Day 24: Connecticut Culture

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Flag of United States  , Connecticut
Thursday, September 24, 2009

The south side of Stamford looks like it just recently got a major makeover. Huge high rise condos have been built... a marina lined with fancy looking shops... in the park the Traveler sees a white family, Latino, black and Asian. Looks like Stamford is a truly cosmopolitan satellite city of New York City.

He takes a turn down Pulaski Street, past a Catholic church with a big statue of late John Paul II in front, past a "Polish Grocery Store". He's explored a lot of towns with a large Polish population, but rarely does see any Polish stores, like you see Mexican or Asian stores, so he's curious to check it out.

Immediately the smells take him back to Eastern Europe... the sausages, cheeses... the sweets, which he buys a package of. On the window is a poster about some sort of festival coming up... written only in Polish. The cashier speaks English, but with a very heavy accent.

Clearly these aren't the Poles who came to America a 100 years ago. This is a new generation of Polish immigrants. He wonders if they will remain a little more attached to their native land... now in a day when they can fly "home" every year if they want to...

He veers off of his planned route, thinking he's running parallel to highway one. But no, he ends up taking a long loop down a penninsula through a very wealthy area where eventually everything dead ends at the sea. I guess it's good to veer off the planned route sometimes... but he kind of regrets it this time. Looks like he won't make it to the New York state border today as planned.

One thing he notices here in Connecticut is there are a lot well preserved "town centers" with a Main Street lined with chic shops and trendy little restaurants. In much of the rest of America, Main Streets have died as most business has gone to big, ugly corporate box stores like Walmart.

What is the difference? The Traveler ponders on it and concludes that it boils down to money. People here like the cozy feeling of having a "Main Street" lined with shops and restaurants, so the visit these shops frequently. They don't mind paying two or three times as much as they would at a big box store because they can afford it. It's the middle and lower class budget-conscious folks that choose the big box stores.

Also, wealthier folks tend to be more involved in the decisions made by their governments. If there's a proposal for a new Walmart to be built, they'll rush to the Town Hall meeting to vote it down, because they feel a Walmart would cheapen their town and make it less classy...

So, basically, a well trimmed, functional Main Street has become a luxury for the rich here in America...

He wanders through the "Main Street" of Old Greenwich... on through a beautiful lake park... then along Highway 1, until he finally reach Greenwich proper... and calls it a day.

Conclusions on the Connecticut Chapter

Crossing Connecticut after a while started to feel like some sort of surreal utopia, with prosperity, beauty and convenience all along the way. Half the way across the state the Traveler was walking on sidewalks.

Then there was Bridgeport, which was a rude awakening. It forced the Traveler to dig deeper and realize that, no, people aren't poor in America just because “they didn't try hard enough”. A system was kept in place for decades to insure certain people stayed poor. Meanwhile others became rich... not because they worked hard, but because they happened to be sitting on a piece of land that would go up astronomically in value.

Suddenly the “American Dream” of anyone-can-succeed-if-they-work-hard-enough doesn't look quite as clear and simple as it once did.

And next down the road is another section of America that is sure to pack a lot of unexpected discoveries: New York City.
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