Summer is a good time to catch up on your reading and to post a travelogue. Yesterday’s day trip to the Essex steam train and riverboat at the Connecticut Valley Railroad, and recent overnighter to Mystic, featured some good old Yankee ingenuity displayed in the unique features of a couple of funky bridges.

Mystic River Bascule Bridge

I’m somewhat mechanically inclined, however, I’m still not sure how the bridge works, but there are two huge concrete blocks that counterbalance each other through linkages to the span. The massive forms hover above the roadway and look like something out of an old Looney Tunes cartoon, designed to mash Wile E. Coyote into a pancake. “Beep-beep….” When the bridge is down, the span is so low that passengers in small boats need to duck under the structure as they pass. You may also envision the coyote’s spread eagle form plastered to the side of the framework. There is a small boardwalk on the northern end of the bridge with benches where you can sit to take in the scenery. Others fish in the early morning or evening hours.Mystic BridgeThere are many small, interesting shops, restaurants and an ice cream parlor along the main and nearby streets, and of course Mystic Pizza, made famous by the movie of the same name. (Outside of New Haven, the best pizza in CT is not as good as the worst pizza in NYC, but that’s a review for another day). There are other great sights in this quaint little village including the Mystic Seaport which is not to be missed, but if you are a fan of bridges, this is a great one to visit and view in operation.

East Haddam Swing Bridge

The Connecticut Valley Railroad in Essex offers several options that allow you to experience a piece of history riding an old steam train through the Connecticut River valley. My wife and I chose the popular steam train and riverboat combination that takes about 2 1/2 hours. I would recommend going a little early to take a leisurely stroll around the station, gift shop, cafe car, rail yard, steam train museum and gallery to get a good flavor for the experience and to transport you back in time. As I heard the train whistle and felt it rumbling into the station, I could understand the sense of excitement that one must have felt in anticipation of the adventure ahead, the possibilities the train offered in an age without automobiles.Train frontTrain sideThe train clattered along through the valley, opening to varied landscapes, boat slips, and marshlands filled with aquatic birds and other wildlife, until we arrived at the dock to make our connection with the Becky Thatcher. Once aboard, we headed up the Connecticut River toward the bridge in East Haddam. Along the way you pass Gillette Castle, high up on the cliffs. There is a separate option to take a short ferry ride across the river and hike about 3/8 mile up one of several trails to get to the castle and state park. On this particular hot summer day, there were many people enjoying the water and weather in boats, on jet skis and swimming along the shores.Haddam Swing BridgeWe passed a hanger with several small aircraft and sea planes as we approached the bridge. Off to the right of the bridge is the Goodspeed Opera House where they feature musicals and original stage productions. The East Haddam Swing Bridge, like the bridge at  Mystic, is very odd looking and unique in function. The bridge and roadway swing out 90 degrees at set times during the day to allow the taller boats to travel up or down river. Sadly, I have never witnessed the bridge in operation, but plan to one day. We turned around at the bridge and headed back for the return leg on the steam train. Back at the station, back in the present, we were satisfied with an afternoon well spent.

Darkness of Skin

Sharing poem written by my son Cliff

The increased darkness of skin
akin to sin
We can judge a man
Beat a man
Kill a man
without repercussion
As long as he is justifiably dark enough to warrant such hatred
Words of hate
can freely exit the mouths of a lighter shade
and incite similar feelings
Misguided fear
if we continue to turn a blind eye
And continue our history of blind hatred

How can we live in the land of the free
Under the pretense of innocent until proven guilty
And watch men and women killed in plain sight
Because of the darkness of skin?

Our politicians speak without conscience
Our police act without consequence
Racial division in our everyday consciousness
And we are to pretend that this is not an ever growing problem?

If we are to grow
and succeed
How do we continue to make decisions based upon the darkness of skin?

Homemade Ice Cream

I don’t usually post recipes, but I’m sharing this one on behalf of my daughter Katie. This is so easy. Have your wife make the basic vanilla ice cream base, stir in the fruit, then pour it into the Cuisinart and let it churn.

OK, maybe I should at least list the ingredients:

2 vanilla beans, or teaspoon of good vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

6 extra-large egg yolks

3/4 cup superfine sugar

Instructions for preparation might be helpful:

Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Put the beans in a saucepan and the seeds in a bowl. The vanilla extract is easier.

Pour milk and cream into saucepan and bring just barely to a boil. Remove from heat and let vanilla beans infuse for at least 30 minutes.

Put the eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat until pale and creamy. Return milk/cream/vanilla to heat and bring to a simmer. Take a ladle of the liquid and slowly whisk into the egg mixture. You want to temper the mixture so it doesn’t curdle and turn into scrambled eggs. Slowly pour the tempered egg mixture into the simmering liquid, stirring constantly. DON’T GET DISTRACTED. Continue stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula until custard mixture thickens and sticks slightly to the back of the spoon.

Remove custard from heat and let it first cool to room temperature, mix it a bit, and transfer to refrigerator.


You can now add anything to this base to make your favorite flavors. We added fresh mangoes, courtesy of in-laws in Florida, to half the batch, and made a blueberry cheesecake ice cream with the rest. I hand carried the mangoes from Florida, and left Katie behind to summer with her extended family.

Mango Ice Cream

Stir the mangoes into the mixture, pour into the machine, and start churning. It should thicken up in about 15-20 minutes. Pour into tightly-sealed container and put in freezer.

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Stir the blueberries into the mixture. For the “cheesecake,” crumble vanilla wafers into a fine crumb and pour in bowl. Cut up about 4 oz of cold cream cheese and add in small pieces gently coating them with the cookie crumbs. You can start churning, then add the other ingredients one-by-one, or mix together first, then churn. You know your machine.


****As with any homemade ice cream, machine is not required, but you will need to take several additional steps to remove mixture from freezer to whip out ice crystals and keep the ice cream smooth.

All that’s missing is Katie’s review with all of her teen-age enthusiasm. I’ll try my best. The photos and format are nowhere near as good as Kate’s.

My Mom and I made homemade Mango and Blueberry Cheesecake ice creams. They came so delicious! Ice cream makes me think of summer, and this is the best summer ever because I’m getting to spend it with my family in Florida. I last went to Florida when I was like 3 to go to my cousin Fara’s wedding, but I was young and don’t really remember it. My Aunties gave us the sweetest and most delicious mangoes.  They just grow everywhere and they are soo good! I think I’m obsessed with this ice cream, but I need to fight my Dad to get to it.

The blueberry cheesecake ice cream was a little more work, but so worth it. I love blueberries in everything. We put aside a batch for my little munchkins Eli and Penny since they love blueberries too.

See you all in August when I come back for my cousin Amid’s wedding!

Stick Figure Jesus

Five year old on her knees

eyes closed to her world

hands clasped, or cupping air

in prayer

to the God of Man


Five year old at her desk

draws a stick figure Jesus

smiling sun with a face

beside puffy white clouds

veiling heaven


Religion, Religare

Green-eyed, earth bound

assassin of the spirit

False security of thy balustrade

Imprisons my soul


The young woman prays

As it was, so it shall ever be

Five years old on her knees

Eyes closed and averted

from judgment


“Bless me father, for I have sinned,”

I have killed the Buddha

served sour milk to Ganesh

I’ve eaten swine on the Sabbath

and worn white after Labor Day


Five years old at her desk

Defined by adolescent artistry

and faith

draws a stick figure Jesus

for her daughters and sons

Writing Meetups

I tried to add this site as a link under my menu category for writing, but want to share and save where it can be easily found. I’ll explore in more detail, but it looks like a great worldwide and local resource for my fellow writers.


10 July 2016: Clarification, links to meetups for all artists, not just writers.

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