(Author’s Note — Every day, WordPress.com, which hosts this blog plus hundreds of thousands of others, offers its users a daily prompt to explore. Today’s topic is entitled “West End Girls” and reads, “Every city and town contains people of different classes: rich, poor, and somewhere in between. What’s it like where you live?”). What follows is my first attempt at being “Prompt’d To Post.
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Driving down I-95 through Fairfield County, Connecticut, you’d be hard-pressed to be blown away by the views. Bridgeport, Fairfield, Westport, Norwalk, Darien, Stamford, Greenwich. Just more random towns and cities that make up just another tiny section of America.
I had made the journey perhaps five or six times over the first 40 years of my life, before moving here and changing my world about six years ago.
There were a few things I always remembered from those previous journeys: The unsightly power plant in Bridgeport, the skyline of downtown Stamford, the sign that reads “Welcome To New York.”
Little did I know what the roads off the highway held in terms of telling the story of this uniquely diverse region.
One of the first things I learned is that Fairfield County, Connecticut, is not part of New England. Technically, I suppose, it is. It’s located in the most southwest portion of Connecticut, which is one of the six states that makes up the New England Region of these United States of America.
But drive around. Look around you. Take it all in. When you think of New England, you think of quaint Vermont villages, Bed and Breakfasts in New Hampshire, and breath-taking scenery along the coasts of Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The rest of Connecticut — “upstate,” as they say — perhaps. But not Fairfield County. It isn’t New England at all. To the contrary, it’s New York City through and through.
And I don’t mean that in a bad way.
Simply put, I live in a bedroom community for the greatest city in the world and while not everybody makes the morning commute into Manhattan for their daily workload, it sure seems like they do. Just consider the jam-packed trains that carry people to Grand Central Terminal every morning.
Fairfield County has money, and a bunch of it. It has bankers and stock brokers, movie stars and superstar athletes. It has middle-class Americans, living paycheck to paycheck in a region of the country that is way too costly for its own good. And, it also has a seedy underbelly that’s there for everybody to see and ignore.
They call this “The Gold Coast” because that’s how filthy rich it is and all it takes is a journey just a couple of miles off the I-95 corridor to find jaw-dropping mansions hidden in the woods of Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton and Westport.
The same could be said for the other side of the coin, though.
Bridgeport has gang violence and is usually listed as one of the most violent cities in the country, and if you look left or right at the right time as your car zips through the city’s raised highway overpass, you can understand the contrast that Fairfield County becomes.
If you have all the money in the world, this is home. If you have nothing but pride — and, in some cases, a gun — this is home.
Over my nearly 48 years on this planet, one thing that being in The October Weekend of my life has taught me is that people are people, no matter where you go or where you hang your hat. Famous, infamous and nobodies — there are good people, bad people, and people who live their lives and will never be noticed by anybody outside of their social network.
It just seems that here in Fairfield County — 836 square miles that is home to almost one million people — it’s all shoe-horned into a tiny area where the north woods of Greenwich will never understand the lives of certain people in South Norwalk, Stamford’s south end, or along Iranistan Avenue in Bridgeport.
At one extreme is the multi-millionaire with his nose in the air, thinking that life still owes him everything and he’s entitled to take it no matter what.
In the other corners are the drug dealers, waiting for the cars to drive up for a quick exchange through an open window.
In between, though, are some of the most amazing and nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and knowing.
It’s a paradox having two worlds survive in such close quarters, especially to somebody from the outside who never had such a flux of extremes be so out in the open as part of every day living.
For now, though, it’s my home.