The past few weeks have been filled with lots of special moments -- what I like to call out-bloody-standing moments -- with family, friends and people I meet along the way; delightful, unexpected and magical moments. Here's my highlight reel:
My wife and I love going to the Harborview Market in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport. A great way to kick-start a Sunday morning is having a cup of joe and the almond croissant or BEACH sandwich. The outrageous almond croissant is hot, flaky and melt-in-your mouth while The BEACH -- bacon, egg, avocado, cheese and hot sauce served on a Portuguese roll -- is stellar.
The Harborview has a homey neighborhood and bohemian vibe and is the kind of place my wife and I have always loved. Reminds me a lot of Venice Beach, Calif., and The Sidewalk Cafe. It can get insanely busy on a Sunday, so it's best to get there real early; we like to be there by 8 a.m. and catch an outdoor table.
Whether we're doing The Sunday New York Times Magazine crossword puzzle or chatting with the locals, it's always a special moment. On a recent visit we had a great conversation about homegrown tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and mulching. Throughout the conversation, I kept thinking I'm a boy from the Bronx, N.Y., and I'm discussing growing vegetables and gardening. Out-bloody-standing.
Another place my wife and I like to go for a cup of joe and breakfast is Java, a very cool boutique coffee shop and cafe in Westport. The Dirty Hippie Breakfast Burrito is off the charts: eggs; Jack; tomato; green onions; black beans; green chiles; verde crème fraiche; fresh salsa burrito packed with bacon. Hook yourself up with a Keith Richards -- four shots of espresso and Mexican hot chocolate -- for a righteous morning wake up call. The Dirty Hippie Burrito and a Keith Richards; an insanely great combo! With outdoor seating and tasty treats, Java is always an out-bloody-standing way to start the day.
I've raved about Stage One, a super cool 200-seat venue that is without a doubt the best place to hear live music in Connecticut, for years. There's not a bad seat in the house; they get name acts like Leon Russell, Ian Hunter, John Mayall, Dave Mason, The Subdudes, Tab Benoit, Shawn Colvin and Los Lobos, as well as up-and-coming singer-songwriters and indie and local bands.
Recently, I saw two out-bloody-standing shows. Band of Heathens, from Austin, Texas, rocked the house. Real nice playing, sweet harmonies and a great cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Wrote a Song for Everyone." I bought their "Sunday Morning Record" CD at the concert and have been playing it nonstop since.
The Grand Slambovians, once known as Gandalf Murphy and The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, and Hammell on Trial, performed at a benefit concert for WPKN radio and Stage One. It was a magical evening of rock 'n' roll; the ghosts of rock 'n' roll past were definitely in the house that night.
I'll catch The Grand Slambovians whenever I can; I first saw and fell in love with their music more than 13 years ago at the Acoustic Cafe in Black Rock. They opened with a rousing, "The Grand Slambovians," from their `The Grand Slambovians' CD, with Sharkey McEwen-lead guitar, mandolin, backing vocals -- playing some incredible mandolin. They did two sets, closing with a favorite of mine, "Flapjacks From the Sky."
Joziah Longo -- lead vocals, guitar and harmonica -- has said, "Music is good for what ails ya," and The Grand Slambovians music is without a doubt just that. They're absolutely amazing live.
What I prize more than a great live concert and a great breakfast is hanging out with my daughters in the kitchen at night, munching on leftovers, telling stories, laughing and talking about what's been going on in our lives.
A week ago, after being on the road for four-and-a-half months in Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Erin decided it was time to come home. Her first night back, we spent talking about her journey -- the people she met and the places she visited -- looking at hundreds of photos, laughing and pigging out on pizza, something she hadn't had since she left. These are the moments I will always cherish. They're beyond out-bloody-standing!
Barry Halpin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.