Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hooray for the Status Quo

Well the vote on New London's charter has come and gone. A nineteen percent turnout. Apathy and government irrelevance remain the order of the day. Eighty-one percent of voters couldn't muster the effort to flip a lever. Ah, New London, a city preserved in ambergris that smells like low tide. One would imagine a city of perennial complainers would want to voice thier opinion. Apparently not when it matters.

Do not mistake me. I fell in love with Connecticut's Whaling City twelve years ago. I love it dysfunctional and inert. I love it crumbling at the foundations and full of plucky entrepreneurs doomed to failure. I am one of them after all. This is a city that seperates the adults from the children, even if it is hard to tell the difference sometimes.

If I sound heartbroken and full of bile and venom, it is because I am. I live in a city and I beleive New London is as real a city as one can find anywhere. When I imagine New London's peers, I think of Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Dubai, Vienna, Naples, Frankfurt, New York and Los Angeles. All these cities have mayors who make decisions and make things happen. If I wanted to live in a place run by selectmen, I would move to Pomfret, or Sprague, or Griswold, or North Stongington, all nowhere, municipal destinations located in Connecticut. I look at New Haven and Hartford, and Stamford and West Hartford, and Danbury and Bridgeport and even dysfunctionally corrupt Waterbury (also all in Connecticut). I look at cities where things are happening that also happen to have mayors who are in charge.

I am in New London and my heart belongs here. It is a love/hate relationship, the way the most passionate relationships are. New London and I have no conjugal dealings, but we do have a mutual understanding. I will stay out of the government's way if it stays out of mine. We are at cross purposes. I celebrate my city. New London's government stifles its assets the way a crack-addled mother smothers her baby. Strong words, but true ones none the less. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

I apologize for not being as light-hearted as usual.

My condolences to Gil Torres and Angelica Torres Peck. Hortencia was a wonderful woman and a wonderful cook. She was an asset to this city who will be missed. Her passing deserves more than a footnote at the end of a diatribe about the state of the Whaling City. I regret that I haven't seen her for so long, but I have only the fondest memories of chatting with her in her kitchen at el Sombrero while she worked at her big cast-iron skillet conjuring marvels our of ingredients she bought the morning before at Shop Rite. She was one of a kind. I doubt I will meet her Heaven, but I know I won't see her where I will end up.

-Matthew Whalehead King

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