Melinda's dad took the day off so he, Melinda, Edwin, and I went on a road trip to nearby Westport. Our first stop was Earthplace, an animal rehabilitation center. It was obvious while wandering around that the place was geared towards very young kids but that didn't stop us from enjoying seeing the active bee hive, seeing x-rays of a turtle with eggs, walking through the room of animals (owls, snakes, other birds, ferrets, and a few other odd creatures), and walking outside to see the eagles and other larger birds (including two vultures who were just visiting). It was great to be able to see so many animals close-up but it was saddening to see that most of them were crippled (broken wings, dislocated legs, injured eyes).
Down the road in Westport we found an historic building, built near the beginning of the 19th century. It held a gallery of artwork from septuagenarians who'd settled in Westport decades ago. My favorite piece was a bronze sculpture that showed people boarding and exiting a bus in a snow storm. The subject was obvious from the front but looked only like a discordant mass of bronze from most edges. The rest of the building held reconstructed scenes of a dining room, parlor, bedroom, and kitchen, with 19th century period adornments, but as with all such buildings we couldn't get closer than the entry way. Also, although Stamford was founded in 1641(!), all the historic buildings date from the 19th century or later. On some other trip Melinda and I will go looking for something from colonial times.
Last stop for culture was the Stamford Historic Society building. A 100-year old school building, it houses an exhibit in progress documenting the history of the historic society (yeah, weird, I know - but they themselves have been around for 100 years) and, more interestingly, painted portraits of various Stamford citizens from the 19th century. The portraits tended to be just that -- torsos and heads painted against a mute background -- but both the subjects and the artists had meaningful connections to the locale, so it was engaging. Also highlighted in the museum was Machlett Labs, an earlier manufacturer of x-ray tubes, based in Stamford.
No car trip with the kids would be completed without both car games and ice cream. We passed the (short) drive time with a game of chaining words: each subsequent word had to start with the same two letters as the previous word had ended with. AL, ER, US, and TE appeared frequently but we seemed to exhaust all the RY, NY, and UM words we knew about. After the Stamford stop we picked up dry cleaning (Melinda's and my formal wear was dirtied at the wedding last week by chairs with not-yet-cured paint) and visited the cupcake store Crumbs to see how big their cupcakes were (Melinda's memory was of pretty large cupcakes, and indeed, they are large). We forwent cupcakes but instead found a Coldstone down the parking lot and enjoyed several flavors and mixins. A thunderstorm broke out while we were eating so even the very short walk from store to car left us very wet.
Oh, one more stop for the kids: pet store. The pigeon needs more food so we stopped at the parrot store in Stamford and played with the birds. Many of the birds have had their wings clipped so they won't fly more than a few feet, but the store has about two dozen birds otherwise loose and on perches in the store. Parrots, cockatoos, and cockatiels were what I remembered and Edwin, Melinda, and Melinda's dad all let the birds climb up on their arms and play with them. I passed on the chance, having too easily envisioned getting pinched by some very strong beaks, and in fact everyone did get a little bit of friendly nibbling by the birds (more to explore and to hang on, not as a sign of aggression). Only after 20 minutes of bird time did we finally head home.
Dinner this evening was at the same restaurant (Hunan Spring) as we had eaten at when I visited New Years 2007→2008, and the owner recognized me. Heh. Melinda's family eats there often so they get some good attention. String beans, fish, crispy duck, and chicken chow fun all were very tasty.
Melinda and I are packed now, getting ready to head out in the morning. The plan is to catch a train from Stamford at 11:24a, transfer in NYC, and be in Princeton by mid-afternoon.