It didn't take long for me to wonder if I wasn't wasting my time on Bartholomew Street the other day, talking to a couple of businessmen about burglaries they wouldn't fess up to being all that upset about.
Hey, I thought, there are way too many people in this city with real gripes for me to try and wrestle emotion from these guys.
I was at the old Spaghetti Warehouse building that Ray Morant is helping turn into Hartford's newest music venue, listening to him insist that the multiple thefts at the site weren't that big a deal.
He's lived and played music in and around Hartford for more than 20 years, he said; he doesn't have a bad word about the place.
These things happen, he continued, it's part of doing business in a city.
Maybe once folks notice that the place isn't abandoned, they'll stop thinking it's easy pickings.
I let him go on like this for a bit, and then finally let him in on a little secret: I'd arrived earlyand watched him press his face against the metal gate outside, staring despondently into the courtyard.
At one point, he was leaning in so hard that I thought someone would have to peel his face from the fence.
Come on, I said, I saw you at the gate. You looked a little more upset than you're letting on.
"Yeah," he said, finally relenting. "It was disappointing."
The theft of the sound system was understandable. The mass dumping of garbage and mattresses out back, almost expected on the isolated stretch of road.
But the street lamp — stolen from right out front in the middle of a warm August Day in this up-and-coming part of Parkville? They just unscrewed it from the ground and walked away.
It was going to be the centerpiece of their promotional material, Morant said, a symbol of the venue they're calling The Warehouse.
Over here, he says, pointing to the small room, they're going to showcase regional acts. In the larger space, national bands.
"There's tons of talent around here," Morant says. And he's betting people will come to check it out.
Rob Walsh, who owns the warehouse and several other buildings in Hartford, is on board. But he also knows the difficulty in attracting businesses to the city. People hesitate to come because of the very challenges Morant and his partners are facing, he said.
But almost as quickly as that sentence leaves Walsh's mouth, he shakes it off.
"Nobody's dead, right?" Walsh says. "So you can't get too upset about it."
That was it; I was out of there.
Later, though, I found I couldn't stop smiling as I retold the story; and no, not just because it's pathetically funny that even a bolted down light fixture isn't safe in the city.
As frustrating as I found their lack of outrage, the guys were genuinely optimistic. And the more I thought about it, I realized that's why long after I stopped taking notes, I kept talking to them.
These days, there's no shortage of people who have given up on this city, who wouldn't come to Hartford if you paid them — let alone try to open a business here.
And yet, here were a couple of guys who weren't letting any of the things that send others running stop them.
They were moving forward — with or without their beloved light fixture. And it was actually kind of refreshing.
So, cut them a break. Leave the place alone and if you spot a slightly weathered, black cast iron street lamp, about 8 feet tall or so, give the cops a call.
There's an empty spot on Bartholomew waiting on it.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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