Signs and wonders:

  • However did an enterprise in Ashaway, R.I., on the Ashaway/Clarks Falls Road, between I-95’s Exit 93 in Connecticut and Route 3 in Rhode Island, come to be named the Thames River Business Park?

    After all, the Thames River, flowing south from Norwich, Conn., and passing between New London and Groton en route to emptying into Long Island Sound, is only, what, 20 miles away from Ashaway, with Mystic, Stonington and North Stonington and the Mystic River and faint ripples of the Pawcatuck River in between?
  • Then again, at that same exit, the first in Connecticut crossing westward from Rhode Island, is that welcome sign extolling Connecticut as “Still Revolutionary,” about as catchy an appellation as the puritanically doleful “The Land of Steady Habits.”

    For my money, absolutely more appropriate for the selling of Connecticut is the punch line from a New Yorker cartoon published after the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos opened in the early 1990s: “Welcome to Connecticut: Minimum bet $500.”
  • Why does South Broad Street in Stonington, the address of the Stonington Police Station and Stonington High School, among dozens of businesses and homes, run, as it winds through Pawcatuck, according to the directional marker on my car’s dashboard, east to west? And for that matter, why is South Broad Street located west of West Broad Street?
  • Management at the Jealous Monk, the bar, restaurant and bistro in Olde Mistick Village, rejects my insistence that the place’s memorable and singular name comes from the Bob Dylan song on his seminal “Highway 61 Revisited” album, released in 1965, called “Desolation Row.”

    I have to swallow their denial, but I have never heard that phrase anywhere else, only in this Dylan lyric:

    “Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood
    With his memories in a trunk
    Passed this way an hour ago
    With his friend, a jealous monk.”
  • How is it that Stonington has four roadways all over town bearing the name Stanton: Stanton Lane, Stanton Place, Stanton Road and Stanton Street?
  • And how unique to our region are these beguiling road names: Hangman Hill in North Stonington; Money Point Road on Masons Island; Casino Road, on the way from Mystic to Noank in Groton; Gravity Court in Westerly; Yosemite Valley Road in Watch Hill; Nooseneck Hill Road in Richmond, Exeter and Coventry; Biscuit City Road in Charlestown; Succotash Road in Matunuck and, at opposite ends of Stonington Borough, Alpha Avenue and Omega Street?
  • Among the more ubiquitous signs of our times in daily affairs and meanderings, and usually smack in our faces, are the college stickers on the rear windows of vehicles, often composing a gaudy billboard of academic achievement, social status and parental pride.

    To me, they are all that, as well as declarations of parental debt.

    Not long ago, driving along Hancox Street in Stonington Borough, I passed by an SUV whose rear window boasted this all-star college lineup: Johns Hopkins University, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, University of Michigan, Temple University and Boston College.

    A hasty calculation of annual undergraduate fees for those star institutions, and not accounting for scholarships, graduate school fellowships and the like, put the yearly cost of such first-rate educations as: Penn, $78,186; Johns Hopkins, $69,863; Boston College, $69,942; Michigan (out of state student fees), $62,176; Temple (out of state student fees), $44,190; and Georgetown, as its online site posted it, $230,917 for a four-year degree.

    Or, just to bundle it all: $382,350 a year, and a tidy $1.5 million for undergraduate educations at these institutions.

    Contemplating this and returning to Hancox Street a few days later, I encountered a woman, at the wheel of this parked vehicle, as she spoke on her cell phone.

    I approached her, she emerged and I told her what I was up to. She laughed and agreed, yes, her children did well and of course there were scholarships and grants involved.

    But she pointed to another sticker: Cold Spring School, a private day school in New Haven.

    “My kids went there,” she told me, “and it was the best money I ever spent. It helped get them into those colleges.”

    The tuition is $24,500 a year, for the highest grade, at this pre-kindergarten and k-6 school, with an enrollment of some 140 students and a student–teacher ratio of 8-1.

    I suppose the lesson is, as the window stickers promote, you do get what you pay for, but as has been aggressively bemoaned in these times of ours, who is able to do the paying and, for colleges and students alike, for how long?

Steven Slosberg lives in Stonington and was a longtime reporter and columnist. He may be reached at: maayan72@aol.com.

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