A friend who lives in morbidly boring
Farmington once accused me of being a “booster” for Middletown. I had never
thought of myself as such, since my normal attitude is one of deep cynicism. Only
someone brought up in Ohio
during the Eisenhower era can understand how thoroughly I rejected
all things boosterish.
But, inevitably, I had to admit that perhaps I am fond of my adopted home town. When I moved to
the early 70’s, there were still people who thought “going to Middletown” was a euphemism for being
incarcerated at CVH. Others pointed out the lingering aroma of hot rubber,
apparently a reference to a long-gone rubber factory.
For many years, I worked in other cities, such as
Meriden, Wallingford and East Hartford. Rarely did I come home and announce that
some fun thing was happening in one of those places. And it wasn’t laziness
that led me to plays or films at Wesleyan, or music at the Buttonwood Tree. We
do venture out to TheaterWorks and the University
of Hartford, or even, under extreme
motivation, to Northampton.
Many readers won’t remember a time when
claim to restaurant fame was restricted to O’Rourke’s Diner, La Boca and Alfredo’s
There are still occasions, when out in the greater world, that I find myself
answering queries about what the food was like at Alfredo’s – and I nearly weep
at the memory of those bargain lobster nights, not to mention the marinara
sauce and the escarole-and-bean soup that I have never been able to replicate
Middletown has a
downtown that is the envy of cities and towns, not just in Connecticut,
but all over New England. There is a mix of
retail, albeit weighted too heavily toward food, which draws visitors from throughout
the area. There is entertainment practically all the time, and it isn’t just
eggheady plays at Wesleyan or bread and circuses for the motorcycle crowd.
And, although I often invite friends from other towns to join us for events such as Middnight on Main or the Open Air Market at
, I am often surprised at how far
people come to visit our town. The summer concert series at the Mansion
obviously draws from out of town – there just aren’t that many people in Wadsworth Mansion Middletown!
All this, however, is just an extremely wordy preamble to an amazing exchange of comments heard recently on the Colin McEnroe Show on WNPR. Guests were bashing two of
cities, New Haven and West
Hartford, for their regressive, even Police State tactics
regarding parking. A meter maid’s action was described as one of “Dickensian
Middletown – ah, Middletown! Middletown’s meters
provide parkers with the first ten minutes for free. As Colin retailed this story, his guests
raved about Middletown: “West Hartford could
learn something from the fine people of Middletown.” “ Middletown
wants to accommodate everybody.” “The
next time I go to West Hartford, I’m going to park in Middletown.”
You can listen to the whole show here, but the discussion of Middletown happens about
a half hour into the show.
I have to confess that I was only vaguely aware of the free ten minutes policy – when I put money in a
Main Street meter on Friday, I saw the
extra time pop up, but had no idea it was intentional. Just when I thought I
had read every word ever written on Middletown’s
endlessly controversial parking policy!
So, let me net out this valentine: Middletown has a thriving downtown, it has terrific – often very reasonable – food, something for absolutely everyone to do, and it has a more rational and civil parking policy than West Hartford or New Haven. A last factoid I learned from listening to the radio: both
New Haven and West Hartford charge for street parking well into the
evening – like 10 p.m.!
So, the next time you park downtown – for free – at 5:50 p.m., think about how much you would be paying if you had gone to one of those other cities nearby.