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June 14, 2006

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                     ROWAYTON, CONNECTICUT
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Greetings from the United States! Last week we left off from Down Under (hereís the link to the archives). This week we travel to Connecticut for my favorite weekend of the year. After all the festivities there, we take a short train ride into New York City to visit friends. We also hop on a new helicopter service that takes American Airlines passengers inside the JFK gates -- making the trip to the airport ever so easy. If you want to come for the ride pack your shorts and your red-white-and-blue clothes, because weíre off on an East Coast holiday weekend.

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND
I grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut. After relocating to Southern California for college, I never moved back. However, I visited often Ė especially when my mom was sick for 3 years in the late 90ís. Back then, I visited every 10 days. A couple of years after my mom passed away, my father sold our house and moved to western Pennsylvania. My visits to Connecticut diminished. I returned every few months to see other family members and friends. Now that Iíve been traveling overseas a lot, Iíve learned the best cure for "homesickness" is to return to your roots. I hadnít been back in over two months, and I hadnít seen my father since February -- way too long an absence. We all agreed to meet over Memorial Day weekend. Thatís my favorite weekend of the year -- and not just because my birthday (May 31) often occurs during it. People who grew up on the East Coast or in the Midwest probably have the same feelings I do. Thatís because Memorial Day weekend is the (unofficial) first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Itís the time of year when the weather is finally warm, the landscape is full of color, the beaches are open, boats are put in the water and everyone is in a great mood, walking around in summer clothes.

ROWAYTON, CONNECTICUT
Many of my friends and family live in a section of Norwalk called Rowayton. Anyone with ties to Rowayton knows there is no better time of year to come back than Memorial Day. Besides all the reasons listed above, this is the weekend everyone who grew up here adopted as homecoming. Natives travel from all over to make it back for this one special weekend, which kicks off with a Martini Party on East Beach. The weekend is filled with countless barbecues and soirees.

PAYING TRIBUTE
The granddaddy of all the parties -- the Memorial Day Parade -- begins at high noon on Sunday. The parade is small Ė it lasts maybe 20 minutes -- but itís special. The best part is that practically everyone knows everyone who marches. Marchers range from the Rowayton Fire Department to the nationally renowned Brien McMahon High School band (theyíve performed at huge venues like the Rose Bowl and Yankee Stadium). After the parade, an emotional ceremony takes place at the cannon. Everyone takes their hats off, puts their hands on their chests and pays tribute to our fallen soldiers, as well as those guarding our freedom right now. If the playing of "Taps" doesnít give you goose bumps, I donít know what will. After a timely flyby by the Air Force, everyone walks over to the firehouse for free hot dogs and soda.

STICK BALL
After filling our bellies, my friends and I head to the field where we play our annual stickball game. Growing up, we played every day in the summer. Now, this is the only time we play all year. The field felt so much more special when it was perfectly lined with huge full oak trees. But the trees are slowly disappearing (kind of like my hair), and the field has been turned into a dog park. Nonetheless this is still the highlight, as the old-timers take on the young guns. Of course, weíre not that young and the old-timers arenít that old. Just a few years separate the teams. We young guns won by one run. Thatís enough for bragging rights for the rest of the year (usually done by email). After the parade itís off to another fun party, where everyone plays softball and eats more food.

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE
By the time Monday rolls around, the town is all partied out. Itís time to relax on Bayley Beach and say goodbye to all the locals. (On weekends non-residents pay $20 to park Ė most beaches in Connecticut are private). My dad and his wife Nancy accompanied me into New York City. We walked around Central Park, grabbed a slice of pizza (thereís nothing like New York pizza, is there?) and took a taxi to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (near Wall Street).

SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
A good time to visit Rowayton this year is between June 15 and July 2, when Shakespeare on the Sound puts on "Macbeth" at Pinkney Park. Every summer they stage a free production (suggested donation: $15). Get there early, grab a spot on the sloping lawn, and enjoy some theatre. For more information, click here.

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Pictures From

The Trip

 

An Egret

 

Golfing With My Family

 

My Brother Frank and Cricket

 

My Old Neighbors

 

Friends From H.S.

 

Dad & Nancy

 

What The Day Is Really About

 

Stickball

 

Bayley Beach

 

Central Park

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