My nephew thinks we should all skedaddle right out of Connecticut as fast as our Prii can take us – last one to cross the border, turn off the lights. Party over. He emails me articles to bolster his case, and there is no question that our state is facing serious challenges.
The cost of living and taxes are high and rising here, some businesses are grumpy and threatening to move to Florida and beyond, and our economy is growing slower than most other states. While still ranked near the top for our median household income, our personal revenue actually has declined since 2000; and Connecticut recently has become a leader for economic inequality among its citizens, a dubious honor that used to go to places like Mississippi.
A widely cited Gallup Poll reported last year that 49 percent of the 600-odd Connecticut residents it surveyed wanted to leave, much higher than the 33 percent national average. We rank near the disgruntled top, while folks in states like North Dakota, Montana and Iowa apparently are as happy as clams on medical marijuana.
So should we stay or should we go?
Sunnier places beckon, after all, like Wyoming or Texas. The Lone Star State is where Rick Perry and Ted Cruz roam, the skies are not cloudy all day, and nearly a quarter of its citizens are without health care insurance (tops in the nation). Only 24 percent of Texans want to mosey along: maybe because the rest of them are in poor health and it takes so dang long to get to the border.
No, as much as I like barbecue and Willie Nelson, I’m staying put. I’m a Connecticut Yankee, born in Stamford when Jackie Robinson was living there and commuting to Ebbets Field. After some peregrinations, I have been here for the last 41 years. I spent six months, in the winter, in New Hampshire, where the Gallup Poll insists three quarters of the population is content. I have to chalk that statistic up to sheer want of imagination.
Yes, I like it here just fine, nattering nabobs of negativity notwithstanding (sorry, Rick). Let me explain why.
If you can’t find something to do here to cheer you up or to engage your mind and spirit, you probably won’t be happy anywhere. A recent article in the New York Post, of all publications, documented the allure of Connecticut living to outsiders; Town & Country Magazine followed up with a feature touting the “Golden Triangle” of Essex, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and their environs as the “New Hamptons.”
The magazine points out what many of us sometimes take for granted, what motivates visitors to travel long distances to get here: there are a bazillion things to see and do and enjoy in just the one corner of the state that was the subject of the article.
There are theaters, beaches, large and small museums, wild and scenic rivers, performing arts centers and art galleries, forests and lakes, historic homes, family farms, meadows and salt marshes, splendid libraries, art schools and a castle, and just on and on. Last I checked the stuffy old Hamptons had hardly anything to compare with all that.
The state as a whole boasts all that and more, including world-renowned colleges and universities, amusement parks, amateur and professional sports teams, aquaria, scads of state parks and wilderness areas, night life, and reams of cultural events.
If a body needs more variety still, New York and Boston are a two-hour road trip. Try that trick from Ames, Iowa or Bismarck, North Dakota, which, to be fair, is only eight hours from Billings, Montana.
Let’s zero in on just one example of why Connecticut is a nice place to live. The Hadlyme Ferry, which crosses the Connecticut River, predates this country by seven years. And it is one sweet ride. You may spy a Bald Eagle or an American Egret and notice that your blood pressure is lower by the time you reach the other side. On my son’s first transit long ago, he stopped sucking his thumb and took in the sweep of the big river as if we’d just landed on Saturn.
This venerable conveyance almost fell to the budget knife several years ago, but sounder heads prevailed. The meat-cleaver crowd was all for scuttling the Selden III, but they did not prevail, as they do in many other states.
Some things, it turns out, are worth paying for.
Connecticut isn’t perfect, of course. More people are leaving than are moving in. Nephew Rick made it all the way to Massachusetts. So, yes, we have work to do. But to paraphrase a distinguished immigrant to our state, the reports of Connecticut’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
Mark Twain heads a long list of notables who have found this place congenial, from Roger Tory Peterson (who loved the salt marshes near his Old Lyme home) and Katharine Hepburn to Morley Safer and Albert Einstein, who vacationed in Connecticut.
Apparently Dr. Einstein liked the energy here.
David Holahan is a freelance writer who is perfectly content pontificating from East Haddam.