Is the Party Over in Connecticut?

Is the Party Over in Connecticut?

My nephew thinks we should all skedaddle out of Connecticut as fast as our Prii can take us – last one to cross the border, turn off the lights. 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, some businesses are grumpy and threatening to move to Florida and beyond, and our economy is growing slower than most states.

A widely cited Gallup Poll reported last year that 49 percent of Connecticut residents it surveyed wanted to leave, much higher than the 33 percent national average. Rhode Island wasn’t far behind, with 42 percent wanting to bail. Our states were in the top five with disgruntled citizenry, while folks in 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, like 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. After some peregrinations, I have been here for the last 41 years. I spent six months, in the winter, in New Hampshire, where Gallup insists three quarters of the population is content. I chalk that up to sheer want of imagination.

Yes, I like it here just fine, nattering nabobs of negativity notwithstanding (sorry, nephew 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. Last I checked the stuffy old Hamptons had hardly anything to compare with what southeastern Connecticut offers.

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 8 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's 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.

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 boat, but they didn’t 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 saltmarshes near his Old Lyme home) and Katharine Hepburn to Morley Safer and Albert Einstein, who vacationed in Connecticut. Apparently Al liked the energy here.