Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hartford: Fashion....backwards.

In Hartford, it's the little things that make me happy: a restaurant that's full on a Friday night, a jogger on the street, a "coming soon" sign. These things are so rare in downtown Hartford that when they pop up, my confidence in the city instantly increases. Something else that's rare in Hartford? Great fashion.

Fashion in general is pretty much non-existant in my neighborhood. As much as I hate to acknowledge the statistic, Hartford was recently named one of the least sexy cities in the country and Hartford's nickname, the Insurance Capital of the World, does a great job at defying sexiness and fashion. Ok, maybe I'm being overly critical since I just spent a weekend in Boston and I'm running on little sleep but in Boston, people know how to dress. At a sports bar in Brighton (a particularly young area of Boston), seemingly straight men were smart enough to throw on a pair of dress jeans, a button down shirt or sweater, and even a sleek watch; the bar could be compared to Black Bear (although much cleaner) and everyone looked pleasantly put-together. Head deeper into the core of Boston and you're sure to find even more cutting edge, fashion forward outfits. Walk down the Allyn Street club district in downtown Hartford and it's a completely different story: guys in cargo pants, oversized sports t-shirts, and baseball hats. I mean, if you're not going to put in the effort to change out of your day/lounge clothes, how do you expect to pick up girls? Sure, I could head to DISH or Trumbull Kitchen for some better fashion eye candy but those venues draw a slightly older crowd. And even with the high-powered executives working in the city, the workweek isn't much better: men in ill-fitted suits and women in clunky heels or (even worse) sneakers! I stick out like a sore thumb walking to work in brightly colored dress shirts, skinny jeans, and my faux-leather biker jacket.

I guess being between Boston and New York City hasn't done much for Hartford in terms of fashion. Granted, Hartford does not have the same shopping selection as Boston or New York but I've gotta say, there's something stimulating and inspiring about being around an abundance of well-dressed and creative individuals. And there are people in Hartford who do know how to dress...I've seen you! Keep putting together great outfits and showing up the fools on Allyn Street. Now if only Northland would convert that big empty Hartford 21 complex into a Newbury Street or 5th Avenue for Hartford, we'd be sure to see some more eye candy on the streets of Hartford.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Parking Stress!

I typically can't stand when people complain about parking in downtown Hartford. An abundance of surface lots and multi-level parking garages have replaced buildings, nearly destroying the architecture of the city AND street parking is free all weekend and 5pm-8am on weekdays. I've never had a problem with parking down here...until today. I keep my car in a garage roughly one mile from my apartment and, on the weekends, I take advantage of street parking and keep my car closer to home. This morning (Sunday) at around 9:30am, I parked my car on Asylum Street. There were a couple other cars there and I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. When I walked outside at 3pm, my car had been replaced with a marching band and veterans in uniform. Apparently, there was a Veterans Day parade running up the street where I had parked my car. When I parked there at 9:30 in the morning, there were no signs saying "no parking," no barricades, and no officials to be seen. Now, I understand that they had to move my car to make way for the parade but I sure as hell hope they don't put up too much of a fight when I give them a call tomorrow. On top of towing my car, at a $108 (and a lot of stress) expense to me, they also decided to give me a $45 parking ticket. I plan to appeal the ticket AND asked to be reimbursed to towing expenses. Like I said: there were NO "no parking" signs and street  parking is always free on the weekends (so says and the street meters)- how was I to know this weekend was different? The little experience I've had with the Hartford Parking Authority has not been pleasant, so I'm not sure how this situation will play out. Anyone have any thoughts or tips? Well, after lots of stress, yelling, and a cold trip to the impound lot, my car is safe and sound in her parking spot, my bank account has taken a hit, and I got the motivation I needed to start blogging again. Stay tunes.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Boston You're My Home

This weekend I took some much needed time in my hometown in Massachusetts. It was much needed for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I had two weeks of laundry piled up that had to get done. I know it might seem a bit ridiculous to drive 1.5 hours to go to mom and dad's to do laundry, but I would have to drive anyway, since there is no laundromat in downtown Hartford, so I might as well make the trip home and do it for free, right? I also got some good meals out of it and a taste of high speed internet and HD cable television (with all the movie channels!). Now, I didn't have extensive cable television while I was growing up, we didn't have Internet access in my home until I was in the 6th grade, and I didn't get a cell phone until (if I recall correctly) my Sophomore year of High School, but once you have these things, it's hard to go without. I know it sounds spoiled, and maybe it is, but I'm finding it extremely difficult having the slowest available internet (because it was the cheapest) and access to only two or three channels with my antenna and digital converter (because there is no monthly fee). I have a lot of friends and co-workers who seem to do fine living as minimalists without cable or Internet access, but I'm beginning to think I might not be cut out for such a lifestyle. Yeah, I can pop in a DVD or read a book, but it makes me feel so secluded not being connected. I think part of the problem is that I'm living alone. If I had a roommate there would, at the very least, be another body around, there would be company available. I'm happy with where I am and I'm happy I made the choice to live in a studio downtown and give urban living a shot. I just have some kinks to work out along the way.

When I was up in MA I took some time to venture into Boston (well, Cambridge) to see a show at Club Oberon, a new nightclub opened by the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard. I saw The Donkey Show, which is essentially a disco-fied version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Audience members either stood (and danced) on the dance floor, where bartenders were available throughout the entire show, or had table seating. I was refreshed by the enthusiasm in the venue and the diverse crowd in attendance. Patrons were young, old, male, female, straight, gay, black, white, etc. and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Yeah, Club Oberon is in Boston, where the population is young, old, black white, male, female etc etc etc and there are a number of large universities and colleges in the area, but I have to admit, the staff at A.R.T took a leap of faith with this production. As far as I know, A.R.T has a reputation in the regional theatre world and this was definitely not a traditional piece of theatre. The plan is to keep Club Oberon in place and produce programming to fit the nightclub venue, essentially paving the path for a new generation of theatergoers while (hopefully) retaining the long-time loyal subscribers, donors, board members, and patrons. All I know is I had a good time and I feel that I got some artistic nourishment. I'll definitely be back to Club Oberon for more.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Life is Like A Wheel

My grandfather has always told me that life is like a wheel; it goes around and around. Sometimes you are up, sometimes you're down, and more often than not, you're somewhere in the middle. This theory really can be applied to any aspect of life: professional, social, financial, love, etc. I have found that lately, my wheel has been going around quite fast. Some days I find myself up, some days down, and often somewhere in between.

When I first moved downtown, I was quite optimistic about the state of the city of Hartford and where it might be heading. I knew it would be a struggle as downtown lacks many necessary amenities such as a grocery store and a laundromat, but I stayed optimistic. I made the move downtown because I had just graduated, I got a full-time job downtown, and I needed a change of atmosphere after spending 4 years in the suburbs of West Hartford. I have been mostly happy with my move downtown. My building is fantastically diverse and I have an unbeatable 5-minute walk commute to my office. Unfortunately, pessimism kicked in for a while and I wasn't feeling so great about Hartford. Last weekend I drove to West Hartford to do my laundry and had an overwhelming urge to move back to my old neighborhood. I could pay far less in monthly rent (for a larger apartment) and I would be surrounded by far more people and much more industry. But where's the fun in that? In Downtown hartford, I have a chance to make some change, to be a part of a movement, regardless of how far it goes. Tonight I attended the first meeting of what will evolve into a downtown Hartford Resident Association. It's relieving to be a part of the community in downtown.

I think I just have some cabin fever. I'm ready for Spring and Summer and time outside (at Bushnell Park across the street)!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Routine is....Restricting

WARNING: This post is a bit self-indulgent! Hey, I did say this is a blog about the woes of being a young professional living in a city, didn't I?

I've always been a person who lives by a routine. I grew up with a lot of anxiety and I never really took part in outrageous activities. I was always told that I have "an old soul." Some of my college years were particularly stressful as there often is no routine in college. Some days I didn't have class until 1pm and other times I had to be up for 8am. Throw part-time jobs and internships into the mix and there really was no cohesive structure to my weeks, and it stressed me out! When I graduated in December, I wasn't sure how I would react to my new professional life. I was excited to have my 9-6 job but I knew that I would be bored with my nights and weekends. So I decided to start this blog to occupy my time and I have become pretty active in downtown Hartford revitalization by assisting Common Ground in their grocery store efforts, becoming active with the Tenant Association in my building, and joining a number of other Hartford activists in efforts to revive the city. I also joined the downtown YMCA and have become active with SpringBoard, the young professionals group at Hartford Stage, and am hoping to get involved with HYPE (Hartford's Young Professionals and Entrepeneaurs).

Ok so that all sounds like a lot but, on a day-to-day basis I am finding routine to be...restrictive. Especially since I am living downtown, a 5 minute walk from work, I feel confined to the same 5 blocks at all times (even my gym is within the same radius). My thought is that this is part of adulthood in general; even if I was living outside of downtown, I would still drive the same route to and from work every day. I also think that maybe there just isn't enough to do in my neighborhood, or maybe I don't have the money to do the things I on a budget/being cheap seriously limits my social calendar. Also, when I first moved down here I had a boyfriend. Companionship certainly makes transitions easier, and it gave me something to look forward to after work. Now, living in a small studio apartment with no cable and extremely slow internet, I'm trying to find ways to entertain myself at night and ways to stay social. Thank god for netflix and my dog, right?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Let's Get Together (yeah, yeah, yeah)

This lovely Saturday morning, I woke up to a great blog entry @ The entry contained a lot of "neighborhood pride." See, the author just purchased a home in Frog Hollow, a neighborhood right outside of downtown. She described her neighborhood in a tone that made me want to pack my bags and move, highlighting all of the vibrances of the community. This is something I often do with my own neighborhood. When asked about living downtown, and what downtown Hartford has to offer, I highlight the perks of living downtown and the changes that are well on their way. Anyway, this blog post got me thinking about collaboration. I've been thinking about how important it is for downtown Hartford business owners, residents, and employees to come together in a joint effort to revive our city. If retailers are going to be successful, they need the support of residents, employees, and visitors and to make downtown a desirable location, consumers, residents, and employees need to feel the presence of retailers and industry. I'm happy to have found a core group of "Hartford Activists" who blog, twitter, and advocate for change in our city (I have to admit, I didn't realize this group existed). Now, we have to continue to collaborate, come together, and push for the change that so many people are only talking about.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that city officials and certain (major) property owners are not joining in this collaborative effort. I recently read an article arguing that with more support from the city and state, the new CT Science Center in downtown Hartford could make our capital city a "hot spot" for potential residents, employees, and visitors from as far as western MA. If the state does not up their support now, while the facility is new, they could miss the chance to revive the city. We have to jump on things while they're hot, as we're doing with the grocery store issue. If Northland had filled all of those retails spaces in Hartford 21 for a way reduced rate back when it first opened, they would have built up the area and would now have retailers itching to get in there for a more desirable rent. Seriously, what kind of business person is handling the leasing??

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hartford, the Event Capital

Tonight I left work at around 5:30pm and was not so shocked to find the streets hustling and bustling with activity. Lately there have been a lot of UCONN games at the XL center, which is half a block from my office and only a 3 minute walk from my apartment. These games and other events at the XL Center always draw huge crowds. This weekend the city was alive with activity thanks, in part, to the Disney Princesses on Ice at the XL Center. Tonight, every restaurant I passed was packed with a wait at the door. This is not typical for a Wednesday night in downtown Hartford. So my question is, how do we continue to develop the city of Hartford as the event capital of Connecticut and of the region? In addition, once we get these patrons downtown for events at the XL Center, how do we keep them here? Sure, there are great restaurants and bars to stop at for a bite/drink before the game or show, but what else do we have? Two major downtown coffee shops, Starbucks and JoJo's, close at 5pm, closing themselves off from potential pre-game/show business and making it very difficult for patrons to get that much needed caffeine jolt (it's also nearly impossible to find a convenience store where would could grab a red bull and some candy/snacks). There's no bookstore where downtown guests could stop to read a magazine or browse while waiting for friends and there's no clothing store where one might pick up a much needed sweatshirt or some UCONN gear. What else can/do people do before these types of events. Once we get patrons downtown, how can we continue to attract them to the city. What other events would draw such large audiences. We know UCONN games have a huge draw, so we should definitely capitalize on that while it's hot. Why not put the team in permanent residency here and build a satellite campus downtown. It would be great if we could get a professional team with a home stadium in Hartford. Also, continuing to develop the music industry in Hartford would be a great plan. Why don't more major acts put Hartford on their tour schedule. Madonna played here in 2005 during her Confessions Tour. The Spice Girls played their reunion tour at the XL Center and drew a full house despite a blizzard. Lady GaGa and Kanye were scheduled to play the XL Center together but that tour got cancelled and now Lady GaGa is scheduled to play at Mohegan and The Oakdale. The XL Center and the city should put a little more effort into bringing these major acts to our capital city, thus fueling industry in area. Also, a grocery store and visibly open retail (including starbucks) would help display Hartford as a lively and livable city.

On a slightly different note, what if retailers, venues, and the city offered a tax break or a discount on tickets with a bus ticket receipt. That might be an incentive to use public transit rather than driving, which would clear the roads a bit, save the environment, and reduce drunk driving a this case, the buses would certainly need to run later to accommodate event goers...and the system would have to be more understandable.