I went home to Syracuse yesterday for Maria's birthday, which inevitably turns into a birthday weekend. It was good timing since I have to fly to Orlando for work on Monday, and it's just as easy to fly there on JetBlue from Syracuse as from JFK. Besides, I get some quality time with family, and I got to be here when they got their newest addition to their home, otherwise known as Wild Kingdom.
You would think a household with three cats, two ferrets, a bearded dragon, a sugar glider, a Husky and several creatures in a fish tank wouldn't need any more company, but they decided to get an eight-week-old Husky puppy, and he sure is a cute little boy.
We picked him up from the breeder's house in Pulaski, and on the 45-minute drive out there, I started to think I could actually live there. We passed a tiny cemetery with ancient headstones, and a construction site where a diner had been torn down but the DINER sign still loomed above the highway, exciting my inner explorer. Then I saw where the breeder lives: in a gorgeous farm house with a ton of property, horses, and 20+ dogs (one of which was a black poodle that kept biting my butt). Ever since Death Valley, I'm way into remote locations and getting in touch with nature. I may need to move.
On the ride back, the new puppy mostly slept on my lap, except for when I tried to feed him water out of a Dasani bottle and soaked myself. Baby boy promptly began lapping up my skirt. It got weird.
But he's a total joy and makes you see life in a total new way, watching him learn how to walk up stairs, how to carry things in his mouth, how to eat peanut butter to cure the hiccups. Of course, that's all I need, something else to give me an existential crisis. And although it's not really making my biological clock go off, it is making me want to live somewhere I could actually have pets.
My new eyes have seen lots of other interesting things in Syracuse this weekend, like the old sanitorium that's part of Van Duyn where we visited Maria's grandmother, and the War of 1812 cemetery across the turnpike. I think if I hadn't grown up here and didn't have so many bad memories, I'd be more inclined to go exploring on my own. But I kind of prefer just driving around in the car with Maria, who always seems to know where she's going, and press my face up against the passenger side window and say things like, "Ooh! What's that?"
That's how I discovered The Clam Bar, which we decided to go back to today for lunch. A nice fish shack in the middle of North Syracuse, The Clam Bar serves the usual battery of surf and turf that you can get fried, broiled, sauteed, Cajun spiced, buttered and garlicked. I had the "award-winning" clam chowder (deserving) and the house specialty fried haddock sandwich whose crispy fillet couldn't be contained by the sandwich roll, and whose steamy insides squirted hot boiling fish juice on my cheek as soon as I took my first bite. That place is a real find in Syracuse, and immediately I wanted to bring all of my New York friends there for some clams casino washed down with a draught pint of Labatt Blue.
Sure, normally I like to visit my favorite chains while in Syracuse, and we did make our requisite stop to Pizza Hut upon my arrival. But since my teenage idea of a nice date was Olive Garden, and my parents' idea of dining out when we were little was Burger King, I now like to explore the same types of charming, locally-owned pig-out destinations in Syracuse as I discover when travelling elsewhere.
The greater Syracuse area has never felt very familiar to me. I still get lost if I have to navigate my own way around when I visit. So I know there's a lot I haven't seen, and someday I'd like to try those diners we passed on the way out to Pulaski - the ones that haven't been torn down yet. And I'd like to get there before Guy Fieri discovers them!