Jan. 10, 2008
By Ken Krayeske • 7:45 AM EST
The sunny side of the Street: Hartford City Hall as a Third Place? Let's hope we can look to new city councilman Luis Cotto for such visionary thinking.
I'm stateside again. After my exhausting first full day on the North American continent in which I went to law school, work, Mickey Allen's wake and a fundraiser for the Working Families Party, I felt downright thrilled about Hartford, CT, USA.
Maybe it's the optimism of the new year, maybe it's warmth of friends and family that I have missed, maybe it's the fun of seeing an old place with new eyes.
Maybe it's that I am not freezing, and I was okay landing in JFK airport in just shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops (don't ask, but the next time you're passing through Bombay and want to spend the night in town, make sure you get a visa beforehand.)
So by the time I expired Monday night, I felt a sun shine more powerful than that I left in Florida in August.
The day started with an NPR debate about the inability of ironic cynicism as delivered by late night comics like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to handle the politics of hope, like that supposedly represented by Barack Obama.
Maybe it was Obama's Iowan triumph, which I learned of in the airport in the Maldives Friday, that sparked this smile for country and future.
Barack isn't that much different than Hillary Clinton, their warmongering and voting records are nearly identical, according to research on the CT website Drinking Liberally in New Milford.
Yet Michael Chabon's trust in Obama is simple: Barack is black, Chabon wrote in a recent Details magazine (that I read before I went to bed Monday), and an America that can elect an African-American president is a place Chabon and I want to live.
Excepting Condi Rice from this discussion, after the prejudice I saw Cliff Thornton endure in running as the first black candidate for governor in Connecticut, Barack's momentum reminds of the early days of the Lamont campaign, where we could ask "What comes to America after the war and public plunder and lies and corruption of Lieberman and Bush II?"
Maybe the answer is a Socratic resurrection of Kennedy's interrogatory "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." A desire to serve others, a call to public duty is sounding before us, for the first time since 1992, maybe even in our lifetimes.
Going to Grandma Mick's wake Monday night in Wethersfield fed this fount of newfound enthusiasm, and, in her passing, I found more cause for trust in tomorrow.
The huge Allen family mourned its matriarch Genevieve "Grandma Mickey" Allen with tears of joy. She lived 85 years of love, laughter and service to others, and to us she bequeathed a legacy of peace, and a path of altruism to follow.
Not even Eddie Perez's speech dampened my optimism. Forget that I found fault with the mayor's delivery, some commentators claimed Monday night's inaugural ceremony occasioned his finest articulation to date.
And while El Alcalde's content never fails to disappoint (a new taxpayer funded arena, another obfuscating layer of ethics management, corporate, corporate, corporate), the swearing in of new watchdogs for the people Luis Cotto and Dr. Larry Deutsch lightened Perez's touch of grey.
After the democratic transfer of power at City Hall, Cotto and Deutsch and a Working Families Party clan of about 40 met for a fundraiser at Kenney's/Red Rock on Capital Ave. My depression over the closure of La Paloma Sabanera is so last year.
Maybe that's because I hope Luis Cotto, the former co-owner of La Paloma, can bring to City Hall the egalitarian atmosphere of his coffee shop. The thought of Luis using his people-powered platform to turn 505 Main Street into a community-based third space, where the Mayor doesn't need to have locks and security codes on his door, invites enthusiasm.
Luis spoke of his rapid evolution from Lamont supporter to office holder.
"I can see how people get addicted to this type of thing," Cotto said. "People who see what is possible, people who want to work for us."
He offered that in four years, the Working Families Party should strive for a majority on Council.
"We are the machine," he said. It sounded much more reassuring than the classic Pink Floyd funeral march "Welcome to the Machine."
Larry Deutsch managed to maintain the mood even when he sang a dirge of compromise, that dirty element needed most to pull the levers of power.
"We're willing to take risks," he said. "I am here for you."
Urania Petit, the WFPer who lost her City Council race who is now the Executive Director at Community Works, sounded even more passionate and bright.
"I know I didn't make it," she said, "But what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, and I am getting stronger."
And so for 2008, I want to foster fearlessness as well. Here's to hoping that we all grow muscle in place of fat, that we reward courage instead of cowardice, the we believe in new beginnings instead of harboring hate for the past, and that we radiate pride instead of projecting prejudice.
P.S. – Sorry about no column last week, finding internet access on a boat in a nation of almost 1,200 islands was challenging (hence the flight through Bombay).