The captain had eased back on the throttle. The robust roar of the engine had changed to a steady, monotonous hum. The Delta Boeing-757 was gradually reducing its power in preparation for its descent into the Big Apple.
The airplane had just begun its approach, when the all-too-familiar skyline of Manhattan came into full view, its concrete monoliths, silhouetted by the rays of the bright orange afternoon Sun.
The water beneath shimmered, the crests of its mild waves glistening like floating crystals. A small convoy of barges and trawlers appeared to be leaving the docks, and venturing out to the high seas.
As I sat fastened, still taking in the breathtaking panorama, the sudden screech of the landing gears against the tarmac, jolted me out of my reverie. We were now on terra firma, taxing to the concourse of LaGuardia.
Mentally, I welcomed myself to New York City.
It was about 5:42 p.m., when I walked out of baggage claim. A blast of pleasantly warm air greeted me as I stepped out of the terminal, and hopped into my friend’s parked car.
The rush-hour traffic was at its peak. The city’s arterial network was chock-a-bloc with an endless stream of cars: spiffy convertibles, sedans, black Town Cars.
Weary commuters, hurrying home after a long day’s work, swerved past at breakneck speeds. I guess no one has the time to observe speed limits in these parts. Life’s to be lived. Money’s to be made. Successes have to be achieved.
We hit the freeways right after Bronx’s iconic Whitestone Bridge. Pretty much in tune with the pulse of the place, we cranked up the radio, rolled down our windows, and pushed the pedal to the metal.
We were on our way to neighboring Connecticut, nicknamed both the “Nutmeg” and the “Constitution State.” No sooner than we were in the outskirts of New York City, the landscape changed. Buildings were supplanted by green rolling hills. The terrain began to become mountainous. The air felt fresher and cooler.
Unlike in the Midwest, where interstates stretch for miles on end without a bend in sight, in the northeastern part of the U.S., the road system runs zigzag, crisscrossed by exits on both sides. It’s very confusing.
After about a 90-minute ride, we were cruising through the undulating topography of northwestern Connecticut. We snaked and meandered through the hilly roadways until we reached our destination: New Milford.
This quaint town, nestled in the Candlewood Mountains, has many a claim to fame. It’s rich in scenic beauty. It offers an excellent quality of life. It’s close to, and well-connected with the region’s commercial and industrial hubs, being only 70 miles from New York City, 100 miles from Newark, and 150 miles from Boston.
Pretty as a picture, New Milford has another draw: it’s where a segment of “Mr. Deeds” (2002) was filmed. I stumbled upon this cool nugget of information when I was out exploring the town’s cultural side. It’s easy to tell that its residents live the good life. Every three miles, there’s a liquor store that sells an assortment of the fun and the fine—everything from six-pack beers to fine Italian Chianti.
There’s no dearth of ristorante, where you can have sumptuous, lingering two-hour-long meals, savoring everything from tortellini to tiramisu. New Milford has a strong Italian flavor to it. And that’s apparent not just in the strong aroma of its espressos, but also in its peoples’ lifestyles, their food habits, even their buildings. Not that there aren’t any plus-size folks around, but their number is quite small.
On my second day here, I chose to play the total tourist. It was my day out, and I intended to exploit it to the hilt. I had a meager $20 in my pocket, but what did I care?
I got dropped off at a little gingerbread-colored house, something that looked straight out of a fairy tale. I stared long and hard at it, half expecting to see an elf open the door, or a gnome burnishing the brass knobs.
The signboard next to the building said: “New Milford Public Library.” I spent an hour on the Internet, googling about Connecticut and its attractions. I was a trifle too curious to read, and too restless to stay stationary for long. So, I got on my feet and set about exploring downtown.
I crossed the Green—a patch of manicured lawn in the shape of a long rectangle, which acts as a divider between the left and right halves of the business district—to a row of shops facing the library. I bought a trinket from a store that sold a mix of charms, bracelets, and aromatic products.
Next, I strolled along to a series of antique shops. Not that I was looking for anything in particular, but several objects caught my fancy—colorful Chinese masks, a wall-mounted timepiece that looked like it belonged to the late 19th century, an ornate Victorian table, among a hotchpotch of antiques.
What threw in the extra fizz was the Kimberley-Clarke plant. It didn’t look any different from other factories, with its tall, metal chimneys, spewing gray-white smoke, a none-too-posh office building, and a vast parking lot of trucks, waiting to haul boxes of facial tissues to various retailers and supermarket chains around the country.
Yes, New Milford is also the home to something we just can’t do without—Kleenex.