Monday, August 25, 2008


Yesterday, the wife and I went to one of my favorite places on the planet: Coney Island.

After gorging on crab strips, buttered corn and hot dogs, I got to thinking about why CI is so damn cool. I like how it's safe enough to hang out, but still dirty and seedy enough to be fun, yet it still retains a hint of its old-time charm (especially with the Cyclone). It's got a beautiful Atlantic Ocean beach, a sideshow, great food, rides new and old, and my personal favorite game: Skee-Ball!

I think the biggest thing that makes CI so cool is simply how different it is. You just have to check out the Mermaid Parade for proof of that. They even sell buttons proclaiming it "Sodom by the Sea." Now all of this got me thinking, of course, about our beloved Stamford.

I'm not going to reopen the "Stamford has no character" argument. However, I will say that although there are a lot of neat things to do here (cricket comes to mind), a lot of things in Stamford are just so darn generic.

Our "waterfront" dining, Crab Shell and Paradise Grill, serve pretty standard fare and are full of gel-haired meatheads. We have 1001 Italian restaurants serving penne a la vodka. Our local Irish pub is a chain! I think Fairfield County in general is the polo shirt capital of the world, and does it get any more generic than a polo shirt? Why is this town so uptight?

Part of the problem is that there's no "alternative" scene here. I think it would be cool to have a neighborhood like Philadelphia's South Street or SoHo in NYC (although even SoHo is getting rapidly generic-ified). I don't necessarily mean S&M orgies (though I'm not judging), but how cool would it be to have a roller rink in town that hosted roller derby matches?? Even New Haven has Toad's Place, a well-known rock/punk/etc. venue. We have...cover bands at the former Jimmy's Seaside.

Also, I'm not a member of the gay demographic, but as far as I know, there's little to no gay/lesbian scene here, and we all know that gays = fun (for everyone). See again: South Street and SoHo/Greenwich Village.

Unfortunately, part of what allows places like those come to be are seediness and low rent, and while we've got some of the former, the latter is an extinct species in these parts. I'd love to see some pioneers carve out a little "district" somewhere in the CTW, but with the South End catching Antares fever and the East Side getting the Glenview Commons cold, there isn't much "cheap" real estate left in town.

Well, at least Bennigan's is gone. Wait...what's that opening underneath Target? A Houlihan's?? NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

I should add that the Avon Theater's Cult Classics series is awesome, not to mention surprisingly well-attended!

5 comments: said...

Yep Stamford's bland,I hear a lot of this and its like, well - yeah!

PS why would the gays EVER want to move there???! They pick COOL places to BEGIN with, like the Cape, San Francisco, and lower Manhattan.

They aren't some sort of 'Gay Corps' where they go to boring places so that they will become fun and raise real estate prices!

Mr. Z said...

One thing that concerns me is the news that the SCA declared bankruptcy. Though the Rich Forum and Palace don't always have headliners, they fill a definite need in our community. It's hard to imagine any city of our size without a cultural center.

Trump Enterprises ought to drop by with a nice donation to bail out the SCA. That would be a nice PR spin about how much they're invested in the downtown area, not to mention that a lack of cultural activities wouldn't sit well with the folks who are most interested in dropping the coin for a Trump condo...

Jonathan "JR" said...

Stationstops: I know I'm not stating anything new...I'm just griping (which is an infrequent thing for me).

As for the "Gay Corps" (HAHA!), some cities have actually courted the gay community in their efforts to revitalize run-down areas. For whatever reason, gays tend to be willing pioneers!

Speaking of big gay fun, I highly recommend checking out MFAP's Gay Bingo ( when it starts up again. Don't worry, you don't have to be gay to play.

mary said...

Love the piece about Coney Island. I have family who live near there and it is so much fun. I took my young nephew to the hotdog eating contest and he had a blast. He was especially excited to see the Japanese contestant with red and yellow hair.

It would be nice if Stamford could try to save some of the edgier buildings and areas. People don't always want to see Disneyland. Too pristine, too white. Even Loft Artists left a more intersting venue to move to "nicer" digs. After living here for 14 years (I moved up here from NY)this town is only now starting "get it". Stamford may be getting more interesting but it sure took long enough!!

Jonathan "JR" said...

Mary: I hear you about saving some of the edgier spots, but as we all know, money talks. I'm sure that some of the old warehouses in the South End would make awesome loft conversions, but they wouldn't be able to charge $700,000 for them!

SoNo still has some of that gritty, unwashed feel to it - there's no freaking Gap (at least not yet). Unfortunately, real estate is so outrageous in Stamford that a store like Taste of Holland wouldn't last two weeks...yet Aghabumi is hanging in there down on Magee Avenue - much props to them! If a few other pioneers jumped into the game to create a funky district (funkier than the antique district over on Jefferson and Canal), it would be freakin' awesome.