Fresh From the Hedge
Rook's Beach, CT
Rook’s Beach, CT
Once home to many of the hard and hardy workers in it’s industrial hey-day, Rook’s Beach, CT is now a shell of it’s former self. As the factories and refineries started closing up shop or automating operations and as the wealthier residents of this once-charming community on Long Island sound started heading inland to the vastly-less-sooty suburbs, Rook’s Beach has become home to those with nowhere else to go. There’s a number of squatters and ne’er-do-wells holding up in the many abandoned warehouses or wind-worn houses and everything seems to have a thick layer of grit from the nearby coal-fired powerplant which towers over the city like a sentry…reminding those still tough enough to eek out a living on it’s dirty streets to stay in their place.
Rook’s Beach is the red-headed step-child of a region of the country not known for it’s poverty, but so much of the entire region has become a bedroom community for New York City and Hartford that many have forgotten it’s long history as a hub for shipping, whaling, fishing, manufacturing, refining…all work still done, and all work so often overlooked. The people who still live along the shallow cove, with refinery tanks and power plants and warehouses and abandoned hangers acting like a wall blocking them off from the rest of the world and the ocean a tempting but dangerous escape, do so knowing it’s a dead-end. Maybe they have no where else to go, with skills no one really needs? Maybe the or their families are long-time residents and remember it better and feel like maybe, someday, the small city of their youth will return. Others live there because they know they can get away with things they might not be able to in the city proper. There are a fair number of people who come in from Bridgeport, Hartford, or New York in their black, unassuming, sedans for meetings on the old docks and leave just as unassumingly.
Rook’s Beach is located on the east side of Bridgeport, Connecticut on a slim slip of land connected to the city by a single and often closed-for-repairs bridge. (It is, for the most part, somewhat co-located with the real-world ghost-town of Pleasure Beach). There is a small regional airport to the east and the Port to the west. To the south is Long Island sound and to the north is a shallow and treacherous inlet separating Rook’s Beach from the rest of the city. Everything about the community cries of a place who’s best days are behind it, but in recent years it has started to see a few spots of growth in iconoclasts who want to make a community of their own in a place where there’s only room to go up! There are a few artist areas and dingy nightclubs, appealing perhaps because of the low rents and even lower police presence. The main streets through the community are a line of tenement buildings whose first floors are a endless line of bodegas, pawn shops, sleezy lawyers, community outreach headquarters and seedy bars.
One of the more unique intersection is called [[The Middle of the Road, Freehold | “Middle of the Road,”]] home to the an ancient pub that somehow manages to hold on in an otherwise rotten neighborhood. Somewhere in the history of the building of Rook’s Beach some previous owner must have refused to give up his building to a road, so the road was build looping around the old building and, perhaps just out of spite, no crosswalks were put in place. Oddly enough…all the stores that civic planner suckered into coming into this new neighborhood wilted on the vine of progress all while the pub survived like a weed. They say that developer, racked with frustration and anger, shot himself in front of the door to the pub and now one of the few healthy trees in the neighborhood clings to life in front of the pub’s door (where the faint bullet hole and brownish-grey stain is still visible to one who looks hard enough). Strange things are always afoot at the “Middle of the Road.” Some residents write it off as a bad neighborhood with odd people. Others say that the ghost of the old pub owner and the ghost of the old developer are still thorns in each others’ sides from beyond the grave. Other more eccentric neighbors speak of a strange confluence of “ley lines” and “veins of iron ore” and “magnetic disturbances.”
Others know all too well why “The Middle of the Road” is such a strange place…and they’re typically the same strange folk who are most often walking through it’s stained wood door.
Though its golden age is far beyond it, there’s no denying that the location remains hospitable for some business, legitimate and otherwise. Container ships still occasionally use the old docks…especially those whose port-of-call are in less savory parts of the world that, perhaps, do not want their contents so well-inspected. There is still fishing and the nearby power plant still puffs out smoke and fire and employs many “Rooks.” The rumble of cargo planes is almost ever-present. Rook’s Beach remains a shipping hub for the region. The housing bubble attracted a lot of people who thought they were richer than they were to the suburbs and, after it’s collapse, many have returned to the area happy for the cheap rents. With this has, impressively enough, come a lot of fresh ideas for revitalization and street by street can be little pockets of life. There are still a few sea-side mansions along the long strip connecting the beach to the mainland, wealthy merchants and VIPs who cling to a sense of plenty in a world of poverty, happy to be princes in Hell.