Brendon Kearns

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Month: October 2013

Winter is coming

Posted by Katie

We’re just over halfway through our time in the US – 37 days till we leave for Thailand – so things are getting a little more hectic as we try to make the most of our last weekends. It’s really starting to cool down now, though the locals ominously insist that this is ‘nothing’ and I should ‘wait till it really gets cold’. All the dead leaves are falling off the trees and blanketing the lawns of Connecticut, much to the dismay of all the homeowners, who are out there fighting a losing battle with their leaf-blowers every other day. Brendon and his bro have been doing their bit too, not that you can tell after the next gust of wind hits.

We’ve been going for some little hikes around Columbia. Brendon’s dad told us about the Connecticut Airline State Park Trail, which was originally part of a high-speed railway line from NY to Boston built in the late-1800s. The rail line ended up going under in the ’50s and now the rail corridor has been turned into a hiking trail through the woods. There are some viaducts there (now buried under sand used to strengthen the structures) that I still want to investigate, but we made a start on part of the trail a few weeks ago.

IMG_3661 We climbed down to Tenmile River and followed it along. Brendon used to go fishing and exploring around here as a kid – a little more scenic than the stormwater drains I loved to roam through.

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After a while we found the entrance to the airline trail and spent about an hour checking out the tall trees and surrounding farms.

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When Brendon’s mum Linda was a kid she spent most of her summers staying with family in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The foliage up that way is also supposed to be some of the prettiest in the country so, at the start of October, she, Brendon, Brendon’s bro Dillon and I drove up there. We stopped off at the Kittery Outlet stores in Maine and stocked up on cheap clothing and sneakers, then grabbed lunch at Bob’s Clam Hut (est. 1956).

IMG_3707Next we drove to Portsmouth and visited Linda’s cousin Nancy and her husband, John, who live in a beautiful old house that used to belong to Linda’s and Nancy’s grandma. Afterwards we went out for the best dinner at The Rosa, where I got hooked on vodka sauce, and hit up a few local bars – The Rusty Hammer (where I tried my first and last ‘black velvet’ – Guinness mixed with cider – why?) and The Portsmouth Brewery (where the craft beer nerds among us nerded out) before finishing the night with a few more pints at The British Beer Company, where there is a full-sized stuffed African lion over the bar. Portsmouth was a really cool town – by the time we left we were all ready to move there, and we’ll be going back for another visit before we leave.

The next morning I fought a crippling hangover as we bundled into the car at 8am (Kearnses are morning people) and went to check out some places Linda used to hang out as a kid. It was a cool, overcast day and the holiday season had finished a few weeks ago so the beaches and streets were surreal and deserted.

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We met up with some more of Linda’s cousins for lunch in Newburyport and then drove out to their awesome farmhouse where we got to see their horse, kittens and a crazy pheasant that they’d had stuffed after it flew through the window pane on some kind of death trip. Afterwards we climbed back into the car and I slept through all the scenic foliage we passed on the way home. Damn British Beer Company!

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The following morning we went to visit Brendon’s friend Ben in Troy, New York State. We got a ride there with Ben’s sister Emily and her boyfriend Mike, and spent the car trip talking mushroom-picking and dark n stormys, topics close to all our hearts. Ben was turning 30 so the plan was to hike up a mountain and camp out for the night. Brendon and I (mostly Brendon) lugged two massive 80s-style sleeping bags, about 30 beers, some vege sausages and snacks up the mountain in the rain for about 3 hours.

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Finally we reached the summit and settled down to camp. This was the view from the top.

I was a little alarmed when someone commented that there was bear shit next to the spot they’d chosen to set their tent up, but I tried to stay cool. A few Rolling Rocks helped. The most seasoned camper among us managed to get a fire going and we built a makeshift shelter out of a tarp and a stick, threw some snags on the barbie, cracked the beers, put on Snow’s Pandora station and had a great night.

The next morning we rolled out of our tents and packed up for the long walk back. Ben suggested we take the shorter route, which turned out to be a ski slope, back down the mountain so everyone packed up and headed off.

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IMG_3807We could see the road waaaay off in the distance as we slid, staggered and fell down the almost-vertical mountainside.

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About halfway down the skies cleared and we got an amazing view of the autumn leaves.

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An hour-and-a-half later, arses and shoes covered in mud, we made it to the road and headed to the Country View Diner for Bloody Marys and greasy diner food. Before heading home we stopped off at Ben’s place, which overlooks the Hudson River, and watched bald eagles landing in the trees across the river as we warmed up. This and Ben’s Chambord-soaked birthday cake made it all worthwhile.

We went back to the beach house to chill out for the next week, and found everything at Misquamicut wound down for the winter as well. It was so different from my first visit in summer 2011, when the beach and bars were packed with tanned tourists. Now the strip was windy and desolate and all the amusements were closed.

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The oversized local seagulls had commandeered the GoKart track, using it to crack open any shellfish they caught on the pond.

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 We roamed around enjoying the ghost town feeling and stopped in for a few last beers at the Windjammer to see the season out.

Our Americone dream…

Posted by Katie

We just got Brendon’s blog set up so we can use it while we’re travelling to share our photos and let people know what we’re up to. Got a bit of catching up to do but future entries won’t be so long.

We’ve been in the states for nearly four weeks now and have spent most of our time in Columbia, Connecticut and Westerly, Rhode Island, with a few side-trips. It’s been so cool seeing where Brendon grew up – very different from my childhood in the ‘burbs – and checking out all his old haunts.

One of our first stops was Chang’s Garden at UConn for a round of zombies.

Then we went down to Westerly, Rhode Island. There are some pretty amazing houses along the water.

This was one of the more modest ones.

Westerly is really cute, it has some cool bars and restaurants and quite a few secondhand shops. My favourite was called ‘Mary D’s’. There were a few that were a little more thrown together – we stopped into one store that looked more like a Salvos where the guy behind the counter was smoking a cigarette and rocking out to ‘Rock & Roll Hoochy Koo’, he looked a little disappointed that we’d stopped in.

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Crocodile Dundee still seems to be the main cultural reference point for Australia over here. Everyone keeps cracking jokes about it – ‘Crocodile Dundee eh girrrrl??’

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This cat was hanging out in the window of Homespun Antiques.

We caught the train up to Boston and Cambridge for a couple of days to see Davy Rothbart from Found Magazine read from his new book ‘My Heart is an Idiot’. He looked exactly how I would never have expected him to – scally cap, chunky chain, basketball jersey and sipping on a Brooklyn Lager. He is also the only author I’ve ever heard of who brings a sword-swallower and DJ and rips shots at his readings. It was such a great night and we got to meet Davy and try to convince him to come and visit Australia. He seemed touched enough when we said we had come all the way from Connecticut to see him, let alone Sydney.

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Davy read ‘Canada or Bust’.

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Sword swallower Brett Loudermilk’s act culminated with him swallowing one of those long skinny balloons that clowns make poodles out of at kids’ parties. It kind of freaked me out.

Brendon also showed me around his old neighbourhood in Boston and we picked up burritos at Anna’s, Brendon’s main food source when he lived in America’s angriest city. Other favourite spots were The Sunset Bar & Grill, with 100+ beers on tap including the very excellent Jack’s Abby Smoked Maple Lager; Newbury St, where we found the closest thing yet to good coffee at Wired Puppy; Oona’s Experienced Clothing, where I found my new favourite jumper; The Miracle of Science, a science-themed bar near all the colleges; Veggie Galaxy, the most amazing vegan/vege diner you could possibly imagine; Leavitt-Peirce Tobacco, an old-fashioned smoke shop; The People’s Republik, a Soviet-themed bar where I got the strongest gin and tonic ever; and Cafe Algiers in Harvard Square for special mint tea.

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We went past Brendon’s old apartment in Boston.

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Leavitt-Peirce Tobacco had a beautiful window display that included a caution for the Freshman Smoker: ‘Remember – There is a cold grey dawn after every red hot night’.

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We finally found some Vegemite in Cambridge – for the bargain price of $10.99 (yeah, we bought it anyway). Brendon’s family have been trying to get me to try a fluffernutter –  but we’ve got them hooked on Vegemite on toast instead.

We spent a beery night with some of Brendon’s friends in Vernon, followed by breakfast at Rein’s, a Jewish deli. The food was amazing, lots of potatoes and kraut and cured meats. So many more things to try on our next visit.

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I had my first Reuben – vege style. We also had a knish and potato pancakes with sour cream and apple. There’s a real pastrami Reuben in the background.

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And now I can say I’ve seen the Statue of Liberty.

Since coming back to Columbia we’ve have been taking walks through the woods each day, checking out the foliage. The ‘Fall’ is pretty beautiful out here, despite the cutesy scarecrows and pumpkin paraphernalia that go along with it. Looks like America has found a way to pumpkinise pretty much everything. It keeps appearing in beer, popcorn, bagels, ‘coffee’, muffins, cocktails… anywhere except normal places like soup or on the side of a roast (though Brendo’s little brother has got me onto the Pumking beer from Southern Tier Brewing Co. and I’ll admit it goes down ok).

Pumpkins and scarecrows have overtaken Walmart.

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We went walking in the woods behind Brendon’s parents’ place in Columbia and found little frogs and mushrooms, squirrels, turkeys and deer.

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The trees are changing colour a little each day, it’s really cool to watch everything go from green to red. Most days it’s still warm and summery but the nights are starting to cool down as the leaves drop.

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