As I rode through Connecticut, taking in the beauty of the coastal communities in all their glossy page glory, I thought about . . . well nothing, that is until I thought of Julia Roberts. The train, which I was told reaches a speed in excess of 150 mph, flew through the countryside. Half-dozing, half-heartedly trying to take it all, something unexpected caught my eye: a station sign for Mystic, home to a “Little Slice of Heaven,” otherwise known as Mystic Pizza, made famous by Julia, Annabeth, Lili, and an as-yet-unknown Matt Damon, which, of course, made me think of tucking in the tags on overpriced 80s glamor.
What was I doing waxing nostalgic, you say? Well, I actually took a vacation with pictures and maps and touristy destinations, which I could share with you, but this is not that kind of blog—you know with super stylized artistic renderings of familiar landmarks made fresh and new through Dutch angles, low light, and Instagram. This is a point, shoot, click, and copy kind of site, one overseen by a devotee of the popular. Also, the vacay was done EA style, which means piggybacking on a work trip, the thinking being, “Hey, I’m in that part of the country for a conference, why not stay and see the sights?” Apparently, I was not alone in this thought, for as I learned a good number of other EAs, and non-EAs, were doing the exact same thing, some of us traveling to nerdy and popular locales for a bit of R&LR (research and lecture reconnaissance). Here are some highlights from my New England adventure:
1.) Boston, MA
Points of popular or scholary note: South Station, setting for scenes in The Thomas Crowne Affair (1968), The Out of Towners (1970), and The Departed (2006), also the place where I missed the train to New Haven despite being an hour early. FYI, posted schedule on message board is NOT for the Amtrak commuter. Locals just know, which is why I walked out to the platform when my train was leaving. EA travel fail.
Also of note: Boston Massacre site is marked with a sign on a sidewalk. If you are not looking, you might miss it. Kids playing “dead” on the sidewalk helped mark the locale. Disturbing. FYI super famous school in vicinity if you are into smarts and crimson.
Points of popular or scholarly note: Side of the road. A state highway officer looked like Jeremy Renner. Said officer with menthol blue eyes saw us pulled over looking at a map [okay flipping it around, while trying to hold it at arm's length in order to actually read it]. He stopped to see if we needed directions. It was unbelievably kind and freaky at the same time because we didn’t know if we were getting a ticket or Jem-ed.
3.) New York, NY
Points of popular or scholarly note: Everything. While on the boat to Liberty Island, I overheard a Croatian student comment: “Every place in America is like being in a movie.” Take a minute to turn that over in your noggin’. However, in New York, I understood her point exactly. Although I had been to NYC before, only briefly, everything about it this time seemed familiar, like walking on or through movie sets, except they were spread out over the entire city. So much to take in from the bicycle taxi driver singing along to “Empire State of Mind” in Central Park to the throngs moving in and out of everywhere in Times Square. I was only slightly disappointed by the Statue of Liberty gift shop, which was nothing like it’s depicted on Fringe: it’s much bigger with way more stuff than the minimalist rendering on the best show on commercial television. [Yes, I said it.]
One of my favorite moments included looking out over the city from the top of the Empire State Building. [Note: if ever visiting said location, I strongly recommend paying for the "Express Pass." Holding one means, no lines for you. If you are a regular schmo/a like me, it's probably one of the only times you will be treated like a VIP. Just hold up that pass, and watch the people you bypass become total grumpbutts.] The best for me, though, was Phantom, the show, which still has the power to wow, the backstage tour, and unexpectedly meeting the Phantom, Hugh Panaro (what a sweetheart).
4.) Bangor, ME
Points of popular or scholarly note: The whole town. It’s Stephen King country, ya’ll, and what do you do in Stephen King country? Take the Stephen King Tour, what else? The tour, which will be reviewed in a separate post, was terrific, great fun for a super fan and anyone who’s ever heard of the Master of Horror, and such a gorgeous way to see Maine. One of the best parts [and this is a tough call because there are so many cool things to see] was standing outside the standpipe from It.
5.) Salem, MA
Points of popular or scholarly note: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home, the Custom House, and the House of the Seven Gables, a literary trifecta, a biblio-nerdecta, if you please. What I remember most about Hawthorne was that he and his wife used to pretend not to be home when Melville would stop by because he had a tendency to overstay his welcome. Can you imagine, Nathaniel and Sophia crouching down trying not to throw a shadow across a curtain or pane, and Melville knocking away? As remarkable as it was staring out the window of the office where Hawthorne sat bored to death as a customs officer dreaming of his life as a writer or counting the gables on a dwelling [there are seven, though they had to be restored], neither compared to the joy of acquiring and donning my scarlet letter shirt with the big script “A” on the front. ¡Escandaloso!
Alas, it was all over too quickly, and what was only last week, already feels like ages ago. Such is the glamorous and glorious life of the EA. Coming soon to a classroom near you. ¡Saludos!