Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mystic Pizza and Beyond--E-book coming soon!

I am currently working on an e-book about the secrets behind the haunts and homes of Mystic's famous sea voyagers. I like to write what interests readers. Does the following interest you, or do you have another direction to suggest? Would you like to review a Mystic area restaurant or winery? If so, contact me at saundersbooks@aol.com


Mystic Pizza and Beyond: Walking the Seafarer's Trail 


by
Lisa Saunders


Introduction
Mystic Pizza and Beyond: Walking the Seafarer’s Trail
Forced to relocate to Mystic, CT, writer Lisa Saunders must leave family and her “real” job to begin a new life with her husband in what National Geographic calls one of America’s “Best Adventure Towns.” Because the picturesque village along Mystic River attracts explorers who traverse the oceans, Lisa decides to build a new life by becoming an explorer herself. Her first goal: lose weight and meet as many locals as she can, living or dead, by taking long walks with her beagle/basset hound past the haunts and homes of Mystic’s legendary sea voyagers, including the discoverers of the RMS Titanic and Antarctica; the legendary aviatrix, Amelia Earhart; and new friend, Kate, who gave birth to her daughter on a self-built schooner and rowed to shore to weigh her on a lobster scale. Her second goal? Find a friend with a boat!
Living only blocks from Mystic Pizza, the restaurant that inspired the movie, “Mystic Pizza,” Lisa sets out daily with her hound to walk stretches of what she terms “The Mystic Seafarer’s Trail.” Although she doesn’t lose weight because she stops along the way for ice-cream, fried clams strips, and of course, pizza, she does, through conversations with locals, uncover the secrets behind what she crowns “The 7 Wonders of Mystic”; becomes embroiled in a controversy with the locals over the“8th Wonder”; and discovers that she too has family secrets buried in Mystic—that just down the street from her lived a distant cousin, Captain Charles Sisson, whose failed attempt to find gold leads to the tragic death of his childhood friend, and later, his wife dies mysteriously at sea. When she visits Captain Sisson's grave, she is in for an even bigger surprise.
The book also includes restaurant and winery reviews by locals, those who truly reflect the very soul of New England.
About Mystic, CT:
Mystic, which straddles both sides of the Mystic River, is located half-way between New York City and Boston, just north of the Long Island Sound. It  has welcomed such notable honeymooners as Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and is home to Mystic Seaport, a 19th century maritime village and museum that exhibits tall ships such as the oldest whaleship in the world, the Charles W. Morgan, which has appeared in several films; Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, where the discoverer of the grave of the R.M.S. Titanic, Dr. Robert Ballard, keeps his home office; Olde Mistick Village, a colonial style shopping center where Gloria, the cranky, arthritic goose has been reigning over the duck pond for decades; and the famed Mystic drawbridge, featured in “Mystic Pizza” starring Julia Roberts and debuting Matt Damon, whose only line, "Mom, do you want my green stuff?" was said while eating lobster.
“The Mystic Seafarer’s Trail” also includes what Lisa calls “The Hanging Gardens of Enders Island” at the St. Edmund’s Retreat Center, where relics such as the withered arm of Saint Edmund, who preached for the Sixth Crusade, are displayed. The trail continues eastward to Stonington, where the where vastly out-gunned citizens fought off an attack by the British in the War of 1812; and westward to Groton, the home of the first nuclear sub, USS Nautilus, which proved once and for all that that there was no land under the North Pole by punching through the ice; and Fort Griswold, where Benedict Arnold’s treachery lead to the massacre of his former countrymen.

About Lisa Saunders:
Lisa Saunders lives in Mystic, CT, with her husband, Jim, and beagle/basset hound, Bailey. The author of several books, she is a speaker, blogger, and a consulting writer/publicist. Her books and plays include: Ever True: A Union Private and His Wife, featuring excerpts of her great-great grandparents’ Civil War love letters; Ride a Horse, Not an Elevator, a children’s novel based on Lisa’s summers as a chubby kid on her grandparents’ farm; Anything But A Dog!, the true story of how a big, homeless canine found his way to her disabled daughter’s couch; and The Mystic Seafarer’s Trail, which reveals the secrets behind the haunts and homes of Mystic’s legendary sea voyagers. A Cornell University graduate and winner of the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations Gold Medallion, Lisa helps authors and organizations promote their work through her free e-books, How to Get Published and How to Promote Your Business (or yourself). A former employment recruiter, Lisa shares job seeking tips in her free e-book, How to Get a Job. See her work and availability for speaking at: http://www.authorlisasaunders.com/

Monday, November 28, 2011

Merry Christmas From Mystic!


Santa arrives to Mystic by tugboat
 We have now completed our first full year of living in Mystic. We agree with our friend Pam who visited last Christmas time: “You live in a Hallmark movie!”
Mystic's Hallmark Christmas movie begins with Santa coming to town by tugboat, followed by a lighted boat parade; children drop letters to Santa into the special village mailbox marked “North Pole” and are answered by the Mystic Chamber of Commerce (last year’s letters included children asking for jobs for their daddies); the Downtown Mystic Christmas Stroll includes carolers in top hats and ballerinas dancing the Nutcracker in shops serving hot apple cider and cookies; then the community comes out for a sing-along around a large British anchor from the War of 1812 at Mystic Seaport, the  museum where I’ve been working part-time as a historical interpreter. 
Last summer, I worked at Mystic Seaport in the candle dipping shop, where people paid five dollars to dip candles that looked nothing like the slender, colored candles on the poster out front. Most looked like goat teats in need of milking, others like drippy bells, some fell off the wicks entirely because the tourists made them too big, and other candles just wouldn’t thicken because they didn’t believe me that you have to dip the wick quickly in and out of the hot wax so you don’t melt off the wax already hardened on the wick. Other than making sure the tourists didn’t burn their hands in the hot wax, I had to comfort them about how their candles looked when finished. I’d say, “There is no such thing as a bad candle here. They are all special, just like people. Some are just more ‘special’ than others.” I thought of all those misshapen candles during the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. I bet many were brought out of hiding when their families ran out of their sleek, store-bought candles during the six days we had no power.
With “real” jobs scarce around here, I’ve had several part-time ones. I worked for the local weekly paper  writing articles that included the mystery of the large influx of harp seals off our shores this year (normally Harbor seals winter here) and got to march in front of the newspaper’s float in the Irish Parade, where I dislocated the  Mystic Strongman’s back when he lifted me as a stunt; I worked for a wedding photographer (Mystic is a prime wedding site), where I helped film online commercials—my favorite being one about a dog-walker who featured our beagle/basset  hound, Bailey; and I worked once as a T.V. commercial production assistant, where I not only told actors where to find the bathroom, but was used as a dancing extra in a casino commercial that aired during the “Wheel of Fortune” T.V show. Thinking that maybe my next career should be movie star, I tried to get a part as an extra in the recent Meryl Streep/Tommie Lee Jones movie filmed in our area. At the casting call, I fibbed about how much I weighed on the sign-in form thinking I could get down to that weight by the time shooting began. I didn’t get a part, but on the last morning of shooting, I strolled through the set with our hound hoping a director would see how well we represented the local background. No luck there.
Then, I started to write an e-book called, “Getting Thin and Famous Along the Mystic Seafarer’s Trail,” a walking trail I designed to go past the haunts and homes of famous sea captains, but I had to stop walking the 20 miles because I gained too much weight stopping along the way for fried clams strips and ice-cream.
Currently, I help a family get ready for school (I get there at 6 a.m.!), write for Rockland Community College and work for Mystic Seaport. Because together these jobs equal full-time employment, I’m taking a break looking for an office job, much to the disappointment of my friends who enjoyed hearing my humiliating interviewing experiences. The latest fad is to ask candidates “behavioral” questions and I’m not always sure how to “behave.” When called in for jury duty last month in New London, I couldn’t even get picked by a scary-looking criminal and his lawyer after my courtroom interview.
My new hobby is kayaking. My friend Cindy owns three kayaks and regularly takes her friends for a paddle. Having found that fighting against an outgoing tide can be tricky, I text Jim where we intend to embark in case we get swept out to sea. My friend Jules and her fiancĂ© Neal (who works at the nearby Naval  submarine base) just bought a sailboat and promised to take Jim and I along on overnight trips. I feel especially qualified for these adventures because I just learned how to tie a bowline knot, one that Sherlock Holmes always attributes to sailors. Last week, Jules and Neal gave their first official sailing plans to our friend Kate, asking her to call the Coast Guard if she didn’t hear from them by a certain time.  Neal let us know that it would be very humiliating for a Navy guy to be rescued by the Coast Guard, which also has a base nearby.
The publisher of my book, “Anything But a Dog,” has made it into an e-book available on Amazon (where the first chapter is free at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005GRAE0I ) and my play, “Ever True: A Union Private and His Wife,” is being produced in Mystic for a dinner theater on Valentine’s Day by the Emerson Theater group.  
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Kayaking in Mystic

Here I am at Beebee Cove, near where I live, in the hat my husband says makes me look like I'm out rhino hunting.
Although I am still hoping for a friend with a "real" boat, I am lucky to have found my friend, Cindy, who has three kayaks and offers to take me out regularly. I float around with a lot of swans and seaguls and here at Beebee Cove, according to Ann Kuehner, the photographer, we saw "osprey, cormorant and great white egret – the last is the tall, skinny white shore bird. The cormorants are often found on logs or other things projecting up out of the water. It was probably the crested cormorant – there are several different ones, but that is the most likely. If you see a small white skinny bird, that is also an egret – likely a cattle egret."

When Cindy takes me to spots where there is a danger of being swept out to sea, I usually just text Jim the location so he'll know where to begin looking if I'm not home.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurrican Irene Causes Dirty Hair, But Mystic Pizza Going Strong

No serious flooding here in Mystic (we got the wind more than the rain). Many trees/limbs down. We were lucky--our brook didn't cause a flood in our home or street (according to the neighbors, it did one year when the drain it flows into hadn't been continually cleared). I went out during the storm all morning long to keep the drain free of debris, wearing knee-high rubber boots so I could step into the stream and rip away vines, branches, etc. Perhaps stupidly, I walked Bailey during the storm and kept storm drains clear in the streets as well. I single-handedly saved Mystic from flooding--but since I was out alone, no one but Bailey knows!

Although I was a little scared watching the wind tear through the tall trees that surround our property (our windows are filthy now from being pelted with rain and dirt/leaves), I felt a lot safer than when Elizabeth and I were trapped in a train during Hurricane Floyd. Other than worrying how I was going to keep her head above the rising water and what she was going to eat since she could only swallow pureed food, we endured the terror of the NY woman screaming that the snack car had run of biscottis! That story was in my book, Anything But a Dog!, which the publisher just converted to an e-book in case you know anyone who might like to read the first chapter for free by clicking on the book’s image on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005GRAE0I
Our oven is electric and we don't have a gas grill, so I have been boiling water in a tea kettle over a little flame. Traffic lights are out around here, so getting around is a little tricky!

The good news is that Mystic Pizza has a generator so we did have a hot meal on Sunday--with the rest of Mystic!
My daughter Jackie and her husband Paul's hurricane story in the D.C. was in preparation of it. Jackie had to compete with others in the nation's capitol for the last remaining flashlight--a toy Lego Man that shines light from his feet. Hunting everywhere for batteries, she finally found a kind store owner who broke up packages of them (and didn't overcharge) and asked each person who came up to his counter, "Now how many do you really need to get through the storm?" Jackie, sounding very much like the old lady in the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," in the run on the bank scene, said "Two, please." The shop keeper couldn't believe that she fought her way through the crowds to get to that counter just to ask for two. I think of that when I'm tempted to camp out all day long at Starbucks so I can keep my laptop/cell phone charged and keep you all informed. I really should only take up an outlet at Starbucks for two hours max to the writing work I'm required to do for my clients.
Today, 8/30/11-- Day Three With No Power:
We are still hearing of the flooding in NJ/NY from Hurricane Irene and you perhaps are hearing how CT is having trouble getting power back on because of a shortage of linemen. We are still being told to count on "a week or more without power." My cell phone only works intermittently because if cell tower outages.
According to an announement from the governor, CT Light and Power "was still searching for available crews as far away as Seattle or British Columbia." So if you need a job, become a lineman!

I am back in Starbucks in Groton--the one is Mystic does have power, but it's smaller and doesn't have as many outlets. The people sitting around me drinking coffee and charging their laptops/cell phones look like they've been camping. Many are on well water so don't have any water at all. Others, like me, have water, but can't stand putting their heads under cold water. I still have shampoo on my scalp from the one and only time I tried that--I just couldn't remain under the water long enough to get all the soap out.


The night sky never looked better from our house. With a new moon and no lights from town, the stars are spectacular. Occasionally we see a faint glow in a driveway--a TV powered by the car battery. Family members gather in their car for their evening entertainment (and some are cooking with hotplates powered by their car battery). Jim and I curl up in bed with my Starbuck's charged laptop to watch our DVDs. Last night we finished the movie, The Mothman, because the night before that, my laptop ran out of power just at the climax (it's a scary movie about a creature who warns people of impending doom).


Yesterday I bought a folding stove at the Army Navy Store. It sits over a canned flame and takes forever to cook anything. Because I was working until 6:45 p.m., Jim had to start dinner by frying up some of our rapidly defrosting meat--in this case, turkey burgers. I took one bite and couldn't eat anymore--it tasted slimy from the frying pan (Jim thinks the flame made it taste funny, but I don't see how). Suggesting we just give it to Bailey, Jim was upset and said something like, "I slaved all night over this luke-warm flame and you're giving your meat to the dog?"
What I really wanted was good movie popcorn for dinner, so after giving my turkey burgers to Bailey, I talked Jim into seeing a movie at Olde Mistick Village Theater. It was comforting to sit with the other dirty heads in Mystic eating warm popcorn.

Although Olde Mistick Village, a colonial style outdoor shopping center, has power, downtown Mystic and the Mystic Seaport Museum do not. That means all of those businesses are missing out on the height of tourist season (except for Mystic Pizza with its generator still going strong). The drawbridge doesn't go up either, so boats are trapped. The Weather Channel was at the drawbridge Saturday, the day before the hurricane, to show all the boats that dock there during hurricanes. The mouth if Mystic River is protected from the storms over Long Island Sound by Fisher's Island--which is why the area was historically a major ship building district before iron clads became popular after the Civil War (it was impractical to ship iron to Mystic so ship-building gradually died out).


Anyway, Jim and I were in walking around Mystic when the Weather Channel camera crews came so I tried to look casual in front of the yachts and tall ships they were filming in case they wanted to interview me. One camera man moved his camera to get me out of his line of sight. I heard Mystic River was featured on national news, but I doubt I made it into the background. Maybe I'll get lucky and hear soon that I made it in as an extra in the Merryl Streep movie soon to be filmed here.

I bought a spray at the Hair Cuttery that is supposed to make your hair look like it's been washed. It's called something like "Dirty Little Secret." If you want to know whether it keeps my dirty little hair secret a secret, just check back on my blog at http://mysticpizzaseafarer.blogspot.com/2011/08/hurrican-irene-causes-dirty-hair-but.html



Lisa
Day 5—No power: Dirty Hair Tackled by Government
Tuesday, Aug 31, 2011
Still no power, hot water, or working oven. The good news: we’re gathering nightly with our marginally showered friends by candle light to grill our rotting meat and slurp our soggy, previously frozen fruit (originally purchased for smoothies), calling it fruit compote.
Possible as a result of businesses complaining to the government that tourists won’t come back to Mystic if its residents looked filthy, we were ordered to take advantage of free showers. I’m not kidding, this was the newspaper headline: “Groton Respite Center Wants Region To Take Showers.”
Although I am learning how to take a cold shower without going into shock (by doing back bends in the stall so only my head goes under the spray), I’m dying to try one of those cold, lack-of privacy showers offered in a trailer just to have something new to write about—we’ll see.
Well, I must get going on my freelance writing work (the kind that actually pays) before I get kicked out of Starbucks for charging up my laptop/cell phone too long while sipping one cup of coffee all day. Right now I’m surrounded by some grumpy men who are complaining about our lack of lineman to get the power back on. Yesterday the radio played the old song,“The Wichita Lineman.” The mayor got on the air and told us to give “thumbs up” signs to all the bucket trucks that go by. I heard someone with a chain saw at 2 a.m. this morning working on getting the downed trees cleared. Maybe our power will be back on soon!
If only I were Amish or hardened campers like some of our friends—then this would be so much easier!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Seafarer’s Trail to Enders Island



by Lisa Saunders (see video)
My hound Bailey and I just trekked eight miles round trip to “The Hanging Garden of Enders Island” on my quest to get "Thin and Famous" along my Seafarer’s Trail.


Before leaving the house I thought I should register with New England Actors in case they put out a call for extras for the next major movie being shot in Mystic. Oh no—they want you to list your weight!  I decided I would first lose some pounds walking the trail. Or should I aim for getting “Fat and Famous” instead?
With a bottle of water, cell phone and wallet in my knapsack, Bailey and I left our house near the Mystic-Noank Library and headed toward downtown Mystic. Along the way, we passed the usual crowd getting photographed under the Mystic Pizza sign and crossed over the Mystic drawbridge to Mystic River Park, where we saw the usual lunch-time dog-walking gang sitting together on a park bench.

The dog on your right is blind and gets to ride in a little cart.

Then Bailey pulled me toward his favorite people in Mystic, Riverdog Kayak Rental owners, Suzanne and Pete, and their lazy greyhound Jordon.

After pampering Bailey (see video) and hearing of my quest to get thin and famous along my route, Pete suggested: “Maybe you can get famous by getting lost and having a search and rescue team go out looking for you.”
Hmmm. I wasn’t that desperate to get famous, but it did remind me that another way to get known in Mystic was for Bailey to discover a body along the Seafarer’s Trail (he already discovered a body in a New York park, but that’s another story). We would be sure to look for one among the dock pilings along our route.
Heading North on Rte 1, I came across the Denison Burying Ground, a family plot dating back to 1698. The Denisons were among the first settlers in the Mystic area. Always looking for an interesting dead person to meet, Bailey and I walked among the stones. Suddenly, I saw a headstone that possibly explains why so many spots around here are named after the Denisons—because there were so many Denisons!  This grave marker told of Jane, the widow of Mr. George Denison, who died in 1829 -- “At the time of her death, her children and their descendents were 350.”
From here, I couldn’t help but see the roadside restaurant, Sea Swirl, overlooking Pequotsepos Cove. It was an awfully long walk to Enders Island…Bailey rested while I “fortified” myself with fried clams.
The two-mile trip south on Masons Island Road revealed no dead bodies unless you count how I almost became one. On three separate occasions, a dog was off leash and came charging toward us, and there was hardly any shoulder to walk on, making us a target for cars. I gave a panting Bailey all our water, leaving me a bit parched—it never occurred to me that I could perish from thirst along this route.
It was all worth it, however, when we got to Enders Island and St. Edmund’s Retreat Center, which keeps an intriguing stone and flower garden, and displays relics such as the withered arm of Saint Edmund, who preached for the Sixth Crusade. I visited the three-sided seaside chapel open to Fisher’s Island Sound. It shelters an altar where people leave their hand-written prayers—some are so personal and moving, you feel you are standing on holy ground.
After rocking in a chair in a gazebo overlooking the Sound while Bailey slept at my feet, it was time to go home. Although we didn’t get discovered yet, we still have a lot more of the Mystic Seafarer’s Trail to cover. Stay tuned to read about our walk to Noank where Amelia Earhart got married (see video), and where my seafaring friend Kate gave birth to her daughter on a schooner and rowed her to shore the following morning to have her weighed on a lobster scale at Ford's Lobsters (they removed the lobsters first).(see video)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Getting Thin and Famous Along Mystic's Seafarers Trail

Bailey and I embark on the Mystic Seafarers Trail
Face it—famous people have an easier time getting work, published or promoting their cause. If you’re thin on top of it, then you can live longer to enjoy it!

After 50 years of dieting (I was a fat kid too), I have to concede that my old classmate was right when she answered my question at a high school reunion on how she stayed so thin: “You can’t eat anything and you have to exercise all of the time.”

And the secret to becoming famous? Now that truly is a secret! Not being athletic or otherwise talented, I have often resorted to the antics of Lucy Ricardo when trying to sneak into Ricky’s nightclub act. In one "I Love Lucy" episode, however, she got Ricky to agree to feature her if she could squeeze into the small costume of a performer who had quit. Lucy starved, exercised and steamed herself down to that size. Could that be the answer for me?

To find out, I’m about to launch my latest strategy for getting thin and famous—but it will be a lot more fun than Lucy's weight loss regimen! I will walk and write about the Mystic Seafarers Trail—a path I designed to include “The 7 Wonders of Mystic.” It will begin where Amelia Earhart got married in Noank and include Mystic Pizza; the haunts and homes of famous sea captains and their vessels, including the oldest whaleship in the world, the Charles W. Morgan, featured in several films and where stowaways, amputations, floggings, and burials at sea took place; Mystic drawbridge; Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, where the discoverer of the grave of the R.M.S. Titanic, Dr. Robert Ballard, keeps his home office; and Olde Mistick Village, where Gloria, the cranky, arthritic goose has been reigning over the duck pond for decades. The trail moves south to what I call “The Hanging Gardens of Enders Island” located at the St. Edmund’s Retreat Center, where relics such as the withered arm of Saint Edmund, who preached for the Sixth Crusade, are displayed. Then eastward to Stonington, where the discoverer of Antarctica lived and where vastly out-gunned citizens fought off an attack by the British in the War of 1812.

I will not walk this 10-mile trail all in one day. This trip will involve daily treks back and forth from my home or car. My sidekick in this venture will be my faithful walking companion, my beagle/basset hound, Bailey— a true publicity hound who is already famous. He’s been featured in print and online newspapers, and in a commercial (he is the handsome dog to your left).

When I’m done covering my initial planned route, if I’m still not as thin and famous as my hound, I’ll lengthen the Seafarer’s Trail further west to the hidden tunnel at Fort Griswold in Groton, where traitor Benedict Arnold led British forces to victory during the burning of New London, and further east to include a beer tasting at the Cottrell Brewing Co. in Pawcatuck. Perhaps I will also walk north to the wineries buried in the countryside.

Why do I have all of this time to leisurely journey through Mystic Country? When Jim was transferred here last year from New York, I left a job that I loved in campus communication at a college and began working as a freelance publicist and writer, giving me ample, perhaps too ample, time to walk my hound down several side streets to delve into the back stories of the area. Seeing how much fun I’m having, many have asked me, “When are you going to get a real job?”

Good question—so I have set a deadline. If I’m not thin and famous by September, enough to be cast as an extra in the next major motion picture due to be filmed here (starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell), then I will focus my energies into getting a "real" job—and leave the uncovering of Mystic’s secrets to someone else!

Have any tips?

If you have tips on how to get thin and famous, or want to see a particular point of interest covered on my trail, please share them in "Comments" below. To read earlier attempts, some successful, at getting thin and famous (well, at least published), read earlier posts on my blog, “How to Get Thin and Famous” at: http://howtogetthinandfamous.blogspot.com/

###

I wrote the following for my book, "The Mystic Seafarer's Trail," but it will not be included when it's published. I'm putting here just so I don't have to feel sad about cutting it. There are some additonal details here:


 

I finally decided to stop waiting to find a friend with a sailboat and take matters into my own hands. I would have to think of my own stunt to get publicity.

I thought about the documentary Super Size Me, where a guy ate nothing but fast food for a month and gained more than 20 pounds. If I got fatter, would that make headlines? I doubted it. 

If being fat was what prevented me from getting featured (and therefore discovered) in that casino commercial, and why the Weather Channel did all it could video around me, then I needed to get serious about getting thin.

Learning  that “Hope Springs,” the Meryl Streep movie to be filmed in the Mystic area, would hold a casting call for extras soon (August 2011), I just had to get down to a weight I could declare on an application form. 

Perhaps I could kill two birds with one stone—lose weight and find an epic adventure by walking the entire Mystic Seafarers Trail I designed that ran between Stonington to Noank. In hopes of getting the world interested, I planned to blog along the way.  

 

Blog post:

August 3, 2011

Face it—famous people have an easier time getting their work published or promoting their cause. From where I sit on my couch watching TV and eating bon bons, most of those famous folks are thin.

After 50 years of dieting (I was a chubby kid too), I have to concede that my old classmate was right when she answered my question at a high school reunion on how she stayed so thin: “You can’t eat anything and you have to exercise all of the time.”

So, I’m about to launch my latest strategy for getting thin and famous. I will walk and write about my self-designed Mystic Seafarer’s Trail. It stretches between where Amelia Earhart got married in Noank, past Mystic Pizza, the haunts and homes of famous sea captains, and on toward Stonington, where the discoverer of Antarctica lived.

I will not walk this several-mile trail in one day. This trip will involve daily treks back and forth from my home or car. My sidekick in this venture will be my faithful walking companion, my beagle/basset hound, Bailey.

 

Blog Post:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bailey and I just trekked eight miles round trip to “The Hanging Gardens of Enders Island” on my quest to get thin and famous along the Mystic Seafarer’s Trail.

That part of the trail took me through Masons Island, where I heard Meryl Streep’s parents once lived. I had hoped Streep would happen to be there, spot us, and think we’d be perfect as extras in her upcoming film.

With a bottle of water, cell phone and wallet in my knapsack, Bailey and I left our house near the Mystic-Noank Library and headed toward downtown Mystic. Along the way, we passed the usual crowd getting photographed under the Mystic Pizza sign and crossed over the Mystic drawbridge to Mystic River Park, where we saw the usual lunch-time dog-walking gang sitting together on a park bench including the little, fluffy blind dog who got to the park by being pushed in a stroller by her mistress. 

Then Bailey pulled me toward Riverdog Kayak Rental, where a lazy greyhound, Jordon, sat in a tent at the end of Cottrell St with his owners who handed out doggy treats. After pampering Bailey, and hearing of my quest to get thin and famous along my route, Pete suggested: “Maybe you can get famous by getting lost and having a search and rescue team go out looking for you.”

I wasn’t that desperate to get famous, but it did remind me that another way to get known in Mystic was for Bailey to discover a body along the Seafarer’s Trail. We would be sure to look for one among the dock pilings along our route.

Heading up Washington St, we came to Bailey’s favorite Mystic store, the pet shop called Stonington Feeds. Co-owner Genevieve showed Bailey the latest in tasty snacks--bovine trachea.

Seeing the repulsed look on my face, Genevieve said, “Oh, don’t worry, we only sell organically fed bovine body parts.” That’s not exactly what was disgusting me as Bailey grabbed the very human-looking mummified trachea, which meant I knew I had to watch him chew it on my living room floor. As Genevieve continued the tour of other doggy treats including duck’s feet and cow hooves, Peaches, the store cockatoo, started screeching. Genevieve assured me nothing was wrong with him, he was just upset he wasn’t the center of attention at the moment. When Bailey caught sight of Genevieve’s old cat stretching lazily over a large bag of organic dog kibble, it was all I could do to hold him back from chasing her. Time to leave if I wanted to save my strength for the rest of our journey.

Heading north on Route 1, I came across the Denison Burying Ground, a family plot dating back to 1698. The Denisons were among the first settlers in the Mystic area in the mid-1600s. Always looking for an interesting dead person to meet, Bailey and I walked among the stones. Suddenly, I saw a headstone that possibly explains why so many places in the Mystic area are named after the Denisons—because there were so many Denisons! This grave marker told of Jane, the widow of Mr. George Denison, who died in 1829 -- “At the time of her death, her children and their descendants were 350.”

The Denison Homestead Museum in Mystic was built in 1717 and has been continuously owned for three centuries by the same family. I got a real sense of Mystic’s personal history when I saw the Revolutionary War cloak found in its attic hanging in the bedroom closet, and could imagine the wrath of little Annie B. Denison’s mother in 1873 when she discovered her daughter had etched her name on the lower level window pane with a diamond ring.

From the Denison Burying Ground where Bailey and I stood, I couldn’t help but see the roadside restaurant Sea Swirl, which overlooked Pequotsepos Cove. It was an awfully long walk to Enders Island. Bailey rested while I fortified myself with fried clam strips. Maybe I should shoot for getting “Fat and Famous” along the trail?

The two-mile trip south on Masons Island Road revealed no dead bodies unless you count how I almost became one. On three separate occasions, a dog was off leash and came charging toward us, and along several stretches, there was hardly any shoulder to walk on, making us a target for cars. I gave a panting Bailey all our water, leaving me a bit parched—it never occurred to me that I could perish from thirst along this route.

It was all worth it, however, when we got to Enders Island and St. Edmund’s Retreat Center. I visited the three-sided seaside chapel open to Fisher’s Island Sound, where the altar holds hand-written prayers of the worried or heartbroken. Some of the words to God were so personal and moving, I felt like I was standing on holy ground. I figured if the prayers were only folded in half with a sea shell holding them down, they were fair game for my eyes. I added my own prayers to those I read. If a prayer was tightly bound up, I didn’t open it. Eventually someone comes in and clears them off the altar to make room for new prayers. 

After rocking in a chair inside a gazebo overlooking the Sound with Bailey resting at my feet, it was time to go home.

People along the way back to our house felt sorry for Bailey and offered him water, but no one offered me any. Next time, I will buy that doggy fanny pack I saw at the Stonington Feeds Pet Shop--let Bailey carry his own water!

Since no one from the film crew of Meryl Streep’s movie, Hope Springs, sighted us and asked us to work as extras, I would just have to rely on making a good impression at the open casting call. It was only days away now, and yet, I had many pounds to go.

 

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Hounds of Mysticville

The dogs of Mystic add charm to our seaport—and my beagle/basset hound loves to add his to the mix. Every afternoon Bailey pulls me toward downtown Mystic hoping for pats from the tourists and treats from the usual shop keepers, such as Riverdog Kayak Rental owners, Suzanne and Pete, who sit under a tent on Cottrell Street with their kayaks and their lazy greyhound, Jordon.

Jordon, a former racer now serving as the Riverdog Kayak mascot, doesn’t mind sharing his treats with Bailey and the other dogs who stop by to say “Hello,” but he does draw the line at sharing his bed, which takes up half the tent. Although Jordon is only interested in meeting other greyhounds, such as Nick who was recently adopted by Patch blogger Nicole, he does at least understand Bailey, who is also a “rescued” dog—like many of the dogs trotting proudly beside their owners in Mystic.

My husband, Jim, and I are Bailey’s third owners. Our oldest daughter, Jackie, saw Bailey’s soulful, houndish face on Craiglist, and thought he was just the dog to cheer us. She spotted Bailey online mere hours after we had to put down our first family dog, Riley.

Jim and I had never considered owning any dog, especially since our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, was disabled and required a lot of care. Our saga into the dog world began as it does for most parents:
"Mom, can I have a dog?" Jackie asked when she wassix years old.

I cringed. The dreaded day was here - all kids inevitably ask for one. And why wouldn't they? Movie dogs like Lassie drag you from burning buildings and keep you warm when you're lost in a blizzard.

"No, you can't have a dog," I said, bracing myself for the age-old argument.

"Why not?" she demanded. "I promise I'll take care of it!"

Sure, I thought, knowing like all mothers that I'd be the one walking it in the pouring rain. "The truth is," I said, "we just can't risk a dog around your sister." Elizabeth, three at the time, was quadriplegic from cerebral palsy and I worried she would be unable to defend herself from a dog that might playfully nip at her.

Jackie's continued cries for a dog inspired a promise: "Jackie," I said, "I do want you to have a dog, but only if it'smeant to be. So...if God brings one to our door, then you can have it.” That was how I got my childhood beagle, Donald Dog—he just showed up at our door one day. If that happened again, I would call it “a sign” that the dog was meant to be for both Jackie and Elizabeth.

Six years and several dysfunctional, alternative pets later, Jackie hadn’t given up hope that a dog would show up at our door. At the age of 12, during Christmas vacation, she told us that if one ever did show up, she would name it Riley after the dog in the movie, "Homeward Bound II."

Unbelievably, a few weeks after this discussion, a big, brown female puppy, shivering cold, wet and dirty, tried to jump into our car as we were leaving the house to go out with friends. Although her condition and an aluminum dish in a nearby snow bank indicated she was probably a dumped, unwelcome Christmas present, I ran "found" ads, put up posters, and called the police. No luck—Jim and I would have to honor our pledge to Jackie.

Jackie wouldn't name the puppy Riley because she only knew male dogs by that name, so she called her Gabrielle--Gabby for short. Although Gabby was cute and friendly in public, at home, she was a terror. Not only did she urinate all over our new wall to wall carpets and chew on everything, she was a nipper. She playfully attacked all passing ankles and grabbed Elizabeth's feet dangling over the couch with her razor sharp teeth. I worried about Elizabeth’s safety constantly--yet how could I break my promise to Jackie? Perhaps she'd agree to upgrade the dog for an older, calmer one?

Moments after that solution occurred to me, Jackie started screaming from the laundry room, "Dad, get Gabby off me! She's attacking my feet again."

That's it. Without saying a word, I picked up the phone and dialed a local animal shelter. "Help! The puppy we took in a month ago is driving us crazy. Can you find her another home?"

"Puppies are easy; I can find her a home within a week."

"Do you have an older, calmer dog? I have a handicapped child, so I really must be certain."

"As a matter of fact, I have a big, fat, lazy male Lab-mix, who wants nothing more than to lie on a couch all day. He's not only a couch potato, he's the whole sack of potatoes!"

"Perfect! What's his name?"

"Riley."

"Riley! You're kidding me! Hold on to him. We'll be right in!"

Jackie felt sad on the trip to the shelter with Gabby on her lap, yet awed by the name of the dog we would be bringing home. "Mom, that's got to be a sign."

She was right. And it was a good sign. Not only did Gabby find a good home within the week, but I realized immediately that Riley was the perfect companion for both of our daughters.

As soon as he got settled into our house, I patted the couch next to Elizabeth, letting him know he was welcome to join her--and he did just that. Though they couldn't have been more different on the outside--he a 100-pound, black bear of a dog, and she a pale, 40 pounds--they had a lot in common. Like Elizabeth, Riley was considered a misfit because he couldn't do much. He didn't know how to fetch, play with a toy or chew on a rawhide, but he did know how to jump on the couch and keep Elizabeth warm without stepping on her. And Jackie finally had a dog to pet, hug, and take on hiking trips. It became my pleasure to walk our carpet-friendly couch potato--even in the pouring rain!

To see photos of my girls with their dog, Riley, and an excerpt of my memoir, Anything But a Dog!, which includes CMV (cytomegalovirus) prevention tips, visit my website at: www.authorlisasaunders.com

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reaching Out From Beyond the Grave?

When I moved here last summer, I assumed my husband and I had left all family behind in New York, including the grave of our little daughter, Elizabeth. But some very bizarre trips back in time uncovered quite the opposite.


I first became intrigued by Mystic’s dead while researching the “back stories” for my article, "The 7 Wonders of Mystic.” Deciding that the Memorial Arch of Elm Grove Cemetery was a “Wonder,” I drove past the markers of the 13,000 souls buried there, many on the “Who’s Who” list of 19th century ship builders and sea captains, and looked for one to highlight. I became intrigued by a tall obelisk along the Mystic River depicting the steamship, City of Waco. The grave marker tells how Captain Thomas E. Wolfe died piloting her when it caught fire off the port of Galveston in 1875. Articles in the New York Times gave an account of Wolfe’s command of a vessel during the Civil War that transported supplies from New York to New Orleans until his capture by the Confederate navy. His boat burned, he was taken prisoner, but made a daring escape with some companions over a year later. After the war, he became a pilot for the State of Texas until his steamship exploded in flames and sank, killing all on board. His body was recovered and shipped back to Mystic.


With “The 7 Wonders” article finished, and a vote for the 8th Wonder conducted by Patch, I was curious to learn about the potential “Wonders” suggested by the public. I began by purchasing a copy of the Mystic River Historical Society’s walking tour booklet, Curbstones, Clapboards and Cupolas. Reading about the historic homes and former residents of West Mystic Avenue, which now extends to Allyn St. where I live, I was intrigued when I read, "Contractor Allyn built #12 for his brother-in-law (who could not make payments). Captain Charles Sisson bought the house in 1858 after an unsuccessful search for gold in California.” Could that Sisson be a long-ago relative of mine?

I contacted David Sisson, my cousin who has done extensive research on the Sisson line. Yes, Captain Charles Sisson was my cousin--and he had lived only 10 houses down from me! Captain Charles Sisson and I are fourth cousins five times removed, both descending from Thomas and Jane (Freeman) Sisson.


Not only were we cousins, which was enough to thrill me, but after his wife Ann died at sea in 1876, he married the widow of Captain Thomas E. Wolfe—the Civil War hero in my "Wonders” article! It turns out that Charles and Captain Wolfe were boyhood friends who searched for the California gold together—and married sisters! I couldn’t wait to visit the graves of Captain Charles Sisson and his first wife Ann at nearby Lower Mystic Cemetery, because I wouldn’t just be visiting interesting people, I’d be visiting family.


Their grave markers were not difficult to find in this small cemetery on Route 1. Charles’s tall stone, engraved with a sailing ship, declares: “The voyage is ended.” Ann’s marker is similar, but was placed in memory of her because she was buried at sea—with the stone giving the coordinates. When I saw a small grave marker nearby, I felt this must be the reason I was led here. On it was the name of their 10-month-old daughter. Engraved with “Our Little Ida,” I felt I was given a place to grieve for my own daughter, whose marker is engraved, “Our Little Girl.”


Taking my husband, Jim, there the following weekend, I thought I was going to show him where I had some dead relatives. Standing in front of their markers, we saw another couple walking around looking at stones. “Excuse me,” the man yelled over to us, “Would you happen to know if there are any Sissons buried here?”


Stunned, I yelled back, “Yes there are—and we're standing in front of them! I’m related to them!”


The man replied, “My name is Matthew Sisson.” A captain in the Coast Guard, Matthew told me he wasn’t sure if he was related to Captain Charles Sisson, but he couldn’t wait for me to find out. He mentioned that his Sisson family was coming from as far away as California to attend his upcoming Change of Command Ceremony in June. He just happened to stop at this little cemetery on the off-chance he would find some Sissons there.


Another flurry of e-mails to my cousin David Sisson revealed that Captain Matthew J.Sisson and I are distant cousins too!*


On Thursday, June 23, I went to Matthew’s Change of Command Ceremony at Fort Trumbull State Park in New London—and met a lot more cousins!


End Note:
If Captain Charles Sisson is still working from beyond the grave to reveal more Mystic secrets, such as that he and his friend Captain Wolfe did find gold in California, buried it somewhere, and want me to know where it is, I plan to look for clues at the Collections Research Center at Mystic Seaport, where Sisson's captain’s logs are reportedly stored among other important documents. Perhaps I will find out more about Captains Sisson's and Wolfe's treacherous trip back from California, which claimed the life of their third companion (who is buried near Captain Sisson). I will also look further into the circumstances of Wolfe's death in the steamship explosion because the inquest included some disturbing eye-witness accounts.

Another cousin of mine, genealogist Carol Sisson Regehr, was given Captain Sisson's family bible from Col. John Sisson, who received it as a gift from a friend who found it in a resale shop. Carol then donated the bible to the Mystic Seaport Museum. Through that and the captain's logs I hope to find out why Sisson's first wife, Ann, died at sea at the age of 45 on the ship, Jeremiah Thompson.

Captain Charles Sisson’s home on 12 West Mystic Ave, Mystic, which looks very much the same today, can be seen at: http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~dasisson/richard/images/7dda06.jpg

The information available on the Ancestry.com site (which includes a photo of Captain Sisson’s Bible) at http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~dasisson/richard/aqwg114.htm#32218,
states: “Charles was shipmaster of the Bridgewater, Jeremiah Thompson, and Thomas Dana… Charles married (1) Ann E. SAWYER...She died 12 May 1876 at sea on ship "Jeremiah Thompson.”
According to the Mystic River Historical Society’s walking tour booklet, Curbstones, Clapboards and Cupolas, Sisson "commanded the clipper ships Elizabeth F. Willetts and Mary Sutton." Eight volumes of his journals from 1863-1882 are said to be in the G. W. Blunt White Library at the Mystic Seaport Museum. 
Attention Sisson family members and/or descendents: To learn more about Sisson genealogy, visit:http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~dasisson/, where you can do family searches, learn about current genealogy projects, and the next bi-annual Sisson Gathering in Albany, NY, in 2012 (the purpose of these gatherings is to learn about ongoing Sisson research in the U.S. and England). To participate in Sisson-related conversions, join the Sisson listserve by registering at: http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~dasisson/research.htm

*My cousin David Sisson said that Matthew Sisson and I share ancestry back to Richard and Mary Sisson, an immigrant couple who were in Rhode Island (and later Plymouth Colony) by 1650. I descend from Richard and Mary's oldest son George, and Matthew Sisson descends from their son James.

Captain Charles Sisson and I are fourth cousins five times removed, both descending from Thomas and Jane (Freeman) Sisson.

Monday, June 20, 2011

How to Get Cast in a Mystic Film

Didn't get a part as an extra in the movie, Mystic Pizza, staring Julia Roberts? Weren’t asked to be a zombie in the recent movie filmed at the Ramada Hotel--despite strolling back and forth in front of the hotel hoping the director would say, “Now there goes a real zombie?”

Don't despair, there are ways of getting into the upcoming movies rumored to be shot here next--or at least to be considered for a part as an extra in a commercial.

Just as I was pondering how I, a plump 50-year-old freelance writer, could get a small role in a film, I received an e-mail from my new friend Kristin of Mystv Studios, the local production company that makes commercials and the travel show, "Mystic Coast Connection," which plays continuously in 4,000 area hotels (their website states: "Get in Bed with Your Customers”).

Anyway, Kristin’s e-mail that may have launched me from obscurity, said, "I was wondering if you'd be interested in helping out on a commercial shoot on June 14 at the Newport Grand Casino. You and I would be PAs, so we’ll be fetching and holding light screens, checking off the shot list, and various other unglamorous things. It might be fun and I know it would be more fun for me if you were there!”

 

I had no idea what a PA was, and was only being asked because I might be “fun,” but I certainly wasn’t going to reject this chance to squeeze my image somewhere into this film!

Scheming how I could go from PA to film star (or at least film “extra”), I watched taped reruns of “I Love Lucy” to study Lucy's sneaky antics that landed her small roles in Ricky’s shows. Having a terrible sense of style, I wondered what I should wear to catch the director’s eye (my husband, Jim, usually arranges my outfit when I need to look decent). Just as I was e-mailing Jim to remind him to lay out something appropriate, I received another e-mail from Kristin: "You might be asked to be 'peanuts,' meaning filler for the commercial, so make sure your husband dresses you." There was hope I’d get in this commercial—and without any devious plotting!

On Tuesday morning, the day of the shoot, I began learning a whole new industry (such as P.A. means Production Assistant) —and that almost anyone can get into a film as an extra (or a “peanut”)—even me! And if a person has some talent, they can get paying roles as a “principal” or a “secondary” in practical films such as training videos (one actress at the shoot was using her down time to practice a five-page monologue for her upcoming role as an organ transplant recipient in an educational film).

I was told just before the shoot that a “grip” had been hired, so I wouldn’t be needed to hold and carry film equipment. Still wanting to look important, I brought my own clipboard—and it worked! Looking like a person in authority, the actors came to me with important questions that ranged from “Where is the bathroom?” to “Do you think my scene will be shot soon?” One woman, an extra, wanted to leave for a while so she could hang out in the smoking area. I reminded her that the slot machine scene, which required extras, was scheduled soon, but she replied, “Someone else told me it wouldn’t be for an hour or so.” Sure enough, right after she left, I got word it was time for the extras to leave for their scene. I offered to fill her spot (it’s a dog eat dog world out there), but was told I was needed where I was.

How was I was ever going to get my chance to play an extra? I told the cameraman and the directors more than once that I was willing to fill out a scene. No response. Kristin told me not to despair—they might still need me to heap food on my plate in the buffet scene or to dance in the nightclub scene. Since I didn’t want to admit I was a terrible, uncoordinated dancer just in case that was my only shot, I stressed that I was very good at eating—that I would be just perfect for the buffet scene. Not to brag, but I did win first place in a New Jersey pie eating contest—twice!

I was not requested for the buffet scene, but was asked to laugh in the comedy club scene (the camera man neglected to film us when the director elicited genuine laughter with a joke--so we had to laugh afterwards on the count of three). Despite my reservations, I was also needed on the dance floor of the nightclub scene. But I'm not sure you’ll see much of me in this commercial, which is due to be aired during the T.V. show, Wheel of Fortune, and several other places, because I was told by the director, “Now you dance in the back—look as though you are still trying to ‘find your way.’”

I guess that’s true—I am still trying to find “my way” to get into “the act,” but I did learn some valuable tips from the other actors, whose backgrounds included full-time acting professionals, a tradesman trying to earn a little extra money, casino goers who received an e-mail about the upcoming commercial, and retired individuals who read the audition notice in their local paper.

To learn about upcoming auditions in the Mystic area, read local online and print newspapers and sign up to receive audition notices by clicking the "Like" button on the Mystv Studios’ Facebook page and by registering with talent agencies, such as New England Actors.

If you audition for a part, bring a headshot and a resume.

What to wear if you just show up at a shoot: If you haven’t been told what to wear, a costume designer out of New York, Terry Thiry, suggests that women wear “a plain, neutral dress and bring accessories—a couple pairs of shoes, scarf, jewelry, jacket, and sunglasses. For a man, a pair of pants, button down shirt, dressier casual shirt (like a polo shirt), jacket, tie, and sunglasses.”

Good luck!

Lisa Saunders

P.S. The casino commercial is out! If you watch it several times, you might see me dancing in the background wearing a print skirt and a solid shirt. Will I be plucked from obscurity? If you like a challenge, see if you can find me at: http://www.youtube.com/user/mystvstudios#p/search/0/IXGNM47AmvI


P.S.S. If you would like to see my other "How To" advice, which ranges from "How To Get a Job" to "How to Promote Your Business," visit my "How To" Workshops blog at: http://howtoworkshops.blogspot.com/

Monday, June 13, 2011

How to Boat "Mystic Style"



by Lisa Saunders

I have never been accused of having style. But I do know how to get on a boat—especially since moving to Mystic. But I never bring the right accessories! Knowing what to wear and bring takes experience. Having been a landlubber until recently, I’m learning the hard way.

My first boat ride in Mystic was on the Sabino, the last wooden coal-fired steamboat still in operation (you can actually watch the coal being shoveled into the furnace the entire trip). It was a cool, breezy day and the ride wasn't too long—so there really wasn’t anything I needed to bring to feel comfortable.

My second trip on the Sabino, however, was a 90-minute evening excursion on a Saturday night with my husband, Jim. This time, I realized I should have brought a full-fledged picnic to enjoy the trip Mystic-style. I looked on in envy as passengers took out bottles of wine, plastic cups, cheese, crackers, and all sorts of delights from their wicker baskets. And there sat Jim and I, with a lousy jar of almonds and some bottled water we pulled from our ratty, old knapsack.

The following March, we took a seal watch cruise from the University of Connecticut's Avery Point Campus in Groton with Project Oceanology (we spotted about 200 seals lying on rocks in Fisher's Island Sound). This time, Jim and I were wet and cold because we disregarded the warning that we might get soaked if we rode on the bow of the re-outfitted offshore lobster boat. At least my feet stayed dry because I wore my thick, water-proof shoes, but poor Jim wore his leather ones (making me think of the stow-a-way sailor on Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic expedition who had his toes amputated because he only had leather boots to wear).

In May, when we booked an evening sail on the schooner, Argia, I vowed things would be different. We would dress properly and bring some elegant snacks and drinks to enjoy. This time, we packed a bottle of wine along with our almonds and bottled water in our old knapsack. We even remembered to bring pretty, blue plastic cups in keeping with the color of the waters we were about to sail.

Well, I knew right away we underpacked when I saw a party of six adults pull out real wine glasses with their bottles of wine. Suddenly, my blue plastic cups seemed so cheesy—so inadequate on this tall, seaworthy sailboat. And when the adults broke out a tray of shrimp cocktail from their large, Mary Poppins-style picnic bag, that was too much. I tried to make friends with them so they’d share their shrimp with me, but they didn't warm up to my advances. Another family with young children also had the better of us. I couldn’t help being envious when they lifted one cheesy pizza slice after another from their Mystic Pizza take-out boxes. They didn't share with us either. Thankfully, the Argia provided cheese and crackers and fruit, so I ate a lot of that, loudly declaring things like, “Yummy!” so the others would think I preferred the Argia’s food to theirs.

My other mistake was that I was underdressed—it got very cold that foggy evening on the Mystic River and the Sound. The Argia did, however, provide blankets. The males on the voyage were too macho to wrap one around themselves, so they shivered like real men or went below decks.

Last weekend, we took another boat ride down the Mystic River—but this time, on a much smaller boat. Operated by Mystic River Tours, we felt completely pampered lounging on their 21-foot electric launch, complete with cup holders and comfy, padded benches. Since it would only be a 40-minute trip, I didn’t pack anything, especially since there was a canopy to keep the rain off. I didn’t even miss having shrimp cocktail because Captain Rick Nestler kept us thoroughly entertained with stories of life along the River, such as why Fort Rachel of the War of 1812 was named after Rachel (it was rumored she provided comfort to the men in more ways than one). This boat can be found at Steamboat Wharf, next to the Mystic River Drawbridge.

Most of my boating time now will be spent on my friend Cindy’s extra kayak. I had always wanted a friend with a boat—but had envisioned the kind where I wouldn’t have to do anything except sit and enjoy the view. At least there is little to pack in preparation for our paddling trips because there simply isn’t room. Since my visor tends to blow off my head when kayaking the Mystic River, I doubt I will even bother packing that anymore.

More info on the boats I’ve ridden:

Argia: 860-536-0416

Cindy’s Kayak: You will have to get to know Cindy in order for her to invite you, but there are places in Mystic where you can rent a kayak, such as Riverdog Kayak Rental. To learn how to launch yourself in a kayak, Cindy teaches you how in my video of  her at: http://www.youtube.com/user/LisaSaundersCom?feature=mhee#p/u/5/oQDOq9eiLsw

Project Oceanology: (860) 445-9007, (800) 364-8472.There was a Patch.com reporter on our seal watch trip, so if you want to see some cold, salty spray, seals, and the back of Jim's head, watch this: http://montville-ct.patch.com/articles/project-oceanology-seal-cruise-with-video-3#video-5155164

Riverdog Kayak Rental at Seaport Marine: 860-333-3198 (Co-owner, Suzanne Simpson, says she and her husband named their business after their sleepy greyhound you'll see with them under their tent. They offer my dog, Bailey, a treat when we stroll by. Maybe they'll give your dog one too!)

Sabino: 860.572.5351