After a crazy busy summer filled with a massive overhaul of my novel for my agent, house managing a sold-out run of an Off-Broadway show, and spending three weeks playing war for Army, a vacation was in order.
An acquaintance of my gal Becca just bought a house in Fairfield, CT right by the beach and was going to be out of town for the month of August. Take it, she said. Use my beach pass, she said. Have a good time, she said.
Thank you, we said.
So one Wednesday evening we rented a car, packed it up with our belongings, and drove north. We knew that her son, a twenty-something who is normally off in school somewhere, was going to be present for the duration. Oof, I said. Human interaction. Easy, Becca said. It’ll be ok.
When we arrived late that night, the son was not at home. He had left the key under the mat for us, however. So we grabbed our bags and went up to the door.
We were a few feet from the front door when we heard a meow. Suddenly, out from the bushes, springs a mangy cat. Oh dear, I said. Must be a stray. Its fur was matted and scraggly and its meow was deep and scratchy.
This cat is more well-groomed than our Connecticut cat.
As we tried to open the door, the cat tried to go inside. Hey there, I said. Don’t go in there. We shooed it away. It didn’t move. I walked away and called it so that Becca could at least get inside. It didn’t move. We set down the leftovers from our fast food dinner on the other side of the driveway. It certainly appreciated our offering but came right back as soon as we went to open the door.
Is it their cat, I asked. It can’t be, Becca said. She said nothing about a cat. It must be a stray. It has no collar and no tag.
Finally we managed to get inside and slam the door in the cat’s face. Thank goodness, we said. Then we set about exploring the house, which was lovely. We were offered the master bedroom on the third floor, which we gladly took. We settled in for a good night’s sleep.
In the middle of the night an incident occurred to which I was not privy, as I was sound asleep. There was a knock on the door and a shadowy figure opened it up. Hello, it said. Becca, sleepily, responded in kind. Did you feed the cat, it asked. No, Becca replied. OK, it said. Have a good night.
SO IT WAS THEIR CAT! The epiphany may not be as profound as it was in person, but you get the idea. We basically just told a cat to go screw itself because we weren’t going to let it in its own house or feed it either. C’est la vie.
The next day was a bit overcast, but we had already decided to do the beach. It’s our vacation, darnit, so let’s start it off right. After quietly taking the beach chairs from the garage (since the son’s bedroom was right across the hall from the garage), we loaded up our rental car and set off to find breakfast.
Find it we did. Siri, ever helpful, suggested Home On The Range, a small café in a quaint downtown area. It had, without a doubt, the absolute best French Toast I’ve ever eaten. The sweet little old lady that runs the place works there all by herself, taking the order, cooking up the grub, and clearing away your plates and serving as cashier when you’re through. We would spend two more mornings savoring her wares.
After we were stuffed, we went to the beach. And there was nobody there. Oh sure, there was a lap-swimmer. And a couple strolling. And an old man sitting on a beach chair. But that’s it. It was deserted. The ominous-looking storm clouds may have had something to do with that.
Still, we were determined to have a good time. Let’s not take the chairs, we said, as we may not be here long. It’s a good thing we didn’t. After frolicking a bit in the waves, Becca set out to carve words in the sand while I took pictures.
Artie plus Becca plus Rising-Tide Cat.
Then, after about ten minutes of watching the tide come in ridiculously fast, we skedaddled. It was no more than a few seconds after we got back into our car that the clouds burst open and a monsoon began.
What does one do on vacation in Connecticut at ten in the morning when it’s raining? Why, go to the movies of course! Eating popcorn and drinking soda for brunch, we sat with one other couple in a giant movie theater and watched The Butler (which I highly recommend, by the way).
Back outside, the sky was no longer angry, but it wasn’t too happy yet, either. What to do? Go to the Barnum Museum, of course! It’s so close, after all, in Bridgeport, CT. Let us away, I said.
Unfortunately, the Barnum Museum was hit pretty hard by a tornado a few years ago and is still not open to the public. Sigh. Back to the house to regroup.
Upon arriving, we were met with a shirtless, skinny, tattoo-covered young man sitting on the front stoop smoking a cigarette. The son, we guessed. We guessed correctly. After exchanging pleasantries and learning that the cat did, in fact, belong to the family, we scooted upstairs to plan our evening.
We decided to venture north to New Haven, to The Original Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana. It’s this amazing little pizza place for which people line up down the street to get a table. It’s been around since 1925 in the same location and owned by the same family. Check is out at pepespizzeria.com. It was scrumptious. Certainly different than our usual New York City pie, but amazing nonetheless.
Only slightly tipsy from the entire bottle of wine we drank, we decided then to stroll the campus of the Ivy League member Yale University. We imagined ourselves in more scholarly pursuits than our art schools offered us. We dreamed of singing in the Whiffenpoofs and eating in the Spoonery. And we watched all the kids move into their dorms for the start of the semester. None of them looked smarter than us, we decided, so we totally should have gone to Yale.
Because Becca had never been, and because there was one right by the entrance to the highway, and because we had nothing better to do and because we were on vacation, gosh darnit, we went to IKEA. This activity needs no greater explanation. It was pure, unadulterated, built-it-yourself furniture bliss. We didn’t buy anything, but boy howdy did we make some I-want lists.
Full of pizza, popcorn, French Toast, and tired from a fun-filled day, we made our way back to the house to sleep.
It was a good first day of vacation.
Stay tuned for PART TWO in my next post!