‘In Times Like These You Learn To Live Again’–A Tale Of Two Racial Perspectives

The headline is a self-discovery composition by Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl whose guitar riffs and soaring vocals invigorated a sellout crowd at the Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater Friday night. When Grohl and bandmates perform, they leave nothing out there.

I didn’t go to the show, I was more interested in talking to folks going to the show and gauging the residual effect on Downtown restaurants.

As early evening progressed the bar was nearly full at Trattoria A Vucchella on Fairfield Avenue. A young couple from Ridgefield Ubered Downtown, not sure where they’d land for dinner. They chanced upon owner Pasquale DeMartino’s boutique restaurant. No room in the dining area so they sat at the bar.

They had moved to Connecticut from Seattle, the “grunge scene” that propelled the stardom of Alternative Rock Icon Nirvana where Grohl earned his chops as the band’s drummer. For them the amphitheater is nirvana, a cozy, open-air musical experience 45 minutes away.

“We love it.”

The Amp offers multiple foodie opportunities, but some concert-goers enjoy the niceties of a sit-down dinner prior to the concert.

What to eat when there’s a concert to catch?

I recommended Pasquale’s braciola, thinly sliced rolled beef stuffed with parsley, garlic and other optional items cooked low and slow in a red sauce. More silky nirvana.

Two young women walked in, without a reservation, seeking dinner prior to the concert. One vacant bar stool was available next to me. I had my fill so I obliged. Here, ladies two chairs. It was like I offered them a cool beverage in the middle of a desert.

“Dude, thank you!”

I aim to please.

A block away, I looked upon Joseph’s Steakhouse, Bridgeport’s answer to high-end Manhattan classics. The street and lot were jammed. I pivoted toward the venue, right on Broad Street, left on State Street, right on Main Street.

I camped out near the main entrance among the lines forming, vaccination evidence poised to gain entry. The lines moved along nicely. They came from Manhattan, Westchester, Long Island, lower Fairfield County. I didn’t even have to interview the people in line, really. They shared their thoughts unannounced.

“This place is fucking great!”

Blues pioneer Robert Johnson. Listen to Clapton’s Crossroads to hear how he reimagined Johnson.

Classic Rock and Alternative Rock concerts tend to attract a similar-demographic white audience. A strange dichotomy lurks. What are those respective artists musical influences? It took British musicians like The Beatles, Stones, Eric Clapton and others to introduce Americans to gifted black blues and soul artists who inspired them: Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Fats Domino, Little Richard, John Lee Hooker, Arthur Alexander. Their stuff ended up in record stores across the Atlantic.

“That’s me trying to be Fats Domino,” Paul McCartney says about composing the number 1 hit Lady Madonna. Listen to John Lennon’s longing vocal on Anna? Alexander wrote it. George Harrison loved black blues artists as well and took the diversity deeper introducing eastern music to rock songs starting with the sitar on Norwegian Wood.

The Beatles, Stones and Clapton honored and reimagined black music that came from pain, suffering, despair. Who inspired young American musicians in the ’60s and ’70s? The Beatles, Stones and Clapton. So by extension Classic and Alternative Rock stars are influenced, and later discovered, by pioneering black artists many of whom such as itinerants Robert Johnson and Arthur Alexander had miniscule commercial success or recognition.

Nothing beats diversity when trying to understand cultural influences, assimilation process or lack of it.

I sought to find it, a balance, at least.

The Amp fully jammed, my next stop a few blocks away was Brick and Barrel on Broad Street across from the Margaret Morton Government Center, named for the former state senator and pioneer in the black community. It’s a quiet place with an attractive vibe featuring specialty spirits. I sat at the bar, the lone white person in the place.

I ordered my go-to Sapphire and tonic, of course, and poised my ears without acting overtly intrusive. Sometimes it’s just better to listen than engage. Sip, listen, check your phone. I’ve had lots of practice.

I dare say not a soul in the place ever heard of the Foo Fighters. This audience likely is more engaged with sensational neo-soul queen Erykah Badu who, by the way, is playing The Amp Wednesday night. You should check her out.

A young man, sitting with two friends, segued from his bar stool to sit next me. When you feel invisible others may notice.

“Hi, I’m Akeem.”

He seemed as interested in me, an old white guy, as me in him.

Akeem is an affable, 30-year-old Jamaican engineer who works for the Metropolitan Transit Authority. He can tell you all about Connecticut’s rail lines.

Akeem resides in Meriden but is familiar with Bridgeport.

I asked him why Bridgeport when Meriden is a decent jaunt away.

“No offense, but in Meriden most places are all-white establishments.”

“No offense taken,” I responded, “I came here to hang with black people.”

Aikeem bursts with laughter.

We chatted about race and how things changed for him amid the Trump presidency. It’s hard for people to admit the obvious, even when practicing it, the magnitude of racism in America.

“It was always there,” he said about the intolerance. “Trump just allowed it to bubble up.”

He cited an example.

“Biden wins and a white guy says to me, ‘see, you got what you wanted.'”

Except … “I never shared my political perspective with him. He just assumed.”

Confusing times, he added.

Akeem offered to buy me a cocktail but I had to get back on my horse. We exchanged contact information.

As I said goodbye, it dawned on me that for people like Akeem–in times like these he’s learning to live again.

And maybe survive again.



      1. It’s right up there with Cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitan, or also known as “cosmo,” is a popular drink for women. …
        Margarita. Another drink Lennie you should not forget to order is the good old margarita. …
        Mojito. …
        Strawberry Daiquiri. …
        Sex on the Beach. …
        Sangria. …
        Pina Colada. …
        Mai Tai.

  1. Lennie
    By the way I saw Erik Clapton and Steve Windwood in concert at Kennedy stadium in 1969!
    AND then I sow them again together some 40 years later at MSG
    Can you say the same?

  2. The Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl might be on to something with the Westboro Baptist Church. As annoying as they can be “Isn’t God suppose to live everybody?” Sure God can be disappointed though. 🙂

    Someone needs to tell this to the Taliban and countries with strict Sharia laws, like women’s oppression, and so forth, like slavery, killing gays, etc. Time to move out of the caves, We’re entering space travel. Try to keep up people. 🙂


    P.S keeping with the theme of Rock and Roll. This band had something, followed them like hippies in the 60s. 🙂 Unfourtant they fell apart like the Beatles without the Yoko. 🙂


  3. Can music harmoniously resuscitate Bridgeport?! Absolutely! Music (the Amphitheater) + 100,000 living-wage, Bridgeport-based jobs… Maybe the Foo Fighters, et al., would be willing to give a shout-out during their concerts for their listeners/fans with wherewithal (billonaire-industrialists/company heads) to consider investing in Bridgeport…

    Nice to see crowds spending money in downtown Bridgeport; but how is that scenario repeated with the necessary frequency to initiate and support the enormous tax-base growth that is required to return Bridgeport to the socioeconomic “positive” zone? The pent-up demand for entertainment that was provided by the Foo Fighter’s concert can’t be expected to remain indefinitely — nor can the demand for the use of the amphitheater by such crowd-generators as the Foo Fighters. Only a local, Bridgeport-based population of working families with a modicum of “disposable” income can sustain sufficient leisure-based economic activity to ensure the viability of the downtown and citywide hospitality- and leisure-based (as well as general retail) sector(s). We should have learned from the sad demise of the Bluefish/ballpark that without a local base of support, Bridgeport-based entertainment venues won’t survive the long-haul — even with millions of dollars in annual subsidies from the City.

    The City Hall Administrations since the Mandanici Administration have all gotten Bridgeport redevelopment backwards. First the Living-Wage Jobs, then the entertainment venues to spend the disposable income. There is no allure to Bridgeport — even with presence of vanity projects such as the Amphitheater. The view from, and ride to the Amphitheater offer nothing alluring… Power plants and housing projects… The Region is not enamored of the opportunity to spend time/$ in Bridgeport. We are not NYC — or Seattle… The region will only come out on occasion in large numbers for really unique, albeit popular presences at our entertainment facilities. It takes a prosperous city to maintain a necessary baseline of entertainment indulgence in order to maintain such a sector(s) in the city. First the prosperity, then the entertainment.

    Bridgeport is the poster child for American Rust — even with the abandoned factories replaced by empty lots and overly-dense, affordable housing (for the Stamford workforce)…

    How long will the City hemorrhage tax-payer dollars to maintain the latest, power-plant-side, political-vanity project, located not-quite-accessibly-to-downtown, before the bulldozers have to come out again?!

    Mayor Ganim; you have it backwards, AGAIN! How about a few electronics-components/electric-engines components (et al.) plants to provide the jobs/incomes necessary for locals to buy Foo Fighters tickets?! Your largest employer/industry in Bridgeport, right now, is the gang-controlled, illegal drug/illegal entertainment industry… (The gang-shootings discourage both local and regional indulgence in legal entertainment offerings in the City…)

    (In any event, nice piece, Lennie…)

    1. Jeff, what’s up with the bad vibes? 🙂

      You have to get off that high house about Stamford. They may have some negativity regarding the Port’s growth/prosperity, but it’s the second-largest city in CT. They have their own lower-income workforce. I highly doubt there’s a mass migration/commuting to Stamford from the Port to fill their lower-end employment. Do you know the cost and time to commute to Stamford from the Port? I can’t see it.

      I’ll give you a few points though, for one “Bridgeport-based population of working families with a modicum of “disposable” income can sustain sufficient leisure-based economic activity to ensure the viability of the downtown and citywide hospitality- and leisure-based (as well as general retail) sector(s).”

      Unless you are a full-blown socialist government regardless of whose administrations, is the chief source of employment, and there’s no one entity/business that will account for 100,000 living wage jobs with disposable income for Port residents.

      What can be learned from the Bluefish is, a private partnership with the city shouldn’t be where the Ports tax base losses money while the private side profits, basically making money on the back of the taxpayer. That money can be utilize/spent on other things to improve the Port. Like trees, landscaping. It goes a long way to improve the quality of life in the Port, regardless of one’s employment status.

      Just look at the bank downtown and what they have done. It’s appealing to the environment. It looks 100 times better. You wouldn’t even know half the building might be empty because of its layoffs. But it brings value to the bar/restaurant across the street and surrounding businesses.

      The same can be said for the litter in communities like the East End. If you can just keep the streets and sidewalks clean the East End would increase the quality of life by 50%. The city has a role but you can’t expect the city to pick out after everyone in the Port. Crime/drugs/gang activity is another thing in its entirety. Most residents have nothing to do with the streets. (No not you Castillo) 🙂 But they have to see it every day. It’s a mindset. “Cleanliness is not to Godliness”.

      Get on that Wanda, That’s your mission. Get on that those businesses to keep their property clean. 🙂 Promote hometown participation by the “See A Cup Pick It Up” campaign, every garage night.

      Have your boy Ricci make some flyers for that, 🙂 Even sticks to place on their trash bins to remind them when they take out their trash bins to look around on the ground to see if there is any rubbish If so, to pick it up throw it in the bin. If you can achieve that mindset in the East End community you would have accomplished more than you can imagine and far more than your new partner Toyman/Moses ( your and his words, not mine) has done in his 40-year political career. 🙂

      Who knows, maybe other communities will follow.

      However, Jeff, you have another valid point though “ (The gang-shootings discourage both local and regional indulgence in legal entertainment offerings in the City) Look at some of the incidents regarding businesses and gun violence. You have a downtown bar run by a city-connected employee that was shut down because of gun violence. A religious leader’s temple downtown that was being used as a means to create “disposable” revenue, billed as a “late-night venue that was shut down because of gun violence, a strip club run by a sitting councilwoman that was shut down because of gun violence.

      If not for the gunplay they would still be open, making money contribution to downtown in servicing the community. Part of the responsibility of running is to prevent things like that from happing though.

      Been to all three, in my time, Who hasn’t? I rolled at Keystone and many others for many years. I was someone dishearten to eventually learned that the girls did more than just lapdances. 🙂

      I could have saved a lot of my disposable income by not having stopping off at oriental spas afterwords. 🙂

      P.S Beijing to be fair, where those Pandas. 🙂 I heard scientists are trying to bring back the
      woolly mammoth 🙂


    2. Jeff, why all this Mandy nostalgia? He had the worst relationship with black and brown voters of any mayor in history. His stubborn attitude toward minority voters cost him the mayoralty. Mandy was certainly a fun character to cover, but he only lasted six years.

      1. Lennie, that’s so true,there are to many things list here but with the firefighters lawsuit after the city their lawsuit against the police department fore hiring and testing, Mandy could have solve the firefighters case by hiring 5 black and 5 Puerto Ricans and paying $100,000 but no, not Mandy so the city fought the case and lost because he didn’t want accept federal Judge, TF Gilroy Daly’s, from the United States 2nd District. Instead the city had to payout $5,000,000, that’s right five millon dollars plus hire a total of a mix of 73 Puerto Ricans and Blacks.

  4. Jeff, you are right on point with your statement, “Only a local, Bridgeport-based population of working families with a modicum of “disposable” income can sustain sufficient leisure-based economic activity to ensure the viability of the downtown and citywide hospitality- and leisure-based (as well as general retail) sector(s). We should have learned from the sad demise of the Bluefish/ballpark that without a local base of support, Bridgeport-based entertainment venues won’t survive the long-haul — even with millions of dollars in annual subsidies from the City.” Let’s not forget the makeup of the population that his 2/3rd people of color, all of the past mayors including the current mayor plans had of uplifting the residents but how to get that the goose that laid the gold egg and that would be some of gambling or entertainment. They also wanted to deal with environmental plants like a sludge plant and asphalt plant with all of its toxic air pollutants, including arsenic,benzene,formaldehyde, cadmium, that may cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver damage, respiiratory problems and skin irritation. I understand the problem with the asphalt plant because where the plant was to be located at was literally in my backyard but it was the hard work of former State Representative Chris Caruso that helped to get a moratorium against that project.

    The King James Version of Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Without a long-term plan—without a vision—people are doomed to wander aimlessly and the leadership in Bridgeport has no vision just a false hope of a golden goose.

  5. Robert: Don’t even get me started about “the Vibes!” 🙂

    And, Bob — you know, better than I, from your financial/accounting and government backgrounds — that ultimately, the state will have to acknowledge Bridgeport’s inherent incapacity to reverse its negative momentum, and that it will be forced, by crisis, to bail us out, big-time. Truth be known, we are at that point, but the media-provided illusion of the basic functionality of the city, in the context of state/federal “awareness” of Bridgeport’s ongoing collapse, are sparing the Lamont Administration the embarrassment of having to bail out both the Capitol ($500 million from Malloy wasn’t enough) and the state’s largest city, even as the 2022 gubernatorial election lurks on the horizon…

    Lennie; Lennie… You could have found a real weak spot in my critique of the the GII approach to Bridgeport redevelopment other than using the contextually-irrelevant historical record of Mayor Mandanici’s perhaps-not-so-progressive relationship with all segments of his constituency even as he actually brought significant industry/jobs back to Bridgeport in the context of efficient re-use of manufacturing space/pre-existing infrastructure. (And it might be noted, perhaps surprisingly, that the late Senator Ed Gomes had a good relationship, as a CC member and nearby, Whiskey Hill neighbor, with Mayor John Mandanici, and appreciated and supported his REAL efforts toward creating REAL, local, living-wage jobs for ALL Bridgeporters…)

    Ron: Thanks for intelligently considering and commenting on the contents of my above statement/critique… If we can all allow ourselves to remain objective about the commentary on this blog, we might be able to generate some momentum for political/policy change among the Bridgeport electorate (the latter of which would be a force to be reckoned with, if it were unified, informed, organized, and mobilized along pragmatic, Bridgeport-centric lines…).

    1. Jeff, I do miss the vibes at the Seaside. Woodstock 1994 was sick. It down-poured, nothing but mud everywhere. 🙂

      It’s true about people walking around naked too, guys and women. Mostly guys, a lot of women with their tops off. It got to the point, where people were just walking between our tents to get to the stage. So we will get a group together and formed our tents a circle and roped it off so people have to walk around our site. One of the guys in our circle was naked for the entire time we were there, three days. 🙂 Three days this guy hanging out partying, smoke weed. We smoked over a 1/2 Lb of weed. I know that for a fact because I brought a 1/2 lb myself. Though I was going to make some money, selling joints $10. 🙂 smoked it all. 🙂

      The Vibe was sick. We were still high on adrenaline for a day and a half when we got back, practically camped out as the Seaside when we returned for it. Sick. 🙂



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