Maybe 15 years ago, I came to a curious realization about my visits to Stamford. This was years after my grandparents had moved out of town, and my regular trips to Connecticut were at an end.
Stamford is not tremendously far outside New York City, and serves as a bedroom community for many people who commute into the city every day. (Nine Stamford residents died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.)
Stamford gets New York TV and radio stations, and by and large, its residents read New York newspapers. The ties between the two cities are significant.
And yet, in a dozen years of visiting Stamford at least once a year, I’d never once been to New York City.
There were reasons for this. New York in the Seventies and Eighties was still trying to play down the ironic “Fun City” image it got in the John Lindsay years as a crime-ridden, threatening, fading metropolis. Out-of-towners — including some who had been content to visit in the ’50s and early ’60s — turned their backs.
My own parents had a similar experience. I don’t know the details, but I know they went to New York in the late ’70s or early ’80s to see some old friends, and had a poor enough time that they had no interest in going back. And they didn’t.
I was a big Mets fan as a kid. And yet, it never occurred to anyone to suggest a trip to the city for a a big-league game — I think because there was a built-in family aversion to going to New York. (The Yankees were around too, of course … but a trip to the South Bronx? Nope.)
My grandparents, as I’ve said before, were stay-at-home types, not tremendously adventurous by nature. My grandpa took my young dad to ballgames at New York’s various stadia in the Fifties, and my grandparents went to the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Queens. But beyond that, they tended to get their kicks close to home. And as New York’s reputation got hairier, they were probably content to steer clear.
It is kind of sad, I suppose, to have the City that Never Sleeps a short train ride away and never take advantage of it. But that’s how it went down at the time.
That’s not to say my grandparents never left their house, though. This week’s calendar entry finds them heading out on the town — or at least planning to:
I always thought New Haven suffered from much the same urban woes that plagued New York, on a smaller scale.
But apparently, the chance to hear “Gee, Officer Krupke” performed by Ivy League undergrads was too good a chance for my grandparents to pass up. Or at least it was until the show got cancelled, for reasons I am unable to determine.
This would have been my grandparents’ anniversary weekend. (The mention of sauerbraten at Hugo’s would have been their yearly anniversary dinner.)
So perhaps my grandfather hit upon the idea of an exotic night out, and looked to New Haven as the nearest easily accessible big city in which entertainment might be found.
This is not the only record of their visiting New Haven: A previous blog post about football mentions a 1969 birthday dinner for my Aunt Elaine at the city’s long-gone Les Shaw’s restaurant.
I believe my aunt was going to school in New Haven at the time, at what was then Southern Connecticut State College, which would have added to my grandparents’ interest in visiting.
(New Haven is also reputed to be the birthplace of the hamburger and the home of the best pizza in America, though I doubt either of those would have lured my grandparents there.)
So, there you have it. A night out on the town.
Not The City; the town.