3/29/09 New Haven, CT @ The Fucking Discovery Zone
Letters to the Moon
I began my morning with an exploratory walk down Main Street. I ended up crossing a bridge fenced off with a no trespassing sign. It led to the ruins of an old thread mill and a building where trains loaded up on the thread to ship it out. It was collapsed on itself. Train tracks that served no current purpose were sinking into obscurity and into the ground. They were just iron lines to nowhere swallowed up by tall grass. I saw a kid spray painting on a cement ruin. I gave him a head nod to let him know I didn’t care that he was painting. I saw some tents scattered in the woods along the river. I flicked a tick off of my jeans and walked the near by functional railroad tracks and up to a road with all of the former thread mill owners Victorian houses towering on a hill. Then I walked back down to Main Street and right into the Windham Mill Museum. I needed to figure out why Windham/Willimantic had such an affinity for frogs. There were frog statues and logos everywhere.
A sixty-something man in a UCONN sweatshirt was eager to share his local knowledge with me at the museum. In the late 1700’s, a tense fear lingered over everyone in the U.S. The French and Indian War was a reality and who knew when it would rumble through CT? One night Windham’s quiet streets filled with a loud, persistent and strange noise that had everyone convinced that they were moments away from an attack. Nothing happened though. Just the noise. At morning, men from the town walked up a mountain toward the noise. They discovered piles of dead or dying frogs that had been battling over the last water in a drying up pond. The sounds were frog battle cries. Windham was a laughing stock. But like all clever towns, they became proud of an embarrassing legend to sell shit. The historian went on to tell me about the rise and fall of the thread mills in Windham, from water power to intoduction of electricity to lower manufacturing costs in Mexico. The only workers strike was crushed instantly when the mill owners got families from Canada to work for lower wages. Striking workers lost jobs and homes. Naturally, a tension rose between Windhammers and Canadians. That is why two catholic churches exist on the same road. Hatred at church would have been contradictory and the church has never been known to host contradiction before.
Windham is a unique place. Some are trying to salvage a long gone history. Others are just trying to make ends meet. The economy struggles in some sense; closed movie theater and pizza place- And stays strong in others like the brewery, Dairy Queen, and the Natural Food place. There is a high Spanish speaking population and growing. At least four urban style barber shops are in walking distance from each other. The closed mills are being turned into lofts. Histories frogs are battling the frogs of today. As cities change, I always get the sense that people are feeling like they’re slipping and trying to get any stability. Some are fixing or building, which can be good; or renewing which sounds good but usually isn’t because the lofts will probably be super expensive. Whose city is it? How should it look? I felt like some people were just starting in Windham while other folks were just about to take off. When does anyone know they are home? Or that they live in a community?
I walked back to Derrick and Rachel’s just in time for pancakes covered in ice cream, cherries, and apples. Perfect. My stomach was at home, full of sweet things. We drove to New Haven with the sun on our shoulders.
The New Haven show was one of my favorites of tour. Ben and Kristina of the late band Ripshit set it up. Their house is a big brick punk house with three floors, two they pay for and one they don’t but use for shows anyway. We had food and laughs. Their basement was like some sort of compound with multiple rooms. We played in the largest room that was kind of a hexagon. It had a great ring to it. We played right in the middle with people around us. It was kind of sentimental feeling because it was our last night with Saint Seneca. I will miss those wonderful, little, starry eyed babies. They had to play an all request set for Lisa and I. I enjoyed singing along and taking in their last set of their first tour.
Malcolm Tent is around fifty. He used to own a crucial independent record store in the area called Trash American Style. It shaped many a New Englanders musical interest and lives on because of that. It went under in hard times. He sat in a chair in the middle of the basement clad in purple pants and an orange shirt. A glowing blue acoustic guitar rested on his lap. Then, as if a band was behind him and a drummer clicked him in, he tore through a set of originals and covers. His own songs were a rearranging of Dead Kennedys, Devo, and American 80’s punk and hardcore. In one song he sang, and this is verbatim, “OMFG, presidential people suck!” Then he covered Gorilla Biscuits and Minor Threat, calling them American folk classics from the 1980’s. I pulled my sweater over my head and started a friendly circle pit. YES. He was serious, but serious with a tongue in cheek and a critical eye on the world. As a punker, you have to be a goofy serious to keep your sanity, and he is a punker. A lifer! He holds true to his beliefs and his refusal to comply with normalcy. He still has never smoked or done a drug. I was totally sucked into his unflinching enthusiasm. I had to tell him that I wasn’t straight edge though and I felt like I was telling my parents that I dropped out of college. I don’t think it broke his heart too bad. He didn’t beat me up over it or anything which is always admirable.
After the show we had our pre planned romantic stroll all about Yale. It turned into adventure. We saw three, I shit you not, young men in suit jackets and bow ties with pipes smugly tucked in the corner of their mouths. They didn’t help us find a Yale party even when Lisa yelled right at them, “Where da Yale Party at??!!” We got into the campus gates and began snooping around buildings, trudging through courtyards, and screaming like morons. Some entered an awkward dorm party… others stole soy milk and yogurt from a caf fridge left too close to an open window. The sky was full of cool mist and we were full of mischief. Our walk continued for awhile more and then we headed back to Dwight St. as the air grew cold. We were ready for pillow talk giggles and then sleep.