Tuesday, 6 October 2009
On the Road to Asylum
The first thing that strikes me on our entry into Hartford is the fact that we spend fifteen minutes driving around in circles looking for a street named Asylum (My PMT wasn't that bad was it husband dearest?!) quite fitting for the dizzy state we ramshackle ourselves into corporate housing world and for the afternoon I willingly imprison Sam and I in our new cell. I mean apartment. He immediately forms a slightly unnerving attachment to his "cage" he means crib. Honestly, we gave away our old cat's one after he had to leave us for a diamante studded one in the sky. Even on skype Sammy jigged from one leg to another urging the grandfolks to admire the metal sleeping construction. On wheels. Just like in baby asylums. Sorry I mean institutions. I exagerrate my attention to inconsequential details, once you get past the plastic fauna draped over wall hung baskets and the faux cosy corporate look of our little place it makes for quite a neat little cave. Add to it the noise of a few well loved toys and books and you have yourself a home. Besides, we have an unadulterated view of the megagalactic air conditioner that services the building right outside our window. The beginning of the afternoon started well with a surprisingly delicious lunch just across the street. It may come as no surprise for me to give some substantial rumination over food, it is after all how I judge the success of any given day and is one of my primary passions for existence; with my Jewish and Italian routes it is something I have never fought on any level. I was wary on first entry to the place. TAPAS was emblazoned in psychadelic purple and yellows above the doorway and on first inspection the interior seemed a poor tribute to any tavernous spanish inglenooks I have dreamt of going in on balmy Sevillian nights. I imagined a menu heavily Americanized. Basically quesadillas and wraps disguised as "foreign" food. What we got however was a mouthwatering gambit of marinated chicken and veg, in a wrap yes, but a world away from bland deep fry-land, a crisp greek salad slathered in good quality olive oil dressing and herbs and clove-loads of garlic topped with a succulent salmon steak and our boy devoured a generous swirl of houmous surrounded by fresh pesto, olives, chillies, sun blushed tomatoes and capers. Ok maybe we ate everything but the houmous and pesto which we managed to stop ourselves from sopping up with the warmed pitta wedges and leave to the growing tyke. Whilst the boys left for their post lunch ablutions (Sam hurrying back after his and, when after a little while his father followed, he hollered across the restaurant, "Did pooh come for you too Daddy?" my husband hanging his head low in embarrassment which for me is a personal rare moment of delight seeing as he has dedicated so much time and energy in cornering me into public displays of cringe that any pay back is always gratefully chalked up) I started conversation with the owner. He has an air of Vince Vaughn about him but smaller and shiftier. He keeps glancing from side to side as if he is about to be recognised. He has started a little music hub in his place, which was originally opened by his father in the 1960s. A long island native he appears to have a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards his Conneticut home and even more so about Hartford itself. When I ask him, somewhat naively perhaps, what it is exactly that attracts people to the place he shrugs and tells me that is what he has been trying to figure out himself for the past 20 years. Kind of a conversation stopper for the new kid in town. I was hoping for a nugget of local wisdom or pride even but the only thing of importance I could ascertain from this character was how much he loved to play in his band (hence slightly open linen shirt) and how playing lead guitar was his primary passion (magnum PI uber retro cool shades check). I think he sensed I was loosing interest a little when he started waxing lyrical on how much he and his band buddys make in the nearby casino - largest in the states - for playing just one night. Actually that bit got my imagination, I think the heart sank when he told me people take their kids there "cos there is like a mall inside and all these crazy shops." Traipsing around a place like that with the two boys in my life would be like my own purgotorial abyss. Also during our short exchange I gather that there is no grocery store in the area. This means two things. 1. My son is going to start to honestly believe that eating out at establishments 3 times a day is normal and acceptable behaviour and 2. Our bimby will likely stay dormant much to my husband's distress. Ah. I sense a furrowed brow. A quizzical raise of an eyebrow? A what-on-earth-is-a-bimby kind of half shrug? I will gladly enlighten. The bimby, not to be confused with bimbo, is a masterclass feat of engineering brought to us by a group of friendly efficiency obsessed group of German engineers who decided what the world needed to make modern life simpler was a stainless steel electrically powered mega cooking machine. From the outside it looks just like a very sleek and slightly complicated food processor. But on the inside, it performs a plethora of functions to boggle even the most gadget friendly geek. You know who you are. This beauty chops, cuts, stirs, grinds, beats, steams, fries, whips, cooks, bakes, flips and generally blows people minds. The lure of being able to cook home made grub - in one pot, yes I'm talking pasta, sauce and all, and in under 15 minutes seemed too irresistable for life on the road. I mean seriously, a whole year without my aunt's pasta sauce or chicken soup?(She may have left us but her recipes will live on eternally) What kind of free wheeling globe trotting sado-masochist do you take me for?! It is for these reasons that my husband lugged our bimbo, sorry bimby, through premium economy as hand luggage (blade packed in suitcase) in a 50p kilburn market laundry bag purchased circa 1988 (another of my aunt's heirlooms). Make no mistake, classy is our middle name. And it is also why, he searched the internet high and low for a transformer (or what I have now fondly named robot in disguise) to use alongside it so that its 1500watts would not blow up our hotel rooms. One month into his stay here and 5 minutes after our Hartford check in do we receive the beauty. All 36 ilbs of it. Yes, our packing light motto is well and truly thrown out of the window. Hopefully not literally, because this is the kind of equipment that would take someone out. Sam and I watched his father unwrap the enormous parcel with the frenzy of a five year old on a sugar high at his birthday and eventually out of the mass of paper rose a cream metal box, gauge fronted and loaded with knobs. Its like something out of the BBC props store for a 1978 open univeristy experiment on vaultage with as much consumer appeal. Perhaps I have been spoilt being the proud new owner of an iphone and mac that my eyes have become jaded to the reality of electronics but this piece of weight looks like it would fit in better on a factory floor rather than a hotel's replica antique kitchen diner table, or in the dusty corners of my school's technology room somewhere half hidden between the drill and the soldering kits. My husband is its proud owner. Where I see unsightly gadget he sees chicken soup. I am like a 1950s housewife bowing under consumer pressure to get women back into the home and cooking for their men and brood. Still, the point is, magic as our bimbo is, she can't make something from nothing, so until Hartford can provide some basic supplies we are on the cafe loop, which, as it happens seems to be Hartford's strong point. I have had a glance at the map of downtown and it is clustered red dots - restaurants - and blue stars - "nightlife locations" - and a plethora of blue stars with red dots in the centre - "restaurants with nightlife". Not sure quite how to interpret the last one. I can't help imagining dimly lit restaurants with a hotch potch of ghosts popping up the bar amongst them Dick Turpin, Jack the Ripper, Fagin and a host of prostitutes to constitute Hartford's "night" life. I don't know why I take this tone, its nice to think you ave somewhere to get a carefully mixed cocktail locally should the mood arise even if the locale is named, and I transcribe their listings without edit, "NV (Envy)", or "Mad Dawg's" or "Fish Camp". Here I am dribbling around my day's musings when I ought to be sending my husband and the troupe my good wishes, hoping their first night here is going without gliches. It seems unlikely, at the last minute the curtain up was pulled back by at least ten minutes and the morning after the last night in Providence the crew were still loading out at 7 am when they should have been already travelling, in a 7 truck strong convoy, to Hartford. We know this because the head of costume met us rising to consciousness at Starbucks and in the hushed excitable tones of scandal he recounted a blow by blow account of the get out. Every company loves a little drama off stage and it is what everyone expected. It is a truly a feat to move the size of show that is Young Frankenstein and one that I know will be pulled off. Thats what happens in show biz. The human spirit finds a way to soar above the perceived limitations of time, humanity and reality. This is where I need to stop. I'm getting all pseudo lofty and I don't like who I'm becoming. Send me back to the Asylum street!