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.)


  1. you missed the fourth insider response. We love our City and don't care what outsiders think. Come if you will, stay away if you must, we've been and will be here.



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