There aren’t as many Newtowns as I expected to find, and the only one I’ve been to is in Australia. The New York Times calls it “a slightly offbeat suburb that brims with energy….”
I asked the man behind the desk at the big visitors’ centre in The Rocks if there was anything new to explore in Sydney since I hadn’t been there in 2 years. He looked blank so I walked away. He called me back and asked if I was interested in trendy neighborhoods. I said maybe and he said, “Newtown”. He gave me a brochure that called it “Bohemian by Nature” and told me that it was still a somewhat affordable neighborhood in an increasingly expensive city.
The next day Ruth & I went to the mass transit office under Town Hall, and I said to the ticket seller, “We want to go to Newtown.”
“No, you don’t,” he replied. I told him that one tourist brochure called it the “Pulsing Heart of the Inner Western suburbs–vibrant, bright, and buzzing.” He looked disgusted but sold us tickets anyway. It wasn’t very far, between Macdonaldtown and Stanmore on the Green Line about 10 minutes away.
We emerged from the commuter station on King Street, the main thoroughfare that snakes through Newtown, and strolled it from one end to the other, poking our heads into several shops. Many were trendy female clothing stores with not-so-PC names like Million Dollar Babe. The fashions displayed were mostly 1950s retro or sex-for-sale. The early afternoon human street traffic seemed mostly to be young men walking dogs and young women, often pregnant, pushing strollers. The older citizens were sitting outside coffee shops. We passed a bike seller named Hell on Wheels and lots of temporary-looking stores like Reclaim selling cheap furniture. It looked like the kind of decaying inner city neighborhood where tattooed males and females with green hair and wearing look-at-me jewelry live for a few years until they get bored and move away. I read that Newtown was the kind of place where you could dress in the style of any decade and hold anyone’s hand you like. I took Ruth’s.
Newtown is also the name of the historically African-American community in Sarasota, Florida. Many came to the area generations ago to work the groves, the rails, or the circus. Newtown, Wales, original name Bettws Cedewain, has been around since the 13th century. Newtown, MA, is a thriving community 7 miles from Boston. In 2012 Money magazine named it America’s 4th best small city to live in. There are also Newtowns in New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
But the Newtown really on my mind is in Connecticut. In December 2012, 20 children and 6 adults were murdered there in Sandy Hook Elementary. To promote healing, construction of a new school to replace the scene of the crime has occurred.