Big & Tall

T he Sleeping Giant is one of the enduring icons of Southern Connecticut, a slope of hills which forms the shape of a prone, lain-down body. In the late 1980s, local arts activist Jeff Burnett concocted a festival called “Waking the Sleeping Giant.” The title was a metaphor for reviving a stagnant suburban arts culture and attempting some fresh provocations.

But what if it had worked? What if the Sleeping Giant actually woke and lumbered around the area?

The most and least important question to ask then might be: What would he wear? Especially now that summer’s over and there’s a morning chill in the air? Come fall, it must get pretty cold in them thar hills.

Hamden has its own fine assortment of clothing shops, everything from Goodwill to national chains and boutiques. But I like to think that Mr. Giant might wander a little further south, to the nearest bigger city, in search of clothes and accoutrements.

New Haven isn’t Connecticut’s biggest city by a long shot, but it does like to act big. There’s the small performance space known as The Big Room (in the Erector Square art studio complex); the pizza makers who ride around in the Big Green Truck; the locally penned cookbook The Big Cheese by Jason Sobocinski of Caseus. Then there’s Grand Avenue and all the grand things associated with it, like Grand Apizza (111 Grand Avenue, New Haven) and the raging Quinnipiac River.

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The Shops At Yale

Here are some New Haven wardrobe suggestions and grooming tips for the well-dressed and alert giant:

After bathing in the Hamden reservoir, our genteel giant could dry his hair with the magnificent wind turbine outside Phoenix Press on James Street. (The turbine was officially named “Gus(t)” in a citywide elementary school competition.)

Then he could grab the gigantic cup of coffee which was just installed this month atop the Dunkin’ Donuts at the corner of Chapel and Park streets. The cup glows at night, a beacon of caffeine for weary behemoths.

Now, what to wear?

Fashionista Vintage & Variety (93 Whitney Ave., New Haven) doesn’t only deal in retro fashions and affordable used gowns and leather jackets. It has great costume-party items. Now gearing up for Halloween, the shop recently showed off a gigantic bowler hat.

The entrance of The Study at Yale Hotel (1157 Chapel St., New Haven) is graced with an outsized pair of eyeglasses (by sculptor Shelly Bradbury), spectacular in more ways than one. The reading glasses underscore the hotel’s bookish aesthetic.

The Devil’s Gear Bike Shop (151 Orange St., New Haven) likes to trot out its old penny-farthing bicycle, with its giant central wheel, for parades and special occasions. It might be too small for a giant to ride, but it might make a nice earring.

Pants could be made from the massive, building-high striped mylar wall hangings which just came down after hanging all summer long in The Lot, the art installation space run by Artspace near the corner of Chapel and Orange streets.

Similarly, shirts could be made of the street banners which advertise community festivals and museum exhibitions. All the logos and messages on them would make for some very eye-catching patterns.

Come winter, our giant could use the Christmas tree on New Haven Green as a backscratcher, or maybe a hair brush. He could strap on the nearby City Hall clock as a wrist watch and use the fountain as a toe bath.

Oh, it’s a lovely dream. But if Sleeping Giant never comes to you, then you can always go to it. Sleeping Giant State Park has hiking, nature trails, picknicking, and more. Go tickle its tummy.

Sleeping Giant State Park
200 Mt. Carmel Avenue, Hamden (map)
(203) 287-5658…

Written by Christopher Arnott.

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Christopher Arnott has written about arts and culture in Connecticut for over 25 years. His journalism has won local, regional and national awards, and he has been honored with an Arts Award from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. He posts daily at his own sites and New Haven Theater Jerk (

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