What’s so terrible about Connecticut?
Ever since I moved to this state in 1975 I’ve listened to residents complain about it: the taxes, the high cost of living, the weather, it’s “boring” compared with New York City and Boston, etc., etc.
And then four months ago came a survey from the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (yes, from our own state) that found that nearly half of the people who live here want to move to another state.
According to the center’s InformCT Consumer Confidence Survey, 47 percent of respondents “indicated it was likely they would be moving out of Connecticut within the next five years.”
It’s weird being a cheerleader for the state of Connecticut but I’m used to that challenge; for decades I’ve also been cheerleading for my New Haven, which has its own image problem among those who don’t live here and so don’t “get it.”
Full disclosure: after first moving to New Haven in 1977, I lit out for the territory (Boston) in 1984. Newspaper jobs were hard to come by in that city (as always), so I took a risk and accepted an offer from a large, highly-regarded newspaper in New Jersey.
You think it’s bad living in Connecticut? Try life in New Jersey. “There’s no there there,” as the writer Gertrude Stein said, although she was referring to her childhood home in California that had been torn down.
After six months of getting hopelessly lost on the infamous New Jersey highways (pre-GPS) and trying to accept a sterile suburban lifestyle lacking a sense of history, my wife and I returned to the Nutmeg State. We have remained here ever since. And we’ve been happy! We bought a house, we raised two kids, took on cats and a dog, the whole deal.
After that bummer state survey came out last summer, I sat down with my bride at the Pantry, one of our favorite New Haven restaurants (there are a lot of great eating places in the Elm City and all over Connecticut). I took out a writing pad and together we drew up a list of all the things we like about Connecticut.
She grew up in Old Lyme, in a house on a beach, so at the top of her list was the shoreline. When I was young my family always vacationed for a week or two in a cottage on the beach in Madison, so I too knew all about our wonderful Long Island Sound. But we do need to find a way to let the general public have access to it.
If you can’t make it out to a beach, you’ve got our many expansive public parks: East Rock Park in New Haven, Edgewood Park, Edgerton Park, Lighthouse Park, Wooster Square and more. Most of our towns have both parks and Greens. Check out Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden and the Guilford Green.
If it’s a rainy day, you’ve got museums. New Haven has one of the best assortments, including the Yale Art Gallery, British Art Center, New Haven Museum and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. Hartford has the Wadsworth, etc.
Live theater is offered at the Long Wharf Theater and Yale Rep in New Haven and at the Hartford Stage.
You can get a great feel for history at the Grove Street Cemetery, as well as at the New Haven Green and the buildings surrounding it. In Hartford, the Mark Twain House shows you where he lived, read, smoked and played pool.
Libraries! Some of my favorites are the New Haven Free Public Library and the nearby Institute Library. Not far from New Haven are the James Blackstone Memorial Library, in a fabulous stone building; the Guilford Public Library and the Madison Public Library.
You want bookstores? In New Haven you’ve got Atticus, the Book Trader and Grey Matter. There are “book barns” in Bethany (Whitlock’s) and Niantic. Up the shoreline you’ve got Breakwater Books in Guilford and R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison.
Diners! Some of my faves are the Lakeside Diner in Stamford and Zip’s in Dayville as well as Collin’s Diner in Canaan and O’Rourke’s Diner in Middletown. New Jersey people like to brag about their diners but I never saw anything that compared to what we’ve got.
Hey New Jersey, we’ve even got a pleasurable and historic highway: the Merritt Parkway.
Movie theaters! New Haven has the Criterion and Cine 4; Madison has the Madison Ars Cinemas. For a road trip, you’ve got the Bantam Cinema near Litchfield (another beautiful, historic town), the Gilson Cafe & Cinema in Winsted, the majestic Cinestudio in Hartford and the Pleasant Valley Drive-In near Winsted. And if you want to rent a movie, you’ve still got Best video in Hamden.
I’ve discovered places such as Pleasant Valley and the little town of Goshen in “the Northwest hills” while writing my column for Connecticut magazine. Those excursions have enabled me to appreciate the state even more.
I know I’ve forgotten and thus left out many other great things about our state but that’s because I can’t possibly remember everything. Forgive me!
Oh yeah, of course, the pizza places of New Haven (Pepe’s, Sally’s, Modern) and the doughnut shops (Beach Donuts in Clinton, Neil’s in Wallingford, Whitney Donut and Sandwich Shop in Hamden).
OK, a reality check: if you’re hurting financially, I understand why you might want to leave. I can’t blame you for that desire and your decision to split. All I’m saying is, if you can find a way to hang on here: look what we’ve got!
As a P.S.: a study last spring by TheSeniorList found that Connecticut is the No. 3 three state in America for finding love after 50! So stick around.
I encourage any of you out there to tell me why you like Connecticut. I’ll work to include your thoughts in a future column.