November 6 is rapidly approaching, and with that, the end of one small saga in the dramatic past few months. When we go to the polls on Tuesday, it is hard to imagine that people will be able to forget that “other election day” the day that the New York mayoral primary was canceled; the day that the election was the last thing on our minds.
Yet as reasonable as our preoccupations have been over the past few months, it saddens me to recognize how much events in New Haven have taken backseat in the consciousness of most Yalies. Many freshmen still haven’t had a chance to explore the city, let alone think about the mayoral election coming up next week. New Haven news may not make CNN, but that is no excuse for ignoring these events.
As Yale students, we still have a responsible to get to know our city.
Most freshmen, including myself four years ago, arrived at Yale assuming that New Haven is a “boring place.” In reality, that could not be further from the truth.
This weekend, perhaps, I will go to a play at the Long Wharf Theater, which has productions every bit as good as anything I could see in my hometown of Philadelphia. Maybe I’ll visit the Amistad ship, a life-size replica of the same ship that docked in New Haven many years ago and whose story became the subject of a major motion picture by Steven Spielberg.
I could go to a music club like Cafe Nine, or visit the New Haven Colony Historical Society on Whitney Avenue. I could play with clay, metal and paint at the Creative Arts Workshop down on Audubon Street, or go to Grand Avenue, a treasure chest of Latino food and music stores. Of course, I could certainly stay on the Yale campus this weekend –there’s always plenty to do here. But if I do, it’s certainly not because I lack other options.
New Haven is a beautiful small city. This place is not New York, of course (in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a huge difference in size). But it makes me sad to watch New Yorkers come to Yale “despite New Haven” and then dismiss this place without giving it a chance.
New Haven has more areas of cultural diversity than most cities five times its size. It’s a neighborhood-based city, with many active communities and pockets of lively flavor. New Haven is a quirky place, filled with stories, history and jewels just waiting to be discovered.
Did you know that pizza was invented here? Or frisbees? Do you remember erector sets, those cool building toys you used to play with as a kid? They were built here. How many parks do you think New Haven has? (I’ll give you a clue: it’s over 100). How many other cities of 124,000 people have two rivers and a beach?
Most of all, New Haven is an extraordinarily accessible city. CT Transit can take you just about anywhere you’d want to go for $1, and the bus hub is only a block from Phelps Gate, on the New Haven Green.
Don’t know New Haven well enough to read a bus map? Not a problem. CT Transit has a hotline with a friendly operator at the other end: 624-0151. There’s really no excuse –Êyou don’t need a car.
I’m no expert on New Haven. I haven’t even lived here for four years yet. But I’ve been up and down almost every street; I know the neighborhoods; I read in the parks. I vote here. I spent a summer here. I’ve made friends here.
By the end of my freshman year, I was calling Yale home. Now I realize that that word applies equally to New Haven. I was lucky enough to have friends who dragged me off campus, who let me know that there was something here worth getting to know. Today, I can’t imagine what my Yale experience would have been like if I hadn’t had that realization.
New Haven is every Yalie’s city, too, at least for four years. Treat it with respect, and give it the chance it deserves. Read the New Haven Advocate each week –it’s free, available all over campus, and its managing editor, Paul Bass, is smart, funny and a great reporter. Check out the New Haven Register, online or in the dining halls.
But most of all, step off of Yale’s campus once in a while. It won’t kill you. And maybe you’ll realize that there are people who live here in New Haven, people who have (God forbid!) chosen to live here. Maybe, just maybe, you may even fall in love with the place. I know I did.
Shayna Strom is a senior in Davenport College.