CTFastrak: A Seat-of-the-Pants Review

Part One: Frog Hollow to Firefly Hollow

Photo by Christopher Brown

A friend had suggested a Sunday morning meet-up at the downtown New Britain CTFastrak terminal for a leisurely bike ride to Bristol’s Firefly Hollow Brewing Company. I rode my bike to the Sigourney Street Fastrak station in Asylum Hill to catch a free ride to Hard Hittin’ New Britain. A woman in a bright vest offered a decal and advice about the best entrance to use when loading a bike on the bus. (Tip: there’s a bike pictogram by the rearmost door—go in that way) (more…)

Book Review: Better Together: Restoring the American community

Books about urban development and growing community are often written in jargon, making the content inaccessible to the general public.

That choice in language says for whom the knowledge is intended. It says who is expected to do anything with it.

Better Together is different.

Emphasized in almost every chapter is the need for the people, for the residents, to be involved. Echoing this, it is written in plain language.

But it’s not an instruction manual. Showcased are places where community already exist, ways that empowerment of individuals has provoked social change, and where setbacks have occurred. A recurring theme is the empowerment of people who may be viewed and view themselves as powerless, such as youth, blue collar workers, and the very poor.

Published in 2003 during a time when many were struck with alienation following the militaristic response to 9/11, Better Together maintains its relevance. (more…)

In God We Trust Afrikan Restaurant: Fufu, not frou-frou

UPDATE: This establishment has since closed.

We were about halfway down the block with our container of leftovers when we heard the proprietor yelling another thanks for our patronage to us.

Though not a fancy place, In God We Trust Afrikan Restaurant beats out anything downtown in the category of warm and welcoming. It’s the kind of place where Judge Judy on the television is not annoying because it gets you talking with diners from another table, who also say goodbye when you are done with your meal.

Who wants linens and flattering lighting when you can have that? (more…)

Hartford Pew Review: South Church (traditional service)

Satan is real, not symbolic,” Pastor Adam Söderberg told worshippers at South Church on a morning when the -2°F windchill temperature no doubt kept some away from the cozy, well-lit Meeting House. Thoughts of raging hellfire on such a cold day might not have had the intended effect on congregants who filled about 20% of the room.

South Church is more like two churches in one, as the traditional service varies wildly from the contemporary service (reviewed separately) in message and style.

South Congregational Church, also known as the Second Church of Christ in Hartford, originated in 1670 when members split from what is now Center Church. They pride themselves on maintaining tradition, but have made steps to take themselves into this century. They have a web presence, which includes social media and embedded videos of past sermons on their website, which is attractive and easy to navigate. As someone who spends too much time on poorly designed sites (primarily for restaurants) trying to ascertain basic pieces of information, like hours of operation, this online accessibility is very appreciated. Grace Academy, a fairly new middle school for girls with an enrollment around sixty, is located within the South Church compound, which can be a bit of a maze for visitors. (more…)

Book Review: Bringing Up Bébé

For someone who has never actually given birth nor received an advanced degree in child psychology, I have read a lot of parenting books.

We all need hobbies.

I began heading down this path when I worked long hours in a department store. On the rare occasions that they sent me to tidy up the children’s section, I would wander to the book aisle, hoping to get some mental stimulation at this tedious, low-paying job. It was here that I began reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting, one of the most read books about pregnancy. It was either that or look at Goodnight Moon for the tenth time.

One reviewer on Amazon asserts that the author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting “assumes that pregnant women are idiots, and talks to them accordingly.”

That must have been what compelled me to keep reading, in search of “how to” guides in this area that were better, or at minimum, more respectful of their female readers.

Bringing Up Bébé: One American mother discovers the wisdom of French parenting is my latest attempt to find something useful, respectful, and accurate. An interview with author Pamela Druckerman on NPR had alerted me to what some had been dubbing Tiger Mom Goes to Paris.

Yes, both authors assert that there is something wrong with American-style permissive parenting, but the similarities end there. (more…)

Winning Hearts and Minds with Amigo

John Sayles speaking at Cinestudio

If you missed the talk with Amigo‘s director John Sayles, you can still see the film at Cinestudio, but what you will not be able to get is the refresher Imperialism 101 lecture that he provided for the audience on Wednesday evening. Having this context in which to view the film is not necessary, but does add depth. It’s historical fiction, based on no singular figure or battle, but made from many truths. While this story focuses on the Philippines, it should not be forgotten that this was the same era when Guam and Puerto Rico were also annexed as territories of the United States.

In History classes, this period is typically represented as an eyeblink between the Industrial Revolution and World War I. Not much has been done cinematically with the Philippine-American War either. According to Sayles, Amigo is only the third American-made film about this subject.

A criticism of the film has been that it serves as a metaphor for the War in Iraq, which would be apt if the language and appearance of occupation had been invented in the last ten years. (more…)

Hartford Pew Review: Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford

Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford

The month leading up to the tenth anniversary of the September 11th tragedies felt like a mental pummeling as the media reminded us incessantly that we should be remembering something that would take severe measures for anyone to actually forget. Most of the “coverage” was successfully ignored, not read, and not watched, but one item I felt compelled to read was a revisionist piece claiming that there was no increase in anti-Islam sentiments after 9/11. (more…)

Schooled on the Street

Photo courtesy of Monika Leon

Photo courtesy of Monika Leon

While most Connecticutians were navigating the crowded grocery stores, topping off their gas-guzzlers, or filling their bathtubs with water early on that Saturday morning in anticipation of Hurricane Irene, others set out for a bicycle education class arranged specifically for members of the media. Given that I typically walk or bike to events that I cover when wearing my media hat, I thought it appropriate to attend.

Real Art Ways hosted the event, which was coordinated and taught by Bike Walk Connecticut instructors who received certification from the League of American Bicyclists. Coffee and bagels made the dreary morning more manageable as we settled in for a video that demonstrated street cycling techniques. This was followed by a Powerpoint presentation mainly concerned with “taking the lane,” something that new road cyclists tend to not know they can do, not understand the best way to do so, or are completely terrified of trying. The main point of this lesson: bicyclists should behave like motorists in terms of which lanes to use. Making a left turn? Get in the left turn lane.

For me, a lot of this was review, so I asked questions about more complicated maneuvers. I envisioned how I might run errands in the West Farms sprawl region and asked what apparently amounts to survival techniques. (more…)

Payment Options

Sign up to receive Real Hartford's monthly email newsletter