The Amazon Trail

Photo By Sue Hardesty

Her most recent book, An American Queer, a collection of “The Amazon Trail” columns, was presented with the 2015 Golden Crown Literary Society Award in Anthology/Collection Creative Non-Fiction. This, and her award-winning fiction, including The Raid, The Swashbuckler, and Beggar of Love, can be found at:

The Good Things In Life

As disheartened as I am about all that is going on in our country and our planet, there are times when I have to appreciate the good things in life. They are often about ice cream.

I was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this July. What a great little city that is. Four of us went to dinner at an extremely noisy gastropub that was all about dolled-up meat dishes.

It was a relief to get outside to the relative quiet. We searched for an ice cream joint named Millie’s, a tiny local favorite with a line halfway down the block. I tried the Vietnamese Coffee flavor, which was your basic coffee ice cream with the addition of tiny dark specs that deepened the flavor without unleashing the bitterness of coffee.

It was the best of nights, two dyke couples holding hands for all to see, catching up with one another after a year of emails. We closed the 2019 Golden Crown Literary Conference dancing with a chorus line of friends.

From Pittsburgh, we drove to North New Jersey and stayed with gracious family. For dessert, there was, hooray, ice cream! This was, after all, during a heatwave. What better excuse? The next morn-

ing, rushing for the train into the city, my sweetheart’s aunt made us bagels. Genuine New York metro bagels. Crisped outside, soft and warm inside. It had been years since my last real bagel. There are certain moments I could be lured back to the East Coast to live. That was one of them.

When my sweetheart, her youngest sister, and I exited Penn Station in New York the first thing I did was breathe deeply. Yeah, despite the influx of mega-billionaires, the out of control developers, the city still smelled like home. We three walked a little over one glorious mile to Grand Central Station, taking turns with my rolling suitcase, stopping only when one rude curb tripped my sweetheart and gave her a bloody gash in the knee.

She wasn’t one to ruin my first time back on the streets of New York in over two decades—she limped on, despite all the fussing we did over her.

Then I saw the Dunkin’ Donuts stand. Another big reason to live back east. Once I was seated on the Metro-North, a bag of two jelly donuts in hand, my sweetheart made it back from a newsstand with seconds to spare and tossed a New York Times into my lap. Except that we would be apart for forty-seven whole hours, my life at that moment was perfect.

Friends picked me up from New Haven’s Union Station. When I awoke the first morning, one of them had driven to the best donut shop in the area and I have to say, those jelly donuts were terrific, almost a reason to move back to New Haven. Later that day, we drove to the best Chinese restaurant I’ve been to in a while. I tried to explain the difference between East Coast Chinese food and Chinese fare out West, which is either very inferior, or a mishmash of Chinese, Thai, American, Cantonese, Szechuan, or anything else that sounds nouveau and hip. At some restaurants, egg rolls aren’t even offered. I mean, I grew up on the things, and on a sweet and sour sauce, which wasn’t gooey and gelled.

That afternoon, my friends insisted I try the best ice cream ever. Wentworth Homemade Ice Cream in Hamden, Connecticut is worth the trip from the Northwest. They even had an ordinary coffee flavor, which is hard to find in these days of espresso and lattes.

My sweetheart met us, the next day, at Katz’s Deli Restaurant in Woodburn, Connecticut, just off the Merritt Parkway. Oh my gosh, their pastrami on rye almost made me cry. West Coast pastrami doesn’t even look like the real thing.

We arrived at my brother’s home in Massachusetts and shopped for good old New England franks and beans and coleslaw. At the table that evening, my brother pronounced, “It’s Thursday! Franks and beans are to be eaten on a Saturday.” We laughed, but that’s how ingrained the meal is in both of us. Our father, as a boy, delivered Friend’s Baked Beans with a horse and cart in Western Massachusetts.

While we didn’t go out for ice cream, I tried Edy’s and was impressed by the natural ingredients. My sweetheart conspired with my niece to deliver a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast, while she took a train to spend the day with a college pal at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Apparently, the museum offers fine cuisine in its five—five—eateries.

If you ever get to Essex, Massachusetts, do not miss The Village Restaurant. From baskets of fried clams to haddock baked with blue cheese, there wasn’t even room for ice cream.

I had to wait two days until we were home and my dentist discovered a challenging cavity before I could visit our local fast-food chain, Arctic Circle. I wouldn’t be able to chew much for a couple of days, so I allowed myself one of their large coffee milkshakes, clicked my heels three times in sheer pleasure, and was overjoyed to be home.


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