Response to “Being Thankful for Hartford”

  1. According to Google Translate, polvo is dust. Huh?

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