Friday, December 19, 2014

Nutmeg Poisoning

It's Friday! Here are some more little Connecticut tidbits that I've come across in various corners of the Internet recently:

-This self-styled "seasoned world traveler" thought Stamford and Windsor Locks were, like, a couple minutes apart. He was wrong. He wrote a piece about it for the New York Times.

-There's a mineral called Danburite and it is named after Danbury. Yes, Connecticut's very own Danbury. It was discovered there in 1839. Those who believe crystals can do things other than sit on the shelf and look pretty say it promotes emotional healing. It is also considered an alternative to diamonds.

-"Nobody had seen a fire of this magnitude. Basically, an area the size of Connecticut...burned in 36 hours."

-I've linked to a few great Connecticut-centric Instagram accounts in previous Nutmeg Poisonings. Here are some more: CTUrbanPhotoGroup, dan.butler, and newhaveninsta. (And there's always me, of course!)

-This is the Connecticut entry in the States Plates Project, wherein artists re-imagine United States license plates. I like the grapes, but the colors are rather bland, in my not-so-humble opinion.

-Last but not least, I couldn't resist this New York Times Warning on Nutmeg.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rough Town

You may have heard that Hartford is for young people now. Certainly, many in Hartford would have you believe that it is, or that it should be, to the seeming exclusion of everyone else.

I think Hartford is for not-quite-so-young people, who have lived elsewhere and traveled elsewhere long enough to learn how to appreciate a place that doesn't hand everything to you on a shiny platter.

When I was young I lived in New York, and I could not have lived anywhere else. I could not have even imagined living someplace else. I love New York, yes, I was born there, it will always be my home in a way that no place in Connecticut can be, even though Connecticut is, now, my home.

But New York is a city where you don't have to work for anything. Entertainment, active or passive; culture; lights; sounds; crowds; all of them are there for you when you walk out of your front door in the morning, and you will find them if you're too bored to lift a finger or dumber than a wooden plank. Other places where young people also tend to flock are similar.

Hartford (like the other cities I've lived in since I left New York, cities that I loved and other people were horrified to learn I'd moved to) makes you work. It has as much art and action and history and drama as any other place, if not always in as much quantity. But it doesn't deliver all that it has to your apartment 24/7, or set it all out before you in little pieces pre-cut for your ease. You might have to turn down a questionable street to reach it. You might have to make plans, or read something, or think. You might need to seek out rather than blindly stumble into beauty.

And yet, you'll stumble into beauty by accident often enough, if you stop unthinkingly comparing Hartford to other places long enough to look around you.

I hope more young people move to Hartford, but only because I hope more people move to Hartford, period. I think it could use more people, and I know more people would appreciate it if they took the time. It's certainly not the perfect city; I could complain about various aspects of it for days, and I have. (I have also complained for days about various aspects of my eyebrows, or the weather. So.)

It seems there are only three ways to talk about Hartford these days. There's the incredulous positive statement ("I went to Hartford once and surprisingly I didn't die and there was even a good restaurant!"), the ignorant put-down ("Hartford's been a pit since the 60s, kill it with fire!"), and the insider defense ("But! Mark Twain!"). That conversation is fine, I guess. At least it's predictable. (I always root for the insiders and their defenses.) But there's perhaps a more interesting conversation that could be had. I'm often too tired to have it with words, so I only contribute pictures of brick buildings.

But I hope if you read this post and haven't been to Hartford in a while, you'll come see it, and maybe tell other people about it. You can complain, but please try to complain about what you really encounter, not about what someone told you they encountered twenty years ago. And you might find, if you're not mapping Hartford onto an imaginary New York or Boston in your head, some things you really like, or at least find interesting. Because there's something here for everyone. Whether you're young or not.

(BTW: The title of this post comes from a brilliant Bronze Radio Return song.)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Riverton

I've only mentioned Riverton once before on this blog, in one of very my first posts way back in 2009. This little village in Barkhamsted is not Connecticut's fanciest, or its prettiest. But there's something arresting about it. Other towns might have a gently curving main street or a cozy-looking general store or an old mill on the river, but Riverton combines these in a way that makes you stop and take notice.

Before Riverton was Riverton, it was Hitchcocksville, named for Lambert Hitchcock and the eponymous furniture company he started here in the 1820s. His factory where the Still and Farmington Rivers meet churned out not only chairs but interchangeable chair parts, a new concept in the industry at the time.

To quote from the article linked above: 
Over the years Hitchcock designs varied, but Lambert’s early chairs were known for their broad back panels, narrow slats, square drop seats, and very sturdy legs. Perhaps their most distinguishing feature, however, was the hand-painted stenciling, which included the famous emblem: “L. Hitchcock. Hitchcocks-ville. Conn. Warranted,” which adorned the back of every Hitchcock chair.
Over the years Hitchcock designs varied, but Lambert’s early chairs were known for their broad back panels, narrow slats, square drop seats, and very sturdy legs. Perhaps their most distinguishing feature, however, was the hand-painted stenciling, which included the famous emblem: “L. Hitchcock. Hitchcocks-ville. Conn. Warranted,” which adorned the back of every Hitchcock chair. - See more at: http://connecticuthistory.org/built-on-innovation-saved-by-nostalgia-the-hitchcock-chair-company/#sthash.AlAcyyfm.dpuf
Over the years Hitchcock designs varied, but Lambert’s early chairs were known for their broad back panels, narrow slats, square drop seats, and very sturdy legs. Perhaps their most distinguishing feature, however, was the hand-painted stenciling, which included the famous emblem: “L. Hitchcock. Hitchcocks-ville. Conn. Warranted,” which adorned the back of every Hitchcock chair. - See more at: http://connecticuthistory.org/built-on-innovation-saved-by-nostalgia-the-hitchcock-chair-company/#sthash.AlAcyyfm.dpuf
Don't you totally want one now?

The company closed in 2006, but in 2010 the Hitchcock Chair Co., Ltd. opened on Riverton Road. They restore old Hitchcock furniture and they also sell new chairs. They even have limited edition Connecticut towns-themed ones. I mean.

The distinctive white Hitchcock building (which now holds storage units) was the model for this Little Free Library in the center of the village. (If that's not picturesque enough for you, there's another one elsewhere in Barkhamsted which was modeled on the fairy-tale-like gatehouse at the Barkhamsted Reservoir.)

And here's a bonus fun fact from the Barkhamsted Historical Society: "in the Riverton area are some of the oldest rocks on earth."

There is more to Riverton than the General Store and Hitchcock chairs. But not that much more. Which is, I get the sense, exactly how the people of Riverton prefer it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving





Wishing everyone a happy holiday (with as little time as possible on highways, in airports, and navigating the insane crowds at Stop & Shop.)

BTW the chocolate turkey is from Deborah Ann's Sweet Shoppe in Ridgefield.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Portsmouth, NH


I wanted to go to Portsmouth because I'd once heard it compared to New London. (See also: New Bedford, Newburyport.)

I said that to a friend of mine who'd been to Portsmouth a few times and she replied "Portsmouth is New London if New London got its [expletive deleted] together."

In fact, the comparison I was thinking of had not been intended to imply the two cities were exactly alike (although they both have submarines, Wyland whale murals, history, and numerous coffee shops.) It was only a reference to some specific improvement that Portsmouth had made to its waterfront or traffic patterns or zoning laws which the speaker, an expert in city planning, thought New London would do well to emulate.

Now that I've been to Portsmouth, I can say that it is not like New London. Yes, both are walkable old seaport cities with interesting architecture and many restaurants. But New London is decidedly eclectic, multicultural, and, though I think I might hate this word, gritty. Portsmouth, at least when I was there, seems to be populated almost entirely by catalog-attractive affluent white people wearing Lululemon. (And I don't think anyone who loves New London, as I do, would wish that fate upon it.) New London is also much smaller, with a larger population.

City planning ideas aside, the only important thing the two places have in common is they should both be included on all must-visit lists of New England.

Seriously, if you've never been to Portsmouth, just go. It's the sort of town you'll want to return to before you've even left. And you might want to convince someone else to come with you. That way, when you point at a perfect brick building or some adorable item in one of the multitude of little shops downtown and say "Look at thaaaaat!" you'll appear less crazy.





























I was only in Portsmouth briefly, but here are some first impression suggestions.

Shopping:

Pickwicks Mercantile
Scallops Mineral & Shell Emporium
Sheafe Street Books
Riverrun Books
Portsmouth Book & Bar

To see:

Wyland Mural (Off Vaughan Mall)
Oracle House (One of the oldest houses in New England, Marcy Street and Court Street)
Temple Israel (New Hampshire's first permanent synagogue, 200 State Street)
Portsmouth Atheneum (9 Market Square)
Prescott Park (Marcy Street)
Commercial Alley (Between Market and Penhallow Streets)

What I'd do next time:

Strawbery Banke Museum
Fort Constitution and Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, New Castle

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rockport, MA

I went to Rockport, Massachusetts, and I didn't take notes.

If I had, they would have read something like: Granite quarries, fishing boats, little shops, churches, beaches, artists, couples. Coffee shops, water views. Roundabouts, one way-streets, looming futuristic windmills. An unspoken tension between residents and visitors, expressed, as it always is, in odd parking restrictions. Ice cream, fudge and the smell of fish frying. Red and blue and weathered grey.

I did, however, take pictures.


















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