October 1, 2009: It could be any American town, and yet it's probably unique in ways I was too bored to discover. Still, having two hours until my car was ready, I took the time to explore this staid little Connecticut coastal town they call Stratford.
My first disappointment came at the railroad station, where I'd hoped to use the bathroom. You see, there was no bathroom. There was no railroad station, only a muffin shop, with a generous-hearted proprietor (who sadly feels compelled to flood his potentially pleasant place with the obtrusive scream of a wall-mounted television. I ask, Are there no longer any places to go without being bombarded by these fucking things?!) Even stranger, the station house on the eastbound side has been turned into a helicopter museum of all things. I mean, to quote Reggie in the movie "Phantasm," "What the hell is goin' on?!"
Heading out, I realized train travelers are forced to buy their tickets from ugly electronic vending machines, rather than quaint, Yankee-accented older men in blue uniforms, as it should be. Such progress they've made in Stratford. How soon until they install vending urinals and make us pee into timed receptacles that snap shut if we go on too long?
Downtown Stratford is split by the elevated Interstate-95, which rips through the community like fungus on fire. Emerging in the light on the south side, I was disappointed to see the town's center feeling somewhat dried up and lifeless. Needs are getting met at strip malls these days, where people feel safer going to stores they've learned the jingles to, from television. Here, it's sad and hopeless, just like George Bush wanted it!
Choosing a side street, I found a lovely string of Victorian-era homes -- priceless properties that, owing to the ongoing proliferation of new ugly construction, I don't think people generally appreciate. I skulked here and there, trying not to look suspicious, but feeling suspicious nonetheless. I began to discover the pleasant vibration that is Stratford off the beaten trail.
Eventually I emerged close to the water, and was thrilled to remember that Long Island Sound cures everything. A little shack was selling "Fresh Fish & Chips." Is it really fresh? I wondered. Who can we believe when they take away our train stations and replace them with helicopter museums?!
I found a small dock that was, oddly enough for a Thursday morning, busy with visitors -- mostly seedy, bearded motorcycle-type men who smoked and acted suspicious. The view over the water was gorgeous, but there were a lot of bees being frantic on the dock, probably sensing their imminent death with the cold weather, or the smoking men, who could start stomping them at any minute. A surly old fisherman didn't return my wave, perhaps fearing I was competition, poised to usurp his cod or something ... I moved on ...
The political season is underway, and there were many lawn signs for local candidates. I became suspicious at the idea of voting for "Dom Costello for Mayor." The "Dom" part aside, how could I trust a Costello not to do something to infuriate Abbott? "Unaffiliated candidate" indeed!
Turning back inland, I was led to a great, open field, which offered a grand veteran's monument, including wars I didn't even know we'd had. From there I found a funeral, with a flower shop right next door, which I knew did good business. The library was next, and they had a toilet I took the time to enjoy ... Stratford was growing on me!
Heading back toward the center, I passed a man who looked like the Village Fool. We greeted each other warmly. Nearby I spotted an old box of Lorna Doone cookies. There were lots of churches, too, and this all seemed to make the community a better place. I stopped at one church to explore a little thrift shop in the back, but I didn't stay long, as it smelled like a dirty diaper. I did, however, make another bathroom visit in the building, as I just can't seem to say No to a free toilet.
All in all, Stratford was a pleasant place to kill a couple of hours, and isn't that so much of what our lives have become about -- killing time until we die? Don't take my word for it. Take a morning there yourself, explore the toilets, and wonder why we, as a population, feel we need to even leave our houses when we have toilets and televisions of our own.