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You’re Not Gonna Find in Bristol

‘Tis a bit unfair, but among close friends, the town where I grew up, Bristol, CT, has become the butt of a private joke – a metaphor for all things boring, a place devoid of culture and nightlife. Whenever I see something particularly unusual, crowded (as I wrote in 212 and 2:12), or abuzz, I sometimes remark that it is certainly something you’re not gonna find in Bristol.
In this town of 60,000, there is little to do but visit strip malls and eat fast food. My family never ate in Bristol, opting instead to travel for our infrequent restaurant outings. Although it does have a surprising number of claims to fame – Lake Compounce (the oldest amusement park in continuous operation in the US), national headquarters for ESPN, hos of Little League New England, a Clock Museum ( one of a very few museums in the United States dedicated solely to horology), the New England Carousel Museum, and the Otis Elevator Company test  tower – the largest in the United States. Nonetheless, these are things of little import on a day-to-day basis, and most residents will only partake of these places once or twice in a lifetime, if at all. But for culture or shopping quality merchandise, most residents will find themselves traveling. My high school English teacher, a rebel, advised us not to read the local paper, something he found tantamount to trash. He recommended that we leave Bristol altogether. There are staunch supporters of my hometown, I am sure. In my lifetime, I have seen Bristol alternately on lists of best and worst places to live in America. But I yearned to live in New York City and, in 1969, undeterred by my guidance counselor (as I wrote about in Jungle Lovers), I came to the big city.

In the 7 years that I have written for the pages of this website, I have featured many unusual and remarkable people, places, and things – people such as Mark Birnbaum or pianist Colin Huggins, who performs with a baby grand in Washington Square Park. But, as typifies the New Yorker, I have become inured to the lunacy of a man assembling and disassembling a baby grand piano daily, hauling it many city blocks to and from storage, setting it up, and playing for hours, even in the most inhospitable weather. Most recently, Colin upped the ante considerably by performing during the winter months in frigid weather. Neither biting cold nor a slim audience deters him from his daily grind.

As I traversed the park on the morning of Friday, February 15, the bar for novelty in New York City was raised again – a piano turner wearing roller blades was busy tuning Colin’s baby grand piano, with banks of snow as backdrop. It was decidedly a scene uniquely New York and certainly something You’re Not Gonna Find in Bristol :)

2 Responses to You’re Not Gonna Find in Bristol

  1. Jaime Batista says:

    You hit a nerve, my old friend, Brian..There are many other things you won’t see here in Bristol–homeless huddled in alleyways-or apartment lobbies–drug addicts passed out on the side of the street or on park benches–refuse between appartment buildings–rats–used needles etc.etc..POOR ME–from my window I have seen deer (eating my hostas) the occasional hawk snatching a squirrel or chipmunk–raccoons coming for the scraps from our evening meal–a family of fox rolling on my freshly mowed lawn–a bear every once in a while–hummingbirds at our hanging plants–the neighboring farmer’s cows waiting by the back yard fence for me to bring them an apple or donuts– etc.etc…all that just looking out my window…Your very right, your post reflects something one wouldn’t see here in little Bristol–it just wouldn’t fit in–and I’m glad of it…

  2. Jaime–

    In WSP this afternoon, I was watching our resident red tailed hawks, dubbed Bobby and Rosie “doing it” on the highest Judson Church cross – we have our wildlife, too. I used to yearn for the kind of life you have, but have gotten over it. (I’ve seen hummingbirds in WSP also. Heard the were just passing through on their migratory route.)

    But people, in all their varied guises, have become so much more fascinating to me, and, I suspect, to Brian, too.

    Have you visited NYC recently? The homeless situation is not so bad. They are actually finding housing for some or our former WSP residents. It doesn’t take with every one, but I can think of 4 off-hand who are doing well.

    It would be nice to see you in NYC for a visit.


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