Connecticut Yankee

New Haven Travelogue

By Michael J. Legeros

I'm sitting in a Chili's, in Hamden, CT, a small town just north of
New Haven, a bigger town best known as home to Yale University,
where, this evening, an hour of searching for sustenance in and
around the college has yielded magna cum nada.  What the Hell am I
doing in Connecticut and how did I get so hungry?  Here's what hap-
pened:  at 10:26 this Wednesday May morning, I exit an airplane at
Bradley International Airport, a modest strip that sits some miles
north of Hartford.  After a brief detour by the Connecticut Fire
Academy-- a gorgeous facility adjacent to the airport, which I
spotted while landing-- I drive south on I-91 toward the 'ford,
where I'll be conducting training tomorrow at one of our company's
regional offices.  (I teach employees how to use their computers.)

Now, by now, it's 11:15, maybe 11:30, and I'm gettin' pretty hun-
gry.  With the day's intake limited to my ritual two cups of in-
stant oatmeal (circa 6:30), a pair of double-chocolate SnackWells,
and one peppermint breath mint provided on the airplane, the engine
is running on little better than fumes, if you know what I mean.
Making matters worse, it takes an extra 15-20 minutes to get to the
Interstate, 'cause I go roamin'.  Now, here's where the problems
begin:  unlike North Carolina's generously labeled highway signs,
which list any and all roadside services, the Interstate markings
in Connecticut tell little, if anything, about nearby gas, food, or
lodging.  Worse, the roadside countryside contains nary a single
truck stop, gift shop, Cracker Barrel, or Stuckey's.  (Spreading in
every direction are gently rolling green hills, nearly all the same
boring color and shape, and neatly concealing any and all man-made

Still a ways (I think) from Hartford, I roll the dice on an arrow
for FOOD, exit the Interstate, and, after two miles of progressive-
ly slower speed limits, end up at a Windsor Friendly's.  (Think a
sloppier Swensen's.  Or, Shoney's with an ice-cream menu.)  The
food sucks, I leave hungry, and, by the time I'm back on I-91, I've
topped off the tank with $3.27 worth of McDonald's.  And, as I dis-
cover, the resulting energy boost is so great that when I arrive at
the office, I'm asked if I just drank coffee because I "seem so ex-
cited."  With a healthy dollop of unhealthy fat in my system, the
next few fours fly by:  making my preparations for the next day's
training; a short shopping trip in West Hartford; snapping photos
at a nearby apartment fire; and at least the first part of a Yale
University walking tour, which I decide to do late in the after-
noon, before a discreet evening rendezvous at the hotel with... my
notes for tomorrow.

New Haven is a relatively short hop from Hartford; only one major
city away and I arrive about 45 minutes later.  Needless to say, I
swing by the central fire station first.  (Only later do I realize
that my innate ability to find a firehouse in any town does abso-
lutely no good when I'm hungry.)  Once arrived at the Ivy League
school, I ask a passing student to point me in the direction of
"interesting stuff."  [Insert lengthy description of wonderful old
buildings juxtaposed against mountains of trash in every doorway,
alley, and courtyard, because it's Moving Day at Yale.]  Okay, by
now, late in the 5:00 hour, the ol' pangs have returned, so I begin
my Quest For Food.  I walk up Broadway, browse CDs, price pricey
sweatshirts at the Yale Bookstore, drive over to a nearby indoor
mall, and *still* don't find a damn thing.  (If there's a Yale
equivalent to Chapel Hill's Franklin Street, with rows of restau-
rants, a Gap, and at least one Ben and Jerry's, I can't find it.)

Without a clue where to go next-- *and* a bit miffed that I can't
sit out rush hour-- I exit a parking deck, but not before asking
the attendant where I might find a "mess of restaurants."  She
points back in the direction of the college and I reply "no, no.
Are there any *farther* out of town?"  She says "Hamlen."  Barely
escaping a traffic jam at the junction of I-91 and I-95-- and
resisting all urges to just chuck it and go to New York City-- I
hop up the Interstate by a couple exits and land in Yet Another
Connecticut Town Way Off The Highway.  Of course, I have to sniff
around a bit.  And, of course, I find the fire station without
blinking.  Finding a string of strip malls with recognizable
restaurants takes a bit longer.  (Unlike North Raleigh, these parts
don't have shopping centers on every corner or after every second
mile.)  Finally, I find Chili's.  And, at long last, some time in
the 7 o'clock hour, I eat a satisfying meal.  Well, that is, I
*think* I did.  Truth be told, I was kinda busy writing...

Copyright 1998 by Michael John Legeros


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