Four reasons why Connecticut is creepy

Grow up long enough in a place, and you start to discover all sorts of history and lore wrapped up and buried together. It makes for some interesting stories. So in the 21 years I lived in the state, I’ve found four reasons why it’s a creepily-cool place to live. This is by no means a complete list, so if you have stories you know of, comment below.

4. King Phillips War was fought over Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The Land of the Long Tidal River (The meaning of the Indian word “Connecticut”) was the battle ground of one of America’s most bloody war, when compared to the population at the time. Never heard of it? Yeah, this one is early on, back in the 1600s, when the state was still mostly wilderness.

3.Connecticut was testing ground for the Nazi’s eugenics program. I haven’t seen much talk about this one, just an article by Edwin Black, a meticulous researcher into the rise of the Nazis. He has a whole book on how America developed a eugenics program in the early 1930s that Germany later used called “The War Against The Weak.” The amount of sources he uses make him very credible, and his books that much heavier. I have no reason to doubt him.

2. We’ve got vampires, y’all. Forget the lore, the vampires of Jewett City once caused havoc in the area. Now, it’s an interesting study on disease and beliefs because an Englishman by the name of Bram Stoker apparently read the newspaper accounts of this scare while he was writing a little story he called “Dracula.”

1.Black Dogs haunt our hills. Well, just one, specifically. This story is pure fiction, but having hiked those hills many times, it a story that excites the imagination.


My journalism: a look back and some news

It’s been a big year for me and journalism. When the ball dropped last night, the mind didn’t have the whole picture. Standing there with a plastic cup with half-melted ice cubes, I had that experience of not fully realizing what had gone on the year before, no idea what will happen in the future.

A lot happened. I had not kept time from Jan. 1 to Jan. 1. Moments early on were forgotten and re-remembered again. This post is to chronicle what all went down this year.

  1. Sandy Hook — I still have not visited Newtown, Conn., but the effects of Dec. 14, 2012 carried over into the new year. There were the stories of how other Connecticut towns responded, stories about school security upgrades and an anniversary piece that I’m quietly proud to have written. Just kidding. I mentioned it on here.
  2. Bryan College — In May, I walked. In August, I finally finished all the required courses and got the paper that said I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Communication with an emphasis in Journalism. The diploma represents a chapter in life, of struggling through student media, late nights of despair as we pulled together paper after paper, censorship and The Washington Journalism Center.
  3. The Berlin Citizen — From freelancer in January between semesters at college to reporter, this year has been the year of The Citizen. In May, I worked as reporter for Town Times, then moving beats to North Haven and eventually back to The Berlin Citizen. It’s been a full circle, writing for my hometown paper.
  4. Freedom of Information Act Requests — In November, I worked on the story of the anniversary of Sandy Hook where I served six FOIA requests. Having never written a FOIA letter in college, this was all learned in the school of hard knocks. Mistakes were made, which may or may not be recounted in a future post.
  5. A licence… to drive — People were always shocked to learn I did not have a car. No so any longer! My stick-shift Nissan Sentra carries me to stories and is dear to my heart.
  6. Code — At the end of college, I watched a video on the importance of coding. A few weeks later, I was eking out my first few lines of HTML. I read that knowing code is a skill journalists should know. However, I didn’t see much application, working at the paper. It wasn’t until I was talking to another co-worker and he showed me his free WordPress website, showing me what he did with SEO and code that I realized the potential. Code is the way to own a website. In a way, it’s customizing and creating your printing press.
  7. Photography — In a way, nothing has changed. I still take photos on the same point and shoot that I purchased freshman year of college. A few days ago, I pressed the shutter for the 20,000th time. I know more about light, composition and timing. Still waiting for the DSLR, though…
  8. Town Elections — This year, I was able to cover a full election season in Connecticut, from the first primaries, to political theory, to the final outcomes. These lessons in the fight for power could not be learned by reading about it in a book, but experienced on the front lines.
  9. This Blog — In January 2013, I started this blog, telling readers and myself that this would be the blog that I keep for a while. I have not abandoned it yet.

And now, on Jan. 1, 2014, I set out on a new adventure. Yesterday was my last day at the paper that gave me the chance to start doing local journalism. I am moving to Chattanooga. I know not yet what I will be doing, although I have some leads. I’m going down to live closer to my fiancee, who said yes on Aug. 17, 2013 and made that moment by a lake in Connecticut the best moment of the year.

The community in the state capitol

Photo by Daniel Jackson
Last week was a whirlwind for me. A last minute story assignment led me to shadowing a state representative and standing in the Connecticut house chamber witnessing the swearing in of the house and Governor Dannel Malloy’s state of the state address.

The mood in the capitol was different than what I expected. While the legislators were recognizing the work ahead–the tragedy in Sandy Hook cast a shadow on the day–the legislators joked with each other, gave each other advice and called themselves close friends and family.

On the first day, representatives were learning the proper procedure for conducting government. When former House Speaker Chris Donovan listened to the roll being called, one representative stumbled when he recognized his name. Donovan just told the representative “present” or “here” are acceptable procedure when responding to a roll call.

When Donovan gave his parting speech, he said he was proud of what the house accomplished, and he told the new representatives they would find some of their closest friends among the politicians gathered there.

House Minority Leader Larry Cafero told the representatives to take care of their health.

When Cafero and House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz nominated J. Brendan Sharkey as Speaker of the House, both talked about how the man was a policy wonk and a prankster.

Sharkey was sworn in and he told the legislators that when a group came to escort him to the house floor, he hid in his bathroom in the capitol.

“It took a while, but we worked it all out,” he said.

And of course, the legislators brought their wives, mothers and children to witness the first day.

During the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, the representative from Manchester, Jason Rojas, held one daughter on his lap while his other daughter drank a soda by his chair.

Little things, yes, but it’s a side of the legislature we don’t see through political news reports.

Photo by Daniel Jackson