With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rock Bottoms Up! - Hartford and Dubra

The plan was to drink until the pain over / But what’s worse, the pain or the hangover?”
-Kanye West, “Dark Fantasy,” Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Empty Dubra Vodka bottles litter the landscape of Hartford, like corpses from a silent war, the detritus of the damned. While this particular litter may not seem as portentous as the previous overwrought sentence claims, I think they’re worth noticing and thinking about. When I was a freshmen at Trinity College – in my younger and dumb(er) days – I used to drink Dubra heavily, to the point where my friends and I created a weekly mock celebration, Dubra Wednesdays. It was cheap (around $13 dollars for a handle, 1.75 liters), it was so-bad-it’s-good, and it wrecked our better judgment, as well as our insides.

Due in part to that nostalgic obsession, I started to notice them a lot while walking through Hartford near the end of my undergraduate career. I got into the habit of taking out my cell phone and snapping a picture every time I saw one. After only a couple months of walking through Hartford, I had over 20 images of separate bottles. These were just the ones that caught my eye; it wasn’t as if I went out looking for them.

They’re everywhere, from the Riverfront;

...to the middle of Downtown;

…on the side streets of Frog-Hollow;

...right up to the West end;

Pint and Half-Pint bottles were the most frequent (being the cheapest), but I’ve also seen handles;

For the past two years, I’ve worked for a non-profit that focuses on community indicators. Indicators are quantitative and qualitative measures, tailor made to the needs of a given community, which reveal the over-all quality of life. Using an established benchmark, they show the direction a community is heading, for better or worse. The number of empty Dubra bottles littered throughout Hartford can be seen as an unconventional indicator. What does it suggest?

Rampant litter in itself reveals a disregard for ones surroundings, a disregard that is extenuated by intoxication. Can whoever tossed these bottles be solely blamed? Those that left them behind may have been consciously running from something, or unconsciously reacting to circumstances outside of their control.

While not the whole story, these bottles reveal a larger web of poverty, health issues, and an overall lack of confidence within Hartford. So if there’s the feeling that governmental officials aren't being stewards of the city, why should those that feel disenfranchised care?   

There are other liquors of comparable price, but Dubra – which from my experience is the most vile – seems to be the discarded drink of choice; implying a masochistic impulse. Maybe I’m just over-intellectualizing from a point of privilege. It may simply be the stark design of the label that attracts customers. To stretch one last interpretation, let’s look at the design. If the star in the center is equated with New England’s Rising one, would you see the curtain surrounding it as one that just opened, or one that’s about to close?  
Thinking about my reckless college days, and how Dubra became an ironically cherished drink amongst students from affluent backgrounds; while many in the surrounding community most likely drank it because of economic limitations and learned helplessness; makes me feel as guilty and nauseous as I did during those incoherent Thursday mornings, years ago.

                                                                                                        -Written by William Moffett Jr.


  1. People usually misbehave - steal, fight, bully, kill, act like slobs - because they really don't know any better. Their parents (even if they have two) never taught them any better. It ain't always the government. Often it's the people who are to blame.

  2. So which way does this indicator point? is the Dubra-index rising or falling? You need to find a few people with regular walking/biking paths through different parts of the city and deputize them to watch for and record Dubra-debris (Dubris?). [You need regular routes to make the data reliable.] Quick, to the research-grant-writing machine!

    1. I have committed myself to picking up the daily empty dropped one block away at the curb. I currently have 52 empty pints. Is this some kind of cult? "Dubra Droppers of Connecticut"?

  3. Yeah, I used to drink a lot of vodka too. My friends who went to UConn invented "The UConn Cooler", it consisted of cheap vodka and tap water. Good times.

    If you've ever seen the "swirl" pattern on the stonework outside the Northam 3rd floor triple at Trinity-- I am the one that did that, back in 1990. I'm not proud, I was just getting rid of some old shaving cream, sprayed it around then outside on the brownstone. I was back on campus in the early 2000's and IT WAS STILL THERE! I wonder if I damaged the stone or something.

  4. Frog Hollow is where I used to buy heroin in my 20s. Good stuff.