Valerie Pavilonis

Guilford, Connecticut would seem more natural inside of a snow globe than on the coast of the Nutmeg State. But on the coast it lies, a charming analogue to New Haven with its central green and ring of churches. When my Jovial Companion (JC) and I hopped off the CT Rail and walked the half-mile to central Guilford, we thought the town looked more like a dollhouse than an actual hamlet – the white siding seemed too white, the people too coiffed, the children too well-mannered and lacking any dirt on their knees. On top of this, Palm Sunday Mass had deposited hundreds of churchgoers onto the smooth pavement, and churchgoers wafted past us, languidly waving their palms while we watched with bemused fascination.

Unable to waft, probably due to the guilt from our unfinished schoolwork or maybe a general malaise, JC and I promptly exited the central green and entered “Deli U,” which JC, a seasoned traveler who had already experienced many of Guilford’s delights in past weekends, assured me sold the best sandwiches in Connecticut. We ordered the I-95 and the Wrecker, and we sat on an awkwardly placed bench and discussed the possibility of buying a boat.

I’m 19-years-old and I do not have a driver’s license. This isn’t to say that I don’t know how to drive; it’s more that I’ve never felt particularly inclined to spend the requisite time and money on the legal documentation to drive a car that I do not own. I’m a year into college, Zipcar is at the forefront of the ride-sharing economy, and I still don’t see myself rushing to the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles. Among other things, a driver’s license seems to hold its permittees back from the less conventional, more soul-stimulating modes of transportation.

As a car-owning midwesterner, boats, in one of our minds, usually exist for leisure or industry, never for transportation unless the boat is a barge moving down Chicago’s dank and utterly poisonous Calumet-Sag Canal. But after discussing the matter with JC, we came to an agreement, in which we would purchase a boat from a yet-to-be-determined Craigslist citizen and, once the boat was seaworthy, sail the boat to the Hamptons.

A boat, like some of the most be-all-to-end-all tropes of life, is one of those things you buy when you have either no money or a lot of money; confident as to which end of that spectrum we find ourselves, we’d be idiots not to do it?

The Hamptons, to one of us, were sort of like Canada Goose when we first arrived at Yale last August. I’d been vaguely aware of the brand’s existence, but the topic avoided my radar until about November, when these little red patches started popping up on sleeves. I assumed they were part of a club, but erroneously so. Such was my experience with the Hamptons – I had assumed they were near Fiji or someplace similar, but when JC said “Hamptons” and I said “what,” I Googled. And found that the Hamptons actually wouldn’t be too bad a drive with a seaworthy vessel and a moderately powerful outboard motor.

When we buy the boat, we’ll definitely have to buy another mode of transport on Craigslist first, to transport the boat. I can’t stop thinking of what the kind merchant who sells us this boat will be thinking as we drag it off their lot on a commercial forklift, retrofitted lawnmower, or conestoga wagon. It won’t be a laughing all the way to the bank, even if the boat is a nautical lemon. They’ll take a long gaze at its new custodians and wonder what we were thinking. It would be ridiculous of us to assume that just anyone and everyone would be hip to the vision.

Why a boat? Why not? Why would we pay for a one-time use train ticket or rent a Zipcar when we could buy a boat and keep it, clean it, and name it the SS Britton O’Daly? Sure, we could buy our own cars after we graduate, but by then the novelty of “The Hamptons” might fade, and we’d be left with limp dreams clutched in a tired fist. As time goes on, our justification for the “free weekend,” grows weaker and weaker – we should always be working, and when we are not working, we should be planning my future, learning a language, drawing our outline in straight, rigid lines.

I think we’ll keep it in a frat garage. Frats don’t need a garage. I bet one of us will have to get a Zipcar membership so that we could hitch the boat onto a Toyota Camry or whatever they have and shuttle it to the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club in Branford.

Our spending adventures are not limited to motor vehicles or modes of transportation, and with summer’s inevitable demand for lighter clothing, we sought out the slightly-used and good-as-new allure of the local thrift shop. “Hole in the Wall” consignments is just that – a hole in the wall. A spacious one, for sure, a lone figure in a sea of slate-grey concrete that directly abuts Guilford’s main street. It’s where people’s antiques go when they themselves go — there’s tea sets that were almost certainly owned by someone named Betty or Helen, and clumps of Chaps clothing sprung from the hangers. We look good in stripes, yes, but wearing Chaps-brand shirts requires the utmost attention to fashion; one wrong move, and you age 80 years and start talking about the War. There are extra long champagne flutes and 50-cent copies of Eat, Pray, Love. Here, the book’s title is taken seriously. It compartmentalizes the best of Guilford into an afternoon checklist. We imagine ourselves on the cover, clenching a “wrecker.”

My friend is explaining to me that there’s a YouTube video on how to register a boat in Liberia to evade taxes — everyone does it. He knows a lot about boats. I didn’t know you could tax boats.

JC uncovered one of those extra vintage suitcases designed for a 20th century definition of “carry on.” It was perfectly boxy. “It’s like a fish tank with a handle,” JC exclaimed. The green on green on green of the vinyl exterior complemented the emerald satin lining of the interior like a well-upholstered chair. JC FaceTimed a third party to confirm that the furniture-like suitcase was worth his $24. “I’ll take it,” he declared to the cashier, who shared a reflection on the suitcases of the day. She looked proud to pass it on.

Why take the Metro-North for $17 in and two hours when you can sail to Manhattan in six hours for an indeterminate amount of gas money and licence to say AHOY to yourself upon arrival?

But time goes on, and New Haveners, even temporary ones, must return to New Haven. We went back the way we came, delightfully encumbered by our new possessions, back to the train station that very acutely lacks a ticket machine. It was this machine’s absence that caused a small interval of panic — while I had the last two week’s wages stocked into my bank card, the good conductors of the CT Rail would only accept cash, and I found only pennies when I scraped the bottom of my backpack. The $4.25 was suddenly insurmountable — and though JC had the goodness to chip in for my share, I was a dollar short.

But while the people surrounding us at the stop were almost certainly New Yorkers, perhaps the charm of Guilford rubbed off on them, and when JC entreated them for a dollar, they dutifully handed one over. They giggled a bit, inspired by our adventure, or perhaps the disconnect between our wavelengths.

Returning to New Haven was rather like flying from Alaska to Tampa Bay and feeling the wall of humid heat smack you in the face as you exit the airport. Guilford is New Haven in low-power mode — there is no rushing people to remind you that you, too, ought to run instead of walk. It’s become commonplace to dream of “getting off the grid,” traveling far into the woods to disconnect from technology, from the buzzing that makes our brains beep and twitch.

But hiking boots are unnecessary. No, my Adidas fared just fine on the smooth asphalt of Guilford, and though I checked my email several times throughout the day, the messages seemed grayer, softer, their power reduced by the small separation between Yale and myself. And though I willingly threw myself back into the frenzy that evening, I recall that taking a breath in Guilford was something so incredibly light. Breathe in, and your lungs fully inflate, unhindered by city fumes. Breathe out, and the anxiety that has twisted your nerves in its thorny grip relaxes, never disappearing, but fading ever so slightly.

Maybe breathing in the salty sea air, Manhattan in the distance, will have the same effect.

Valerie Pavilonis | valerie.pavilonis@yale.edu .

John Besche | john.besche@yale.edu .