Once again, I was given the opportunity to man a booth, and this time it was for the World Baseball & Softball Coaches’ Convention being held in the podunk of Uncasville, CT. There isn’t a great deal going on in the area, but the show was being held at the impressive Mohegan Sun Casino. I would have volunteered to go anywhere the company asked, but this one genuinely seemed like it would be a good trip. The show ran Thursday to Saturday, leaving the door open for an extra day of exploration on Sunday.
I arrived into Hartford on Thursday morning, and took a rental car to the casino. The small towns and old homes I was passing though had a distinctly New England charm to them, though the casino was anything but quaint. After parking up, I had a long walk through the various gambling floors and past all the shops before I could get checked in and off to set up the exhibition space. We were upgraded to a booth twice the expected size.
There were a few hours that first evening spent chatting with attendees, and then it was time to stroll around the casino and grab dinner with Aaron and Amy, a distributor doing the show with me, along with his wife. None of us were big gamblers so we just watched table games for a while. They were eventually bit by the bug and decided to make a sacrifice to the penny slots. For dinner we went to Michael Jordan’s 23.Sportscafe, where I got a delicious burger, and the beer that I frankly deserved. One of my early impressions of the Mohegan was that it was a sort of geriatric Disneyland. There were plenty of old, overweight folks scootering about on their Hoverounds, parking up at slot machines, and then spending hours dumping their children’s inheritance down the toilet. This certainly wasn’t the same crowd as Vegas…
All Friday was spent at the booth. We talked to lots of people, and it was a good investment, but I’ll just skip to where we patrol the tables. Our game that night was Roulette, and my mind was filled with fantasies of undeserved riches, and what I would be doing with them. Reality came quickly though as I failed to hit on both spins, leaving me out 20 dollars. Oh, for shame. My companions got in next and walked away with 100 dollars between them…I guess I was doing something wrong?
We took a stroll into the high stakes section to see the real ballers, and were not disappointed. I watched a gentleman drop 5K on the Roulette table…and lose it all. These were tough moments, but in the next turn he hit it huge and took in some 15K. For every spin he had thousands and thousands out on the board. It seems crazy, but unbeknownst to me was whether that amount is peanuts to him, or if he does in fact have a serious problem. It was entertaining either way. I thought that they pulled off the Native American decor in a modern and uncheesy way.
The show was great and spawned numerous leads, but by Saturday afternoon I was pretty ready to get myself out of there. Fortunately I had a rental car and an extra day to play with, so my first stop was the quaint seaport of Mystic. I arrived as shadows were drawing long but with enough twilight left to check out some shops and take a few pictures. With a bit of time on hand, I hunkered down at Bartleby’s to enjoy some ‘Fine Coffees & Teas’, and also a muffin. My phone’s camera is rubbish but something so photogenic doesn’t take much to capture well. This place was exactly what I would have expected from New England.
The next stage of my weekend involved a night spent in New Haven with a Couchsurfing host. The thought was that if I had to come all the way out to CT, I may as well add a little something more to round out my experience. From Mystic I had to burn three hours before meeting my host, so I took the slower, meandering Route 1 and hugged the shoreline as closely as possible. It was of course dark, but I could still appreciate the coastline.
Based on his online profile I knew that my host had an interest in bourbon, but I was actually blown away by his passion for it. Not only could he talk in detail about the different flavors and production methods, but he had a collection that impressed on a basis of both quantity and quality. Many of these bottles ran in the hundreds of dollars, with the Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year worth something over 1000.
A buddy of his was celebrating a birthday, so after tippling a bourbon we set out to meet some people at Karaoke Heros. As the name suggested, this bar involved public display of song, and was actually packed out. I left the singing to the pros though since Japan has left me most comfortable singing in a box. After a bit the lights came up, the taps ran dry, and people were heading home. My host however insisted on some aerial maneuvers. You can see that I wasn’t completely sold on the idea, but his sound reasoning must have won me over in the end.
The next day he cooked up a solid breakfast before we set out to stroll the Yale campus in the rain. New Haven was America’s first city to feature urban planning, and the university sat squarely on a few of the city blocks. All of the stone buildings really gave it that Ivy League feel. We made a stop at the Yale art museum, which was free, and featured an impressive collection. There were some Picassos, Reubens, and Rothkos, among many others.
My last stop of the trip was to an establishment with the creatively generic name of ‘BAR’, which is known for their pizza. We met a friend of his there and split a ‘medium’ mashed potato and bacon pizza. It was cooked in a stone oven and then brought out to us on a large baking sheet. The enormous size meant they can’t even place it on the table, but instead set up a sort of luggage stand next to it. This was a new flavor combination, but I was told that it’s the crowd favorite. I approved. From there I packed up and made the drive back to the airport. This extra night in New Haven was great, and helped to make my first visit to the state a memorable one.