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The joys of 'vigorous debate'

My friend Dick Humphreville and I tend to argue often for the sake of arguing. Not hard to do with a guy who talks as much as Dick — though he prefers to call it “vigorous debate.”

Ever since moving to New London, and about every week or two, I try to go find time to take a midday break from the cardiology office to have lunch with my friend and furniture-making mentor Richard Humphreville. There’s always been good fodder to argue over. Whether it was the New London Development Corporation and eminent domain or the lines they painted on Bank Street or Pfizer moving across the river. I don’t necessarily feel strongly about the position I argue for, but with Dick, I just feel compelled to argue, usually loudly. Often, we are yelling at each other on the same side of the argument, but everyone (including ourselves sometimes) would think think we are fighting.

Dick eats, drinks sleeps, and breathes for New London. A sort of Don Quixote figure, he has a quest to save all these old, condemned post-and-beam buildings of New London — buying them from the town and moving them, usually beam-by-beam and post-by-post from one location to another and then painstakingly restoring each one to the same quality and detail you’d expect of a jewelry box. It’s a labor of love (if not exactly a sound business move).

When I asked “why” over chopped salad with blackened chicken at The Recovery Room one lunch, he looked me like I was crazy, answering as if it were obvious: “Because if I don’t save them, nobody else will.”

So that lunch with him is never dull, always a mix of New London news, information about new projects, woodworking advice and the usual laughs.

Times have been strange lately. For March, April and May, the occasional lunchtime escape to BS about New London was put on hiatus. Sometime in June, we started up again with a mini Mezah salad from Saeeds that we ate at Fort Trumbull, as we sat arguing over whether or not a vaccine would be ready by the end of the year and whether or not it would be something we would be willing to take. We yelled at each other (even though we pretty much agree with each other, at least I think we did). A cop drove by slowly and looked at us a bit worriedly and, with his window down, asked, “Everything OK?”

The COVID pandemic has been a frequent topic of argument, of course. Especially since it has made everything so strange. Our lunches are just now getting back into their routine. Dick and I were at Muddy Waters recently, shooting the breeze on the back porch with the owner Barry and looking at the boats on the river and EB across the way.

As usual, Dick ordered the oh-so-garlicky Love Salad, telling me how it’s the best salad in the state. Because I see patients after lunch, I never eat the garlicky Love Salad, and I catch his usual ridicule that I’m not up to the challenge of so much garlic.

Then Dick goes into his encylopedic history of New London on the Love Salad, on Hughie’s Restaurant, Hughie’s lovely daughter Suzey and how she and Barry made Muddy Waters Café such a nice place to eat.

The conversation devolves into an argument about the coronavirus and masks and what to do about people who don’t wear them. We were both shouting and upset, but in truth we both saying the same thing. (I think.)

I drop Dick off at his shop and rush back to the office, caffeinated and eating a cookie that Barry didn’t make me pay for. Just then, Dick texted me a possible coronavirus solution: “How to stop COVID germs: eat Muddy Waters’ love salad.”

While I can’t vouch for the science, I would definitely be a willing participant in that study, as long as it’s not before an afternoon of patients.



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