On Trumbull Street, an overly cute little girl in a yellow dress is playing the grand piano at the Hilton while her mother tries desperately to stop her. I smile every time she looks at me and she grins shyly and turns away. Naturally, I'm paging this text up (yes, you're hearing this live) whenever the mom walks behind me. The girl is hilarous and having a tremendous amount of fun on the keys. She has a sundress-y hat. Her name sounds like Jay-Sha-Nee-Sha, or Jay-Shuh-Ree-Nuh but I can't quite make it out correctly.

Her father yells at her when she tries to walk past the coffee table on the side where my legs were blocking the way, which is a shame. Little kids are allowed to walk over me whenever they feel like it. She laughs when he yells.

I am awfully tempted to play that piano. Maybe on my way out. She's taking pictures of her parents' feet.

Running red lights in Upper Albany. If you didn't know much, you'd call it a ghetto instead of calling it potential. Abandoned lots call to me. I can't pigeonhole this. Two quick left turns and Orthodox onion domes are rising over wide grassy boulevards and God, it's good to be going sixty.

A man, thirty-ish, sits across from me at the Burger King on Main while I fill out the Boston Globe crossword. I tuck it into my bag and am standing up to leave when he walks over.

"Son, are you done with your cup?"

"Huh? Uh, sure." Does he work here or something?

"Thanks." He takes it from the table, walks over to the soda fountain, rinses out the remains of my strawberry milkshake, and fills the cup to the brim with Coke. Silently, he raises the overflowing soda in tribute to a man across the room and goes to sip it in the corner.

It's Easter Sunday and the streets are empty.

I have walked eighteen blocks in a big square around central Hartford. Who the hell designed a laptop to be this heavy? Past the Coliseum, sweating, with aching shoulders.

I need to sit down. I am on the wrong side of the Civic Center, the wrong side of the city, with a long walk back to the hotel. A car is parked at a green light, and a thick-bearded homeless man is pushing a shopping cart full of aluminum cans a couple hundred feet away.

Hartford stops on that block, as though the urban architects had paused for a coffee and never come back. The highway takes over the city and only parking lots and wastelands lay beyond.

Back at the Hilton, the staff is watching television; outside, the city decays. Almost time to go home.

I ride the elevator up to the highest non-executive floor, the eighteenth. It is really the seventeenth (old building) and suddenly I am a hundred eighty feet above the empty interstate looking at where the last vestiges of the city dissolves into the forests of Northern Connecticut. Below me, an aging plaza, an abandoned building pleading to become office space, and a desolate long-term parking lot. I can turn my head to see the Connecticut River; I can't see people anywhere.

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