The 40-Year Plan:
'cause it ain't gonna happen overnight...
T he 40-Year Plan, like all visionary movements, began at a bar. Or at least how I'd like to mythologize this small but growing effort to create a better world in 40 years.
A group of us in Hartford used to meet every Tuesday night at a bar called the Spigot. Now we meet at Red Rock, on Capital Avenue. We have dubbed this beer-drinking session "the Progressive Happy Hour." There's a loose email list that someone commandeers to send out a weekly invitation.
The 40-Year Plan began with a question at an early PHH - "Can we bury the interstate highway in Hartford in the next 40 years?"
That conversation between Matt Blood, Joe Barber and myself morphed into a longer running discussion. With one such discussion fresh in my mind, Andy Hart, the editor of the Hartford News, invited me to do a weekly column. I saw an opportunity to give this idea a title and a running commentary, to contribute some momentum to it.
The goal of the column is to not only break news, but to add to the dialogue a solution-oriented approach to societal problems. My columns range in topics, but in every one, I try to imagine time frames and what we can do when and where and how. I'm sick of the lies and distortions in mass media, and think there is really too much information out there, and question the need for another voice in the wild, but I owe it to myself and my own voice to run this website.
So who am I? Ken Krayeske. I was born in Waterbury, CT, Feb. 26, 1972. I share a birthday with my grandmother Battista Battista (that was really her name), Johnny Cash, and French novelist Victor Hugo (and our web designer's father-in-law).
I have a taste for adventure and challenge, and since I am somewhat megalomaniacal, I try to channel that in social entrepreneurialism. Ever since I was a youth on Bunker Hill Road in Watertown, pure suburbia, I wanted to build things with words and pictures. In fourth grade, I helped start an elementary school newspaper with Vanessa Holroyd, who, years later, claimed she did most of the work. I think the school secretary did all of the typing. I know I ran the ditto machine for our one issue.
At the end of my sophomore year at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury, I joined the now-defunct Cross Chronicle. One of my first stories, about twin bowling brothers Brian and Phil Mongelluzzo, who both bowled perfect games, won an award. By my senior year, at age 17, the local daily newspaper paid me to cover high school sports. The crusty old sportswriters - some were masters of puns, others ate cookies at the urinals - invited me out for beers with them on Friday nights after deadline.
I only drank soda, but we joked that my autobiography would be called "$2 An Inch," a reference to my pay scale as a stringer. I imagined myself in the same company as Ernest Hemingway, who began writing for the Kansas City Star at age 18. I followed journalism to Syracuse University, majoring in magazine journalism. I minored in History and Spanish. I concentrated on dropping LSD and smoking copious amounts of marijuana.
I owe my political awakening to my older sister Rubi, who practiced her speech class presentation about legalization of marijuana in front of me. I was mesmerized. I had never heard of the injustices perpetrated by the U.S. government during the past century regarding the war on marijuana, and I began to research the history thoroughly.
After graduation, I landed a job at a start-up newspaper in Nevis, a tiny West Indian island nation of 9,000 people. I lasted two months because a) the publisher was broke and didn't pay me, the phone company, or the landlord on time, and b) there was serious political upheaval that made me think I was an expendable 22-year-old white guy.
The deputy prime minister's three sons were involved in a cocaine ring. One was found dead in the trunk of a burned-out car in a sugar cane field with his girlfriend. Their skeletons, their legs were sawed off mid-femur. The departure of the other two sons from Her Majesty's prison in Basseterre, St. Kitts, led to a riot. Young men dressed in fatigues, waving assault rifles, strutting down the streets, gave me the spooks.
They had a law there, too, that could have locked the newspaper doors and deported me for printing something the government didn't like. If only I had been that lucky. After 10 weeks at about 120 hours a week, I gave up.
After a brief stint working on some boats in St. Thomas, I returned home to Northwest Connecticut to make good on my student loan payments. It was there I met Ralph Nader in 1996 while working in Winsted. In 2004, I worked for his reviled presidential campaign. In between, I wrote for a bunch of newspapers, like the Hartford Advocate and I freelanced for High Times magazine, too.
In 1997, I combined my loves of photography and baseball to start a baseball card manufacturing company, called Warning Track Cards (the initials WTC - kind of freaked me out after 9/11 - but whatever). The Warning Track is the dirt strip that rings a baseball field, telling the fielders that they are about to hit the wall. I thought it was an appropriate metaphor for our society. I prided myself on making sweatshop free cards (I airbrushed out many sneaker logos). I catered to independent league teams so I wouldn't have to pay royalties to the likes of George Steinbrenner. I closed WTCards down in 2003.
I was really trying to focus on another project - this one called Echoes from the Streets. I marshaled community support to form a newspaper for high school students in Hartford. Budget cuts forced the closure of high school newspapers 30 years ago, and I wanted to work with young people to create an opportunity for them to document their reality. I cannot do justice to the project in under 20,000 words, so I'll just say I think about the young people and the stories everyday, and I am inspired by their resolve, and still can't quite understand how we managed to print a 36-page monthly newspaper.
But we did. I got fired in May 2003, and have continued to work with youth. I have focused more and more, though, on making my living as a professional writer - not a journalist - because that label is so misleading and tortured right now. Whatever the case is, I am here, you are here, keep reading, educating yourself and being passionate about what you believe in.
Here's a resume if you're interested.
Here are some links to some of my favorite stories that I wrote that are online:
These quote me:
Coffee Maker by Mark McLychok