From a recent NYT piece about my hometown, Old Saybrook: “It’s a place where middle-class people built cottages generations ago and left them to their kids… Now, many of those houses have been winterized. And as people retire, they live in them year-round.”
Actually, this is true all over the Connecticut shoreline. Former seasonal, cold-water cottages now have been converted to year-round houses. What was once a summer-time vacation home with few amenities is now a McMansion retirement home.
Sounds like a great idea for these historical sites: allowing writers the chance to spend a few hours in the Key West room where Hemingway did so much of his work or sitting in Mark Twain’s library in Hartford some evening as you edit your latest creation.
Twain’s library is available for $50 if you can find some space on the waiting list. The cost of time in the Hemingway house ($1500) probably should include a tab at Sloppy Joe’s, a fistfight, a free cat, and an affair with another writer. That definitely would be the Hemingway experience and worth the price tag.
I haven’t written a word today, but that got me thinking about my book, Shadow of the Moon, which reminded me that there’s another total solar eclipse coming on April 8, 2024. Here’s a map of the 2024 path of totality. Northern New England and eastern Canada should have good, 3-minute-plus views. NASA has a webpage of information about the event as does the Great American Eclipse. Now where to go to watch it? Western NY? Toronto? I’ve never been there. Burlington? How cool would it be to watch it from a peak or ridge in the Presidentials in the White Mountains? Avoiding Mt. Washington, of course, since it’s in the clouds more than 200 days of the year.
I used Airbnb to find an apartment for a 19-day stay in Lisbon. But after one look at it, I left. Even knowing I was going to lose all the money I put down, I left. The place was inaccessible except on foot. I had a car. There was no place to park. The location was on a steep hillside, which isn’t uncommon in Old Lisbon. But it was a dark, narrow street that my family and friends would have had a hard time finding, and my wife would have been nervous about. The apartment felt subterranean; After passing through three, dark doorways and stepping down into the place, there were limited views of just other rooftops. It felt like a firetrap. Every trip to my car—assuming I could find parking in a parked-restricted neighborhood—would be a hike. So would carrying groceries from whatever market I might find. It was easier to cut my losses and find a decent French chain hotel with secure parking. I did. It was convenient to the Metro, family and friends, and to my meeting site. It’s true: Location, location, location.
My only prior experience with Airbnb was using their service to put cash in the hands of Ukrainians by “renting” apartments in various places. I never went to Ukraine, of course; there’s a war on. So, my record to date with Airbnb is four rentals, no stays. Three “rentals” in Ukraine and this last “rental” in Lisbon. On the face of it, this isn’t a great track record. I may have to try Vrbo next time.
Now having collected my “rent,” without the inconvenience of a post-checkout cleanup or other typical renter problems, the owners of the apartment would like me to pay them another $224.66. I wasn’t able to get the keys back to them to date. The keys must be made of gold; my local hardware store will produce aluminum duplicates for about $5.00. The owners claim these unreturned keys represent a security issue. Sure, if I plan to sneak back across the Atlantic, drive into Lisbon, and unlock the three apartment doors. Seems unlikely. I lost my house keys in southern Africa once. Since 2009, no Swazis or South Africans have tried to break into my Rhode Island house.
“The dearest ones of time, the strongest friends of the soul–BOOKS.”
Outside Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst, Mass. Traveling through N.E., we stopped and spent the night across the street from the Dickinson home at the Amherst Inn. The problem with visiting these famous N.E. literary sites is the houses are rarely open. Blame the scheduling on Covid, staff shortages, and seasonal openings. Some places are open on weekends; others are open on Tuesday but not on Monday or vice versa. Some are open only a couple of days a week. More often than not, I’m outside looking in. I suppose that’s partly my fault; I go when the mood strikes me, not when house X is open or the snow finally has melted.