Thursday, September 20, 2012

9/13 - 9/14 Stamford, CT - New Rochelle, NY "You can't sleep here"

Stamford and points South stood to be a challenge. I hadn't had a chance to hop on a computer for a couple of days, and with my increasingly dodgy connection in Port Chester it looked as if I was sleeping out that night.

The stretch of road between Stamford and Greenwich, CT reminded me of much of my journey. Gas stations and chain grocery stores, still to early in the morning for attendants to be anything other that surly. I stepped into a station about a mile outside of the city to purchase a map, seeing that they were all for CT or New England, it wouldn't have done me much good. I thanked the proprietor and headed out.

Getting back on the road I settled into a pace of about three miles per hour, cruising through the old publishing district South of the City. Prior to the UConn boom Glamour Magazine, Vogue, and a couple of other publishers had set up a huge (not kidding, FUCKING HUGE) office park south of town.  The entrance is marked by two stone obelisks on each side of the road, with the names of the contributing businesses on each side. The walk through the park center is lined by granite walls with lawns and trees stretching about a hundred yards to the east and west in either direction. At the end of which are homes that would have gone for two and three family lots back in Brighton, MA.

With the drop in elevation I could tell I was out of the "working class" neighborhood that separated the two towns and smack into Greenwich. I stopped by a joint called "Jonny B's Infamous Chili Dogs" for the cheapest (and tastiest) eggs Benedict I've ever eaten. My waitress asked me where I was headed and we chatted for a few about my reason for walking. I told her that I was headed to D.C. and that I was carrying a letter to deliver to congress. I asked her how business was doing, she responded with.

"Things are really hard here, it's hard to make a name for yourself and to keep a business going off season" 

We chatted a bit more and I told her I'd love to come back and see how things were going.

"We'll see if we're here..."

I finished my meal in relative silence, answering questions from curious locals while eating. I couldn't help but overhearing the chef and owner going over their order for the next day.

"We can get more mileage out of these kinds of loaves, but it's getting more expensive, we'd have to raise prices" He said referring to their bread order"

"I just don't think we can change prices again so soon, maybe we can eat the difference for a month..."

I paid for my meal and quietly left, not wanting to interrupt their discussion.  I passed out of Greenwich on their version of the auto mile, rather than Honda and Ford it was showrooms for Ferrari and Aston Martin. Hesitant to stop lest I get picked up as a vagrant I kept moving, stopping only to dry my feet and rest every three or four miles.

I stayed on West Putnam Ave. out of Cos Cobb/ Greenwich onto N. Main across the border into Port Chester, NY. I called my contact only to hear that I wouldn't be staying at his place that night. Checking my GPS and my wallet, I could see that there was no way I could afford a hotel, and the nearest Friends location was Scarsdale seven miles almost directly west and north. I did some searching and saw that there was a recreation park in Rye, New York.  It was still early enough in the day for me to make Rye and catch a nap on a bench before either walking through the night or finding a church to sleep in.

I thought that I'd seen rich in Greenwich, but I was wrong when I saw Rye. The only evidence that folks lived along the Boston Post Road were the gates closing off the private driveways to their houses. When I located the recreation park I took off my shoes, changed my shirt and put on my jacket, hoping for nap even with the growing chill in the air. I was nudged awake around 9PM, "you can't sleep here" said one park security official. I looked at my phone and seeing that it was an hour and change before the park closed. I didn't argue, but made security wait while I geared back up (a 15 minute process). I exited the park and headed for the Rye Marshland Conservancy, figuring it would be late enough that it would be closed, and that I'd be able to get some sleep before heading out.

I made a dry camp laying down grass to create a layer of air between me and the cold ground, then a trash bag, then my towel. I went down on top of that with my rain poncho on top to trap any warm air coming off of my body. Fat lot of good it did me, even that little bit of action had caused me to sweat, which immediately felt like ice on my skin. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep, but at least I wasn't moving. At least my feet weren't slapping pavement.

Two hours of "rest" later, I was packed back up and headed south, headlamp blinking to alert drivers of my pedestrian status. The lines on the road were starting to blur, I'd already covered about 25 miles by that point, having found the park by trial and error, wandering an extra few miles when my GPS had stopped picking up signal.  I saw a church that didn't have closed gates and walked to the rear entrance, it was a long shot but I was hoping that there would be a night porter on duty. I knocked on the door and waited, and waited, knocked again and waited. Taking off my pack, my clothing was soaked through with sweat and I was beginning to shake with cold and exhaustion. I changed my shirt again, layering on a few more to ward off the chill. I wrapped both of my scarves around my chest adding a trash bag for good measure knowing that I hadn't taken in enough calories to keep my coherent or warm through the night.

I spread my towel on the bench off of the church annex, set away from the road and hoping that the cops in this ritzy town wouldn't think to look for vagrants in church yards. All of the "no loitering" "not trespassing" "no anything" signs I'd seen throughout the town had me nervous, and I had no desire to spend the night in a cell.  I curled up on the bench shaking with cold and fell into a fitful sleep.  I woke two hours later and my hands were numb. I'd been clutching them so tightly to my chest in my sleep that I'd cut off circulation.  I fumbled to roll a cigarette and shook out my appendages, knowing for certain there was no way I was getting back to sleep.  I checked my phone for the time and saw that it was around 4:00AM. Packing everything back up, I tossed a couple of pennies onto the shrine near the annex and kept heading South, sure that I would make New Rochelle shortly after dawn.

GPS told me that the YMCA in New Rochelle was less than five miles from me, so I pointed myself in that direction with thoughts of at the very least a shower to drown any vermin I'd picked up during my "rest" periods.  On arrival I was greeted by the early morning swimmers, it was disconcerting to A) pay $10.00 to take a shower, and B) try to avoid eye contact with so very many naked octogenarians. I showered, said my goodbyes to Phyllis, Doris, Jane, and Montrey, and headed for the Library, only a couple miles away and back up the hill. was my virtual destination, and I only had 20 minutes to get it sorted with the eagle eyed librarian watching me. When I'd asked about an extended session I got a dead eyed stare and a reminder that "All guest sessions are 20 minutes". I hopped on the computer and got to typing with the quickness, sending requests to everyone I could find within a 20 mile radius. Getting an almost immediate response from Peter right in New Rochelle.

He told me that space was tight, but I was just happy that I wouldn't have to attempt sleeping on the ground again. I made it to his apartment with little issue and introduced myself to his couch surfers already in residence, a gentleman from New Zealand, a cat from Korea, and a tax adjuster from Germany. Upon hearing that there would be four Slovenians coming into town around Midnight, I was stoked that I had picked up produce at the farmer's market, and that I'd only be there for one evening.   Once Peter got off work we talked for a couple hours, taking a trip to the grocery store, shooting the shit on politics and splitting duties on cooking dinner for the masses. He'd decided to head into Times Square for a party, so I had the place pretty much to myself until the Slovenian's landed.

My head finally hit the pillow to four glorious hours of uninterrupted sleep, to wake at 6:00AM and head into Brooklyn.

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