Thursday, July 31, 2008

Brewfest 2008

I'm starting to get blog hits (and real-life questions!) for this, so here's the info:

This year's Brass City Brew Fest will be held Saturday, September 13, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. in Library Park. Full information is available at

Don't wait until the day of the event to buy your tickets--if you get there late without a ticket, you might not be able to get in.

Tickets are available online or at the following locations:
Main Street Waterbury
Café Europa
John Bale Book Company
Brass Horse
The Turf
Mountview Plaza Wines & Liquors (in Naugatuck--a great store, and organizer of many great events!)

There will be a "classic car cruise" before the event and, for those of you who want to burn off the calories, a 5k race the next day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


There was a lot of hoopla over the installation of a new cross at Waterbury's Holy Land this June. This is the third cross at that site. The previous cross was an enormous beacon, lit from inside at night, that dominated the skyline. If you were driving along the highway, you couldn't miss it. Thousands of people who never got off the highway refer to Waterbury as "that town with the cross."

The new cross is comparatively small, delicate and graceful. It is also very nearly invisible at certain times of day. When the light hits it just right, you have to know it's there in order to see it. Rather than being lit from within, it's illuminated by spotlights, which is certainly more tasteful than the giant glowing cross we've all been accustomed to.

The reported cost of the new cross is $250,000. That seems like a huge amount of money for something so simple. I can't help thinking about all the many quality-of-life improvements that could have been made with a quarter million dollars. A new cross seems frivolous. But maybe this is the first step in a process to at least partially restore Holy Land.

Friday, July 25, 2008

North Square Murals

If you pay attention, you'll notice murals all over Waterbury. The North Square area seems to have the largest concentration, varying in subject and age, but mostly connected to the PRIDE Cultural Center and New Opportunities.

(Gabe's United Tyre is next door to PRIDE, and the mural on the tire shop is really a continuation of the PRIDE murals.)

This pair of murals (above and below) surround the parking lot at the corner of North Elm and Cherry Streets, near the New Opportunities building.

Many of the North Square murals are fairly old, remnants of efforts to revitalize a neighborhood that was devastated first by riots in the late '60s and then by poverty and neglect throughout the 1970s. There are pocket neighborhoods throughout the city that have yet to recover from the loss of the factory jobs that helped build those neighborhoods.

This last bit of outdoor art is in the same neighborhood (Cherry Street), but it's more recent and much more light-hearted--since it was created for Bender Plumbing Supply (in the former Benrus watch case factory), there is a toilet, tub and bathroom sink scattered about the undersea design.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I've been hearing rumors that there is a special card for the parking meters downtown. If you look at the meters, you can see a slot on the side for the card. I've haven't seen one of the cards yet, but maybe I'll take the time to get one soon.

The advantage of using the card is that you don't need quarters, dimes or nickels, and you can use the card to secure the maximum time available on the meter, but then get a refund if you don't use all the time. The downside is that the card costs $5, but if you park at meters often enough, the convenience and the money you save by refunding the unused minutes probably balances out the initial card cost.

ParkCards can be purchased and reloaded with minutes at the Waterbury Police Parking Division office, 210 Bank Street (at the corner of Grand Street), Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Their phone number is 574-6721. (A word of caution: I've heard that you buy the card at the Bank Street office, but that you have to take the card to the Police Department on East Main Street to load it, so allow some extra time for getting the card. Or wait for me to try it out and blog about it!)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bird Watching

After writing about the bird lover on Ashley Street, I heard a knock-knock-knock sound in my backyard and snapped this shot of a downy woodpecker.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Conflicting Reports

I wasn't able to go to last weekend's performance in Library Park by the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra. The Republican-American ran a very short article about it the next day. As described in the newspaper, only 150 people attended and the highlight of the performance happened when the police had to force a man to leave because he was getting in the way of the filming of the performance. Based on the newspaper coverage, I was left thinking that this was an event that was worth missing.

Then I talked to a couple of people who attended the performance from start to finish. They estimated a crowd of at least 500 people, and in their minds the highlight was an adorable little girl who was brought onstage to conduct one piece. In the newspaper report, the incident with the man who was in the way sounded dramatic and scary. According to the people I talked to, the incident wasn't newsworthy: the man in question is mildly retarded and was simply enjoying the music, unable to understand that he was in the way. Because it was a hot day, the crowd was spread throughout Library Park's shady areas. The best guess is that the reporter stopped by for five minutes, didn't look around the park to see how many people were really there, and make a big deal out of something that was barely memorable.

Over the past ten years, I think I've heard nearly every downtown organization complain about the newspaper's coverage of their events. The consensus seems to be that the Rep-Am prefers to publish bad news only about downtown. This is a large part of the reason that downtown has a bad image. If the article about the WSO performance had been written by the folks I talked to, everyone who read it would have wished they had been there to enjoy a great afternoon of music. Instead, I'll bet most people who read the published article felt glad they weren't there.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bird Lover

Here's a good example of why I like living in Waterbury:

This morning I decided to walk to downtown. I needed to pick up one of my paintings from Goldsmith's, and I wanted to get a few things from the Farmer's Market on the Green. From where I live, it's about a twenty minute walk, and I really need to get at least twenty minutes of exercise every day, so it's a good thing to do. I also wanted to get a few photos for some upcoming blog posts, so my walk meandered a bit.

I stopped on Ashley Street to take a photograph and started talking to a guy who was washing his truck in his driveway. He wanted to know if I was taking photos of birds. Then he told me that about his mom, Carmen Narvaez. She plays music (Puerto Rican, I assumed, from what I heard and from knowing that they're Puerto Rican) to attract birds to their house. From what her son told me, this works really well. They get every type of bird in Waterbury, including a mystery bird that's yellow with brown wings (maybe a goldfinch???). Mrs. Narvaez is even taking care of a bird that was attacked and injured by a squirrel.

This is my Waterbury. I can go for a walk, stroll down a side street I've never been on before, meet people from different countries and cultures, learn something new, and have interesting conversations with total strangers. It's the sort of thing that would never happen in the suburbs.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Meadow Street, Pine Street

Here's another one of my paintings, completed only yesterday. This is actually the second painting I started, back in 2006. I abandoned it for a while, because I didn't have the necessary skills yet. Then I discovered Copal oil, and my skill leaped forward rapidly. Copal is fantastic for working in thin layers. I'm still not at my full skill level yet, but I can see myself improving with every painting, and the last three paintings all have small areas that are the equal of highly regarded artworks done at the height of the artists' careers. I'm getting there. I just have to keep at it.

This next painting was completed a couple months ago. I need to retake the photograph, after I get the painting back from being framed at Goldsmith's on Bank Street. Photographing paintings is tricky. You need bright, indirect light so the image won't be grainy, the colors will be accurate, and there won't be any glare from the glossy paint surface. Today I discovered that my front porch on a bright sunny day has ideal lighting for photographing paintings.

Both paintings are available for purchase. $360 for Pine Street, $450 for Meadow Street. My painting of East Main Street is currently on view at John Bale Books, with a negotiable price.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Evenings Downtown

There are a gradually increasing number of things to do after work in downtown Waterbury. Here's a short list, just off the top of my head:

Mondays: live jazz at Vintage on Bank Street
Tuesdays: "Terrific Tuesdays" at the First Congregational Church on West Main Street--live music and bbq dinner
Wednesdays: Open Mic Night at Boru's
First Thursday every month: live music and refreshments at the Mattatuck Museum
Third Thursday every month: Young Professionals Networking happy hour (

Plus, of course, special events like Shakesperience Productions summer performances in Library Park and whatever is showing at the Palace Theater. And the regular, every-day things like great restaurants.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Farmers' Market

The Farmers Market on the Green started again today. Like last year, it's held every Thursday, 11am-3pm, until late October. Payment options are cash, WIC and EBT/food stamps. Below are some photos from this afternoon.

Hydroponic greenhouse tomatoes:

The hydroponic lettuce, always my favorite:

Tony's Seafood on ice:

The lobsters were very tempting.... if only I weren't sticking to a tight budget!

Some decorative flowers:

The Italian Ice truck:

Bantam Bread Company, mostly sold out by 2pm:

A diverse variety of oils, with some bread for sampling:

Ornaments carved from the trunks of old Christmas trees:

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Air Pollutants

Summer's here, and we're getting those miserable days where it's hot and humid and the air quality is poor, making it hard to breathe. I sometimes wonder what people did before air conditioning, but now I'm starting to think that maybe the air quality didn't get this bad before the twentieth century.

There's a website called AirNow that tracks the air quality across the country and gives advice on how to help reduce unhealthy air quality (like what we have right now, what I guess used to be called hazy, hot and humid, but is now all about ozone levels being too high).

The basics from the site certainly suggest that hot summer days weren't this bad over a century ago:

Bad Ozone. In the Earth's lower atmosphere, near ground level, ozone is formed when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical plants, and other sources react chemically in the presence of sunlight. Ozone at ground level is a harmful air pollutant.

Days when ozone is expected to be high:
• Conserve electricity and set your air conditioner at a higher temperature.
• Choose a cleaner commute—share a ride to work or use public transportation. Bicycle or walk to errands when possible.
• Refuel cars and trucks after dusk.
• Combine errands and reduce trips.
• Limit engine idling.
• Use household, workshop,and garden chemicals in ways that keep evaporation to a minimum, or try to delay using them when poor air quality is forecast.

What You Can Do On A Daily Basis
• Choose a cleaner commute — car pool, use public transportation, bike or walk when possible.
• Combine errands to reduce "cold starts" of your car and avoid extended idling.
• Be sure your tires are properly inflated.
• Keep car, boat and other engines properly tuned, and avoid engines that smoke.
• Follow gasoline refueling instructions for efficient vapor recovery. Be careful not to spill fuel and always tighten your gas cap securely.
• Use environmentally safe paints and cleaning products whenever possible.
• Some products that you use at your home or office are made with smog-forming chemicals that can evaporate into the air when you use them. Follow manufacturers' recommendations for use and properly seal cleaners, paints, and other chemicals to prevent evaporation into the air.
• Conserve electricity. Consider setting your thermostat a little higher in the summer and lower in winter. Participate in local energy conservation programs. Look for the ENERGY STAR label when buying home or office equipment.
• Consider using gas logs instead of wood. If you use a wood-burning stove or fireplace insert, make sure it meets EPA design specifications. Burn only dry, seasoned wood.

There's also a website where you can see the UV forecast, so you can do a better job of guessing at how much sunblock you'll need for the day.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Other Side

Proof that Waterbury really is a "country" city: there are still cows in town, on Farmwood Road in Buck's Hill. It was a hot day when I took this photo, so you can see some of the cows are cooling off in Great Brook Reservoir.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Chili Tasting

The First Annual "Five Alarm Chili Tasting" is scheduled for July 27th, 12-4pm at the Waterville Fire House.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Sin Soon

If the recorded visits to this blog are a reliable indicator, it looks like Sin City is the biggest thing to happen to Waterbury in a long time. My blog's had hundreds of visitors looking for info on the new nightclub (which opens Thursday), and they're located across a wide-spread area: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey. Freight Street is going to be jam-packed this weekend!

Photos from the July 3rd opening night: