Hartford, CT -- August 27, 2007

In Hartford I felt proud of myself for navigating the city bus system and exploring the downtown, things I never did during my four years attending college there. Coming from Helena, Montana, population thirty-thousand, Hartford was daunting, let alone New York. Coming back, I felt like I had finally graduated.

And, I did something else I had neglected--I visited the Mark Twain house. I made it a top priority....after finding readers, of course. Sometimes it's easier to get things done if you have only six and a half hours as opposed to four years.

It was truly a beautiful place and it didn't surprise me when my tour guide told me that Twain had spent the seventeen happiest, and most productive, years of his life in that house, which was--for all of us struggling writers who wish we could afford a place like that--paid for by his wife's parents.

My wonderful guide showed me the tin roof he had requested so that he could hear the rain at night--the rest of the roof was slate; and, the desk in the billiards room where he wrote, facing the wall, so he wouldn't get distracted. At this desk he wrote Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Life on the Mississippi, and A Tramp Abroad.

There was an angel bed the he got in Venice. He put the pillows at the foot of the bed because, if he was going to spend two hundred dollars on it, he wanted to be able to see the angels on the bedposts. His daughters loved the angels, too, and would remove them from the bed posts so they could dress them up and give them baths. The rule, though, was that they had to be back on the bed by bedtime.

On the mantle in the living room, which he got in Scotland, there were several pictures and memorabilia. He would play a game with his daughters where he told a story using each thing in it, and if he messed up he had to start over. The story had to be different each time. Above the fireplace it was written: The warmth of a house is the friends who frequent it.

He loved to entertain...and talk. His family had a signal to let him know when to shut up, which was okay by him.

Though I was right next door, I still didn't have time to visit the Harriet Beecher Stowe House. Next time.

And, of course, I visited my college campus--Trinity College, with its neo-gothic architecture and grassy quadrangle. None of my professors were on campus--it was still too early in the year--but I was able to see my track and cross-country coach, who not only filled me in on all the gossip, but also gave me a ride back to the Holiday Inn Express, next door to the bus station, where I had sneakily stashed my bag--if you ask a front desk to store your bag, they will just assume you're a guest and be hospitable. Sort of. I had to evade questions about the dog I was seen checking in with the day before. I answered vaguely, not sure if it was okay to have pets. The bag made me feel guilty enough.

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