Friends in CT

4 April 2008

So I was lucky enough to get a nice flame comment on my blog… which is pretty funny, considering it’s, well, my blog. Where I don’t have to respond or even post their comment. But in the interests of education and good will, why the hell not?

The comment was on this post from January, about my experience visiting the nursing school at Yale. The most important thing to note, which my dear flame-thrower did not, was that nowhere in my blog did I say that I felt unsafe in New Haven. The whole point of my post was that I was TOLD that I should feel unsafe there by Yale-affiliated-folk. The staff and students I met were clear: No walking around the nursing school, call for the shuttle if you’re going anywhere after dark, etc.  And what about my good friend in New Haven, who for eight years lived in one of the less-gentrified areas of Cambridge (where, I clearly recall, he had no problem letting me wander around intoxicated at night)? Well, he DROVE me to YSN and back and asked me to take a cab the two blocks to the train station. 

Those were the things that gave me pause, dear readers.

I am perfectly willing to consider that this may be alarmist behavior on behalf of Yale and/or the individuals I met and not a real reflection of the state of New Haven affairs, but I think it’s totally reasonable that I was a little, um, disconcerted.  I’ve felt comfortable being on my own in major metropolitan areas since I was a teenager — to be told by adult men that they don’t walk around at night alone in a place I might live was a bit hard to swallow.  And then discovering that the going rents in New Haven were more than I’m paying to live in a very safe and walkable/T-accessible area in Boston — well, the whole thing was a bit surreal.

That said, I’m not a hater. I’m excited to move there and am looking for apartments. I’ve been back for a visit, had some apizza, drove and walked around some parts of town. So simmer down, flamer. But I’ll reply to the best bits of the comment because it was so random, and delayed, and hell, the blog’s been pretty slow….

By the way, homeless people tend to gather in the most vibrant and safest parts of any metropolitan area — Midtown Manhattan, Harvard Square, downtown Austin, San Francisco, etc. are all examples of this. New Haven is the equivalent. Homeless people don’t want to have to wander the suburbs or outskirts of town where they would just get beat up. Just because you see a homeless person doesn’t mean a place is dangerous.”

Whoah! I didn’t say a single word about the homeless population or use the word “dangerous.” Anyone who’s lived in an major urban area (thanks for mentioning Midtown Manhattan and Harvard Square, two places I’ve lived and worked for extended periods) for any length of time knows that in general, homeless people aren’t dangerous. The three personal crimes I’ve been a victim of (one in Manhattan, one in Boston, and one in Cambridge) had nothing to do with homeless people and everything to do with young men with too much time and not enough prospects. But still, that’s not the point. I don’t think I even saw any homeless people while I was there. Again, my concerns about New Haven had absolutely nothing to do with anything I saw and everything to do with what I was told by people who live, work, and study there.

“There are now literally hundreds of New York Times-five-star-rated restaurants, bars, clubs, jazz halls, galleries, etc., lining the streets, with $3500/month luxury apartments above. Guess you missed them while you were visiting there… probably because graduate students tend to be from the leafy Princeton-like suburbs and have a skewed sense of reality.”

Well, yes, I did miss (and will continue to, unfortunately) the Zagat-rated eats and the swank downtown lofts, and you’re damn right, it’s because I’m a graduate student — but definitely not because I have a “skewed” sense of suburban reality. I’m going to miss out on these gems of New Haven as a graduate student because I’m going to be poor. I’m guessing, Sir Flamer, that you’ve never been a starving graduate student living entirely off of federal loans. I don’t have a car, I can’t afford much in rent, and I’ll be working and studying long hours. Great restaurants and galleries and beautiful condos are unfortunately, irrelevant — I just want to be able to live somewhere where I can walk to school and clinicals and to a reasonably-priced grocery store to get the milk and PB&J I’m going to be subsisting on for three years. But from what I’ve been told, that’s not really an option — the neighborhood near the nursing school apparently isn’t a safe one, and the nicer neighborhoods still in my price range require a car or relying on the shuttle for getting to class and work and errands. And that’s where I was disappointed with my options in New Haven.

“Downtown New Haven may not be a leafy suburb filled exclusively with white people, but it is the place of choice for young people in Connecticut and it is expensive because of that — it is the most desirable place to live in Connecticut, if not the entire Northeast. New Haven has more 25-34 year olds than any other community in CT by a huge margin, and it also is the most bikeable major city in the Northeast, in terms of the % of the population that commutes to work via bicycle.”

That’s good to know. Honestly, I’m glad to hear it. Biking is awesome for a million reasons. And young people are also key to my quality of life. And I’m sure the New Haven Tourism Bureau appreciates the proselytizing you’re doing on their behalf. But I think even their staff would probably hesitate before taking the hype all the way up the mountain to “most desirable place to live in the Northeast.” And I have no clue where you got the idea that I was desiring New Haven to be a “leafy suburb filled with white people” but hey, thanks for the tip, I’ll make sure to warn any visiting friends. Just in case they’re expecting New Haven… to be like the rest of New England.

Also, lastly, I just gotta say, you are really into this whole “leafy suburban” thing. We have leaves in the city, too. They’re on our trees.

Sigh. What I would’ve really liked to hear from this person, instead of random statistics and unprovoked insults, what would’ve actually been HELPFUL, would’ve been for El Flameo to say, “I’ve lived in New Haven for ten years, rode my bike everyday to work downtown, walked around town after dark, and never had a problem.” Or, “I’ve personally walked around the area south of downtown where the nursing school is and it was okely-dokely.” They could’ve even added a “so stuff it” and that would’ve been cool. But no, they gave me the tour-guide script (with a bit of snark as required per Internet tradition) in lieu of personal testimony and reassurance. So, to my angry future neighbor: Hey — I’m not an asshole. I wasn’t out to ruin your fair town’s rep. And any snark above has been in fun and for the benefit of any brave reader who made it this far. I’m moving to New Haven despite the mild trepidation instilled in me by Yale affiliates, and I bet I’ll meet lots of great people there and enjoy my stay.  And if you’d like to offer it, I’d love to hear your experience about how New Haven really is an awesome and safe place to live and work. 

Otherwise, see you around town. I’ll be the girl in blue scrubs who smiles and says “Hi.”



  1. I’ve been lurking/reading your blog for a while–I’m starting the UW MEPN program in June. I’ve appreciated and enjoyed your blog, and I don’t think you’re an asshole 😉 Keep writing.

  2. Aww, thanks, Pamela! Good to know that I don’t come across as a jerk to *everyone*.

    Congrats on being one of the few and proud UW MEPNs! I’m sorry I won’t be joining you. You guys only have a few more precious weeks of freedom, right? I hope you’re resting up…

    Good luck and stay in touch!

  3. As a current GEPN I was probably one of those folks that told you to be careful around New Haven…
    I’m surprised at the flame- I understand some people love this town but to me its the true “crazy town”.

    Just wait til you see how people will drive here…
    Mass will seem like heaven.
    (No joke, I used to live in Beantown)

    That said, I’m excited that you’re coming.
    Hope you like YSN and welcome to New Haven!

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