Yes, it took a whole week to recover from our visit to Manchester and to even START to get our thoughts and feelings on paper. What slowed down the speedy OneSixNine writing team? Was it the 4.748 miles? The village charm? Did Safety Man frighten Emme (me) so much that she couldn’t bear to look at photos of the day?
None of the above. The real slow-down was cheesy and delicious. And you’re going to want some. But first… let’s learn a little bit about the Silk City. It’s in Hartford County, and therefore wicked convenient for me. It’s funny, how easily places like Manchester can get roped into a reputation for being a mall town… there’s actually a lot of stuff there and, for someone new to the area like me, it’s interesting to think that it used to be a major farming community and was home to lots of manufacturing plants (silk mills, actually… hence the nickname). As you’ll eventually learn, the OneSixNine girls have assorted reasons for undertaking this grand endeavor — one of mine is definitely to see more than just the malls and parking lots and highways. So Manchester was a pleasant surprise.
Village Charm aside (it’s their motto, if you missed it), Manchester is definitely a big box paradise. According to Wikipedia, the city has three museums — a firefighting museum, a children’s museum, and a town historical museum. And yet it seems pretty clear that almost all Manchester passersby are mall-bound. Buckland Hills, Buckland Plaza, and the confusingly named Plaza at Buckland. No offense, Manchester, but work on the creativity a bit?
But yeah, forget the charm, the Man has got Malls. When Elle and I got to town on Thanksgiving Eve, that was definitely the case. After all, who doesn’t love pregaming Black Friday with a little Empty-Mall Wednesday!?
We were hoping to sit on Santa’s lap and try to negotiate a Mall Santa photo in which neither of the OneSixNine girls looked at the camera, but there’s wasn’t a Santa at the mall! I was horrified. They did have a holiday train, but it was closed when we got there — downgrade.
Mmmmmmmm. Now, let me preface this by reminding you that we went to Manchester on Thanksgiving Eve, and woke up Thanksgiving morning to run a road race. Any athlete worth her salt would know that loading up on dairy and fried food is a bad pre-race menu. Fortunately, neither Elle nor I are particularly accomplished athletes, so we can throw caution to the wind and burgers into our mouths (a la Garfield with lasagna, I might add). Enter: Shady Glen.
Oh lord. Things for which I am thankful: Shady Glen cheeseburgers. The way they make the burgers greasy in the good way, perfectly formed, heavy with cheese and yet somehow with a crispy cheesy layer. The fries are perfect. The whole scene, it’s the sort of thing my father used to compare every burger place to (even though he’d definitely never been to the Glen), no apparent concern for fats or cholesterol, and totally in violation of any diet either OneSixNine girl has ever been on… well, except Emme’s sudden “I need to gain weight!” diet last year, which she instantly regretted. Anyways, the Glen. It’s more than just burgers.
We also decided to take advantage of that 1950s feel and not worry about adding some ice cream to our order. Especially since they had some seasonally appropriate flavors: Egg Nog for Elle and Peppermint for Emme. Oh god. Delish.
Talk to Someone
If you’re going to talk to someone, you might as well make good with the waitress, right? Especially when the waitress is bringing you two delicious cheesy crispy omigoodness I need to drive back to Manchester right now cheeseburgers. So we chatted her up — apparently EVERYONE asks how the cheese comes out that way, because it seems like they’re the only place anyone ever sees it. Her response was pretty vague (“the cook, well, he lets the cheese touch the grill when he’s making the burger, and then he like, um, flips it” — I’m no Food Network personality, but that makes no sense).
One of my coworkers swore that the Hungry Tiger (which we kept referring to as the Thirsty Lion) used to be a great scene for music. The entertainment options on Thanksgiving Eve didn’t really interest us, but we grabbed a beer and decided to check it out. I’m a fan of places with a lot of entertaining signage, and I find bars warning me to beware of pickpockets and loose women are usually my kind of bar. It was a dive, kind of an older crowd, but definitely somewhere I would be happy to return to.
And, they were pretty welcoming to the runners. Speaking of…
I come from south of Boston, where ‘road race’ means the Marathon or Falmouth’s 7 miler, but apparently the Manchester Road Race’s 4.478 mile course is the SECOND largest road race in New England! This is the part where we get really excited to show you the awesome costumes and runners and puppies dressed like turkeys, but my camera is seriously busted and I can’t find a replacement battery ANYWHERE. SO, we’ll let you sit and wonder exactly what we DID in Manchester for a few days longer….
Stay tuned for MAN OF LAMANCHESTER: THE SEQUEL!