Monday, June 30, 2008
The ceremony is conducted by the Honorable Stefan R. Underhill, United States Federal Judge, and usually attended by CT Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, a member or 2 from the state delegation to the House of Representatives, a State Senator and/or Representative and the Mayor.
It's amazing to watch the people young and old taking the oath surrounded by family members and friends. One cannot help but be touched by the tears streaming down many of the faces. These people, representing many different countries, have come here transfixed by the idea and ideals of freedom. They know what a difficult task it is to become a citizen but they also know what it means.
Monday June 30 was the birthday of one such "citizen", the poet-essayist Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) who was born in Lithuania and settled in Poland during World War II. After defecting to Paris, France,in the early 1950s, he came to the United States in 1960. Milosz taught at the University of California/Berkeley, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980 and was awarded the U.S. National Medal of Arts in 1989. An astute observer of the human condition, he wrote the following words about the U.S. in his book, "Milosz's ABCs" (published in 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.)
"What splendor! What poverty! What humanity! What inhumanity! What mutual good will! What individual isolation! What loyalty to the ideal! What hypocrisy! What a triumph of conscience! What perversity!"
I'm sure the new citizens understand Milosz's sentiments, many agree with him, but, like him, they still want to be part of this "dream."
July 4 is July 3
That is to say, the Fireworks Celebration this year is on the eve of Independence Day, Thursday July 3, as opposed to on the holiday itself, July 4. Boom!
Practical solutions for better development
Two weeks ago, Town Planner Bill Warner made a presentation to the city's Redevelopment Commission on his update of the town's Plan for Conservation and Development.
Commissioners were asked to comment and forward suggestions to Warner.
Commissioner Jennifer Saines Pinch took the task to heart and has created a document with dozens of practical ideas that could make the city, particularly the core city, better immediately.
Here is the body of the letter she forwarded to Warner. Citizens are encouraged to contact Warner with their own ideas, or to ask Warner to add some of these ideas to the plan of development:
I would rather we not consider
the deterioration of the downtown neighborhoods to be
the result of "social problems'. I would argue that
the social problems are a symptom, not a cause: the
downtown neighborhoods have social problems due in
large part to the city's failure to maintain and
enhance the infrastructure and amenities in the core.
Perhaps the most destructive force in the
deterioration of the downtown has been the relocation
of all but one (McDonough) of the schools to the
outlying neighborhoods, robbing the downtown
neighborhoods of their sense of community. Building a
large high school on the outskirts of town has
perpetuated this trend, and created a single point of
investment and educational capital. Without Stillman,
the Kindergarten and High School, the core
neighborhoods to the south of Washington have no
meeting centers. We have to think creatively in the
future about our educational resources. (For example,
the Polish National Home at the corner of High and
Warwick could be a school.) The huge expenditure on
a single school will hamper the city's ability to
upgrade other community and educational facilities.
At the very least, for the short term, Russell
Library's hours should be extended to facilitate
downtown group meetings.
Many of the following suggestions dovetail with the
mission of Transportation Alternatives, since
transportation has so much to do with the quality of
life in urban areas. The lack of courtesy shown to
pedestrians and bikers due to an entrenched
automobile-oriented transportation bureaucracy is a
major drawback to life in the downtown. Noise and
visual pollution, the proliferation of parking lots
and curb cuts, the deterioration of the tree lawns -
these all compound the aforementioned lack of
municipal investment in the downtown infrastructure
and amenities and further undercut the willingness of
parents and prospective homeowners to establish their
families within our neighborhoods.
The following initiatives, many of which overlap and
most of which are simply enforcement-oriented, would
go a long way toward mitigating the challenges faced
--Tow cars that are parked across sidewalks.
--Enforce the right of pedestrians in crosswalks.
--Enforce speed limits. Ticket those that run lights.
Maybe it's time for cameras at key intersections?
--Install bike racks throughout the downtown.
-- Make it part of city policy to ensure that
sidewalks on state bridges are plowed in a timely
--Reverse the trend of making tree lawn smaller: Tree
lawns have been made even smaller, not larger, after
storm sewer separation, to allow for excessively wide
asphalt streets. Not only does this decrease the
amount of protection the pedestrian has from traffic,
it also encourages excessive speeds and welcomes an
ever increasing number of parked cars in the downtown
area. Easy parking discourages the development of an
alternative transportation network. And, smaller
tree lawns make it harder for trees to catch the water
they need and develop their root systems, and to do
the work of shading the streets that would help to
keep the city cooler in the summertime. The sliver of
grass that constitutes the "tree lawn" on Saybrook
Road adjacent to the new emergency room is shameful.
--Restore tree lawns to streets like Church St. and
William St. to discourage speeding and to
differentiate the streetscape from the commercial.
--Provide Urban forestry with a meaningful budget
--tree replacement should be a minimum requirement.
--Encourage the police to respond more quickly and
professionally to downtown crime and public
disturbances and to be familiar with the downtown
--Replace unnecessary traffic lights with stop signs.
This is friendlier to pedestrians and cyclists, and
reduces the visual pollution of wires, stop lights and
--Push back against the installation of the hideous
massive boxes attached to the base of telephone poles
that provide the next generation of cable
connectivity. Why is city property being debased in
this way, by a private company?
--Bury wires underground whenever a street is being
--Smooth out streets (manholes, bumps etc.) to make
them more bicycle friendly and to reduce noise on
--Clamp down on noise pollution from car radios and
--Be vigilant about graffiti-erase it on a daily
--Disallow through truck traffic on residential
streets that have become connectors. This has been
done on Grand St. and should be implemented on High
St., Loveland, etc...
--Restore two way traffic to one way streets to slow
down traffic. Do not disallow parking on these
--Reduce the size of emergency vehicles so that road
radii can be reduced and more effective traffic
calming measures can be employed.
--Move against landlords and homeowners and businesses
and other institutions that use the tree lawn for
parking or for the storage of their garbage cans.
--Invest in McCarthy Park. It has been neglected for
years, while other parks have been undergoing upgrades
over many years. Is there a cost comparison
available of how much has been spent on various parks
over the years?
--Buy a small piece of property on Pameacha pond (when
the next gas station goes out of business) and create
a small access point for the public
--Restore Sumner Brook to increase core amenities and
outdoor activities in the downtown, and to create an
unobstructed connection to the river.
--Implement traffic calming across the city.
Differentiate commercial from residential by painting
yellow stripes on roads and curbs only in commercial
and industrial areas.
--Invest in downtown gateways:
Saybrook Rd: Narrow it and beautify it
(sidewalks, tree lawns, reduced curb cuts etc). (Too
bad the hospital or the city did not consider it
worthwhile to create a beautiful tree lawn while the
new emergency room was under construction. )
Install sidewalks on the south side of the
17 connector. The sidewalk on the north side should
not be used for parking, and should be constructed
with properly poured concrete (not asphalt, which is
currently the case).
South Main has been unnecessarily widened in
parts, has too many curb cuts and needs a design code
to make it more cohesive.
Newfield St, as it approaches 66, has been
excessively widened. One lane should be removed. The
sidewalk starting there is intimidating as it is
protected by an industrial guardrail, which should not
be part of downtown city furniture. It needs a tree
lawn to protect and soften it. Also, as a gateway to
Veteran's Park, it should be made appealing and
The block of 66 from Pearl to Main is a
hodgepodge of curb cuts and badly sighted trees. An
alley should go behind the block on the north side,
and an impressive line of shade trees should be
planted there. On the south side of the street, St.
Sebastian's Church has asphalted the tree lawn. This
should be replanted with grass and more trees.
The approach from the Arrigoni should
welcome the newcomer with handsome signage and a well
maintained garden/trees within the median strip all
the way to Rapallo.
I think that the adaptation of the smart growth plan
for Middletown should begin now, or at least a code
of some kind that will ensure safe and aesthetic
development in the downtown core. Downtown residents
are very distracted by home repair, crime, vandalism
and noise pollution, so it is difficult to get to
every meeting to fight every cause. A solid, enforced
code will take many of these routine decisions off of
our plates, and save our energy for more productive
civic minded pursuits.
Reconsidering the welcome mat for the Army
An interesting article in today's Washington Post indicates that the Army may not be as nice a neighbor as they would lead us to believe. Considering the fact that the Army intends to conduct its own environmental testing, and come to its own environmental conclusions in their plans to build an Army Reserve Training Center in Westfield, on Boardman Lane, this article is a must read. It may come as some surprise to town and state officials that the army, which refuses to build on brownfields, also refuses to clean up the worst of theirs. And they're the biggest polluter in the country.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
A walk with the Wesleyan corridor committee
(This report is based on information provided by Lucy McMillan)
On Thursday June 26, the Wesleyan corridor committee met and walked Williams Street to discuss its potential transformation as a corridor linking Main Street in Middletown to the Wesleyan campus. The group focused on Williams Street because, although it is only one of several parallel streets which could be called corridors between Main and campus, it is the one, in the assessment of Wesleyan staff, and Wes Pres Michael Roth, in need of most help.
The group, which included members of Aware (a group of residents formed to interact with Wesleyan) Joan Hedrick, Shannon Brown, Melissa Schilke, Lucy McMillan and Jennifer Alexander, representatives of Wesleyan including Joyce Topshe, Brandi Hood and Middletown Town Planner Bill Warner, Tom Nigosanti from the Public Works Department and Michiel Wackers of Middletown's Planning Department.
The group walked down the street and examined each parcel of property discussing the ways in which the buildings and ground could be improved to make travel on the corridor safer, and more aesthetically pleasing.
Some of the parcels are held by Wesleyan, some by the Middletown Housing Authority, some by commercial establishments, and some in private hands.
The consensus was that there is much need for improvement, for while some private housing was nicely maintained, other properties featured hideous additions, or were in need of maintenance, and while some commercial buildings added nicely to the corridor, the newly remodeled offices of the Connecticut Humanities Council on the corner of Williams and Broad, for example, others need help.
Some good suggestions were made:
- Improved landscaping at the Wesleyan power plant
- Erecting two small buildings
- Narrowing of traffic lanes by allowing parking on both sides, and widening public walkways
- Closing the street completely to traffic
- Making street a one-way street
- Suggesting fence improvements on the CRT property
- Removing blacktop and planting lawns and landscaping between sidewalks and residences at Traverse Square
- Removing the blacktop parking on the corner of Hamlin and Williams
- Removing parking behind Wesleyan campus safety offices
- Improving landscaping in the parking lot behind the Wesleyan bookstore and Humanities Council
There are opportunities to make improvements including money to perform environmental cleanup at Forest Street Laundry if it is maintained as a laundry, block grants for fence renovations at the CRT building, adaptive historic reuse fundings for some of the privately held buildings, brownfield bundling by Weston Solutions for some of the affected properties.
Still there are challenges. Didato's Service Station on the corner of William and Broad is currently for sale. The Wesleyan Power Plant roof allows only minimal landscaping or construction. Some existing parking lots are still used regularly. Private property owners cannot be forced to make changes. Traffic changes will need public approval. And perhaps the biggest challege - where will money come from to make changes, and who will begin to take the initiative to create a plan to get the job done.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
An eye on the Eye in the Courant
The Middletown Eye is linked to on a Hartford Courant blog page, Richard Kamins' See! Hear!. In his most recent posting he discusses upcoming outdoor concerts in Middletown, Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng, from Ghana (discussed in the Eye) and the concert by Elite Syncopation at the Wadsworth Mansion.
CFA Days and Nights
On those Spring nights when drunk undergrads are lurching loudly down my street, I lie awake and think that the advantages of living across the street from Wesleyan University far outweigh these slight irritations.
This week is proof.
The Wesleyan Center for the Arts is offering some great performances in its Days and Nights series. On Tuesday and Wesdnesday of this coming week (July 1 & 2) there are two amazing free events.
On Tuesday afternoon, renowned musical entertainer, and genius tap star Harold "Stumpy" Cromer will speak and perform at a noon event at Crowell Concert Hall. Cromer has appeared with some of the greats of musical theater including Burt Lahr, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Count Basie. There's an interesting interview with Cromer here.
On Wednesday evening in the CFA Courtyard, Kwaku Kwaakye (Martin) Obeng, a master drummer and dancer from Ghana will perform with his band in a free concert. These outdoor concerts draw crowds, and the kids in residence for the summer Creative Arts programs usually come out to lead the dancing.
A hill with a view
Friday, June 27, 2008
America's Cup Restaurant -- A Building with a Past
The origins of the America's Cup building can be dated to 1896-97, when fifteen Middletown men formed the Mattabesett Canoe Club. According to an article in the May 4th 1901 Penny Press (the forerunner to the Middletown Press), the object of the club was “to promote the social and intellectual welfare of its members, to encourage a canoe yacht and aquatic sports canoe and yacht building and to promote naval architecture and the cultivation of naval science.” [Needless to say, there are some commas missing in the previous sentence, and possibly a word or two. But that's how it appears to have been reported.] The club grew rapidly: by 1906 membership had exploded to 216; the club soon took on a new name, The Middletown Yacht Club, and by 1913 was the biggest yacht club in Connecticut with 300 members; in 1914 the members were contemplating a new building, which became a reality in the following year. That new building, which cost $14,000 to build in 1914, is now occupied by America's Cup Restaurant. The picture below, which appears to have been taken from the river, is from a 1915 edition of The Rudder magazine.
The big change in the club, however (and this is one of the things that grabbed Scott's attention), was the increased popular interest in engine-powered boating, which occurred right around the turn of the century. According to a 1903 document, the vessels registered to the club included over forty canoes, but also nearly twenty steam- or gas-powered yachts. There were only a handful of sailboats. By 1913 power boats easily outnumbered canoes. By then, one of the big attractions was the annual power boat race along the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound, in which the Middletown contingent played the principal organizing role.
Eventually the Middletown Yacht Club migrated south, first to Maromas in 1945, and then to Chester (its current location) in 1957 -- and in the process it again underwent a name change, this time to the Middlesex Yacht Club. According to the Middlesex Yacht Club's website -- where there is a lovely 1924 photograph of the Harbor Park clubhouse, partly covered in ivy -- the shift from Maromas to Chester was precipitated by the decision on the part of the US Government to take over the Maromas location for an atomic laboratory, which eventually became United Technology's Pratt & Whitney plant. (In a way, then, the story intersects with another controversy that is bubbling up in Middletown, that is, the role of the US Government in Middletown, manifest at this particular moment in the new army training center being planned for the Westfield section of town.)
In addition to encouraging leisure boating, the Middletown Yacht Club served as a major social hub for Middletown in the early twentieth century. The Penny Press is full of reports about the annual banquets and other activities hosted by the club. Not surprisingly these were male dominated affairs. (A 1903 regulation, later dropped, advised that “As a precaution of safety, no member shall take out more than one lady at a time in his canoe.”) Nevertheless, one can imagine that the departure of the club left a gaping hole in the social life of the town. By then, of course, the citizens of Middletown had lost their connection to the river, due mainly to the construction of Route 9 in 1951 (which was the subject of another excellent student project and perhaps an upcoming story for the Eye).
Please don't line the kitty litter box with today's business section
The Hartford Courant did a nice feature on my business, Motion Inc., in this morning's paper. I offer it to my neighbors as an explanation as to why I'm always saying that I'm going off to shoot people. BTW, that "cluttered office;" it's just a reflection of my mind.
You can sample, The Unfortunate Truth About Alzheimer's Disease here.
Ed McKeon lives in the Village District, and also hosts radio shows on WWUH and WESU.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Visual Treats for the Mind
Walking around the Wesleyan campus the other day, I chanced upon this poster and headed over to the Zilkha Gallery in the Center for the Arts. These 3 artists are all students in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Wesleyan and this exhibition celebrates their work.
It's tough to tell looking at this image of a row of trees in Italy just how powerful Ryan Lee's exhibition is. Titled "Slivers", Lee makes a statement about how man treats or, truly, mistreats the environment. 90% of each image is taken up by the sky, a bleached-out tableau and what one sees of the earth often looks desolate or defeated (one image juxtaposes a lonesome stand of trees with a subdivision of lily-white houses.) It's best to view Lee's work without people milling about because one really needs to take the time to take in what he or she is seeing. Ryan Lee graduated from the GLSP this past May and his exhibition was awarded the Rulewater Prize. You can view the works online at www.ryandlee.com.
William Murray's exhibition, "A Soul's Search for Meaning", is a series of monotypes and one painting that draws one in slowly (the way they were created.) The works are abstract but the careful viewer can intuit that the artist quest had a spiritual intent.
Philip Munroe's drawings definitely tell a story. The title of his work "Visualizing Melville's 'The Confidence Man': His Masquerade" and, while there is no text, the artist has imbued each character in his work with personality and emotions.
Both Munroe and Murray are working towards their degrees and these works serve as their final projects. There's not much time left to view the exhibition; Gallery hours are Friday June 27 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. and Saturday June 28 12 noon - 4 p.m. Go take a look.
(Poster photo by Olivia Barrett and image courtesy of Ryan Lee.)
It started in the Eye
Here's evidence that The Middletown Eye can have some influence on the issues of the city. We received an email from Lee Godburn who allowed us to reprint it in the Eye. As a result, a reporter from the Middletown Press, Sloan Brewster, did a follow-up report on the lease of Harbor Park. Her informative article was the front cover story of the Middletown Press today.
Speaking of local news writing, Middletown also made the front page of the Hartford Courant today with a story about the gash in Maromas and the new Kleen Energy Plant.
Ed McKeon is a writer, filmmaker and radio show host (WWUH, WESU) who lives in Middletown's Village District.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Questions about Harbor Park
This email, written by LK Godburn, and published with his permission, raises question about the lease deal between the City of Middletown and the current and future leaseholder of Harbor Park.
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2008 19:24:22 -0400
Subject: Somethings fishy on the Ct. River
There has been no official comment from the public on this Harbor Park fiasco because frankly no one believed a governing City body in it's right mind would have re-leased the property, so people were caught unaware. That is now changed. If you would like to hear public outcry get ready. We want to know how and why Harbor Park has been allowed to operate with the violations of it's last lease for so long without the City taking action. We want to know what, if any, benefit the tax payers of Middletown are receiving for their hard earned tax dollars going to foster this bar. We would like to know why after all this time in business and the millions of dollars earned by this property Middletown needs to financially help it along. If we are forced to live with this new lease we would like to know what the City intends to do so we don't have to deal with another 25 years of the best location in town being misused and prostituted. We want to know why in a town that is known for it's restaurants the City is financially, unfairly, helping only one. We want to know what the taxpayers liability is going to be when someone finally sues for a drunk driving accident, and we want to know what right the City has to force the guilt of such a tragedy on us. We want to know when a City feels it is appropriate to own and be partnered in a bar. We want to know how appropriate it is to have a former Mayor's husband be the negotiator for this lease. We want to know why budgets are being cut for schools and arts but we have money for a bar. We demand to know the terms of this lease and if it includes the private boat dock for the Marratta yacht and why Frank Marratta has the right to charge other boats docking fees. We want to know what part of this expenditure benefits the taxpaying family. We want to know why it is felt that a low class bar is the best use of our priceless waterfront property. We want to know why other restaurants or developers were not given the opportunity to present other plans for use. And last but not least we want to know why this whole thing seems so shady?
Please tell all you know to call, write, E-mail City Hall www.Mayor@cityofmiddletown.com
A new direction for Miller & Bridge?
Loss of libido in Middletown
Last night the Green Street Arts Center hosted a reading by the editor, and three authors, who have contributed to Dirty Words, A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex.
While the topic is such, that one would surely expect a crowd of curious listeners, the Middletown audience only numbered a couple of dozen. To be fair, it was a Tuesday night (a lovely summer Tuesday night at that); this was the second central-Connecticut reading and there was a joint meeting of the Redevelopment Committee and the Public Safety Committee on the other end of Main Street. And perhaps Middletown, with most of the student population of Wesleyan absent, is a bit more prudish than I might have guessed.
There was no need to be abashed, because while the language was sometimes blunt, the readings were sensitive, insightful, and often hilarious. Sam Brumbaugh, a novelist from Northampton, and coincidentally the producer of Be Here To Love Me, the great documentary about singer-songwriter Townes van Zandt, read his entry about fobbing - the act of weeping during sex. Hartford-born writer Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, gave a hilarious recitation about her first hum job. Dan Pope, a novelist now living in West Hartford, revealed a cross-border journey that ended in coitus interuptus. And editor and author Ellen Sussman revealed the truth about her brother in an essay on commitment, or lack thereof.
If you have any questions about the terms I mentioned above, you may want to get a copy of Dirty Words, and, shall I say, bone up.
Ed McKeon is a writer, filmmaker, radio host (WWUH, WESU) who lives in Middletown's Village District.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
The army training center
On Riding the Bus to Work
Unfortunately, we are indoctrinated to be anti-bus very early: even the intelligent and reasonably socially conscious Middletown High student living in my house considers it social death to ride the school bus.
At present, our transportation planners have elected to deal with commuter preferences by offering a two-tiered system. The first tier is the DATTCO-run Middletown-Saybrook Express, with relatively upscale clientele, plush seats and its own dedicated bus stop/commuter lot on Silver Street, right off Route 9, exit 12. (Note that unless you live in or around CVH, you need a car to get to this bus.) The fare for a 20 minute express ride to Main and Gold in Hartford is $2.95. There are three departures in the morning between 6:50 and 7:50.
The second tier is the Connecticut Transit “U” line, which offers aging and slightly seedy buses with plastic seats and handicapped accessibility for $1.25. These buses stop in downtown Middletown at unmarked kiosks and wherever the bus driver feels safe stopping, which you have to figure out yourself because Middletown does not allow bus signage or any amenities that would in any way encourage a non-indigent person to consider these buses as a transportation option. The Connecticut Transit “U” bus leaves hourly to meander through Cromwell, Rocky Hill and Wethersfield in a route that takes about 40 minutes from downtown Middletown to downtown Hartford. The “U” happens to be the option I prefer, much as I prefer public schools over private. (I did warn you about the self-righteousness.)
I wonder what is the justification for this two-tiered system and if it negatively affects the quality of service as a whole. It will be interesting to observe the discussions about this as our policy makers try to cope with increased ridership and demands for better and more flexible service.
Dirty words for dirty minds
It's surely not the first time that literary writers have turned their minds and their pens (keyboards?) to eroticism.
Tonight, the Green Street Arts Center presents readings from Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex. Here's what Green Street has to say about the event:
- Our favorite contemporary authors on an irresistible subject: sex. From sexual relationships to sexual positions, from the classics to contemporary twists, Dirty Words collects the most provocative definitions of the most outlandish sexual terms, as defined by some of today's most exciting writers. Editor Ellen Sussman is joined by the region's literati for an evening of readings that step in where time-honored discussions of the birds and the bees fall short. Featuring live readings by: Sussman and Sam Brumbaugh, Rand Cooper, Thaisa Frank, Dan Pope and Mary-Ann Tirone Smith. Due to mature content, this event is recommended for people age 18 and up. Advanced Reservation is recommended.
- Location: Green Street Arts Center
Admission: $5 suggested donation
Sponsor: Green Street Arts Center
Sebastian Barry in Madison and New Haven
Last night, I went down to RJ Julia Books to hear Sebastian Barry read from his new novel The Sacred Scripture, and was mesmerized by Barry's talent, as was the entire audience. Read a sample of The Sacred Scripture here.
I fell in love with Barry's writing when my wife Lucy brought me a copy of his The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, as a gift from her travels in Ireland many years ago. He is a gifted writer who was granted the Irish gifts of language and story.
Barry is in this country because his play, The Pride of Parnell Street is being staged during the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven this week, by the Irish theater company Fishamble. The play sold out its run, and a new show was just added for Saturday evening.
Barry read his story, which is written in the voice of a 100 year old woman who is being moved from the institution she has lived in for decades, after being committed for a problem with "morals."
He explained that it took him months to hear his character's voice, but suggested "if you remain quiet and contemplative enough, these voices will rise up and tell their stories." Barry's reading was theatrical (his theatricality credited to his recently departed mother, an Abbey Theater actress, who was doing television roles until just before her death), as he fell into a lilting Sligo accent (his own Irish accent has been softened, presumably by education, and his time spent in the London theater), and brought to life the remembrances of time lost to a life sequestered behind locked doors. While Barry warned that the story was "dark," both passages he read were colorful, detailed, soaring description of days when his character experienced exalting moments of joy and love.Barry, a playwright, poet and novelist, explained that many of his works are built around the skeleton of forgotten ancestors. This book is a tribute to the true story of a great aunt. In it, we meet Eneas McNulty again - a great uncle. And Barry's grandfather and great grandfather are at the core of central characters in his successful play The Steward of Christendom, and his novel, A Long, Long Way which was nominated last year for the Booker-Mann prize.
The reading was one of many hosted by Roxanne Coady at her amazing independent bookstore, RJ Julia in Madison.
Monday, June 23, 2008
2nd Annual Joyful Noise in Downtown Middletown--Saturday June 28--Doors open 6:00pm -- Joyful Noise Ministry is having their "2nd Annual Joyful Noise in Downtown Middletown Concert" at Church of the Holy Trinity, 381 Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457 -- The concert will feature Unspoken and the Joyful Noise Praise Band---Tickets are $5 in advance or $7 at the door-- For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 860-347-2591
After lingering and listening for a while, I concluded that while Round Hill may not have the most spectacular view in Middletown, it must boast the only radio broadcasting 24/7. I headed back the dirt trail through the forest, down the very steep Round Hill Road and then through Middlefield on Laurel Grove, Cherry Hill, Strickland, and Jackson Hill Roads. Round Hill itself may have been disappointing, but the journey to and from carried me through some of the most beautiful farmland of Middletown and Middlefield.
What to do about Miller & Bridge?
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Another slice gone
I drove by Gianni's Pizza on Broad Street, across from the Middlesex Mutual tower, and saw that it had closed. I may be late in reporting this, but there's nothing like cold pizza.
Ed McKeon is a filmmaker, radio show host (WWUH, WESU) and resident of the Village District.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
After successfully summitting the venerable Higby Mountain yesterday, my goal today was to conquer Lamentation Mountain, in my quest for "7 hills in 7 days". Although the actual summit of Lamentation Mountain (720') is in Meriden, part of the mountain is in the northwestern corner of Middletown.
Army base on Boardman Lane?
My favorite cemetery in Middletown is on the south side of Boardman Lane, about a quarter mile west of Middle Street. It is a small, well-kept cemetery, with burial dates ranging from about 1770 to about 1815. Here lie men, women, and children from the great families of Westfield, members of the Wilcox, Bacon, Higby, and Boardman families. The names, as well as the simplicity, uniformity, and antiquity of the tombstones conjure up another time, when essentially all of the land in Westfield (and most of the land in Middletown) was farmland. The people below these stones would not recognize our Middletown: in the past 75 years or so, we have replaced our farmland with housing, commerce, factories, and parks. This inexorable transformation continues to take place today, as progress, population, and the economics of farming make agriculture less attractive to Middletown residents.
Automobility vs. Bikability vs. Walkability
Today's Hartford Courant features a commentary piece by Orr on the challenges faced by pedestrians in New Haven -- and all over the US -- due to decades of misguided street design. It's well worth reading. A passage that caught my eye:
"Engineering policy over the past 50 years has nudged streets toward increasing mobility. Mobility is the term used by engineers to describe measures to make drivers feel safe at higher speeds, called design speed. The tools for increased design speed are wide and multiple driving lanes; one-way streets; absence of parking and visual obstructions, especially near intersections; streamlined corners with large radii; and highly legible signage. All these measures make drivers feel safer at higher speeds."
Of course, and as Orr makes abundantly clear, enhanced roadway design speed translates into greater danger for pedestrians. "All these automotive assets spell liabilities for pedestrians, especially now that studies demonstrate 37 mph to be the threshold for guaranteed pedestrian fatality. By contrast, speeds below 20 mph rarely result in serious injury. Other studies now link accidents directly to street width; as streets widen, fatalities increase exponentially."
Another interesting feature of Orr's piece is a related point about cyclists, who feel a need to use sidewalks as bike paths because the streets -- even as they are progressively widened -- have become too dangerous for them. This results in the occasional pedestrian-cyclist collision.
The essay made me wonder about the degree to which Middletown's walkability has been compromised over the years, sacrificed on the altar of "design speed". Little things like the incremental widening of roads (especially East Main, Washington Street, Newfield Street, not to mention all the streets that were routinely widened during the sewer separation work in the late 1990s, such as our old haunt, Brainerd Avenue) to the absence of sidewalks to the "one-waying" of residential streets (Liberty, Court, College, Loveland, etc.), make what were and are centrally located neighborhoods seem like pockets of isolation. Add to this the cumulative effect of tree pruning and cutting for power lines, the destruction of the tree lawns by the salting of roads in the winter, and the plague of cars parked across the sidewalk, and you get a barren landscape that is not at all conducive to walking.
And I haven't even mentioned Route 9 and the loss of easy access to the riverfront, Middletown's raison d'être.
For an indication of how one street used to look, see this image of Washington Street (looking west from the intersection with Broad) in the collection of old photographs at Connecticut History Online.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
The Tourist "Eye"
Out in the blogosphere, I stumbled upon this lovely description of someone visiting our town for the first time (she came for the Wesleyan Writers' Conference). Interesting to see how we are seen!
Read it at Crazy Pete's Blotter.