New Haven Countdown

Ten, Nine, Eight...

Tomorrow night’s countdown to the start of 2015 is also the countdown to the end of 2014. So we’re practicing ours a day early to make sure we get it right, with New Haven on the brain.

Ten brings to mind Site Projects, which celebrated its tenth birthday this year both quietly and loudly, and pleasurably. Another city fixture is the home, fashion and gift shop Ten Thousand Villages, which feels like a small business despite being part of a nearly 400-outlet retail chain. Perhaps that’s because the inventory is 100% fair trade, where buying a nice hand- or overnight bag doesn’t carry the ethical baggage that often attends big business operations.

Nine’s a no-brainer. New Haven’s central nine squares, laid out by John Brockett in 1639, continue to shape the city and its various pockets. The ninth square—the southeastern one, now just as often called the “Historic Ninth Square”—has become a major attractive force thanks in part to warmer-month “On9” events involving eating, drinking and the arts. Drinking and the arts are also the jams at ninth-square clubs Cafe Nine and The Ninth Note, which major in music while minoring in less mainstream forms of expression, like burlesque.

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New Haven Symphony Orchestra

Eight is the number of wins the Yale football team got during 2014, a banner year for the Bulldogs’ stadium, too. But foremost it calls to mind WTNH News 8—which, founded in 1948, claims the distinction of being “the first television station in all of southern New England.” Stationed at 8 Elm Street, rooftop dishes beaming signals far and wide, it’s not a far walk from much of downtown, jibing with New Haven’s unofficial status as the “eighth most walkable city” in America.

Seven is the address of the building across Elm from WTNH, where Japanese hibachi restaurant Kumo celebrates the seventh day of the week (Sunday) with half-price sushi, sashimi and special rolls all day, and not just at dinner (as it does the rest of the week). Seven is also the key number in Kwanzaa celebrations like the one at City Hall last Friday, where candles representing “The Seven Principles”—among them unity, responsibility and creativity—were lit.

Six is for the Sixpence Pie Company, which regularly leaves its tiny storefront in Westville to bring its savory pies to local CitySeed farmers’ markets. There are six such markets total, by the way, with five now closed for winter, and the sixth, an indoor winter market, gearing up for a January 10 kickoff.

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Buon Natale at Knights of Columbus Museum

Five conjures thoughts of Take 5 Audio, which equips New Haveners with stereo systems and home theaters out of its Whitney Avenue storefront. Five is also the number of four-year colleges—Yale, Quinnipiac, UNH, SCSU and Albertus Magnus—that help give the city its undeniable bookish tang. Other major contributors are the five bookstores in and around downtown, including comic book shop Alternate Universe and rare book seller William Reese & Company, and the five outposts of the New Haven Free Public Library system. For the time being, Criterion Cinemas on Temple is also getting in on the literary/five action, with the book adaptation The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies now playing in 2D plus 3D.

Four speaks to a real-life battle that’s getting play at Criterion through CITIZENFOUR. The documentary captures critical early moments-of-truth in the whistleblower Edward Snowden’s campaign to reveal the federal government’s dubious and copious secret surveillance operations, and to endure the powerful wrath that was sure to ensue.

Three zooms back in on the heart of New Haven: the green. The three churches there—Trinity at the south end, United on the north and Center in-between—have been around for hundreds of years each, with the oldest congregation, at Center Church, having existed in one form or another since 1639. A place that’s much newer, and where prayers, if any, go to the gods of beer and live music, is the nautically inspired dive Three Sheets, which took over its Elm-and-Howe spot from the now-defunct Elm Bar, which had taken over the location from Rudy’s.

Two brings blue-and-white visions of Yale football again, and doubly so: two of the team’s star players, tailback Tyler Varga and wide receiver Grant Wallace, were named second-team All-Americans this season. Then more distant visions from the city’s past take over, recalling the days when Connecticut, first as a colony, then as a state, had two capitals, with New Haven and Hartford sharing top billing between 1701 and 1875. Back in the present, visions of gasoline prices, now in the two-dollar range for the first time in years, may understandably seem like mirages.

One is for firsts, and sometimes prefixes. The First Unitarian Universalist Society of New Haven, founded in 1836, does an admirable job on both fronts. Over time the city itself has done an excellent job living up to the former standard, as it’s been home to many, at times momentous, firsts: the first public tree-planting program, the first cotton gin, the first phone directory system, perhaps even the first Frisbee.

Sometimes, the number one is also for lasts—for example, during a countdown. Like this article, 2014’s almost over, New Haven. Let’s make it count.

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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