Sunday, April 30, 2006

An April New London Day

A New London day in April starts with a nip in the air. By two o'clock PM, the sun warms pavement and lawns. Flower beds bloom. SPring is in the air.

As the sky turns from foggy to blue, the tides in the harbor also shift hue. Sunlight spangles off the waves, not glaring but sharp. The air is clear after the fog disolves. Ledge Light stands like a dollhouse at the mouth of the Thames River. You can pick out houses and trees on Fishers Island. Plum Island and Orient Point are green smudges far of on the southwest horizon.

New Londn's trees are starting to bud. Canopies of new leaves will be rustling in a week or two. Dogwood, magnolia, forsythia and cherry are pointilist portraits in petals. The air is perfumed with dilute nectar. The first bumblebees start to buzz between tulips and daffodils. Birds sing before the sun rises. Squirrels spring from branch to branch, anxious and excitable.

Traffic is light. Few tourists arrive before Memorial Day. The citizens of this city go about thier routines. Business revolves around purchases of sundries and small neccessities, the things that make daily life comfortable. New London moves at a relaxed pace, tending to its own needs without any urge to impress.

Mornings will grow warmer as the calendar progresses. There is plenty of time for hubbub and festivals. For now, New London is content to be itself.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Proposed Condos for Ocean Beach

Since I've llived in New London, begining in 1995, I've wondered about the expanse of lawn north of Ocean Beach's parking lot. The paved part of the lot is rarely full. What is the puprose of the 3.5 acres of grass protected by a chain link fence that abuts New London's Alewife Cove border with Waterford?

This parcel is open space in the sense that it is empty, unused, underutilized, and neglected. It certainly isn't anyone's idea of a park, unless you are polling the geese and seagulls. Filling this area with 96 tax paying households of new citizens wouldn't be the worst use of this land. The worst use would be doing nothing, a strategy New London often employs when opportuinities beckon. If you want to see a waste of space, visit the corner of Highland and Stewart Avenues today.

Ocean Beach is sacred the way every piece of New London's history is sacred, but the city is not a time capsule. For a city to be robust, it must adapt to the times. For a city's population to grow, it must provide shelter for new inhabitants. A condominium plan for an unused parcel of Ocean Beach is a plan perfect for a real city. It provides high density, attractive housing in a tiny munipality that needs more.

I am sure the usual sticks in the mud will conspire to squash this idea. New London needs developers to provide more urban infill, but they aren't welcome. New Londoners understandably hate eminent domain. To be against destruction is one thing. Being against creation is another altogether. When neither is an option, the result is stagnation. New London has had enough of that.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Yippee the Whale

A specter haunts New London. It is the specter of its whaling past. Once the largest whaling port in the Nutmeg State, New London's history is soaked through with whales' blood and sperm.

The ghost that haunts this city is not malign. On foggy nights, people report seeing an apparition jumping out of the Thames River. Shaped like the happiest whale you have ever seen, this ghost tosses his flukes and shouts, "Yippee!"

I am not making this up. Schoolchildren playing hookey lie in the meadow atop the old garbage dump in Bates Woods and stare at the sky. The clouds are shaped like laughing whales, laughing all the way to New London. It has been a long time since a living right whale has been in New London harbor, but a cartoon whale dogs New London's collective unconcious.

When Ocean Beach needed an appropriate mascot, a happy whale was the natural choice. A professional artist was hired. New London being what it is, an inexpensive artist was hired. He drew an accurate enough rendering of Yippee the Whale, but the Ocean Beach whale lacks the spunk and pep Yippee displays in people's dreams. It was the 1940's, the Depression was winding down and wartime was looming.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Why New London

The unitiated and the ignorant may wonder why a philosopher would choose New London, Conn. as his home and muse. Those in the know will be inclined to ask why not.

Broken down to its Greek root words, philosophy doesn't mean love of knowledge. It means love of wisdom. True knowledge is gained through practice. Wisdom is the same but better. Knowledge can be faked by reading books. Wisdom can only be earned by experience.

New Londoners origninally kept gardens while earning their income from seaborne traffic through the city's harbor. Even before the first row was plowed, New London's soil was fallow and rocky. New London's wealth ultimately derives from its citizens' ingenuity.

New London is a tiny city. It is three and a half miles long and a mile and a half at its widest. 26,000 people make up New London's permanent community. The city is home to two private colleges and the US Coast Guard Academy, the region's hospital, churches, cemetaries, parks, public schools, and city-owned parking lots. Amtrak seperates the city center from the waterfront that provides New London with its soul and clean air.

26,000 people live in three square miles of occuable land. If this isn't city living, nothing else is. New London is a miniature Manhattan, with all the issues and struggles but none of the financing and glamor that label implies.

If men and women are social animals, New London provides ample proving ground for them to test their mettle. Success in New London opens expanses toward farther horizons. Sometimes though, it is good to be a medium sized fish in a small pond.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Humble Introduction for Your Consideration

I am a New Londoner. I am puffed and bouyant because of that fact. If I am damned and deluded, so be it. I can shake my fist with impunity. If the rest of the world doen't notice, no matter. I will have my say. I will have my city. I know secrets. I am a man in love with his surroundings.

I travel under the spirit of the whale totem. My tribe may seem ragtag and motley, dusty and deluded and disconnected from reality, but we are all interconnected with each other and plugged into the New London state of mind. Hell has no chutzpah like a tiny city scorned.

My actions occur in a flurry of spume and flukes. My song reverberates in undiscovered depths. My soundings chart landscapes and seascapes familiar only to the luckiest few. Darkness is my element, sunlight is my destination, a gulp of fresh air is my goal and reward. I ask for nothing but freedom of the seas, free access to shore, the touch of unfettered wind on my nose and back, and the charge of electricity that ignites my vast heart. I am a spirit congealed and marled around sturdy bones. My existence, like New London's is proof that long odds can pay dividends beyond the measure of money.

As the years unfold, each day brings another anecdote, another detail in New London's mosaic. More than a forgotten seaport neglected in history's parade, New London is a place where small miracles are common. New London is a place that charms as much as it inspires. New London, Connecticut is the kind of place that nutures ideas that will one day take over the world.

Pay attention: New London is calling.


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