Category Archives: CT Exploration

Astounded Again

Since I love being astounded (great word), I will expound on being astounded by the crappiness of the West Hartford News. I started getting it because I wanted to know more about the community, and I wanted to be aware of local politics. As I read today’s copy of the West Hartford News, there were so many typos that it was ridiculous. There was even a typo (a misspelling) in a headline. A headline, for God’s sake! How hard is it to catch that? The high school newspaper where I work is better copyedited by high school juniors. This is supposed to be a professional paper. They cannot possibly proofread that thing. I get irate when my high school students do not proofread. Way to set an example, WHN.

And I hate to publicly say this, while most of the articles are okay — they are at least somewhat interesting, do the job, cover the local news — the columnist Cindy Basil Howard is not so good. Her weekly columns are so vapid that I cannot even love to hate them. I’m sure CBH is a perfectly nice woman, but as a columnist, uh-uh. Needless to say, I won’t be re-subscribing. Then how will I get the local news? Is there an alternative West Hartford newspaper? I imagine not. Even the free West Hartford Life that gets delivered to my mailbox every month or so is a much better piece of journalism than the West Hartford News.

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Breakfast

Lately I’ve been enjoying weekend breakfasts out. I’d like to try new places. so if you have recommendations, by all mean: Comment! I’ve been to Effie’s Place on Park, a favorite of mine, if for only the service and decor alone. Good diner food. I’ve also recently been enjoying Harry’s on Farmington in WH. It’s a bit “fancier” than your typical diner-ish joint. And then there’s Mo’s Mid-town on Whitney. Hopefully I will be posting other good places soon. There’s nothing like a good breakfast out — diner coffee, my favorite! I miss Sylvester’s of Northampton. Yum! I also am a big fan of having breakfast at maple sugar shacks. It looks like that’s a tough thing to do here in CT, but I’m on the prowl.

West Hartford Teen Driving Restrictions

In my reading of the West Hartford News, the article that headlined was Council approves two votes aimed at teen safety. Of course when I saw that, I thought how great that is. And while I don’t think there is anything wrong with trying to keep teens safe — in fact I think it is a good thing — I just don’t know how realistic the council is being. Perhaps I do not understand the workings of the Graduated License Law, which would require 16 and 17 year old licensed drivers to have a licensed adult driver of 25 or older in the car, with no more than one other under-25 year old. Unrealistic? you ask. Let me explain.

First of all, I’m not sure if this is a West Hartford law or not. It seems like a state’s jurisdiction. I teach at a school where a lot of 16 and 17 year olds drive to school. We do not provide free bussing, so kids and parents would have to find an alternative. But looking at this realistically, if it is a West Hartford law, and a kid drives in from Farmington, does he or she get stopped at the townline? If a 16 year old from West Hartford is caught in Farmington, do the rules apply to him or her? Clearly I have a lot to learn about local politics and how to enforce this law.

Some of the speakers at the meeting seemed to make strong cases supporting this vote, and I see that if an adult is in the car, a teen is less likely to speed or take risks, but at the same time, accidents are common. Inexperience in driving does not only play out in the form of risk taking. My problem is less with the law itself than with the way it will be enforced.

Age and West Hartford

I’ve been thinking about my age lately, and maybe that’s not even the most accurate term to use: age. I think the better word might be: aging. I’m 32 now, and I love being an adult. I would never go back to being a kid for all the money in the world. I love being in (general) control of my life, making my own decisions, etc. But I think with many of my increasing life changes, I am becoming more and more aware that I am indeed aging. I know it is laughable to many people to hear a 32 year old talk about aging, but I am beginning to realize my mortality on a whole new level.

I’ve been pretty aware of my mortality since a pretty young age. Around four, I began to think about and figure out what death was. By my freshman year in high school, I tasted mortality by hearing of a girl who commit suicide. While I did not know her, it weighed on me for a long time. Finally, when I was 21, a 21 year old friend of mine drown in the Niagara River. He was Steve Kszan, a friend I had from Welland, Ontario. Not only was he my age and dead, but he was a really special person to me. As a teen, I was a perfectionist, in terms of what I expected of myself and others. Steve was one of the very few people who just made it okay to be human and fuck up once in awhile. When he died, I narcissistically mourned my own death. I say that, and I want to clarify that I was not consciously mourning my own death, but I became obsessed with how he died. I morbidly tried to picture or imagine what it must have fekt like to drown in that River. For those of you who do not know the River, he drown in the lower river, and the rapids there are so fierce, that if you go in the river, you do not come out alive. I researched the history, geology, and culture of the falls. I read so many books, the informative and the ridiculous. I wrote about it. I visited his grave on a regular basis. I even keep a doorknob he gave me. And again, I really think that I transferred the realization of his mortality onto the realization of my own.

So again, this is not a new concept for me. What’s new is I am a size 8 for the first time in my life. Yes, of course I could go exercise, etc. But my lifestyle change since I moved here, has prompted me to be more sedentary and to eat much worse. Yes, of course, I can and should take some responsibility for this and do something about it. But there are two undeniable parts to this: 1. my metabolism, my notoriously fast metabolism, is slowing down 2. I live in the suburbs.

I have detested the ‘burbs since I was a teen living in them. There is this isolation of the ‘burbs that is like ice. And it means I’ve hit an age — an age when one moves to the ‘burbs. Since I have moved here, I have been trying to like it. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I have started getting the West Hartford News, which I have to say right now is a gossip rag. I’m sorry, but I have absolutely no need to know what is going on it the police blotter. It may be public info, and that is fine, but it should not be published in a newspaper. I suppose there is a good article or two once in awhile, but Cindy Basil Howard’s column is so vapid that I can’t even read it anymore. I began getting the West Hartford News because I wanted to learn more about the local politics. I think I was feeling a bit guilted into it. People always say that local politics affect an individual the most, but I disagree. When leaf day pick up is affects me to some degree, but only in the most insignificant way. Schools and public works are important. This is very true. But Blueback Square — honestly, if the right to an abortion is overturned, that affects me more than a shopping center in West Hartford. Whether or not my country is at war is much more important to me.

I thought about this for awhile, and I recalled that Northampton’s local politics cared about those more global issues. West Hartford is so insular. So far, that is my impression of the entire state of Connecticut. (Remember: being a Catholic means you get to blame your surroundings.) I love living in New England. I believe it is my favorite part of this country, But CT is almost not really New England at all. Yes it has the churches and fall leaves and a bit of snow, but it does not have the New England feel that I love. It has the dour New England feel, the let’s shut up and sweep it under the rug feel. I’d rather live in MA, VT, ME, or even NH, where you can live free or die. Northampton, even though it was in Western Mass, had a mix of this cosmopolitan feel and this small town community feel. God, do I ever miss that!

How does this make me feel like I am again, aside from the fact that my wrists hurt far too much? I feel like I’ve lost goals, like I’m not aiming for anything. I feel like my Connecticutian surroundings are stifling me and making me sedentary. Can I really blame the state? Or do I need to get off my tushy and do something? Okay, I think the answer is obvious. But dear CT, if you can find it in your heart, kick some opportunity in my direction, please. Have a goal roll by like a tumbleweed so I can chase after it.

Poetry in CT

Recently I went to a poetry reading in Middletown, CT at The Buttonwood Tree with my co-worker, Jeff. It was a reading of area educators (k-12, college, and artists in the schools). Because there is a ton of bad poetry out there, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was very impressed! Not all of it was amazing, but it was mainly very good poetry. In part I wanted to go because Jeff was reading from his new book: Rumor of Cortez. Jeffrey Levine, featured on Poetry Daily, runs a small literary press out of Dorset, VT (near my beloved Bennington), called Tupelo Press. His other book of poetry is Mortal Everlasting.

Another poet I liked was Ravi Shankar. He also has as online journal, Drunken Boat. And then I also really liked Richard Deming’s poems. He had a particularly great style of delivery. It wasn’t anything fancy or off the wall, just very genuine. I met him and his wife, great couple, and they also run a press: Phylum Press.

All in all, it was a good evening, with the obvious downfall of the location’s name. Now, the Buttonwood Tree is a great venue. It’s a cozy space and it has a literary feel to it, but anyone who knows me will know that I will probably avoid the place like the plague. (Side note: Sujal has been telling me for a while to put my poems online, and it just seems wrong for me to “publish” them myslef, but in this case, I am going to post one of them.) For those who don’t know me so well, this poem should give you pretty good insight into why I cannot tolerate the name:

Buttons

Why is it that people just don’t get it?
How can they casually drop that word?
You’ll be having a perfectly nice dinner
And ka-TAC-al,
The word drops
Just like the sound of it hitting the table—
The evil object, the evil word, the evil sound of the word:
Button.

Oh why can’t people understand how vile they are?
First to look at;
Some are white or a smoky translucent
Plastic
With the four sneering holes
And they have that round unsightly ridge
Like the lip of a plate—
Ugh—how awful!
They may be blue, brown, pink, or yellow,
Small, large, ridiculously enormous.
Sometimes they are supposedly practical,
Sometimes decorative;
Even worse, people make crafts—
Using buttons.

Oh and to touch them
Their general small flatness,
The cloth covered or pearl-like ones aren’t as bad,
But then you have to deal with that word:
Pearl.

Sometimes they are difficult to work,
Or they become loose,
Fall off,
Need replacing.
How high maintenance can clothing get?
Sometimes there are too damn many,
Or they open
Or don’t open.
Sometimes they try to be pretty,
But they never are.

Then there’s the word;
Look at it.
It’s garish,
Just an ink stain on the page.
But the sound of the word—
A burst of noxious air
Evoking an image of a rounded Caliban,
A deformity of words.
Who could possibly love a—
A—
I can’t even say it—
Button?

Yes, of course I am able
To live in a world where other people
Wear those deplorable hooligans.
But as for me,
I will only stoop to wear them
On rare and lamentable occasions.
Buttons!

Other than the awful name, I’d really like the place, but I’m going to have to chalk it up to another CT oddity, sort of like the driving here.

West Hartford Elections

I am not as well informed as I would like or ought to be about local and state politics, so as I mentioned before, I subscribed to the West Hartford News particularly so I could learn about the candidates up for local election. Sadly there have been no articles. The only helpful info was a listing of the times that the debates would be aired on local access TV. Unfortunately, I’ve been working a ton lately and haven’t been able to watch TV, particularly the nights when the debates aired. Actually I wanted to GO to the debates, but had no clue where or when they were. I tried googling around to no avail. What I did find is it seems like Beth Bye is very qualified in that she has a lot of experience working in education. But here’s a scary thing — when you google West Hartford Beth Bye this blog comes up on the first page. Why aren’t there news sources for local politics? Can anyone tell me some more information on the various candidates other than the glassy mailings I get? Comment away!

Becoming Connecticutian

For those of you needing reminding, the pronunciation of Connecticutian rhymes with execution.

In an effort to learn more about my new hometown, I have subscribed to the local newspaper, the West Hartford News. I am also trying to learn more about the candidates running for local election. If anyone has any good info, let me know. I see all these signs for Beth Bye, so I did a little search. She is running for School Board re-election as vice-chair. I was searching for the dirt, the skinny on how she might be corrupt or otherwise evil, and frankly, she looks highly qualified and squeaky clean. I know so little about local elections. i toyed with running for School Board in the future, but after seeing that truly qualified people are on the board, it makes me feel better that they are. when I say truly qualified — well, I probably am, too, but my only area of expertise is in high school education, so that doesn’t say a whole lot for the rest of the system. But I suppose with a whole board, we can cover the spectrum. Then again, the political life is probably not for me. I’d probably cry if I lost. I’ll just be a chronic voter instead. Maybe even a letter to the editor writer. Maybe.

I’ve looked at the West Hartford News before, and what freaks me out about it the most is the POlice Blotter. The ware River News had it, too, and it just seems so voyeuristic. I spoke to a colleague about it, and she said it is a great crime deterrent, but I have to say, that seems so puritanical. I’m sure I will eagerly read it, because it is filled with gems like the guy to threatened to castrate the ice cream truck driver with garden shears because the music was so annoying. Did I really need to know that? No, but I got a chuckle. Unfortunately, there’s some ice cream truck guy who has been humiliated for life. i guess the press has an ugly job, but somebody’s got to do it.

Diners and Capitols

This morning Sarah and I went to the Olympia Diner in Newington, CT. It’s a great little diner — a greek diner that americans have come to love. It has very diner-ish decor, etched glass between booths, lots of diner green, vinyl seats, etc. The pancakes were good. Ya gotta love diners for breakfast.

Then we went to the Connecticut State Capitol. It is an interesting bulding. I know next to nothing about architecture, except for the fact that I know what I like when I see it. Sarah said it was a real hodge podge — almost a post-modern kind of style, even though it was built in the 19th c. She said it had a mix of classical and medieval styling. It was very colorful inside, lots of beutiful stained glass and “paintings” stenciled onto the walls. I forget you can go watch your gonverment in action, something that might be kind of fun to do some time. We went into the Senate gallery with a tour. The Senate is in session, but they were just milling aorunfd when we were there. Then we went to the House gallery, and the house is not in session, so it was like a quiet little sanctuary. I could have happily read a book or taken a nap in there. That is wghat government is all about, isn’t it?

Swimming Holes

So I mentioned in an earlier post that it would be great to find local swimming holes, and my friend and co-worker, Sarah, told me about this website Swimming Holes. Looks interesting so far. I have not yet explored any of these swimming holes, and I checked out MA’s list on the site. I know of many more in MA that are not on their website. So perhaps I will be able to stumble upon a few gems here, too.

Exploring

So this is my summer vacation, and in order to stave off insanity, I need to get out of the house. Today I explored some of CT’s state parks. Since Sujal and I are getting married soon, I constantly have the wedding location antennae out. I drove down to Gillette Park in East Haddem, CT. It’s actually a pretty cool little park. The castle itself was built by William Hooker Gillette, an actor famous for portraying Sherlock Holmes. He was an actor on the stage. Frankly, I don’t know that he was such a particularly great man, but he did have the wealth to build this stone castle, and it’s quite beautiful. The tour of the castle is lovely, but I like the outdoors even better. There are a lot of little hiking trails, and some that go down to the river. They do weddings there, but they only allow for 75 people. You can have your wedding on the terrace outside of the castle, which overlooks the CT River. It seems like a great place to have a ceremony. The Connecticut River is picturesque, too. I might even like to do something cheesy like go for a steamboat ride down it. You can also do canoe trips and camp at various parks along the CT River. I will see if I can work on Sujal. I think it would be pretty fun! But what arguably might have been the best part of Gillette SP was when I went to the snackbar to buy some water. The young woman who sold it to me asked if my ring was amber, showing me her amber ring. She said, “It’s like we’re the Wonder Twins.”

I replied, “I can’t believe you know the Wonder Twins.” There really is a dearth of Wonder Twins fans as far as I’m concerned. “Form of an ice bridge.”

“Shape of an eagle.”

Then I saw signs for the Devil’s Hopyard SP. Man, was it ever difficult to actually find. Their map bites, and I was so lost mainly because of some detour signs that ended up not having anything to do with the park itself. I did a small amount of hiking/walking there. The trails seems pretty good, and I think I’d like to go back…with a better map. There was a pretty waterfall, slopingly falling over tiers of rock.

It is supposed to be in the upper 90’s tomorrow, and while I am busy tomorrow, it would be nice to find a swimming hole some time. Lara and I had a fun time finding various swimming holes a few summers ago. It would be great to do that again. The other thing I’d like to find is a good farm stand. They seem to be tough to find around here. I miss the great ones of my youth.