Star spangled road trip

Ryan Bernsten shared insights gained from a trip across the country.

Patrick L. Sullivan

Star spangled road trip

FALLS VILLAGE — Ryan Bernsten, author of “50 States of Mind: A Journey to Rediscover American Democracy” said Americans are not nearly as divided as media accounts have it. He spoke at the David M. Hunt Library Tuesday, May 7.

The affable and inquisitive Bernsten spent almost as much time asking the audience about Falls Village as he did in recounting his experiences in visiting all 50 states.

Of his book promotion appearances, he said he does not like “talking at people.”

“I want to talk with people about their communities.”

Of “50 States of Mind,” he said “the book is the reason to come together and talk about democracy” minus the familiar talking points.

He prefers to concentrate on individuals’ stories.

“There’s not enough storytelling.”

During his trip, he and a couple of friends found themselves in a bar and grill in Cleveland called Skeets.

The clientele was, he discovered, predominantly black sheet metal workers.

The visit was a little awkward at first, but once Bernsten started asking about the neighborhood — and listening attentively to the replies — the atmosphere warmed up.

The customers and the bartender, a woman named Denise, described their community, warts and all.

They told him about a recent incident in the neighborhood, in which a 14-year-old girl was kidnapped and murdered. They talked about what it’s like to live with economic and social uncertainty.

“It’s about right now,” one person said.

Bernsten said this episode was one of his favorites “because it shows all sides of a community.”

The book began life as a thesis project at Oxford University, where Bernsten was in graduate school.

Bernsten said he was taken aback when his casually pitched idea of visiting all 50 states, primarily traveling by car and staying with people, not in hotels, was endorsed by the university.

“I didn’t even have a car!”

He used social media to find people willing to host him.

“In two weeks I had places to stay in 42 states.”

After this odyssey, Bernsten drew some conclusions.

One was that the words “politics” or “’democracy’ often mask what is really important to Americans.

“It’s really about their stories being heard.”

And one thing that unites Americans of all stripes?

“People wanted me to see the best of their communities.”

Latest News

Mountaineers compete in state track meet

Kyle McCarron led the pack through three laps in the boys 1600-meter race at the Class S state meet, May 29.

Riley Klein

NEW BRITAIN — Housatonic Valley Regional High School had eight athletes compete in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Class S track and field championship May 29.

HVRHS made its mark throughout the long day of competitions at Willow Brook Park. The meet saw several Mountaineers set new personal records (PR) and two podiumed, qualifying for the State Open meet Monday, June 3.

Keep ReadingShow less
Rising demand for home elevators

Ray and Eve Pech inside their Sevaria home elevator, which was recently installed as part of a larger renovation project.

Debra A. Aleksinas

Ray and Eve Pech were in their late 30’s when they built their dream house 40 years ago on the side of a mountain overlooking Ski Sundown.

The modest, 2,000-square-foot, vertically-designed home offered privacy, ample space for their young family, stunning scenery — and stairs galore.

Keep ReadingShow less
Summer series triumphs at Music Mountain

Benjamin Hochman and Friends opened the 2023 Music Mountain summer series at Gordon Hall.

Anne Daily

Music Mountain in Falls Village is set to begin its 95th season on June 2.

The summer will open with a benefit concert and reception featuring pianist Benjamin Hochman and Friends from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Oskar Espina Ruiz, the festival promises a season rich with transformative musical experiences.

Keep ReadingShow less