Friday, November 30, 2012

Noah Baerman Shines at The Buttonwood Tree with a Note of Approval

Thank you to our good friend, a regular patron and loyal TBT supporter, Stephen Lapenta, for this eloquent commentary on last night's show.

"I think everyone at the show last night was fortunate. Very fortunate. Because certainly for jazz lovers and I'm guessing for music lovers in general it just doesn't get any better than last night. The jazz scene at The Buttonwood Tree and in Middletown has become that good. Maybe as good as it gets for a long way outside of town as well. In particular the regular appearances by Noah Baerman and the always stellar musicians he brings with him at the Tree, Green Street and Wesleyan have created a scene. A somewhat historic scene at least in a local sense. First, Mr. Baerman himself whose skill at composition and touch at the keyboard embodies all those he pays homage to . . . teachers, bandmates and the seminal figures like Davis and Coltrane, whose music was laid open with power and compassion last night. Consider the smooth but unrelenting bass of Henry Lugo, a succession of drummers, last night it was Zane West, each of which forces you to notice the complexity and bop of a pointed rhythmic backbone.  And then there's Jimmy Green. His name is known in musical circles near and far I'm sure. It must be. But for me, not being a jazzophile he was Coltrane last night. His biggness on the stage, the matte finish on that beautiful horn and the ironic complacency of his demeanor . . . all in a nights work? I don't think so. When he put lip to reed he was channeling something. It doesn't come out that big, that good just from practice. Close your eyes and it could've been 1961 at the Village Vanguard.

And we were there. For like ten bucks. Not even Alzheimer's could erase that one."

Mark your calendar! Dec 7th Comedy Show

Come see two great comedy acts 
Hartford’s Sea Tea Improv and Middletown’s own BenTopher and Friends entertain you with a wonderful night of comedy!
Our improv shows are different every time!
Friday, December 7th at 7:30PM
First Church of Christ Parish Hall, 190 Court Street, Middletown CT
Tickets $10 day of show, 2nd ticket $5
Doors open at 7PM
Call 860-325-2386 or visit for more info.

Pedestrian Hit By Police Car On Washington Street

Note added (10:35AM): The pedestrian was not associated with Wesleyan, according to a University spokesperson.

From a report on WTNH.
A pedestrian was struck by a police cruiser in Middletown and taken to the hospital early this morning.

The person was struck near Washington St./Route 66 and Newfield St. That is next to the Wesleyan University campus.

We don't have any information about the person who was hit or their injuries, but police said that person was taken to Middlesex Memorial Hospital.

Middletown police are investigating, but no further information was available.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Future of South Cove

The Jonah Center for Earth and Art invites the public to an informational meeting and discussion on the future of South Cove, on Thursday, December 13, at 7 p.m., in the Memorial Room at First Church of Christ, Congregational, 190 Court Street, in Middletown.

William Warner, the Director of Planning, Conservation, and Development, will make a presentation on a variety of issues and the decision-making process that will affect this key area of Middletown’s waterfront property. Redevelopment of South Cove is now possible following recent passage of a voter referendum that allows the decommissioning of the sewage treatment plant, probably by the year 2015.

The area known as South Cove comprises the waterfront area just south of Harbor Park, along both sides of River Road between Union Street and Eastern Drive. This area was discussed extensively by Middletown residents in the year 2000, leading to the conclusion that a redeveloped South Cove should include a large waterfront park, boat access to the river, and outdoor entertainment and recreation facilities that would support  high quality commercial and residential development on nearby privately-owned parcels.

Mr. Warner will share his thoughts on the creation of a “floating zone” that would complement existing zoning in order to encourage the most creative and appealing proposals from potential developers. The public will have the opportunity to ask questions and to offer ideas so that Middletown can make the most of this historic opportunity to reclaim the city’s waterfront.

More information on South Cove can be found on the City of Middletown’s Department of Planning, Conservation, and Development website at
A conceptual drawing of the area developed by the department can be found at

There is no admission charge for this event. For more information, call 860-398-3771.

The Buttonwood Tree Honors Miles and Coltrane with Noah Baerman Trio

Join us at The Buttonwood Tree TONIGHT in honoring great jazz musicians!

The Music of Miles and Coltrane with Noah Baerman Trio feat. Jimmy Greene
 Thursday November 29th

$5 for students
$10 regular admission
teaching starts  6:30 pm
concert starts 7:30 pm

Pianist/educator Noah Baerman most often performs his own music, but on this evening offers a diverse program of songs associated with the jazz greats John Coltrane and Miles Davis. The program is presented in conjunction with his course on these two musicians through Wesleyan University’s Graduate Liberal Studies program, and there will be a demonstration and Q&A session preceding the concert. Joining him will be bassist Henry Lugo, drummer Vinnie Sperrazza and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene, all longtime cohorts of Noah’s and all accomplished educators themselves. Come for the whole evening or just the concert – either way, you can expect to be educated and uplifted.

Stop in at The Buttonwood Tree for our other weekend events:

Hartt School of Music: Classical Guitar Showcase
Friday November 30th

$8 regular admission
$5  student admission
8-10 pm

The Guitar Department at The Hartt School University of Hartford is the oldest performance-based guitar program in the country. Graduating its first member in 1968, its students have won or been finalists in major guitar competitions including the Guitar Foundation of America, Music Teachers National Association, American String Teachers Association, and Alirio Diaz Competition.

In addition, graduates hold or have held teaching positions at, William and Mary College, VA; University of Tennessee, Memphis; University of Idaho, Moscow; New England Conservatory, MA; Boston Conservatory, MA; The Hartt School, CT; University of Central Florida; Louisiana Tech University; Moravia College, PA; Misericordia College, PA, and University of Connecticut to mention but a few.

This evening’s concert will feature ensemble and solo guitar music including guitar quartets, flute and guitar, as well as solos. Student’s performing this evening come from Brazil, Mexico, California, as well as the East Coast.

Eric Mintel Jazz Quartet
Saturday December 1st

$20 in advance
$25 at the door
8-10 pm

Eric Mintel – Piano, composer, band leader
Nelson Hill – Alto Sax, soprano Sax, flute
Dave Mohn – Drums
Jack Hegyi – Electric Bass
Join us for one of our favorite groups, the Eric Mintel Quartet, for a very special, one time only performance! Last year we sold out the room twice, once before they played at the White House and once after! This engaging, fun and extremely talented band plays your favorite jazz tunes and originals. We are very fortunate and grateful to be able to offer this show again this year – don’t wait to reserve your seat!

Eric has performed at the White House for President Clinton in 1998, Eric has been interviewed and featured in Down Beat Jazz Magazine, in June 2005 Eric was the featured guest on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz on NPR and recently the quartet opened for Dave Brubeck at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA. In November 2005, Eric released a 3 CD Boxed set of his jazz on the QVC Television network. In June 2006, the Eric Mintel Quartet was invited to XM Satellite Radio’s World Headquarters’ in Washington, DC to perform in XM’s Live Performance Theater. The quartet’s one hour show aired to the XM Nation on August 12, 2006 on Real Jazz XM 70.  Eric and the quartet have also been interviewed on WGBH in Boston with legendary jazz DJ Eric Jackson.
In August 2010, the Eric Mintel Quartet performed by invitation at the United Nations in New York City for UNESCO head of operations Eric Falt.  On December 14 2011, the Eric Mintel Quartet returned once again to the White House, this time performing for the Obama’s for a holiday dinner reception.  A note from President Obama stated that the quartet’s music set the mood for the entire evening.

"Aligned with Source" Workshop for Empowerment
 Saturday December 1st

$5 suggested donation
10:30 am- 12 pm

A Workshop hosted by Annaita Gandhy:  Annaita is a Spiritual and Holistic Healer who moved to Connecticut from India. Experienced in applying various healing modalities to a wide range of situations, her main focus has been to heal through empowerment.

December Art Gallery- Through My Lens: Bill Revill's Photographs

Bill Revill is a painter and photographer who had a showing of his paintings at The Buttonwood Tree in the fall of 2011. He returns to TBT for the holiday season this time with an eclectic selection of his photographic prints that include musicians, landscapes, seascapes, local agricultural fairs and more.

Visit for more information on Bill


Bookstore and Art Gallery open at 10 am  Mondays - Saturdays.  
All events listed are held at The Buttonwood Tree: Performing Arts and Cultural Center. 
For more information please visit our website or give us a call.
605 Main Street. Middletown, CT                860-347-4957 

Next JGSCT Program: Dec 16 @ Godfrey Library



The Jewish Genealogical Society of Connecticut will meet on Sunday, December 16, 2012, at 1:30 pm, at the Godfrey Memorial Library, 134 Newfield Street, Middletown.  The program is free and open to all. 


Join West Hartford resident Ivan Backer as he details the four separate escapes of his father, mother, older brother, and himself from Czechoslovakia in 1939.  Each story typifies how families survived those turbulent times.  Ivan will read his mother’s dramatic description of her own journey that he recorded through an interview.  Ivan escaped on a kindertransport, which he will describe. 


For additional information, please see

A Commentary On The Washington Street Proposal

Bill Wasch sent the following commentary in to The Eye, after attending Tuesday's forum at Wesleyan on the possible move of the Wesleyan bookstore to a new shopping center on Washington Street. Wasch is an alumnus and former trustee of Wesleyan, a Middletown resident, and founder of a business that designs, builds, and remodels homes for seniors.
I was there today in the back. I was very much disappointed in the presentation and thought Wes should be able to do better. I thought the best comment was by the person who talked about the connection between the campus and downtown along Williams Str. I was on the Wes Board of Trustees when we hired the former Harvard planner to establish the main campus road behind North college which follows the line through the art center to behind the former Scott lab and over Church to the Science Center. This is the diagonal of the campus and has done a lot to integrate the campus via the student union and former squash courts. It is ridiculous to try to tie Wes to downtown any other way, the current axis supports the Wes book store which houses WESU and a comfortable book cafe. Why a new big box book store (Barnes and Nobles and many other book stores are on the way out)? I do not think much intelligence has been exerted on the current plan. I was embarrassed for the proponents and hope they give up sooner than later.

The developer who was running the meeting did not endear himself to the audience in the way he handled the meeting nor did Wes impress me through its presentation.

All in all, a sad commentary on Wes planning.

Bill Wasch

Live at Russell Library

Here's a good-looking and potentially fine sounding concert tip from The Russell Library:

This Saturday (December 1), violinist Emil Altschuler and pianist Artem Belogurov will perform Danzas Españolas. This beautiful and fiery program explores the works of composers such as Falla, Ravel, and Poulenc who were inspired by the music and historical events of Spain.

One of America’s finest up and coming virtuoso violinists, Emil Altschuler (pictured above) performs at a world class standard and possesses a commanding stage presence. He holds degrees from Juilliard School and Yale School of Music.  Master violinist, Erick Friedman, wrote of him: '...a very gifted violinist who possesses the talent and capability to become a truly outstanding violinist of his generation...and sound and accuracy of intonation that are truly extraordinary.”

Pianist Artem Belogurov (pictured left) is a rising young artist whose lively and expressive performances have delighted audiences in the United States and Europe.  He received his early training at the Stolyarsky School of Music in Odessa, Ukraine and his Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the New England Conservatory in Boston.   He is currently a student of Peter Serkin.  His extensive repertoire ranges through three centuries of solo and chamber works.  Artem has been praised for his “grace, elegance and high artistry” and has given numerous solo and chamber recitals throughout the United States and Europe.

This concert takes place at 2 p.m. in the Hubbard Room and, of course, is free and open to the public.  

Middletown Residents Awarded Honors At Xavier

Congratulations to the following high school students from Middletown for their outstanding accomplishments at Xavier:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reports: 26 Sheep Carcasses Found on River Rd.

Channel 3 News, NBC Connecticut and the Courant are all reporting that the carcasses of 26 sheep were found in black plastic garbage bags near a house on River Road.

According to the various reports, the smell of the carcasses alerted a group of Wesleyan film students working on a horror movie.  The animals appeared to have been butchered, and the remains contain ear tags that the Department of Agriculture will use to trace their origins.  The property is apparently listed as 'for sale'.

Must have been quite a turn in the making of that horror movie.

La La Land, A REAL Book Store, Democracy

There were some colorful moments yesterday when Bob Landino, the CEO of Centerplan Companies, along with his colleague Yves Josephs and Middletown architect Jeff Bianco, presented their preliminary plans for a 20,000 square foot development on the corner of Washington Street and Pearl Street.  The purpose of the meeting was to get input from the Wesleyan community about the part of the plan that would move the University book store to the new development under contract with a national company. The University has not announced any official decision about whether or not they have signed onto this plan.

A full accounting of the meeting will appear in the Middletown Eye soon. For now, video is available on the Middletown Eye's YouTube channel 

Highlight Reel - excerpts showing some of the more colorful moments -

Additional video of the entire meeting is still in process of being uploaded to the Middletown Eye's YouTube channel and will be available on the channel which you can go to by clicking on this link: 

Monthly Improv Show Delights Audiences

Each month, a group of talented comedians and performers take stage at First Church's Parish Hall. The shows are mixture of improvised comedy and fun. We've had shows featuring imaginary spaceships, pirate battles and the completely unexpected.

The next show on December 7th at 7:30PM will be a special treat. Hartford's Sea Tea Improv is coming down to Middletown to delight you! Also, the comedy of BenTopher and Friends will be opening up the night with more made-up fun.

The shows are funded through a grant from the Middletown Commission on the Arts and sponsored through The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts & Cultural Center. Because of this, tickets are at a special, reduced price of $10 for one, and half off for your second ticket.

You can find out more by visiting

Huck Finn This Weekend

 Oddfellows Playhouse’s Junior Repertory Company will present Huck Finn by Eric Coble, Adapted from the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Huck Finn flees the claws of "civilization" for the freedom of the mighty Mississippi, only to find himself running from mobs, getting shot at, stealing gold, digging escape tunnels and dressing as a woman. And perhaps his greatest adventure: unexpectedly finding his own moral compass in a world of corruption and hypocrisy.  This highly-theatrical adaptation presented by the Junior Repertory Company and directed by Lorra Webb, is the second of Coble’s work produced at the Playhouse, following 2006’s Gold in the Bones.  This classic tale of adventure is great for families and students of all ages.

The production runs Thursday thru Saturday, November 29, 30 and December 1  All performances begin at 7:00 p.m.  Tickets are $15 for Adults and $8 for Students/Seniors.  Anyone bringing a canned food item for Amazing Grace Food Pantry will receive a $2 discount on their ticket.  Tickets are available online at or by calling 860-347-6143. 

The production is made possible by major support from CT State Department of Education, Middlesex United Way, The Stare Fund, Pratt & Whitney, the Middletown Commission on the Arts, Eli Cannon’s Tap Room and Daphne Sebolt Culpeper Foundation.   Media support provided by Comcast and WESU 88.1FM. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Observations from the Wesleyan/CenterPlan meeting

For a live blogging of the event, visit:

Just copy and paste that into your browser.

Over a hundred people from Wesleyan and the Middletown community met to hear CenterPlan's proposal for a new development on Washington Street.

The purpose of the meeting was to gauge the community's input on the proposed move of the bookstore. The overwhelming feeling of the audience was in opposition of the proposed plan to move Wesleyan's bookstore to this proposed location.

The primary concern was the issue of traffic, both car and foot traffic. Other issues were brought up, such as, Wesleyan would not control the bookstore property.

We Deserve an Upgrade

This appeared all over Wesleyan's campus yesterday.  Some students conjecture it is not the work of students.  We deserve a Chipotle's.  Indeed.  Radicals! Anarchists!  Consumerists!

Free Computer Clinic

There will be a FREE computer clinic at MxCC on Wednesday, November 28, sponsored by the MxCC Computer Club, in partnership with students of the Introductions to Operating Systems class. This FREE service is open to the college and the surrounding community. Bring your computers to be diagnosed and repaired.

December 7th Gala Event for Concert Series

This news from Barbara Arafeh:

The Greater Middletown Concert Association is celebrating its 45th Anniversary year with a Musical Gala on Friday evening, December 7, at the Wadsworth Mansion at the Long Hill Estate in Middletown . 

This fund-raising occasion will feature live musical entertainment, a buffet dinner and a silent auction. Festivities will include memorabilia viewing and reminiscences of the outstanding world-class performances that the Greater Middletown Concert Association has brought to the area. Geraldine Bennett and Marcia Wrubel are co-hosts for the event. Tickets are $75 per person for this fundraiser Gala.

Live entertainment will include opera, jazz and chamber music. Singers from the Connecticut Lyric Opera, instrumentalists from the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and jazz musicians known locally will share their talents with attendees at the Gala. A special baby grand piano has been brought to the Mansion for the occasion.

“We have much to celebrate when we look back at the variety and caliber of those many performing artists that we have brought to Middletown for area enjoyment over the years,” remarks Barbara Arafeh, president of the Greater Middletown Concert Association. This year’s season of the organization includes six varied concerts of which three are an Opera Series in themselves. They are performed in the MHS Performing Arts Center state-of-the- art 700-seat auditorium. The Greater Middletown Concert Association was recipient of a 2012 award and grant from the Middletown Commission on the Arts.

Many area residents have attended Greater Middletown Concert Association performances over the years either under the name of Middletown Community Concerts or its present name. Anyone interested in learning more about attending the Gala on December 7 should call Marcia 860-347-2035 or Gerry 860-347-5360.  For more info on the concert series itself, visit

Stripmauled, Or Ten Good Reasons to Oppose the Washington Street Development, Part 2


Local developer Centerplan, with the blessings of Middletown’s Mayor and Chamber of Commerce, and with the cooperation of Wesleyan University, has proposed a commercial development on Washington Street, between Pearl and High, on the Northern side of the street.  It will be a three-story office and retail complex.  I live in sight of the proposed development.  Part one of this commentary was published yesterday.

The Wesleyan forum on the proposed development (Tuesday Nov. 27, 4:30 PM) has been moved to a larger space on campus,  PAC 001 (on Church St, just East of Olin Library).  The developer, Centerplan will be making a presentation.  Unfortunately, this meeting has been scheduled at a time when many faculty chair and co-chairs will be attending mandatory meetings.  Several of these chairpersons are influential faculty, and Middletown residents.
WE'VE NOW ENTERED THE TWILIGHT ZONE.  The parcel in question is not zoned for the kind of development proposed.  To develop this parcel, the Planning and Zoning Commission will have to grant a significant zoning change.  A zoning change would be permanent, thereby allowing a wide array of commercial, retail and restaurant development on this block, and because a precedent will be set that goes beyond this block.

When parcels in a town are zoned, it is an attempt to create a contiguity of purpose and design in adjacent parcels.  This comprehensive plan is designed to prevent the kind of free-for-all development which occurs when there is no plan.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lively Open Mic at Buttonwood Tree

November 26th. It was a lively night at the Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts & Cultural Center. 605 Main Street in Middletown.

Host Brian Schroth started the night with a few rags on the piano. Next up featured dance artist Basil Ail. Look up his videos on YouTube. Search for starwolfx1.

Next up it was Tai-Chi mixed with electric guitar and poetry. It's pretty delightful to see all this artistry expressed on a Monday night.

The weekly open mic at The Buttonwood is more than mere descriptions of performances in The Middletown Eye blog. There's an palpable electricity in the room. Anything can happen on the stage. So for inexpensive Monday night you can witness the wild live magic Middletown has to offer at the Anything Goes Open Mic.

Middnight On Main - Volunteering - Get Involved!

The 2nd Annual Middnight on Main event is fast approaching.

We will need more than 200 volunteers to make Middnight on Main 2013 a success! Join us for a 3-hour shift, and earn a free Middnight admission button ($20 value) which you can give to a friend or use to enjoy the entertainment when you're not volunteering. Plus, you get a free Middnight Volunteer t-shirt (priceless).

We need your help. It’s easy. Here’s what you can do.

You’ll need to make a commitment of at least 3 hours on December 31st. You can volunteer for one of three shifts: 3-6 PM, 6-9 PM or 9 PM to midnight.

During your shift you will be assigned to one of the performance or activity venues on Main Street.

Please spread the word to your civic group or business, and consider organizing a group of volunteers!

Kayla describes what it's like to get involved with Middnight On Main.

 If you'd like to get involved, Visit

Buttonwood Hosts Extraordinary Jazz Quartet Saturday: From Middletown to the White House and Back Again!

Eric Mintel Quartet  
Dec 1, 2012      8 pm
 $20 in advance; $25 at the door

Eric Mintel - Piano, composer, band leader
Nelson Hill - Alto Sax, soprano Sax, flute
Dave Mohn - Drums
Jack Hegyi - Electric Bass

Join us for one of our favorite groups, the Eric Mintel Quartet, for a very special, one time only performance! Last year we sold out the room twice, once before they played at the White House and once after! This engaging, fun and extremely talented band plays your favorite jazz tunes and originals. We are very fortunate and grateful to be able to offer this show again this year - don't wait to reserve your seat!

Pianist and composer Eric Mintel was born on October 8, 1967. As early as age three he could be found sitting at the piano creating his own melodies. Music, especially classical and jazz, was always part of the Mintel household. In 1982 when his piano teacher was trying to teach Eric the basics, Eric was already playing compositions like Blue Rondo a la Turk, Take Five and other demanding pieces. Eric graduated from Pennridge High School in Perkasie, PA in 1985
In 1993 he formed the Eric Mintel Quartet. Additionally a composer of orchestral and choral music, Eric performs his composition "Millennium Suite" (for orchestra and jazz quartet) with various symphonies throughout the country incorporating jazz and classical music. The quartet's choral concerts feature the rarely heard sacred choral music of Duke Ellington performed with various choirs throughout the country combining jazz and choral music.

Eric has performed at the White House for President Clinton in 1998, Eric has been interviewed and featured in Down Beat Jazz Magazine, in June 2005 Eric was the featured guest on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz on NPR and recently the quartet opened for Dave Brubeck at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA. In November 2005, Eric released a 3 CD Boxed set of his jazz on the QVC Television network. In June 2006, the Eric Mintel Quartet was invited to XM Satellite Radio's World Headquarters' in Washington, DC to perform in XM's Live Performance Theater. The quartet's one hour show aired to the XM Nation on August 12, 2006 on Real Jazz XM 70.  Eric and the quartet have also been interviewed on WGBH in Boston with legendary jazz DJ Eric Jackson.

In August 2010, the Eric Mintel Quartet performed by invitation at the United Nations in New York City for UNESCO head of operations Eric Falt.  On December 14 2011, the Eric Mintel Quartet returned once again to the White House, this time performing for the Obama's for a holiday dinner reception.  A note from President Obama stated that the quartet's music set the mood for the entire evening.

In July 2012, Eric released his 10th CD, this time of all original music titled "Just Around The Corner".  The quartet is currently touring and promoting the new CD.
With over ten concerts at the Kennedy Center and Eric's willingness to bring jazz to different regions this exciting performer continues to connect and communicate with audiences of all ages throughout the country and the world.

Youth In Government Program (Deadline Wed, 11/28)

Just wanted to remind everyone that we have three more days until the deadline for the Youth In Government program's submission deadline. We're looking for city teens who are willing to serve on various boards and commissions and represent "the voice of youth" during these very important conversations.

More information can be found via the link below:

Middletown Youth Services Bureau: Youth In Government Program: Beginning in 2007, the City of Middletown introduced an exciting opportunity for youth in their community. The Youth in Government ...

Liberty Bank Youth in Action Award Nominations Sought

Do you know a young person who has gone above and beyond in giving back to his/her community?  We invite you to nominate him or her for the third annual Liberty Bank Youth in Action Awards!

Please mail your application to:

Liberty Bank Youth in Action Awards
c/o Liberty Bank Foundation
P.O. Box 1212
Middletown, CT 06457

Deadline:  November 30.
Questions?  Please contact Toral Maher at or
860-638-2961. We look forward to receiving your nominations!

Stripmauled, Or 10 Good Reasons to Oppose the Washington Street Development

Local developer Centerplan, with the blessings of Middletown’s Mayor and Chamber of Commerce, and with the cooperation of Wesleyan University, has proposed a commercial development on Washington Street, between Pearl and High, on the Northern side of the street.  It will be a three-story office and retail complex.  I live in sight of the proposed development.
UPDATE: The Wesleyan forum on the proposed development (Tuesday Nov. 27, 4:30 PM) has been moved to a larger space on campus,  PAC 001 (on Church St, just East of Olin Library).  The developer, Centerplan will be making a presentation.  On Tuesday November 27, at 4:30 pm in 41 Wyllys, Room 112, Wesleyan will hold a community forum on the proposed development.
This proposed development is a bad idea for a lot of reasons. 
I’ve got ten of them, and I’m happy to share.
 CHARACTER ASSASSINATION – The new development will completely alter a streetscape that’s lasted a century and a half, and permanently destroy the character of an entire neighborhood.
This particular block of Washington Street and the contiguous blocks from Newfield to Broad, feature large, vintage, architecturally unique residences, some since converted to light retail and office use, but all interesting and beautiful.  The Park Washington Apartments on the corner of Washington and Park, is the exception.
This new commercial development will insert a modern, hulking behemoth into the streetscape by demolishing at least three (maybe more) of those buildings, and throwing up a concrete, steel and brick corporate structure.  If you want to get a sense of what might happen, stand on the South corner of Broad and Washington, and look Northeast.  At the corner of Washington and Wetmore you can catch a glimpse of the past and the future.
 (The block in question circa 1924) The development will also replace lawns, gardens and mature trees with a blacktop parking lot and drives, and a concrete, steel and brick box.
Since there is good evidence that Wesleyan is selling other structures and property on Washington Street, once could conjecture that the strip-mall development West of Newfield, will soon creep all the way to Main.

Warm The Children - Thanks to The Middletown Press and Program Highlights

The following was published in The Middletown Press on 11/24/12 as an Editorial Response
On November 19th the editorial “Kid’s clothing drive a holiday giving tradition” ran as a beautifully large eye catching piece about the Middletown area Warm The Children project.

Every year The Middletown Press steps up. It provides the Kiwanis Foundation, which administers Warm The Children, with daily ads throughout the season. The ads contain coupons which readers mail in with their much needed donations. The Press publishes the names of donors in appreciation for their contributions throughout the season, and again in a one full page ad at the end of the season. All this free of charge. The Middletown Press’  commitment to our community should be commended.
Readers see articles or commentaries about Warm The Children throughout the season; some submitted by program coordinators like this one, and others like the editorial from November 19th.  I’d like to clarify some program highlights.

It’s true the Middletown Kiwanis’ Warm The Children program is funded in large part through Press readers donations. The program is really about neighbors helping neighbors.
It’s a fact that many children from needy families in our community cannot afford to provide the basic warm clothing and footwear for our cold winters. We know this because school staff see it every day. You may see it passing a child at a local school bus stop.

The majority of children referred to Warm The Children come from the public elementary and middle schools in Middletown, Portland, Cromwell, Durham-Middlefield and East Hampton. We also receive referrals from some social service agencies including the Middlesex Family Advocacy Programs, CRT’s Head Start program and the Middletown Adult Ed Even Start program. The school and agency staff select the most needy children in their midst and refer them to Warm The Children.  Unfortunately we can’t serve them all – only what we have money to do. The only requirement is that there is a need.

Another important fact is that ALL of your donation money is spent on clothing and footwear for these needy children, nothing is used for administration.  Kiwanis Club pays for any administrative costs and the Press donates advertising space.

The majority of our funds come from you, Press readers, in amounts as little as a $1 to as much as $1500.

Each child from birth to age 15 is allotted up to $80 each to spend on clothing and footwear ($40 if under age 2).

There is no paid staff. We have an army of volunteer shoppers. Many may be your neighbors.  A shopper receives a purchase order from the Warm The Children coordinator for each family they will help. The shopper contacts the family and arranges a mutually agreeable day and time to meet at the Cromwell Walmart. Once there, the shopper assists the family as they select their own new clothing and footwear. Some of these children have never had new clothing.

Some families have never been served by Warm The Children before and some need our help yet another year. Most of our families don’t have money for Christmas toys. In the past, I know of some that have wrapped at least some of the clothing from their shopping trip and given it to their children as Christmas presents.

Last year we served just over 600 children. This year we expect to reach about 625 children. With your help, next year we’d like to serve 700. The need is there.

Lynn M. Baldoni
Coordinator of the Warm The Children program
President Elect – Middletown Kiwanis Club

Donations can be sent to Warm The Children, Liberty Bank, Att: Cindi Whitehouse, 315 Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Around the Garden

 Reading a fascinating article about heritage fruit trees growing near Tucson, I began to wonder what might be growing in Middletown.  To a gardener or a farmer,' heritage' denotes old varieties of plants, ones that were part of the regional vernacular for decades or perhaps centuries before hybridizing took over, to be followed by genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The greater Middletown area was rich in farms well into the second half of the 20th century. Gradually, most of them were sold for development, but there are still farming families around, many with remnant gardens. Lots of ethnicities are represented: Swedes, Poles, Germans, Italians and Sicilians all grew the foods they brought with them from the “old country.”

When I moved to Middletown in the 70s, neighbors grew grapes and figs in their backyards. The old men didn't need to wheel their fig trees in and out of the garage in huge tubs – they grew fig trees in the ground, wrapped them in quilts and plastic, and somehow got them to survive those cold winters we used to have.

Now I wonder whether those were common Brown Turkey figs, or were they some hardier variety that can’t be bought at the nursery or via mail order?

Many fruit trees, of course, are commonly grown from cuttings, or scions, since few grow true from seed. Centuries of natural hybridizing has left the seeds likely to produce throwbacks that aren't worth eating. Johnny Appleseed, for example, is a misnomer – the actual 19th century itinerant apple vendor provided saplings, not seed, to his customers.

Grapes are another frequent crop in the North End, and it would be interesting to inventory what is growing in those backyards. Rumor has it that there are garages there with cellars, so that wine-making could go on in private during the years of Prohibition.

Chestnuts would be another exciting plant to inventory, especially if we had less expensive DNA testing. The native American chestnut was wiped out in most of our area by the 1920s, but individual trees often hung on for decades longer. At the same time, Chinese and Japanese chestnuts were imported as orchard trees, since they usually were more manageable in size. With all the travel back and forth to Europe, it’s easy to imagine that some European chestnuts were added to the mix.

While I have to admit to rarely growing any great crops of heritage tomatoes, I know many gardeners and farmers who do. Kathy Caruso, owner of the Community-Supported Agriculture farm called Upper Forty Farm, has been known to set out over a hundred heritage tomatoes at her wonderful Slow Food tomato tasting event.

But the point of heritage seeds isn’t all about showing reverence for the old plants, or just appreciation for the better taste – both perfectly valid concepts – but about keeping alive something that may someday keep us alive.

The horrible potato blight that struck Ireland in the 1840s could have been lessened if there had been more crop diversity: as is so often the case with a monoculture, the Irish farmers had no defense against a virulent fungus. But resistant potatoes existed – the original source of potatoes, South America, offered a bounty of potato varieties. If one variety fell victim to a disease or an insect, a different one could be grown the next year.

For this reason, seed banks exist around the planet, with the old seeds carefully preserved against whatever slings and arrows present themselves in the form of climate change, viruses, bacteria, fungi, insects, or human stupidity. Some of them are in the business of swapping: if you have something unique that you think should be saved, or wish you had some seeds from a fruit or vegetable you haven’t seen on the market in years, check out this web site:

If you – or your grandparents – grow something really special, drop me a line.

Vote for Your Favorite Recycled Sculpture

The Tenth Annual Recycled Sculpture Contest is on display in the lobby of City Hall the week of November 26th. Come vote for your favorite sculpture! Public voting for the People’s Choice Award takes place from Tuesday, November 27 – Thursday November 29th. Anyone can vote, but please vote only once. Winners will be announced the week of Dec. 3rd. The public can come in to City Hall and vote from 8:30 am. – 8:30 p.m. For more information, contact the City Recycling Coordinator at 860-344-3526 or

Cafe 56 - The Best

A couple months ago, I reported on the then upcoming Restaurant Week event and my sheer joy at having experienced the food of new Middletown star Cafe 56. I've gone back to Cafe 56 at least half a dozen times since then. Cafe 56 is officially my new favorite place. I hope it will become yours too. If it's not already, then maybe you haven't tried it. Please do.

As the chef-owner of Cafe 56 rang up my lunch tab at the counter she asked me how the food was. I opened my mouth and found myself searching my vocabulary and not finding the right words to express how delicious it was. The food is so fresh, so tasty, and so well prepared that it is in a class above any other restaurant in town that I can think of. They make everything fresh, from breads for the sandwiches to the potato chips next to them to every pool of sauce and dollop of condiment on the plate. The chilera sauce blends the grassy heat of jalapenos in absolute proportion with the rich creamy dressing. The pimento mojo sauce is so perfectly balanced between tangy and sweet it makes you want to taste more and more of it. The salsa hits all the right notes.

The sandwiches at Cafe 56 are nothing at all like the conventional quick and easy, make leftovers palatable, don't have to cook anything, utilitarian variety. The chicken in the Mexicano sandwich is moist and well seasoned. It is clear that the flavorful dark meat of the chicken was prepared just to be the main highlight here. The shrimp in the Baja sandwich is plentiful and melts in your mouth, while the salsa is bright and the slaw is crunchy as can be, offsetting the richness of the shrimp and the avocado that dresses the sandwich too. The bread has a flaky crust and holds up to the moistness of the fillings without being too thick or chewy.

Don't even get me started on breakfast. All I can say is that you should avoid Cafe 56 if you have any problem with perfectly cooked eggs, tall fluffy biscuits, smooth creamy sauce, or oatmeal that is not gluey or bland and actually tastes like oats.

Did I mention the quiche, soup, puffed pancakes, or homemade pastries? No I did not, because I haven't yet had the chance to try these, but I am eagerly awaiting future dining visits. Did I mention  the savory empanadas or interestingly vibrant salads? No I did not, because I don't have any more superlatives left. Did I mention that I recommend this place to anyone looking for a relaxed and flavorful meal?

The space is small in a pleasant and cozy way, with brick walls and soft lighting, a few tables, two window booths, and a sleek counter with stools. The staff is friendly and the service is fast. The prices are reasonable; it usually costs about $20 to $25 for me and my spouse to eat a meal and also get  some extra takeaway treat. The staff easily answer any questions about ingredients. Their quick answers exude their pride in their food and show it's clear that they have 100% control and knowledge of everything they put on your plate. The location is easy to get in and out; I had no trouble finding close parking at any time. They are open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. It is located on Court Street between Main Street and the river (across from the court house).

Cafe 56 has mastered the art of providing variety while remaining consistent. They have mastered the art of having a small menu while providing a seeming plethora of choices. They have mastered the art of shutting me up, rendering me speechless and without complaint. Now that is quite an accomplishment.