My notebooks

My notebooks
“The need to document my insanity is an affliction I have not yet cured myself of...” Lydia Lunch

Friday, March 20, 2009


(I didn't write this one, I was interviewed for it. Read on.)
(Copyright @ The Hartford Courant 2001)

The magazine invited a group of Hartford area students to talk to us. We gave them bottles of soda and sat them around a conference table. We told them we wanted to know about bad boys.
We became intrigued by the topic when a news story broke about the assault of a woman by a man she knew. We were told in the newspaper article that Monica Camby, the 21-year-old sister of NBA star Marcus Camby who was attacked, "liked the bad boys." Was that a fair comment about somebody who was sexually assaulted, had a knife held to her throat and was in fear of her life?

There is a broad distinction between a career felon and a so- called bad boy. But repeated references in the media and in the community had us wondering. Whether Troy D. Crooms, who police said assaulted Monica in her South Windsor home, is a bad boy is open to interpretation. (In a separate event, a woman who dated Crooms in 1990 also was held by him against her will and assaulted. "I was young," the woman told a reporter, "I didn't consider him dangerous.") But there is no doubt that fatal or near-fatal attractions have been a longtime phenomenon in life and in our culture.

We turned to the girls of Metro Bridge, a monthly magazine written by area students, both boys and girls, and produced with the help of Hartford Courant mentors. The girls write about topics ranging from Internet stalkers to fashion, and prefer writing in the first person.

We wanted their opinions because, at their age, they are tied into the popular culture and are just beginning to explore relationships. Plus they are willing and intelligent commentators.

Their idea of a bad boy is a romantic hero. Bad boys do not follow the crowd. Rather, they set the rules, the girls said. Bad boys are independent and sexy, "the kind of guy every other guy wants to be." Good girls and bad girls want to be with them, because "they rule."

Meg Hooker, who is 14, was the youngest member of the group. Meg brought to the discussion a perspective from her private school, Renbrook. Meg, along with Grace M. Kuilan of Hartford High, who is 16, and Irena Kaci of Wethersfield High, who is 17, were less infatuated with bad boys than were the other girls. Andrea Obaez, 17, and also of Hartford High, seemed to occupy a middle ground, having once fallen for a bad boy. The two girls who had the strongest opinions about bad boys were Hillary Herman (a.k.a. Kiwi of a high school that shall remain nameless at her request) -- and Keyshawna Sealey, of Weaver High, both 17.

Among their examples of bad boys were Larenz Tate of the movie, "Dead Presidents," David Boreanaz of the television show, "Angel," a spinoff of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Going back further in time, other Hollywood bad boys would be Clark Gable in "Gone With the Wind," and Marlon Brando in "The Wild Ones." Following in that tradition were Mickey Rourke of "9 1/2 Weeks" and Eric Roberts, Rourke's co-star in "The Pope of Greenwich Village." More recently, a classic bad boy would be Leonardo DiCaprio, whose independence and working-class cockiness, not to mention his blond good looks, captivated rich girl Kate Winslet in "Titanic."
For the most part, women are attracted to these characters for their independence and sexiness. Yes, the men are dangerous, but in a romantic, not a violent way.

Who do you think is the ultimate bad boy? None other than Bill Clinton, the girls agreed.

Is George Bush a bad boy? I naively asked.

"No!" the girls screamed.

"What kind of bad boy is that?" Keyshawna asked.

Reforming Your Man

Forget about trying to change a bad boy. These girls already know to avoid that relationship pitfall.

Grace: Seventy-five percent of the Hartford High guys would fit in [the bad boy] category, you know, and I'm not about to go out and date 75 percent of the school to try to change them.
I don't know. They have to want to change before they would ask for it. So you don't go around dating people, saying, "OK, you're going to change," because they're not going to want to change. Because they're going to want to do what they want to do.

Keyshawna: Some of them change on their own like a little bit. Like if you around them a lot and if like they're always cussing and you don't cuss they won't want to cuss a lot around you because they're going to see how you is and how you present yourself. So it's not like it's my plan to change them. It just, you know what I'm saying, happens gradually.

Andrea: It works the same way for the girl. She doesn't become bad because of him.
Keyshawna: It depends on the situation. You have to be strong not to go into that area. Because that's what he wanted you for. And that's what you wanted him for. So it brings out a little you in him and it brings out a little him in you.

Andrea: Something about the bad girls the bad boys want.

Speaking of bad girls ...

Grace: Humm, that's 50 percent of the Hartford High girls. And the 75 percent of bad boys want to date the 50 percent.

Meg: Well, I'm in middle school and I guess our private school definition of going out is, "I think you're cute," and "so do I."

There's always the girls who get the most attention, they get the captains' spots on the sports teams because they're the team queens. They're who everyone else wants to be. And then the guys go after them. They put everyone down, they decide what you wear, if it's cool or not -- this is the way you have to be. You have to fit this little profile and then you can be friends with them.

They're usually the prettiest girls in middle school -- so the guys all want to go out with them. But they aren't the nicest people in the world.

Andrea: By the time they get to high school they look like hell. (They laugh.)

Grace: And then they're pregnant.

Andrea: The bad girls seem to get along with the guys better than the girls. If anything comes up, in some magical way, they all seem to back her up, you know. And it's like the person that you never see in class, they have straight A's.

Keyshawna: You think the bad girl the trashiest one?

Hillary: I don't know, I don't know about that. Our school never been like that. All the girls take charge at my school. The girls rule stuff at my school. They decide whatever they want. My boys just sit around and wait for someone to pick them up. I don't know about your school. Our school, don't like, the boys don't judge the girls on how they act and if they put somebody down because all our girls want to be on top ... or whatever, so they like flaunt it.

Keyshawna: In my school, all the girls be trying to set an image, to like ("Exactly!" Hillary says) skip class or go talk to this boy or to go grab a boy instead of the other way around. They have like an image they're supposed to always represent when they're there, but who knows what they're doing when they're not there. And that's why it don't make a difference.

Hillary: The boys in our school, they don't judge the girls by intelligence or nothing. They judge them by their body. And it ain't never been intelligence or how you act or nothing like that. Boys in our school just judge you by your body. If you have a nice body, they're gonna go with you.

A Bad Boy Is:

Hillary: Outcast!

Meg: Not outcast, but like the guy every other guy wants to be like.

Andrea: Cool, calm and collected.

Grace: And dangerous.

Hillary: I don't think it's that either. I think it's the outcast. I think it's mainly the outcast and like the person that represents their selves by their selves.

Keyshawna: And they rule!

Hillary: Yeah, and they speak their mind and nobody want to be around them because they tell the truth.

Keyshawna: And he don't care because he rule.

Hillary: Exactly. I don't think it's nobody that like everybody want to be like or nothing like that. I think it's like the outcast.

So he's like an independent person? We adults in the room ask.

Keyshawna and Hillary: Exactly.

Hillary: He have his own style.

Keyshawna: And he have no intention of being with anybody or having anybody being with him.

Keyshawna: He rule. He's a leader.

Grace: And if there are set rules, he's the one who breaks them.

Andrea: And he always looks good at it.

Grace: Basically looks good in general.

Keyshawna: If you want him to be ugly, he can be an ugly bad boy. He's still an outcast. He's just
out there by himself.

We ask for examples of bad boys from television and the movies.

Irena: Patrick Swayze in "Dirty Dancing."

Grace: Classic!

Meg says bad boys are different in the movies than they are in real life. "From the discussion so far, it's totally different than in the movies where everything works out OK in the end. In real life it doesn't," she says.

But Andrea and Grace are in a groove.

"How about, "Out of Sight?" Andrea asks, referring to the movie that starred bad boy George Clooney as a bank robber and bad girl Jennifer Lopez as the federal agent pursuing him in more ways than one.

Grace: How about Romeo and Juliet? That's what happens when you fall in love with a bad boy. You end up killing yourself!

(The girls laugh.)

An Essay By Hillary

"The other day I was talking to some classmates and we just happened to get on the subject of how men think that they are the rulers of this earth or something. And then one boy in my class, I'm not going to say the name, but by the looks of things, ladies, you know he was still a boy, but anyway, he yelled out, `If it wasn't for us men, you women would not be here today, because we are the ones that gave y'all the rib.'

"Now you know me, big Kiwi, was not taking that. I recall his name was Adam, not Tom, Dick or Harry and if y'all was anything like Adam, y'all would know how to treat a girl, woman, female, right. I mean, I thank Adam for sparing us a rib, but I think if God would have known how much fuss y'all was making about it I'm sure he could have created us without the help of any of your bones. Trust! I mean, what are men thinking -- that they are so much more powerful and greater than women are? We can do anything and everything that y'all can do - - just way better. And I'm thinking that y'all should learn to respect that."

Hillary: I didn't write that essay about boys in my school, I wrote it about the boys on the block. Thuggish kind of people. I wrote that because while they come mostly from school, boys always think they have all the power over women. And like for the year 2000, we're showing them differently and that's the main thing that I wrote about. Because like boys always say they can do this and if they hadn't given us this we wouldn't be here. ... And that's mainly their excuse for us being here: "If we didn't give y'all a rib you wouldn't be here in the first place." I'm like, whatever, we'd still be here. It has nothing to do with your little rib.

No Happy Ending

Andrea: I know the ultimate bad boy. Bill Clinton.

Grace: He has been no help.

Keyshawna: He helped me, I don't know about y'all.

Grace: Because of him there have been a shortness of interns everywhere!

Keyshawna: That's my boy. He gave scholarships.

Grace: But we don't know what's going on in the closet.

Keyshawna: I don't care what's in the closet!

Hillary: That's their personal life.

Meg: I think Bill Clinton was like a bad guy because he's not the happy ending. He's sort of what happens. Yeah, they cheat on their wives. Because that's like who they are. He cheated on more than one woman while he was President of the United States because he didn't care. She stayed with him because she needed him because she was running for the governor of the state of New York. So that kind of boosts it just a tad. ... I probably would have said drop him and run. I'm just sorry she had to put up with that, that he did that to her while he was such a huge public figure. ...

Bad Boy Crushes

Has anyone had a crush on a bad boy and you didn't want anyone to know?

Grace: There was a bad boy going to my church, and I was in awe that he was against everything that I was brought up to believe. And I was so scared to even tell anyone for fear that my mother would find out. You know. But the infatuation doesn't last very long, and then you move on to your next victim. (She giggles.)

Hillary: To me, every bad date is like being with a bad boy because to me they do stuff I would not do in my lifetime. But no, I never had a crush on anyone that I didn't ever tell. It's like every time I dated someone who was thuggish was like normal. Everyone expected me to do it because that's what I do.

When asked if a bad boy would make a good husband, the girls came alive.

Keyshawna: They have experience and they know, like if they started smoking at 13, when they have kids, they're going to know that's what's going through that child's mind with their peers and stuff so they would know what to expect.

Bad Boy Stories

Keyshawna: He was, oh my gosh, he was sexy! He was so attractive. And he was nice, I mean when I first met him, whatever, he used to do stupid things and then he realizes that was not helping him be with me. So he changed little stuff in his life, not because I asked him to, but because he wanted the relationship with me to work or whatever. So he changed little stuff in his life to accommodate both of us and then, well, skip all the other stuff to the end -- he went right back to his old ways because he realized that's what he enjoyed and that meant more to him. I mean there are some situations it works out and some it doesn't. But it's for the best.

Meg: A guy in seventh grade got a lot of attention. He used to get written up. He came to a birthday party drunk.

Keyshawna: What was he drinking?

Meg: Wine.

Keyshawna: That's only 7 percent alcohol.

Meg: He drank two bottles. This is seventh grade. And he came drunk. He puked all over this nice person's rug, everywhere.


Hillary: Guess he can't hold his liquor.

Meg: And his parents are never home. He lives in this huge house and he's all alone most of the time. And so you felt real bad for him because he was kind of like crying out for help.

Keyshawna: That was his way to deal with the time he wasn't spending with his parents. That was how his mind was occupied.

Meg: He was crying out for attention.

Keyshawna: Sometimes it's not even that. That's just the way you have to do stuff for yourself. And some people go the wrong way, but it's not really crying out for attention. It's something to fill your time with. Like the people be out on the street selling drugs. Some of them bad, some of them not. It's not really they want to be caught by the police. It's what they trying to do to make their money and that's what they're doing with their time.

Irena: I know of people from a distance, and I know TV characters, but I don't know any bad boys personally.

Good Boys

Keyshawna: At Weaver, some of them is nice and you can really tell they have good intentions, and they like, you can tell they're gonna be lawyers and stuff when they get older. But like, they boring. It's like, they dragging, they lacking, it's something like, they don't got any excitement in their lives. All they do is ask, "You wanna go to the movies?" "No, not with you!" And then they'd want to go see some love movie!

Grace: I disagree. Sometimes those are the guys who have the biggest hearts, you know, and really know how to care and love for someone.

Andrea: They're still boring.

(They argue.)

Irena: The bad boy image -- the guy who's out every night and drinking or doing something insane ("Because he has more experience," Keyshawna interrupts.) -- that excites you. But there are, like, the good guys. They're the guys that are sensible. They're not boring. They know their limits and they don't push them for whatever reason. I mean, it only makes sense. And if you get past your desire to just break all the rules like you basically go through in your teen years, once you get past that, you know that's a person you want to be with. Somebody that's slick.

Hillary and Keyshawna, alternately: We're not saying it's not. We're not saying it's not like attractive or anything. We're just saying good girls usually want to be with bad boys because they're doing stuff that they're not doing. It's like they have interest in them, it's not like they don't like the other boys; they're attracted to them too. But it's like, the bad boys are like, exciting. You don't know what's gonna happen next. With them, you know what's gonna happen next ... . Why I want that? I want this. I want something I don't have.

Meg: I think it's not necessarily the good girls who want the bad boys. I guess it depends on your generation, how far apart you are in grade or age. The different ways you're brought up. ... I'd rather talk or hang out with a guy who is not the kind of guy who I can picture going to a party getting drunk or smashed ... I'd want to hang out with a guy I can have a legitimate conversation with.

Hillary: She wants a lawyer.

Meg: Um, no, I think more along the lines of someone interested in science, but that's OK.

Grace: I was brought up the typical good girl. You know, my mom and I go to church every Sunday and a lot of times during the week. And I've always been gung-ho on school work and doing my homework. I never wanted the bad guys. I don't want the bad guys. I want someone who is going to see me for my intellect instead of me for my outward appearance. You know that's all I'm asking.

Keyshawna: Well, regardless of good or bad, I want somebody I can grow with. Bad or good, If I can grow with that person, if we can learn from each other, then that's the kind of person I want.

Hillary: When I was a good girl, when people were drinking and smoking around me, I wasn't doing it, I was just watching them and I was gonna see how they react to it. Even if he smoked or drinked, I still wanted to go with him. That wasn't going to change anything.

Grace: But if you don't want to smoke or drink, why go out with someone who does?

Hillary: Because it's not like they're forcing you to do it. It's not like they say, "Here. Take some. Come on, I ain't going with you if you don't smoke it." It's not like that. Maybe you don't want to be around him when he's smoking, but maybe you that kind of person, "You can smoke but I'm not gonna do it."

Grace: But then you're compromising. Because if you don't want to do it and you're going to hang around someone who is going to do it, then sooner or later, the compromising level of "I'm not gonna do it" is well, one drink or one smoke.

Avoiding Violence

We return to Monica Camby's story and the possibility of getting involved with a violent person. The important question is, how do you know if a bad boy is violent?

Meg: I think you can tell if you hang out with a guy long enough. You can tell if they have the tendency to do something like that. I think you sort of can get yourself out of that situation by checking the guy out first.

Grace: If people watch Lifetime enough they basically know what they want and don't want. I've watched a lot of movies with my mom and she says, "That's probably not the type of guy you want." But it seems to me Monica knew exactly what she wanted [the boyfriend, that is] and when she got it I don't think she was ready for what happened, the repercussions.

Andrea: I think no matter how well you know someone, you never know what they're capable of. ... If there's something that aggravates you, you can stop. But sometimes you can't differentiate.

Keyshawna: That's the type of relationship you stay out of if you can't handle it. You meet somebody and he killed people before and you still want to be with him because you don't think he's gonna kill you ... then that's a messed-up relationship.

Hillary: Sometimes you can talk. You can figure out how he is.

Keyshawna: You can tell at some point you can't handle it. If one time he gets off at you and ... you know when to get out of that relationship that's just being dumb, staying in it.

Irena: A guy either hides his violent impulses at first or grows violent. Because I don't think anyone would want to get involved with someone who's openly violent on like the first date, like stab someone with a fork because they got the wrong muffin or whatever. (Everyone laughs.)

Grace: Then you gotta run!

Irena: I don't think I'd go back and ask for a second date. You know what I mean? I just think it happens, eventually, and then you're in love with this guy and then you don't know how to handle it.

Jane Ellen Dee

Thursday, March 19, 2009


(Copyright @ The Hartford Courant 2001)

A lot of jumping is going on inside the Roger Wolcott Early Childhood Center.

The center on East Wolcott Avenue is home to many after-school and summer programs, and for the past seven weeks it has also been the home of the Doublicious double-Dutch team.

Head Coach Lisa Williamson and Assistant Coach Lisa Williams run Doublicious. Williamson, a mother of five, also runs both the double Dutch rope-jumping program and the drill team at Windsor High School. She is also a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves and head of the security at the high school.

"That's how I got most of the girls this summer," Williamson said. "They either came from the high school, or they heard about this through word of mouth."

Karla Dunkley, 15, is also on the high school team, but jumping rope is not all she is interested in.
"I'm doing this now because it's good exercise for my legs," Dunkley said. "I'll be joining soccer during the school year."

Double-Dutch jumping uses two ropes at the same time, one turned clockwise and the other counterclockwise, creating an eggbeater effect
. It started about 300 years ago, according to information Williamson passes out to the new girls that explains the history of double Dutch and shows the proper ways to jump. In 1973, two New York City Community Affairs police officers organized the first American Double Dutch League Tournament.

Most of the girls knew how to jump rope before they joined the team, but those who don't are not turned away.

"Lisa [Williams] teaches the smaller kids how to jump double Dutch," says Jazmine Maldonado, 12. "She's very patient and encouraging with them."

Williams works for the Windsor Police Department.

Doublicious meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. Warm- ups begin at 6:30 p.m. and the girls get organized and stretch to the beat of the music. Then they split up into age-defined groups to practice routines that will help them improve speed, coordination, strength, endurance and teamwork.

Doublicious members come from Windsor and other Hartford area towns. They include Robin Adams, 13; Jaleesa Ashley, 13; Temesha Brooks, 14; Whitney Brown, 13; Shaleah Carr, 14; La'vosha Chandles, 10; Kassandra Chichedjian, 9; Lenore Clarke, 9; Keisha Clay, 11; Alex Cruz, 10; Nascalia Dillon; 10, Karla Dunkley, 15; Jessica Jackson, 13; Shanelle Lawrence, 15; Suequanna Lewis, 17; Latoya McGregor, 13; Bianica Maldonado, 14; Tiffany Mason, 13; Daminica McGregor, 13; Emily Sanchez, 10; Neshea Sinclair, 6; Judine Sweeney, 15; Tenesha Thompson, 14; Donella Turmon,16; Kareema Wilcox, 15; Jazmine Maldonado,12; Nishel Thompson,11; Patreece Eady,10; Carmen Millan,11; Shanice King,13; Kelly Jackson,15; and Andrea Ramsey,10.

Alex Cruz is the only boy on the team, a fact Williamson is striving to change.

"Double Dutch is not only for girls. We are trying hard to bring in boys, but our efforts are bringing in slow results," she said.

Williamson plans to keep the team going throughout the school year, getting the team ready to compete in the spring in the American Double Dutch League.

Others are encouraged to join the team during the school year. Although requirements say members should be in 5th through 12th grade, younger kids can join to practice with the team.
The youngest member now is Neshea Sinclair, 6, who did not know how to jump before she joined the team. Williams, who spends a lot of time with the child, taught her.

Neshea is too young to join in competitions, but she jumps and trains with the others.
"Our goal is to train her as one of the rest," said Williams. "That way when it's her time, she'll be ready."

For information, call Lisa Williamson at 860-523-7238.


(Copyright @ The Hartford Courant 2001)

Sounds of salsa music floated above South Green/Barnard Park Thursday at the Hispanic Health Council's 10th annual Health Fair for Children and Families.

"It's a celebration," said Nelson Cortez, 26. "We get to cherish what is really important: health, life and knowledge. And we get a bit of music while we're at it."

Cortez was one of many people dancing, listening or just looking around in the park during the fair, despite the extremely hot weather. Organizers were distributing free bottles of water to help combat the heat.

The Hispanic Health Council, which dedicates itself to improvingthe health and social well-being of Puerto Ricans, Latinos and other under-served communities in Connecticut, holds the fair each year to make residents aware of the many health-related programs available.

At the fair, agencies provided information on their services and programs. Free screenings were done for high blood pressure andlead poisoning as well as HIV/AIDS tests.Information was offered about many health issues, including breast cancer, proper nutrition and safe sex. Many booths offered free condoms, some in boxes resembling Chinese food containers.

"The main theme seems to be condoms," said Kathy Maldonado, 23.

"I've got enough to last me till the year 2010," she said.

Pan Cunningham was participating for the second year, this time with the city Health Department's HIV program. Last year, he represented the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective.

"We are here to counsel people about HIV," said Cunningham. If a person decides to get tested, he said, everything is kept strictly confidential. Taking advantage of the services is completely voluntary, he said.

In addition to the information on serious health issues, there was plenty of entertainment and fun, including free ice cream for kids. There were also raffles held. Groups sponsoring summer programs also had booths, which attracted many children.

"I come here every year," said Maldonado, who lives in the Frog Hollow neighborhood. "It's a very interesting experience. Here you can find any program having to do with health," she said.
"I wonder if they have one about how to prevent heat stroke?"

For information on the Hispanic Health Council, call Doris E. Ayala, Coordinator of Community Health Education, at 860-527-0656.


(Copyright @ The Hartford Courant 2001)

Maria Solano was on her way home to cook for her family Friday when she saw farmers selling produce in front of the Old State House.

"I was wondering what all these people were doing, and finally realizing what was going on, I got the ingredients I needed for tonight's dinner," said Solano, a resident of the Frog Hollow neighborhood, speaking in Spanish.

"I was surprised to find so many other products for sale," she said.

Connecticut farmers, 150 of them, are taking part this year in 62 farmers' markets throughout the state. Because this is the largest number of participants thus far, shoppers at the markets will find a wider variety of fruits, vegetables and locally made products.

Farmers' markets are not new to Hartford. In fact, according to the state Department of Agriculture, which organizes the program, the first market in Hartford was established in 1643.
In 1987, the state agency was appointed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to participate in the federal Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, which benefits low-income families in the Women, Infants and Children program by offering them a convenient way to get nutritious foods. The program allows the farmers to sell their products to those who need them most and to interact with their customers.

Throughout July, the farmers will sell produce such as strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and squash and flowers such as geraniums, zinnias and impatiens. In August, fall flowers such as hardy mums and perennials, some in patio pots, will be available, along with fruits such as apples, peaches, pears and watermelon. Once fall begins, apples and pumpkins will dominate the selection of fruits .

There are five markets in Hartford, including one at Park and Washington streets, held at the Walgreens parking lot from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The downtown farmers' market is open the same days and hours outside the Old State House, 800 Main St. The South End market is held at Prince Technical School, 500 Brookfield St. on Thursdays from 9 to 11 a.m. The Asylum Hill market is held at the parking lot of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, 814 Asylum Ave., on Wednesday from noon to 3 p.m. A market also is held year-round at the Hartford Regional Market from 5 a.m. to noon.

At the parking lot of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, shoppers will find Glastonbury farmers Tom and Joan Kemble, who have been involved with the farmers' market program for the past two years in Middletown. This is their first year working in Hartford.

"We are very comfortable here in Hartford," Joan Kemble said. "Hartford is our city, and being able to come back and get in touch with the community is really exciting."

The products they sell, such as lettuce, radishes, potatoes, jellies and flowers, are certified organic, which means that they are grown under natural conditions.

One of the vegetables they offered for sale looked like a long stem of a plant.

"They're called garlic scapes. It's too early in the season to pick garlic bulbs, so what a person does is cut the stems of the garlic plants and use those instead," Kemble said. "They taste and smell just like garlic and are probably better because there's no peeling involved."

Shirley Ferris, an employee of the Department of Agriculture, said there are benefits in having markets in Hartford.

"People are able to buy true organic foods from the people who grow them," Ferris said. "Parents also have the choice to buy things like potatoes instead of potato chips. It's all about having the option of eating healthy."

The markets are expected to run until October, right before the first frost.
To request a free brochure listing farmers' markets throughout the state,call 860-713-2575 or visit the website


(Copyright @ The Hartford Courant 2001)
Everyone was paying attention to the pie-throwing contest. The set was made to look like a castle, and three heads stuck out as targets, but all the children aimed at the one in the middle, Hartford Children's Theatre teacher Jason Shusterman.

"You hit him, you get a prize!" shouted student Jennifer Labbe, who handed out prizes of candy and plastic jewelry to the lucky winners. Jennifer's twin sister, Melissa Labbe, was the one handing out the pies. Well, not pies exactly, but plates full of whipped cream.

It wasn't easy to ignore the enthusiasm that surrounded the student-based carnival the Children's Theatre held Thursday. Laura Thompson and other students went up and down the block with painted faces and billboards announcing the event to passersby. One read: "Don't be shy."

You couldn't blame the kids for their enthusiasm. Once at the carnival, held at the organization's parking lot at 360 Farmington Ave., visitors found themselves surrounded by miniature booths such as The Freak Show, The Java Toss, and of course, the Chuck-A-Pie Castle.

In the Freak Show, there were the characters Flexo Girl, who could do any type of stretch, the Bearded Lady and the Psycho Clown, who constantly insisted on being called a Moo Moo Clown.
The Java Toss was one of the most creative booths. Student Calum Rennie explained, "We were brainstorming on what could be a cool game about coffee, and we came up with the Java Toss. What you do is pick up coffee beans and try to toss them into buckets."

The carnival was the Children's Theatre's way of giving back to the community. Having moved to Farmington Avenue about a year and a half ago, it is still in the early stages of developing its property. "We're making this area into a campus, said Dulcie Giadone, theater president and director of Organized Parents Make a Difference. "This is the first step."

Eric Amburg, the group's interim artistic director, came up with the idea. "I though the carnival would be great to give back to the community. Some of the people thought I was crazy, but the more we got into it, the more the idea got more appealing."

By throwing the carnival for the Hartford community, the Children's Theatre also made itself eligible to enter the Fleet All- Stars contest, a program started in 1996 by Fleet Bank to inspire volunteerism in neighborhood kids.
It promotes the idea that kids can use their free time during the summer for positive work. This contest is also meant to recognize community service work that is already being done, and it encourages adults and kids to do service work that wouldn't be as appealing without the incentive that All-Stars offers.

Any group of children aged 5 to 18, whether part of a formal group such as the Boys and Girls Club or Girl Scouts, or an informal neighborhood association, can enter the All-Stars contest.The only limitation is that a significant amount of the work must take place between April 1 and Aug. 31.

Several prizes will be awarded in the fall to groups showing the greatest creativity, teamwork and volunteerism, including a first- place $15,000 prize, a second-place $7,500 prize and eight third- place $3,000 prizes.

Groups submitting receipts with their entries can also be reimbursed $100 for project-related costs.

The first-prize winner is honored each year during a dinner reception hosted by Fleet. The award will be presented by one of the All-Stars participating athletes -- the New England Patriots' Drew Bledsoe, Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes, New York Yankee Derek Jeter, Boston Red Sox players Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, Washington Freedom's Mia Hamm or New York Liberty's Rebecca Lobo.

"It brought two different groups together, Organized Parents Make A Difference and Hartford Children's Theatre," said Giadone. "Eric is already talking about next year's carnival."
For information on the Fleet All-Stars program, call Nell Debevoise at 860-986-5650.