The Big Reveal! and Farm River State Park

13 03 2018

Cherry and I met last week to figure out our next adventure. After considering several options, we decided to go with: ta-da, ta-da—

CT DEEP’s 2018 Sky’s the Limit Hiking Challenge!!

Designed to promote hiking in Connecticut’s State Park and Forests, this year’s list includes fourteen “lesser known trails.”

So we started with Farm River State Park

Here are our mandatory shots for  verifying our visitation at this site:


Check out the great views and sundial in this small “pocket park.”


After the short hike, we went to Gutiz, a local Ecuadarian Restaurant. Excellent food and interesting atmosphere.


Hope you’ll keep up with us as we travel around CT to view these lesser known areas.


Crescent Lake, Southington and Plainville Friendly’s

2 03 2018


Fourth time’s the charm! Due to weather and health issues, we’ve had to postpone our FINAL visit to Friendly’s for weeks. Finally, today we are ready to head out. And it’s a nice day, in the 50s and sunny. Cherry arrives with Spring in her hands – a lovely bouquet for me!

IMG_4511Since our last meeting, Cherry has lost her cat to a rare heart condition and we acknowledge the loss of Willa. Then we take the half hour drive to Crescent Lake. A bit breezy when we arrive at 10:30, we choose the shortest trail around the lake, about two miles, which provides lovely views. I talk about recent experiences where I felt very centered and clear; Cherry says that happens to her when she’s in nature and realizes how interconnected we are with all living things.

Some of the path is water-logged but there are enough protruding roots and strategically placed logs to make it though. Cherry tests her waterproof boots at times, but I know mine won’t stay dry and balance myself along whatever rises above the water. Cherry says she is finally winding down some family financial responsibilities and will be relieved when they’re finished.


Along the eastern edge of the pond, we find duck boxes with metal baffles to keep raccoons out (I assume). On the northern shore, facing the sun we spotted a turtle who quickly dove into the water when it heard our approach. A welcomed sign of Spring! I am pleased to report that I passed my wildlife rehab test and am working on the next step to become certified, which involves putting in 40 volunteer hours with mentors.

IMG_4517We return to the car around noon and drive the quick trip to the Plainville Friendly’s. Our last one! We splurge with the 1,260-calorie chicken BBQ with bacon, but substitute apple sauce for the fries. Our waitress Penny teases us due to almost identical orders. “I bet you two just met,” she quips.

As we enjoy our sandwiches (and I set aside half for later), I mention that I’ve been going to the exercise classes at the local community center for the past few months, when the weather had made it more difficult to get outside. Cherry is excited that the person she nominated for a local community award has been selected!


When it’s time to order dessert, I ask about February’s special flavor, Cherry Jubilee, but Penny says it’s gone. Moments later, she returns. “I lied. I found some in the back of the freezer!” What a treat! It is probably the best ice cream flavor I’ve ever had: moist, sweet cherries, rich dark chocolate chunks… yum. We raise our sundaes to toast the end of our Friendly’s quest.

Cherry confides in Penny about our project; our waitress says she moved back to Connecticut to raise her son where there were cone-head sundaes! Penny’s image of childhood was incomplete without them!

On our way home, we stop at the Cromwell Friendly’s, where this whole project started almost three years ago. Cherry has been working with the manager, Sean, to set up a celebration date in April. It looks like that’s falling into place. He shared some sad news that the Milford Friendly’s had closed since we have been there. But so far, the rest seem to be going strong. And so are we; stay tuned for our next hiking project!

Middletown Hero: Major General Maurice Rose

19 02 2018

Maurice Rose signA year or so ago, a sign went up on Route 9 as it passed north through my town, Middletown, CT. A section of the road was dedicated to the memory of Major General Maurice Rose. I decided to find out more.

Maurice Rose birthplace plaqueMaurice Rose was born in Middletown in 1899; a plaque marks the location on Main Street. When he was four, his family moved to Denver. Rose was determined to join the military and served in both World War I and II.

MauriceRose wiki

It was in 1944 in Germany, after multiple medals and heroic accomplishments, that Rose was shot by the Germans. His initial grave was later moved to the Netherlands.

In his memory, the following are named after him: a school in the Netherlands, a hospital in Denver, a Jewish War Veterans Post 51 in Middletown, and the Middletown Armed Forces Reserve Center.

Maurice Rose colleague Bob SwirskyThe most remarkable occurrence at a recent presentation about Rose by Post 51’s Karen Uberti was the arrival of a WWII colleague. Almost ninety-eight year old Bob Swarsky arrived by wheelchair, maneuvered by his friend Glenn, to tell of his personal recollections of the day that Rose was killed. With hearing and mental agility that surpassed most of us in the room, Swarsky spoke about many efforts of the 3rd Armored Division, First Army.

Maurice Rose display at JWV51As those who served during that time get fewer and fewer, it becomes even more important and poignant to hear their stories and honor their memories.



16 02 2018


Growing up in New London, we were taught the story of Benedict Arnold, his burning of the town, and the slaughter in Groton across the river, year after year. I thought our teachers were a bit self-aggrandizing until I heard Eric Lehman’s presentation on his new book, Homegrown Terror: Benedict Arnold and the Burning of New London. Lehman dramatically analyzes Arnold’s motives for his change in allegiance from the newly emerging United States back to England. Perhaps he was not a true traitor, but apparently Arnold was driven purely by greed, not conviction or values, to betray many friends and colleagues. This is a well-documented portrayal of events during this time.



Setting the Stage:  What We Do, How We Do It, and Why is a combination text book and memoir by David Hays, a prolific stage designer and founder of the National Theater for the Deaf. An engaging storyteller, Hays shares tips and mistakes to those interested in theater.

Both books are published by Wesleyan Press.



12 02 2018

IMG_4449Loud live music ricocheting down the stairs and out into the street, the hubbub of many conversation, food and drink – in the LIBRARY (no ‘shhh’ here!!) It was the opening of Pierre Sylvain’s art show Fantastical Journey: voodoo, slavery jazz! at Middletown’s Russell Library. Pierre (who lives in Middletown with his wife, son, and daughter) is a Haitian native who paints about his home country, and the culture and music of African Americans in the United States. His styles and colors vary, but his passion and energy come through all his work. The paintings are on display in the main lobby and upstairs near the information desk through March 31 during regular Russell Library hours, 123 Broad Street, Middletown.

Womens art

Katherine Bradford

The space in the Zilkha gallery on Wesleyan University’s campus is currently housing paintings by six New York City women (Gina Beavers, Katherine Berhnardt, Katherine Bradford, Jackie Gendel, Liz Markus, and Rose Wylie) in a show entitled A New Subjectivity: Figurative Painting After 2000, curated by Jason Stopa. Staff who unpacked the works said the shipping materials were as varied as the content. The exhibit runs through Sunday, March 4 during regular gallery hours: Tuesday, noon-7p, Wed-Sun noon-5p. Walk-through available February 13 at 4:30pm and guided tours on Saturdays at 1m. All events are free and open to the public.


Chinatown NYC

15 01 2018

10 January 2018

One of my traveling friends, in New York City for a meeting, invited me to join him in the City and we agreed to tour Chinatown. So, on Wednesday morning at 8:15am, I boarded the Metro North train from New Haven to Grand Central Station. Unfortunately, they announced that an unattended bag had been found on the train and the dog sniffer would need to check it out before we could leave. After a short delay, we were transferred to another train, as the dog had not yet arrived. I found it interesting that we were allowed to stay on the train if there was a suspicious object. Another passenger suggested it was because the concern was more likely what could occur once the train arrived in Grand Central Station. That made some sense to me, but I still felt a little bit like collateral damage.

Chinatown bakeryMy friend Jeff and I met near his hotel and we began our walk to Chinatown. It was a brisk but sunny day and perfect for our plans. Before long, we reached Canal Street, checked out the Visitors Kiosk on the corner of Mulberry and headed towards Columbus Square. After being distracted by a bakery on the corner, where we purchased some yummies (chocolate roll cake, almond cookies for me), we made it to the Square.

Chinatown Columbus park

Despite the cold, groups of people huddled around tables and playing cards. I was amazed at how quickly English became a secondary language. Shops were narrow and crowded, with merchandise spewing out into the streets and hawkers trying to entice us into their shops. T-shirts six for ten dollars, how could you go wrong!

Chinatown photo from web aji-ichiban-dried-fruitBy now it was almost noon so we decided to head to the tasty noodle shop recommended by the online walking tour we were using. We paused at the Church of the Transfiguration (home to one of the largest Chinese Roman Catholic congregations), where the English version of mass was being held. We rounded the corner and were diverted by the amazing window display at Aji Ichiban Candy StoreWith small tasting tidbits on each bin (and tasting encouraged), I tried (and bought) the chili mango, kiwi, and longan, while Jeff succumbed to the diced coconut.

Chinatown lunch

We finally made it down Doyer Street, past the old theatre site, to Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles. It was quite full, primarily with people of Asian descent and language. We shared one end of a six-person table with two others were speaking rapidly and excitedly in a Chinese language. The menu was extensive but we quickly picked our soup: pork dumpling with hand-pulled noodles for Jeff and shrimp dumplings with hand-pulled noodles for me. We were given a wonderfully warm pot of hot tea and our meal arrived quickly. It included large pieces of bok choy and the broth was quite delicious. We were soon joined by a single person who sat next to me. Initially, our conversations were polite, related to our bumping elbows. But when Jeff mentioned reading the recent book about Trump, our comments elicited some response and laughter from our companion. It felt nice to connect and hear his comments which included, “Some of us came to this country to avoid this type of government.”

Chinatown forntue 50 (2)We left lunch to visit the Eastern States Buddhist Temple of America and sat in Noble Silence for a few minutes. Offerings included fruits and cans of some type of drink. Lilies and orchids beautified the small alter. We purchased fortune scrolls and Jeff was quite pleased with his, although I was slightly disappointed. After a quick stop at the Fay Da Bakery (chocolate/almond bun and coconut tarts), we walked past the Edward Mooney House corner of Bowery and Pell Street (the oldest brick building in NYC, according to its sign) to the old Citizens Savings Bank (now HSBC). With an entrance flanked by lions, the interior dome was stunning with attractive frescoes painted in four corners depicting success, wisdom, thrift, and safety. The Beaux-Arts building was designated a city landmark in 2011.

Chinatown forntue 1We then crossed the street to the larger Mahayana Buddhist Temple. There we again sat in Noble Silence and watched a woman clean a sparkling column covered with hundreds of Buddha images. I visited small alters in the rear of the main room, where donors placed papers, sometimes with photos of loved ones, for healing or honoring those who have passed. The sanctuary held a large Gong and two taiko-like drums. Upstairs, we visited the museum/gift store and we tried again the fortune scrolls — I liked this one better! We left the temple, outside of which was the busy entrance to the Manhattan Bridge.

We basked in the sunlight a while longer before ending our Chinatown tour. I know this is only a sample of the culture but it’s impressive to be able to experience another world only a few hours from home.



Hiking for Friendly’s: Elizabeth Park and Hartford Friendly’s

12 01 2018

9 January 2018

After a few false starts (due to weather and personal commitments), Cherry and I are off to hike to Hartford for Friendly’s! It’s 33 degrees, the first time above freezing in two weeks and a veritable heatwave compared to the subzero temperatures we’ve been having. And it’s a new year!

The ground is covered by a foot of powdery snow, now topped by a thin glaze of ice due to another inch of snow and freezing rain last night. We decide to keep it simple and head to Elizabeth Park, a 100-acre park established in 1894 by Charles M. Pond and named after his wife.

Elizabeth Park sunrise pointOf course, we have lots to say on the drive there. Cherry has made a list of the things she does that bring her satisfaction and joy and, as a result, eliminated one committee meeting from her busy schedule. I cheer her on, as we arrive at the parking area. Fortunately, most of the trails have been plowed, so we can walk easily around the rose gardens and through the woodland area. We cross Prospect Street to visit Sunrise Park and view the detritus of plastic sled remains. Cherry reminisces about sledding with wooden sleds that withstand much more usage that the modern plastic ones.

Elizabeth Park creekWe continue to loop around the park and I talk about my wildlife rescue training, one of the outlets I’m rediscovering in my life. Cherry observes that it lights up me and encourages me to keep working on it.

We return to the car after covered two and a half miles; it’s only 11:30 and I ask Cherry if we can go something unusual before we head to Friendly’s. I want to stop at Hartford City Hall to get a copy of a death certificate of my great aunt. Cherry is agreeable, as always, and we head into town.

After a few go-arounds, we find parking alongside the building and figure out how to use the meters and navigate the snowbanks. Neither of us have been here and are astounded by the immensity and beauty of the old Beaux-Arts building. I mention how I’ve made similar places a destination in my European travels and am stunned to realize there is such a place right here at home.

The clerk in the Bureau of Vital Records is extremely efficient and I have the death certificate in no time. This great-aunt Lena supposedly died in 1914 of the Spanish flu and my mother, born a few months after her passing, was named after her. When I look at the certificate, I see she actually died from tuberculosis and associated meningitis. I will never know if my family modified the story intentionally or it evolved through the story-telling process.

We then head to Hartford Hospital, where Friendly’s is located. I ask Cherry for help in locating it, since she had spent some time here unfortunately attending family health issues. True to form, Cherry is uncertain about the direction, so I park and call them. Staff walk us down the street and in the front door. Ironically, this Friendly’s is the hardest to find, most difficult to park, and who would have guessed!

Our waitress Keomy brings us water; Cherry and I discuss the unnecessary use of straws (last time, I sent mine back but I missed the chance today). We notice that the special ice cream flavor is Cherry Magnolia, one of our favorites from last year! We are already scheming to get to our next Friendly’s early enough in February so we can have it again and we haven’t even ordered today’s lunch!

Elizabeth Park Friendly's gift cardWhen Cherry tells Keomy about our project, she is impressed (and discounts our ticket 15%). As we wait for dessert, Cherry realizes that the meter time will run out, so I go out to add more money. She is very apologetic, as she was eating slowly. Obviously not a bit deal, we finish up. With our Friendly’s trips now legendary in Cherry’s family, her stepmother has given her a gift card that we use to pay our bill and head for home.

Not yet on the highway, I get a text from my wildlife rescue contact, Tommy. Security at the Gold Building has reported an injured falcon! Cherry agrees to the detour and, as we are only a few blocks away, arrive quickly. The injured bird is protected in a box, which I don’t dare open until Tommy arrives. I have no gloves and their talons can be quite destructive. However, I notice there is no movement in the box. “I don’t think it made it,” I tell Cherry. Within a few minutes, Tommy arrives and we remove the top. It’s actually a Cooper’s hawk and sadly it has not survived.

Hartford Gold building Coopers Hawk

After discussions with security about some modifications the building owner/manager might make, Cherry and I finally head home. I point out that our delay in finishing lunch put us in the right place at the right time. Cherry applauds my ability to find the silver lining in the situation.

Only one more Friendly’s to go! Any suggestions on what we should do next?